Oldest Known Big Cat Fossil Found



Caption: At left is: Life reconstruction of Panthera blytheae based on skull CT data; illustrated by Mauricio Antón. At Right are images of the holotype specimen and reconstructed facial bones based on CT data; Figure 1 from the paper.

Full story here: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-11/uosc-fo111313.php

Short version, this is a copy and paste job today:

The oldest big cat fossil ever found – which fills in a significant gap in the fossil record – was discovered on a paleontological dig in Tibet, scientists announced today.

A skull from the new species, named Panthera blytheae, was excavated and described by a team led by Jack Tseng – a PhD student at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences at the time of the discovery, and now a postdoctoral fellow at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York.

“This find suggests that big cats have a deeper evolutionary origin than previously suspected,” Tseng said.

DNA evidence suggests that the so-called “big cats” – the Pantherinae subfamily, including lions, jaguars, tigers, leopards, snow leopards, and clouded leopards – diverged from their nearest evolutionary cousins, Felinae (which includes cougars, lynxes, and domestic cats), about 6.37 million years ago. However, the oldest fossils of big cats previously found are tooth fragments uncovered at Laetoli in Tanzania (the famed hominin site excavated by Mary Leakey in the 1970s), dating to just 3.6 million years ago.

Using magnetostratigraphy – dating fossils based on the distinctive patterns of reversals in the Earth’s magnetic field, which are recorded in layers of rock – Tseng and his team were able to estimate the age of the skull at between 4.10 and 5.95 million years old.

Incredible between 4 and 6 million years old. So was that before…or after it got off the ark? (Ha!) This magnetostratigraphy dating method must be an amazing tool for paleobiology. What I am reading here is this big cat discovery, puts big cats at or very near the estimated DNA based evidence split, between the two groups of cats, and…this new cat fossil out dates the previously oldest known big cat fossil by .5 to 2.5 million years. 

There is more:  In addition, recent estimates suggested that species within the genus Panthera (lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, and snow leopards) did not diversify until 3.72 million years ago – which the new find disproves. I’d say this discovery sets that estimate back a few years.

All in all really cool discovery, and it’s stuff like this that keeps me glued to the internet as much as I can get away with. 



Catholic Bishop Removed (Wait For It…) For Sexual Abuse Of Children

This was back in Sept, so maybe you have heard about it. I’ve had this in my draft file for some time. I have no idea why I haven’t pulled the trigger on it yet. Perhaps I would really like to cling to some sort of hope that humanity isn’t doomed, I don’t know. My original link has gone dead, but I found the same story here:


Here we go again, another Catholic Priest, excuse me…a Bishop was caught diddling the children. Not a lot of details in the story yet, I don’t know if I want to know how many kids were abused at the hands of this criminal. I just want it to stop.

I am beginning to believe that to become a Catholic priest you must meet a prerequisite of being some kind of pervert. There must be some kind of secret pervert handshake, or wink or something, that gets you an automatic position as a priest.  At least this time the guy was identified, and released from his duties. Reversing the historic trend to sweep it all under the rug and relocate the PoS to some other location to do it all over again. I suppose this is progress, but I fear that for every one of these situations that comes to light, a dozen more go unreported.

A few questions if I may. Where is this supposed high ground that religion holds? I would really like to know. When will people stop making excuses for these lowlife criminals, wake up, and give them razing over the coals and time behind bars they deserve? When will it become not okay to be a child raper? When will people stop pointing fingers at the abused and put the blame where it belongs? When does respect for the perceived authority of religion give way to the reality that so many of their appointed officials are pedophiles?  I say this a lot unfortunately: How many cases will it take? I want the number. How many fucking cases like this must be exposed, for the Catholics, or any religion, it isn’t just the Catholics…when does it get to the point where the people in the pews say..”you know, I think this is where I say enough is enough?”…and walk out to never return. What will it take? What keeps them willfully returning to the trough of abuse, and offering up their children as a sacrifice?

Somebody tell me. Because I honestly can’t figure it out. Wilfull ignorance? A belief that “it could never happen to my children?” The notion that the devil made them do it? Those nasty little kids were asking for it? Is there a plan in place to start the rumor that “it’s just another case of someone wanting to sue the church?”  That way people can just file it away as insignificant, and “it won’t happen to them?”  Is it viewed as some sort of “test of faith?” Is it perhaps possible that people are so dense that it is a combination of all of these things? Of all the things that I just do not understand about how the mind of a creationist works, this is probably the biggest question, with all of the evidence at hand, with a high number of frequency, priests are raping your children. Why do YOU continue to allow it to happen? Is the supposed saving of ones soul and eternal happiness jive, more important than your child being bent over in the back room? Also, in what scenario does your child get to be in a (no pun intended) one on one relationship with the priest?

Too many questions, not enough answers. 

Quote of the Month

Lets go with George Washington this month. Here is a quote that echoes my sentiments of the state of religion today. Anyone with an ounce of sense, who is paying attention to the goings on in the world today, will see that things really haven’t changed much since 1792.

“Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause. Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by the difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be depreciated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.”

George Washington – letter to Edward Newenham, 1792

If anything, things appear worse now than they were then. People blowing each other up over what? Religious views. Palestines killing Jews. Jews killing Palestines. Muslims killing just about anyone they see as a threat or symbol against their tyranny. In Africa we have Muslims killing x-ians and vice versa, and x-ians going on good old fashioned witch hunts, where their children and neighbors are being killed (for being witches? really? I thought we had moved past that). You have all kinds of religiously motivated atrocities going on all over the place, why then is this religion thing heralded as something good again? Someone remind me.

I honestly feel like religion is the single largest threat to society… ever. Unless those that practice religion of all stripes can learn to be tolerant of other peoples beliefs, and reconcile old differences of opinion, what we see today will continue to fill 20 second slots on the nightly news, Infinitely. I see nothing to indicate otherwise. An ideal world, in my opinion, would be one free of religion, and the prejudice that comes with it. Can we move out from under this darkness, this machine of evil, this unrelenting opression already? Religion is not the sweet goodness its adherents think it is, they are just blinded, or indifferent, to its true nature.


New Supernova



Hubble has a new supernova discovery to its credit. This one is dubbed SN 2013ek. Another supernova was discovered in this same galaxy last year, and very close to the same spot as this new one. Which is raising a few eyebrows. Indeed they believe these two events could be linked.

The nova is the bright starlike object just above and to the right of the bright galactic nucleus. The other objects in that galaxy that look similar are likely knots of young stars, or large globular clusters, that are fairly commonly found in galaxies, even our own. My only regret is this object is so far south from my location I won’t be able to turn a telescope in its direction to see if I can spot it. 

This is indeed the age of discovery. I am happy to be alive in this era. I have personally seen our species move from earth bound species, with rotary phones and black and white television to putting man on the moon, in space, and having a host of space bound observatories, Mars rovers, planetary probes, cell phones, high speed internet, etc etc. It is in some strange way, a sense of pride seeing and experiencing the advances we have made along the way. Besides family, I think the biggest thing I will miss when I no longer exist, will be the ever advancing rate of our technology, and not knowing where it may lead… 


It Took Science To Prove This?

I can live with that I suppose, but anyone with a knack for spotting bullshit arguments probably didn’t need scientific evidence to show this idea was wrong. What idea is that? That the earth, the sun, our solar system would be the center of the universe of course. That argument fostered by the religious wingnuts who believe everything in their little black book is true despite any good evidence to the contrary. 

The money quote from the article:  “Dartmouth researchers found that this model* can’t hold up to other observational tests. The sky glows with light left over from the Big Bang, also known as the Cosmic Microwave Background, so they calculated how that glow would be affected. Their findings show that the model’s prediction is completely contrary to the glow that has been measured.”  The article goes on with:  “Essentially, we held a mirror up to the universe and asked if the reflection was special,” says Robert Caldwell, a professor of physics and astronomy who co-wrote the article with undergraduate physics major Nina Maksimova. “The reflection shows that we do not appear to live in a special location, and decisively excludes this** explanation for the universe’s accelerating expansion. It would be a great relief to be able to understand a basic problem of cosmology within the known laws of physics, but our research is an important step in explaining the physics responsible for the cosmic acceleration.” (and an unfortunate side effect being this result)

Well how about that? Another biblical literalist statement of fact slain with the sword of science. Those damn scientists with their damn facts just keep on dismantling the delusion one myth at a time. I predict the professional creationist spin doctors to begin with the howling in 3…2…1…and go!

*,** The “we are the center of the universe theory”, until this morning I just thought that was a wacky idea held by creationists, I did not know it was actually postulated as a cough, cough…theory.


Science is Cool

I spend way too much time looking at Science Daily. It is a mainstay of my daily routine, and while I often see articles there that rank kinda low on my interest-o-meter, today there are two releases that struck my wow gong (I don’t know if that is legal in some states). First up: The University of Minnesota (isn’t there some well known blogger/ bearded atheist dude that harks from there?) announced they had discovered (or encouraged through experimentation) a new step in an algal form, moving from single celled algae, to multi celled algae that reproduces through a single cell system. Kinda like us, and many other organisms on the planet. Which indicates that this means of evolution can occur in a simultanious step, and not through many incremental steps throughout time, as previously thought. I would love to be on that research team.


Second is a story of light, or a new way of using the suns light to illuminate interior rooms. It is called SmartLight. Best I can tell it is in an experimental stage at this point, and not developed/available technology (I did not see anything to indicate this tech is in any existing form except as experimental, but am as always open to evidence). The story claims it works like this: “A narrow grid of electrofluidic cells which is self-powered by embedded photovoltaics is applied near the top of a window. Each tiny cell ¬- only a few millimeters wide — contains fluid with optical properties as good or better than glass. The surface tension of the fluid can be rapidly manipulated into shapes such as lenses or prisms through minimal electrical stimulation — about 10,000 to 100,000 times less power than what’s needed to light a traditional incandescent bulb. In this way, sunlight passing through the cell can be controlled.”

In other words, it is taking the suns light, focusing it in directional beams, which basically transforms the light into an effective track lighting system, with extremely low power demands for it operate, equating to a ton of effeciency. The story goes on to mention that a great deal of human energy consumption is for lighting, and how a system like this could be a huge savings on our power demands. Anything that can achieve that goal, is in my opinion, a very noble cause. I hope this tech evolves quickly and becomes a mainstay for every building in every town, and affordable for the average Joe. Please, let this not be one of those great ideas that never comes to fruition. (Flying cars anyone?)


Note: Both of these stories I found here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/  but any time I decide to post on a story I see there, I usually go to the source of the material and provide that link. Sometimes there is better,  more detailed info at the source.

The World We live In

I was out with the family yesterday at the local Wally World. The wife had to get some prescriptions, and we needed a few things. I got caught in a talk trap with a couple of my old diver buddies, and we stood around for a while talking shop. Then one of my brats, he is 16, walked up to us and asked me what was this?

He had found a dollar bill lying on the floor, it had been folded up, and inside was a white crystalline rock-ish/ to partially powdery substance. Now I grew up from the late sixties and throughout the seventies (long live classic rock!) and I am no stranger to a little weed, and have snorted a line or two of coke, among other things, but I was never one to make much of a habit out of any of it, well I did smoke weed for a while. Anyway…I had never seen this stuff before. 

So, I just put it in my pocket, and brought it home…don’t start thinking what you might be thinking, I put a small amount of this substance under the microscope, being that sort of curious type, and the microscope indeed verified a very crystalline stucture with many small interlocking crystals making up the larger pieces. I can only conclude this was our first encounter with crystal meth. Once I had satisfied our curiosities, we flushed it down the toilet. We have a septic tank, and this was the only way I could think of that would not introduce the stuff to the environment directly. 

Now I have heard meth is running wild out there, and you see it on the news a lot, and you hear stories locally about this person or that, having ruined their lives and their health because of the stuff. But somehow, I thought we would generally be immune to it, because the Venn diagram of my life no longer intersects with that kind of culture (and when it did, meth was never a topic of discussion). Then lo and behold, it is lying in the floor at the damn Wal Mart. I am glad my son was smart enough to bring it to my attention, and I did manage to make a learning experience out of it, but I can’t help but wonder what kind of world my kids will have to wade through. Things have changed since my time. 

One can only wonder, what if someone’s small child had picked up that dollar bill? …and thought it was candy? It was Halloween after all. What if my son had other ideas on figuring out what this stuff was? (Glad he didn’t) What if the cop that was perusing the aisles knew about the whole thing and it was some sort of setup? (thank goodness it wasn’t) I generally do not like playing the “what if” game. I will often tell my kids I do not play the hypothetical situation game, I find the hypothetical “what if” game to be as interesting as a conversation with a fundy. When you go to the land of making shit up, I find it less of an intellectual exercise and more of a waste of time. Even so, I cannot help but play a little “what if” in this situation. This meth stuff is no joke, and having it just fall into your lap is a little off putting.

One thing I do know from experience, we all have to walk the path of life. There are many trails on the path, some leading to great things, some leading to self destruction. We all must choose our paths. We all must live with those choices. We all have this minefield to navigate, and while the times, the faces, and the dangers have changed, the who we are and the who we want to be is still a series of choices we must make. My hope is that our future as a species, and your future as a fellow human, is tempered by making those choices wisely.