There really are cellular level fossils… cool !

Rhynia gwynnevaughanii, transverse section of a stem with diameter 1.3 mm. Rhynie (Scotland). Lower Devonian (408 million year).

Rhynia gwynnevaughanii, transverse section of a stem with diameter 1.3 mm.  Rhynie (Scotland).
Lower Devonian (408 million year).

I recently read an article in National Geographic about the discovery of 50 Million Year Old fossilized worm sperm.   I’ve seen other items about cells that have been individually fossilized.   I simply found the idea incredulous.  I questioned if minerals and rocks really could preserve that level of detail.   Today I decided to google a bit and see what kind of stuff was being claimed as found.

There are a number of fossilized plant stems which have been cross sectioned.   The one here in this is just one example.   Rhynia gwynnevaughanii and it pretty well lays to rest any questions one might have.   The cellular structure is so clearly visible it is amazing.  It looks like those initial slides you look at when you get your first microscope

Whats Up In Chinese Stock Markets ?

If you watch the global stock markets you know that China lately moves on its own a lot.   The press has stories about the falling markets in China.   In a nutshell the problem in China is the stock market became completely unhinged from fundamentals.   Despite falling almost 25% in the last month the Shangai SE Composite is still up 77% over the last 12 months.

If you step back you will see the obvious fallacy that anything in the Chinese economy warranted a near doubling of the market cap over a 12 month period.   The crash now is simply the beginning of a return to mean or a return to reality.  An investor dollar cost averaging through this will be fine.  Its not the end of the world.  The reason for a stock price rise on the order we see over the last year in China is typically due to leveraged speculation and lots of money to borrow to buy stocks with.

What is unprecedented is that government banks in China are pouring money into certain “blue chip” companies stocks, buying them with abandon.  The theory being offered is this will instill confidence in the market again.  It won’t.  Reality and current stock prices are still to far apart.  What it will do however is allow some people, in favored companies, to unload billions of dollars of stocks now before they fall any further.  The Chinese banks will wind up holding the losses instead of whoever currently owns those stocks.  Non favored stock owners are still in for a bath.

4.4 Billion Year Old Oceans ?!?!?!

Reading about meteorites I began to look into the high water content of carbonaceous chondrites.   It is alleged these can reach 22% water.   This eventually led me to discover the Jack Hill Zircon.   These little rocks have apparently been causing a ruckus for a while now.   It caused NASA to allow the following words to be uttered ….

Since then, however, scientists have found zircons that date to almost 4.4 billion years ago.

Among the first important discoveries, says Watson, came out in 2001. Analysis of the relative amounts of different isotopes of oxygen indicated that the ratio was skewed toward “heavy” oxygen-18, as opposed to the more common “light” oxygen-16. “When a geologist sees a heavy oxygen signature in rocks,” said Watson, “it’s commonly understood to be a sign that the rocks formed in cool, wet, sedimentary processes at the Earth’s surface.” Thus, the magma that eventually gave rise to the zircons might have been formed from what had once been sediments deposited on the floor of an ancient ocean.2006 NASA Earth Observatory

Now I am still trying to get my head around that last sentence given everything I’ve been taught about the formation of the earth from a scientific view.   Really the number of ways that causes mischief are hard to fully discern initially.

Toad Data Point, Postgres ODBC, and Windows 7

I recently rpostgresql_elephantan into complexity while installing Postgres 9.3.03 ODBC drivers and data source setup for Toad Data Point 3.2 on Windows 7 Enterprise 64 bit.   I’ll spare you the details of how I got to the following conclusions, but here they are :

  1. You want to install the 32 bit Postgres ODBC Drivers not the 64 bit ones.  Actually you can install both 32 and 64 but you have to configure the 32 bit data source.   In Toad when you click thru to the ODBC configuration tool you wind up in the 32 bit version.
  2. The 32 bit ODBC admin tool is located here : c:\Windows\SysWOW64\odbcad32.exe
  3. The 64 bit ODBC admin tool is located here : c:\Windows\System32\odbcad32.exe
  4. Yes it looks like I got the 32 bit paths backwards in #2 and #3, I didn’t thats really how it is.   Also both the 64 and 32 bit versions are in fact named odbcad32.exe.  Chalk it up to some bad mushrooms at Redmond.
  5. This is critical. If you already have the 64 bit odbc admin tool open when you try to launch the 32 bit odbc admin tool, the 32 bit version doesn’t actually start.  Instead the 64 bit admin tool simply moves to the foreground on your screen.  The opposite is also true if you are running the 32 bit version and try to launch the 64 bit version.

If you d/l and install the 32 bit odbc drivers for postgres and configure the data source using the 32 bit admin tool then you can easily connect via Toad Data Point.  If you do something else…. well … consider it a learning opportunity.


Runaway Stars and Bow Shock

Today I was looking into run away stars.  These are stars moving at high speed unrelated to the stars of their surroundings.  They are just off on their own and not swimming with the other fishes so to speak.   In some cases these stars wind up plowing through existing nebula clouds.  When they do they distort the existing clouds.   To an astro nerd like me … its pretty cool.

Zeta Ophiuchi — via JPL, Caltech SPITZER

Above is Zeta Ophiuchi.  This particular bow shock distortion is stated to be 0.5 light years from the star.

Kappa Cassiopeiae, SPITZER infrared

Above is Kappa Cassiopeiae,  This is said to be a bow shock at a distance of 4 light years.  Which is, to me, really awesome.

In Debt Like Japan

I just want to take the time to point out the irony of those who complain the USA is “not like Japan”

Debt levels in Asia have risen significantly in recent years, but Japan’s government is by far the biggest borrower in the region and second only to the U.S. government globally. Years of government deficits, weak growth and deflation have pushed Japanese government debt to more than twice the country’s annual economic output, making it the most indebted country in the world by that measure. — WSJ : “As Japan Battles Deflation, a Bitter Legacy Looms” 6/11/2015

The parallels are obvious.   The concept is to have every nation endebted to every other nation.

Airbus vs SpaceX

Airbus has a novel approach to reusable spacecraft.   Its still essentialy a design concept, a full size version hasn’t been built yet, and so is far behind Space X.

The nut of it seems to be preserve the expensive parts like the motor and avionics while throwing away the tanks.   This lightens the amount to be returned, reduces fuel costs as a result.  The returning section sits at the base of the booster, essentially returns as a glider and appears to use some form of propeller driven flight for the final leg to the landing strip.  Space X by comparison tries to return the entire booster under rocket power to the launch pad.   This requires substantially more fuel [ cost ] and also has yet to actually work.

In theory Space X is more reuseable because their whole booster lands not just the base of the booster.   But from a cost and economic impact it may require more resources, time will tell.

Soft Tissues in Fossils ?!?

dino_cartoonThis week an article published in the cross disciplinary journal Nature Communications claims to have potentially found red blood cells in a fossil.   Its really quite a claim to make.

Apparently they examined fossils that weren’t particularly well preserved, that have spent a century in the collections of the Imperial College London Natural History Museum.   They aren’t claiming to have found them but they say they may have.

The alleged discovery of soft tissue in a fossil started back in 2005 by Mary Schweitzer, a molecular paleontologist at North Carolina State University.   Peggy Ostrom has been extracting protein from fossils and sequencing it.   A soft tissue lizard fossil from the late cretaceous has been found.   Also a claim of soft tissue from a triceratops fossil was made but the researcher in question was terminated by his research institution and some questions linger over this discovery.

Truly these claims sound fantastic but they might be valid.   Certainly there is a growing number of them being made.   Time will tell what consensus works out to be.   If its true we can learn a lot more about these extinct creatures than we ever imagined.