Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Japanese Supercomputing Talk Friday

Ryutaro Himeno, director of the Advanced Computing and Communication Center at Japan’s RIKEN institution, will give a talk on his organization’s Next-Generation Supercomputer Development Project at 1:30 p.m. on Friday in Building 50A-5132. Himeno will also discuss how the system has been developed to advance research in nanoscience and life sciences. RIKEN conducts comprehensive research in science and technology and publicly disseminates its scientific research results and technological developments.

It's on the Hill (in Berkeley) in 50A. If you show up at the guard gate, please mention the talk, it's location, and have ID.

Paleoclimate Working Group Note: Getting the Word Out

Dear Members of the CCSM Paleoclimate Working Group:

We need to prepare the paleoclimate part of the upcoming CSL computer allocation proposal. We would like to give you the opportunity to submit your request for computer time to carry out proposed CCSM paleoclimate simulations. Therefore we would like the following information from you:

- Title of your proposed simulation

- A statement as to whether the simulation is a development simulation or a production simulation. In order to qualify as a development simulation, the proposed run must involve the implementation of a new feature in the CCSM and the testing of such a feature.

- A paragraph (200 words or less) describing the scientific justification for the proposed simulation

- The resolution of the CCSM3 version, e.g. T31X3, T42X1, T85X1 or stand alone CAM3, or POP, etc. We need the resolution to calculate the required computational resource.

- The length of the integration in simulated years. If you plan on doing multiple runs, then the length in years of each run and the total requested number of simulated years

We need this information by August 10th, so that we can prioritize the proposed simulations, prepare the paleo write-up for the larger CCSM CSL proposal, and give this material to the SSC. We will attempt to meet your proposed request for time, but the final request is dependent upon how much time we can put into the paleo part of the proposal.

Thank you for you participation in the Paleo Working Group.

Jeffrey Kiehl Zhenyu Liu

Co- Chairs of the CCSM Paleoclimate Working Group

CCSM-Paleoclimate mailing list

From my inbox. IDK how many of my readers are interested - or capable - of running paleoclimate simulations, but if you are, please, join the paleoclimate mailing list and reply to Dr Kiehl.

If you don't know what you're doing, DON'T WASTE HIS TIME. or Dr Liu's either.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Demography Matters on Ukrainian Demographics

They have a very good article up on Ukrainian demographics. I strongly recommend that you go read. I'm pondering vs my experiences and might have a reply tomorrow. Today is just nuts with DDN issues.

Puerto Rico's Status: Enhanced Commonwealthers on the Ropers?

Puerto Rico's ruling party approved a resolution Sunday urging the United Nations to review the island's status, hoping international pressure can help it gain greater autonomy from the United States.

It was the first time Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila's Popular Democratic Party, which has favored the current commonwealth status, has called for such a change. The approval was announced by Vila, who last week said he will run for re-election next year.

Party officials say they want to maintain U.S. ties, but also to be able to negotiate trade pacts and import products carried on ships not registered in the U.S., among other powers.

More than 3,600 members attending the party's general assembly approved the resolution, which was aimed at giving the island greater economic flexibility to overcome a slump while maintaining its current political status.

The U.N. has no authority to change Puerto Rico's status, but party officials believe it can create dialog leading to partial autonomy.

As I noted before, there is a strong push right now in Congress to end Puerto Rico's status as an unincorporated territory of the United States of America. Frankly, this is long overdue, in my not so humble opinion. Either cut them loose or incorporate them as a state. Keeping them as a colonial possession is an embarrassment for our ideals. However, there are those that wish to keep - or semi-enhance - the status quo. One of those is the current governor of the Commonwealth. The one of the enhancements they would like to have would be to be able to set their own foreign policy and trade agreements while still keeping their citizenship in the US.

Repeatedly, multiple administrations - Republican and Democrat - have come back and said that this is incompatible with the US Constitution. I believe that one of the quotes that was addressed to the current governor was "What part of 'no' don't you understand?" wrt to his plans for his Commonwealth. With the bills [see here too] that are being processed in Congress, and the trends for public opinion in Puerto Rico, it seems as though the Enhanced Commonwealth crowd are getting a little nervous that they are going to loose out as the Independence Movement and Statehood forces are teamed up for this next, binding vote. The problem is that the vote is rigged in such a way that keeping the status quo is not going to happen (see the bill).

That they are appealing to the UN makes me think that they are in a losing battle and that they need outside help...which might not go over well and probably won't help either. As always, we shall see.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Russia Tries to Claim Arctic Sea Shelf

Russian scientists hope to plunge to the seabed beneath the North Pole in the next few days in a miniature sub and plant a titanium capsule containing the Russian flag, symbolically claiming much of the Arctic Ocean floor for Moscow.

Never mind, it violates some treaties...oh wait...

Skull Sweating the Successor to Usenet

I have been a long standing usenet user. My first post was back in 1993. I find that I really like the medium. People can communicate in a manner that fits an extended conversation, yet still can offer a better thought out response. It's almost, when done well, a blend of letters and essays with a sense of community tossed in. This seems to be especially true for the newsgroup soc.history.what-if: see sidebar. We have some very high and rigorous standards there that have stood the test of time. Well, at least the last 6 years or so, which is a pretty long time for anything online. Not all is shiny and bright though.

The only problem is that Usenet is dying. The readership and participant count is an ebbing tide. It's not a style that appeals to people in this day and age of YouTube, podcasts, The Web, and bitttorrent. Even blogs might be hurting in another few years. However, for Usenet, the style of discourse and quality of discussion from the better newsgroups will simply go extinct, I think. The vast majority of them are empty or full of spam, already left high and dry as the waters of human attention have withdrawn. There are a few refugia, but not that many and even those are in decline.

SHWI for example has had 2212 posts so far this month. An estimated 300 of those are spam (10%, which is very bad compared to olden times). There were a small host of threads this month about whether we should have an exodus of posters away from the less desirable types which seem to be overly prolific and, frankly, very obnoxious even to those that are polite to them. Those threads, which induced a plethora of rants by the usual suspects[1], generated something on the order of 200 posts of their own. That leaves some 1800 posts that are 'good' posts. That means an average of 62 posts per day. Except that seven years ago, it was five times that. The decline can be seen here.

The question of what is to succeed it has come up. I've been putting in some serious 'skull sweat' about what to do. Carlos outed that fact. I have a plethora of notes on what I want from the high. Now I've started scribbling down the mechanics. I think I am going to do a number of prototypes first. This weekend, I am planning on standing up an old machine as a server for the project. The first lines of code will probably be written tonight for the first prototype.

I need to read a lot more details about the new models of communication that are out there. I am setting an informal goal of the first alpha for a year from now. We shall see.

1. As an aside, Google Groups has even produced a bit of character assassinations through an add on feature that most Usenet users can't see: Google Groups supports a rating feature for each post and this in turn allows some people who use this system to run around and mark people they don't like down as poor posts. It's not unlike slashdot's moderation system, yet isn't available to most posters to even know its there. Since Google Groups is likely to be the end resting place for the ultimate end-times Usenet archive, some people have been smeared without knowledge or way of correction after the groups are archived permanently.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

U.S. launches program to offset carbon with trees

Consumers who see planting trees as a way to fight global warming can now sprout them without getting out the garden tools.

The U.S. Forest Service and non-profit group the National Forest Foundation launched a Web site on Wednesday where consumers can pay a $6 to offset one metric ton of carbon dioxide, the main gas scientists link to global warming. Their donations will pay for projects like the planting of ponderosa pines in a Montana forest wiped out by a fire, or Douglas firs in an Idaho forest damaged by a tornado.

"I think people are looking for something they can actually do besides reducing their carbon footprint," Bill Possiel, NFF's president said in an interview.

The world's largest emitter of greenhouse emissions, the United States, does not regulate output of the gases. That has helped spawn a voluntary, unregulated carbon market where consumers and companies pay someone else to cut emissions elsewhere at projects, such as wind power and tree farms.

Global voluntary market trade last year hit nearly 24 million tonnes of carbon dioxide credits worth more than $90 million, according to industry watchers.

oh kewl! I wish they'd do that for redwoods in California! Here's a link to the website with a carbon footprint calculator before the link to donating. We came out to $84/year to offset our family's habits. That might be a little low. I'll talk to my wife about this tonight and see what she thinks.

Even so, I think we'll get ready to go buy land in Greenland and start our forest there. ;)

Global Warming Carbon Offset Plan to be...Sunk?

Global warming is heating up opportunities for companies that can find ways to pull carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the atmosphere and sell "carbon credits" on emerging markets.

But one company's attempt to dip its toes into free-market climate solutions appears to be headed for a high-seas standoff.

In the coming days to weeks, Planktos, a small California-based "ecorestoration" company, will use a 115-foot (35-meter) research ship to dump a hundred tons of iron dust into international waters some 200 miles (322 kilometers) west of the Galápagos Islands.

Iron—a nutrient naturally carried into the ocean by wind—encourages plankton growth, which can absorb atmospheric CO2, a greenhouse gas.

Planktos ultimately wants to fertilize plankton blooms, measure the carbon they capture, and sell the corresponding credits (related: "Extreme Global Warming Fix Proposed: Fill the Skies With Sulfur" [August 4, 2006]).

Companies that emit greenhouse gases can buy these credits to offset their contributions to global emissions.

Russ George, Planktos' CEO, testified last week about the project before a U.S. congressional committee. He says nearly a dozen scientific studies are conceptually on his side.

The 57-year-old, who describes himself as a classical ecologist and businessman, says he is simply mimicking Mother Nature by giving greenhouse gas-sucking seas and trees a leg up.

But several environmental groups and marine scientists are raising red flags, while U.S. regulators are asking questions about accountability.

And at least one opponent to the plan isn't waiting for official regulatory action.

Greenpeace co-founder Paul Watson told National Geographic News that his group the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society plans to send a ship to intercept Planktos' vessel in open waters.

Oy. IDK if any side is handling this one correctly.

Japan to Fund Stealth Prototype?

The Japanese government will provide money in the FY2008 defense budget to develop a prototype stealth fighter, according to a report in the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper. Development would take up to ten years and cost "tens of billions of yen" (10 billion yen = $84 million). The prototype would not have a radar or weapons, which could be demonstrated separately, and would be smaller than an operational fighter.

They go on to say that it might be a negotiating bluff wrt the US and the F-22. O:)

Return of the CGNs?

he Navy - in part due to congressional pressure - is examining the possibility of a large, 25,000-ton missile cruiser with nuclear propulsion. Details of the proposals and analyses were revealed this week by Christopher P. Cavas in Defense News and Navy Times.

Two cruiser designs are being considered. The first is a new warship based on the controversial DDG 1000 (Zumwalt class) destroyer, which features the controversial “tumblehome” hull. This design is being called an “escort cruiser” to protect aircraft carrier strike groups. It would have gas turbine propulsion, as do all other U.S. cruisers, destroyers, and frigates.

The second cruiser would be a much larger, 25,000-ton, nuclear-propelled ship with a more conventional hull featuring a flared bow. This ship would be optimized for the Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) mission.

Reportedly, five nuclear-propelled CGN(X) ships and 14 escort cruisers designated CG(X) would be built to fulfill the cruiser requirement in the Navy’s 30-year, 313-ship plan. These ships would be, in part, a replacement for the 22 remaining Ticonderoga (CG 47) missile cruisers, completed between 1986 and 1994.

The CGNs were decommissioned back in the 1990s due to the costs of refueling and the fact that it would be prohibitively expensive to upgrade them to a VLS config when their previous launchers were obsolete. Now they're talking trading off 7 Aegis replacements (CG(X) escort cruisers) for 5 battlewagon sized nuclear powered cruisers. In the abstract I have little against other than perhaps the cost. Something this large and with this much expense just for the propulsion element, then I get the feeling that the push will be to fill it to the brim with weapons that will double the cost again and then it will get cancelled part way through the contract leaving there only 14 cruisers instead of 22. We really need 2 AAW cruisers (with extended capabilities) for each carrier: in the era where the world's largest navy may have to face down the world's largest air force, it doesn't matter if every single missile hits and kills a single jet if you run out of missiles before they run out of jets.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Clues to Antarctica's Great Mountain Ridge

The origins of the highest peaks in Antarctica have long been shrouded in mystery. Now researchers suggest they are remnants of a gigantic high plateau that collapsed as the earth tore apart.

The frozen continent of Antarctica was the last explored by humanity. The mysteries lurking at its heart inspired the pioneering horror writer H.P. Lovecraft to imagine "Mountains of Madness" there in the 1930s higher than the Himalayas, "pylons of a frightful gateway into forbidden spheres of dream, and complex gulfs of remote time, space, and ultra-dimensionality."

Although less fantastic, the Transantarctic Mountains remain striking. They make up one of the longest mountains chains in the world, stretching more than 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers) across the entire length of the continent, and can reach heights more than 4,500 meters, or more than 2.5 miles tall, a little more than half the height of Everest (8,848 meters).


Read and ponder.

Russia's Missile Problems Suggest Further Issues?

However, the Kremlin-controlled media did not trumpet its success, and Digalo's announcement was not substantiated by any higher-ranking source. Digalo is an official spokesman for the navy, but has record is questionable. He was in this post in August 2000, when the Kursk nuclear sub sank in the Barents Sea after an explosion. At the time Digalo insisted that the Navy was “in contact with the crew of the sunken Kursk,” which was not true (RIA-Novosti, August 14, 2000).

Digalo may have returned to his old ways. Last week it became obvious that the latest Bulava launch was not as successful as he had claimed. Two of the missile's dummy warheads went seriously off target and a third was entirely lost when it did not manage to reach Kamchatka (Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie, July 20).

Most of the Russian public is today force-fed Kremlin propaganda about events inside Russia or abroad. But is the military actually misleading the Kremlin on this matter?

The main designer of the Bulava, Yuri Solomonov, has in the past attributed the multiple mishaps of test-launches to the progressive degradation of the Russian defense industry, the inferior quality of Russian-made components and materials, and the “loss” of key military technology (VPK, April 4). This apparently unstoppable degradation means that in the coming years Russia will be unable to arm its forces with modern weapons. Russian arms exports are also affected. Alexander Brindikov, deputy chief of the Russian arms trade monopoly Rosoboronexport, explains: “We are encountering colossal problems fulfilling existing export contracts and are withholding from signing some new ones, because we cannot figure how they may be fulfilled” because of the degradation of the Russian defense industry (VPK, March 21).

In the future Russia maybe forced to begin procuring Western (i.e., U.S.) arms and defense know how, or its forces will have no new weapons -- and perhaps none at all. Why would Putin pick fights with the West on any possible issue when it is becoming obvious that Russia is becoming dependent on Western aid and good will? Perhaps Putin’s actions are not foolish, but the product of deliberate misinformation about the true state of the Russian military and defense industry.

The whole situation is rather odd. The defense business is in a bad state. The problems with the new weapon systems are well known. Somehow I don't think the military is out to deceive Putin et al. it could be there's just a whacko putting out disinformation.

However, Putin's behavior is just plain odd.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Russia to the WTO (!Most Flattering Image BTW)

Despite that, the Russians are not terribly worried about Ukrainian or Georgian objects to accession to the WTO. I'm not so sure that I would be as optimistic, but, hey, I'm not one of the negotiators. Read the article.


I am a good way through the book I mentioned before for Byzantine military history. The Romans and their derivative continuity through the Byzantines just plain fascinate me. It is a radical and remarkable evolution of a nation state (and yes, they seem to be damned close to the modern concept IMNSHO) from a village on a hilltop in Italy to the greatest Empire that Europe has known[1] to the final fall of a sole, very depopulated city on the Bosporus Straits. It's a thousand year evolution of a 'single' nation-state and culture. Just fascinating stuff. Yeah, I've still got a thing for the military aspect of it too. And the architecture just as much.

That said though, I am still have my mild fascination with Deep Time. And Politics. And Rockets. And biotech. And History. And...oh heck, lotsa frakkin stuff. I've been chewing my way through my previous order of books. It's going to run out in the not too far future. I got a Amazon gift certificate, so, I thought, why not hunt down some books? Didn't I just earn it after getting my rumpus maximus pounded into the floor for the week of rotation? At least the last 48 hours! Holy frak!

Continuing my Deep Time obsession I picked up a few books there. The first one I picked up was The Emergence of Animals. It's not normally the end of the evolutionary scale that I am that fascinated by - that would be with the emergence of terrestrial ecosystems - but I would best be at least a little educated on the matter. I also picked up The Nemesis Affair to see what else Raup has to say. He did a lot of ground breaking work and this book is recommended by numerous people, hence the purchase. For some damned reason I keep coming back to pick up the next Peter Ward book time and again even though they annoy me with some aspects. *sighs* This time I picked up a copy of Under the Green Sky. It includes more about the Permian Extinction, so how could I say no? I hope - ha! more fool I! - more than just a travelogue. We shall see. I hope Dr Ward appreciates the lining of his pocket that I keep doing.

I also decided that it was time to start indulging my political whackiness. That would be in regards to Mexico and my atypical views of what we ought to be working on wrt our relations. Since I have no real feel for whether or not I really want to contribute to oddball's pockets - after all, they may be as bad as Steverino-button-pressing-wanker of SHWI - I chose to buy the books as used. A bit more risk, but I get them cheaper and don't contribute to the author's pocket. I might invoke some nastiness there for that reasoning, but until I have a feel for someone's politics when I am buying political books, I am going to play it safe. No point in supporting Teh Evil if I can help it. That said, I decided to pick up a copy of Open the Borders for a more left view of the immigration problem and Annexing Mexico for what appears to be the other end of the political spectrum's POV. The latter is probably more main stream than the former though. (*snerk*) However, longer term readers of my blog and those that have encountered me online know which of the two options in the abstract I prefer.

That said, it looks quite likely that I will be in Atlanta with the family from the 5th of August until the 11th. I have a couple classes that I need to take for work (SAN related stuff). Are there any readers in that region or any restaurants that might be recommended?

1. Spain may actually have been larger, but let me obsess for a little while longer, okay?

"Green" Renewnable Energy Not So Green Compared to Nuclear

Renewable does not mean green. That is the claim of Jesse Ausubel of the Rockefeller University in New York. Writing in Inderscience's International Journal of Nuclear Governance, Economy and Ecology, Ausubel explains that building enough wind farms, damming enough rivers, and growing enough biomass to meet global energy demands will wreck the environment.

Ausubel has analyzed the amount of energy that each so-called renewable source can produce in terms of Watts of power output per square meter of land disturbed. He also compares the destruction of nature by renewables with the demand for space of nuclear power. "Nuclear energy is green," he claims, "Considered in Watts per square meter, nuclear has astronomical advantages over its competitors."

On this basis, he argues that technologies succeed when economies of scale form part of their evolution. No economies of scale benefit renewables. More renewable kilowatts require more land in a constant or even worsening ratio, because land good for wind, hydropower, biomass, or solar power may get used first.

He does some ratios that people ought to consider and runs through the whole gauntlet of 'renewable' energy sources. One of the worst - *gasp*shock* - is biomass compared to nuclear power. All of them fall far short of what a nuclear power plant can do. This includes solar which he goes on to outline as needing 150 square kilometers of solar panels to replace a single nuclear reactor. The United States at this point has a total of 103 active power generating power plants. This means we need a total of 15,600 square kilometers of solar generating capacity: this is approximately an area of 125 miles by 125 miles for those of stuck on our own, anachronistic measurement system. Nuclear power only represents 20% of the electricity generating industry. To replace all the coal, natural gas, etc, plants you would need another four times the above (or more simply put, approximately 280 miles by 280 miles of solar panels to power the United States as is with nor growth). 280 miles is HUGE. It more than the distance between Las Cruces, New Mexico - almost on the border of Mexico - to Albuquerque, New Mexico! That's a vast piece of habitat wiped out.

It is truly too bad that the Greens are so adamantly, ridiculously opposed to nuclear power. It may in fact do the most damage to the environment because of it. It makes you wonder if there hadn't been the wild outcry during the 1970s what our power mix would be now and if the impact of green house gases might have been less.

Don't get me wrong. I support solar power. I think it would excellent as the secondary source of power for peak usage. After all, those times that solar happens to be the most effective are during the times that the highest demand is present (summer/daylight). That seems like a match made in heaven to me.

I am also not at all friendly to biomass, but that's another post for another time.

Russia Vs Britain over the Polonium Death

All of you that have been following the bizarre saga of the radiation poisoning via the uber expensive (or should that be bolshoi?) polonium of Alexander Litvinenko. The British conducted an investigation and indicted Andrei Lugovoy on the murder. The Brits then went about the usual procedure of requesting an extradition. The Russians said, "Nyet!" Since then, there has been a tit-for-tat diplomatic silliness, but things are starting to get worse.

The Britz expelled some diplomats. The Russians did likewise. Then the Russians did something they have not done in a long, long time. They flew bombers to Britain. They did claim it had nothing to do with the flap though. erm, no pun intended. Then there's this lovely quote from today from Mr Putin:

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday denounced Britain's demands for the extradition of a suspect in the killing of Alexander Litvinenko as insulting and a relic of its colonial thinking.

"What they propose is an obvious vestige of colonial thinking," Putin was shown saying on Russian state television.

"They must have clearly forgotten that Britain is no longer a colonial power, there are no colonies left and, thank God, Russia has never been a British colony," Putin said.

Huh. That's odd. First World Nations regularly extradite suspects for trial to one another after a legal proceeding. I do believe that the Britz haven't done anything other than make a request for this to take place. I hardly see how its a case of colonialism. Frankly, the quote above sounds more like a Third World Dictator caught with his hands in the cookie jar and trying to score political points than Britain trying to be an empire again!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Global Warming Post

Since I banged out a single post about militaria today, I think I better do the same with climate change.

First up is that global warming has already altered the weather patterns. This isn't much of a surprise. If you alter the heat balance of the world, you'll alter the winds, the amount of evaporation, and whatnot. In the end it will be considerably different.

Secondly, the warm water species may dominate the oceans. This is something of a well, duh moment. IDK if we'll end up with coral reefs up around Britain or New York, but we'll see animals that are definitely warmer adapted than what's currently there now.

Erk. Need to run. Better posts tomorrow. Promise.

The Militaria Post of the Day

I am going to see if I can concentrate the militaria postings into a single post per day if I find anything of note. There are a few links out there that are of interest normally, and today, there are a lot. Rather than just slam up the front page of my blog with post after post of miltech niftiness, I am going to just make it a single, high explosive post. That said, fire in the hole!

(and no, Jason, there's none of that WSMR delay....delay....delay...delay shibbit here)

First up, the US Special Forces are looking at replacing their gunships - the AC-130s with the BFGs - with examples of the next generation USAF bomber! Yep, bomber or so sayeth AvWeek. The SpecFor are more interested in the stealth and time on target. They worry that the AC-130s (or any cargo hauler derived system) will be unsurvivable in the near term: too many inexpensive SAMs.

Also in the advanced tech regime, the US Army has asked Boeing to mount a demonstrator solid-state laser on the back of one of their big logistics trucks. This is a demonstrator. This means it is the step before a prototype. It is not a functional weapon that can be realistically deployed. However, it is a proof of concept. Should the concept be proven, then we'll see this go to prototype and then production. My bet is that we will see this get down to smaller than this, possibly Hummer or MRAP carriable and possibly even on a custom, armored platform. Or even an Future Combat Systems (FCS) chassis. If that program survives.

Speaking of the FCS, the US Army has detailed the spin-outs - that is to say, bits of technology that are going to be integrated into the current equipment prior to the fielding of the FCS. They have also notified the main contractor of the FCS chassis that they should start the long lead item procurement for initial production of the artillery component of the FCS which is set to begin in three years. One of the critiques of the FCS is that based on the lessons from Iraq that it might just be too lightly armoured in view of the threats that we are seeing there. I ahve some opinions of the matter, but they can wait for another time when I have time to articulate them.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Introducing The Boneyard

This is the first paleontology carnival! This is great! The first issue might be a little thin, but I suspect that this is going to be a lot of fun, very interesting and even more informative. I don't have time this week to work up something to submit - I'm on rotation! - but rest assured I definitely will for the second BY.

CARLOS! If you can, submit that long held back paleo biochem post you promised a long, long time ago. Or buff up the thoughts from the paleo ecology post a while back.

Query: Where to Host a PDF?

I have slides from a presentation that I attended a couple days ago. I am getting a little frustrated because I want to upload them somewhere so I can share them: it's about HPC architectures and manycores by John Shalf where I work. It's derived from his presentation at the International Supercomputing Conference just a few weeks ago.

The problem is that I need a place to host it online. Geocities, where I cached Mike Wehner's presentation before, won't take files more then 8 MB. This presentation is about 27MB in size. Anyone have a suggestion where to host it?

'Overturning the Conventional Wisdom for the Multicore Era: Everything you know is wrong'

Abstract: The recent trends in the microprocessor industry have important ramifications to the design of petaflop-scale computing systems. In the past decade the industry has seen microprocessor clock frequencies double every 18 months, which allowed HPC to continue with modest increases in concurrency. As the pace of processor clock rate improvements continues to slow, the microprocessor industry has moved to doubling the number of processor cores per chip every 18 months. Consequently, the path towards realizing petascale computing depends on riding a wave of exponentially increasing system concurrency. This is leading to reconsideration of interconnect design, memory balance, and I/O system design because our entire software infrastructure is built upon assumptions that are no longer true. This will have dramatic consequences for the design of future HPC applications and algorithms.
I have own commentary on this, but I need to find a place to put it up online first (free, please).

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Rise of the Dominance of Dinos Slower than Originally Thought

(photo credit National Geographic)
Fossils discovered in the oft-painted arroyos of northern New Mexico show for the first time that dinosaurs and their non-dinosaur ancestors lived side by side for tens of millions of years, disproving the notion that dinosaurs rapidly replaced their supposedly outmoded predecessors.

The fossils were excavated from the Hayden Quarry at Ghost Ranch, an area made famous through the paintings of Georgia O'Keefe, by a team of paleontologists from the University of California, Berkeley, the American Museum of Natural History and The Field Museum. The finds, including fossil bones of a new dinosaur predecessor the researchers have named Dromomeron romeri, are described in a cover story in the July 20 issue of Science.

"Up to now, paleontologists have thought that dinosaur precursors disappeared long before the dinosaurs appeared, that their ancestors probably were out-competed and replaced by dinosaurs and didn't survive," said co-author Kevin Padian, professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley and a curator in the campus's Museum of Paleontology. "Now, the evidence shows that they may have coexisted for 15 or 20 million years or more."

According to primary authors Randall Irmis and Sterling Nesbitt, graduate students, respectively, at UC Berkeley and at New York's American Museum, the new bones provide anatomical information that tells paleontologists about the evolution of dinosaur precursors, their transition into true dinosaurs and how dinosaurs diversified.

"Finding dinosaur precursors, or basal dinosauromorphs, together with dinosaurs tells us something about the pace of changeover," Irmis said. "If there was any competition between the precursors and dinosaurs, then it was a very prolonged competition."

An alternative hypothesis held that the sudden extinction of many animals in the Late Triassic period allowed dinosaurs to diversify and eventually populate the globe. Based on the new findings, however, "quite a few of the groups proposed to go extinct survived well into the Late Triassic," Irmis said.

Sampling Size! Sampling Size! It all depends on the Sampling Size!

I suspect that over the next century, the story of evolution and mass extinctions is going to be shaken up quite a bit. A lot of the generalizations we make about what happens during these events are based on a handful of sites. This is often really true of the terrestrial environments.

The only good transitions for the KT Boundary for the terrestrial environment are, iirc, in North America. The more famous of these is Hell's Creek. A lot of theories have been built on what has happened based on the fossils of this one, single or sometimes two locales. This is exceedingly disingenuous. While it is understandable that there is a huge temptation to try to build big theories on what data you have, people ought to take a step back and think about the fact they are working with such small, small samples and in very similar environs. For all they know, the dinosaurs went extinct in the rest of the world sometime before this. OTOH, they may have declined MORE here at Hell's Creek than other places. true, the nature of geology makes it very unlikely there will be lots of spots that are fossiliferous, terrestrial, and have contiguous sediment through the whole period that is to be studied.

Likewise, there are two locales with good spots for the terrestrial PT Boundaries. Fortunately, these are in Russia and South Africa, making them almost polar opposites of the same megacontinent. However, what was happening in the terrestrial realm in, say, the tropical realm? We have an idea in the marine environs, but not, alas, in the terrestrial. We can make extrapolations, to some extent, with the help of the marine environment: if the biota hasn't radically changed there, it's not that likely to have changed on land. We hope.

Sampling issues, like the above can and do lead us into iniquity, erm, I mean, error. There's a big debate about the Big Five Mass Extinctions. There are those - like Hallam, frex - that have been arguing that based on the sampling issues we have with the Cambrian and Late Triassic that there may not be the mass extinction that we think is there. There have been fossils lately out of Britain that show critters that were supposed to have died off earlier in the Triassic during the extinction event did not. Additionally, there seems to be evidence of a dicynodont in Australia during the early Cretaceous. Now we have the cousins or precursors of the dinosaurs - as noted above - surviving past the Late Triassic Event. Because these critters had the gall to not die where we could find their remains as fossils, little - or not so little - ingrates! we often get the wrong impression as to when they died out or that they were even there the first place (cue New Zealand Miocene mammals). Something not all that different is happening with the Cambrian fossils. More and more of the relatives of the ones found in the Burgess Shale are being found in the Ordovician, lessening the number of critters or their close relatives that seemed to have gone extinct at the end of Cambrian.

In the end, I think that the mass extinctions are going to undergo some revisions as we find more sites that have good samples of the time frames we want to study wrt the extinction events. There will be surprises. There will be some 'oh duh' moments. there will be 'how could they have thought that' moments. I even better there will one or two events that might even fade from the top five or grow into the 6th (barring our current one).

Zach Miller On Origins of the Marginocephalians

(credit: Andrey Atuchin as per Zach)

Greenland's Melting Glaciers

Bladerunner Meets Star Trek

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

My Queen & Her Princess

A Gathering of Bairds

This is what California Bairds look like. Moi and Avrora. My uncle, Bruce, is in back: he's the editor for that paper. Then my uncle Bob, the pharmaceutical chemist formerly of Genentech and now a consultant, and my aunt Lynne. Then my cousins Halley and Brian.

My beautiful wife was kind enough to take the picture.

This was in May when we went to Bob's for dinner.

For Vicki

These were from last month at the Oakland Zoo. This is Avrora at age 2 years, three months.

British Megaflood

What I Have for Liberal Tendencies

Or Why Kinja Ought to give me a liberal tag too. ;)

I just did a post about why I think Kinja keeps giving me a conservative tag for my blog. It comes. It goes. However, most of the time that I look its there. To be sure, not always. Just because I think Canada looks like some great ice cream to eat after a nice and spicy main entree of Mexico doesn't mean I am necessarily strictly a conservative. That is not to say that I don't have some conservative views, but rather there's more a mishmash of what I have thought about and believe.

1. Equal pay for equal work. I don't care who you are, what you are, or where you're from. You do the work, you ought to get paid for it. Man, Woman, Mutant from Mars. It's all the same to me.

2. I have a strong environmentalist streak. I genuinely worry about the environment and the stupid things that people do to it. Global Warming is real, man-made, and something we must work to fix. Or Else. Anyone who has read this blog has seen me trumpet this time and again to try to get the message out.

3. I support gay marriage: it's a civil institution, folks. If your church doesn't support it, that's fine by me. I have to admit I am less than comfortable with some - alright a lot - of the actions of various gay groups in SF, especially some of the street fairs - oy, I'd be equally disturbed if straights did the things I've seen there in public! - but this is still something I think ought to be taken care of and all the implications that go with it.

4. School reform: I have some pretty strong opinions here. I don't think the whole asinine voucher idea is a good idea at all. I strongly believe that education is the leveler of the social field. If you get it and use it you can do almost anything. It doesn't matter where you're from, socially, if you get a good education, there are few heights that can't be scaled. That said, reform in our educational system is definitely needed and the money needs to be spread not just to the richer districts, but should be available to all districts. This shouldn't be a knee capping of richer districts, but pulling up the poorer ones. I'd even go further and state that I think that for certain majors - so long as you can maintain a good GPA - in college/university ought to be free for citizens. This includes science, engineering, possibly business related ones, teaching, but not the other, well, liberal arts ones. Science and engineering ought to get the highest priority though, IMNSHO.

5. Inheritance Tax. Anything above $10 million ought to be damned heavily taxed. We don't need no stinking aristocracy here.

6. Reforming our health care system. Damnit, Janet, it's broken and needs to be fixed. Everyone ought to have good, inexpensive health care, but the devil's in the details. I don't have an answer here: having the government do it tends to be bad, but the private sector has seriously fallen down.

There are more, but I don't have time right at the moment to continue this. I have to say that if you are purely liberal or purely conservative, even dogmatic in those areas, you might want to reconsider by, well, using your brains a bit. It's fine to disagree on issues, but to just tote a party line is inane and stupid.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

How Kinja Labels My Blog 'Conservative'

Kinja occasionally drops on me the blog label of 'conservative'. I find this annoying. I wish I could go back and reclaim the old title of Progressive Republican, but that first word has been coopted by the frakkin wackos in Berkeley. Generally speaking I have to say I am somewhat middle of the road with liberal tendencies - or I so like to delude myself. There are some points though that Kinja is definitely right. Let's visit them.

1. Preemption or the so-called Bush Doctrine. This I have absolutely no issue with. For pete's sake, if you see someone winding up to clock you, why not clock them first? There are issues about if the price will be too high - like just nuking the Soviet Union - but wrt problematic things like bin Laden, why not? I'd be as happy with Clinton having done this back in the 90s as Shrubbish having done it since. Shrubbish has just done it badly.

2. Go It Alone-ism. There are far too many times in this world that I have seen things that need to be done - whether in politics or in day to day life or at work - where things that need to be done, do not get done because someone objects right now. Far too often then things get worse and fester. Then there's the whiny attack of why didn't someone do something earlier. So, I am emphatically just rolling up the national sleeves and getting it - whatever it may be - done. There will always be objectors to a course of action, including by those that are powerful and even more so by our friends. Some times you have to do what you gotta do even if it makes you the least popular person in the room.

3. Expansionism. I believe, strongly, that the US ought to be trying to be another European Union. I do not mean that goofy rightwing, nut case version of it called the North American Union. I mean that the US has sorted out so many of the issues wrt annealing smaller and larger states that it would make for a great, no fantastic kernel for a hemispheric state. What is to be American has radically changed - culturally - in the last two hundred and thirty-one years. There is no reason why it couldn't in the future while still maintaining our core. The Roman Empire died on May 29, 1453. It spoke Greek and no longer occupied Rome. Yet it lived. There's no reason that the last American must look like me.

4. Berkeley Annoys Me. A lot. With blink tag. The politics of San Francisco bother me, but not as bad a Berkeley does. Greens - with a capital G - really annoy me too. Alright alot.

5. The fact that I am not terribly pro-union doesn't help either.

6. Very Second Amendment pry gun from cold dead hands, but with caveats.

And I am too tired to continue. If you have some good additions, my readers, from my own writings, by all means, feel free to add them in the comments section. I'll write up the counter-arguments hopefully tomorrow. Why I consider myself liberal. ish.

Atmospheric CO2 Change Effecting Southern US Forests?

A new study of bottomland hardwood forests in the southeastern United States suggests that the increased growth of vines may change the landscape of these forests.

Researchers charting the growth of vines in two forests in South Carolina found up to a 10-fold increase in the number of vines in just two decades. Vines commonly found in both forests include grapevines, trumpet vine, poison ivy and Virginia creeper. Most of the vines use adhesive roots or tendrils to climb trees.

The patterns observed in the south add to a growing number of studies that found similar patterns in temperate and tropical forests, said Bruce Allen, the study's lead author and a recent doctoral graduate of Ohio State University's School of Environment and Natural Resources.

“Collectively, we're talking about an increase of more than 500 vine stems in 27 acres of forest area that we studied,” he said. “And all of the growth is within the last 10 to 20 years. Old photographs from the sites indicate there may have been fewer vines historically.

“There are now so many vines that they're starting to change the makeup of the forest,” he continued. “It appears that as the number of vines increase, the density of small trees decreases at a fairly uniform rate.”

Although the specific reasons for this shift aren't fully understood, Allen and his colleagues say possible mechanisms include increases in carbon dioxide concentrations, which have been shown to increase vine growth more than tree growth.

“Many vines thrive on elevated levels of carbon dioxide,” he said. “Several studies suggest that vines like poison ivy benefit more than other plants from higher CO2 levels.”

Sounds like we need a Poison Oak Tree in the Future Biotic Time Line. (which I'll post an update for hopefully later this week).

Repugs: May I See Another Menu?

The latest Associated Press-Ipsos poll found that nearly a quarter of Republicans are unwilling to back top-tier hopefuls Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, John McCain or Mitt Romney, and no one candidate has emerged as the clear front-runner among Christian evangelicals. Such dissatisfaction underscores the volatility of the 2008 GOP nomination fight.

In sharp contrast, the Democratic race remains static, with Hillary Clinton holding a sizable lead over Barack Obama. The New York senator, who is white, also outpaces her Illinois counterpart, who is black, among black and Hispanic Democrats, according to a combined sample of two months of polls.
That's no surprise, honestly. None of the candidates fit the traditional bill for a Repug candidate: Giuliani has his 'liberal' tendencies; McCain railed away at the ChrisCons in 00; and Romney is inconveniently Mormon. In addition, their latest stab at the White House (Shrub) has been less than stellar.

On the other hand, the DemoBratz are waxing a bit nostalgic about the 90s and Hillary, being a woman, fits into their ideological preferences (aka "progressiveness"). Obama is a second placer, honestly, that would fit as well. His main problem, from what I can see, is that he lacks track record on the national scene. Or at least exposure. Hillary's had that for a decade and a half now.

My only issue is that if Hillary wins that means that two families will end up being in control of the White House for almost three decades. That I am not comfortable with that idea.

New particle explains odd behavior in cuprate superconductors

New fundamental particles aren’t found only at Fermilab and at other particle accelerators. They also can be found hiding in plain pieces of ceramic, scientists at the University of Illinois report.

The newly formulated particle is a boson and has a charge of 2e, but does not consist of two electrons, the scientists say. The particle arises from the strong, repulsive interactions between electrons, and provides another piece of the high-temperature superconductivity puzzle.

Twenty-one years ago, superconductivity at high temperatures was discovered in copper-oxide ceramics (cuprates). Existing explanations of superconductivity proved inadequate because, unlike low-temperature superconductors, which are metals, the parent materials from which all high-temperature superconductors arise are insulators.

Now, a new theory suggests something has been overlooked. “Hidden in the copper-oxide materials is a new particle, a boson with a charge of 2e,” said Philip Phillips, a professor of physics at Illinois.

Surprisingly, this boson is not formed from the elementary excitations – that is, electrons and ions. Instead, the particle emerges as a remnant of the strong interactions between electrons in the normal state.


(nice potshot at the accelerator labs there)

Million Dollar Prize: Uberbatteries Please

Inventors across the country are being asked to find a way to lighten the load U.S. soldiers carry on their backs -- largely due to the high-tech gear that uses batteries -- and the solution will be decided in a $1 million contest.

The Department of Defense is asking a person or team to come up with a way to lessen the weight of the 20-40 pounds of batteries a solider carries on a typical four-day mission. The batteries power everything from soldiers' GPS systems to their night-vision goggles.

Next up, universal adapter for the uberbattery.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Dinosaurs of Darkness: Some Surprising Assertations

As you might have noted, I posted an update to my reading. I covered some popular works on a few different books. Some were history. Some were sociology. Some science fiction. Most were Deep Time related. One of those was Dinosaurs of Darkness. This book was about the paleontological escapades of Drs Rich and Vickers-Rich in working in Australia in Early Cretaceous sediments. They had some very eyebrow raising things that they did for their work; they had some even higher eyebrow raising finds; and they had some double eyebrow raising assertions about their work. They freely admit a bunch of it is outlandish speculation. However, let's go over some of the ones that were interesting as far as their work and their speculations.

The first and most solid bit of discoveries that I found interesting was the the paleoclimate work. The Dinosaur Cove site, if I am not mixing them all up, had evidence of permafrost. Considering this was Early Cretaceous, that's fascinating. A researcher from Russia helped to confirm this. In fact, the data from the oxygen 16/18 ratios indicated that the average temperature was a -2 C! Now to be fair, they did state they were unsure if the temperatures were coinciding with the occupation of the environment by dinosaurs or not. However, there were two bits of interesting evidence that supported that the dinos were around. The first is the more famous one: Leaellynasaurus has very large eyes for a hypsilophodontid. This suggests that it was adapted to see in the dark of the Southern Polar Winter where the sun would never rise. Additionally, an orinthomimosaur was found to have periods of arrested growth in its bones that would fit with the hypothesis that they hibernated during that same winter.

Another interesting bit is that they have found what they claim are two ulna from a protoceratopsid. It is supposed to be very similar to, but not the same as, one from a Leptoceratops. They are close enough that they speculated that if they had been found in any part of the former Laurasia then they would have just been assigned to Leptoceratops. This would be the first report of a ceratopsian of any sort in Gondwana. The fact that it is a protoceratopsian, instead of, say, psittacosaur earlier than any known protoceratopsian...well, let's just say that's a little surprising. Twere I a professional I'd be wondering about that identification since it casts a hugely questionable light on the accepted evolution of the ceratopsians. That wouldn't be so bad - new evidence changes our perceptions of the past and evolution - except that it has a rather different than - and contradictory to! - what the fossil evidence supports to date.

(saved from a very disreputable site, if someone has a cite...)

It gets stranger than that still. You see, they also found a placental mammal: Ausktribosphenos nyktos. They state that A nyktos is closely related to hedgehogs and that those are closely related to primates (which is weird: I've not heard that from any other place in my life, but bare with me). They suggest that the pre-primates actually originated in Australia (!!!) and that through a case of a microplate being shed from NorOz to drift north to Laurasia where the critters carried would go on to the evolutionary history we now know. They call it the Noah's Ark scenario.

The holes that I can see are that the hedgehogs, last I checked, were not that closely aligned with primates. Second, since the ulna found that have been tentatively identified as ceratopsian lacks a complete skeleton or even anything more than the two ulna, it seems possible this might be something else. Finally, what of psittacosaurus? That was close to being the most basal of the ceratopsians, iirc. That has only been found in Asia, which would hint that Asia is the source of the ceratopsians.

This whole scenario seems really out there, honestly. Interesting, to say the least , but really out there.

New Reason for Space Colonization!

We have an obligation to our (great)n grandkids. Not to leave them a clean balance sheet: they will be far richer than we. Not to leave them an unspoiled Earth: they will have no trouble cleaning up our messes. Our obligation is to lay the foundation for the continued growth of their welfare. An investment in how to pioneer space now will allow them to make oases in the vast lifeless, waterless, airless—cool—desert of space. Our forethought will help our descendants be able to settle the oases much as 17th century pioneers helped enable my great grandparents to easily leave Europe for New York in the first decade of the 20th century.

Solving global warming by reducing fossil fuel carbon emissions looks backward and down. Instead, look forward to raising carbon emissions and sequestering carbon. Look forward to more energy use and energy services for everyone. Look beyond to the next big global heat problem. Look up to see how space settlement can solve it. Raising our eyes from the ground to the horizon and beyond will allow us to focus on optimizing the future after we have secured it. I want to bequeath to my daughter the knowledge that humanity can live and thrive soon throughout the solar system. And, not too much longer after that, in the rest of the universe eternally.

Oh, James and Carlos are going to love this one.

Global Warming: Mediterranean Goes Caribbean?

Global warming could trigger hurricanes, or tropical cyclones, over the Mediterranean sea, threatening one of the world's most densely populated coastal regions, according to European scientists.

Hurricanes currently form out in the tropical Atlantic and rarely reach Europe, but a new study shows a 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) rise in average temperatures could set them off in the enclosed Mediterranean in future.

"This is the first study to detect this possibility," lead researcher Miguel Angel Gaertner of the University of Castilla-La Mancha in Toledo, Spain, told Reuters on Monday.


In a paper published in the American Geophysical Union Journal, Gaertner and colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany, used a range of regional climate models to assess the chance of similar events in the Mediterranean.

They found rising temperatures pointed to increasing storm intensity and, in the case of the most sensitive computer model, a likelihood of strong hurricanes.

Wow. That's interesting. AFAIK, it is the first to suggest it and that is very odd, because the temperature rise in the Med region is projected as far back as 2001 as being higher than the global average. A note of caution, while this may make sense on a certain level, this is the first paper suggesting this and only in the most extreme case. That means this is very, very speculative and until we see more papers supporting this assertion, treat this as an interesting, but not likely scenario.

Russia: Navy to Cold War Levels by 2025 (*snork*)

By the year 2025 Russia plans to increase its ocean going fleet size to a total of 300 battleships, exceeding the level it maintained during the 'cold war'. The Russian Navy plans to maintain six battlegroups, each consisting of an aircraft carrier and various combat support and auxiliary ships. Three attack groups are to be based in the Northern Fleet with three others in the Pacific Fleet. This expansion will address Russia's strategic aspirations especially its territorial demands in the melting arctic zone.

That includes 6 carrier battlegroups.

Pardon my disbelief.

Spacesuits: The Fall Fashions are in!

Universe Today has an article on the new lighter spacesuit design out of MIT. Take a look.

Presidential Fund Raising Update


Giuliani R $17,351,837.48
Romney R $13,917,800.57
McCain R $11,165,982.43
Paul R $2,364,328.41
Tancredo R $1,465,701.42
Brownback R $1,397,658.38
Hunter R $796,282.68
Huckabee R $747,117.86
Thompson R $440,279.96
Gilmore R $176,096.16

Obama D $32,904,746.57
Clinton D $26,720,346.30
Edwards D $9,029,757.99
Richardson D $6,946,213.48
Dodd D $3,091,936.44
Biden D $2,318,438.67
Kucinich D $756,517.82
Gravel D $140,509.51

Also please see the first quarter list. There's some interesting bits here. First off is that the republicans in general are in trouble. Not that we didn't know that before, but this time we can see it via the monetary donations. The fourth place Republican, Ron paul, has only raised as much money as the 6th place Democrat. The top two Democrats raised more money than all the Republicans combined: that's bad. Additionally, it looks like from the trend here, that McCain is slipping in viability even without including the recent staff issues. Also, it's frakkin spooky that Ron Paul has such a high placement at all in fund raising race. At least I don't consider him as nuts as Kucinich!

Friday, July 13, 2007

My Wife's Birthday

This year was not as fun as last year's. We went out for a dinner cruise! The food was mediocre. The cruise itself was nice, but nothing special. For what we got I think it was overly expensive. There were large numbers of people onboard that were either newly weds or elderly. We did get to dance, which was something that we haven't done a lot of, but Avrora didn't let us do it too long. She was the only kid on the cruise under the age of 10. She behaved very well. Anyways, this was something that Lyuda wanted to do for some time and now its off our list.

As for her gift, she got a microscope. Or will. The damned thing still hasn't shown up. :S

We had a nice picture taken of us dockside. I'll see if I can get it scanned and posted here next week.

Reading Update

It's been a while since I have done a reading update. In part that is a function of the fact that I haven't been reading as much or as fast as I used to. My library is still growing albeit at a much slower pace. I have started reading a lot more about the Mesozoic extinctions as of late, but also trying to keep myself from burning out wrt mass extinctions at the same time. I am suffering from burnout in general, but I have a couple things I want to do before I start to look for a new scene, so to speak, among those things are to try to do a break-in on the mass extinction scene with a paper or two. To do that, I need the resources at hand here.

First off, my last science fiction book that I read was to finish of Reynolds' Absolution Gap. Eh. There were a few good points to this, butt he character that I actually liked and cared - or perhaps at least found interesting - about from the last book gets offed in a rather nasty way in the first few pages. Then the bad guys are not the bad guys because there are worse bad guys than the bad guys and humanity is about to suffer the same fate as the new bad guys...blah. I think I am going to pass on Reynolds for the time being. At least until there's something noteworthy that's not in the same universe.

To continue my fascination with Rome-Byzantium, I read the dated, but interesting read of Lord Mahon's Life of Belisarius. Wow. This guy is so overrated in the alternate history and science fiction writing department. It's not to say that he didn't do great things. It's not to say that he isn't a character I'd like to read more about in the future. It's just that he's been far overexposed in the specific writing genera and you'd expect him to have at least whupped the Visigothic collective ass handily with the reputation he has in so many ATLs. Oh, and this book dates itself based on the author's opinions. It's soooo 19th century.

Continuing my Deep Time reading especially wrt mass extinctions, I picked up and read a few different books. Readers of my blog, family members, and people I've interacted with online know I find deep time absolutely fascinating. When I was a small kid, not much older than my daughter, I could name some thirty different genera of dinosaurs.

First Deep Time book was Ward's Rivers in Time. I was disappointed with it in some respects just because I ahd been expecting something different. Ward had made a lot of noise about rivers and how they change based on his geological observations while hunting mass extinctions. I had been hoping that there'd be some more expose about the subject as part of the writing. For some reason I had even gotten it in my head that he'd referenced this book when writing about that subject in Gorgon and elsewhere. Well, I was wrong. This was just a general discussion of all the mass extinctions and the ongoing 6th Mass Extinction. Bummer. While the writing was definitely readable, it lacked the solid rock substance of Out of Thin Air and spent far too much time on travelogue. This is a common issue with paleo books: either they spend too much time on the history and personalities of the subject or they spend too much time on the travelogue. Ward's books tend to do the latter.

The second book that I read was a translation of Vincent Courtillot's Evolutionary Catastrophes. It was an engaging read. Courtillot is far more gracious than others in the field wrt mass extinctions and his commentary towards those that disagree with him or his position. He is of the camp of the vulcanists. That is to say that volcanoes are to be blamed regularly and repeatedly for the mass extinctions throughout Deep Time. The other major camp is the impactists who blame impacting bollides, fwiw. Courtillot argues both cases in his book (very well too) and concedes at least for the KT Event that a bollide is probably to blame. He has been vindicated wrt the Permian Extinction though.

The third book was something of a read from the horse's mouth: I read Walter Alvarez's T. rex and the Crater of Doom. As you might guess, Alvarez is a Tolkien fan, hence, the title. It mostly a personal memoir about the journey of the first steps to proposing what happened at the KT Boundary - though that was not the intent at all - and the current state of the debate. It does talk about missteps along the way and some less than flattering moments by people on the team. It's worth a read.

My round out for Deep Time books at this point was Rich and Vickers-Rich's Dinosaurs of Darkness. If you want to read about some pretty extreme field work, by all means, this is the book for you: blasting to tunnel for fossils on a sea cliff! That is the book's primary focus. I knew that was going to be the case before I read it. However, it does include some nifty science bits that make it worth reading. The dino they named for their daughter probably lived through the dark of winter without hibernating while a bird mimic did not. They talk about their mammal discoveries as well and have some very (!!!) controversial speculation in there as well. I'll put up a post on that later today with luck and smiling computational gods. I actually recommend the book, btw, despite what the amazon reviewer stated because there is a bunch of good juicy bits as well as some odd ball field work.

Following Carlos Yu's recommendation of some time ago, I read Joseph Tainter's The Collapse of Complex Societies as a counterpoint to Jared Diamond's Collapse. While Diamond emphasizes the environmental reasoning of collapsing societies, Tainter subsumes that and other theories into an economic theory of how societies fall apart. It's a rather good read. It's a bit heavy at times due to its high info density and needs to be put down and thought about, but I do definitely recommend it. Diamond's book is light and fluffy. This one is a rich, heavy one that needs to be eaten carefully lest you suffer a surfeit. I am really glad that my wife just took two econ classes these last two semesters that I had to read up again on to help with homework at times or I would have been a little lost.

I have started a new book and its back to my Byzanto-Roman curiosity: Warfare, State And Society In The Byzantine World 565-1204. I am about ten pages in, still the introduction, I'm afraid. After this, I suspect I'll be reading Charles Frankel's The End of the Dinosaurs: Chicxulub Crater and Mass Extinctions. I really need to hunt more down for the Late Triassic Extinction and pick up some of Gerta Keller's work. If only it weren't so damned expensive!

We'll also have to see what I order next. It's going to be some more Deep Time stuff, I am sure, some on Russia, and some on cultural politics. I really need to read more on modern China. and even more on Mexico We'll see exactly what.

Titan's Shoreline

My Personality Type's Rarity

Your Personality is Very Rare (ENTP)

Your personality type is optimistic, curious, enthusiastic, and open.

Only about 4% of all people have your personality, including 3% of all women and 5% of all men.
You are Extroverted, Intuitive, Thinking, and Perceiving.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Russia Frustrates US, EU, UN Over Kosovo

Russia has forced the United States and European Union to blink in the standoff over Kosovo. Unable to overcome Moscow’s stonewalling in the U.N. Security Council and apparently losing the resolve to bypass it, the United States and European allies have accepted yet another postponement of implementing UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari’s plan for Kosovo’s internationally supervised independence.

So the West blinked. The precedent as argued by the Russians as well as the threat of a UN veto have stranded the Kosovars. bah.

McCain Going Down in Flames

CNN has learned the already-dire situation for Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign has actually gotten even worse, with two sources close to the candidate saying the campaign only has a paltry $250,000 left.

The sources tell CNN that next week the McCain campaign will reveal it has about $1.75 million in unpaid debts, wiping out the $2 million in cash-on-hand the campaign currently has in the bank.

It was not immediately clear whether the campaign debt must be repaid immediately or whether the debt can be paid back over time, including after the presidential campaign ends.

That's what happens when you get too close to the Shrub that's burning up on his way to historical lithobraking: I'd be opening up my wallet right now if not for that. At one point McCain was my candidate. He definitely was in 2000. Now, no way. Far too much snugglage with the dumbass in office.

Looks like Ron Paul - of all people - is going to be in this run longer than a front runner is.


Why the Permian Extinction Matters

I am long overdue on posting something substantial in the paleo realm. Today I am working on doing an upgrade and server flip of our centerwide file system. As this progresses I am going to try to bang out my long promised post while I keep an eye on the progress of the upgrade and server switch. We'll see how this works.

The Permian Extinction has been called 'The Great Dying'. It has also been called 'When Life Nearly Died'. his is the extinction that wiped out vast quantities of life. The highest numbers given are often in the 90th percentile, but almost never lower than the 70th. There were vast amounts of critters and green stuff that just ceased to continue through the long, dark voyage over the chronological seas of Deep Time to the present day. I have a post up earlier about the Great Dying as to the mechanics of said meltdown. I suggest that you look there for a lot of the details in that respect. What I'd like to discuss in this post are some of the consequences of the Mass Southern Fried Splat (or Therapsid Chips with Salty Sulfide Vinegar for our Brit readers).

The consequences of the Permian Mass Extinction are very profound. They are not simply this creature replaced that. Nor are they that there were some uppity usurpers that took advantage took advantage of the reigning lineages' collective ill health. It's not as mind numbingly simple as that. Life tends to find some very odd ball ways of changing what it does. Mass extinctions are something of a rules reset. In some ways this seems obvious: a vast number of players in the previous game are gone. The remaining players are going to relate to each other differently and there is definitely room for new players. These new players are not the same as the replaced ones; therefore, the way the remaining old timers and the newbies relate will be different. This offers some a chance for further openings at the table for still more players. Peter Ward remarked in his book Rivers in Time that it seems like life through Deep Time fits a level of ecological complexity and stays there. Then a mass extinction happens and the level of complexity drops radically only to rebound with far more vigor reaching up to greater heights. There was a more recent paper that had some data in support of this from this past November wrt marine ecosystems and the Permian Extinction.

(credit: Dr Benton's book.)

There are some arguments against this. namely that prior to the end of the Permian, prior to the double mass extinction, complexity was arising on land, at least, as the vertebrates took to herbivory and detrivory fell by the way side. The argument goes along the lines that the complexity was arising already and would have come about anyways. The mass extinction just altered the players instead of the game. However, it is looking like the other side of this argument is gaining more and more strength. Time and science will tell.

Another consequence is often spoken of metaphorically, but that metaphor taken far too seriously. As a consequence of the Permian Mass Extinction, the therapsid dominated ecology fell apart, a lot of different reptilian vertebrates, especially the diapsids, would take advantage of the situation. The dinosaurs, as a consequence, eventually arose from those diapsid experiments. As a consequence, our ancestors, the cynodonts, would be marginalized from the megafauna roles. Some people come out and refer to this as the diapsid 'usurpers' 'dethroning' the 'rightful heirs' - the synapsids - from their rightful roles. Another group has come out and said that if not for the dinosaurs, our acnestors would have been on the moon 185 million years ago! There's a humorous cartoon with a mammal pondering how to get there with a dinosaur about to eat it, but I have been unable to find it online. Either way, this is complete and utter buffalo chips.

First off there's no such thing as a rightful ruler or whatnot in the environment. That is just plain silly to even think of it that way. The second is that the whole series of events that led to humanity being evolved would have been completely and utterly negated just based on the knock-on and butterfly effects that were so different from Our Time Line (OTL). With no Permian Extinction, with no dinosaurs, there would be no Humanity. For one the environment would have been radically different. 185 million years ago is rather different from now. Second, the therapsids would have continued on and that means our little furry ancestors may or may not have even developed. There's no saying since the pool of therapsids that made it through the PTE was rather limited compared to what came before. it would not have been a Sooner Age of Mammals. It would have been the Age of Therpsida which our furry forerunners may - or may not - have been a part of. Placentals may or may not have evolved. Marsupials may or may not have evolved. everything is too contingent. Humanity is probably right out in the faerie tales then.

(Credit: Alex Freeman).

The PTE, and the subsequent KT Event, both had a very profound impact that isn't one about whether or not we are here. Rather it's one of perception. Let's argue for a moment that we had a bunch of nonmammalian therapsids survive to modern times. For this experiment, they would need to be somewhere that they would not effect human evolution, yet would be present for modern civilization to have to contemplate. The perfect place would be South America. When the Panama Isthmus connects up, they spread up through NorAm and then into Eurasia. With luck, they make it to modern times. Now, if the nonmammalian therapsids are about then how we perceive the world and the differences between animals will be different. Right now, it's very "obvious" what the difference is between a mammal and a reptile, right? If there are nonfuzzy, nonmammalian therapsids running around that line would appear blurrier, right?

Now if there were some that had fur as well...would the theory of evolution have arisen sooner? Would we have viewed the world quite a bit differently if not for the extinctions "robbing" us of living intermediate stages? Or would we in our benighted state still come up with goof ball reasons for these 'tweeners? Well, probably, honestly, but might not our perception of the world have been rather, well, different? I'd say so. If we were here to see. If they were here to be seen.

There is one last reason as well that I think I am going to write about. The mechanism of how the world got roasted, as I noted above, is one of a run away greenhouse effect. A 10 C spike in temperatures was what roasted the world and caused all those mass extinctions. If humanity, in its infinite stupidity, decides that it wants to let things get that ought of hand with global warming, then we could see another stab at life nearly getting wiped. The projected heat increases are far, far less than the Permian for the next century, even in the worst case scenario, but we do need to take responsibility for our actions and halt the use of fossil fuels before we get to the Permian Steak House stage.

There are other reasons as well, but I am going to leave them in their fossiliferous state. I am out of time for today and don't want this post to languish in my drafts section like the ones about Mexico. And politics. And the future biotic timeline. And more paleo stuff. and...oy. For now, enjoy!