Monday, April 30, 2007

NCAR: Arctic Ice Melting Faster than Modeled

Arctic sea ice is melting at a significantly faster rate than projected by even the most advanced computer models, a new study concludes. The research, by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), shows that the Arctic's ice cover is retreating more rapidly than estimated by any of the 18 computer models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in preparing its 2007 assessments.

The study, "Arctic Sea Ice Decline: Faster Than Forecast?" will appear tomorrow in the online edition of Geophysical Research Letters. It was led by Julienne Stroeve of the NSIDC and funded by the National Science Foundation, which is NCAR's principal sponsor, and by NASA.

"While the ice is disappearing faster than the computer models indicate, both observations and the models point in the same direction: the Arctic is losing ice at an increasingly rapid pace and the impact of greenhouse gases is growing," says NCAR scientist Marika Holland, one of the study’s co-authors.

The authors compared model simulations of past climate with observations by satellites and other instruments. They found that, on average, the models simulated a loss in September ice cover of 2.5 percent per decade from 1953 to 2006. The fastest rate of September retreat in any individual model was 5.4 percent per decade. (September marks the yearly minimum of sea ice in the Arctic.) But newly available data sets, blending early aircraft and ship reports with more recent satellite measurements that are considered more reliable than the earlier records, show that the September ice actually declined at a rate of about 7.8 percent per decade during the 1953-2006 period.

"This suggests that current model projections may in fact provide a conservative estimate of future Arctic change, and that the summer Arctic sea ice may disappear considerably earlier than IPCC projections," says Stroeve.

Things might be worse than people expect. The locals have been saying that for a while. We'll see how it goes.

NASA to Russia: NYET!

The head of Russia's space agency Sunday said the US has rebuffed an offer from Moscow to jointly explore the moon, while announcing a separate contract with NASA for nearly one billion dollars for the International Space Station.

Roskosmos chief Anatoly Perminov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency that Russia had proposed pooling resources to explore the moon.

"We were ready to cooperate but for unknown reasons, the United States have said they will undertake this programme themselves," he said.


There are a couple reasons that come to mind right now. The first is Mr Putin's friendliness to the US and West (and his likely successors'). The second is past performance on the ISS. Third is, frankly, the US does things best without too many chiefs when we have international cooperation: otherwise, we don't play well with others.

To the Media Vultures

I realize that you need to cover events.

I know that you are fascinated with the strange case of the recent meltdown of The Maze.

I know that this happened a scant mile or less from our apartment.


You please move your gawddamned frakkin helicopters from over our apartments from too gawddamned early in the frakkin morning. In fact, it's so frakkin annoying for the past 24 hours+.


Friday, April 27, 2007

Challenges & Promises of Petascale Computing

CITRIS researchers will soon have access to a new generation of high-performance supercomputers far more powerful than those available today. Known as petascale computers, these new machines will be capable of conducting 10^15 floating-point operations per second (petaflops). These parallel machines may employ more than a million processors and will be able to handle huge data sets. Until now, they have been mainly the domain of military and other national security applications. With the delivery of a new petascale computer to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), and with the possibility of a Berkeley team helping to host another one at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), researchers working on climate analysis, genomics, environmental monitoring, protein analysis, earthquake, nanoscience, and other CITRIS-related fields will gain access to powerful new modeling tools within the next four years.


Before these new giants can be fully exploited, some big challenges must first be addressed. UC Berkeley computer science professor Katherine Yelick is working with colleagues in the Parallelism Lab to bring such CITRIS-type applications and the petascale hardware and systems software together.

"We are trying to expose the best features of the underlying hardware to the software," says Yelick. "The hardware designers are trying to innovate and put in fast networks or networks with very interesting connectivity patterns, and we want to take full advantage of that," she says.

Yelick has one foot in the world of system-level software and the other in that of hardware development, which makes her particularly valuable to the coordination effort. She and her team have developed new compilers and programming languages (one based on C and another based on Java) for the new petascale computers.

One big challenge is the problem of pacing and managing the information flow through hundreds of thousands of processors. "It is like trying to get a million people coordinated and doing their jobs at exactly the same time," says Yelick.

Petascale machines not only have more chips, but each chip has more processors than earlier generation supercomputers. Coordinating the flow and sharing of so much activity is a job requiring new algorithms and new approaches to applications programming, too, says Yelick.

This is a big problem because the work the computer is trying to do is not equally distributed among all of its processors. In modeling weather, for example, the Earth's surface can be divided into equal sized parts, and each given a dedicated processor. But if there is a hail storm somewhere, for example, there will suddenly be a lot of significant activity in the processors associated with those parts of the model. If the rest of the system has to wait for the processors working on the hailstorm, it can lose a lot of time, says Yelick.

In addition to such load imbalance issues, the team is working to minimize the time it takes for information to travel around these computers, some of which can be as big as a tennis court.

"Light travels pretty slowly," explains Demmel. "if processors on opposite sides of the computer have to send huge amounts of information back and forth, the time adds up fast."

I love that last quote. It's so true too for our business.

There's also an issue, fwiw, of making the models capable of scaling that high. A lot of algorithms top out around 1024 processors. we'll need to go explore a lot more in that mindspace if we're going to use 'millions' of processors for programs.

Puerto Rico Status Update

Puerto Rico's rival advocates of statehood, independence and the colonial status quo vented decades of frustration and anger in a congressional hearing Wednesday, but made little progress toward convincing legislators to back one of their competing plans for the island's future.

The contentious issue of the island's status in relation to the United States has consumed Puerto Rico since it was ceded to the U.S. by Spain in 1898.


Puerto Ricans have held four plebiscites on their status since 1967, though none were authorized or recognized by Congress, which the Constitution charges with overseeing territories.

A slight majority of islanders has supported the status quo, with most of the rest wanting statehood.

During the last plebiscite, in 1998, voters were confused by the options and 50.3% chose "none of the above," a protest option inserted by commonwealth advocates when their preferred ballot language was rejected. Statehood won 46.5% support and independence less than 3%.

Acevedo Vila cast the formula proposed by the task force and in Serrano's bill as the two less popular options being lumped together to defeat the people's first choice, a revised status quo of a territory with enhanced independence.

"That's not just undemocratic, it's un-American," the governor told the panel.

Puerto Rico's nonvoting representative to the House, Luis Fortuno of the pro-statehood party, reminded the governor that his wished-for enhanced commonwealth is not on offer.

"Three administrations have told you what you are proposing is unconstitutional. What part of 'no' don't you understand?" he asked.

Same, statehood, or independence. Not the enhanced commonwealth option. With luck this will be done and over with in the nearish future.

Raise a toast: Here's to the future state of Puerto Rico!

Fish Respond to Climate Change

Changes in growth rates in some coastal and long-lived deep-ocean fish species in the south west Pacific are consistent with shifts in wind systems and water temperatures, according to new Australian research published in the United States this week.

“We have drawn correlations between the growth of fish species related to their environmental conditions – faster growth in waters above a depth of 250 metres and slower rates of growth below 1,000 metres,” says lead author, Dr Ron Thresher.

“These observations suggest that global climate change has enhanced some elements of productivity of shallow-water stocks but at the same time reduced the productivity and possibly the resilience of deep water stocks,” he says.

This shouldn't be a surprise, but it's good to have confirmation.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Putin: Nuke the CFE!

Mr Putin made the threat during his annual address to parliament - which he said would be his last as president.

He also hit out at an influx of foreign money which he said was being used to meddle in Russia's internal affairs.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dismissed Russian concerns over the missile shield as "ludicrous".

BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says Mr Putin's speech marks a significant raising of diplomatic stakes.

The Russian president suggested that his country should freeze its compliance with the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty - which limits military deployments across the continent - until all Nato countries had ratified it.

The treaty was adapted in 1999 after the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, but Nato states have not yet ratified the new version, linking it to the withdrawal of Russian forces from Georgia and Moldova.

Mr Putin accused Nato states of exploiting the situation to increase their military presence near Russia.

He said that the Russian moratorium would continue "until all countries of the world have ratified and started to strictly implement it".

This is silly. The BMD posts in eastern europe are going to be so small that unless Russia has only as many working nukes as I have fingers on my hands, they have nada to worry about.

$1 million for Naval Laser Prototypes

I didn't see anywhere in the press release for how much beam power the lasers were supposed to have. Hmm.

NorAtlantic Volcanic Origins of the PETM

Scientists examining a spike in worldwide ocean temperatures 55 million years ago have linked it to massive volcanic eruptions that pushed Greenland and northwest Europe apart to create the North Atlantic Ocean.

Writing in the journal Science, geologists at Roskilde University in Denmark, Oregon State University and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, present evidence that this intense volcanic activity occurred at the same time ocean temperatures jumped five to six degrees Celsius. A better understanding of previous global warming episodes will give scientists perspective as they study today's climate and ocean level changes pegged to human generation of greenhouse gases.

"That prehistoric volcanic activity released more than 2000 gigatonnes (billion metric tons) of carbon into the oceans and atmosphere in the form of methane and carbon dioxide – two potent greenhouse gases," said Michael Storey of Roskilde University in Denmark, the study's lead author. "The carbon probably came from the heating of earlier deposits of decayed organic matter – similar to deposits in the Atlantic and North Sea we tap today for oil and gas."
Consistent with the Late Permian-Siberian Traps theory too.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Building Airplanes in Flight

Another Gliese 581c Image

Reality Check for Russia's Railway Plans

Russia has announced an extraordinary project to build a transcontinental Yakutsk-Magadan-Anadyr-Alaska rail link, which would include the world's longest subsea tunnel under the Bering Strait. However, the news comes as a reminder that Russia's major railway projects in the East tend to be loss-making and take decades, if not centuries, to materialize.

Nothing that new here. We all know the railways are going to have issues materializing. However, the interesting thing is that the Russians are advertising Siberian-Alaska line that would go through via a Bering Straight undersea tunnel. I have a hard time believing that would ever happen.

Gliese 581c

It's all over the blogsophere already. Let me just add one small word of caution: a lot more work needs to be done before we can declare it habitable. ok? With luck, it is, and I hope it is! However, let's be a tad cautious with the labels, ok?

Russian Sukhoi T-50: Yet Another Pipe Dream?

Flight International has pointed out what may be the first pictures of the T-50 fighter: the follow-on to the Soviet era Sukhois. Yet, forgive me for my skepticism - it may be misplaced! - but...I can't help but feel this is like the Kliper which is doing its best impression of a limbo or the so-called T-95 tank or those wunderbar ballistic missiles that aren't even close to ready for the SSBN that was just launched.

Forgive me, but I don't believe that Russia has the technical capacity to produce a "5th generation" fighter. The above looks too much like someone had fun with a renderer.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


I hate meeting days.

I hate the fact that Google Groups are completely fubared.

Monday, April 23, 2007


This is a good friend of mine, Vicki. I have known her husband for, well, ages. I was his roommate for three years and then his best man for their wedding. Vicki's nickname in the past has been 'Dori', but she's actually better than that. So welcome Vicki to the blogroll!

Mass Extinction Cyclicity...Again

The rise and fall of species on Earth might be driven in part by the undulating motions of our solar system as it travels through the disk of the Milky Way, scientists say.

Two years ago, scientists at the University of California, Berkeley found the marine fossil record shows that biodiversity—the number of different species alive on the planet—increases and decreases on a 62-million-year cycle. At least two of the Earth’s great mass extinctions—the Permian extinction 250 million years ago and the Ordovician extinction about 450 million years ago—correspond with peaks of this cycle, which can’t be explained by evolutionary theory.

Now, a team of researchers at the University of Kansas (KU) have come up with an out-of-this-world explanation. Their idea hinges upon the fact that, appearances aside, stars are not fixed in space. They move around, sometimes rushing headlong through galaxies, or approaching close enough to one another for brief cosmic trysts.

In particular, our Sun moves toward and away from the Milky Way’s center, and also up and down through the galactic plane. One complete up-and-down cycle takes 64 million years— suspiciously similar to Earth’s biodiversity cycle.

...with an extraterrestrial cause no less!

Didn't we do this already with Raup and the Nemesis Affair?

This stuff is really susceptible to statistical artifacts, folks, since the fossil record is known to be very biased: it favours animals that live in places that are easily fossilizable and it all depends on whether or not the strata are easily accessed to be studied.

The Future State of the Marianas?

Randy McDonald sent me a link, above, about the upcoming changes to Guam and the Northern Marianas wrt to the US military there. The OpEd piece has some speculation that eventually Guam and the NMas would be reunified as a single territory. Randy's emailing was on the heels of all the discussion about the future of Puerto Rico's potential statehood and suggestive of the idea of the Marianas becoming a state.

It's an interesting idea. If Doug Muir's hints of things are correct, it's a ways off. Possibly a long ways off.

Japan: We Want the F-22

Top Japanese military officials are quietly but firmly insisting they want the U.S. to release the F-22 to compete for the air force's F-X fighter program, and are adamant about fielding the most advanced air-combat technology available.

Tokyo wants a stealthy fighter equipped with an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar for cruise missile detection and wide-band data links to push additional information into Japan's increasingly sophisticated air defense system. For the moment, only the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor offers all these features.

Access, however, is far from assured, with the U.S. Congress requiring over-sight and approval of any plan for foreign sale of the stealth fighter. The U.S. has been trying to pitch either an upgrade of in-service designs (such as F/A-18E/Fs or F-15Es equipped with advanced, small-target, long-range radars) or the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for the F-X program. The primary driver for the F-X requirement remains air superiority--which includes cruise missile defense--for which Tokyo wants the F-22.

Japan has a long history of buying the latest American technology for their military (and integrating their own). The interesting thing here is that the F-X program was to make a indigenous stealthy aircraft originally. That's obviously no longer the case. I suspect that it is because of economic reasons that this might be true: Japan had a rough decade and a half. However, I am surprised since they did do the F-2 program that they didn't follow through this time to make another new fighter themselves. However, the costs of the F-2 might have to do with it too: they cut it from the original 138 fighters to 98 after all. Then again, climbing the tech tree ain't cheap and if you want to bootstrap it costs you.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Termites are Social Cockroaches

Termites may look like white ants, but new genetic research confirms they are really a social kind of cockroach.

Given how relatively solitary regular cockroaches are compared with termites and their complex societies, researchers note these findings could shed light on how social behaviors develop in all insects.

Researchers added that the cockroach penchant for coprophagy, or eating feces, could very well have led termites to evolve in the first place.

Scientists had long known that cockroaches and termites were related to each other and to praying mantises. Features they all share include specialized cases that enclose their eggs and perforations in the internal parts of their heads.

What researchers have debated for decades is whether or not termites evolved from cockroaches. Evidence suggesting this possibility included symbiotic microbes that certain termites and wood roaches had in common, as well as physical similarities between their young.

After conducting the most exhaustive genetic analyses yet into the subject, studying 107 different species of termites, cockroaches and mantises from across the globe, entomologist Paul Eggleton at the Natural History Museum in London and his colleagues now conclude termites are indeed a family of cockroaches, findings detailed online April 5 in the journal Biology Letters.

Oy. I REALLY (with blink tag) hate cockroaches because of a nasty apartment that I once had in Las Cruces. Sorry totally off topic. It seems that socialness for lack of a better word is an easily repeatable evolutionary route for insects with similar patterns (queen-worker-soldier-whatnot) repeating from different lines. Interesting that.

New Mexico Also Needs a New Ad Agency

Oy. Other than the fact that a friend of mine loves his "Aliens" and lives in SoNM, this struck me as less than...appealing. Couldn't they have done something, well, less reminiscent of chestbursting critters?

Funny, but...

I don't exactly hold that this is how all the Dems think (though I am sure that there are some), but I suspect that this would be more accurate if it said "arm chair generals" instead.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2007

Pretty straight forward.

Read it and ponder.

Interesting to note that it sets up that there will be plebiscites on a regular basis from here on out.

Paleoblog on Placental Evolution

The juicy bit that Dr Ryan emphasized in his own post:

The revised time at the root of placental mammals was much younger than the preceding reports, 84 million years ago instead of around 122 million years ago.

Ouchie. That puts some pain where it belongs. Go read.

Avrora's Sick

We're at home. She has a fever, a mild one.

She's playing and watching Finding Nemo. I'm getting caught up on the morning email and checking logs on our NGF system.

I'll be heading in as soon as Lyuda gets back from her class this morning.



Horst Simon is one of the associate directors of the Lab and was my boss' boss' boss' boss (I think I got that right). He's a good guy and quite bright. He just found the blog last night and left a comment that I ought to have attended the conference I posted a link to. However, alas, I hve too much to do to attend. It would have been interesting to have live blogged it, very carefully this time, but that wasn't in the cards. What I work on has too many things to do right now. We have two people from NGF in a class right now and Greg, well, he's busy with something else. ;)

Next time though!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Forests of Yesterday

The Gilboa forest dates to 385 million years ago, and the group of cladoxylopsids that includes the Gilboa trees was widespread around the world from about 385 million to 400 million years ago.

Stein noted that these early trees played a major role in establishing Earth's first terrestrial ecosystems.

"Trees really dominate those kinds of environments they're found in. They really are the entire fabric in which an entire ecology fits in a terrestrial realm," he said.


The traits of the Gilboa trees are found in many tree types throughout history, he noted.

"[The traits] cannot all be traced back to the same common ancestor, so it's clearly a recurrent evolved form," he said.

"The reason for that is probably ecology, probably something to do with a way of being a large tree or a large plant. It's one way to do it, and it is now clearly the oldest way," he added.
From National Geographic's wesbite.

First, wow, forests 400 million years ago. Silurian Forests. wow.

Second, note for SF writers, there's something to chew on for your world building.

Russian Navy Launches New Boomer

Such a nuclear downgrading of Russia may be in line with the country’s current economic and technological potential, but it is a fact that Russian political and military leaders find hard to swallow. In time, Ivanov or another "successor" may realize that international agreements sometimes are better than a bunch of rusty nukes, but it is impossible to predict when Russia’s leaders will realize that fact.

Russia launched the much anticipated new class of nuclear ballistic missile submarine. The article above has some juicy bits. The conclusion is the most interesting, da? There are other places for the technical details.

Super Auroras

or Brown Dwarves that won't shuttup!

tres kewl.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sperm...from women!

Women might soon be able to produce sperm in a development that could allow lesbian couples to have their own biological daughters, according to a pioneering study published today.

Scientists are seeking ethical permission to produce synthetic sperm cells from a woman's bone marrow tissue after showing that it possible to produce rudimentary sperm cells from male bone-marrow tissue.

The researchers said they had already produced early sperm cells from bone-marrow tissue taken from men. They believe the findings show that it may be possible to restore fertility to men who cannot naturally produce their own sperm.

But the results also raise the prospect of being able to take bone-marrow tissue from women and coaxing the stem cells within the female tissue to develop into sperm cells, said Professor Karim Nayernia of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Creating sperm from women would mean they would only be able to produce daughters because the Y chromosome of male sperm would still be needed to produce sons. The latest research brings the prospect of female-only conception a step closer.

One step closer to some of those weird Male Extinction SF scenarios. Bizarro world.


How evil are you?

This is all James' fault.

FWIW, I do not work at AOL. eww. wannabes.


Monday, April 16, 2007

Puerto Rico: 51st State or American Quebec?

Legislation that would give Puerto Rico a chance to become the 51st state or an independent nation is poised to move within the next few weeks in the House with support from senior members of both parties, including Democrat Nick J. Rahall II of West Virginia and Republican Don Young of Alaska.


The House measure (HR 900) would allow Puerto Rico to hold a vote during the 111th Congress on whether to end its territorial status. A later vote would be held to determine statehood or independence.

If it became a state, Puerto Rico’s delegation would include two senators and up to six House seats, based on its population.

51st State! 51st State!

*crosses fingers*

From what I've gathered is that to avoid the past results, what is going to happen is that there will be a vote whether to end the current relationship as is with the US or not. If the majority wants a change, then there will be a second vote on whether or not to make Puerto Rico an independent nation or a new state (with no option to remain as is). This is to prevent the constant 'remain as is' status that keeps getting voted for. The vote is supposed to tale place during the 111th Congress (Jan 2009 - Jan 2011) according to the current draft of the bill.

Tea Leaves time!

The combined statehood and independence crowds outnumber the status-quo group based on what I've read. SO! It looks like PR will end up going to the second vote. When polled in the past if they had to vote for independence OR statehood, the overwhelming majority go with statehood. The independence types are expected to be less than 10% of the vote.

That means that for the 2012 election we could have a new state. If it became a state, Puerto Rico’s delegation would have two senators and six House seats.

I think you all know where I stand! A bit more seriously, it would be a good step in getting PR out of the nasty status its technically in with the Insular Cases. (hack, patooie)

I do have to wonder what sort of strange attractor posting about this would be?

Phytomining Patent Filed

Y'know, I suspect that there's some prior art here for this. They've been working on this stuff for, well, over a decade. 2004 is when the patent was granted. IIRC, the book I have at home about the topic predates this. I wonder how one handles stuff like this.

A True Asshole

On Sunday, I went to go work out. I am continuing to attempt to shave off weight a lbs or two at a time. When I was slim after I moved to cali, I was exercising an hour and a half per day (and loving it). Right now, I can only squeeze in about a 1/2 hour to hour per day if I am lucky and sometimes go as much as a week without working out between the demands of being Papa, work, and husband. Sunday I took a stand and went to go work out even though we had pressing issues to take care of. My health and weight is getting to be frakkin annoying.

Lyuda and Avrora went off to the park near our place (5 minute walk) and Lyuda inroduced Avrora to croquet. Well, as much as a 2 year old can be introduced to it. Another family showed up with a 17 month old daughter. Avrora REALLY liked the little girl and wanted to play with her. They did. The both of girl's parents were there. My daughter had brought a few other toys as well: she likes to grab stuff as she goes out teh front door in a parody of her parents rushing about grabbing stuff we almost forgot. One was a horse I bought her (small, hard plastic) and just bought glow-in-the-dark dinosaur[1] (diplodocus, actually). She shared both with the girl. The girl dropped the dino and was running around with Avrora and the horse, both of them laughing and having a good time. The father walked over and pocketed the dino. Lyuda saw it, but didn't worry much.

After a while, Lyuda decided it was time to get home. She had economics homework and it was getting close to Avrora's nap time. She policed up all the croquet equipment and Avrora's toy horse. She started to go, but Avrora got insistent about the dinosaur - she truly loves dinosaurs. It's a cheap dino from a tube that had ten that we got for a dollar, but she had to have ti back, so Lyuda told her to go look for it. The other family 'helped'. They searched for 15 minutes. They 'found' nothing. The other family started to leave. Avrora was getting really upset and started crying. Lyuda didn't know how to confront the guy about it and since the dino was so cheap she just figured we'd go get another little tube.

At the last second, the guy coughed up the the dino and gave it to Avrora. He looked guilty and Lyuda gave him a dirty look. It was pretty obvious that the guy had intended to keep it and for whatever reason decided not to. He was quite the asshole, stealing from a two year old.

The funny part is that now that Avrora can't find something she has taken to saying that it's 'in the pocket.' No fool she is.

1. BTW, Suzanne, she adores your dinos like you wouldn't believe. I'lls ee if I can get some photos up. She even takes them to bed and she wants the dinosaur that eats book to be read each night.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Situational Carnivoria

How Baxterian!

Well, other than the fact that it's not Rodents eating Primates.

Reading Update

It's been a while since I've said what I was reading. Not since Avrora was sick in February just before her BDay, actually. I blown through a few lighter fare books (scifi) and found them interesting, but at least in one case, perhaps more humorous than originally intended. However, there was one heavier book (in terms of content if definitely not length).

The light reading consisted of oldies but goodies: Asimov's Caves of Steel and Robots of Dawn (set on Aurora! Sheesh, didn't realize that it was so...embedded in me mentally) and Arthur C Clarke's The Songs of the Distant Earth. I also read two newer authors' works. Alastair Reynold's Redemption Ark (better, Mr. Reynolds) and Charlie Stross' Accelerando.

Oh, Charlie, I can't say I really enjoyed it. it did make me laugh though. A lot. I suspect that it wasn't always intended that way. One that I suspected was meant to was the uploaded Ukrainian that denied the Singularity. Considering my wife is Ukrainian and the character's arguments were something I have used I found it doubly amusing at the coincidence. And, no, I don't think I was the intended target even though I have interacted with Charlie over the years online and I emphatically don't believe in the Singularity.

Interestingly, the place I buy my paperbacks - at the local bookstores in Emeryville when I go one walks with my daughter - haven't had any Ian McDonald or Greg Egan. Very odd. I wanted to read them just to see what I've missed in the New SF Troubles out of Scotland (well, Britain really).

As for my question about what the differences between the older SF and what I am reading with Stross and the new folks, well, it's pretty simple really. The new people are frenetic in their writing and it's packed full of information where as the older stuff moves at a slower pace and is less dense in terms of action, plot, and pure info dump. It's the difference between the internet generations and those that came before. The characters typically are less cardboardish than those before, but they're also more flawed than before. Sometimes the one idea that was highlighted before and explored gets a little lost in the pure unadulterated download that the newer books contain.

The weighty read was Modeling Extinction. This book covers the mathematical models people have been working out to describe the extinction events in the fossil record. There are a few different models covered. It's quite obvious that not that many people have ventured into the arena as of the book's writing in 2001. The models described are extraordinarily simple things compared to what real life is like. My person interest was in possibly coupling this to a climate sim of the time of a mass extinction, but while there is some potential, this is very, very simple stuff and may not make sense to tie together. NOTE: this is not a knock on the people doing the work! This is just very early in the work being done and not worth tying to a supercomputer simulation. You could take the output of an HPC run and use it as input for one of the fitness models, but that's about it. It'd be something that could be done in an embarrassingly parallel fashion with slightly different initial starting conditions for species/genus fitnesses. The only way I might see this being changed is if you were to couple it to the coming biotic modules for CCSM.

I haven't continued Horns and Beaks yet. I will shortly. We'll see. I have to say I'm getting more Deep Time and Byzantine itchings. I am starting to get tempted into reading various books on politics too. heh. Weirdo, I know. Surprised that more of you didn't say it sooner.

UberSim Con: To Attend or Not?

Simulation and Modeling at the Exascale
for Energy, Ecological Sustainability
and Global Security

1st Town Hall Meeting

April 17 - 18, 2007

Berkeley Lab will host the first of three “town hall meetings” on the proposed Simulation and Modeling at the Exascale for Energy, Ecological Sustainability and Global Security (E3SGS) program. The meeting will be held April 17-18 in the Bldg. 66 auditorium.

Subsequent meetings will be held at Oak Ridge National Laboratory on May 17-18 and at Argonne National Laboratory on May 31 - June 1.

Executive Summary
The past two decades of national investments in computer science and high-performance computing have placed the DOE at the forefront of many areas of science and engineering. This initiative capitalizes on the significant gains in computational science and boldly positions the DOE to attack global challenges through modeling and simulation. The planned petascale computer systems and the potential for exascale systems shortly provide an unprecedented opportunity for science; one that will make it possible to use computation not only as an critical tool along with theory and experiment in understanding the behavior of the fundamental components of nature but also for fundamental discovery and exploration of the behavior of complex systems with billions of components including those involving humans.

Through modeling and simulation, the DOE is well-positioned to build on its demonstrated and widely-recognized leadership in understanding the fundamental components of nature to be a world-leader in understanding how to assemble these components to address the scientific, technical and societal issues associated with energy, ecology and security on a global scale.

For these types of problems, the time-honored, or subsystems, approach in which the forces and the physical environments of a phenomenon are analyzed, is approaching a state of diminishing returns. The approach for the future must be systems based and simulation programs are developed in the context of encoding relevant physical laws with engineering practices, production, utilization, distribution and environmental factors.

hrm. To Attend or not? I guess it depends on the bosstypes and what's scheduled. *ponders* Any comments and opinions here, folks?

China's ASAT Tried Three Times

U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright says the Chinese made two unsuccessful attempts at an anti-satellite intercept before the successful test in January.

During those earlier tests, at least one of which took place last year, the Chinese interceptor boosted into space but missed the target. The re-entry vehicles later fell back to Earth, an intelligence official says.


Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley says the launch system used by the Chinese incorporated a mobile platform, displaying a worrisome level of flexibility on the part of this potential adversary. The two earlier attempts also used a mobile launch system, the intelligence official added.

Ah, space warfare.

This wasn't just a proof of concept, folks! With the use of a mobile element its obvious that the Chinese are jockeying to put a real weapon into utilization to negate the US' omnipresence in orbit. The US has long said, "If you can see it, you can kill it." In space, there's nowhere to hide.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Japan's Space Exporation Plans

In the area of space exploration, Mamiya said that JAXA is drawing from a lineage of solar system probe launches starting back in 1985. Upcoming is the highly anticipated liftoff of Selene - a huge, 3-ton spacecraft designed to orbit the Moon.

"Selene is the largest and most sophisticated lunar mission since Apollo," Mamiya reported, and is being readied for sendoff this summer. Orbiting the Moon for a nominal 10 months, Selene is loaded with science gear "which should enrich our knowledge about the origin and evolution of the Moon."

Mamiya said that JAXA space planners are also working on a Selene 2 for 2012 and a Selene X in 2017.

JAXA's road map in space exploration also includes the Planet C mission to Venus in 2010; a Hayabusa 2 asteroid sample return in 2011, a Mercury orbiter in 2013; and dispatching a probe to Jupiter.

The Japanese are definitely moving up aggressively in their space exploration plans. VERY aggressively. Interestingly, I see very little slated there for Mars. Given everyone else's interest in it right now that's...interesting.

Dino Protein...FRESH!

It had been thought that some proteins could last a million years or more, but not to the age of the dinosaurs, she said.

So, when she was able to recover soft tissue from a T. rex bone found in Montana in 2003 she was surprised, Schweitzer said.

And now, researchers led by John M. Asara of Beth
Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston have been able to analyze proteins from that bone.

What Asara's team found was collagen, a type of fibrous connective tissue that is a major component of bone. And the closest match in creatures alive today was collagen from chicken bones.

Schweitzer and Asara report their findings in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

"Most people believe that birds evolved from dinosaurs, but that's all based on the architecture of the bones," said Asara. "This allows you to get the chance to say, 'Wait, they really are related because their sequences are related.' We didn't get enough sequences to definitively say that, but what sequences we got support that idea."

"The fact that we are getting proteins is very, very exciting," said John Horner of Montana State University and the Museum of the Rockies.

And, he added, it "changes the idea that birds and dinosaurs are related from a hypothesis to a theory."


I mean, WOW! (with blink tag)

Update: A Better Link

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

HEY! &*#^$&* KINJA!

Kinja has labeled by blog as conservative politically.

I'm not so sure I am comfortable with that!

Pentagon: Maybe Solar Power Satellites?

The Pentagon's National Security Space Office (NSSO) may begin a study in the near future on the possibility of using satellites to collect solar energy for use on Earth, according to Defense Department officials.

The officials said the study does not mean that the military plans to demonstrate or deploy a space-based solar power constellation. However, as the
Pentagon looks at a variety of alternative energy sources, this could be one possible method of supplying energy to troops in bases or on the battlefield, they said.

The military's work in this area also could aid development of a system that could provide energy to non-military users as well, according to Lt. Col. Michael Hornitschek, chief of rated force policy on the Air Force staff at the Pentagon.

Hornitschek, who has been exploring the concept of space-based solar power in his spare time, recently briefed the NSSO on the concept of space-based solar power, and stimulated interest in conducting a formal study, according to Lt. Col. M.V. 'Coyote' Smith, chief of future concepts at the NSSO. The NSSO would need to find the financial resources and available manpower to conduct the study, Smith said.

Hornitschek would lead work on the study on behalf of the NSSO if the NSSO elects to pursue it, and he said he hopes that a system could be deployed in roughly 20 years.

This isn't strictly new. Some of the old studies by the Pentagon have broguth thsi up time and again.

Russia's Announced Plans for the Far East

In early March, Fradkov announced plans to spend trillions of rubles (tens of billion of dollars) to develop the country's Far Eastern regions. Russian officials have also disclosed even more ambitious plans to raise the gross regional product twelve-fold by 2020.

The Kremlin's program to revive the country's Far East involves building refineries, metal plants as well as nuclear power facilities. Over the next six years, the government would allocate 358 billion rubles ($13.8 billion) to develop the Far Eastern regions, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref told a cabinet meeting in Moscow on March 28 (Interfax, March 28).

But as Fradkov’s recent trip revealed, any Russian government announcement of capital-intensive plans to develop Far Eastern regions triggers countless funding requests from regional leaders.

Carlos, did you ever read _Siberian Curse_?

Mike's Slides

Here we go.

PDF format.

Forests of Other Worlds

NASA scientists believe they have found a way to predict the color of plants on planets in other solar systems.

Green, yellow or even red-dominant plants may live on extra-solar planets, according to scientists whose two scientific papers appear in the March issue of the journal, Astrobiology. The scientists studied light absorbed and reflected by organisms on Earth, and determined that if astronomers were to look at the light given off by planets circling distant stars, they might predict that some planets have mostly non-green plants.

Suz's Purple Planet might STILL exist!!! ;)

Forests of Tomorrow

National Geographic has two articles on forests and climate change that are interesting. First is about how forests moved north ~100 years ago when there was a warming spike after the end of the Little Ice Age:

High in the Canadian Arctic, large tracts of tundra have given way to forests of spruce trees and bushes in response to a spike of warming temperatures nearly a century ago, according to a new study. The transition took place more quickly than scientists thought, suggesting that tundra could keep shrinking as temperatures continue to warm.

With the type of warming we are seeing now, the potential exists for real and rapid change," said Ryan Danby, a biologist at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.

Danby and colleague David Hik made the findings by studying treeline, the transitional habitat where trees and bushes give way to tundra, a mixture of hardy shrubs, grasses, mosses, and lichens.

This transition zone is sensitive to temperature, Danby explained.

Danby and Hik used tree rings and other data to measure changes over the past 300 years in the density and altitude of treeline forests at six sites in the southwestern Yukon Territory (see Canada map).

"From 1700 to 1925 we saw no change at all at treeline. It was a very stagnant, very stable environment," Danby said.

"And then all of a sudden during that second quarter of the 20th century it was like somebody just flipped on a switch and something happened in the system."

In that 25-year period treeline shifted as much as 280 feet (85 meters) higher in elevation on warm, south-facing slopes, and tree density increased by as much as 65 percent on cooler, north-facing slopes.

From here.

This is really interesting since it implies that the forests mvoed north at a very quick rate once soil and warmth was present.

*scribbles notes for Greenland project*

Also, forests need to be planted in the right spots or else they might contribute to global warming.

Planting trees might not be such a good idea in the fight against global warming—at least not in high latitudes.

That's the implication of new research that finds that forests in parts of Canada, Siberia, and Scandinavia could absorb enough sunlight to warm those areas some 10 degrees Fahrenheit (5.5 degrees Celsius) over the next century compared to if those forests didn't exist.
From here.

Ah, greenies, welcome to the concept of albedo.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Purple World?!

Ancient microbes might have used a molecule other than chlorophyll to harness the Sun’s rays, one that gave the organisms a violet hue.

Chlorophyll, the main photosynthetic pigment of plants, absorbs mainly blue and red wavelengths from the Sun and reflects green ones, and it is this reflected light that gives plants their leafy color. This fact puzzles some biologists because the sun transmits most of its energy in the green part of the visible spectrum.


DasSarma thinks it is because chlorophyll appeared after another light-sensitive molecule called retinal was already present on early Earth. Retinal, today found in the plum-colored membrane of a photosynthetic microbe called halobacteria, absorbs green light and reflects back red and violet light, the combination of which appears purple.

Primitive microbes that used retinal to harness the sun’s energy might have dominated early Earth, DasSarma said, thus tinting some of the first biological hotspots on the planet a distinctive purple color.

Being latecomers, microbes that used chlorophyll could not compete directly with those utilizing retinal, but they survived by evolving the ability to absorb the very wavelengths retinal did not use, DasSarma said.
Interesting. I think that Suzanne would have preferred that the world would have stayed that way. Thank the all that's good and light that it didn't!

Ukraine is a Mess, but...

I can't believe that I read this.

I think it discredits the blog that posted it big time.

That source is one of the most unclean I can think of.

For shame!

Hot Jupiters Are All Wet

Astronomers have detected water in the atmosphere of a planet outside our solar system for the first time.

The finding, to be detailed in an upcoming issue of Astrophysical Journal, confirms previous theories that say water vapor should be present in the atmospheres of nearly all the known extrasolar planets. Even hot Jupiters, gaseous planets that orbit closer to their stars than Mercury to our Sun, are thought to have water.

The discovery, announced today, means one of the most crucial elements for life as we know it can exist around planets orbiting other stars.

In contrast: here and here.

I really liked:

"Superposed on this continuum is a broad emission peak centered near 9.65 micron that we attribute to emission by silicate clouds."

FAA Rules for Rockets

FAA on April 6 released new guidelines for obtaining one-year experimental launch permits for reusable spacecraft that will give developers the opportunity to fly and test their vehicles before applying for an FAA launch license.

Each permit will cover multiple vehicles of a particular design and will allow an unlimited number of launches. The vehicles must operate in an area large enough to contain its trajectory that is not close to any densely populated areas.

Applicants must provide a program description; a flight test plan; operational safety documentation, including a hazard analysis; and a plan for responding to any mishap, according to FAA.

The permits will be renewable following FAA review. None of the flights covered by an experimental permit can be flown for profit. FAA will determine what kind of design changes can be made to a vehicle before its permit is invalidated.

This is for suborbitals and here's the FAA link (warning PDF format).

Monday, April 09, 2007

US makes Compromise w/ China

China and Saudi Arabia wanted to lower the level of scientific confidence (from more than 90 percent to 80 percent) that the report had in a statement about current global warming effects and it looked like they would win because they wouldn't accept the original wording. That's when Rosenzweig protested and walked.

A U.S.-based compromise saved the day, avoiding any mention of scientific confidence.


Weirdness reigns.

*crosses fingers for a carbon tax*


That Space Race?

"The Americans, the Europeans, the Japanese all are developing space technologies of the future, while Russia is just marking time."



What a trip.

It was fun. We got photos of a lot of stuff and I promise this week there will be baby photos. And elephant seals! And the Castle! and oh of course, The Aquarium. That had to be Avrora's favourite. She didn't even want to take a nap at all on this trip.

Of course, I got a see a touch of Seaward (aka the DL James House) that has been rather influential with what I've been working on.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Mike's Slides Tomorrow...but...

The problem is that I am going to be gone. I am taking Avrora and Lyuda down to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and then to Hearst Castle the next day. Th slides will go up on Monday then.


I am sitting in a 'Brown Bag Lunch' talk by my coconspirator from SC05 about global warming. I am not going to live blog it since my battery is almost dead on my laptop (*growl*). I am going to see if I can get Mike to fork over the slides and see if I can post them here.

Why Do I blog?

A nefarious lobefin over at Fish Feet by the name of Sarda Sahney memed me with the question of "Why Do I Blog?"

It's a three fold reason fro myself. It allows me to use this place as a way of communicating information to friends without having to write mass spammings that may or may not cause havoc for people's inboxes (esp wrt to pictures of my daughter & family news). Second, it's a place I can put up ideas that are interesting or show items I've found that I think are interesting for others to read (and if my cluster map isn't lying, there's a fair number of people that are interested). Finally, it's bully pulpit. I can spout whatever I feel like without infringing on newsgroup charters.

If you've read this, you've been meme infected. Please express that infection and pass it on with a link back here.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Greenland Ice Sheet w/ + 5 C

Otto-Bliesner (CCR), collaborating with Jonathan Overpeck (University Arizona), Shawn Marshall (University of Calgary), and Giff Miller (University of Colorado), studied the sensitivity of the Arctic climate and the Greenland Ice Sheet to summer warming at the beginning of the Last Interglacial (130,000 years before present) associated with late spring-early summer insolation anomalies associated with Milankovitch orbital forcing. This study used CCSM2 simulations in combination with a Greenland Ice Sheet model and terrestrial, marine, and ice core proxy records. CCSM2 seasonally warms the Arctic by up to 5°C, and forced with CCSM2 predicted surface temperature and precipitation changes, the Greenland Ice Sheet shrinks to half its present volume in 3500 years. Vegetation and ice sheet feedbacks still need to be incorporated and should indicate enhanced sensitivity.

The model suggested that would be the end result of 3500 years of melting. Below might hint that the ice sheet might be melting a tad faster...

The first photo is via UCAR and the latter from NASA.

Updated Fundraising List

The List


  • Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-New York, $26 million
  • Sen. Barrack Obama, D-Illinois, $25 million
  • Former Sen. John Edwards, D-North Carolina, $14 million
  • New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, $6 million
  • Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, $4 million
  • Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, $1-2 million


  • Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, $21 million
  • Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, $14 million
  • Arizona Sen. John McCain, $12.5 million
  • Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, $1.3 million
  • Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, $500,000
  • Tuesday, April 03, 2007

    Russian, Ukraine, and Voting Patterns

    I do believe you can guess where that is going. Funny that the regions that are Yanukovich supporting - and largely Russian speaking - happen to make a bridge to Transnistria:

    Here's hoping the latest Ukrainian political crisis doesn't turn into a bit of Russian flavoured frozen conflict.

    China's First Moon Rover

    Chinese scientists have shown off a prototype Moon rover that could lead to the country's first unmanned mission to the lunar surface in 2012.

    The 1.5m (5ft) high, 200kg (440lbs) rover should transmit video in real time, dig into and analyse soil, and produce 3D images of the lunar surface.

    Engineers have unveiled a prototype at the Shanghai institute where work on the six-wheeled vehicle is underway.

    Via BBC. Viva la Space Race!

    Antarctic Parotosuchus fossil

    The fossilised remains of an amphibian which lived more than 245 million years ago have been found in Antarctica, suggesting that the climate during much of the Triassic era was remarkably balmy.

    The 60-centimetre (24-inch) piece of skull was teased out of thick sandstone at Fremouw Peak in the Transantarctic Mountains, just six degrees short of the South Pole.

    Palaeontologists in Europe and the United States have identified the beast as a Parotosuchus, a two-metre-long (6.5-feet) giant salamander-like predator that lived 40 million years before the first dinosaurs, inhabiting lakes and rivers.

    A member of the Temnospondyl group, Parotosuchus was covered in a scaly skin, unlike the smooth skin of modern-day amphibians, and probably moved with an eel-like motion in the water.

    Previous Parotosuchus remains have been found in Germany, Kazakhstan, Russia and South Africa -- until now the most southerly part of their range.

    I have to wonder if there are some reptilomorphs (forms?) that were sea going critters that would return to freshwater to spawn. It's an interesting answer to why the reptiles didn't take to the sea until the Triassic: there was too much competition for the transitional forms from those in the niches already until the PT Extinction. Probably not the case though.

    Russia's Kosovar Actions

    Ultimately, Moscow is making clear that it would hold on to Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transnistria irrespective of any outcome in Kosovo. As Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov told the Duma on March 21, Russia would in any case retain its “responsibility” for its citizens or “compatriots” that populate those three territories (Interfax, March 21). Moldova, Georgia, and Azerbaijan quite appropriately refuse to argue with Russia over “precedent”-setting or linkages. The great majority of Western countries similarly decline being drawn into any such discussion with Moscow.

    Such Interesting Times.

    Ukraine. I have to wonder what this means for Ukraine. hmmm. Donbas, Crimea, and southern Ukraine, anyone?

    A Tasty Marinade

    This started out as something that I watched on a cooking show and turned into something a bit different.

    4 limes
    1 clove garlic (fresh!)
    2 cups cilantro (fresh leaves only)
    2 tablespoons New Mexican red chile pepper

    squeeze the limes. I used a citrus juicer my wife bought for her fresh juice in the morning. Peel the garlic. Dump garlic, lime juice, and cilantro into a blender. Let whirl!! It should be a very liquid mix.

    Place meat in the cilantro-garlic-lime juice. Turn regularly. I used a pork shoulder roast, but made the mistake of picking a meat a tad too fatty.

    Just prior to grilling, broiling, whatever, get the meat very wet with the marinade . First sprinkle salt all over the meat. Then sprinkle chile pepper all over the meat so it looks like its red EVERYWHERE.

    Two ways to cook: BBQ or broil. Your choice.

    Quite yummy.

    Dawn of the Dinosaurs Review

    After a brief introduction to the general types of organisms, the geography, and the initial climatic conditions to be encountered, Fraser organizes his book chronologically and geographically through the Triassic. It is a catalog of strange animals and plants, brought alive by the most recent discoveries and ideas of ecology, functional morphology, and behavior. Wisely, Fraser rejects global generalizations of climatic models in favor of regional and even local reconstructions, led by what the fossils tell us and by his analyses of geographic heterogeneity in temperature, resources, and rainfall. This is one of the strongest features of the book. The rapid replacements, rises and falls of tetrapod dynasties can readily be gleaned from this well-limned catalog, and one has the impression of a series of turnovers as rapid as anything in the Age of Mammals. Many sorts of scientists will benefit from it. Those not familiar with paleontology will get a first-rate, accessible introduction to the dramatis personae; those whose interest tends to focus on the critters will be delighted by the comprehensive introduction to the climatic history, geology, and stratigraphy of the Triassic worldwide. Especially useful is the approach by regions and individual geologic formations: if you want a quick introduction to the Molteno, the Chinle, or the British fissure fill deposits, this book is one-stop shopping.
    Emphasis added.

    I read this one and liked it. Something to think on.

    Texas Was Primate Heaven!

    A team of anthropologists said their study of South Texas fossil deposits revealed evidence including ancient teeth that shows the area was home to numerous types of primates 42 million years ago.

    Lamar University Professor Jim Westgate and two colleagues announced the discovery of three new genera and four new species of primates based on their examination of material removed from Lake Casa Blanca International State Park near Laredo and the Mexican border.

    Westgate said the Laredo area was a coastal lagoon during the stage of geologic history known as the Eocene Epoch, which was when primates were becoming extinct on much of the continent.

    "It was kind of the last gasp for the primates in North America," said Westgate, a professor of earth and space sciences.

    I've been getting more and more interested in NorAm primates and the extinction event that took place around the Eocene (for them especially). It has implications for my Darth Will plans for Greenland after all. (;))

    I really want my Lemuroos. I'd have no issues at all with replacing as much as possible of rodentia with primates.

    Monday, April 02, 2007

    Okay, This is Weirding Me Out!

    Senator Clinton raised about $26 million for her campaign so far. Okay. I actually expected that.

    I did not expect that Romney would come close to that, nevermind outdistance his rivals in the GOP as much as he did.

    That's weirding me out. I just rather surprised that the GOP's base is embracing, well, a Mormon. Don't get me wrong: I have far less problems with mormonism than other religions here in America. In fact, I have less issue with them than the Fundie-Bunch. I was, I suppose, rather lucky with the group of mormons I grew up with and that they were not fundies...then again, I also had grown up in a place that was not exactly normal no matter how you look at it.

    It's just that, uh, the Fundies would embrace, well, him?

    This could be an oddball election.

    UPDATE from CNN:

    The List


  • Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-New York, $26 million
  • Former Sen. John Edwards, D-North Carolina, $14 million
  • New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, $6 million
  • Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, $4 million
  • Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, $1-2 million


  • Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, $21 million
  • Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, $14 million
  • Arizona Sen. John McCain, $12.5 million
  • Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, $1.3 million
  • Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, $500,000

    Note: Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, has yet to release his fundraising totals.

  • Ukraine: Snap Elections!

    Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has dissolved parliament and called a snap election, in an escalation of the country's political crisis.

    The announcement followed seven hours of talks between Mr Yushchenko and parliamentary leaders.

    The move comes amid a long-running power struggle between the pro-Western president and pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.

    Parliament has vowed to defy the president and continue its work.

    Analysts say the move is likely to plunge Ukraine into political turmoil.

    Oy. What a mess. :(

    Whither Russia?

    On March 20, Alexander Dugin, leader of the International Eurasian Movement, held a press conference to announce that the movement would hold an "Imperial March" in Moscow on April 8. This idea was supported by Mikhail Leontiyev, a pro-Putin TV anchorman famous for blaming the United States for the massacre in Beslan, and by two Russian radical nationalist writers, Alexander Prokhanov and Maxim Kalashnikov.

    Dugin said that the Imperial March was a reaction to the next March of Discontents, planned for April 14 in Moscow. "The Russian public dreams of marching towards the great state while the orange scum [a reference to the Orange Revolution in Ukraine] wants to take this opportunity away from us.” Using a derisive nickname based on rumors that Kasyanov demanded a cut to ratify any contract with the Russian government, Dugin continued: "Misha Two Percent and Kasparov, an insane chess player, hit our sorest point – Vladimir Putin" (Vek, March 21). At the same time, Mikhail Leontiyev called the Other Russia leaders "scamps who receive money from abroad and who pay fools to take part in demonstrations and complain" (Novy Region, March 20).

    Take a look at the Euasian Movement's website. It's a little freaky. Is this the future of Russian politics? One of these days I am going to have to write up my disappointments with Russia. Ah well.

    Oz on the Barbie!

    The draft UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report warns that temperatures in Australia would rise by 6.7 degrees Celsius before the end of the century, the ABC and Sydney Morning Herald reported.

    The report, due to be released on April 6, said rising temperatures would cause more intense bushfires and lead to deaths from heatwaves.

    It also predicted rising sea levels would push the coast back 110 metres [120 yards] in some Sydney beachside suburbs, swamping some of the city's most exclusive real estate.

    It said tropical cyclones would become more common on Australia's east coast, where most of the population lives, while 80 percent of the Great Barrier Reef would be bleached by 2030.

    Keep in mind that this is the IPCC report. They have an upper range of 4.8 C (average) temperature rise for the world. The tracking of the ice melt in Greenland vs the IPCC shows that it's following the highest level prediction: that tells me at least they need to adjust the error bars some.

    The locals here have been saying we're going to get a 5+ C hike which is 4% higher than the worst case scenario that the IPCC has been saying. Assuming that's the case, and we oversimplify a tad, Oz gets about another .3 C more than the IPCC predicts. That puts them at a toasty +7 C.

    Doug was just asking about the Oz temps. There ya go. Roasty and toasty. Probably NOT good for the local ecologies. I'd need to see the precipitation #s to make more of a generalization though.

    USN Takes Another Step Towards UCAVs

    The U.S. Navy is finally accepting proposals for stealthy unmanned combat aerial system (UCAS) vehicles that can demonstrate a capability to operate from carriers.

    The technology, if eventually embraced and purchased, could alter how carrier aviation is employed by extending the reach of U.S. surveillance and enabling strikes on remote locations without relying on nearby land bases.

    Boeing and Northrop Grumman have been dusting off their earlier X-45 and X-47 designs for the Navy's recent request for proposals (RFP) on the UCAS-D (demonstrator) program. The RFP involves a specific set of requirements for carrier operations, including catapult launch, arrested landing and deck handling. Both manufacturers prepared more advanced vehicles for earlier demonstration projects, and both are expected to submit proposals that exceed the Navy's immediate needs with UCAS-D, according to a Pentagon official.

    By the time that China has carriers of any significance it seems that the game will have completely changed. Very interesting.