Saturday, August 30, 2008

Wrap-up: Paypal Drive

We're winding down the paypal drive. We'll still accept contributions, but we'll lay off actively promoting the drive on the blogs shortly. We did okay. We didn't get enough for a single test, but it will cover two days of propellants. That's a good thing! We really had hoped to turn up enough funding for three days of testing, but cést la vie.

However, if there are a few of you that are still in a giving mood, please give. We can use all we can get. I am hoping to put up some photos of our thrust chamber shortly. We had a delayed delivery. *sighs*

Anyways, donate link below:

If we don't fly this year, next for sure. It seems that others are having major issues themselves. From what it sounds like there may only be Aramdillo flying again. Which is surprising. We'll see.

As for paleo posts, my uber cutie is done puking her guts out today and she found my copy of paleoecology that I talked about in my last post. Carlos also provided the paleo atmosphere paper too. I'm gonna write about both the caste system of paleo plants and the VERY exciting results that the paleo atmosphere paper came up with. By Tuesday. For sure.

Until then, $DINERO grovel.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

HELP! Need Another Paper!!!

Limits for Combustion in Low O2 Redefine Paleoatmospheric Predictions for the Mesozoic
C. M. Belcher* and J. C. McElwain

Several studies have attempted to determine the lower limit of atmospheric oxygen under which combustion can occur; however, none have been conducted within a fully controlled and realistic atmospheric environment. We performed experimental burns (using pine wood, moss, matches, paper, and a candle) at 20°C in O2 concentrations ranging from 9 to 21% and at ambient and high CO2 (2000 parts per million) in a controlled environment room, which was equipped with a thermal imaging system and full atmospheric, temperature, and humidity control. Our data reveal that the lower O2 limit for combustion should be increased from 12 to 15%. These results, coupled with a record of Mesozoic paleowildfires, are incompatible with the prediction of prolonged intervals of low atmospheric O2 levels (10 to 12%) in the Mesozoic.

Experimental science to back up the fosil record. Must. Have. Must. Have. Anyone got it?

Horribly Stunned! Bell Labs Kills Basic Research

After six Nobel Prizes, the invention of the transistor, laser and countless contributions to computer science and technology, it is the end of the road for Bell Labs' fundamental physics research lab.

Alcatel-Lucent, the parent company of Bell Labs, is pulling out of basic science, material physics and semiconductor research and will instead be focusing on more immediately marketable areas such as networking, high-speed electronics, wireless, nanotechnology and software.

The idea is to align the research work in the Lab closer to areas that the parent company is focusing on, says Peter Benedict, spokesperson for Bell Labs and Alcatel-Lucent Ventures.

"In the new innovation model, research needs to keep addressing the need of the mother company," he says.

That view is shortsighted and may drastically curtail the Labs' ability to come up with truly innovative discoveries, respond critics.

This is absolutely horrifying.

This really ought to have a moment of horrified silence associated with it.

I cannot believe that Bell Labs is doing that...

Ancient Amazonian Civlizations

Dozens of densely packed, pre-Columbian towns, villages, and hamlets arranged in an organized pattern have been mapped in the Brazilian Amazon, anthropologists announced today.

The finding suggests that vast swathes of "pristine" rain forest may actually have been sophisticated urban landscapes prior to the arrival of European colonists.

"It is very different from what we might expect using certain classic models of urbanism," noted study co-author Michael Heckenberger, an anthropologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Nevertheless, he said, the repeated patterns within and among settlements across the landscape suggest a highly ordered and planned society on par with any medieval European town.

The finding supports a controversial theory that the Amazon River Basin teemed with large societies that were all but obliterated by disease when European colonists arrived in the 15th and 16th centuries.

The isolated tribes that remain in the Amazon today are the last survivors of these once-great societies, according to the theory.

How fascinating! I knew that there were tropical civilizations since some time in the 1980s when they started finding some of them. Now it looks like whole swathes of 'pristine' rain forest is just overground urban areas.



Combined with the fall of other new world civilizations such as the Anasazi, you might have an interesting bit of research for those that want to have some parallels for the sf books for post apocalyptic scenarios. Y'know, if you wanted to add some solid backing for your works to make it 'hard' social science fiction.

Likewise, the fact that 'pristine' chunks of the amazon - which the truly pristine chunks are less than 10k years old most likely, btw, a controversial post for another time - it says alot about the rebound capability of the rain forest.

Hey, Russia! Which Is It? That is WITHOUT The Spin!

Russia appealed to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization for backing with respect to its actions in the Russo-Georgian War. They had wanted the SCO to state that Russia was in the right and that the SCO ahd their back. Well, depending on who you are listening to, the SCO backed them, took a neutral stance, or declined to back Russia's behavior. So, which is it?

The Russian POV on the SCO statement articulated by AP:

China and four Central Asian nations signed a statement Thursday supporting Russia's role in the Caucasus but also expressing "deep concern" over the Georgia conflict and calling for a negotiated settlement.


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the statement showed a "united position" on the Georgia conflict, and Kremlin officials indicated they were happy with its phrasing.

On the other hand, the Voice of America gives a different point of view:

China has expressed concern after Russia declared two regions of Georgia independent. As Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing, China has its own concerns about territorial integrity.

China's Foreign Ministry says it is watching with close concern after Russia signed a declaration recognizing South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent from Georgia.


Qin Gang, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, says they understand the complex histories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. He says China's ongoing position on this issue is that they hope all sides use negotiations and dialogue to resolve the issue.

The New York Times gives a rather different spin:

Russia suffered a significant setback here on Thursday, as members of a regional security group in which the Kremlin plays an important role offered little support for Moscow’s military action in Georgia.

Dmitri A. Medvedev, the Russian president, arrived in this sleepy Central Asian capital for the annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, with hopes that the six-member group would provide the strong international backing the Kremlin has so far lacked after its incursion into Georgia. Moscow has urged other nations to follow its lead and recognize Georgia’s breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.

Instead, the organization, which also includes China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, took a neutral stance, urging Russia and Georgia to resolve their differences peacefully.

“The S.C.O. states express grave concern in connection with the recent tensions around the South Ossetia issue and urge the sides to solve existing problems peacefully, through dialogue, and to make efforts facilitating reconciliation and talks,” the summit’s final joint declaration said, using the initials of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

So which is it, Mr Putin^H^H^H^HMedvedev?

Don't tell me that the whole war was simply to boost McCain, btw! That's just...stupid.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Why is Greenland Icy White?

There have been many reports in the media about the effects of global warming on the Greenland ice-sheet, but there is still great uncertainty as to why there is an ice-sheet there at all.

Reporting today (28 August) in the journal Nature, scientists at the University of Bristol and the University of Leeds show that only changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide are able to explain the transition from the mostly ice-free Greenland of three million years ago, to the ice-covered Greenland of today.

Understanding why the ice formed on Greenland three million years ago will help understand the possible response of the ice sheet to future climate change.

Dr Dan Lunt from the University of Bristol and funded by the British Antarctic Survey, explained: "Evidence shows that around three million years ago there was an increase in the amount of rock and debris deposited on the ocean floor around Greenland. These rocks could not have got there until icebergs started to form and could transport them, indicating that large amounts of ice on Greenland only began to form about three million years ago.

"Prior to that, Greenland was largely ice-free and probably covered in grass and forest. Furthermore, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were relatively high. So the question we wanted to answer was why did Greenland become covered in an ice-sheet?"

There are several competing theories, ranging from changes in ocean circulation, the increasing height of the Rocky Mountains, changes in the Earth's orbit, and natural changes in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. Using state-of-the-art computer climate and ice-sheet models, Lunt and colleagues decided to test which, if any, of these theories was the most credible.

While the results suggest that climatic shifts associated with changes in ocean circulation and tectonic uplift did affect the amount of ice cover, and that the ice waxed and waned with changes in the Earth's orbit, none of these changes were large enough to contribute significantly to the long-term growth of the Greenland ice sheet.

Instead, the new research suggests that the dominant cause of the Greenland glaciation was the fall from high atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to levels closer to that of pre-industrial times. Today concentrations are approaching the levels that existed while Greenland was mostly ice-free.

Therefore, we have some idea of Greenland's end result x thousand years from now under the coming global warming climate. Some.

Russia, Georgia, Ukraine and NATO

Thanx to Julia!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Medvedev's Georgian War Speech

My dear fellow countrymen, citizens of Russia!

You are no doubt well aware of the tragedy of South Ossetia. The nighttime execution-style bombardment of Tskhinval by the Georgian troops resulted in the deaths of hundreds of our civilians. Among the dead were the Russian peacekeepers, who gave their lives in fulfilling their duty to protect women, children and the elderly.

The Georgian leadership, in violation of the UN Charter and their obligations under international agreements and contrary to the voice of reason, unleashed an armed conflict victimizing innocent civilians. The same fate lay in store for Abkhazia. Obviously, they in Tbilisi hoped for a blitzkrieg that would have confronted the world community with an accomplished fact. The most inhuman way was chosen to achieve the objective — annexing South Ossetia trough the annihilation of a whole people.

That was not the first attempt to do this. In 1991, President Gamsahourdia of Georgia, having proclaimed the motto "Georgia for Georgians" — just think about it! — ordered attacks on the cities of Sukhum and Tskhinval. The result then was thousands of killed people, dozens of thousands of refugees and devastated villages. And it was Russia who at that time put an end to the eradication of the Abkhaz and Ossetian peoples. Our country came forward as a mediator and peacekeeper insisting on a political settlement. In doing so we were invariably guided by the recognition of Georgia's territorial integrity.

The Georgian leadership chose another way. Disrupting the negotiating process, ignoring the agreements achieved, committing political and military provocations, attacking the peacekeepers — all these actions grossly violated the regime established in conflict zones with the support of the United Nations and OSCE.

Russia continually displayed calm and patience. We repeatedly called for returning to the negotiating table and did not deviate from this position of ours even after the unilateral proclamation of Kosovo's independence. However our persistent proposals to the Georgian side to conclude agreements with Abkhazia and South Ossetia on the nonuse of force remained unanswered. Regrettably, they were ignored also by NATO and even at the United Nations.

It stands quite clear now: a peaceful resolution of the conflict was not part of Tbilisi's plan. The Georgian leadership was methodically preparing for war, while the political and material support provided by their foreign guardians only served to reinforce the perception of their own impunity.

Tbilisi made its choice during the night of August 8, 2008. Saakashvili opted for genocide to accomplish his political objectives. By doing so he himself dashed all the hopes for the peaceful coexistence of Ossetians, Abkhazians and Georgians in a single state. The peoples of South Ossetia and Abkhazia have several times spoken out at referendums in favor of independence for their republics. It is our understanding that after what has happened in Tskhinval and what has been planned for Abkhazia they have the right to decide their destiny by themselves.

The Presidents of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, based on the results of the referendums conducted and on the decisions taken by the Parliaments of the two republics, appealed to Russia to recognize the state sovereignty of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The Federation Council and the State Duma voted in support of those appeals.

A decision needs to be taken based on the situation on the ground. Considering the freely expressed will of the Ossetian and Abkhaz peoples and being guided by the provisions of the UN Charter, the 1970 Declaration on the Principles of International Law Governing Friendly Relations Between States, the CSCE Helsinki Final Act of 1975 and other fundamental international instruments, I signed Decrees on the recognition by the Russian Federation of South Ossetia's and Abkhazia's independence.

Russia calls on other states to follow its example. This is not an easy choice to make, but it represents the only possibility to save human lives.

Now, with Russia recognizing the chunks of Georgia as independent nations, what do you want to bet that there will be an outright annexation in the next two weeks to a month? This has been a long time coming and the Russians are now threatening Moldavia too over the Transdnistria...

I really wish I had a scan of The Economist cartoon of the NATO castle, the Russian bear, Ukraine and Georgia. Ah well.

There's an interesting article over here about the chronology of the Russo-Georgian War. Now, I don't know there's someone who read's this blog to filter the information for BS. The interesting thing is that Doug's less than favorite Georgian exPresident gets bashed in there pretty good. If what was said in the article is true though, if, then it makes sense why Georgia attacked Ossetia.

The Ecology of the Carbon Age

(well, period, actually, but...)

I promised to get a post out soon on the Carboniferous ecology. I am a little bothered by guilt that I haven't done so already, but frankly I have been really overwhelmed with preparations for the Team Phoenicia work. I thought I'd try to get one good paleo post out since I have been offline for the better part of a week. So, let's quickly squeeze out a post to address half of what I wanted to talk about before.

One of the big questions that gets asked alot is why did the Carboniferous have such vast amounts of coal laid down during its time span? There are other coal deposits, to be sure, but why in the world was there just so much then? One of the suggestions was that the trees that grew then were stuffed with lignin, much more so than now, and that life handed developed, especially fungal life, the ability to munch on lignin.

Lignin is a chemical compound that is a part of wood. It's a structural component that fills the space between cellulose and other bits in the plant cell wall. It's also vitally important in transporting water throughout the plant. It's also completely indigestible to any animal without the aid of fungal or bacterial symbiont. Read more about lignin here. Some of the most common trees of the day were the lycopods and they had mcuh larger amounts of lignin their bark - and the bark was the main support structure btw - than modern trees. An interesting aside is that gymnosperms have a moderate amount of lignin in their structure and angiosperms have very little. Relatively speaking.

There were plenty of detrivores during the Carboniferous. They were in fact the primary method of transferring energy from the plant kingdom to the animal kingdom: there were exceedingly few herbivores until the end of the period. One of the most famous detrivores is Arthropleura:

Detrivores eat plant material that fungi and bacteria have already munched on enough to make it edible. Consider it the stage before herbivory or these guys are the vultures of the plant world. With the fact that the animal kingdom still can't digest lignin now without help, it has to be a very difficult chemical pathway for the digestive system to produce even after a good 300+ million years of time since the Carboniferous. In all that time, not once has anything stumbled even halfway across the secretions needed to chew up lignin. Boggle that.

However, as I stated, fungi and bacteria can and do digest lignin and cellulose. This has made some think that the problem might have been that the fungi of yesteryear were not as efficient or incapable of digesting the plant matter. This appears to partially, but mostly not true. The environmental conditions where the coals seams were laid down were such that it limited the time that the fungi had to work on the fallen organic matters quite a bit. However, in a study, done on the fallen plant matter in different regions that were approximately cotemporal that was in Evolutionary Paleoecology showed something else. Something interesting. After sampling several different locales, Raymond, Cutlip, and Sweet found in Rates and Processes of Terrestrial Nutrient Cycling Before Beetles, Termites, and Flies that there was something interesting there. Something not what they expected.

One of the most important precursors for something to be broken down is surface area. The more surface area, the faster chemicals can react with it. As leaves or other organics fall from trees, they pile up. They make layer upon layer on the ground until they have produced the characteristic mat that many forests have. There, the material gets broken down. Nothing new here. This is the same old story. Except that there was one big, bug difference.

That difference came in two parts. First and foremost, there was a huge, huge deficit as far as burrowing activity in the Carboniferous deposits that the authors looked at. They seem to find evidence of some, but really, very little. It seems that the insects that would do such a thorough job in the latter days didn't exist (duh), but nothing was there that filled the same niche. This is critical! There becomes less, much less surface area for the fungi and bacteria to attack and break the organic material down. Instead of having lots of crevices and burrows and whatnot, they worked on the surface. A surface that was being recovered relatively quickly. This really reduced the amount of material that was recycled.

The second difference was interesting as well. It seems that the detrivores of the time, and handful of herbivores, did not eat the surface of the leaves: very few were skeletonized. Normally, a leaf gets the "skin" munched on first leaving the veins and whatnot afterwards. During the Carboniferous, it appears that the detrivores and herbivores punctured the leaves and ate the insides sans veins while leaving the exterior largely intact. Now, that's another source of carbon to be buried simply because its not being eaten.

Think about that now for a minute. We have three different effects that are amplifying the potentiality of laying down coal. The first is the same as what's been around for a long time: the climate and local environmental conditions were such that coal was likely to be laid down: it still happens today, but not nearly on the scale that it did in the past. Second, we have a definite lack of detrivores that burrow through the debris in the forests. This reduces the surface area that the fungi and bacteria can munch on. Then, finally, the parts being eaten by the detrivores were a lot less than now. Then when you add it all together, the wave is amplified three times over and you gets zeta-sized seams of coal.

The really interesting thought is that barring a mass extinction that wipes out the vast, vast majority of everything, perhaps everything in the terrestrial environment, the coal lay down that gave the Carboniferous its name will be a one time event. It will simply be impossible to to have the detrivores that we have today simply go away. The burrowing will not go away. Nor will the fact that the detrivores can now eat a lot more of the fallen plant matter. In fact, angiosperms have a lot less lignin which makes them easier to digest and that in turn makes them more likely to have their nutrients and carbon cycled back through the ecosystem. All of that adds up to there not ever being that much coal being laid down ever again. Ever.

Like the climates of times past, the ecologies never repeat themselves either.

And that is half of what I promised on the Carboniferous Period. The other half will be written hopefully for next time's Bone Yard.

Monday, August 25, 2008

One Fascinating Map

Click on the title link. Mother Jones has a map that shows over time where US troops have been deployed between 1950 and now. Some of the places, honestly, surprised me.

Help from the Green Belt

We're spreading the word. Perhaps we will get a hit or two more for our fund raising:

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Weary Weeping

Tonight my heart broke into a thousand little pieces.

We're alive and "fine."


Cafe Press

We have opened a Cafe Press shop for fund raising purposes.

Comments welcome.

The paypal drive isn't over, btw. We just thought some people would like something in return for their money.

We'll have news from the LLC summit very soon on the Team Phoenicia blog.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Gettin on a Jet Plane!

In 3 hours, I leave to board a plane to El Paso, Texas. From there I will be driving up to drop in briefly with some friends in Las Cruces before going on to Alamogordo. I am going to be briefing the X Prize Foundation, FAA, and Holloman AFB personnel on the progress of our rocket and a number of flight safety issues. I'll be participating in two whole days of presentations and media circus. I very well may end up on TV. I will definitely be on the radio.

Let's see if I have any charisma left in me...


PS: don't forget paypal drive still going. Just had a great day today so far, I'd love it if it was better still!

PPS pass the link around too!


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Paypal Drive on going

We have been make okay progress on the PayPal drive - enough for fuel and lox for a single day testing - but really need more, folks. Open your rocket lovin hearts, folks! The donation doesn't need to be large - a lunch - but we really need more donations. Go to teh Team Phoenicia website and click 'donate.' Or hit the button below

Stars Wars Invades San Francisco


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Late Triassic Extinction Pic

Not 100% accurate, but not bad. Not bad.

Love This Picture

The Therapsids Facing the Archosaurian Threat is what I would have called this.

Doug Muir, I believe, is the one that pointed out that the last 275 million years of ecological struggle for the top dog position in the terrestrial ecosystem has been a grudge match between the archosaurs and the therapsids. When he made the observation, I thought it was a spunky and flip, if accurate, statement about how evolution in the terrestrial realm has generated ecologies for the past two two and change geological eras.

You have to that it? Will the future be an eternal struggle between derivatives of the therapsids and archosaurs? The anapsids seem to have been the also rans of the amniote line. The lissamphibians are currently working on going extinction helped my the WMD of the therapsid line (us), so it seems unlikely they will inherit the terrestrial ecosystem. So...what do you all think? Whither the future of the terrestrial ecosystems megafauna niches after the fall of man?

Yes, yes, its a perennial question with me, and we did start a future biotic TL elsewhere, but I did most of the effort and I don't have time to do so again. Yet, this thought still hounds me.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Reiser Still Trying to Talk His Way Out

A status and potential sentencing hearing for convicted murder Hans Reiser was continued today, as talks are still ongoing on an agreement to give Reiser a lesser charge of second-degree murder.

The hearing will be rescheduled for later this month.

In April, Reiser was convicted of first-degree murder in the killing of his wife, who was last seen alive Sept. 3, 2006, when she dropped off the couple's two children at Hans Reiser's home in the Oakland hills.

Last month, however, Hans Reiser led police to the site where he buried his estranged wife. The skeletal remains were identified as those of Nina Reiser, 31. Hans Reiser, 44, had agreed to turn over Nina's body as part of a proposed deal where the computer engineer would receive a second-degree murder charge.

He still probably thinks he can outsmart everyone...

Going to Blow Your Mind and Waste Your Time

Want to see the evolution of San Francisco in photos from 1938 to at least to the end of the 1960s? Look no further! I didn't finish just because it was wasting my time. Those pix were 1952 and 1957. Just for kix, the same view today:

Via here.

Now I know why SF looks like entropy has been running amok! It's because for large parts of it, there's been plenty of time for exactly that! sheesh.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Paypal Drive OMG Moment

I was stoked when one of my cousins - the actually, really smart one of the family, btw - linked up to the paypal drive for Team Phoenicia. As I was very happy and pleased I scrolled through her LJ and then saw...

The horror!

Frightening things happen when you ask help from family. ;)

Actually, thank you, Rachel!

That would be around sixth grade, iirc. Present from left to right, front row: Rachel (cuz), James (cuz) and Ted (bro). Back row, Tina (sis), Tessa (sis) and me. This was at Overlook Park in Los Alamos.

Overkill in the 6th Mass Extinction

Research led by UK and Australian scientists sheds new light on the role that our ancestors played in the extinction of Australia's prehistoric animals. The study, published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, provides the first evidence that Tasmania's giant kangaroos and marsupial 'rhinos' and 'leopards' were still roaming the island when humans first arrived. The findings suggest that the mass extinction of Tasmania's large prehistoric animals was the result of human hunting, and not climate change as previously believed.

Scientists have long argued over the reasons behind the worldwide mass extinctions that took place towards the end of the last ice age. The main culprits are generally thought to be climate change or some form of human impact. People only arrived in Tasmania around 43,000 years ago, when the island became temporarily connected by a land bridge to mainland Australia. None of Tasmania's giant animals, known as 'megafauna' were known to have survived until this time. This appeared to clear humans of any involvement in the disappearance of the island's large megafauna.

This new international study reports the discovery of giant kangaroos surviving in Tasmania until people arrived, placing humans back on the list of likely culprits for the subsequent extinction of the megafauna.

There are three candidates for the 6th mass extinction's cause right now. The first is that the climate changed and all the megafauna like the wooly mammamoth and sabre toothed tiger died from that. The second hypothesis was that mankind wiped them out. The third is that there was, at least in NorAm, a comet crash that did in a number of species.

The problem with the first hypothesis is that there were numerous times between glacials and interglacials that the climate swung more wildly than now. This puts a damper on the idea that the climate, which the megafauna had survived just fine previous, suddenly warmed so much so fast that it killed them all this time.

The second hypothesis seems more likely to me and at some point in the future, we'll talk about this in depth after I do the KT (K-Pg, Julia, right?) Mass Extinction in depth like I have the others.

The final hypothesis is actually advocated by my colabbies. The primary problem is that their proposed impact over the Canadian Arctic, iirc, would only effect NorAm...not SoAm or Eurasia. The mass extinctions were pretty severe there too.

New Progressive Party Demands ENGLISH Ballots

A political party that favors making Puerto Rico the 51st U.S. state said Tuesday it will demand an English translation of a November ballot.

A Spanish-only ballot discriminates against 14 percent of 4 million islanders whose first language is English, said Edwin Mundo, an official with the New Progressive Party. A translation of the ballots is expected to help the party's results.

He said the party will file a lawsuit in federal court by next Monday, seeking to overturn a recent decision in which a judge rejected a similar request. Mundo maintains that the federal Help America Vote Act applies to Puerto Rico.

But the president of the island's elections commission ruled last month that the act does not apply in Puerto Rico because it is not a U.S. state or political subdivision. The president also ruled that the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 does not apply for the same reasons.

There's additional twist that if HR 900 clears Congress in time, there could be a vote on statehood. If there's just enough people that wouldn't voted before because of the language issue that would after the ballots have been changed, then there may just be enough people to guarantee the island vote for statehood.

How off am I in that guess, folks?

PS: I wish I could type. Really.

The Boneyard (XXII) Returns!

You. Must. Read. Now.

Global Warming Round Up

First up, a map of where the different polar nations are going to get 'claims' on the thawing Arctic.

Climate change may cause grasslands to spread to parts of the United States that are currently covered in forest, a new study says.

If local climates become more extreme due to global warming, then entire ecotones—boundaries between ecosystems—could shift, the study says, highlighting the central United States, where prairie gives way to forests of the east.

"People generally expect that the climate is becoming more variable with climate change," said study author Michael Notaro of the University of Wisconsin's Center for Climatic Research.

"If the climate becomes more variable year-to-year, then potentially, you may have less vegetation, more fire, then shifts in these different boundaries," he said.


"If there was no variability, then the whole forest in the eastern United States would shift into the central United States," Notaro said.

Over the course of decades, if global warming causes extreme weather, as expected, the opposite will occur: Grasses, which go dormant during drought and thrive after fire, would move east to exploit the habitat of trees that are unable to compete for scarce resources and ravaged by wildfires.

The ecotone transition from closed forest to open canopy is, by nature, highly variable, said Ronald P. Neilson, a scientist with the U.S. Forest Service in Corvallis, in Oregon.

An increasingly extreme climate "would tend to push the ecosystem to a lower density of overstory [forest canopy] and a more open type of a system," said Neilson, who is not involved with the new study.

Notaro used a dynamic global-vegetation model with climate data from the 20th century for his study, which appears in the journal Climate Dynamics.

From National Geographic.

In some ways that's a case of obvious, but they actually did the leg and sim work back it up. It is going to be interesting to see what sort of ecosystems emerge in the end. Some people have stated that we are headed back to an Eocene ecosystem...sans the global tropical oceanic conveyor belt. Others have suggested that the Oligocene is coming back. Still others are commenting that we will all die in the return of the Permian climate (ick). As much as I think the return of the Eocene would be really kewl(!!!) - I mean, tropical rain forests in Wyoming! and boreal and antarctic temperature forests, folks! - it is just not going to happen. Whatever climate we get, it will be something completely new: our world doesn't do repeat gigs wrt the global climate.

Global warming could make extreme rains stronger and more frequent than previously forecast, a new study suggests.

Such a scenario could make floods fiercer, damage more crops, and worsen the spread of diseases such as malaria, scientists say.

Rainfall patterns are already shifting as Earth warms under a blanket of humanmade greenhouse gases, experts say.

Study co-author Richard P. Allan, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Reading in Berkshire, United Kingdom, said previous studies have shown that "wet regions are becoming wetter, and dry regions drier."

The study team analyzed satellite images of rainfall over tropical oceans over nearly two decades, from 1988 to 2004.

The researchers found that during El Niño years, which tend to be warmer, rain fell in heavier showers. An El Niño is a climate event where the flow of abnormally warm surface Pacific waters temporarily changes global weather patterns.

"This is something that climate models had predicted," Allan said. "But getting the data from observations is very important."

Many previous rainfall pattern studies have relied on measurements from rain gauges. Such gauges are sparsely distributed across land, Allan said, whereas satellites can see large areas as a whole.

For every 1.8 degree Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) rise in global temperature, heavy rain showers became more common, with most intense category jumping 60 percent, says the study, which will be published tomorrow in the journal Science.

Also from National Geographic.

For the New Mexicans, imagine the flooding from Dolly every year. That may be what's coming...without the snowpack, so water sources ought to be funky. It's not to say that there won't be enough water, but rather that the way that desert folk in the Southwestern US collect it will have to change. More Elephant Buttes, so to speak, are needed.

Warmer temperatures and longer dry spells have killed thousands of trees and shrubs in a Southern California mountain range, pushing the plants' habitat an average of 213 feet up the mountain over the past 30 years, a UC Irvine study has determined.

White fir and Jeffrey pine trees died at the lower altitudes of their growth range in the Santa Rosa Mountains, from 6,400 feet to as high as 7,200 feet in elevation, while California lilacs died between 4,000-4,800 feet. Almost all of the studied plants crept up the mountain a similar distance, countering the belief that slower-growing trees would move slower than faster-growing grasses and wildflowers.

This study is the first to show directly the impact of climate change on a mountainous ecosystem by physically studying the location of plants, and it shows what could occur globally if the Earth's temperature continues to rise. The finding also has implications for forest management, as it rules out air pollution and fire suppression as main causes of plant death.

"Plants are dying out at the bottom of their ranges, and at the tops of their ranges they seem to be growing in and doing much better," said Anne Kelly, lead author of the study and a graduate student in the Department of Earth System Science at UCI. "The only thing that could explain this happening across the entire face of the mountain would be a change in the local climate."

The study appears online the week of Aug. 11 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

From Eureka Alert.

There was a similar study in Scandinavia about the treelines there. One of the concerns is that as the different zones on mountains are pushed higher that the area that these environments have are decreasing. Decreased habitat == tres bad.

Dramatic year-to-year temperature swings and a century-long warming trend across West Antarctica are linked to conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean, according to a new analysis of ice cores conducted by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the University of Washington (UW). The findings show the connection of the world's coldest continent to global warming, as well as to periodic events such as El Niño.

"As the tropics warm, so too will West Antarctica," says NCAR's David Schneider, who conducted the research with UW's Eric Steig. "These ice cores reveal that West Antarctica's climate is influenced by atmospheric and oceanic changes thousands of miles to the north."

The research appears this week in the online Early Edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The work was supported by the National Science Foundation, NCAR's sponsor.

Scientists are keenly interested in whether warming will destabilize the West Antarctic ice sheet over a period of decades or centuries. The ice sheet covers an area the size of Mexico, averages about 6,500 feet deep, and, if melted, would raise global sea levels by about 8 to 16 feet (2.5-5 meters).

Antarctica's climate is difficult to study, partly because there are few observations of this vast and remote region and partly because the cold, dry atmosphere is unlike that of the other six continents. Scientists previously determined that Antarctica overall probably warmed by about 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.2 degrees Celsius) in the last century. But it has not been apparent until now that low-lying West Antarctica is more responsive to global warming trends than East Antarctica, where wind patterns have largely kept out comparatively warm air.

Schneider and Steig estimate that West Antarctica warmed about 1.6 degrees F (0.9 degrees C) over the 20th century. That is slightly more than the global average of about 1.3 degrees F (0.7 degrees C). Because of the large swings in annual temperature during the 1930s and 1940s, there is a considerable margin of uncertainty in the century-long estimate, says Schneider. He notes that there is increased confidence that warming has occurred since 1950, averaging about 0.8 degree F (0.4 degrees C) per decade.

The new set of cores analyzed by Schneider and Steig comes from a relatively snowy part of the continent. This provides enough detail for scientists to infer year-to-year temperature changes. The data show that the Antarctic climate is highly responsive to changes in the Pacific. For example, during a major El Niño event from 1939 to 1942, temperatures in West Antarctica rose by about 6 to 10 degrees F (3-6 degrees C), and then dropped by an estimated 9 to 13 degrees F (5-7 degrees C) over the next two years. El Niño is a periodic shift in air pressure accompanied by oceanic warming in the tropical Pacific.

Although the heart of El Niño's oceanic warming is in the tropical Pacific, it often fosters a circulation pattern that pushes relatively mild, moist air toward West Antarctica, where it can temporarily displace much colder air. As a result, West Antarctica has one of the world's most variable climates.

"These results help put Antarctica's recent climate trends into a global context," says Schneider.

From Eureka Alert.

Now, let me again say this: I do not think that global warming or climate change will be the end of the world. This is not some apocalypse. This is going to be a problem for many species - plant and animal - because we are already fragmenting their habitats. Otherwise, they'd migrate with the changing environment. They did it many times during the Pleistocene warming and freezing cycles.

A Backlog of News Posts

Team Phoenicia has been eating my time, brain and energy. I have flagged a few stories that should be of interest to my readers. I'll try to get them out the door as quickly as I can.

If you didn't guess, this blog just turned bursty.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Paypal Update: hrm

We're bringing some money, but it's at a rate slower than hoped. We had a great first day and then a good second day...and then it petered out. I'm a bit disappointed but I should have expected this. Here's a bargain: since most of you come to this blog for reading paleo info, if you guys bring the total up $1,200.00 per week, I'll make sure that there are 2 very good paleo articles added per week here. I have partials of the Permian Ecology and the generalized Carboniferous Ecology in the works, if I had a good reason, I'd get those out the door faster. It's just that this point, my time is a little precious. :(


PS do more, I'll write more!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Paypal Drive: A Gauntlet Thrown Down

A very long time friend, Suzanne, has thrown down a gauntlet. She has stated that she and her husband will best the top donation [within reason]. I'm echoing the challenge here because I get a little more traffic than she does.

Anyone want to see Suzanne & Greg eat ramen for a month?

A bit more seriously, the place to go is here to help out ( the donate button).

Paypal Drive

I am asking for a bit of help here. The Team Phoenicia work has been progressing at a brisk clip and I'm by and large happy with it. That's the technical side and, even, honestly, the documentation side.

Note: need team member just to do documentation for second half of the mischief. Holy Molie!

I would have said we'd make it and participate in the LLC come October with some bumps along the way, but that's to be expected. However, as of Monday, there's a whole new slew of things we have to do that has come down from the FAA. This compresses our schedule, well, honestly, a lot more. WE're not a big team and when we have to generate even more documentation, it hurts. BAD. It takes people away from testing and coding. That means we need more time out on our testing locale to do things that we could have done on a small scale.

Our testing locale requires us to have insurance ($$) and pay for reserving the whole place for a whole day ($$$$). Then there's the RP-1/LOX needs, etc, but those are small compared to the cost of the insurance and locale requirements. The problem is that our budget is way stretched as it is. If we don't find a way to deal with this, now we are sunk. I'll be pounding the pavement, but companies and sponsors take time and it detracts from the work on The Wind at Dawn.

Hence, I am making an appeal. I am asking for people that read the blog to chip in. Ten dollars is fine. If I had two days worth of visitors to the front page pay ten dollars ($10) each, then I would have enough for a test. If you feel like more, by all means, do so! For those rare and probably mythical people that would want to do a lot more than that, email me. I want to make sure you get something out of this beyond acknowledgment.

To donate, go to the Team Phoenicia webpage and click on donate.

As good online friends, I have already asked and received help from Brian of Laelaps, Julia of The Ethical Paleontologist, James Nicoll at his Live Journal, Amanda of the Self-Design Student, Tom of NotDefined , Rachael at her Live Journal and Suzanne of Suziwon. Each of them have put up a post asking for help for the team. If anyone else wants to put up a supportive post asking for donations, please do. Time is crucial.

Everybody that does donate will be acknowledged on the team blog. People that put up a blog post asking for donations will get a link off the team blog as a 'Friend of the Team.' People that donate large sums will have special recognition. Those that do really large sums, I'll personally paint their names on the side of one of the fuel tanks.

BTW, don't think I am not putting my own money into this. I have already dumping thousands of dollars into this project. Probably far more than what we'll raise through this paypal drive. However, I can hope, right?

Thank you for your time to read this and consider putting up dinero. It really, truly is appreciated.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Insanely Busy!

The X Prize Foundation let us out of the bag. So, I am going nuts trying to keep up with everything on the Lunar Lander Challenge (part of the mischief). We have a blog up here. Our team page is up at the X Prize Foundation is here. Our home page is here.

We're looking at engine firing in less than three weeks. *crossed fingers*

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Paleoecology Teaser

I am working on the FAA's hazard matrix at the moment. I am going to share some very interesting bits from the book I finished last week, Evolutionary Paleoecology. There was more on Carlos' comments on the caste nature of the Paleozoic ecology and an excellent paper on the carbon cycling of the Paleozoic before modern insect detrivores evolved.

Note: barring a mass extinction that wipes the continents clean, there will never ever be a coal depositing episode like the Carboniferous...

Also, sorry Zach, butt his won't be the Permian Ecology post. Alas. No time for that monstrosity until December at the soonest.

Triassic Polish Tyrannosaurid? Or Just Theropod?

Paleontologists digging in a brickyard in southern Poland have discovered the remains of a dinosaur they say is a previously unknown ancestor of the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

The predator dinosaur, given the working name "the Dragon," lived around 200 million years ago, team member Doctor Tomasz Sulej of the Polish Science Academy, told Reuters.

It was five meters (yards) long and moved on two legs. Its longest teeth were 7 centimeters (2 inches) long.


The paleontologists will continue examining the bones and fully document the discovery before they decide what name to give to the new dinosaur. They will exhibit the findings in Lisowice on August 7, Sulej said.

At the same site the group also found a dicynodon -- a reptile which was a direct predecessor of mammals.

"We are almost certain that "Dragon" hunted animals like this herbivorous dicynodon, which looked like hippopotamus but was much bigger," Sulej said.

An alleged triassic tyrannosaurid and a dicynodont! An uber sized dicynodont. Get ready for the publication then. wow. This ought to be interesting. We were just talking about Deep Dinosaur Diversity.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Wow! More Really Kewl Mars Pix

The Former is a subset of the latter.

The March of the Morons Leads the House

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the Democrats adjourned the House and turned off the lights and killed the microphones, but Republicans are still on the floor talking gas prices.

Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other GOP leaders opposed the motion to adjourn the House, arguing that Pelosi's refusal to schedule a vote allowing offshore drilling is hurting the American economy. They have refused to leave the floor after the adjournment motion passed at 11:23 a.m. and are busy bashing Pelosi and her fellow Democrats for leaving town for the August recess.

At one point, the lights went off in the House and the microphones were turned off in the chamber, meaning Republicans were talking in the dark. But as Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz..) was speaking, the lights went back on, and the microphones were turned on shortly afterward.

But C-SPAN, which has no control over the cameras in the chamber, has stopped broadcasting the House floor, meaning no one is witnessing this except the assembled Republicans, their aides, and one Democrat, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who has now left.

Only about a half-dozen Republicans were on the floor when this began, but the crowd has grown to about 20 now, according to Patrick O'Connor.

"This is the people's House," Rep, Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) said. "This is not Pelosi's politiburo."


I mean, holy, molie. Grandstanding Old Putzes. The one Democrat that was there was the Keebler Evil Elf. However, while I truly loathe Pelosi, IDK if there is a good solution for this. Grandstanding like this isn't easily dealt with without causing bad publicity no matter what. I fact, I'd say the Repugs are taking a page from the Berkeleyans!

So, why is Congress leaving for their vacation? Have they finished the budget in time for the start of the Fiscal Year in October?

An Extent Dicynodont?!

Nope. Almost certainly not.

Too bad. Fun to start a new internet rumor though!