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Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Daily Drift


Road in August by Sam Dobson
Autumn Roads

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Today in History

1758 James Abercromby is replaced as supreme commander of British forces after his defeat by French commander the Marquis of Montcalm at Fort Ticonderoga during the French and Indian War.
1759 Quebec surrenders to the British after a battle which sees the deaths of both James Wolfe and Louis Montcalm, the British and French commanders.
1793 George Washington lays the foundation stone for the U.S. Capitol.
1830 Tom Thumb, the first locomotive built in the United States, loses a nine-mile race in Maryland to a horse.
1850 Congress passes the second Fugitive Slave Bill into law (the first was enacted in 1793), requiring the return of escaped slaves to their owners.
1862 After waiting all day for a Union attack which never came at Antietam, Confederate General Robert E. Lee begins a retreat out of Maryland and back to Virginia.
1863 Union cavalry troops clash with a group of Confederates at Chickamauga Creek.
1874 The Nebraska Relief and Aid Society is formed to help farmers whose crops were destroyed by grasshoppers swarming throughout the American West.
1911 Russian Premier Piotr Stolypin dies four days after being shot at the Kiev opera house by socialist lawyer Dimitri Bogroff.
1914 The Irish Home Rule Bill becomes law, but is delayed until after World War I.
1929 Charles Lindbergh takes off on a 10,000 mile air tour of South America.
1934 The League of Nations admits the Soviet Union.
1939 A German U-boat sinks the British aircraft carrier Courageous, killing 500 people.
1948 Margaret Chase Smith becomes the first woman elected to the Senate without completing another senator's term when she defeats Democratic opponent Adrian Scolten. Smith is also the only woman to be elected to and serve in both houses of Congress.
1960 Two thousand cheer Castro's arrival in New York for the United Nations session.
1961 UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold is killed in a plane crash while attempting to negotiate peace in the Congo.
1964 U.S. destroyers fire on hostile targets in Vietnam.
1973 East and West Germany and The Bahamas are admitted to United Nations.
1975 Patty Hearst, granddaughter of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, is kidnapped by violent radical group SLA (Symbionese Liberation Army); she later took part in some of the group's militant activities, is captured by FBI agents.
1977 Voyager I takes first photo of Earth and the Moon together.
1980 Cosmonaut Arnoldo Tamayo, a Cuban, becomes the first black to be sent on a mission in space.
1998 ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is formed to coordinate unique identifying addresses for Websites worldwide.
2009 The US television soap opera The Guiding Light broadcasts its final episode, ending a 72-year run that began on radio.

Non Sequitur


Putin On The Ritz

Putin On The Ritz.

Did you know ...

About the guide to the the most radical separatists in America

Hey, medical marijuana users: stand up for yourselves in court!

That things are looking bad for Ken Cuccinelli

That Betty Fokker shames the slut-shamer

Anything ‘even remotely associated with me, they feel obliged to oppose.’

President Obama dropped a truth bomb on the repugican cabal. We have a faction, "that view 'compromise' as a dirty word, and anything that- is even remotely associated…
President Obama dropped a truth bomb on the repugican cabal. He said that we have a faction, “that view “compromise” as a dirty word, and anything that- is even remotely associated with me, they feel obliged to oppose.”
Transcript via This Week:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: First president since Eisenhower to do it twice. You put gun control at the top of the agenda, immigration reform, climate change. All of it stalled or reversing. How do you answer the argument that- beyond the deficit, this has been a lost year? And how do you save it?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well- on immigration reform- for example- we got an- terrific bipartisan vote out of the Senate- that showed that there is a recognition from all quarters, from business, from labor, from- the clergy, from farm interests, that- a sensible immigration policy will grow our economy, make us stronger. So you had Democrats and repugicans in the Senate come together, come up with a bill that wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t my bill, but got the job done. It’s now sitting there in the House.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Not goin’ anywhere.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well- but what I will say is this: If Speaker Boehner put that bill on the floor of the House of Representatives right now, it would pass. It would pass. So the question then is not whether or not- the ideas that we’ve put forward can garner a majority of support certainly in the country. I mean gun control, we had 80-90% of the country that- that agreed with it.
The problem we have is we have a- faction of the repugican cabal - in the House of Representatives in particular, that view “compromise” as a dirty word, and anything that- is even remotely associated with me, they feel obliged to oppose. And my argument to them is real simple. That’s not why the people sent you here.
The reason the people sent you here was to think about their lives, about their jobs, about their kids’ college educations, about their retirement security. And- you know, all I can do when it comes to that group of- members of Congress is to continue to talk to ‘em and say, “Let’s put aside our differences. Let’s stay focused on the American people.” If we do that, we can get things done.
The president wasn’t saying anything that most Americans don’t already know, but there is something sad about the straight forward way that Obama said it. This wasn’t some shocking revelation. It is an accepted fact that whatever this president supports, repugicans will be against. Many House repugicans feel that they were sent to Washington to do nothing but oppose Obama.
This mentality is the reason why it is impossible to pass legislation. House repugicans have adopted the position that it is their way or no way. The repugicans keep losing elections, standoffs, and the crises that they manufacture because most Americans know who to blame. Obama’s comment was a way for the president to put repugicans on notice that everyone knows what they are doing.
Congressional repugicans are handing the president and every Democratic candidate a club to beat them over the heads with in 2014. People are tired of the do less than nothing repugicans in Congress, and Obama is setting the stage for their potential ouster next year.

Americans Are About to Discover That the repugican cabal Not the ACA is Hazardous To Their Health

Americans will discover in the next week the only hazard to their health is repugicans on a crusade to see which faction can cause the most damage to…
The CoronationWhen Americans think back on historically evil and depraved human beings, they may think of Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, or even Osama bin Laden for their profound immorality in wantonly taking human life and creating terror. If the American people took stock of the repugican cabal over the past four years and considered the terror and distress they have caused tens-of-millions of American citizens, it is likely they would conclude that, as a group, conservatives are as depraved, wicked, and inhumane as any of history’s human monsters. Whether it is deliberately withholding food, shelter, or medical assistance from people in need, there are no bounds repugicans and their wingnut agitators are unwilling to cross to inflict damage on Americans. As the government runs out of money to operate and its ability to borrow to repay repugican debts looms, the true extent of the repugican cabal’s malicious nature is becoming clear.
In what has to be the epitome of evil in the face of good news for New Yorkers, the pantheon of wingnut malice, the Heritage Foundation led by the vile Jim DeMint erected a sign in Times Square warningObamacare may be hazardous to your health.” The sign’s message is to invoke fear as New Yorkers discover that, because of the ACA, their healthcare insurance premiums are falling by at least 50% on top of no pre-existing conditions, no lifetime limits on coverage, and parents’ ability to keep children on their policies until age 26. That DeMint is responsible for fear mongering and disregard for Americans is not surprising. Last week DeMint told an audience that Veteran’s healthcare benefits and Medicare senior citizens pay for are un-American. However, DeMint is just one face of the conservative movement waging a ferocious battle with itself to determine which group can inflict the most damage on the American people.
On Thursday, 43 repugicans garnered support from wingnut groups Club For Growth, FreedomWorks, and Heritage Action for legislation to shut down the government unless the Affordable Care Act is defunded. The House measure attracted support from teabag Senators Mike Lee and Ted Cruz to “save America from Obamacare.” The groups boast that “momentum is building” to stop the healthcare reform law and prevent tens of millions of Americans from getting healthcare insurance and to allow the insurance industry to keep raising premiums. The repugican leadership in the House is disappointed because their proposal to maintain sequester spending levels and force the Senate to defund the ACA is in jeopardy of failing. Both groups’ ultimate goal is ending the ACA and cutting spending to inflict the maximum amount of damage on the most Americans possible, and they are threatening a government shut down and defaulting on the nation’s debt to achieve their goal.
With the country’s debt and deficit falling at a record pace, and Americans suffering the effects of the GOP’S sequester, the only reasonable explanation of repugican’s actions is that in their malicious minds, people are not suffering enough.  In a very recent Gallup poll, a record number of Americans are unable to afford the basic necessities of life including 20% who said they lacked the money to buy the food that they or their families needed, and 75% are barely surviving living from paycheck to paycheck. The repugican answer is to vote next week to slash food stamp funding when 15% of American families already live with perpetual food insecurity repugicans exacerbated by cuts to school lunches, Meals on Wheels, and Head Start. The repugicans are dissatisfied that only 24% of America’s children live in dire poverty because their parents are unable to find work or struggle with part time-employment at minimum-wage jobs. To rub salt in their wounds, one repugican quoted his christian bible and said, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” to justify cutting food stamp funding regardless that 42% of food stamp recipients work and the rest are seniors and children.
The level of inhumanity endemic to repugicans belies their so-called christian delusion; particularly their drive to increase the number of Americans who are hungry and in poor health. In the next week, with only 4 legislative days to fund the government, repugicans will battle among themselves to see which group can inflict the most damage on the people, and it is barely mentioned that Speaker of the House John Boehner lusts to slash Social Security he hopes will be his lasting legacy. Boehner promised to hold the debt ceiling hostage unless Democrats and President Obama accept a deal to cut to Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, farm programs and government pensions to inflict even more suffering on  Americans.
Boehner’s evil is represented in his response to criticism that slashing crucial domestic programs is unfair when people are hungry and struggling through no fault of their own. Boehner said, “It may be unfair but what I’m trying to do here is to leverage the political process;” to achieve the “goal to stop Obamacare, to cut spending.” Despite the debt and deficit falling, and dissatisfied the sequester damage is limited, Eric Cantor proposed keeping the sequester cuts in perpetuity and Boehner saidNow, it’s time to deal with the mandatory side.” The mandatory side are programs that require funding by law including Social Security, Medicare, and Veteran’s benefits; all programs that benefit senior citizens will ensure that Republicans leave no American unaffected.
To be fair, it is wrong to single out Boehner, Cantor, or teabaggers as inherently malevolent because the entire wingnut 'movement' is intrinsically evil. It is bad enough repugicans have not proposed or supported one piece of legislation to help any American who is not filthy rich, but they have been on a crusade to withhold food, shelter, and medical care from people in need. That the Heritage Foundation is assisting repugicans in their effort to eliminate the Affordable Care Act coupled with their inability to explain how it is dangerous reveals their only purpose is inflicting pain on Americans; especially since the Heritage Foundation proposed the ACA’s primary components in 1989.
The repugicans, teabaggers, libertarians, and their belief tanks have resorted to fear-mongering, misinforming, and warning Americans for three years the Affordable Care Act is an existential threat, and now according to the Heritage Foundation it is “hazardous to your health.” Americans will discover in the next week the only hazard to their health is repugicans on a crusade to see which faction can cause the most damage to the people and the nation. They are just as evil as any of history’s monsters and although they are not slaughtering millions of Americans quickly, they are intent on inflicting slow death by withholding food and healthcare from the working poor, seniors, and children.

Daily Comic Relief


Man went on supermarket poking and squishing rampage

A tragic scene unfolded in a supermarket in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan last Thursday, as 32-year-old Shinji Kuroki went on a mass poking and squishing rampage inside. Details of the total damage are sketchy but reports say that packs of meat had holes poked in them with a finger and loaves of bread were thrown on the floor.According to the Okayama Prefectural Police, Kuroki entered the supermarket at around 2:10pm, then over the next 15 minutes, a rampage against packaged food ensued, leaving 103 items destroyed beyond saleability causing a total of 59,880 yen (£380, $600) of damage.
Police arrived on the scene soon after a clerk had dialed 110, but Kuroki had already left. Luckily, as the authorities were investigating, the suspect came back to pick up the bicycle he had forgotten. When the police questioned Kuroki he confessed to the violence.

Kuroki was quoted by police as saying: “Earlier the staff didn’t treat me right. I got upset.” The company that runs the supermarket released a statement saying they would improve security to avoid future such tragedies from occurring.

Twenty Of The First Photographs Of Things

For everything there's a first. Here are some photographic firsts from the beginnings of photography all to way to the newest landmarks in capturing visually things which were previously imperceptible to our human eyes.
From the first photograph of a person (picture above) via the first self-portrait photograph to the oldest photograph of New York City.

Where Do Dreams Come From?

When we close our eyes and drift off to sleep, something in our mind spins us fanciful tales of teeth falling out, bouncing around in giant marshmallows in the sky, taking a walk in the park down the street that's also a spaceship. Common as they are, there's not a lot of definitive science on how we dream.

Are dreams the work of the imagination, or the work of some reflex in the brain?
It's a question that has long fascinated and flummoxed those who study human behavior.



Astronomical observatory discovered at Machu Picchu

Peruvian-Polish research team examined previously unknown Inca object, which turned out to be an astronomical observatory, told PAP Prof. Mariusz Ziółkowski, Head of Pre-Columbian Research Center at the University of Warsaw.
Astronomical observatory discovered in Machu Picchu
"El Mirador" observatory, surveying team prepares for scanning with
a stationary laser scan station [Credit: Mariusz Ziółkowski]
The monument built with well -worked stones was identified in an inaccessible part of the National Park of Machu Picchu by the park director, anthropologist Fernando Astete Victoria, during the prospective - inventory work conducted on the slopes of Mount Huayna Picchu. The scientist invited the Polish team to cooperate in the research. Among the Polish scientists were Prof. Mariusz Ziółkowski from Warsaw University and Prof. Jacek Kościuk from Wrocław University of Technology.
"Despite the difficult terrain we managed to perform 3D laser scans, which we then used to prepare a precise model of this amazing complex. Results of preliminary analysis indicate that it is a device used probably by a small group of Inca priests - astronomers for precise observations of the position of celestial bodies on the horizon, against the distinctive Yanantin mountain peaks" - said Prof. Ziółkowski.
The importance of the discovery is exceptional. Inca ceremonial complexes - large squares, south or west-oriented solstice were known were known before. However, this is a different type of temple.
Astronomical observatory discovered in Machu Picchu
Prof. Jacek Kościuk scanning the interior of one of the observation niches
with a portable 3D laser scanner [Credit: Mariusz Ziółkowski]
El Mirador  is so far the only discovered precise Inca astronomical observatory, apart from the Astronomical Grotto Intimachay located also in Machu Picchu, incidentally studied last year by the same Peruvian-Polish team" - said the archaeologist.
Detailed results of the work carried out in the El Mirador will be presented in the first week of September at the International Conference of the Societe Europeenne pour l' Astronomie dans la Culture in Athens.
Polish researchers have been are working in Machu Picchu since 2008, as part of an agreement between the University of Warsaw and the regional delegation of the Peruvian Ministry of Culture in Cusco. The scope of work includes stone conservation, 3D documentation, and archaeoastronomy.

Tomb found of ancient Chinese female 'prime minister'

Archaeologists have discovered the tomb of a 7th-century female politician who was one of the most powerful women in China's ancient history, local media said.
Tomb found of ancient Chinese female 'prime minister'
Tomb found of ancient Chinese female 'prime minister'
Tomb found of ancient Chinese female 'prime minister'
The tomb of Shangguan Wan'er (664–710), an influential female politician and poet during the regime of Empress Wu Zetian (690-705), is found near Xi'an Xianyang International Airport in Xianyang City of northwest China's Shaanxi province, according to the provincial cultural relics bureau on Monday. Archaeologists confirmed that the tomb belonged to Shangguan Wan'er from an epitaph that was seriously damaged when discovered [Credit: ecns.cn]
Shangguan Wan'er -- who lived from 664 to 710 in the Tang dynasty -- was a trusted aide to China's first empress Wu Zetian and is sometimes described as effectively her prime minister.
She married Wu's son, while having relationships with both the ruler's lover and her nephew.
As a sequence of murders, coups and affairs enveloped the dynasty, Shangguan Wan'er's husband Li Xian briefly became emperor -- only to be killed by his senior wife, who took power herself.
She was deposed in turn by Li Longji, who killed both her and Shangguan Wan'er.
The site was discovered near an airport in Xianyang, in the northern province of Shaanxi, and confirmed by an inscription, China Radio International said on its website.
Pictures showed deep excavations of ochre-coloured earth, arched passageways and a number of ceramic horses.
"The discovery of the tomb with the epitaph is of major significance in the study of the Tang Dynasty," the China Daily said, citing a historian specialising in the era, Du Wenyu.
The grave was badly damaged, suggesting a "large-scale, organised" and possibly "official destruction", Geng Qinggang, a Shaanxi-based researcher told the China News Service on Thursday.
No gold or silver treasures, or complete bones, had been found at the site, he added.
Shangguan Wan'er was also recognised for her poetry.

Ancient road to Stonehenge found

A pair of ditches discovered during work to cover up the main road running through Stonehenge have proven that the famous monuments were once connected to the River Avon by a formal processional approach.
Ancient path leading to Stonehenge discovered
Aerial view of Stonehenge showing how it is expected to look by summer 2014,
once the A344 has been covered by grass [Credit: © English Heritage]
Found near the Heel Stone lying about 24 meters from the entrance to Stonehenge, the ditches represent either side of The Avenue, a long, linear feature to the north-east of the site which has been severed for centuries by the A344.
“The part of the Avenue that was cut through by the road has obviously been destroyed forever, but we were hopeful that archaeology below the road would survive,” said Heather Sebire, an archaeologist for English Heritage, who are currently helping decommission the road as part of a plan to make the landmark more tranquil for visitors.
“It is very exciting to find a piece of physical evidence that officially makes the connection which we were hoping for.”
Clear on aerial photos but tricky to see on the ground, The Avenue’s solstice alignment will be marked out with interpretation once the road has been replaced by grass next summer.
“This is a once in several life time’s opportunity to investigate the Avenue beneath the old road surface,” said Dr Nick Snashall, a National Trust archaeologist for the World Heritage Site.
“It has enabled us to confirm with total certainty for the first time that Stonehenge and its Avenue were once linked and will be so again shortly.”
Dry weather has allowed experts to make further discoveries – parchmarks within the stone circle, spotted by two members of staff in July, are thought to have been the holes where stones 17, 18 and 19 would have stood on the south-west side of the outer sarsen circle.
“There is still debate among archaeologists as to whether Stonehenge was a full or incomplete circle,” said senior properties historian Susan Greaney.
“The discovery of these holes for missing stones has strengthened the case for it being a full circle – albeit uneven and less perfectly formed in the south-west quadrant.”

Dating beads set time-line for early humans earlier

An international team of researchers led by Oxford University has new dating evidence indicating when the earliest fully modern humans arrived in the Near East, the region known as the Middle East today.
Dating of beads sets new timeline for early humans
Researchers found marine shell beads at Ksar Akil (Lebanon) [Credit: Oxford University]
They have obtained the radiocarbon dates of marine shell beads found at Ksar Akil, a key archaeological site in Lebanon, which allowed them to calculate that the oldest human fossil from the same sequence of archaeological layers is 42,400–41,700 years old. This is significant because the age of the earliest fossils, directly and indirectly dated, of modern humans found in Europe is roughly similar.
This latest discovery throws up intriguing new possibilities about the routes taken by the earliest modern humans out of Africa, says the study published online by the journal PLOS ONE.
The research team radiocarbon dated 20 marine shells from the top 15 meters of archaeological layers at Ksar Akil, north of Beirut. The shells were perforated, which indicates they were used as beads for body or clothes decoration by modern humans. Neanderthals, who were living in the same region before them, were not making such beads. The study confirms that the shell beads are only linked to the parts of the sequence assigned to modern humans and shows that through direct radiocarbon dating they are between 41,000–35,000 years old.
The Middle East has always been regarded as a key region in prehistory for scholars speculating on the routes taken by early humans out of Africa because it lies at the crossroads of three continents – Africa, Asia and Europe. It was widely believed that at some point after 45,000 years ago early modern humans arrived in Europe, taking routes out of Africa through the Near East and, from there, along the Mediterranean rim or along the River Danube. However, this dating evidence suggests populations of early modern humans arrived in Europe and the Near East at roughly the same time, sparking a new debate about where the first populations of early humans traveled from in their expansion towards Europe and which alternative routes they may have taken.
Dating of beads sets new timeline for early humans
The excavations at Ksar Akil in 1938. Workers digging at 17 metres below the surface. Chief archaeologist examines their finds from above (shown here in the middle right of the picture wearing a hat) [Credit: Pitt Rivers Museum/University of Oxford]
In Ksar Akil, the Lebanese rockshelter, several human remains were found in the original excavations made 75 years ago. Unfortunately, since then the most complete skeleton of a young girl, thought to be about 7–9 years of age and buried at the back of the rock shelter, has been lost. Lost also are the fragments of a second individual, found next to the buried girl. However, the team was able to calculate the age of the lost fossil at 40,800–39,200 years ago, taking into account its location in the sequence of archaeological layers in relation to the marine shell beads.
Another fossil of a recently rediscovered fragment of the upper jaw of a woman, now located in a museum in Beirut, had insufficient collagen to be dated by radiocarbon methods. A method using statistical modelling was used to date by association the jaw fragment at 42,400–41,700 years old.
Ksar Akil is one of the most important Palaeolithic sites in Eurasia. It consists of a 23-metre-deep sequence of archaeological layers that lay undisturbed for thousands of years until a team of American Jesuit priests excavated the rockshelter in 1937–38, and again after the end of the Second World War, in 1947–48. The cave layers were found to contain the human fossils and hundreds of shell beads, as well as thousands of stone tools and broken bones of hunted and consumed animals.
Study lead author Dr Katerina Douka, from the School of Archaeology at the University of Oxford, said: 'This is a region where scholars have been expecting to find early evidence of anatomically and behaviorally modern humans, like us, leaving Africa and directly replacing Eurasian Neanderthal populations that lived there for more than 150,000 years. The human fossils at Ksar Akil appear to be of a similar age to fossils in other European contexts. It is possible that instead of the Near East being the single point of origin for modern humans heading for Europe, they may also have used other routes too. A maritime route across the Mediterranean has been proposed, although evidence is scarce. A wealth of archaeological data now pinpoints the plains of Central Asia as a particularly important but relatively unknown region which requires further investigation.'
The earliest European modern fossil, from Romania, dates to between 42,000–38,000 years before the present time, and specialists have estimated the age of Kent's Cavern maxilla from southern England, between 44,000–41,000 years, and that of two milk teeth in southern Italy, at 45,000–43,000 years old. The new dating evidence from Ksar Akil is largely comparable to these ages, if not slightly younger.

Awesome Pictures


Big Trees Trail - Sequoia National Park

The Twisted Trees Of Slope Point

Slope Point is the southernmost tip on New Zealand's South Island. The airstreams loop the vast circumpolar Southern Ocean unobstructed for 2000 miles and then they smash into land here.
They are so persistent and so violent that the trees are perpetually warped and twisted into these crooked, windswept shapes.

Quake-Causing Hotspot Hides Under Eastern U.S.

A 100-million-year-old hotspot hiding in the underbelly of North America could have sparked some whopper quakes and sprinkled the continent with diamonds.


"Realgar, α-As4S4, is an arsenic sulfide mineral, also known as "ruby sulphur" or "ruby of arsenic"... name comes from the Arabic rahj al-ġār (رهج الغار, "powder of the mine"), via Catalan and Medieval Latin...

Realgar most commonly occurs as a low-temperature hydrothermal vein mineral associated with other arsenic and antimony minerals. It also occurs as volcanic sublimations and in hot spring deposits...

Realgar, orpiment, and arsenopyrite provide nearly all the world's supply of arsenic as a byproduct of smelting concentrates derived from these ores... Realgar is poisonous. The ancient Greeks, who called it "sandaracha," knew that it was poisonous. It was used to poison rats in medieval Spain and in 16th century England."

Last Days On Mars

A new trailer for an upcoming movie set on Mars is stacked full of grit and, apparently, alien microbes.

Astronomical News

This is the first image of the first ever man-made radio signal being transmitted from interstellar space.
A powerful NASA telescope has found not one, but 10 supermassive black holes. And it did so by accident! Trace explains what exactly black holes are and why the discovery is so awesome.
In the early space age, even before President Kennedy kicked off the race to the moon, the United States and the Soviet Union had begun exploring our closest planetary neighbors.

Origins of Life Found in Smashing Ice

For the first time, smashing ice and other comet-like ingredients together have led to the creation of amino acids in the lab.

Random Photos


Camilla Belle

Mosasaur fossil proves the early lizards swam like sharks

Prehistoric mosasaur lizards didn’t slither like eels. Instead, these late Cretaceous sea monsters swam like sharks, scientists say.
Mosasaur fossil proves the early lizards swam like sharks
ERMNH HFV 197 reveals, for the first time in a mosasaur, the soft tissue outline of a tail fin, to demonstrate that mosasaurs are convergent with ichthyosaurs and whales in the development of a semilunate propulsive surface for enhanced locomotor efficiency [Credit: Johan Lindgren and Stefan Solberg]
Mosasaurs ruled the oceans about 98 million to 66 million years ago. Most paleontologists have argued that these reptiles, which grew up to 33 feet long, had tapered, whip-like tails similar to those of snakes, their closest living relatives. Others thought the downward bend in mosasaur fossils’ tail regions suggested they had shark-like fins. But without a clear picture of these tail fins, they couldn’t say for sure.
Now, an analysis of a mosasaur fossil with unusually well-preserved soft tissue impressions reveals that these reptiles had crescent-shaped tail fins, making them speedy swimmers that would have chased down their prey much like modern-day sharks.   
Scientists discovered the 6-foot-long juvenile specimen encased in a limestone boulder in Amman, Jordan, in 2008. They cut and hauled slabs of the fossil to the Eternal River Museum of Natural History in Amman, where they sat on display until Johan Lindgren examined them three years later.
Lindgren, a paleontologist at Lund University in Sweden, saw a faint outline in the rock surrounding the skeleton’s tail, indicating a soft tissue impression.
“I had a gut feeling that this was something special,” said Lindgren, who led a group that published the findings Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.
So the researchers chipped  away the remaining sediment, revealing imprints of chevron-shaped scales and dense fiber bundles. Sure enough, the impressions formed a broad, crescent-shaped outline of a fin around the skeleton’s tail bones.
“It was amazing, just mind-blowing,” Lindgren said.
He and his colleagues then compared the skeleton’s dimensions to those of  modern-day marine animals. The mosasaur’s body proportions most closely resembled those of sharks, suggesting that these reptiles had a similar streamlined shape and bilobed tail fin that allowed them to quickly chase their prey over long distances. On the other hand, a serpentine shape would have limited them to short, occasional bursts of speed typical of predators who ambush their food.
The discovery is consistent with earlier fossil evidence of mosasaurs eating squid and large fish, which they could catch only if they had a body shape designed for efficient swimming, said Takuya Konishi, a paleontologist at the University of Alberta in Canada.
“If you want to be a very good swimmer, you need to have a streamlined shape” with a bilobed tail fin, said Konishi, who wasn’t involved in the study.
The tail fin is “a mechanism that really works,” said Anne Schulp, a paleontologist at the Maastricht Natural History Museum in the Netherlands, who wasn’t involved in the study.  “It’s exciting to see it show up time and time again in the evolution of very different species.”
The new finding may not offer a complete picture of the mosasaur’s body shape, since it represents only one specimen among 70 species of mosasaur, Konishi said.  And since it was a juvenile, its fin probably differed slightly from those of adults, Lindgren added.
So far, paleontologists have discovered thousands of mosasaur fossils and will probably unearth many more in the future, Schulp said. The new findings remind scientists to “take a very careful look” at these specimens, he said. Imprints are hard to spot, which may partly explain the lack of soft tissue evidence until now.
“We have to keep our eyes peeled,” he said.

New York pet cemeteries to allow human remains be buried alongside beloved family pets

Pet owners can now spend eternity in the dog house. A new regulation unveiled by the state this month will allow pet cemeteries in New York to accept the cremated remains of human beings hoping to be buried forever beside their beloved family pets. The new rules resolve a two-year-old dispute that began when the state refused to allow the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Westchester to accept the ashes of a former NYPD officer who wanted to spend his afterlife with his three Maltese pups.
The police officer’s niece, upstate attorney Taylor York, took on her uncle’s cause and battled the state to allow the burial. “People do get a sense of comfort from knowing they can lie for eternity with their beloved pet, that they can be loved and protected in the afterlife just as faithfully as when they were alive,” York said. York’s campaign began when her uncle, retired NYPD officer Thomas Ryan, died in 2011 and New York Department of State barred the Hartsdale Cemetery from accepting his ashes.
 The 117-year-old Hartsdale cemetery, which claims to be the oldest final pet resting place in the country, had been interring cremated human remains since the the 1920s and had already buried the remains of Ryan’s wife, Bunny, beside the couples three Maltese dogs, DJ 1, DJ 2 and DJ 3. “They didn’t have any children,” York said. “Each (Maltese), was their pride and joy.” But when it came time for Ryan to rest beside his wife and dogs, the state said no, asserting that state law prohibited Hartsdale from handling human remains.
After an intense campaign from York and other Hartsdale patrons, the Department of State relented in late 2011 and allowed the cemetery to accept human remains - but the six other pet cemeteries across the state were still prohibited from putting granny in the ground next to Fluffy or Fido. Now, this month’s rule change will allow New York pet owners from every corner of the state to play fetch for eternity with loved ones of any species or breed - as long as pet cemeteries don’t charge a fee for a human burial and don’t advertise their human burial services.

Questions from Kids ...

The function of a fish's eye evolved to suit its watery habitat.

Blobfish Wins Ugliest Endangered Animal Competition

The Ugly Animal Preservation Society began as a science-themed comedy night and devised its mascot campaign to draw attention to 'aesthetically challenged' threatened species. Biologist and TV presenter Simon Watt, president of the Ugly Animal Preservation Society, said he hoped the campaign would draw attention to the threats facing these weird and wonderful creatures.

The winner of the campaign for the Ugliest Endangered Animal is the blobfish, a deep-sea fish that inhabits the deep waters off the coasts of mainland Australia and Tasmania, as well as the waters of New Zealand.
A new toy that withstands animal teeth and major squashing is a hit at zoos across the country.

Animal Pictures


Ophidiophobia by Fil.ippo (very busy) on Flickr.