Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff)

Blog of the real Xenophilius Lovegood, a slightly mad scientist

Archive for January 24th, 2013

New feathered dinosaur fossil challenges bird evolution theory

Posted by Anonymous on January 24, 2013

The discovery of a new bird-like dinosaur from the Jurassic period challenges widely accepted theories on the origin of flight.

Co-authored by Dr Gareth Dyke, Senior Lecturer in Vertebrate Palaeontology at the University of Southampton, the paper describes a new feathered dinosaur about 30 cm in length which pre-dates bird-like dinosaurs that birds were long thought to have evolved from.

Over many years, it has become accepted among palaeontologists that birds evolved from a group of dinosaurs called theropods from the Early Cretaceous period of Earth’s history, around 120-130 million years ago. Recent discoveries of feathered dinosaurs from the older Middle-Late Jurassic period have reinforced this theory.

The new ‘bird-dinosaur’ Eosinopteryx described in Nature Communications this week provides additional evidence to this effect.

“This discovery sheds further doubt on the theory that the famous fossil Archaeopteryx – or “first bird” as it is sometimes referred to – was pivotal in the evolution of modern birds,” says Dr Dyke, who is based at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.

“Our findings suggest that the origin of flight was much more complex than previously thought.”

The fossilised remains found in north-eastern China indicate that, while feathered, this was a flightless dinosaur, because of its small wingspan and a bone structure that would have restricted its ability to flap its wings.

The dinosaur also had toes suited to walking along the ground and fewer feathers on its tail and lower legs, which would have made it easier to run.

via :: University of Southampton.

Posted in Archaeology | Leave a Comment »

Chameleon Star Baffles Astronomers

Posted by Anonymous on January 24, 2013

pulsarPulsars — tiny spinning stars, heavier than the sun and smaller than a city — have puzzled scientists since they were discovered in 1967.

Now, new observations by an international team, including University of Vermont astrophysicist Joanna Rankin, make these bizarre stars even more puzzling.

The scientists identified a pulsar that is able to dramatically change the way in which it shines. In just a few seconds, the star can quiet its radio waves while at the same time it makes its X-ray emissions much brighter.

The research “challenges all proposed pulsar emission theories,” the team writes in the Jan. 25 edition of the journal Science and reopens a decades-old debate about how these stars work.

Unexpected X-rays

Like the universe’s most powerful lighthouses, pulsars shine beams of radio waves and other radiation for trillions of miles. As these highly magnetized neutron stars rapidly rotate, a pair of beams sweeps by, appearing as flashes or pulses in telescopes on Earth.

Using a satellite X-ray telescope, coordinated with two radio telescopes on the ground, the team observed a pulsar that was previously known to flip on and off every few hours between strong (or “bright”) radio emissions and weak (or “quiet”) radio emissions.

Monitoring simultaneously in X-rays and radio waves, the team revealed that this pulsar exhibits the same behaviour, but in reverse, when observed at X-ray wavelengths.

This is the first time that a switching X-ray emission has been detected from a pulsar.

Flipping between these two extreme states — one dominated by X-ray pulses, the other by a highly organized pattern of radio pulses — “was very surprising,” says Rankin.

“As well as brightening in the X-rays we discovered that the X-ray emission also shows pulses, something not seen when the radio emission is bright,” said Rankin, who spearheaded the radio observations. “This was completely unexpected.”

No current model of pulsars is able to explain this switching behavior. All theories to date suggest that X-ray emissions would follow radio emissions. Instead, the new observations show the opposite. “The basic physics of a pulsar have never been solved,” Rankin says. …

via University Communications : University of Vermont.

Posted in Space | Leave a Comment »

CIA to exempt strikes on Pakistan from drones codification – reports

Posted by Anonymous on January 24, 2013

John Brennan, the counter-terrorism adviser nominated by President Obama to be the next head of the CIA, has reportedly agreed to exempt agency strikes in Pakistan from a new set of rules that attempts to justify and codify the use of drones to assassinate leaders of al-Qaida and other terrorist groups around the world, including US citizens.

The dispensation to allow so-called targeted killing to continue without restrictions in Pakistan removes from the new set of guidelines the most important and controversial target of drone strikes. In the past few weeks the frequency of US strikes in the tribal areas of northern Pakistan, where many al-Qaida and Taliban leaders are hiding out, has been stepped up.

The Washington Post reports that the CIA is close to finalizing the new guidelines on drone strikes, known as the “playbook”. But a multi-agency committee of national security officials led by Brennan agreed to remove Pakistan from its terms.

The pass would allow the US to sustain heaving bombardments of the tribal regions via drones launched from bases in Afghanistan for another year or two, ahead of the withdrawal of most American forces from that country in 2014.

When Obama entered the White House in 2009 he made it his top foreign policy priority to put America back on the road of international law and to end the post-9/11 use of extra-judicial actions such as enhanced interrogations, extraordinary renditions and the detention of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay. But to the dismay of civil liberties campaigners, over the past four years he has moved instead to institutionalize and set into US law many of these dubious practices.

The decision to give the US targeted-killing programme the appearance of legal propriety by codifying it, and now the temporary exemption granted from that codification to Pakistan, were both taken by Brennan. A counter-terrorism expert with 25 years experience in the CIA, his nomination to run the agency has raised eyebrows among civil liberties groups because of his senior role in the CIA under George W Bush at a time when torture was used on terror suspects and because of his fondness for drone strikes.

Targeted killing has been a particularly pronounced facet of US strategy in Pakistan. The UK-basedBureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that there have been 362 drone strikes in the country since2004 – 310 of them launched on Obama’s watch. The strikes have killed up to 3,461 people, 891 of them civilians.

Via guardian.uk

What part of “above the law” don’t you understand?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

 
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