Monday, December 31, 2012

Record Numbers of Raptors

I read this story quite differently. The fact is that the recovery of raptor populations over the past forty years has been remarkable. Some may want to claim this is because of the demise in use of DDT, but I am way more inclined to assign causation to the effective end of utterly irresponsible hunting by teenage farm boys. Not only do we have less said farm boys, but they all know better.

Growing up in Mid Western Ontario back in the sixties, all game was scant. Yet I was out every day with a rifle in hand patrolling our fifty hectares of country side with a dog on hand to flush game. This was common and in the two decades that we covered, I saw a deer once, grouse once and multiple foxes and no end of groundhogs and rabbits. I was looking and catching little.

All that has now changed, not least because it is no longer fifty hectares but assembled into 500 hectares and the farm boys have been told off on hunting raptors and most game. Thus the deer are all crowding back as well as everything else. In the end, it will need management protocols to control their populations if not so already.

Record numbers of owls at a refuge in the Fraser Delta suggests record populations up country. Snowy owls are Arctic adapted to start with and more reasonably, they are expanding their range.

In any case, Vancouver has large populations of raptors because it is the focus of migrants from Alaska and BC. It is not unusual to see flocks of several dozen eagles here.

Record number of owls and other raptors needing help in Lower Mainland

10 snowy owls among the 485 birds treated at Delta rehabilitation centre

By Larry Pynn, Vancouver Sun December 27, 2012

A record 485 raptors, including emaciated snowy owls from the Arctic, have been brought to the two-hectare OWL rehabilitation centre in south Delta so far this year.

We’ve never broken 400 before,” OWL founder Bev Day said in an interview Thursday. “It tells you how bad the birds are doing.”

Loss of habitat due to development, including port expansion and the South Fraser Perimeter Road, as well as conversion of traditional farmland to blueberry production have resulted in less prey to go around, Day said.

A total of 10 snowy owls — most of them starving, but also one that flew into a power line — have been brought to the centre, not just from Delta, but from as far afield as Prince George, Pemberton, and Hope. Only one has survived.

Snowy owls are so desperate for food they have been spotted as far south as California, Day said.

The survival rate for all 485 raptors brought in this year, including eagles, hawks, owls, and falcons, is about 70 per cent.

People are phoning to report snowy owls on their house roofs, but Day said people should not be concerned unless the birds are seen on the ground and in distress. Photographers looking for the perfect shot are urged not to harass the birds by approaching too close.

Wet weather can also make it more difficult to for the birds to access prey, Day said, adding that raptors with weakened immune systems are also at risk of contracting aspergillosis, a lung disease.

She noted that development of the South Fraser Perimeter Road includes some good mitigation measures, but they are no substitute for the 90 hectares of farmland removed for the $1.2-billion development. “It doesn’t replace everything, but they are working on it,” she said.

Among the mitigation measures are wildlife tunnels and the creation of marsh habitat.

The conversion of traditional farmland to blueberry production also eliminates habitat in which the raptors might otherwise find prey, Day said. Agricultural pesticides — a poisoning risk — are also an issue.

Formed 37 years ago, OWL ( receives no direct government funding and is struggling to make ends meet given the large volume of raptors. Cash donations are appreciated, as well as contributions of wild game and fish, but not commercially processed poultry or other meats.

Pat Wagar of the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society in Courtenay said the facility has received six emaciated snowy owls, of which only one survived. Among the other birds brought in for treatment are a long-eared owl, short-eared owl, and a brown pelican.

Vampire Pterosaurs

 Suddenly we have plausible fossil evidence for the gargoyle cum Chupacabra. My reason for not considering such an evolutionary path other than extending the bat lineage was zero fossil evidence. That just disappeared and we now have a convincing start point.

We have even retrieved reports in which this creature ha been eyeballed. That it is part of the pterosaur lineage solves all sorts of difficulties. Even the fur evidence conforms nicely.

Of interest is the second sketch which explains wing handling.

We already knew that there is evidence of extant pterosaurs who hunt at night and avoid us. The large ones are able to span the globe and have been spotted in North America.

They also represent the best and likeliest explanation for cattle mutilation deaths.

Was there really a vampire who fed on dinosaur blood?

Prepare to be confronted with something scarier (and cuter) than Jurassic Park's raptors. In the mid to late Jurassic, the world was full of furry, flying vampire pterosaurs who fed on dino blood.

The Jeholopterus was a small pterosaur who was found in Northeastern China. Though originally identified as an insect-eater, an odd mystery about the animal eventually led one researcher to suggest the creature was actually feeding on the blood of nearby sauropods. Let's take a look at the discovery of Jeholopterus, and what spurred great debate over whether it was a blood-sucker.

The top image is artist Maija Karala's interpretation of Jeholopterus.

Soaring over China in the Jurassic

Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences published the journal article A nearly complete articulated rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur with exceptionally well-preserved wing membranes and "hairs" from Inner Mongolia, Northeast China. The paper recorded the discovery of a new pterosaur,Jeholopterus ninchengensis.

The researchers named the pterosaur for the area of its discovery, Ningcheng County of Inner Mongolia. The wingspan ofJeholopterus is a little less than three feet and the pterosaur likely weighed in around five to ten pounds - a little smaller than the average Barn Owl. Several fibers of "hair" are seen among the wings and body in the specimen, along with imprints from a large amount of soft tissue. The skull of the fossil is crushed, limiting interpretation of the head.

The authors placed Jeholopterus within the Anurognathidae group – a group of small pterosaurs known for feeding on insects. But Jeholopterus, unlike most pterosaurs, does not have a long beak. This absence played into speculation about Jeholopterus' interactions with dinosaurs.

The Vampire Theory

In the 2003 article The Chinese vampire and other overlooked pterosaur ptreasures published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, David Peters observed a couple of unusual features in Jeholopterus separating it from the average Jurassic pterosaur.

Peters is not a practicing archaeologist, but an art director and natural history writer with several peer reviewed journal articles under his belt. Peters did his work using a scanned and enlarged image of the Jeholopterus fossil uncovered by the researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Using imaging techniques and Photoshop, Peters created tracings of theJeholopterus specimen in order to elaborate on the soft tissue features of the pterosaur and the skull, as the one in the fossil is crushed. It is important to note Peters did not examine the fossil itself, only images of the fossil.

In this analysis, Peters reconstructed the skull, observing elongated teeth akin to like pliers, a fortified palate able Jeholopterus to deliver a swift blow and powerful blow, a possible mechanism by which the teeth could be locked into place after a strike. Additionally, Peters observed a horse-like tail possibly used to swat away small insects.

The pterosaur seemed to have the ability to deliver a strong blow, plus it had fangs — and a method to lock the fangs into another animal after striking. All these features led Peters to suggest Jeholopterus latched onto the backs of sauropods and lapped up blood from fang wounds. Peters doesn't offer any reasons for vampiric behavior — he simply offers it as a physiological possibility.

Backlash from the Paleontology Community

Not all paleontologists are fans of Peters' methods. Christopher Bennett, a Professor at Fort Hays State University, assails Peters' conclusions in the article Pterosaur Science or Pterosaur Fantasy? Bennett points out that several fellow paleontologists are unable to independently repeat the imaging techniques leading to evidence for vampirism.

Additionally, Bennet notes several paleontologists are uncomfortable with Peters' separation from the fossils themselves, as Peters performs most of his work without observing the fossils in person. The inability for other paleontologists to reproduce Peters' findings using the same techniques calls the vampirism into question.

Can we Prove That Jeholopterus Slurped Vital Fluids?

Honestly, without a living Jeholopterus to observe, we really cannot be sure of its unique attributes. That said, I would certainly feel more comfortable about accepting the vampireJeholopterus view if a number of other interested parties reproduced Peters' results.

What is interesting in this situation is the use of non-traditional imaging techniques by someone outside of the world of traditional paleontology to inform the world of academia, regardless of widespread acceptance. Think of it as citizen science on an extreme level - David Peters is making important contributions, even if he's succeeding only in rattling the cage of the academic mainstream.

Space Plants

 This is one of those very basic yet simple questions that needed to be answered. That the answer turns out to be unconditional is a bonus. We can grow plants happily in space. We all expected that doing so would become both necessary and doable. Now we know it is doable.

We will soon be considering how to do the engineering as our access to space gets serious and expansion begins in earnest. Bubbles on the moon are particularly attractive. I wonder if it may be possible to produce an active cellular structure of hexagonal units framing water filled bubbles that also contain living algae to assist in filtering the incoming radiation from the sun. The plumbing would be a challenge of course but not impossible.

Such a construct would provide excellent living space inside for humanity. It will still be much easier to operate underground with a mile of rock providing protection to the dome.

Plants Grow Fine Without Gravity

New finding boosts the prospect of growing crops in space or on other planets.

James Owen

for National Geographic News

Published December 7, 2012

When researchers sent plants to the International Space Station in 2010, the flora wasn't meant to be decorative. Instead, the seeds of these small, white flowers—called Arabidopsis thaliana—were the subject of an experiment to study how plant roots developed in a weightless environment.

Gravity is an important influence on root growth, but the scientists found that their space plants didn't need it to flourish. The research team from the University of Florida in Gainesville thinks this ability is related to a plant's inherent ability to orient itself as it grows. Seeds germinated on the International Space Station sprouted roots that behaved like they would on Earth—growing away from the seed to seek nutrients and water in exactly the same pattern observed with gravity. (Related: "Beyond Gravity.")

Since the flowers were orbiting some 220 miles (350 kilometers) above the Earth at the time, the NASA-funded experiment suggests that plants still retain an earthy instinct when they don't have gravity as a guide.

"The role of gravity in plant growth and development in terrestrial environments is well understood," said plant geneticist and study co-author Anna-Lisa Paul, with the University of Florida in Gainesville.

"What is less well understood is how plants respond when you remove gravity." (See a video about plant growth.)

The new study revealed that "features of plant growth we thought were a result of gravity acting on plant cells and organs do not actually require gravity," she added.

Paul and her collaborator Robert Ferl, a plant biologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville, monitored their plants from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida using images sent from the space station every six hours.

Root Growth

Grown on a nutrient-rich gel in clear petri plates, the space flowers showed familiar root growth patterns such as "skewing," where roots slant progressively as they branch out.

"When we saw the first pictures come back from orbit and saw that we had most of the skewing phenomenon we were quite surprised," Paul said.

Researchers have always thought that skewing was the result of gravity's effects on how the root tip interacts with the surfaces it encounters as it grows, she added. But Paul and Ferl suspect that in the absence of gravity, other cues take over that enable the plant to direct its roots away from the seed and light-seeking shoot. Those cues could include moisture, nutrients, and light avoidance.

"Bottom line is that although plants 'know' that they are in a novel environment, they ultimately do just fine," Paul said.

The finding further boosts the prospect of cultivating food plants in space and, eventually, on other planets.

"There's really no impediment to growing plants in microgravity, such as on a long-term mission to Mars, or in reduced-gravity environments such as in specialized greenhouses on Mars or the moon," Paul said. (Related: "Alien Trees Would Bloom Black on Worlds With Double Stars.")

The study findings appear in the latest issue of the journal BMC Plant Biology.

Central Bankers Gone Wild

Yes, the world of central banking is sorting itself out and acting firmly on lessons learned. This can only lead to a far more activist and even successful banking regime and also an early end to the too big to fail nonsense as a license to leverage up the financial Ponzi scheme. With central banks watching each other, it will be difficult to go astray and we can expect to see a body of best practice to emerge.

Recall that up to now, best practice has been a combination of the 1933 regulatory regime for financial institutions along with Reagan shifting the tax take to the left side of the Laffer curve. This provided a natural non inflationary economic growth of around 4% for two and one half decades. It could have been improved upon with targeted lending guarantees and further regulatory reforms but was plenty good enough.

At the present, those that could do not have the knowledge to do better. This is unfortunate but the globe is no longer utterly dependent on American wisdom. Thus optimism remains the order of the day.

Global economy: Central bankers gone wild

Central bankers rarely do radical, or even surprising, things. This week it happened twice. Hold on to your pinstripes.

Thomas Mucha December 14, 2012 06:19

BOSTON — Central bankers aren't exactly the most exciting people.
Sure, they're smart.
Yes, they understand the complex interplay of economics, finance, politics, markets and all the other factors that make the global economy fly or fizzle.
But they're often, well, predictable.
And when it comes to explaining the mysterious workings of the global economy they're often, to be polite, incomprehensibly dull.
Still don't believe me?
Check out this bit of poetry taken directly from the minutes of the Oct. 23 Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee meeting (and if it doesn't make perfect sense, no need to decipher it):
"The Manager of the System Open Market Account (SOMA) reported on developments in domestic and foreign financial markets during the period since the FOMC met on September 12-13, 2012. The Manager also reported on System open market operations over the intermeeting period, focusing on the ongoing reinvestment into agency-guaranteed mortgage-backed securities (MBS) of principal payments received on SOMA holdings of agency debt and agency-guaranteed MBS and the purchases of MBS authorized at the September FOMC meeting. By unanimous vote, the Committee ratified the Desk's domestic transactions over the intermeeting period. There were no intervention operations in foreign currencies for the System's account over the intermeeting period."
The jargon is no different in Brussels, London, TokyoBeijing or other places around the world where pinstriped policymakers congregate and pontificate.
But sometimes even central bankers can be perfectly clear.
They can also, apparently, be surprising.
It happened this week in both the world's largest economy (the US) and the world's largest economic bloc (the European Union), so it's best you pay attention.
The implications of these remarkable central bank moves could have very real implications for you, me and everyone else on planet earth.
Let's start with the US Federal Reserve, which did something that it's never done before: It tied its actions to actual, concrete numbers in the economy.
The Fed said it would keep stimulating the weak US economy until the nation's unemployment rate fell to 6.5 percent (it's now at 7.7 percent). It will also keep interest rates historically low as long as inflation in the US remains under 2.5 percent.
That may not sound radical, but it is.
That's because it's the first time the US central bank has used such explicit targets.
Why the switch?
The Fed hopes it will be a more transparent way to let markets know its plans. "We think it's a better form of communication," Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said.
But more importantly, the use of explicit "guideposts" signals that the Fed is far more concerned about the weak employment situation in America than it is with its primary worry of keeping inflation under control.
The move is part of an evolution in central bank thinking that's been pushed, in particular, by the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Charles Evans.
Here's how Evans described his thinking, way back in 2011:
Imagine that inflation was running at 5 percent against our inflation objective of 2 percent. Is there a doubt that any central banker worth their salt would be reacting strongly to fight this high inflation rate? No, there isn’t any doubt. They would be acting as if their hair was on fire. We should be similarly energized about improving conditions in the labor market.”
So it's burn, baby, burn until the job market improves.
That means we should expect the Fed's loose monetary policy to continue at least into 2015 when — fingers crossed — the US jobless rate is forecast to hit that 6.5 percent target. 
Meanwhile in Europe, the whiff of radicalism this week mixed with the stale, corpse-like odor of economic decline triggered by the ongoing euro crisis.
European finance ministers agreed — for the first time — to place between 100 and 200 banks across Europe under the supervision of the European Central Bank.
The measure, which still needs approval by the European Parliament, is a giant step towards the tighter economic integration necessary to bring the euro crisis under control.
Moreover, the Europeans only began talking about a move back in June. Getting anything done in Europe in six months is a major accomplishment.
Here's how The New York Times speculated on what the development could eventually mean:
"Such measures could include a unified system, and perhaps shared euro area resources, to ensure failing banks are closed in an orderly fashion. This could be followed, in time, by measures intended to reinforce economic and monetary union, including, possibly, the creation of a shared fund that could be used to shore up the economies of vulnerable members of the euro zone."
European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi called the unified banking supervision an "important step."
Even grumpy German Chancellor Angela Merkel seemed happy with the decision, calling it “a big step toward more trust and confidence in the euro zone.”
So there you go, world: central bankers gone wild.
Let's see where this party goes from here.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Corruption Will Kill Regime, But Not China

 China does have the mechanisms in place to transition out of one party rule just as has happened throughout South East Asia. In my mind, it is not if it will happen but a question of when it will happen.

The good news here is that it appears that the cadres will be forgiven for now and allowed to retire gracefully. This really allows a clean sweep from top to bottom and the introduction of fresh blood.

This also makes it an ideal time to introduce democratic reforms. But if not, the way is quite clear for a future transition. Everyone waits out the decade and prepares for the next transition. Sooner or later the people's will will be accepted slow as it may seem.

The miracle of China, not seen elsewhere, is that it is so large that even the most egregious thief is small potatoes. This means all our assumptions are suspect. I wonder how many thieves actually made the calculation that they could be forgiven?

Chinese Economist: Corruption Will Kill Regime, But Not China

By Veronica Wang December 27, 2012

A former Peking University professor, Zhang Weiying, told a public forum last week how corruption could be solved in China, and emphasized that it only poses a serious threat to the Communist Party and not the nation. 

Zhang, who was head of the Guanghua School of Management, spoke about the “two difficulties of anti-corruption” at The Observer Forum in Beijing on Dec. 19, where China’s new political and economic direction for the next decade was discussed following the leadership change in November.

Zhang commented that deeply entrenched corruption in the Chinese Communist Party has been worsening, and he believes few officials would be found free of corrupt behavior if they were all put under investigation. 

He therefore proposed using the recent 18th National Congress as the start of a new timeline, and suggested only punishing those Party officials who continue to commit such crimes, while overlooking those who have corrected their behavior since the start of the new leadership. 

In reference to the report of the 18th National Congress, Zhang opposed former leader Hu Jintao’s comment that if corruption continues, it will ruin both the Party and the country, saying only the Party will be threatened if the new anti-corruption campaign is unsuccessful.

Recently, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, Wang Qishan, was appointed as the Secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI). This was widely seen as an attempt to emphasize the importance being given to the campaign. 

Insiders revealed this as the new Party leader Xi Jinping’s idea because the two men had already reached a mutual understanding on anti-corruption efforts. 

Analysts believe that Wang, who previously had portfolios in finance and economics, will continue his forceful style in his role as CCDI secretary, and is likely set to focus on corruption in China’s financial sphere—where there is plenty of it.

Copper Blocks Antibiotic Resistence

This is actually important although how it can be integrated into the at risk environments is going to be a challenge. The simple fact is that copper requires incessant cleaning and polishing. Perhaps the proper solution is to use a normal alloy such as bronze and to allow the working surface to fully oxidize into its natural green blue color. Then normal cleaning is sufficient.

It will still be hard to keep the clean freaks from turning it into a shining object just because they can. Like the military, it will become necessary to order folks to not shine their combat boots.

The revelation here though is that gene transfer occurs outside the host on working surfaces and this provides a clear reason to make working surface naturally antibiotic. Copper is the low hanging fruit.

Copper restricts the spread of global antibiotic-resistant infections

by Staff Writers

Southampton, UK (SPX) Dec 11, 2012

New research from the University of Southampton has shown that copper can prevent horizontal transmission of genes, which has contributed to the increasing number of antibiotic-resistant infections worldwide.

Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) in bacteria is largely responsible for the development of antibiotic-resistance, which has led to an increasing number of difficult-to-treat healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs).

The newly-published paper, which appears in the journal mBio, shows that while HGT can take place in the environment, on frequently-touched surfaces, such as door handles, trolleys and tables, which are made from stainless steel - copper prevents this process from occurring and rapidly kills bacteria on contact.

Lead author Professor Bill Keevil, Chair in Environmental Healthcare at the University of Southampton, explains: "Whilst studies have focussed on HGT in vivo (an experiment that is done in the body of a living organism), this work investigates whether the ability of pathogens to persist in the environment, particularly on touch surfaces, may also play an important role. Here we show prolonged survival of multidrug resistant Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae on stainless steel surfaces for several weeks.

However, rapid death of both antibiotic-resistant strains and destruction of plasmid and genomic DNA was observed on copper and copper alloy surfaces, which could be useful in the prevention of infection spread and gene transfer."

Showing that horizontal transmission of genes (for example, those governing antibiotic resistance) occurs on touch surfaces, supports the important role of the environment in infection prevention.

Professor Keevil summarises: "We know many human pathogens survive for long periods in the hospital environment and can lead to infection, expensive treatment, blocked beds and death.

"What we have shown in this work is the potential for strategically-placed antimicrobial copper touch surfaces to not only break the chain of contamination, but also actively reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance developing at the same time. Provided adequate cleaning continues in critical environments, copper can be employed as an important additional tool in the fight against pathogens."

Beyond the healthcare environment, copper also has a wider role to play in infection control. Professor Keevil explains: "Copper touch surfaces have promise for preventing antibiotic resistance transfer in public buildings and mass transportation systems, which lead to local and - in the case of jet travel - rapid worldwide dissemination of multi-drug resistant superbugs as soon as they appear.

"People with inadequate hand hygiene could exchange their bugs and different antibiotic resistance genes just by touching a stair rail or door handle, ready to be picked up by someone else and passed on. Copper substantially reduces and restricts the spread of these infections, making an important contribution to improved hygiene and, consequently, health."

Installations of copper touch surfaces have already taken place across the UK and around the world, harnessing copper's ability to continuously reduce bioburden and consequently the risk of HCAI transmission.

This research offers additional evidence to deploy copper (and copper-containing alloys that benefit from the metal's antimicrobial properties) in the form of touch surfaces to provide extra protection alongside standard hygiene practices.

African Transition

Human continuity for 300,000 years appears to be much longer than presently accepted and continuous occupation may well imply cultural stasis. Thus the bottleneck may alternatively mean that a special group made the key breakthrough around 50,000 years ago.

That also fits well with our projected time line for a ten thousand year transition to modernity from 50,000 BP to 40,000 BP. Our own transition has taken about the same amount of time since the Pleistocene Nonconformity.

An expanding special population of modernizing humanity will simply absorb remnant groups back into the global DNA in much the same way that our last tribes are been absorbed into our six billion man ocean.

Tracing humanity's African ancestry may mean rewriting 'out of Africa' dates

This 2012 image shows the structure used by inhabitants of the region for well over 200000 years. Credit: Pamela Willoughby, University of Alberta.

by Staff Writers

Edmonton, Canada (SPX) Dec 18, 2012

New research by a University of Alberta archeologist may lead to a rethinking of how, when and from where our ancestors left Africa. U of A researcher and anthropology chair Pamela Willoughby's explorations in the Iringa region of southern Tanzania yielded fossils and other evidence that records the beginnings of our own species, Homo sapiens.

Her research, recently published in the journal Quaternary International, may be key to answering questions about early human occupation and the migration out of Africa about 60,000 to 50,000 years ago, which led to modern humans colonizing the globe.

From two sites, Mlambalasi and nearby Magubike, she and members of her team, the Iringa Region Archaeological Project, uncovered artifacts that outline continuous human occupation between modern times and at least 200,000 years ago, including during a late Ice Age period when a near extinction-level event, or "genetic bottleneck," likely occurred.

Now, Willoughby and her team are working with people in the region to develop this area for ecotourism, to assist the region economically and create incentives to protect its archeological history.

"Some of these sites have signs that people were using them starting around 300,000 years ago. In fact, they're still being used today," she said. "But the idea that you have such ancient human occupation preserved in some of these places is pretty remarkable."

Magubike: Home to a modern Stone Age family?

Willoughby says one of the fascinating things about Magubike is the presence of a large rock shelter with an intact overhanging roof. The excavations yielded unprecedented ancient artifacts and fossils from under this roof. Samples from the site date from the earliest stages of the middle Stone Age to the Iron Age. The earlier deposits include human teeth and artifacts such as animal bones, shells and thousands of flaked stone tools.

The Iron Age finds can be dated using radiocarbon, but the older deposits must go through more specialized processes, such as electron spin resonance, to determine their age. Other parts of the Magubike rock shelter, excavated in 2006 and 2008, include occupations from after the middle Stone Age. Taken together, this information could be crucial to tracking the evolutionary development of the inhabitants.

"What's important about the whole sequence is that we may have a continuous record of human occupation," said Willoughby. "If we do-and we can prove it through these special dating techniques-then we have a place people lived in over the bottleneck."

Rugged, hilly terrain may have been key to survival

The team made similar findings at Mlambalasi, about 20 kilometres from Magubike. Among the findings at this site was a fragmentary human skeleton that probably dates to the late Pleistocene Ice Age-after the out-of-Africa expansion but at the end of the bottleneck period.

The bottleneck theory explains what geneticists have found by studying the mitochondrial DNA of living people-that all non-Africans are descended from one lineage of people who left Africa about 50,000 years ago.

Reconstructions of past environments through pollen and other archeological records in Iringa suggest that people abandoned the lowland, tropical and coastal areas during that period but remained in the highlands, where vegetation has remained mostly unchanged over the last 50,000 years. Those who moved to higher ground may have found what is likely one of the few places that facilitated their survival and forced their adaptation. Further testing will determine whether these findings point to a clearer link to our African ancestors-a find Willoughby says could put that region of Tanzania on many archeologists' radar.

"It was only about 20 years ago that people recognized that modern Homo sapiens actually had an African ancestry, and everyone was focused on looking at early Homo sapiens in Europe who appeared around 40,000 years ago," she said.

"But we now know that as far as back as around 200,000 years ago, Africa was inhabited by people who were already physically exactly like us today or really close to being the same as us. All of a sudden, it's not Europe in this time period that's really important, it's Africa."

Engaging community yields co-operation, opportunity

Along with its scientific significance, Willoughby's work may be a linchpin to potential economic growth for the region. Since 2005, when a local cultural officer showed her the sites, she has been sharing information about her research with local citizens, schools and government-opening up opportunities for more research and co-operation.

She keeps the region informed of the team's findings through posters distributed around Iringa, and has asked for and accepted assistance from local scholars. Now the community is also looking for her help in establishing the historic sites as a tourist attraction that will benefit the region.

Willoughby says she feels fortunate to have the support of the Tanzanian people. She tells people it is a shared history she is uncovering, something she is honoured to be able to do.

"They're telling me, 'You're putting Iringa on the map,'" she said. "As long as they keep letting me work there, and keep letting the people working with me work there, we'll be happy."

Red Rain Revisit

We are revisiting the Red Rain phenomena. First it is the only specific phenom that does conform to the Panspermia hypothesis although one may presume an earlier report inspired the original hypothesis since the color red was associated with the idea.

This report informs us that integrity is retained up to 300 C. This excludes any Earth borne explanation unless it so happens that a slime mold gets up there and is cooked off. That does not work either because integrity at 300 C is difficult to achieve with carbon based molecules.

This now begs the question of why here unless it is simply unique. Then it is a case of simple luck.

What happened is that a meteorite burst took place in the Stratosphere and resultant material then descended onto Southern India as it was washed out of the lower atmosphere with rain over a period of several weeks. This is no longer controversial.

I conjecture that these cells are living travel cells that expel their contents on contact with water. Thus we get the yellow rain. We also see reports of what appear to be micro cells. In the meantime all components demonstrate auto-luminescence.

What this is is an outright demonstration of the transmittal of complex organic material through space.

Next time around, I suggest that we get up there and sample the material before it drifts down into the atmosphere. If this proves feasible then we should gain a lot of critical data.

I would love to know just what the cell walls are.

A rare shower of red rain fell for about 15 minutes in the city of Kannur, Kerala, India, early on June 28. Local residents were perturbed, but this is not the first time the state has experienced colored rain.

This strange phenomenon was first recorded in Kerala a few hours after a meteor airburst in July 2001, when a space rock exploded in the atmosphere. More than 120 such rain showers were reported that year, including yellow, green, and black ones. [ it took a lot of time to leach out of the upper atmosphere were air flow is possibly no issue. This part of India just happened to be in the landing envelope - arclein ]

Astrobiologist Godfrey Louis, pro vice-chancellor at nearby Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT), has studied samples of red rainwater in 2001 and discovered strange properties, including autofluorescence—light that is naturally emitted by cell structures like mitochondria.

Scientific analysis showed the striking red coloration is due to microscopic particles resembling biological cells, possibly originating from comet fragments.

Louis believes these cells could be extra-terrestrial because existing theories already hypothe

Such comets can break into fragments as they near the sun during their travel along highly elliptical orbits,” he told The Epoch Times via email. “These fragments can remain in orbit and later can enter Earth’s atmosphere periodically.”

According to Louis, red particles in the atmosphere from a fragmented meteor probably seeded the red rain clouds.


A red cell as seen with transmission electron microscopy. (Godfrey Louis/CUSAT)

There can be roughly of the order of 100 million cells in one liter of red rain water,” he said. “The red rain can appear like black coffee if the concentration of the cells increases in the rain water.”

These “alien” cells resemble normal cells, but lack conventional biological molecules like DNA, and are expected to have different biochemistry.

Unlike other biological cells, these red rain microbes can withstand very high temperatures,” Louis explained. ”It is possible to culture them at temperatures as high as 300 degrees centigrade [572 degrees Fahrenheit].”

[ These are then surely not earth based but may be stratosphere based - arclein]

Even the toughest known heat-loving bacteria on Earth cannot withstand the same hot conditions as the red cells.

Currently known conventional hyper-thermophilic microbes do not survive culturing beyond 122 degrees centigrade [252 degrees Fahrenheit].”

Louis has also studied yellow rain, and says it contains some unknown dissolved materials but no red cells.

Yellow rain and red rain are related as both show an unusual characteristic: autofluorescence,” he said. “It is inferred that the materials dissolved in the yellow rain are the biological byproducts of these micro-organisms.”

Researchers are attempting to identify the molecular components in the red cells and to provide more insights into colored rain.

Read Louis’ research paper on the red rains in 2001 here.

Cometary panspermia explains the red rain of Kerala

Godfrey Louis & A. Santhosh Kumar

School of Pure and Applied Physics, Mahatma Gandhi University,
Kottayam – 686560, Kerala, India.

Date: October 5, 2003

Red coloured rain occurred in many places of Kerala in India during July to September 2001 due to the mixing of huge quantity of microscopic red cells in the rainwater. Considering its correlation with a meteor airbust event, this phenomenon raised an extraordinary question whether the cells are extraterrestrial. Here we show how the observed features of the red rain phenomenon can be explained by considering the fragmentation and atmospheric disintegration of a fragile cometary body that presumably contains a dense collection of red cells. Slow settling of cells in the stratosphere explains the continuation of the phenomenon for two months. The red cells under study appear to be the resting spores of an extremophilic microorganism. Possible presence of these cells in the interstellar clouds is speculated from its similarity in UV absorption with the 217.5 nm UV extinction feature of interstellar clouds. Keywords: astrobiology, exobiology, panspermia, extraterrestrial life & red rain.

1. Introduction

Panspermia, the theory that the seeds of life are every where in the Universe has been gaining more support recently on the basis of several new findings. Modern version of panspermia considers comets as the delivery vehicles that spread life throughout a galaxy .

. Comets can protect cells from UV and cosmic radiation damage and cometscan drop cells high in the atmosphere to float gently down

. Paleogeochemical evidence show that life appeared on Earth as early as 3,800 million years ago or even before that, immediately following the Earths surface cooling. This gives too short a time for the evolution of life to take place from simple precursor molecules to the level of prokaryotic and photoautotropic cells and it leads to the argument that life has earlier originated elsewhere and then it was transported to primitive Earth

. There is evidence to show that microbial life can remain in a resting phase for millions of years, which can enable them to make long space travel

. There is also the possibility of liquid water in comets, which could support active life in comets

. Some of the observational data from comets have also been interpreted as evidence to prove biological content in2 Cometary panspermia explains the red rain of Kerala comets

. In the extreme conditions in comets, if not in active state, life can be expected to be present as spores. Spores in the dormant state, undergo no detectable metabolism and exhibit a high degree of resistance to inactivation by various physical insults

. Thus the most possible means by which microorganisms can arrive in a planet after a journey in space must be as spores. Considering the universal nature of biochemistry, the chemical makeup of extraterrestrial life forms can be expected to be similar to the one found on Earth.

Recently there have been a few claims of finding extraterrestrial life. McKey et al. have found structures similar to microfossils of nanobacteria in a Martian meteorite, which was interpreted as evidence for life in Mars. To test the idea of cometary panspermia, Narliker et al. have performed a stratospheric sample collection experiment using a balloon and found microorganisms in the air samples collected over Hyderabad in India at various heights up to 41 km. Wickramasinghe et al., argue that these microorganisms are of extraterrestrial origin and consider this finding as evidence to vindicate the idea of cometary panspermia.
In this paper we open a new finding in support of cometary panspermia. A study of the red rain phenomenon show that the microscopic cells that coloured the rainwater originated most possibly from a cometary meteor that disintegrated in the upper atmosphere above Kerala on 25th July 2001. A physical study of the cells indicate that the cells are spores of an extremophilic microorganism and hence we argue that the red rain phenomenon of Kerala is a case of cometary panspermia and the red cells are the first clear example of life beyond Earth. Though this claim is extraordinary, there appears no other less extraordinary way to explain the mystery of red rain in Kerala.

The red rain Phenomenon

The mysterious red rain phenomenon occurred over different parts of Kerala, a State in India. The news reports of this phenomenon appeared in Nature and various newspapers and other media and are currently carried by several websites . The red coloured rain first occurred at Changanacherry in Kottayam district on 25th July 2001 and continued to occur with diminishing frequency in Kottayam and other places in Kerala for about two months. The red colouring of the rainwater was found to be
entirely due to the p resence of tiny red cells about 10 micrometers in size, which appeared dispersed in rainwater. These cells had some similarity in appearance with alga cells. From the magnitude of the phenomenon, it can be estimated that several thousands of kilograms of these cells are required to be there in the atmosphere to [Godfrey Louis & A. Santhosh Kumar] account for all the red rain. From where the huge quantities of these cells originate and how they reach the rain clouds to cause red rain for two months is found to be a mystery. In majority of cases the colour of the rain was red. There were a few cases of yellow rain and rare unconfirmed cases of other colours like black, green, grey etc.

Coloured hailstones were another reported case. It is easy and non-controversial to dismiss this phenomenon without much study by stating some conventional, simple and unproved reasons like: dust from Sahara, pollen grains, volcanic dust from distant volcanoes, fungal spores from trees, algae from sea and factory pollution etc. But a closer examination of the features of this phenomenon and the properties of the cells show that these kinds of reasons are not valid.

A study of the distribution of the red rain incidences with location and time was done using the data available on this phenomenon. This data was mostly compiled from the reports that appeared in local leading Malayalam language newspapers, which have an extensive network of reporters covering all parts of Kerala. In many cases photographs of the collected rainwater were given with the news item. Being an unusual phenomenon the local press have given much importance to this. Still there can be
several cases where people have not reported the incidence to the press. Also there can be several cases, which went unobserved by the people, such as the cases, which occurred during night. But the available data is sufficient to show the trend and nature of the phenomenon (See supplementary information for a list of red rain incidences with time and place).

A plot (Fig.1a) of the number of coloured rain incidences in Kerala on different dates shows that about 75% of the total 124 listed cases occurred during the first 10 days. A plot (Fig.1b) of the average rainfall data of Kerala enclosing the coloured rain period from 25th July to 23rd

September 2001, demonstrates that the coloured rain started suddenly during a period of rainfall in the State. Thus the cells are not something which accumulated in the atmosphere during a dry period and washed down on a first rain. It was found that several cases of red rain phenomenon have occurred on rainy days after and during normal rains. Thus it cannot be again assumed that the red cells came from some accumulation in the lower atmosphere. The vessels kept in open space also collected red rain. Thus it is not something that is washed out from rooftops or tree leaves. It appears as if the rain clouds in some region are suddenly mixed with red cells.

It may be argued that the cells arrived here, from a distant source like a desert in another part of the world, through some wind system. But in such a system it is hard to explain the repeated delivery of these cells to target over a few districts in Kerala for two months while not over other adjacent States in India, despite the changes in climatic conditions and wind pattern spanning over two months.

When the red rain reports are viewed in the background of the normal rainfall data the pattern that emerges is that of a sudden starting of red rain reports after 25th July 2001 and then a gradual decay of reports with time. A gap in the red rain reports is due to the absence of rainfall in the State during that period. If cell clouds are created in the stratosphere at various heights by a mechanism of meteor fragmentation and disintegration then clouds of such cells can slowly settle down to the rain clouds to give such a pattern of red rain. This idea is elaborated with some actual calculations in the
next section.

The geographical distribution of the red rain cases (Fig.1c.) shows a clustering of cases in Kottayam and neighbouring districts like Pathanamthitta, Ernakulam, Idukki and Alappuzha with abrupt decrease towards the south and gradual decrease towards the north. This distribution over the geographical area can be explained by considering the path and the location of final airbust of the meteor. This idea is also elaborated in the following section.


Friday, December 28, 2012

Atlantean Subsidence

We have reached the point at which the Atlantean Subsidence can be characterized. Work here has pinpointed the event itself in time to 1159 BC. We established that it ended a sea based culture known as the Sea Peoples to the Egyptians and as the Atlanteans to us. This culture arose to principally trade in copper and other metals including gold and its existence generated an expansion of general global mining activity that lasted approximately one and one half thousand years. Its principal expression in archeology was palace based trading factories all over the globe.

This civilization provided the impulse for the first Chinese dynasty, the first apparent Indian civilization and surely Meso - America and the Andean and Amazonian cultures. I would also not rule out Sumeria and Egypt in all this as either part of the original emergence or at least driven by it. My point here is to recall the global impact of the European Nations of Spain and Portugal as well as Great Britain between 1500 and 1800, all before the industrial revolution made market access worthwhile.

The Atlanteans had 1500 years to pull it together and make themselves unassailable.

Their core cultural center was on their home islands which provided protection from barbarism. These home islands included Lyonese directly west of Ireland and of the same size, the Azores platform likely as large, the Bermuda Bank which was much larger and critically, the Cuban ridge which compares to Japan.

This whole complex, linked to the Atlantic Ridge and the orthogonal Cuban Ridge was vulnerable to additional subsidence after the Pleistocene Nonconformity in 11900 BC. The trigger was the ongoing removal of the northern Ice Cap which resulted in the steady rise of the Hudson Bay platform and the transmission of hydrostatic change southward in particular.

This massive subsidence took place in 1159 BC and by its nature took the day and night that is reported in the cultural records. The west end of Cuba appears to have dropped a full mile. Lesser amounts are noted elsewhere. The Bahama Bank likely dropped modestly as it is part of the continent. As far as the Atlantic Ridge is concerned, we need to locate cultural artifacts such as we uncovered in Cuba to determine the magnitude.

My expectation though is that the worst part of the subsidence was centered on the Cuban Ridge and the Gulf of Mexico and the effects were substantially contained there. Recall that the Bahama Bank extends from Mid Florida to the Cuban Coast.

In short, the subsidence was way larger and more extensive than imagined just as the scope of the Atlantean empire was way larger and more influential than imagined. If I have learned anything though it is that it does not pay to be conservative on this at all and lack of evidence merely means we have not looked.