Seedless Cherimoya

This item is important because wemay just have a genetic protocol for producing seedless plants on demand. Itmay not be ready yet for prime time, but the possibility is now with us.

We forget that the seedlesscultivars we do have were never anyone’s first choice in terms of flavor andmany other characteristics.  Suddenly wecan plan to optimize a variety and then proceed to produce a seedlessversion. 

How about a better banana?

If this methodology can beadapted to the rest of our universe of cultivars, we are about to witness arevolution in flavor and quality.

My first nominee is to produce aproper sweet seedless watermelon.  From thatwe can also produce dried watermelon without fuss.  Both would have tremendous commercial value.

Just how many varieties of grapesare there?  I would love to eat astrongly flavored concord grape without the seeds while retaining the interiorstructure.

Seedless cherimoya, the next banana?

Mark Twain called it "the most delicious fruit known to man."But the cherimoya, or custard apple, and its close relations the sugar appleand soursop, also have lots of big, awkward seeds. Now new research by plantscientists in the United Statesand Spaincould show how to make this and other fruits seedless.

Going seedless could be a big step for the fruit, said Charles Gasser,professor of plant biology atUC Davis.

"This could be the next banana -- it would make it a lot morepopular," Gasser said. Bananas in their natural state have up to a hundredseeds; all commercial varieties, of course, are seedless. A paper describingthe work is published March 14 in the journal Proceedingsof the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers José Hormaza, Maria Herrero and graduate student Jorge Loraat the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas in Malaga and Zaragoza,Spain, studied the seedless variety of sugar apple. When they looked closely atthe fruit, they noticed that the ovules, which would normally form seeds,lacked an outer coat.

They looked similar to the ovules of a mutant of the lab plantArabidopsis discovered by Gasser's lab at UC Davis in the late 1990s. InArabidopsis, the defective plants do not make seeds or fruit. But the mutantsugar apple produces full-sized fruit with white, soft flesh without the large,hard seeds.

The Spanish team contacted Gasser, and Lora came from Malaga to work on the project in Gasser'slab. He discovered that the same gene was responsible for uncoated ovules inboth the Arabidopsis and sugar apple mutants.

"This is the first characterization of a gene for seedlessnessin any crop plant," Gasser said.

Seedless varieties of commercial fruit crops are usually achieved byselective breeding and then propagated vegetatively, for example throughcuttings.

Discovery of this new gene could open the way to produce seedlessvarieties in sugar apple, cherimoya and perhaps other fruit crops.

The discovery also sheds light on the evolution of flowering plants,Gasser said. Cherimoya and sugar apple belong to the magnolid family of plants,which branched off from the other flowering plants quite early in theirevolution.

"It's a link all the way back to the beginning of theangiosperms," Gasser said.

Provided by University of California - Davis

Using Wind to Stabilize the Grid

It appears the idea is to usesmall local energy sources such as windmills to allow islands to be cut out ofthe grid to prevent a failure mode from propagating further.  I do not see how that could work but we maypresume there is a good reason for it, if only because it maintains a localbase load that allows time to side step the problem.

In the event, this is more towardintegrating alternative power into the grid in the best way possible.

If we have learned anything it isthat diverse distributed energy sources hugely increase the robustness of the griditself as was so recently shown in Japan were the wind is presently providingsome system reassurance.

K-State Research Channels Powerful Kansas Wind To Keep Electricity Running

by Staff Writers

Manhattan KA (SPX)Mar 23, 2011

The Kansaswind can potentially provide abundant renewable energy that could power thedisconnected portion of the network. For data collecting and testing purposes,the researchers plan to use the university's wind turbine north of campus, nearthe intersection of Denison and Kimball avenues, as well as four other windturbines installed at the Riley County Public Works Facility.

One of Kansas'most abundant natural resources may hold the key to preventing major poweroutages. A team of Kansas State Universityengineers is researching ways to use Kansaswind and other distributed energy sources to avoid cascading failures.

Sakshi Pahwa, doctoral student in electrical and computer engineering,India, explored the topic for her recently completed master's project,"Distributed Sources and Islanding to Mitigate Cascading Failures in PowerGrid Networks." The project was a winner at the recent Capitol GraduateResearch Summit in Topeka.

Pahwa's co-advisers on the project include Caterina Scoglio, associateprofessor of electrical and computer engineering, and Noel Schulz, Paslayprofessor of electrical and computer engineering and K-State's first lady.Pahwa is continuing this work for her doctoral research under Scoglio and RuthDouglas Miller, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

The research looks at using distributed energy sources to avoidcascading failures in power grids. A cascading failure occurs when aninterconnected part of a power system fails and then triggers successive partsto fail - like the one that happened in the Northeast Blackout of 2003, a poweroutage that affected 55 million people in the United States and Canada.

To prevent cascading failures researchers are investigating atechnique called islanding, which works to minimize the impact of a powersystem fault to a small area. Islanding prevents this fault from affectingother areas and stops further disturbances in the network.

"We used a network partitioning algorithm, and then depending onwhere the fault is I can disconnect that portion of the network," Pahwasaid. "That disconnected portion can then be powered using renewable ordistributed energy sources, such as wind turbines or solar panels, and theremaining parts are still being powered by conventional sources."

The Kansaswind can potentially provide abundant renewable energy that could power thedisconnected portion of the network. For data collecting and testing purposes,the researchers plan to use the university's wind turbine north of campus, nearthe intersection of Denison and Kimball avenues, as well as four other windturbines installed at the Riley County Public Works Facility.

The university turbine was installed for Wind for Schools, a projectled by Miller, director of the Kansas Wind Application Center. The Riley Countywind turbines were installed for the Resourceful Kansas project, a cooperativeeffort between Miller, Scoglio, Riley County and the Kansas City-based consulting firm GBA,and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

"We need to set up power systems that are reliable and stable sothat when that wind is blowing, we can use that power, but when the wind isn'tblowing, there are also stable systems," Schulz said. "That's whatthis project is about - modeling the network so we understand the differentaspects for when there are changes, when the wind blows, when it doesn't andhow that affects the power system."

Scoglio and Pahwa started the project when Pahwa was a master'sstudent. As they began studying complex network systems, they turned to Schulz,a power grid expert who has done previous work with islanding. They alsocollaborated with power systems expert Anil Pahwa, professor of electrical andcomputer engineering, and Shelli Starrett, associate professor of electrical andcomputer engineering.

"With the proper design and the right intelligence, some of theproblems related to power failures can be prevented," Scoglio said."We need to make sure that the communication network willmonitor the network and detect the problem and will implement the reactionsecurely to implement these solutions."

Sakshi Pahwa's research aims to not only study the problem from atheoretical aspect, but also provide practical solutions to real-worldproblems. It also fits in with the Renewable Energy Standards Act, which wassigned in 2009 and states that major Kansas utilities should be able togenerate about 10 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2011 and 20percent by 2020.

"This project benefits the state because it reduces carbonemissions through renewable energy," Pahwa said. "It is a goodopportunity to create jobs, and renewable energy incorporation isalso a support to the conventional sources so we don't need to import fuelsfrom other countries. It helps the economy as well."

Pahwa's research was supported by the four companies involved in theK-State Electrical Power Affiliates Program:Westar Energy, Burns and McDonnell, Nebraska Public Power District and OmahaPublic Power District. Schulz directs the program, which supports undergraduateand graduate research programs.

"This research is a benefit for Kansas and the whole nation becauseI think that innovation, coming from research and support from companies suchas those that are part of the power affiliates, can really bring the countryback to a better economic situation," Scoglio said. "Innovation comeswith jobs and can really improve the whole nation."

Importance of Old Trees

I have posted many times on theneed for forest refugia.  Here we getanother lesson.  The older trees grow mossesand these mosses actually fix nitrogen which is then dropped onto the forestfloor.

In fact, proper forest husbandrymust include refugia in various shapes and sizes, but most likely best set innarrow strips that perhaps go for miles. Such strips also cater to the needs of wildlife.  Such strips are usually best set right alongthe valley drainage to protect the fishery as well.  Yet hillside strips are also called for. 

This way planned timberharvesting can follow decadal programs rather easily while also preserving a lotof natural fertility and diversity.

Even better will be the day wesimply practice selective logging from time to time that includes extensivebrush clearing through burning.

I personally think that mostforestry needs to be privately owned with a quota system put in place anddesignated refugia that is deliberately preserved. 

This shows us another controlthat can be put in place.  Just licensethe allowable cut on the basis of the number of healthy refugia trees whose ageexceeds a certain standard.  Unhealthytrees would be removed posthaste but then one would wait for their replacementsto reach the proper age before new cutting was allowed.  That should motivate everyone to be good andalso careful.

Old trees 'important for forests'

Mar 15, 2011

Bacteria living in mosses on tree branches are twice as effective at'fixing' nitrogen as those on the ground, say researchers from McGill University, Canada.

A new study by McGill's Zoë Lindo and Jonathan Whiteley shows thatlarge, ancient trees may be very important in helping forests grow.

These findings highlight the importance of maintaining the largeold-growth trees in the coastal temperate rainforests that stretch fromSouthern Alaska to Northern California.Lindo's findings suggest that interactions between old trees, mosses andcyanobacteria contribute to nutrient dynamics in a way that may actuallysustain the long-term productivity of these forests.

"What we're doing is putting large, old trees into a context wherethey're an integral part of what a forest is," says Lindo. "Theselarge old trees are doing something: they're providing habitat for somethingthat provides habitat for something else that's fertilizing the forest. It'slike a domino effect; it's indirect but without the first step, without thetrees, none of it could happen."

There are three players in this story: large, old trees; mosses thatgrow along their branches; and cyanobacteria associated with the mosses. Thecyanobacteria take nitrogen from the atmosphere and make it available to plants– a process called "nitrogen fixation" that very few organisms cando.

The growth and development of many forests is thought to be limited bythe availability of nitrogen. Cyanobacteria in mosses on the ground wererecently shown to supply nitrogen to boreal forest, but until now cyanobacteriahave not been studied in coastal forests or in canopies (tree-tops). Bycollecting mosses on the forest floor and then at 15 and 30 metres upinto the forest canopy, Lindo was able to show both that the cyanobacteria aremore abundant in mosses high above the ground, and that they "fix"twice as much nitrogen as those associated with mosses on the forest floor.

It seems moss is the crucial element; the amount of nitrogen comingfrom the canopy depends on trees having mosses.

"You need trees that are large enough and old enough to startaccumulating mosses before you can have the cyanobacteria that are associatedwith the mosses," says Lindo. "Many trees don't start to accumulatemosses until they're more than 100 years old. So it's really the densityof very large, old trees that are draped in moss that is important at a foreststand level. We surveyed trees that are estimated as being between500 and 800 years old."

Chilean Mastodon

This is the first intact mastodonskull found in Chile.  Yet it is a reminder that the genus made itnot just into North America, but also into South America.

The extinction of large animalsin the Northern Hemisphere can be explained by the event that I have named thePleistocene nonconformity which initially decimated the extantpopulations.  We can easily surmise thatthe remainder was hunted out by early man who had the tools.  The problem I have with all that is theAfrican Elephant particularly.  It neverwas successfully hunted by well equipped local tribesmen before the advent ofmodern arms.

That it could be hunted isirrelevant, it simply never was properly exploited.  Thus I find the human agency theory for both Americasuncomfortable, just as the Pleistocene Nonconformity also failed to actuallyeliminate all individuals.  And theargument of habitat change simply does not fly with a mastodon that eats brush.

As this item reminds us, thiscreature was able to populate every valley on earth at will, and only a handfulever pulled that feat off.

On top of that the mastodon was aforest dweller, quite able to protect itself. Recall that no one in his right mind is going to sneak up on an elephantin the woods and stick a spear into its gut. There is plenty of easier ways to make a meal.

They almost certainly would havebeen trapped in a pit at the least.  Theywere also likely too clever to run over a cliff or even be stampeded.   Certainly, African elephant do not looklikely to ever stampede, unless it is over their tormentors.

The fact remains that the genusis incredibly successful.  Yet we havehuge extinction events that can not be properly explained.  Even the Indian Elephant avoided extinctionand it was exposed to some of the worse land disturbances if we accept the consequencesof the Nonconformity.  In fact allobvious threats are just as obviously survivable.  These creatures were never thin on the groundand vulnerable to over hunting at all. Besides, you would only learn to hunt them if they were common enough tomake it worthwhile.  Even in Africa, that turned out to be an unattractiveproposition.

On top of that, the end of theIce Age would have naturally expanded their range and they would have easilyadapted to warmer conditions.

One other option that does workis that they were deliberately hunted out by an ancestral human stock withaccess to modern tools.  We could todaychoose to eliminate all elephants quite easily and could also reduce oreliminate a few other inconvenient large creatures.  I prefer not to use that option, except thatthe genus was just too successful globally to simply disappear easily.

Builders unearth 2million-year-old skull and tusks of elephant'sancient relative

Last updated at 11:46 AM on 25th March 2011

The skull and tusks of a giant primitive elephant that died up to2million years have been discovered by builders in Chile, it emerged today.

The mastodon, around the same size as modern elephants, is thought tohave roamed  forests and plains before dying and sinking into a swamp thatpreserved it.

The find, beside a river, could allow scientists to piece together moreinformation about the DNA they share with their much bigger relative, thewoolly mammoth.

Preserved: The remains of a mastodon discovered on the building site ofa hydroelectric plant in Chile

It could also shed more light on the origins of elephants.

The discovery was made by contrustion workers building a hydroelectricpower plant beside a river in Padre Hurtaldo, near the Chilean capital Santiago.

Digging into the ground, they first noticed the pointed end of one ofthe 4ft long by 6in wide tusks.

Paleontologists were called in and, after further excavation,discovered what is Chile’sfirst ever discovery of a complete mastodon skull.

Directed by Rafael Labarca, of Chile’s PDI institute, told Chileannewspaper La Tercera: 'When we were in the excavation process we were awarethat the bone continued.

Intact: The discovery's is the first complete skull of the ancientcreature ever made in Chile

Big gnashers: The massive, crushing molar teeth that measure about 9inlong

'Practically the whole skull complete and in perfect conditions, withits four molars and together with both tusks of almost four feet in length.

'In addition, inside the skull one was part of the vertebrae of thespine.'

Mastodons were around the same size as modern elephants but were muchmore heavily muscled and had furry coats to protect them from cold.

The ancestry of the elephant has long been a source of fascination forbiologists.

Fossil evidence shows it began in Africaaround 50million to 60million years ago with moeritheres, pig-like creatureswith long snouts.

Brushing teeth: Paleontologist Consuelo Huidobro cleans the molars.They could provide clues about elephants

These animals evolved into a range of other species, many of them muchlarger, and spread across the globe, inhabiting every continent exceptAustralasia and Antarctica.

The four-tusked trilophodon appeared 26million years ago and lasteduntil 2million years ago in Eurasia, Africa, and North America. Modern humans, by contrast, evolved only around 200,000years ago.

Biggest of all was the imperial mammoth, which adapted to the cold inEurasia, Africa, and North America during thePleistocene epoch 2million years ago.

It is believed that they are the closest relative of the elephants.Unlike, mastadons which eat shoots and leaves, mammoths were grazers.

Both species appear to have survived until just a few thousand yearsago and early humans would have been familiar with them.

Padre Hurtado: Where the mastodon was found

It is believed that the evolution and extinction of many modernelephant species may be closely tied up with the spread of the human race.

Both mammoths and mastodons are proboscids, but the former is assignedto the mammutidae family, while the latter is of the eliphantitae.

Most excavations of mastodons have been made in North America. Very few have been discovered in the southern part of thecontinent.

Previously, only fragments had been found in Chile, for example.

One of the biggest finds was made in 1993 at the DiamondValley Lakereservoir outside of Hemet, California.

It yielded numerous remains and led to the site being nicknamed the"Valley of the Mastodons".

Current excavations are going on annually at the Hiscock Site in Byron, New York.

In July 2007, the longest mastodon tusks in the world – measuring 16ftand each weighing a ton – were discovered in Milia, north of Athens.

Read more:

XCOR and ULA Update

Time for an update on theprogress around the XCOR.   This puts the company firmly into the enginedevelopment business with the resources to build out hugely improved enginesfor the aerospace industry.  Checkprevious posts to see the past demonstrations. (google XCOR on this site.

We can expect to see a line ofengines with different power ratings come quickly although they are surely waitingfor a shoe to drop somewhere. It appears to this outsider to be goingwonderfully.

XCOR and ULA Demonstrate Revolutionary Rocket Engine Nozzle Technology;Also Sign Contract for Liquid Hydrogen Engine Development

XCOR test fires its Lynx 5K18 engine with lightweight aluminum nozzle;

United Launch Alliance(ULA) and XCOR to apply the nozzle and XCOR's liquid hydrogen

(LH2) pump technology to new LH2 engine development.  (PhotoCredit: Mike Massee / XCOR)

March 22, 2011, Centennial, CO, and Mojave, CA, USA: United Launch Alliance (ULA) and XCOR Aerospace announcedtoday their successful hot-fire demonstrations of a lighter-weight, lower-costapproach to liquid-fueled rocket-engine vacuum nozzles. The new nozzletechnology, which uses aluminum alloys and innovative manufacturing techniques,is projected to be less costly and save hundreds of pounds of mass compared tonozzles in use today in typical large upper-stage rocket engine systems.

Under a 2010 joint risk-reduction program by XCOR and ULA, ULA facilitated anaccelerated demonstration of the nozzle technology, which was developed inXCOR's Lynx reusable, suborbital-vehicle technology program. ULA sought todetermine the nozzle technology's applicability to future expendable launchvehicle programs. Earlier in the same risk-reduction program, XCOR demonstratedthe ability to pump liquid hydrogen (LH2) using cryogenic piston-pumptechnology it developed for the Lynx suborbital vehicle.

Based on the results of these successful technology demonstrations, ULA todayannounced a larger follow-on program with XCOR to develop a liquid oxygen(LOX)/LH2 engine.

Conceived as a lower-cost, risk-managed program compared to traditional enginedevelopment efforts, the multi-year project's main objective is to produce aflight-ready LOX/LH2 upper-stage engine in the 25,000 to 30,000 lbf thrustclass that costs significantly less to produce and is easier to operate andintegrate than competing engine technologies. If successful, the effort willlead to significantly lower-cost and more-capable commercial and US governmentspace flights delivered by ULA. 

"ULA understands that we have to offer competitive prices to ourgovernment and commercial customers along with the outstanding and unmatchedreliability they expect from us," said Dr. George Sowers, vice presidentof business development and advanced programs at ULA. "By working withXCOR, we see the potential to develop engines that offer the performance andreliability our customers need at a more affordable price."

XCOR Lynx 5K18 main engine being  prepped for a test series. 

The companies structured their LOX/LH2 engine development programwith multiple "go / no-go" decision points and performance milestonesto ensure a cost-effective and risk-managed approach to this challengingeffort. As demonstrated during prior ULA and XCOR joint engagements,XCOR's small-company environment facilitates rapid turnaround for build andtest cycles that drive innovative learning, while ULA's small company projectmanagement approach ensures their needs are met but does not stifle thecreative process or saddle XCOR with excessive paperwork burdens typical oflarge government contracts. In addition, ULA is helping to bolster the Tier 2and Tier 3 aerospace-industrial supply chain in the United States, which is critical to ensuring the United Statesaerospace sector remains competitive in the global marketplace.

"This announcement validates XCOR's business mantra of 'stayfocused on propulsion, Lynx and the customer' and ULA is a greatcustomer," said Andrew Nelson, Chief Operating Officer at XCOR. "Andwhen you have innovative, safe, low-cost and fully reusable technologies thatfly multiple times a day, those technologies will find other buyers, such asULA. Whether it is non-toxic thrusters, fully reusable main-engine propulsion,cryogenic flight-weight piston pumps, or non-flammable cryogenically compatiblecomposite tanks and structures - the future looks bright for XCOR."

The demonstrations announced today are from integrated engine/nozzletest firings with XCOR's Lynx 5K18 LOX/kerosene engine. The engine/nozzlecombination demonstrates the ability of the aluminum nozzle to withstand thehigh temperatures of rocket-engine exhaust over numerous tests, with nodiscernable degradation of the material properties of the alloys.  Thetests validated the design, materials and manufacturing processes used in thenozzle, and laid a foundation for scaling the design to EELV-sized engines. Theresults also demonstrate the reusability of the engine and nozzle combinationwhich is essential for low-cost, daily suborbital flights by the Lynx and othervehicles.

"We are honored to work with the great team of individuals at ULA,a Tier 1 aerospace supplier," said Jeff Greason, XCOR CEO. "Thecritical engine technology we're developing for ULA may one day launchsatellites, capsules and space stations for government and commercialcustomers. Customers such as the US Air Force, NASA, the NationalReconnaissance Office, Boeing and Bigelow Aerospace all stand to benefit fromthis partnership. For a rocket engineer, there is nothing more exciting thanfiring a new engine for the first time. We can't wait for the day when we firstfire the new hydrogen engine for ULA."

# # # # #

United Launch Alliance - 50-50 joint venture owned byLockheed Martin and The Boeing Company - is the nation's rocket company,bringing together two of the launch industry's most experienced and successfulteams - Atlas and Delta. ULA provides reliable, cost-efficient space launchservices for the Department of Defense, NASA, the National ReconnaissanceOffice and other commercial organizations. ULA program management, engineering,test and mission support functions are headquartered in Denver, Colo.Manufacturing, assembly and integration operations are located at Decatur, Ala.and Harlingen, Tex. Launch operations are located at Cape Canaveral Air ForceStation, Florida, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. For more information onthe ULA joint venture, visit the ULA website at

XCOR Aerospace is located in Mojave, California. The company is in the businessof developing and producing safe, reliable and reusable rocket poweredvehicles, propulsion systems, advanced non-flammable composites and otherenabling technologies. XCOR is currently working with aerospace primecontractors and government customers on major propulsion systems, andconcurrently building the Lynx, a piloted, two-seat, fully reusable, liquidrocket-powered vehicle that takes off and lands horizontally. The Lynxproduction models (designated Lynx Mark II) are designed to be robust,multi-commercial mission vehicles capable of flying to 100+ km in altitude upto four times per day and are being offered on a wet lease basis. (

PreColumbian Landscape Modification

This work demonstrates animportant research tool.  I would like tosee it extended to a number of geographically separated water sheds and to seethe work extended back several thousands of years in time.

We should be able to establishthe onset of corn culture and perhaps even determine the size of localpopulations with this approach provided we collect enough data to get excellentresolution.

There are plenty of questionsthat need to be answered with something more than a slew of undiscovered andeven undiscoverable habitation sites. Perhaps high schools could be recruited into the sampling program.

Agriculture disturbs naturalsedimentation rates.  Let us take fulladvantage of this information.

Native Americans Modified American Landscape Years Prior To The ArrivalOf Europeans

by Staff Writers

Waco TX(SPX) Mar 23, 2011

A new study by Baylor University geologyresearchers shows that Native Americans' land use nearly a century ago produceda widespread impact on the eastern North American landscape and floodplaindevelopment several hundred years prior to the arrival of major Europeansettlements.

The study appears on-line in the journal Geology.

Researchers attribute early colonial land-use practices, such asdeforestation, plowing and damming with influencing present-day hydrologicalsystems across eastern North America. Previousstudies suggest that Native Americans' land use in eastern North America initially caused the change in hydrological systems,however, little direct evidence has been provided until now.

The Baylor study found that pre-European so-called "natural"floodplains have a history of prehistoric indigenous land use, and thuscolonial-era Europeans were not the first people to have an impact on thehydrologic systems of eastern North America.

The study also found that prehistoric small-scale agriculturalsocieties caused widespread ecological change and increased sedimentation inhydrologic systems during the Medieval Climate Anomaly-Little Ice Age, whichoccurred about 700 to 1,000 years ago.
"These are two very important findings," said GaryStinchcomb, a Baylor doctoral candidate who conducted the study. "Thefindings conclusively demonstrate that Native Americans in eastern North America impacted their environment well before thearrival of Europeans. Through their agricultural practices, Native Americansincreased soil erosion and sediment yields to the Delaware River basin."

The Baylor researchers found that prehistoric people decreasedforest cover to reorient their settlements and intensify corn production. Theyalso contributed to increased sedimentation in valley bottoms about 700 to1,000 years ago, much earlier than previously thought.

The findings suggest that prehistoric land use was the initial cause ofincreased sedimentation in the valley bottoms, and sedimentation was lateramplified by wetter and stormier conditions.

To conduct the study, the Baylor researchers took samples along the Delaware River Valley. Landforms were mapped based onrelative elevations to Delaware River baseflow and archaeological excavationsassessed the presence of human habitation.

The Baylor researchers then used a site-specific geoarchaeologicalapproach and a regional synthesis of previous research to test the hypothesisthat the indigenous population had a widespread impact on terrestrialsedimentation in eastern North America.

"This study provides some of the most significant evidence yetthat Native Americans impacted the land to a much greater degree thanpreviously thought," said Dr. Steve Driese, professor and chair ofBaylor's department of geology,College of Arts and Sciences, who co-authored the study. "It confirms thatNative American populations had widespread effects on sedimentation."

Asherah Edited From Bible

Biblical research is a gift thatkeeps on giving.  It is our one clearwindow into the lifeways of the Bronze Age and its culture.  Other scraps have survived, but none so completelyas that of the Bible unless we accept much older lineages for some of the IndianScriptures.  We should address that.

In the meantime, the originalpantheon consisted of Yahweh and Asherah which is mirrored by all the other pantheonsthroughout the Near East.  The cult of the one god appears to have beentolerated up to the Babylonian exile when the leaders chose to effectivelysuppress all other gods to create the modern Abrahamic religions.

The Levantacted as a religious crucible for the Mesopotamian – Hittite cults, TheEgyptian cults including Atan, and the Cult of Baal which appears to be atleast the Mediterranean Phoenician cult. We also have the Atlantean cult of Zeus and Poseidon identified.

It is startling to uncover ideasand practice that properly explain the often otherwise unexplainable.  Cross fertilization of these cults easilyproduce and even explain the most bizarre assertions.

I wonder how many prayers to Yahwehcan be profitably rewritten as a prayer to the mother goddess.


God's wife, Asherah, was a powerful fertility goddess, according to atheologian.

Fri Mar 18, 2011 07:00 AM ET 

God had a wife, Asherah, whom the Book of Kings suggests was worshipedalongside Yahweh in his temple in Israel, according to an Oxford scholar.

In 1967, Raphael Patai was the first historian to mention that theancient Israelites worshiped both Yahweh and Asherah. The theory has gained newprominence due to the research of Francesca Stavrakopoulou, who began her workat Oxford and is now a senior lecturer in thedepartment of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter.

Information presented in Stavrakopoulou's books, lectures and journalpapers has become the basis of a three-part documentary series, now airing in Europe, where she discusses the Yahweh-Asherahconnection.

"You might know him as Yahweh, Allah or God. But on this fact,Jews, Muslims and Christians, the people of the great Abrahamic religions, areagreed: There is only one of Him," writes Stavrakopoulou in a statementreleased to the British media. "He is a solitary figure, a single,universal creator, not one God among many ... or so we like to believe."

"After years of research specializing in the history and religionof Israel,however, I have come to a colorful and what could seem, to some, uncomfortableconclusion that God had a wife," she added.

Stavrakopoulou bases her theory on ancient texts, amulets and figurinesunearthed primarily in the ancient Canaanite coastal city called Ugarit, nowmodern-day Syria.All of these artifacts reveal that Asherah was a powerful fertility goddess.

Asherah's connection to Yahweh, according to Stavrakopoulou, is spelledout in both the Bible and an 8th century B.C. inscription on pottery found inthe Sinai desert at a site called Kuntillet Ajrud.

"The inscription is a petition for a blessing," she shares."Crucially, the inscription asks for a blessing from 'Yahweh and hisAsherah.' Here was evidence that presented Yahweh and Asherah as a divine pair.And now a handful of similar inscriptions have since been found, all of whichhelp to strengthen the case that the God of the Bible once had a wife."

Also significant, Stavrakopoulou believes, "is the Bible'sadmission that the goddess Asherah was worshiped in Yahweh's Templein Jerusalem. Inthe Book of Kings, we're told that a statue of Asherah was housed in the templeand that female temple personnel wove ritual textiles for her."

J. Edward Wright, president of both The Arizona Center for JudaicStudies and The Albright Institute for Archaeological Research, told DiscoveryNews that he agrees several Hebrew inscriptions mention "Yahweh and hisAsherah."

"Asherah was not entirely edited out of the Bible by its maleeditors," he added. "Traces of her remain, and based on those traces,archaeological evidence and references to her in texts from nations borderingIsrael and Judah, we can reconstruct her role in the religions of the SouthernLevant."

Asherah -- known across the ancient Near East by various othernames, such as Astarte and Istar -- was "an important deity, one who wasboth mighty and nurturing," Wright continued.

"Many English translations prefer to translate 'Asherah' as'Sacred Tree,'" Wright said. "This seems to be in part driven by amodern desire, clearly inspired by the Biblical narratives, to hide Asherahbehind a veil once again."

"Mentions of the goddess Asherah in the Hebrew Bible (OldTestament) are rare and have been heavily edited by the ancient authors whogathered the texts together," Aaron Brody, director of the Bade Museumand an associate professor of Bible and archaeology at the Pacific Schoolof Religion, said.

Asherah as a tree symbol was even said to have been "chopped downand burned outside the Templein acts of certain rulers who were trying to 'purify' the cult, and focus onthe worship of a single male god, Yahweh," he added.

The ancient Israelites were polytheists, Brody told Discovery News,"with only a small minority worshiping Yahweh alone before the historicevents of 586 B.C." In that year, an elite community within Judea wasexiled to Babylon and the Templein Jerusalemwas destroyed. This, Brody said, led to "a more universal vision of strictmonotheism: one god not only for Judah, but for all of thenations."

Largest Spam Source Shut Down

For long suffering internet usersthis is a little light at the end of the tunnel.    The close cooperation between Microsoft andthe USMarshalls is likely a harbinger of things to come.  Effective strategies to end this plague maywell be on the way.  Tossing the perps injail is certainly a good start and will plausibly send the small fry packing.

No one objects to legitimate advertisingor even targeted advertising if only because sometimes you want to be thetarget.  The spammer’s only clients areobviously criminal fronts for all sorts of doubtful product and free intrusive advertisingis their only way of penetrating the market. Besides, I am getting tired of hitting the delete button every day todispose of another Viagra offer or Nigerian fraudster.

Of course the worst aretransmitting out of country and we have to try harder with them.

The only reason I control commentaccess on this blog is to block multiple spam attempts which do appear at timesand they never quit in their efforts to bypass defenses.

World's biggest source of spam email shut down

The world's most prolific source of spam emails has been shut down in aseries of coordinated raids by Microsoft and US federal authorities.

Three Spanish men with 'limited' hacking experience are believed to bebehind the vast Mariposa botnet Photo: CLARE KENDALL

By Christopher Williams, Technology Correspondent 6:20PM GMT 18Mar 2011

The Rustock botnet, an international network of virus-infectedcomputers, had for years generated billions of emails per day, promotingunlicensed online pharmacies and cut-price impotence pills.

But on Wednesday, security firms noticed email traffic from Rustockcompletely collapsed. It has now been revealed that Microsoft, backed by USMarshals acting on a court order, seized servers that it's estimated covertlycontrolled almost a million Windows PCs.

“We think this has been 100 per cent effective," said RichardBoscovich, senior attorney in Microsoft's digital crimes unit, according to theWall Street Journal.

The servers were rented from commercial internet hosting firms acrossthe Mid West, who were apparently unaware of their role in Rustock. These"command and control" servers would issue instructions to infectedhome and business PCs worldwide.

The criminals behind the spamming business were named in Microsoft’slawsuit only as “John Does 1-11”. To get the court order, which empowered it toseize equipment and so "decapitate" the botnet, Microsoft alleged theJohn Does infringed its trademarks in some of their emails.

The scale of the shut down is unprecedented. A report last month bySecureWorks, a computer security firm, said Rustock was the world's biggestsource of spam.

“The reasons for this are due to the author’s relentless development ofstealth tactics,” it said, referring to how Rustock was frequently updated tostay one step ahead of anti-virus packages.

Superconductivity Established Near 20C

This is an update on previouswork and it appears that they have successfully reached the holy grail ofsuperconductivity research.  We have roomtemperature effects that could easily be fitted into a framework that neededmodest cooling at most.  Of course,turning all this into something that is commercially useful is quite anothermatter as we have seen with the materials finding their way into cryogenicsystems today.  Yet it has been done eventhere.

This is a classic example ofscience progressing at its best.  It hastaken over a century to reach this point from the initial recognition of thepossibility.  Hundreds, if not thousands,worked toward this day.  It is still not particularlycomplete but we are glimpsing the end of the tunnel.

As I have posted, the principlerequirement of a MFEV (magnetic field exclusion vehicle) is a thin layer ofsuperconducting material at as high a temperature as possible.  This is getting us there.  Simply producing hexagonal chips of suchmaterial could easily be assembled into such a structure.

Superconductivity Near 20 Celsius - Superconductivity Approaches RoomTemperature

17 March 2011


Superconductors.ORG herein reports the observation of superconductivitynear 20 C.

       In eight magnetization testsa small amount of the compound (Tl5Pb2)Ba2MgCu10O17+ consistentlyproduced sharp diamagnetic transitions (the Meissner effect) near 20 Celsius(see above graphic), and resistive transitions that appeared near 18.5C (seebelow right). These temperatures are believed accurate +/- 2 degrees.

Resistance-v-temperature tests of this material were performed using a4-point probe. Four significant bits of data resolution were necessary toresolve the 18.5C critical transition temperature (Tc) due to a lowsignal-to-noise ratio (S/N). A sharp transition appeared across just 1.5 uA ofa 220 uA signal. This suggests a superconductive volume fraction less than 1%of the bulk.

       This extraordinarily high Tc wasachieved by engineering a theoretical D223 structure (where D=11 hex) thatpushes the limit of the longest C-axis lattice that will superconduct, whilesimultaneously establishing near-optimum Pb-doping of the Tl-Cu-O blockinglayers (see structure at left).

 In 2008 a Sn-In-Pb-Tm cuprateproduced superconductivity near 195K . That material had a C-axis latticeconstant around 33 angstroms. Attempts to go beyond 33 Å within that systemfailed to produce signs of superconductivity. That fact pointed to 33 Å being arough upper size limit for a superconductive unit cell within this family ofcopper perovskites. Since the 3 Celsius superconductor discovered in December 2010,had a C axis length under 28 Å, the next attempt to advance high Tc focused onincreasing the unit cell parameters. 

       The first material attempted was(Tl5Pb)Ba2MgCu9O15+ which had a C axis length near 30 Å, but a reducedpercentage of Pb doping - around 16%, sted 20% (see below 7C graphic). (Tl5Pb)Ba2MgCu9O15+ displayeda magnetic Tc near 9C (282K) and resistive Tc near 7C (280K). This was animprovement. However, within its magnetization plot were signs of still highersuperconductivity being generated by a minority phase.

 (Tl5Pb2)Ba2MgCu10O17+, with aunit cell near 32.7 Å, was then synthesized, displaying an unambiguousdiamagnetic transition near 20 Celsius.

       These 18C and 7C structures areshown below alongside the previous world record holders for comparison.

      With two atoms of divalent Pb, theinsulating layer of the 18C superconductor is hole-doped 28.5%. This increaseddoping level approaches the optimum of 25% discovered empirically within theSn-In-Pb copper-oxide family in 2008. Additionally, 28.5% is near a 30% optimumlevel for Pb-doping found by Shao, et al, in 1995(1).

       Dots have been placed within theC1 plot below, depicting where D223(Tl5Pb2-Mg) and B223(Tl5Pb-Mg) lie relativeto the other high performance thallium-cuprates. Temperatures plotted (inKelvin) are resistive. The correlation between planar weight ratio and Tc isunmistakable.

       As with prior discoveries thatadvanced high Tc through asymmetry along the C axis, this material does notform stoichiometrically (by conventional mixing of chemicals). It must besynthesized using the layer cake method, as shown below. The prototype pelletseach had roughly 20 to 22 layers. And, even using this technique, the volumefraction is low. Thus, commercialization will have to wait for a refinementmethod to be developed.

       This discovery is being releasedinto the public domain without patent protection in order toencourage additional research. Synthesis was by the solid state reactionmethod.

        The below stoichiometricratios were used for the ODD layers:

PbO 99.99%   (Alfa Aesar)   2.88 moles (gr.)
Tl2O3   99.99%   (Alfa Aesar)   7.366moles 
BaCO3   99.95%   (Alfa Aesar)  2.546 moles
CuO   99.995%   (Alfa Aesar)   4.106moles

       ...and the below ratios forthe EVEN layers.

MgO   99.95%     (Alfa Aesar)  1.04 moles (4x stoichiometric)
CuO   99.995%   (Alfa Aesar)   4.10 moles(4x stoichiometric)

       The chemical precursors werepelletized at 70,000 PSI and sintered for 35-36 hours at 865C. The pellet wasthen annealed for 10 hours at 500C in flowing O2. The magnetometer employedtwin Honeywell SS94A1F Hall-effect sensors with a tandem sensitivity of 50mv/gauss. The 4-point probe was bonded to the pellet with CW2400 silver epoxyand used 7 volts on the primary. Temperature was determined using an Omega type"T" thermocouple and precision OP77 DC amplifier.

RESEARCH NOTE: The copper-oxides are strongly hygroscopic.All tests should be performed immediately after annealing.

E. Joe Eck

© 2011 Superconductors.ORG

All rights reserved.

1. The Synthesis and Characterization of HgBa2Ca2Cu3O8+ Superconductors withSubstitution of Hg by Pb, by H.M. Shao, C.C. Lam, P.C.W. Fung, X.S. Wu, J.H.Du, G.J. Shen, J.C.L. Chow, S.L. Ho, K.C. Hung, and X.X. Yao, Physica C Volume:246, 1995 Page(s): 207-215