Friday, April 28, 2006


This study reveals that the mitochondrial diversity of a given animal species does not reflect its population size: No correlation between mtDNA polymorphism and species abundance could be detected, despite the large body of data analyzed.

This comes from a paper that John Hawks links to and discusses.

That sure implies to me that if the discussions of humanity going nearly extinct are based on mtDNA we might want to rethink that. Of course, if its based on nuclear DNA, I'll shut up and sit down.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Mexican Space Program

They may be light years away from fulfilling their dream, but Mexican lawmakers are preparing to launch a national space agency they hope could one day stand tall beside the United States'

Mexico's lower house passed a law on Wednesday, which if approved by the upper chamber, would create a space agency to coordinate research and work with universities and the private sector to launch communication and weather satellites.

With an initial budget proposal of less than $2 million, the backers of the Mexican Space Agency say it would struggle to challenge its northern neighbor's National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, but hope it would draw Mexico into the international space community, bringing access to cutting-edge technology and research.

"We'd love it to become the Mexican NASA, but obviously the levels of investment are incomparable. It's very distant, perhaps not in the vision but in resources," a spokesman for the Mexican Congress's Science and Technology Commission, which drew up the law, said on Thursday.

From here.

I lack words.

Russians Will Increase Military Spending

Further expansion of NATO and affiliation of Georgia and the Ukraine will make Russia increase its military expenditures, Mikhail Kamynin, Spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia says.

Russia has questions to NATO with regard to possible deployment of military bases in its new member states, in particular in Romania and Bulgaria, Mikhail Kamynin was quoted as saying by RIA Novotsi.

From here.

China Probe to the Moon

China plans to take the first step in its ambitious lunar exploration program next April, launching a satellite that will orbit the moon, a space official said on Thursday.

The craft will be followed a few years later by a remote-controlled lunar rover that will perform experiments and send data back to Earth, and, in another few years, a module that will drill out a chunk of the moon and return with it.

China's lunar exploration scheme, which includes long-term plans for piloted moon missions, underscores the ambitious scope of a space program that has come a long way, especially in recent years, since its launch 50 years ago.

From CNN.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

More Baby Pictures

Baby Pictures - Oakland Fairyland

Combined Maps (sorta) for the Future of Playing with Maps

There were some goofs here, but good enough.

There are three important nations that are not colored on there: India, Brazil, and Indonesia. The Phillipines got left out of the American Hegemony too. oops. And the west half of New Guinea shouldn't be part of the American Hegemony either.

Orange...or is it a Red Light?

Yulia Tymoshenko's desire to return to the prime minister's chair has become the main obstacle to restoring the Orange Revolution coalition in order to form a majority in Ukraine's newly elected parliament. President Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc has rejected Tymoshenko's demand that the distribution of key posts should precede the drafting of an action plan for the coalition. Tymoshenko, in return, has accused Yushchenko's team of foul play. The junior partners in a would-be tripartite coalition, the Socialist Party (SPU) of Oleksandr Moroz, have apparently sided with Tymoshenko, who offered to them the post of speaker of parliament.

From The Eurasian Daily Monitor.

If Yushenko thought that Timoschennko was going to quietly step aside when they started building the coalition and not demand her job og PM back, he was sadly deluding himself. Unfortunately, he's in a no win situation. Timschenko will either get the job back and do it badly or she will end up flipping Yusch the bird and destroying the Orange Revolution's last shreds of credability with the Ukrainian public. It's sad, but, alas, it looks like da nada can be done about it.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Genocide Denial has other proponents

Ukraine asked the conference to prepare a proposal for the upcoming CIS summit to express its attitude to the 1930-33 famine and genocide in Ukraine (the Holodomor). However, the Russian side orchestrated a procedural move that eliminated the proposal from the agenda. Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan voted with Russia against the proposal. Armenia, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan abstained. Moldova, Georgia, and Azerbaijan voted with Ukraine.

According to Lavrov at the concluding briefing, discussion of the Holodomor would have "politicized" a historical issue. Lavrov argued -- as Russian Ambassador Viktor Chernomyrdin also did in Kyiv -- that Russians and other Soviet citizens suffered equally in Soviet times and it would therefore be inappropriate to single out any people in this regard.

This argument is heard regularly from Moscow about the Baltic states as well: "It was a common pain in the Soviet Union." Such an argument constitutes the ultimate expression of a social culture of collectivism. It also overlooks, first, the fact that Moscow organized the famine and deportations in Ukraine, the Baltic states and elsewhere; and, second, that the Kremlin today is actively discouraging the attempts to come to terms with Soviet Russia's own totalitarian recent history. While refusing to assess the actions of the Soviet regime, Russia at the same time claims prerogatives as the legal successor of the USSR.

[emphasis added]

From a report about the recent meeting of the CIS.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


The reason that I didn't post anything on Thursday was that I stayed home to take care of my daughter. She had come down with Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease. My daughter picked it up from some playground that my wife took her to in Berkeley. (You bastards!) It's made her very unhappy and uncomfortable. According to the Dr we saw now that she has it it'll go away and never plague her again. I am delighted to say that she is having the rash retreat in a huge way right now. She'll be herself very soon.

Well, according to the Dr this is a child's disease and most kids get it. So I thought, no sweat.



I got it. It feels like ant bites all over my hands and feet. and that I have strep.

I guess I count as a child still.


Whatever parent didn't keep their kids at home after getting this deserve to get very itchy and damned uncomfortable. I curse them. I curse them repeatedly and soundly.

Friday, April 21, 2006

There is Definitely A Space it or not

Almost 37 years after Americans set foot on the moon, China's ambition to make the same trip is evoking rhetoric from U.S. lawmakers echoing the space race of the Cold War 1960s.

The lawmakers -- including Representative Frank Wolf, the Virginia Republican who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the U.S. space agency -- want President George W. Bush to spend more, faster, to get his new lunar program off the ground and retain U.S. space dominance. Bush's target of a U.S. return to the moon by 2018 may be too late, they say.

"If China beats us to the moon, we will have lost the space program," Wolf said in an interview.

From here

There is this...whether you believe it or not, the Russians are talking up the possibility of being another side of the competition:

Energia management, which has completely different plans, unveiled a concept of the national manned space-flight program for the next 25 years.

This document states expressly that the initial stage of the manned lunar program will involve Soyuz spacecraft, Soyuz-FG and Proton launch vehicles and DM-type boosters. Energia officials said that the ISS' Russian segment should be used to assemble an inter-orbital space complex bound for the Moon, and that this approach would make it possible to launch the first lunar expeditions in the near future.

There are plans to develop a reusable lunar transport system comprising manned spacecraft on the basis of the advanced Kliper shuttle and inter-orbital space tugs with liquid-propellant rocket engines during the lunar program's second stage. The new transport system will link the ISS and a projected lunar orbital station. It is intended to use tugs with electric-rocket engines and large-size solar batteries for transporting bulky consignments. Plans are also in place to assemble a permanent lunar orbital station with a reusable lunar ascent and descent module during the second stage.

The program's third stage stipulates the creation of a permanent lunar industrial base for developing the Earth's satellite.

The Martian program is closely linked with the lunar program.
From here.

(FWIW, Ria Novosti ahs been accused of being the sockpuppet of the Russian government...frequently).

We shall see who does what and who is merely talking politics. Personally, I think the Russians are just boasting, but the design bureaus, ahem, companies have a lot sway in policy. We'll see if post Putin Russia follows through. Or not. The Chinese and the US are definitely the most serious of the lot. We'll see if India, Japan, and Europe join in.

X-50A crash leaves program in trouble

The second X-50A Dragonfly demonstrator was destroyed in a crash at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona last week, leaving Boeing and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) pondering whether the envelope-pushing program can continue.

The mishap occurred at 7:46 a.m. Mountain time April 12. There were no injuries or property damage and the cause of the crash is not yet known, Boeing told The DAILY. An accident investigation is under way.

The Dragonfly was an unmanned experimental helicopter featuring an unusually wide rotor designed to stop in flight and act as a wing, a concept known as Canard Rotor/Wing. The first X-50A prototype also was lost in a crash in March 2004 (DAILY, March 31, 2004).

"The Boeing Company and DARPA officials are in discussions regarding the future of the Dragonfly program and Canard Rotor/Wing," the company said. The program has no aircraft remaining.

Like a tiltrotor, the Dragonfly was intended to combine the operational flexibility of a rotorcraft with the speed of a fixed-wing aircraft. With the rotor stopped, lift was generated by the stopped rotor/wing, the airframe itself and canards mounted on the nose. The program had hoped to conduct its first mid-air conversion flights this year.

Boeing was developing the Dragonfly for DARPA under a $51.8 million contract. The first flights of the aircraft in late 2003 were delayed more than a year while engineers grappled with the formidable control challenges arising from the aircraft's unique design.

From here.

There is more information here. This is a follow-on conceptually to the X-Wing Demonstrator of the 1970s and 1980s. It would really be a pity if this didn't pan out. There's not a lot of research globally on VTOL aircraft. The US has been working on alternate concepts since the 1950s and is fielding the V-22 currently, but it would really be nice to see some other concepts make it from the drawing board to actual production. VTOLs (including helicopters) have been a little stagnate lately and most of the rest of the world has been reacting to US developments since the fall of the Soviet Union: the Soviets had their own developmental programs that produced their own innovations such as dual counter-rotating main rotors without a fantail.

I would love to hear of any other nation's innovations or developments to correct my Americentric views of this though...

[Near Future SF Setting] Playing with Maps...

I really should be working...and if I were actually capable of using photoshop then this would be combined into one map with different colors. My friend at work that is will be back on Monday, but if someone else in the mean time would like to combine them...:D

The big 'countries' of the 2050s: European Union, Bolivarian Republic, Great Persia, Shanghai Confederation, and the 'damnit, we're not a country, but Washington decides 75% of everything'.

America's New Bomber

The U.S. Air Force's analysis of alternatives (AOA) for a new long-range strike (LRS) bomber awaits formal approval by the Pentagon's acquisition chief, while the service's prompt global strike (PGS) concept's AOA is about to be published, Air Force Brig. Gen. Andrew Dichter said April 19.

"This thing is hung up largely because of the complexity of the discussions of global strike," Dichter said about the new bomber, slated for 2018. "Do we want to just make this very specific and we need to develop that bomber, or do we want to take it holistically?"

The fiscal 2007 budget request includes almost $2 billion for a "new-start" LRS bomber, which is the second phase of the service's three-phase LRS strategy, Dichter said.

Most observers agree that fleet delivery will require $15 billion - $50 billion, he added, and that the bomber will sport low-observable stealth technology. But debate continues over speed, number of engines, payload capacity, whether it should feature just munitions or the full suite of AESA radar and air-to-air missiles, and range with or without refueling. Regardless, a milestone decision is expected in early 2007, the general said.


The PGS AOA - which envisions weapon delivery within 60 minutes - will review conventional versions of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), manned and unmanned bombers and various launch vehicles, all of which will feature a new common aero vehicle (CAV) that will provide more precise strike delivery of conventional warheads than ICBMs, said Dichter, deputy director in the directorate of operational capability requirements.

The "most promising" CAV is the Falcon hypersonic technology vehicle being developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Dichter told the Precision Strike Association's (PSA) annual programs review in Arlington, Va. Other launch vehicles under consideration include reusable, expendable and autonomous variants.

From here. Emphasis added there.

I do believe that we can rule out ballistic missiles for the precision strike. It would cause far too many nations to panic and should be relatively interceptable by the time that this goes into operation. Note the sixty minutes bit though. If its really possible in 12 years to deliver's a pretty profound difference in capability with respect to any other nation.

Scratch One Source of Mass Extinctions?

Some scientists have wondered whether a deadly astronomical event called a gamma ray burst could happen in a galaxy like ours, but a group of astronomers at Ohio State University and their colleagues have determined that such an event would be nearly impossible.

Gamma ray bursts (GRBs) are high-energy beams of radiation that shoot out from the north and south magnetic poles of a particular kind of star during a supernova explosion, explained Krzysztof Stanek, associate professor of astronomy at Ohio State. Scientists suspect that if a GRB were to occur near our solar system, and one of the beams were to hit Earth, it could cause mass extinctions all over the planet.

The GRB would have to be less than 3,000 light years away to pose a danger, Stanek said. One light year is approximately 6 trillion miles, and our galaxy measures 100,000 light years across. So the event would not only have to occur in our galaxy, but relatively close by, as well.

In the new study, which Stanek and his coauthors submitted to the Astrophysical Journal, they found that GRBs tend to occur in small, misshapen galaxies that lack heavy chemical elements (astronomers often refer to all elements other than the very lightest ones -- hydrogen, helium, and lithium -- as metals). Even among metal-poor galaxies, the events are rare -- astronomers only detect a GRB once every few years.

But the Milky Way is different from these GRB galaxies on all counts -- it's a large spiral galaxy with lots of heavy elements.

The astronomers did a statistical analysis of four GRBs that happened in nearby galaxies, explained Oleg Gnedin, a postdoctoral researcher at Ohio State. They compared the mass of the four host galaxies, the rate at which new stars were forming in them, and their metal content to other galaxies catalogued in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

Though four may sound like a small sample compared to the number of galaxies in the universe, these four were the best choice for the study because astronomers had data on their composition, Stanek said. All four were small galaxies with high rates of star formation and low metal content.

Of the four galaxies, the one with the most metals -- the one most similar to ours -- hosted the weakest GRB. The astronomers determined that the odds of a GRB occurring in a galaxy like that one to be approximately 0.15 percent.

And the Milky Way's metal content is twice as high as that galaxy, so our odds of ever having a GRB would be even lower than 0.15 percent.

From here.

Considering that there has been zilch evidence of a GRB caused mass extinction in the 600+ million years of 'good' fossil evidence for life, I have a feeling that these guysa re on to something here. It's not to say that a supernova too close wouldn't do us in, especially with Sol sitting in a bubble with lower than normal gas and dust right now, but it's almost certainly a low probability event.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

From the Best of Craigslist: Doggie Dearest

Read it here.

Picture of the Fossil Snake

The Serpent Speaks From Beyond the Grave

A new fossil discovery has revealed the most primitive snake known, a crawling creature with two legs, and it provides new evidence that snakes evolved on land rather than in the sea.

Snakes are thought to have evolved from four-legged lizards, losing their legs over time. But scientists have long debated whether those ancestral lizards were land-based or marine creatures.

The new find reveals a snake that lived in the Patagonia region of Argentina some 90 million years ago, said Hussam Zaher of the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, who describes the find in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature. Its size is unknown, but it wasn't more than 3 feet long, he said in a telephone interview.

It's the first time scientists have found a snake with a sacrum, a bony feature supporting the pelvis, he said. That feature was lost as snakes evolved from lizards, and since this is the only known snake that hasn't lost it, it must be the most primitive known, he said.

The creature clearly lived on land, both because its anatomy suggests it lived in burrows and because the deposits in which the fossils were found came from a terrestrial environment, he said.

So, if the earliest known snake lived on land, that suggests snakes evolved on land, he said.

Little new evidence had appeared in recent years in the land-versus-sea debate, he said, and "we needed something new. We needed a new start. And this snake is definitely a new start for this debate."

While the creature still had two small rear legs, it crawled like a modern-day snake, he said. It probably used its legs only on occasion, though it's not clear for what, he said.

Read the rest here.

More Mass Extinction Mumblings: Volcanoes

After watching the Nova episode on Global Dimming last night, it made me ponder a bit about why volcanoes are not the monsters on a global scale that are often portrayed in the way that they are portrayed. The ash spewing monster is simply not that dangerous on the global scale. Honestly. It might be horrible for the locals and sometimes even for the world as a whole, but their effects are mostly unimportant on the Terra-wide geological scale.

Wait, you think, does that mean that volcanoes are not dangerous to the world as a whole? At least in mass extinction terms?

Yes. And no.

The popular imagination has been captured by and large by volcanoes like Mount Saint Helens because of its eruption in 1980. Mount Pinutabo's 1991 eruption reinforced this idea. This caused a press hunt for similar volcanoes (Tambora and Krakatoa, frex). Some authors have used it as a plot device in their future evolution and extinction events. The problem is that even though these eruptions are huge and make an vast impact, especially with respect to the Indonesian volcanoes and the massive cold snaps that they caused. However, the events that they caused while horrific and worldwide were extremely short in duration. A year or so of frank suckage, but no longer for the cooling events. This means that the volcanoes as we have seen them at least do not provide enough forcing through particulate injection to have a long term consequence. Consider what was said about the global dimming and how quickly the snap up in temperature that they observed was after a few days of little airline travel, it ought to be obvious why.

Put simply, the duration of the injection event is simply too short and not repetitive enough to make a long term difference. One or two years of impact is not enough to wipe out everything. Refugia are simply too common.

That said, volcanoes can and do appear to cause mass extinctions. They seem to have caused the grandpappy whopper of a mass extinction, the Permian Mass Extinction. The Siberian Traps seem to have been the source of all the CO2 that worked so hard to try to cook the planet (with methane's help). The Siberian Traps erupted over a very long period. This means that it had time to produce and maintain the CO2 levels.

The Deccan Traps, it should be noted, were over a long period, eight times longer than the Siberian Traps, but it should also be noted that the Deccan Traps seem to have been an order of magnitude less in area covered than the Siberian Traps. The total output and possibly energy involved would seem to be, very rough BoE calculation, as being 1/80th of the Siberian Traps. It might be considered then that the Deccan Traps would have a significantly less impact than the Siberian Traps. While the KT Event was a lot lower in the kill off percentages than the PT Event,

It would seem then that vulcanism needs to be of a particular kind, for a long duration, and of a minimum energy & mass output/time for it to produce big take down effects. To my very unexpert eyes, with the evidence favoring the impact hypothesis for the KT Extinction, I'd have to say that the Deccan Traps look a lot less important to that event than some people would like to think.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

HA HA HA HA! Global Dimming

Just watched Dimming of the Sun on Nova.

It explains quite a bit more than I'd have thought, including some of the skeptics comments about cooling being the threat foreseen in the 1970s: the reduction of particulates from the US and Europe since then might have been the tipping point. W/o the reduction, we might have had a global cooling. However...

The reason for the laugh is because of the evidence presented about 9/11 and the lack of contrails. Pretty interesting. Pretty frightening if there was some way to verify it again without the catastrophic nastiness to get the experiment run. I laughed specifically because the climate guys here are looking less and less like fringies and more and more like people who, while sweating a lot, are gonna be damned right come 2030-2050. They're going to get the lats laugh. I'm just getting to clap my hands and chortle now...I might be sweating a little in the future though!

Note. I am making sure any house we build is above 35 meters higher than sealevel. ;)

Technorati (also stolen from James)

Look here and here.

Yes, I read James' livejournal much too much.

Social Dinosaurs

Damnit, I knew these guys ahd to have more complicated behavior than they showed when I was a kid...

Scientists have discovered the remains of seven carnivorous dinosaurs that traveled in packs throughout an area of southern Argentina nicknamed Jurassic Park, one of the paleontologists told AFP.

"This is a new type of carnivorous dinosaur, known as the Mapusaurus, that lived some 90 million years ago. Seven examples of different ages were found buried, which could suggest that they lived in packs," Argentine paleontologist Rodolfo Coria, who made the discovery along with Canadian Philip Currie, told AFP.

Coria said that, up to now, no one knew of any "carnivorous animals of this size" -- weighing six tonnes and standing 12 to 13 meters, or 39 to 43 feet, tall -- that had a herd instinct.

He said it was only case of its kind in the entire world.

Scientists had previously believed that the animals traveled solo, but the find in southwestern Argentina's Neuquen province for the first time revealed a sociable side to the creatures, which are believed to have hunted together.

From here.

The newly revealed species is one of the biggest carnivores ever to have walked the Earth, dinosaur experts say.

At least seven of the animals were uncovered together in a mass fossil graveyard in western Patagonia, a region famous for giant-dinosaur remains.

Living some 100 million years ago, the largest specimen was more than 40 feet (12.5 meters) long.

Researchers say the new species, named Mapusaurus roseae, is possibly even larger than its close relative Giganotosaurus, which in 1995 took T. rex's crown as the world's biggest known carnivorous dinosaur.

The find is also one of the first to suggest giant meat-eating dinosaurs lived in groups.


The skeletons showed no signs of disease, Coria says, so the animals were apparently victims of some sudden catastrophic event.

"The burial is formed 100 percent by Mapusaurus bones," he added. "The chances they had been deposited randomly are extremely low."

Coria and Currie say the different sizes of the animals point to the creatures living as a group.

"Most are medium-sized animals, with a very few young and a very few old," Coria said. "It's a normal composition for [a pack] animal population."

The find hints that two-legged, or theropod, dinosaurs such as T. rex might not have been solitary predators as previously thought, but may have hunted in groups.

From NatGeo.

It also suggests the Jurassic was a different ecosystem than you might have expected.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Russia's Dangerous Game

A recent JID probe has indicated that Belarus may be preparing to export sensitive Russian military technology to Iran. Since early 2005, Minsk has been negotiating with Moscow for the purchase of the latest and most advanced version of the S-300SP surface-to-air missile system. According to well-informed sources, a contract for an unspecified number of S-300SP missiles was signed between Minsk and the Kremlin during the summer of 2005, with delivery scheduled to take place either later that year or else in early 2006.

Our investigations suggest that the real reason for Belarus' deal with the Kremlin may lie several thousand kilometres to the southwest. In January a high-level military and political delegation from Tehran paid a low-key visit to Minsk.

According to well-informed JID sources, the main reason for the visit was to make arrangements for the future transfer of the S-300SP SAMs from Belarus in order to help the embattled Iranian regime bolster its defences against possible US or Israeli air strikes designed to de-rail its efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

While the Kremlin remains a major supplier of nuclear technology for Iran's nuclear programme, President Vladimir Putin would face serious problems if he had to explain to the rest of the world how the Islamic Republic had acquired the most recent generation of S-300PSs. For this reason, Belarus and its increasingly isolated regime could provide an alternative supply route and one that would offer Moscow the cover of 'plausible deniability' once the missile transfer has been effected.

Taken from Jane's.

While Russian military technology has fallen far behind the West and possibly even behind China's, it is still a leg up (and then some) from what Iran can produce at home. If what Jane's states is true, then the light that the negotiations had with Iran over the enrichment of uranium is not very good. IMO.

Friday, April 14, 2006

An Example of how Stephen Jay Gould was wrong

alas, the Ordovician

The Ordovician Mass Extinction write-up will have to wait. Too many weird things happened today. Read more about the Ordovician before I post more. It's interesting stuff. I've included Dr Scotese's map and I'd recommend reading about the climate as well.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


I submitted an abstract for a talk at the Commodity Cluster Symposium a few weeks ago. It was based on my Wide Area Network File System stuff I did at SC05. I waited until literally the last second because I was rather ambivalent making the presentation and wanting to concentrate on getting into other mischief for SC06 and SC07.

Well, it seems that the abstract was accepted. Not only was it accepted, but on the storage side, it was rated the highest score for the storage side of things.

Considering I wrote it in thirty minutes or so...

Any readers in Baltimore around July 25th to July 27th?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Reading update

I've been reading The Little Ice Age.

I am a little underwhelmed. The science is very weak from what I can see. I am rather disappointed.

I'll finish it by friday and then it'll be either finally be about Chavin or paleoecosystems.

We'll see.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Avrora's Soup

Feeding my daughter can be a challenge at times. She's decided that she doesn't like straight whatever food. This means that if you try to feed her only pasta she'll not eat it. The same is true for vegatbles or sometimes meat and even cheese. This kid loves cheese. Recently though, she just wants things that are more complicated and interesting tasting. Spiced. Maybe even spicy. Yes, spicy.

Y'see, I made my wife a spicy breakfast burrito. It had scrambled eggs, lettuce, tomatos, some not very spicy salsa, a little chopped cilantro, some fried ground beef, etc. Most importantly, it had some fined minced habanero. I warned my wife it was a little spicy. My daughter insisted that she have some anyways and my wife gave it to her, at least a little piece of meat with some lettuce and egg. Avrora's eyes welled up with tears and her little white face went straight to red. She didn't scream. She ran away and found her bottle of juice, slurped down some, and returned...and screamed for more. That's my girl!

She has a soup that I came up with taht she really likes even in her finicky state. It's actually pretty good any which way, so I thought I'd share it here with you all since I've been so lax in posting lately.

2 cups of chicken stock
2 chicken thighs, boneless
8 spears of asparagus
4 cloves of garlic
2 roma tomatos
1/4 poblano pepper
1/2 zucchini
cilantro, fresh, minced, to taste
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 small can of tomato paste
1 fresh, uncooked egg
salt to taste

Chop asparagus into 4ths. Chop fresh garlic. Mince the cilantro. Chop the poblano and dice tomatos.

put chicken stock and chicken in pot and bring to a rolling boil. Add salt, spices, aparagus, and tomato. After ten to fifteen minutes, reduce to simmer. Let simmer for a LONG time, preferably an hour or two. Periodically stir.

Add tomato paste to soup. Stir until clumps of tomato paste are gone. Let simmer for fifteen minutes.

Slice zucchini. Add to soup. Let cook for about fifteen minutes.

Remove from heat. Add egg. Stir in very quickly. Think not unlike egg drop soup. Return to heat and let simmer for five minutes.

Remove from heat and eat.


My turn on rotation ends today.

It exhausts me even when there's little going on from the underlying stress. During that week of rotation take responsibility for over $70 million dollars worth of computer! Then, this week, stuff happened. Death to lusers!!!

Anyways, I get off of rotation at 1 pm . Life gets a little back to normal until the next time.

Well, kinda.

Y'see, there's a second rotation that a much smaller group does. This is for the NERSC Global File System. I have been on that rotation for two months. It's quieter. However, it can kill when it wants to. I am demanding they take away this rotation too and we regularize it. None of this 'keep the rotaiton for two months' crap again.


Friday, April 07, 2006

Pre and Early Phanerozoic Extinctions

I am sitting here waiting a scsi drive to be replaced by a vendor and its a friday after 4 so O don't feel like doing work-work during that wait. Instead, I am going to do the first post of those extinction posts I've been promising. This is, actually, a very short post compared to the ones coming. This one deals with the Proterozoic-Cambrian Boundary and the Cambrian Extinctions. Mass Extinctions and Their Aftermath deals with this. Catasrophes and Lesser Calamities does not. FYI.

There appears to have been a major extinction of the Ediacaran fauna at the end of the Vendian and the beginning of the Cambrian (plus or minus). One suggestion was that this was due to a bollide impact because there was an iridium spike found in China. Unfortunately the supporting evidence doesn't seem to be there and the bollide impact (if it happened) didn't coincide with the extinction. Another suggestion was that the new forms of life - arthopods and everything related to us - wiped them out, erm, outcompeted them. This has its problems because there's not a lot of evidence of overlap between the Ediacaran and Cambrian faunas. However, there is some based on the work of Grotzinger et al (1995)[1] that disputes this. Googling further work of Grotzinger's suggests that this is definitely the case since the 1997 publishing date of Mass Extinctions and Their Aftermath. However, Hallam suggests that it is really a case of sealevel changes mixed with anoxia (his favourite scenario as I noted before)[2].

Truthfully, Mass Extinctions and Their Aftermathbarely touches the subject of the Vendian-Cambrian Boundary, but it is present and the scenarios above are brought up. Since the Ediacaran fauna is of interest of some of my readers, I thought I'd make sure to cover them here. They do touch on the fact that there does seem to be multiple hints at extinctions during the Vendian (there is a very nice graph on page 26 of the carbon, sontrontium and sulphur isoptopes over time in the Vendian as support). However, there is more information with respect to the Cambrian Radiation and its associated extinctions. Note, I didn't say mass extinctions.

Mass Extinctions and Their Aftermath does talk about the extinction events that seem to have struck the Cambrian. There are multiple of them. None of them are the monster wipe out that Stephen Jay Gould implies in Wonderful Life: in fact, none of the five events in or at the end of the Cambrian count as the Big Five[3] Mass Extinctions. Going further, large parts of that last section of Wonderful Life (Gould's interpretation of the Cambrian fossils) are, frankly, very wrong. There were five events that Hallam and Wignall identify. The end Cambrian event - the Trempealeauan - was no worse than two others during the Cambrian (Lower Drebachian and Upper Botomian). The U Botomian was the first larger scale extinction event after the Cambrian Radiation. FWIW, when reading things online, Gould still holds an iconic status. Alas.

The Botomian crises in the Cambrian seem to have different causes. The Upper Botomian seems to have been due to anoxia according to Hallam and Wignall: extensive and world wide black shales, caused deposition of organic material in anoxic bottom waters as well as isotopic analysis both support this scenario[4]. The Early Middle Botomian seems to have been related to a massive loss of habitat when the epicontinental seas receded[5]. The U Botomian seems to have been more of a killer than the Early Middle Botomian.

The biomeres[6] are the Marjumid, Pterocephalid, and Ptychaspid. Each has an extinction associated with it. All three seem to have a stepwise mass extinction associated with them, but also in the case of the end ot the Ptychaspid Biomere there seems to be a more catastrophic one. Again, Hallam and Wignall support the mechanism of transgression and anoxia as the mechanism for the biomere extinctions. I worry a bit if Hallam is trying to shoe horn all the different extinctions into this mechanism.

The bollide impact scenario for the three biomere extinctions has been dismissed because there haven't been any iridium markers found like in the sediments. I only worry a bit about the bollide chemistry as I have stated before. Wrong kind of bollide and you might not get a iridium spike. Note, I am not supporting the bollide impact as the source of these extinctions though. Just that relying on iridium as the one and only marker might be a mistake. Other physical evidence or lack there-of might be better: the shocked quartz and spherules, frex.

An interesting tidbit that the readers might find worthwhile. The main critter used for tracking these biomere extinctions is the trilobite. Their repeated rise and extinction seem be good trackers for what else was going on. Paleontologists seem to rely on certain kinds of animals that are very common and widespread to track the extinctions trilobites are one of them. Ammonites were another. Conodonts are another still.

Anyways, the next post on the Mass Extinction subject will be on the Late Ordovician Extinction. The first of the Big Five. It might be a while though. As in a week. I hope. The node is done and I really want to go home. Ciao folks

1. Grotzinger, JP, Bowing, SAA, Saylor, BZ and Kaufman AJ (1995) Biostratigraphic and geochronologic constraints on early animal evolution, Science 288, 207-28

2. Hallam, A. (1989) The case for sea-level change as a dominant causal factor in mass extinction of marine invertebrates, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, B325, 437-55

3. The Big Five Mass Extinctions are the Late Ordovician, Devonian, Permian, Upper Triassic, and Cretaceous.

4. There are multiple papers here. I'm going to be a tad lazy since this is for fun: Zhuravlev 1996 (Reef ecosystem recovery after the Early Cambrian extinction), Nicholas 1994 (New Stratigraphic constraints on the Durness Group of NW Scotland), etc.

5. Zhuravlev, A, Wood, R, Anoxia as the cause of the mid-Early Cambrian (Botomian) extinction event, Geology 24, 311–14

6. A biomere is defined as "Successions of faunal zones containing evolutionally related forms, but bounded by non-evolutionary biotic discontinuities" quoted from here, but really Palmer (1965).

NatGeo Artist Rendition of the Turkey Dino

Continuing to Follow James: States I've visited

create your own visited states map
or check out these Google Hacks.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Proto Penguins Found

Four fossilised penguins discovered in a Canterbury riverbed have been confirmed as the world's oldest remains of the species.

Scientists believe they could be the missing link that proves modern birds lived alongside dinosaurs.

Dna tests on the Waimanu penguin fossils, found near the Waipara River, have determined they are between 60 million and 62 million years old – or up to 10 million years older than any other penguin remains discovered.

They lived in the shallow seas off eastern New Zealand just after dinosaurs became extinct about 65 million years ago.

An Otago University geologist, Associate Professor Ewan Fordyce, said modern theory was that most modern bird groups evolved after the dinosaurs died out.

"By using the dates from the fossil Waimanu penguins as a calibration point, we can then predict how far back in time the other groups of living birds originated. If early penguins lived in southern seas not long after the extinction of dinosaurs, then other bird groups more distantly related to penguins must have been established even earlier."

The findings – to be published in the international journal Molecular Biology – suggest many groups of living birds originated well back in the Cretaceous period, between 65 million and 144 million years ago, when dinosaurs were thriving.

Professor Fordyce expects the fossils to receive huge overseas attention. "These proto-penguins were about the size of yellow-eyed penguins and probably looked a bit like shags.

Read the rest here.

IIRC, there was a Mesozoic wading bird found in CHina too recently, but I can't seem to google it up quickly.

Dino Resembles Turkey

Fossils discovered in southern Utah are from a new species of birdlike dinosaur that resembled a 7-foot-tall brightly colored turkey and could run up to 25 mph, scientists said Tuesday.

Fossils of the meat-eater's hand-like claw and foot were found in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument near the Arizona border, giving paleontologists reason to believe some dinosaurs known as raptors roamed from Canada to northern New Mexico about 75 million years ago.

Much smaller variations of the dinosaur had been found previously in Montana, South Dakota and the Canadian province of Alberta.

"This is the southernmost occurrence of this group, and it's about two times the size of the ones up north," said Lindsay Zanno, a doctoral student at the University of Utah who named the dinosaur Hagryphus giganteus, or giant four-footed, birdlike god of the Western desert.

The dinosaur had a strong toothless beak, powerful arms and formidable claws that made it capable of eating animals and plants. Large feathers grew on its hind end, giving it a resemblance to a turkey, Zanno said.

Scientists are not sure what purpose the feathers served, but it was not for flying. "It's quite different from modern birds," she said.

Read the rest here.

I wish there was an artists rendition at least...alas.

Fishy Story: Another Transitional Fossil

Found in the Canadian Arctic, the new fossil boasts leglike fins, scientists say. The creature is being hailed as a crucial missing link between fish and land animals—including the prehistoric ancestors of humans.

Researchers say the fish shows how fins on freshwater species first began transforming into limbs some 380 million years ago. The change was a huge evolutionary step that opened the way for vertebrates—animals with backbones—to emerge from the water.

"This animal represents the transition from water to land—the part of history that includes ourselves," said paleontologist Neil Shubin of the University of Chicago.

Read the rest here.


I am getting my butt whupped by being on rotation.

It sucketh the big one.

I'll post some links at least shortly.

Monday, April 03, 2006

A Global Warming Article

A man stands on a railroad track as a train rumbles closer.

"Global warming?" he says. "Some say irreversible consequences are 30 years away. Thirty years. That won't affect me." He steps off the tracks — just in time. But behind him is a little blonde-haired girl left in front of the roaring train. The screen goes black. A message appears: "There's still time."

It's just an ad, part of a campaign from the advocacy group Environmental Defense, which hopes to convince Americans they can do something about global warming, that there's still time.

But many scientists are not so sure that the oncoming train of global warming can be avoided. Temperatures are going to rise for decades to come because the chief gas that causes global warming lingers in the atmosphere for about a century.

Read the rest here.

They're saying what has been said here at work for the past five years. About time. The locals are a lot less optomistic about the timings though. They're saying 5 C in 30 years and lotsa sea level rise too.

Note: any houses I build will be above 21 m above sea level, just to be on the safe side.

Sliiiiiiiiiiiiiip! Slip and Slide!

Part of Louisiana is sliding away into the Gulf of Mexico.

Talk about an unfortunate place to live! Taken from James' page.

For Perspective...

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Gazprom buys German...Chancellor (ex)

Critics of former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder have lambasted him for accepting the chairmanship of the German-Russian gas pipeline project after his government guaranteed credit for the venture.

"This affair stinks terribly," said Guido Westerwelle, president of the right-of-center opposition Free Democrat party, who has already been sued by Schroeder for previous attacks about this affair.

The economy ministry confirmed Saturday that the Schroeder government had guaranteed a credit of one billion euros (1.2 billion dollars) for the Russian group Gazprom's Baltic pipeline project.

An inter-ministerial commission rushed through a "decision in principle" on October 24 last year while waiting for a new coalition to be formed by now Chancellor Angela Merkel, a spokesman for the economy minister said, confirming a report published Saturday in the Suddeutsche Zeitung (SZ).

Gazprom's hiring of Schroeder last December at an annual salary of 250,000 euros (300,000 dollars) touched off controversy, which the latest report has re-ignited.

Schroeder was voted in Thursday as head of the supervisory board of the consortium that plans to build the natural gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany.

Gazprom holds 51 percent of the consortium's shares.

Read the rest here.

"Rushed through on principle..."

*wipes tears*

That's really funny...