Friday, September 23, 2016

Bitcoin Ruled Money by Federal Court

Bitcoin qualifies as money, a federal judge ruled on Monday, in a decision linked to a criminal case over hacking attacks against JPMorgan Chase & Co and other companies.

U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan rejected a bid by Anthony Murgio to dismiss two charges related to his alleged operation of, which prosecutors have called an unlicensed bitcoin exchange.

Murgio had argued that bitcoin did not qualify as "funds" under the federal law prohibiting the operation of unlicensed money transmitting businesses.

But the judge, like her colleague Jed Rakoff in an unrelated 2014 case, said the virtual currency met that definition.

Are Rings Around Saturn & Other Gas Giants From Shattered Dwarf Planets?


Hyodo et al


The origin of rings around giant planets remains elusive. Saturn's rings are massive and made of 90-95% of water ice. In contrast, the much less massive rings of Uranus and Neptune are dark and likely to have higher rock fraction. Here we investigate, for the first time, the tidal disruption of a passing object, including the subsequent formation of planetary rings. First, we perform SPH simulations of the tidal destruction of big differentiated objects (Mbody=1021−23) that experience close encounters with Saturn or Uranus. We find that about 0.1−10% of the mass of the passing body is gravitationally captured around the planet. However, these fragments are initially big chunks and have highly eccentric orbits around the planet. Then, we perform N-body simulations including the planet's oblateness, starting with data obtained from the SPH simulations. Our N-body simulations show that the chunks are tidally destroyed during their next several orbits. Their individual orbits then start to precess incoherently around the planet's equator, which enhances their encounter velocities on longer-term evolution, resulting in more destructive impacts. These collisions would damp their eccentricities resulting in a progressive collapse of the debris cloud into a thin equatorial and low-eccentricity ring. These high energy impacts are expected to be catastrophic enough to produce small particles. Our numerical results also show that the mass of formed rings is large enough to explain current rings including inner regular satellites around Saturn and Uranus. In the case of Uranus, a body can go deeper inside the planet's Roche limit resulting in a more efficient capture of rocky material compared to Saturn's case in which mostly ice is captured. Thus, our results can naturally explain the compositional difference between the rings of Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

New Horizons Constraints on Charon's Present Day Atmosphere


Stern et al


We report on a variety of standard techniques used by New Horizons including a solar ultraviolet occultation, ultraviolet airglow observations, and high-phase look-back particulate search imaging to search for an atmosphere around Pluto's large moon Charon during its flyby in July 2015. Analyzing these datasets, no evidence for a present day atmosphere has been found for 14 potential atomic and molecular species, all of which are now constrained to have pressures below 0.3 nanobar, as we describe below, these are much more stringent upper limits than the previously available 15-110 nanobar constraints (e.g., Sicardy et al. 2006); for example, we find a 3σ upper limit for an N2 atmosphere on Charon is 4.2 picobars and a 3σ upper limit for the brightness of any atmospheric haze on Charon of I/F=2.6x10−5. A radio occultation search for an atmosphere around Charon was also conducted by New Horizons but will be published separately by other authors.

China's Tiangong-1 Space Station Will Reenter the Atmosphere in 2017

In a press conference on Wednesday, Chinese officials appear to have confirmed what many observers have long suspected: that China is no longer in control of its space station. China's Tiangong-1 space station has been orbiting the planet for about 5 years now, but recently it was decommissioned and the Chinese astronauts returned to the surface. In a press conference last week, China announced that the space station would be falling back to earth at some point in late 2017.

Pycnonemosaurus nevesi is the new King Abelisauroid Theropod


Grillo et al


Abelisauroid dinosaurs normally reached an average body length (BL) of 5–9 m, but there are controversies due to the incomplete or fragmentary nature of most specimens. For Ekrixinatosaurus, for example, BL was estimated as 10–11 m or 7–8 m; for Pycnonemosaurus it was proposed 7–8 m, however its preserved bones are larger than any other described abelisauroid. The lack of a consistent methodology complicates comparisons of estimated BL, so we reevaluated the estimative for the seven most complete specimens of abelisauroids and compared the values against 40 measurements from the skull, vertebrae and appendicular elements using bivariate equations. It allowed estimating the BL of other 30, less complete, specimens of abelisauroids and to evaluate the allometric scaling of the skeletal parts. Strong correlations (R2 > 0.96) were obtained for all vertebrae and hindlimb measurements, as well as skull height, and length of skull roof, lacrimal–squamosal, scapulocoracoid and humerus; other skull and forelimb measurements present weak correlation due to extreme morphological transformations observed in Abelisauridae and were not adequate for BL estimation. Abelisauroids gradually increased in size during evolution: the mean BL was 3.3 ± 2.5 m for basal abelisauroids and Noasauridae, 5.4 ± 1.8 m for basal Brachyrostra and Majungasauridae, and 7.1 ± 2.1 m for Furileusaura. Despite this variation, diversity of BL on each geographic region and stratigraphic epoch was relatively constant (BL usually varied from 4 to 8 m). The smallest noasaurid and abelisaurid are, respectively, Velocisaurus (1.5 ± 0.1 m) and Genusaurus (3.6 ± 0.0 m). The largest abelisaurids is Pycnonemosaurus nevesi (8.9 ± 0.3 m) followed by Carnotaurus (7.8 ± 0.3 m), Abelisaurus (7.4 ± 0.7 m) and Ekrixinatosaurus (7.4 ± 0.8 m). Skull measurement scale negatively at a similar rate but the height scales almost isometrically and the skull roof length scales more negatively; this probably caused a bending on the skull that may explain the upward orientation of the snout in large taxa.

How the Skulls of Early Triassic Basal Cynodont Galesaurus Grew


Jasinoski et al


Ontogenetic changes in the skull and mandible of thirty-one specimens of Galesaurus planiceps, a basal non-mammaliaform cynodont from the Early Triassic of South Africa, are documented. The qualitative survey indicated eight changes in the craniomandibular apparatus occurred during growth, dividing the sample into three ontogenetic stages: juvenile, subadult, and adult. Changes in the temporal region, zygomatic arch, occiput, and mandible occurred during the transition from the subadult to adult stage at a basal skull length of 90 mm. At least four morphological and allometric differences divided the adult specimens into two morphs, indicating the presence of sexual dimorphism in Galesaurus. Differences include extensive lateral flaring of the zygomatic arches in the ‘male' morph resulting in a more anterior orientation of the orbits, and a narrower snout in the ‘female'. This is the first record of sexual dimorphism in a basal cynodont, and the first time it is quantitatively documented in a non-mammaliaform cynodont. An ontogenetic comparison between Galesaurus and the more derived basal cynodont Thrinaxodon revealed differences in the timing and extent of sagittal crest development. In Galesaurus, the posterior sagittal crest, located behind the parietal foramen, developed relatively later in ontogeny, and the anterior sagittal crest rarely formed suggesting the anterior fibres of the temporalis were less developed than in Thrinaxodon. In contrast, craniomandibular features related to the masseters became more developed during the ontogeny of Galesaurus. The development of the adductor musculature appears to be one of the main factors influencing skull growth in these basal non-mammaliaform cynodonts.

USS Zumwalt has Engineering Causalty

Less than a month ahead of its commissioning, the Navy’s next-generation destroyer Zumwalt (DDG-1000) suffered an engineering casualty that could take up to two weeks to repair, Navy officials confirmed to USNI News on Tuesday.

The ship’s crew – currently pier side at Naval Station Norfolk, Va. – found the fault in the ship’s engineering plant on Sept. 19 ahead of at-sea tests. Zumwalt is now undergoing repairs that may take anywhere from 10 days to two weeks.

“The crew discovered the casualty after detecting a seawater leak in the propulsion motor drive lube oil auxiliary system for one of the ship’s shafts. The built-in redundancy of the ship’s propulsion plant allows this first-in-class ship to operate with multiple engine configurations. However, it was determined that the repairs should be completed in port prior to the ship transiting to sea,” U.S. Naval Surface Forces said in a statement to USNI News.

“Zumwalt will conduct the repairs at Naval Station Norfolk prior to getting underway for training and certification operations.”

The Neogene Browning on Central Asia


Caves et al


There remains substantial debate concerning the relative roles of tectonics and global climate in driving the evolution of climate in Central Asia. Today, interior Asia—including the Taklamakan, Gobi, and Ordos Deserts—is exceptionally arid and is surrounded by distinct rainfall boundaries, such as those generated by the Asian monsoon systems to the east and south and those generated by high topography to the north and west. Determining how and why these boundaries have varied over the Neogene is hindered by the lack of a single proxy that can be broadly applied through space and time. We construct isoscapes of pedogenic carbonate δ13C (δ13Cc) over the Neogene in Asia by combining a compilation of 2236 published measurements with new data from three localities in northern Central Asia. Pedogenic carbonate δ13C records local aridity—excepting localities impacted by C4 grasslands and during large changes in atmospheric pCO2—through variations in soil respiration, depth of carbonate formation, and the effect of water stress on plant δ13C. Together, these effects reflect changes in both primary productivity and mean annual precipitation. Throughout the Neogene, we find consistent and exceptionally high δ13Cc in interior Asia with a ring of lower δ13Cc that demarcates higher precipitation. This persistent ring of lower δ13Cc corresponds in the south and east with the influence of the Asian monsoon systems; in the west and north, it reflects both orographic rainfall due to uplift of the Tian Shan and to moisture delivery by the mid-latitude westerlies. Finally, δ13Cc and, hence, aridity increases regionally in the latest Neogene, reflecting the effects of Northern Hemisphere glaciation and cooling. This widespread "de-greening" would have increased regional albedo and modified basin-scale water balances, resulting in greater dust fluxes due to reduced vegetative cover and precipitation.

Forfexopterus jeholensis: a new Archaeopterodactyloid Pterosaur From Cretaceous China


Jiang et al


Eleven species of archaeopterodactyloid pterosaurs have been reported in China, mostly from the Yixian Formation of western Liaoning. The first uncontroversial archaeopterodactyloid from the Jiufotang Formation is described here. A new genus and species, Forfexopterus jeholensis, is erected on the basis of a unique combination of characters and one autapomorphy: the first wing phalanx is shorter than the second, but longer than the third. The sternum of Forfexopterus is nearly complete and provides the first incontrovertible evidence about the position of sternocoracoid articulations in the Archaeopterodactyloidea. A preliminary geometric morphometric analysis of sterna was carried out with data from 17 species of Pterodactylomorpha. The results document the variation in the shape of the sternum, including the length of the cristospine, the shapes of the lateral, posterior, and anterior margins, and the constriction and expansion of the cristospine. These characters can be used to compare sterna in different pterosaur taxa.

Ichthyostegid-like & Whatcheeriid-like Tetrapods Found in Famennian Devonian Belgium


Olive et al


The origin of tetrapods is one of the key events in vertebrate history. The oldest tetrapod body fossils are Late Devonian (Frasnian–Famennian) in age, most of them consisting of rare isolated bone elements. Here we describe tetrapod remains from two Famennian localities from Belgium: Strud, in the Province of Namur, and Becco, in the Province of Liège. The newly collected material consists of an isolated complete postorbital, fragments of two maxillae, and one putative partial cleithrum, all from Strud, and an almost complete maxilla from Becco. The two incomplete maxillae and cleithrum from Strud, together with the lower jaw previously recorded from this site, closely resemble the genus Ichthyostega, initially described from East Greenland. The postorbital from Strud and the maxilla from Becco do not resemble the genus Ichthyostega. They show several derived anatomical characters allowing their tentative assignment to a whatcheeriid-grade group. The new tetrapod records show that there are at least two tetrapod taxa in Belgium and almost certainly two different tetrapod taxa at Strud. This locality joins the group of Devonian tetrapod-bearing localities yielding more than one tetrapod taxon, confirming that environments favourable to early tetrapod life were often colonized by several tetrapod taxa.

Evidence of Terrestrial Life From Archean Paleosols


Retallack et al


Coastal-plain paleosols in the 3.0 Ga Farrel Quartzite of Western Australia have organic surface (A horizon) and sulfate-rich subsurface (By) horizons, like soils of the Atacama Desert of Chile, Dry Valleys of Antarctica, and 3.7 Ga paleosols of Mars. Farrel Quartzite paleosols include previously described microfossils, permineralized by silica in a way comparable with the Devonian Rhynie Chert, a well known permineralized Histosol. Five microfossil morphotypes in the Farrel Quartzite include a variety of spheroidal cells (Archaeosphaeroides) as well as distinctive large spindles (new genus provisionally assigned to cf. Eopoikilofusa). Previously published cell-specific carbon isotopic analyses of the Farrel Quartzite microfossils, and unusually abundant sulfate considering a likely anoxic atmosphere, allow interpretation of these morphotypes as a terrestrial community of actinobacteria, purple sulfur bacteria, and methanogenic Archaea.

Is India Going to Lease Yasen Class Nuclear Submarines From Russia?

A high-level Indian delegation will be visiting Russia shortly to finalize an agreement on renting the Yasen class submarine for the Indian Navy. Government sources told Sputnik that renting the second nuclear powered attack submarine from Russia would result in the introduction of newer technology into India, which would eventually pave the way for Russian collaboration with India for it program to build six new SSN.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Surface Temperature of Europa




Previous estimates of the surface temperature of Jupiter's moon, Europa, neglected the effect of the eccentricity of Jupiter's orbit around the Sun, the effect of the eclipse of Europa (i.e., the relative time that Europa is within the shadow of Jupiter), and the effect of Europa's internal heating. Here we estimate the surface temperature of Europa, when Europa's obliquity, eclipse and internal heating, as well as the eccentricity of Jupiter, are all taken into account. For a typical internal heating rate of 0.05 W/m2 (corresponding to an ice thickness of about 10 kms), the equator, pole, and global mean surface temperatures are 101.7 K, 45.26 K, and 94.75 K, respectively. We found that the temperature at the high latitudes is significantly affected by the internal heating. We also studied the effect of the internal heating on the mean thickness of Europa's icy shell and conclude that the polar region temperature can be used to constrain the internal heating and the depth of the ice. Our approach and formalism can be implemented to estimate the temperature of other moons in the solar system.

Niku: a Retrograde Orbiting Trans Neptunian Object


Chen et al


Although the majority of Centaurs are thought to have originated in the scattered disk, with the high-inclination members coming from the Oort cloud, the origin of the high inclination component of trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) remains uncertain. We report the discovery of a retrograde TNO, which we nickname "Niku", detected by the Pan-STARRS 1 Outer Solar System Survey. Our numerical integrations show that the orbital dynamics of Niku are very similar to that of 2008 KV42 (Drac), with a half-life of ∼500 Myr. Comparing similar high inclination TNOs and Centaurs (q>10 AU, a<100 and="" au="" i="">60∘), we find that these objects exhibit a surprising clustering of ascending node, and occupy a common orbital plane. This orbital configuration has high statistical significance: 3.8-σ. An unknown mechanism is required to explain the observed clustering. This discovery may provide a pathway to investigate a possible reservoir of high-inclination objects.

Was Early Martian Climate Cold but Warmed Periodically by Volcanism & Impacts?


Batalha et al


For decades, scientists have tried to explain the evidence for fluvial activity on early Mars, but a consensus has yet to emerge regarding the mechanism for producing it. One hypothesis suggests early Mars was warmed by a thick greenhouse atmosphere. Another suggests that early Mars was generally cold but was warmed occasionally by impacts or by episodes of enhanced volcanism. These latter hypotheses struggle to produce the amounts of rainfall needed to form the martian valleys, but are consistent with inferred low rates of weathering compared to Earth. Here, we provide a geophysical mechanism that could have induced cycles of glaciation and deglaciation on early Mars. Our model produces dramatic climate cycles with extended periods of glaciation punctuated by warm periods lasting up to 10 Myr, much longer than those generated in other episodic warming models. The cycles occur because stellar insolation was low, and because CO2 outgassing is not able to keep pace with CO2 consumption by silicate weathering followed by deposition of carbonates. While CO2 by itself is not able to deglaciate early Mars in our model, we assume that the greenhouse effect is enhanced by substantial amounts of H2 outgassed from Mars' reduced crust and mantle. Our hypothesis can be tested by future Mars exploration that better establishes the time scale for valley formation.

Blue Origin’s New Glenn Rocket Unveiled

Years in the making, but finally revealed on Monday, Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket has been shown for the first time via its founder Jeff Bezos. Arriving in two variants, the new – and surprisingly powerful – orbital rocket is scheduled to debut from Cape Canaveral’s SLC-36 by the end of the decade. Like its suborbital sister – the New Shepard – its booster stage will be reusable.

Stealth Saga #54


China will promote the J-31 fighter at the Zhuhai airshow.


Russia claims they will be buying one PAK-FA squadron in 2017.

Russia's first prototype next gen jet engine is nearly ready.  Supposedly, the work will be done by October.

Chinese Bomber:

Here's another take (or two)on the Chinese bomber announcement.

6th Generation Fighters:

Europe is increasingly interested in more advanced weaponry.

Russia is working on a new laser armed plane.


13 F-22s were packed into a hangar due to an approaching hurricane.


F-35As shot down 110 aircraft in simulated engagements during a recent exercise.

Some claim the F-35 will never be fully combat ready.

The next contract for Lockheed is likely to be awarded for F-35 production.

The F-35B has completed operational tests for the USMC.

USMC F-35Bs are likely to guide long range missiles.  The F-35B successfully guided a naval missile (SM-6) to a target.

USMC F-35Bs will be flying off the deck of the Royal Navy's new carrier in 2021.

Boeing has protested Denmark's selection of the F-35A.

MBDA is developing a air to surface missile for the Brits' F-35s.

Terminator Times #20

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles:

Background info on the USAF's first attempt at a UCAV in 1972. 

One POV on the current drone strikes.

AeroVironment  is testing its BlackWing UAV as a naval communications relay.

The US military is expanding the counter UAV exercises known as Black Dart.

General Atomics announced its Certifiable Predator B has completed integration.

The US Army has shown off its quadcopter resupply vehicle testbed.

Northrop just got a contract for 10 Firescout robo helicopters.

The US Navy has outlined what sensors will be on the MQ-25 Stingray.

Swarming UAVs are going to disrupt warfare.

Belarus has developed UAV specific jammers.

Israel's Cormorant (formerly AirMule) has stepped up testing.

Israel's BlueBird's UAVs have new payloads.

Israel's Elbit announced a new kamikaze drone (loitering munition).

Israel's Orbiter 4 prepares for flight testing.

Israel is also working on a quadcopter.

Japan is NOT collaborating with Israel on UAVs.

The unmanned peacekeepers flying over Africa...

Poland's NeoX drone is making progress.

WB Electronics' Łoś UAV has introduced electronic warfare options for Poland.

Russia's RHV-35 looks like the Hunter Killers from Terminator.

Russia is starting production of the Korsar UAV in 2017.

Russia has also demonstrated an anti UAV system.

Saudi Arabia may have bought Chinese UAVs equivalent to the Reaper.

South Korea's KARI unveiled its TR60 tilt rotor UAV.

Quadcopters are being weaponized in Syria.

Unmanned Ground Vehicles:

The US Army has IDed a need for an unmanned recovery vehicle.

Russia's Kalashnikov has unveiled the Soratnik unmanned combat ground vehicle.

Russia's Uran-9/Vikhr UCGV was also unveiled.

The Russians developed an unmanned version of VPK-33115 Tigr-Mlight utility vehicle with the same turret as the Soratnik/Uran-9.

Unmanned Surface Vehicles:

The Royal Navy has been testing its robo boat on the Thames.

ARCIMS USV has been paired with AQS-24B for the Unmanned Warrior exercise.

Unmanned Underwater Vehicles:

The US Navy has released an RFI for an Extra Large UUV with the ultimate plan of purchasing 5.

Software Bots:

How to teach software how to target via machine learning.


Northrop has demonstrated a autonomous framework for unmanned vehicles.

After distributed lethality, some are calling for networked unmanned lethality.

The US military is worried about the Terminator scenario.

In fact, the US SecDef claims the US will NEVER use killer robots.

USS Zumwalt Left Bath Ironworks for San Diego

The first in a class of new guided missile destroyer has left its Maine shipyard to start a three-month journey to its homeport in San Diego, Calif.

Zumwalt (DDG-1000) headed to the Atlantic down the Kennebec River from its berth at the General Dynamics Bath Iron Works shipyard on Wednesday, the Navy announced.

Following the ship’s planned commissioning in Baltimore on Oct. 15, the ship will then transit to California for a post-delivery maintenance availability focused on activating the ship’s combat system. The ship is set to be “integrated into the fleet” by 2018, the service said on Wednesday.

The USS Zumwalt even made its first port call en route.

And has arrived in Norfolk.

The Coming Cyber War #17

Cyber Warfare:

For the last year, someone has been probing the critical infrastructure of the internet.

Obama wishes to avoid a cyber warfare arms race.

What is the US Navy's version of information warfare? 

Should the NSA and US military's cyber command be split?  Senator McCain strongly opposes.

The Pentagon is continuing to reach out to Silicon Valley.

Cyber Security:

Google is offering $200k to hack its Nexus Android phones.

Singapore is pulling its public servants off the net for security reasons. 

A former USAF general has been named the US cyber security chief. 

The US 911 emergency system can be crippled by a mobile bot net.

Cyber Espionage:

The US intelligence agencies are concerned about the threat of Russia throwing doubt on the US election via hackers.

British firms are selling software allowing for anyone to see what's on a smart phone.

GovRAT malware is designed to target US government officials.

Guccifer 2.0, the suspected Russian hacking team, has released more DNC documents.

Watch a leaked video demonstrating how an Italian company's spyware infects computers.

Smartphones can steal 3d printing designs by listening to the printer in action.

New leaked Snowden files show what the NSA could do for satellite eavesdropping.  

Cyber Crime:

18 to 24 year olds are the most likely to use the DARKNET.

Britain is supposedly edging closer to having 10 year prison terms for online pirating.

An FBI agent posed as a journalist to deliver malware to a suspect.

Hackers that broke into the CIA Director's personal email account have been arrested.

An Israeli group,vDOS, claimed to have made $600k doing mercenary DDoS attacks.  The supposed coowners have been since arrested.

PhotoMiner, a cryptocurrency mining malware, has infected Seagate NAS boxes.

Russian hackers are targeting the anti doping agency with hopes of getting US athletes' data.

A teenager figured out how to get free data on his phone.

Allkaruen koi: a new Patagonian Pterosaur From the Lower Jurassic

Scientists today announced the discovery of a new species of pterosaur from the Patagonia region of South America. The cranial remains were in an excellent state of preservation and belonged to a new species of pterosaur from the Early Jurassic. The researchers have named this new species 'Allkauren koi' from the native Tehuelche word 'all' for 'brain', and 'karuen' for 'ancient'.

Pterosaurs are an extinct group of flying reptiles that lived during most of the Mesozoic Era. This group had an extraordinary adaptation to flight, including pneumatic bones to lighten its weight, and an elongated digit supporting a wing membrane. However, pterosaur neuroanatomy is known from only a few three dimensionally preserved remains and, until now, there was no information on the intermediate forms. This study therefore provides new information on the origin, tempo and mode of evolution in this particular group of flying reptiles.

The fossil of Allkaruen koi was found in northern central Chubut Province, Patagonia Argentina and the remains included a superbly preserved and uncrushed braincase. In order to study the neurocranial anatomy, researchers used computed tomography to observe, in three dimensions, the cranial endocast and the inner ear. Subsequently, a comprehensive phylogenetic analysis of the group was performed, including these cranial data and other anatomical features. "Allkaruen, from the middle lower jurassic limit, shows an intermediate state in the brain evolution of pterosaurs and their adaptations to the aerial environment", said Dr Diego Pol, who is part of the research team. "As a result, this research makes an important contribution to the understanding of the evolution of all of pterosaurs."

The Life History of Stem Tetrapod Acanthostega

Life history of the stem tetrapod Acanthostega revealed by synchrotron microtomography


Sanchez et al


The transition from fish to tetrapod was arguably the most radical series of adaptive shifts in vertebrate evolutionary history. Data are accumulating rapidly for most aspects of these events, but the life histories of the earliest tetrapods remain completely unknown, leaving a major gap in our understanding of these organisms as living animals. Symptomatic of this problem is the unspoken assumption that the largest known Devonian tetrapod fossils represent adult individuals. Here we present the first, to our knowledge, life history data for a Devonian tetrapod, from the Acanthostega mass-death deposit of Stensiö Bjerg, East Greenland. Using propagation phase-contrast synchrotron microtomography (PPC-SRμCT)8 to visualize the histology of humeri (upper arm bones) and infer their growth histories, we show that even the largest individuals from this deposit are juveniles. A long early juvenile stage with unossified limb bones, during which individuals grew to almost final size, was followed by a slow-growing late juvenile stage with ossified limbs that lasted for at least six years in some individuals. The late onset of limb ossification suggests that the juveniles were exclusively aquatic, and the predominance of juveniles in the sample suggests segregated distributions of juveniles and adults at least at certain times. The absolute size at which limb ossification began differs greatly between individuals, suggesting the possibility of sexual dimorphism, adaptive strategies or competition-related size variation.

Questioning the Late Heavy Bombardment's Impact on Earth


Boehnke et al


The Late Heavy Bombardment (LHB), a hypothesized impact spike at ∼3.9 Ga, is one of the major scientific concepts to emerge from Apollo-era lunar exploration. A significant portion of the evidence for the existence of the LHB comes from histograms of 40Ar/39Ar “plateau” ages (i.e., regions selected on the basis of apparent isochroneity). However, due to lunar magmatism and overprinting from subsequent impact events, virtually all Apollo-era samples show evidence for 40Ar/39Ar age spectrum disturbances, leaving open the possibility that partial 40Ar* resetting could bias interpretation of bombardment histories due to plateaus yielding misleadingly young ages. We examine this possibility through a physical model of 40Ar* diffusion in Apollo samples and test the uniqueness of the impact histories obtained by inverting plateau age histograms. Our results show that plateau histograms tend to yield age peaks, even in those cases where the input impact curve did not contain such a spike, in part due to the episodic nature of lunar crust or parent body formation. Restated, monotonically declining impact histories yield apparent age peaks that could be misinterpreted as LHB-type events. We further conclude that the assignment of apparent 40Ar/39Ar plateau ages bears an undesirably high degree of subjectivity. When compounded by inappropriate interpretations of histograms constructed from plateau ages, interpretation of apparent, but illusory, impact spikes is likely.

Russia has Ordered the First 100 T-14 Armata Tanks.

The Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has signed an agreement with manufacturer Uralvagonzavod (UVZ) for the supply of a test consignment of more than 100 T-14 Armata main battle tanks (MBTs), the first units of which are already undergoing field trials, Deputy Minister of Defence Yuri Ivanovich Borisov told local media on 6 September.

"The first batch has already been purchased from Uralvagonzavod. We have a contract for the pilot batch of more than 100 units," Borisov said.

Scuffle in the South China Sea #66

China claims nothing has changed with respect to the Scarborough Shoal. 

China also wants outside interference with the South China Sea to stop.

China and Russia first prepared for and then started the exercises in the South China Sea.

What Chinese ships are involved?

The Chinese amphibious warfare can be viewed through the past.

China feel confident it can improve its relations with Philippines. 

China came under pressure at the recent summit.

China is making decisions that get it cornered over the South China Sea.

The recent developments in the South China Sea.

The US Navy's Chief of Naval Operations has stated the US must continue to engage China.

Indonesia has problems with Chinese weapons.

Japan will start patrolling jointly with the USA.

Obama discussed the South China Sea on the way back from a summit and warned the arbitration ruling was binding.

Philippines' President is rejecting joint patrols between the US and Philippines navies.

Philippines has requested a clarification from China as to what they are doing with the Scarborough Shoal.

Philippines' President...oy.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Were Titan's Channels Carved by Ethane & Ammonia?


Gilliam et al


Data obtained from the Cassini Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS), Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS), and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) instruments have revealed an array of fluvial channels on Titan's surface, often several hundreds of kilometers in length. The paucity of impact craters on Titan's surface suggests a formation by fluvial erosion into the water-ice bedrock. Additionally, at the landing site, the Huygens Probe Descent Imager and Spectral Radiometer (DISR) imaged Earth-like rounded cobbles 0.3–15 cm in diameter composed of water ice, reminiscent of rounded stream clasts on Earth. In this paper we examine different fluvial features on Titan, identified by the Cassini spacecraft, and evaluate the possibilities of channel formation by dissolution of ice by a concentrated solution of ammonium sulfate, and by mechanical erosion by flow of liquid ammonia and liquid ethane. We find that chemical erosion of Titan's channels could be completed in 280 to 1100 years (all units of time in this paper are Terrestrial, not Titanian), much shorter than the period of about 84,000 years that a concentrated (NH4)2SO4-H2O solution could exist as a liquid on the Titan surface. Mechanical erosion of Titan's channels is generally a much slower process, on the order of 102 to 105 years to completion, and is also slower than mechanical erosion of a model river on Earth, averaging 103 to 104 years. The erosional sequence of the channels on Titan may have started after the formation of water-ice on the surface by the process of chemical dissolution by (NH4)2SO4-H2O, overlapping, or followed by, a period of mechanical erosion by liquid NH3. A final stage on the cooling surface of Titan might have been characterized by liquid C2H6 as an agent of mechanical erosion.

The Hunt for Planet Nine Finds Multiple Outer Solar System Objects

In the race to discover a proposed ninth planet in our Solar System, Carnegie's Scott Sheppard and Chadwick Trujillo of Northern Arizona University have observed several never-before-seen objects at extreme distances from the Sun in our Solar System. Sheppard and Trujillo have now submitted their latest discoveries to the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center for official designations. A paper about the discoveries has also been accepted to The Astronomical Journal.

The more objects that are found at extreme distances, the better the chance of constraining the location of the ninth planet that Sheppard and Trujillo first predicted to exist far beyond Pluto (itself no longer classified as a planet) in 2014. The placement and orbits of small, so-called extreme trans-Neptunian objects, can help narrow down the size and distance from the Sun of the predicted ninth planet, because that planet's gravity influences the movements of the smaller objects that are far beyond Neptune. The objects are called trans-Neptunian because their orbits around the Sun are greater than Neptune's.

Cryovolcanism Took Place on Ceres Since the Start of the Triassic

Cryovolcanism on Ceres


Ruesch et al



Classic volcanism prevalent on terrestrial planets and volatile-poor protoplanets, such as asteroid Vesta, is based on silicate chemistry and is often expressed by volcanic edifices (unless erased by impact bombardment). In ice-rich bodies with sufficiently warm interiors, cryovolcanism involving liquid brines can occur. Smooth plains on some icy satellites of the outer solar system have been suggested as possibly cryovolcanic in origin. However, evidence for cryovolcanic edifices has proven elusive. Ceres is a volatile-rich dwarf planet with an average equatorial surface temperature of ~160 K. Whether this small (~940 km diameter) body without tidal dissipation could sustain cryovolcanism has been an open question because the surface landforms and relation to internal activity were unknown.

The Framing Camera onboard the Dawn spacecraft has observed >99% of Ceres’ surface at a resolution of 35 m/pixel at visible wavelengths. This wide coverage and resolution were exploited for geologic mapping and age determination. Observations with a resolution of 135 m/pixel were obtained under several different viewing geometries. The stereo-photogrammetric method applied to this data set allowed the calculation of a digital terrain model, from which morphometry was investigated. The observations revealed a 4-km-high topographic relief, named Ahuna Mons, that is consistent with a cryovolcanic dome emplacement.

The ~17-km-wide and 4-km-high Ahuna Mons has a distinct size, shape, and morphology. Its summit topography is concave downward, and its flanks are at the angle of repose. The morphology is characterized by (i) troughs, ridges, and hummocky areas at the summit, indicating multiple phases of activity, such as extensional fracturing, and (ii) downslope lineations on the flanks, indicating rockfalls and accumulation of slope debris. These morphometric and morphologic observations are explained by the formation of a cryovolcanic dome, which is analogous to a high-viscosity silicic dome on terrestrial planets. Models indicate that extrusions of a highly viscous melt-bearing material can lead to the buildup of a brittle carapace at the summit, enclosing a ductile core. Partial fracturing and disintegration of the carapace generates slope debris, and relaxation of the dome’s ductile core due to gravity shapes the topographic profile of the summit. Modeling of this final phase of dome relaxation and reproduction of the topographic profile requires an extruded material of high viscosity, which is consistent with the mountain’s morphology. We constrained the age of the most recent activity on Ahuna Mons to be within the past 210 ± 30 million years.

Cryovolcanic activity during the geologically recent past of Ceres constrains its thermal and chemical history. We propose that hydrated salts with low eutectic temperatures and low thermal conductivities enabled the presence of cryomagmatic liquids within Ceres. These salts are the product of global aqueous alteration, a key process for Ceres’ evolution as recorded by the aqueously altered, secondary minerals observed on the surface.

NASA Approves Mars InSight Lander Launch for 2018 at Additional $180 Million Cost

NASA announced Sept. 2 that it has approved plans to launch a delayed Mars lander mission in 2018, although at an additional cost that could affect plans for later planetary missions.

The InSight Mars lander, originally scheduled for launch in March, will now launch no earlier than May 5, 2018, after NASA’s Science Mission Directorate formally approved the revised mission plan this week. That launch will allow a landing on Mars in November 2018.

NASA postponed the launch in December 2015 after a series of problems with one of its primary instruments, the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), provided by the French space agency CNES. The instrument suffered a series of vacuum leaks that NASA concluded could not be fixed in time to permit a launch during a window that lasted about a month.

Tiangong-2 a go: China Launching Next Space Lab/Station This Month

China will make another big step in its manned space program with the launch of a new orbital laboratory and a new manned space mission in the next two months. The launch of the Tiangong-2 space station is expected to take place on September 15 via the use of a Chang Zheng (Long March) 2F/T2 rocket.

Robopocalypse Report #90

The US laws and regulations for commercial drones are now in effect.

The FAA expects as a result that 600k commercial drones will be in the air by year's end.
Domino's delivered its first pizzas by drone.

Google has partnered with Chipolte to test delivery of burritos via drone.

Russia has produced a drone with a 3d printed engine.

Drones are even coming for NERF wars.

Autonomous Airbus drones could be acting as taxis by 2027.

A drone fest took place in Paris.

There is a tree planting drone designed to help with reforestation.

KAYRYS is a 3d printed drone.

There is another selfie drone.  This one from Yuneec.

Drones are becoming a stalker tool.  Or at least to spy on potentially cheating SOs.

A drone was used to spot a whale cuddling its calf.

A 65 yo woman claims to have gone John Connor on a drone.

Drones are fine at airports so long as they are kept on a leash.

AT&T is planning on hooking drones up to its cellular network.

The law has not kept up with how police are using drones.

Many accidents with drones are actually technical glitches.

Mercedes unveiled a concept delivery van where the last mile delivery will take place by drone.

Drone racing in Chile!

Self Driving Cars:

How to end traffic jams.

Nutonomy has started its self driving car taxi service in Singapore.

Driverless cars are a big topic at  Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 2016 Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

Michigan is set to approve bills allowing for completely driverless cars.

Civil Maps, a new startup, is working on producing maps far more accurate than GPS alone for self driving cars.

A Tesla owner that crashed won't sue, but the insurance company might.

Tesla might further restrict its Autopilot software for safety reasons.

Driverless taxis could be the big show off element of the 2020 Olympics like the bullet trains were before.

Japan is creating its own 3d maps for self driving cars.

 Audi is getting involved in the self driving car races.

Devbot is an example of a test bot for the self driving racers.

The next gen Mercedes might massage you while it parks itself.

Baidu will be testing its self driving cars in California.

Say hello to self driving tractors.

Google is opening a Waze based ride sharing service in San Francisco.  You can guess where that will be going.

Google doesn't know how self driving cars will make life or death decisions.  That's BS.  Since the manufacturer will be liable for something going wrong on a self driving car, then it will make the decision based on whatever will be the least expensive for the manufacturer to settle for.

Bringing emotional intelligence to self driving cars.

Delphi and Mobileye are planning on a turn key self driving car system by 2019.

Volvo and Autoliv are teaming up for self driving cars.

Watch a self driving Volvo truck negotiate an underground mine.

Self driving cars will have issues until our maps and routing software have improved.  Duh.

3d Printing:

Lockheed has filed a patent for a 3d printer producing diamonds.

3doodler has its next generation pen, the pro.

The world's largest 3d printed tool has set a record.

Look at the mini cabin created in Amsterdam through 3d printing.

Dubai's crown prince visited the 3d printed office building in the UAE.

In China, the 3d printing of houses has progressed.

A bicycle was 3d printed as a demo.

3d printing objects that remember their shape.

Why can't we 3d print functional organs now?

GE just spent $1.5 billion to acquire two 3d printing companies.


NASA is running a competition for its robot to repair a Mars base damaged by a storm.

Intel has unveiled a new robotics controller. 

This robo caterpillar is an example of soft robotics.

Here's a paper on the successful design, etc, of soft bots.

The octobot in action and written up!

SANBOT is a physical assistant for museums and more.

How to build a lionfish killing robot.

Lowe's hardware is testing robots to help with customer service.

Baby simulators might actually make girls more prone to teenage pregnancy rather than averting it.  The robopocalypse makes us reproduce?!

This bot is lousy at making sandwiches.

Teaching robots to swarm, but not too cautiously.


There is a new exoskeleton intended to allow you to experience touch in VR.


A young girl got a 3d printed prosthetic from the ... library?

Software Bots:

IBM Watson created its first movie trailer.

A software bot is using satellite data to ID impoverished areas.

Google's DeepMind AI is being used for head and neck cancer treatments.

How machine learning can be used for voice disorders.

How software bots can be used for breast cancer.

Microsoft bought Genee. 

No let's talk Alexa.  How does Alexa learn about you?  Alexa has added AI experts to its coder base. Alexa may launch in Britain this month. Alexa may show up on Lenovo's computers and on Amazon's tablets.  Lowe's is starting to use Alexa, too.  Alexa might start interrupting your conversations.

Siri is going to be controlling Aloft hotel rooms for its guests.

Baidu has open sourced its deep learning tools.

 Kawasaki is building AI bots into its motorcycles.

Facebook is almost ready to show off its AI.

Speech to text bots are getting much better.

Um.  Using AI to create the panopticon?!

A startup has 'weaponized' the strategy Peter Thiel used against gawker as a software bot.

An algorithm has been created to put messages in dance music.

A Spanish startup wants to create a software bot that can cover your local sports teams.

Disney has developed a speech recognition system for kids.

There was an AI judged beauty contest.  It had some ... controversial results.


Walmart is cutting 7,000 jobs due to automation implementation.

Has automation entered a new era?

USMC Building V-22 Transportable, Mobile Air Defense Laser

The US Marine Corps (USMC) is soon going to increase the laser power for a project meant to provide mobile air defence for ground forces.

Working with the Office of Naval Research (ONR), marines hope to eventually field a Ground-Based Air Defense (GBAD) Directed Energy On-the-Move system that encompasses a vehicle-mounted high-energy laser; mounted command, control, and communications (C3) suite; and mounted volumetric surveillance radar.

Paleolithic Papers #9

Genus Homo:

Stone tools found from Middle Pleistocene Jordan have the blood of ducks, rhinos and others on them.

Upper Pleistocene Altamira cave has evidence of pigment processing in sea shells.

Does genus Homo need to be split?

Has the increased flow of blood to the brain been more important for the evolution of intelligence rather than brain size?

 H. neanderthalensis:

Is it NeanderTHAL or NeanderTAL

H. sapiens:

Evidence of people from the Pleistocene/Holocene Boundary in Brazil from a cave.

Modern humans have a gene allowing better tolerance of smoke than Neandertals. 

Modern human brains do not have a larger prefrontal cortex in relative terms than other primates, but do have an absolute larger number of neurons present.

The dispersal of modern humans into south east asia is tracked.

The first colonization of the Americas probably did NOT use the ice free corridor.

How DID humans occupy the Tibetan plateau?
Did the earliest modern humans acutally arise in China?

Genus Australopithecus:

The Laetoli hominin (A. afarensis?) had a gait distinctive from modern humans.

The earliest stone tools were used for more than just butchering.

A. afarensis:

Did Lucy die from falling from a tree? John Hawks is skeptical.

How flexible was A. afarensis' diet?

You can now 3d print Lucy's bones.

A. africanus:

The heel of A. africanus appears to have been more like a gorilla's than a chimp's.

 A sediba:

Cancer was found in one of the bones associated with A. sediba.


A new analysis suggests the Piltdown Hoax was conducted by one person.

Structure and homology of Psittacosaurus tail bristles


Mayr et al


We examined bristle-like appendages on the tail of the Early Cretaceous basal ceratopsian dinosaur Psittacosaurus with laser-stimulated fluorescence imaging. Our study reveals previously unknown details of these structures and confirms their identification as integumentary appendages. For the first time, we show that most bristles appear to be arranged in bundles and that they exhibit a pulp that widens towards the bristle base. We consider it likely that the psittacosaur bristles are structurally and developmentally homologous to similar filamentous appendages of other dinosaurs, namely the basal heterodontosaurid Tianyulong and the basal therizinosauroid theropod Beipiaosaurus, and attribute the greater robustness of the bristles of Psittacosaurus to a higher degree of cornification and calcification of its integument (both skin and bristles). Although the psittacosaur bristles are probably homologous with avian feathers in their origin from discrete cell populations, it is uncertain whether they developed from a follicle, one of the developmental hallmarks of true feathers. In particular, we note a striking resemblance between the psittacosaur bristles and the cornified spine on the head of the horned screamer, Anhima cornuta, an extant anseriform bird. Similar, albeit thinner keratinous filaments of extant birds are the ‘beard’ of the turkey, Meleagris gallopavo, and the crown of the Congo peafowl, Afropavo congensis. All of these structures of extant birds are distinct from true feathers, and because at least the turkey beard does not develop from follicles, detailed future studies of their development would be invaluable towards deepening our understanding of dinosaur filamentous integumentary structures.