The Dinosaurs Were Doing Fine

You know, until that whole asteroid thing.

Image result for dinosaurs asteroid

It’s probably fine…

Most paleontologists agree that the Chicxulub asteroid impact, possibly coupled with intense volcanic activity, wiped out non-avian dinosaurs (all dinosaurs except birds) at the end of the Cretaceous period, approximately 66 million years ago.

However, there is debate about whether dinosaurs were flourishing or whether they had already been in decline due to climate change. A new study that modeled the changing environment and dinosaur species distribution in North America suggests that dinosaurs were likely not in decline before the Chicxulub strike.

According to the study, dinosaurs as a whole were adaptable animals, capable of coping with the environmental changes and climatic fluctuations that happened during the last few million years of the Late Cretaceous. It suggests previous analyses have underestimated the number of species at the end of the Cretaceous period.

During the Cretaceous, North America was split in two by a large inland sea. In the western half there was a steady supply of sediment from the newly forming Rocky Mountains, which created good conditions for fossilizing dinosaurs once they died. The eastern half of the continent was characterized by conditions far less suitable for fossilization.

This means that far more dinosaur fossils are found in the western half of North America, and this fossil record is often used to suggest dinosaurs were in decline during the few million years before the asteroid strike.

However, instead of using the fossil record exclusively, the researchers employed ‘ecological niche modeling.’ This approach models which environmental conditions, such as temperature and rainfall, each species would need to survive. The scientists then mapped where these conditions would occur across the continent over time.

This allowed them to create a picture of where groups of dinosaur species could survive as conditions changed, rather than just where their fossils had been found. The team found habitats that could support dinosaur groups were actually more widespread at the end of the Cretaceous period, but that these were in areas less likely to preserve fossils.

The findings appear in the journal Nature Communications.

Trump is Not OK

If over the weekend you saw a rambling madman give a frighteningly incoherent, sweaty, two-hour shoutfest of a speech at a right-wing summit while a crowd of feces-flinging howler monkeys wildly applauded, then you viewed the president coming unhinged on national television in a way that has probably never been seen before in United States history.

That is extraordinary cause for alarm.

If, instead, you saw nothing more than a “fiery” Donald Trump give a “zigzagging,” “wide-ranging,” “campaign-like” address where the Republican really “let loose,” then you likely work for the mainstream media, which once again swung and missed when it came to detailing the escalating threat that Donald Trump represents to the country.

From the beginning of Trump’s campaign, there has been legitimate concern that the mainstream media, with its focus on seeming “neutral”, was not up to the task of adequately conveying Trump’s bizarre, authoritarian madness to their audiences. Their response to his CPAC appearance shows that those concerns were well-founded.

There’s no way to accurately describe Trump’s behavior without sounding hysterical or, heaven forbid, “biased.” So most media outlets resorted to euphemistic language or focused on technically true observations (it is accurate that Trump criticized Robert Mueller) while sliding past the more relevant detail, the fact that the president of the United States was babbling like a lunatic who hasn’t slept in days.

Newsrooms nearly uniformly refuse to address the mounting, obvious signs that Trump is a deeply unstable man as the CPAC meltdown demonstrated. Most reporters simply do not want to mention it. As the Daily Beast put it: “In most ways, it was just another campaign rally for the president, in flavor, content, and punchlines.”

Nothing to see here, folks.

But what’s with the hesitation among the press to cover Trump’s speech as a flashing neon-red sign of a man teetering on the edge? Why won’t the media discuss Trump’s, at this point, obvious mental instability?

It’s the same reason large news organizations, to this day, won’t call Trump a liar. Logically it makes no sense, but news outlets don’t want to take heat from conservatives and from the administration for calling Trump a liar. So even though they’ve documented that he lies all the time, reporters opt for timid words like “falsehoods” to soften the blow.

The same is true with regard to Trump’s unstable behavior. There’s not one working member of mainstream media who watched Trump’s unsettling CPAC meltdown and thought, “He’s seems stable. I have no questions about his mental capacity.” They know it’s a pressing issue. But newsrooms don’t want to suffer the backlash, the shouts of “Liberal media bias!” that would rain down on journalists who tackle the story, even though it’s obvious and newsworthy.

After the debacle that was the 2016 election, many hoped that the mainstream media would learn its lesson about favoring “neutrality” over the old-fashioned journalistic concern for truth. It was an election cycle where Hillary Clinton’s (not insignificant) flaws were exaggerated while Trump’s outrageous behavior and obvious unfitness for the office were underplayed. All out of their misplaced sense of fairness.

And when you’re neutral in the face of sanity and insanity, you inherently serve the maniac’s purpose.

It’s probably true that most in the mainstream media didn’t expect Trump to end up winning the election. The surprise outcome however, should have been a wake-up call. It seems that the lesson was not learned.

There is long-established hesitancy on the part of specialists to try to diagnose somebody if they’re not a direct patient. But even on that front, more and more experts are speaking out. This comes from a petition signed by 70,000 mental health professionals:

“We, the undersigned mental health professionals, believe in our professional judgment that Donald Trump manifests a serious mental illness that renders him psychologically incapable of competently discharging the duties of President of the United States.”

The president is not well, and that puts everyone in serious danger. And that’s a helluva news story if the media will just tell it.

Old Scars on Mars

Mars is a cold, dry place, but it may not always have been. Recent studies increasingly indicate that the planet once had a thicker, denser atmosphere that was able to lock in far more warmth, and therefore facilitate and support the flow of liquid water on the surface.

While this is no longer the case, planetary researchers have seen clear signs of past water activity across the Martian surface. New images from ESA’s Mars Express orbiter show one such region: a branching system of trenches and valleys in the southern highlands of Mars.

The southern highlands are some of the oldest and most heavily cratered parts of the planet, with many signs of ancient water. The topography of this region suggests that water flowed downhill from the north to the south, carving out valleys up to 1.2 miles (2 km) across and 656 feet (200 m) deep as it did so.

It is thought that climate change took place on Mars 3.7 to 3.8 billion years ago, when environmental conditions changed from a somewhat neutral, potentially life-sustaining and humid environment to a much drier, colder environment that is hostile to life.

One of the reasons why Mars lost its atmosphere was the loss of its magnetic field, which was active during its first 500 million years.

As the magnetic field grew weaker the solar wind was able to gradually split the molecules in the atmosphere. The resultant ions were then lost to space. As a result, and also due to declining volcanism, the atmosphere became thinner. Below a certain atmospheric pressure, water can no longer remain liquid on the surface of a planet, it can only remain as ice or gas.

Mars is also only about half the mass of Earth, so its gravitational force is barely sufficient to bind atmospheric molecules to it and the lack of precipitation on Mars collapsed the water cycle.

While it is unclear where all of this water came from originally (precipitation, groundwater, melting glaciers) all of this required a far warmer and more watery past for Mars.

Don’t Eat Me Bro!

It is no secret that the right is obsessed with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and has dedicated an excessive amount of time and energy criticizing the freshman lawmaker in every way possible. But a Fox News contributor took that obsession to strange new heights Saturday, suggesting in an unhinged rant that the Green New Deal could lead to cannibalism.

Yes, really.

“AOC has completely lost her marbles. I think she’s living in bananaland,” National Review columnist Katherine Timpf said. “Earlier this week she called herself ‘the boss’ for coming up with the Green New Deal. How are you ‘the boss’ for coming up with a plan that doesn’t work? Like, are you sure that the Green New Deal’s not, like, what you’re putting in your pipe and smoking every day?”

Oooooh, sick burn!

Timpf (I can’t type that without laughing, I’m sorry) said she could come up with lots of plans that don’t work (probably the truest thing that she said): “How about we fly around on unicorns instead of airplanes? How about instead of gasoline we use fairy dust we get from Tinkerbell?”

She said all of this in jest (I think), but are her fantastical “plans” really any more preposterous than the Fox News/Republican “plan” of: “We don’t have to worry about Climate Change because Republican Jesus will take care of us?”

She then wonders whether AOC “wants us to do away with all modern technology” before going on to suggest that the deal would lead to turning back to the mid-1800s and “reliv[ing] the Donner Party.”

“I don’t want to eat people, Greg, and I don’t want people to eat me,” Timpf said. “AOC, do you want people to eat you?” She said that right after suggesting that the Green New Deal would also force her to “only eat lettuce and carrots like some kind of little fucking bunny.”

Again, they can’t even bother to keep their attacks consistent. Is it a wonder that none of them manage to resonate with anyone who doesn’t already hate AOC?

Timpf’s rant was guided by a piece she wrote earlier in the week in which she said the freshman lawmaker was “ridiculous” while characterizing the plan as pointless because it has no chance of working. “Would the world be a better place if the United States eliminated all carbon emissions? Of course it would—just like it would be better if we all got free Lamborghinis,” Timpf wrote. “The truth, however, is that being a notable leader requires a lot more than just fantasizing about pie-in-the-sky proposals that have no real future.”

Polls have shown that up to 80% of Americans have a favorable view of the Green New Deal. So it seems that pie is actually right there on the table, we just have to go get it.

AOC took to Twitter Saturday to defend herself from similar accusations that she’s a hypocrite for using the comforts of modern day life. “I also fly [planes] & use A/C. Living in the world as it is isn’t an argument against working towards a better future. The Green New Deal is about putting a LOT of people to work in developing new technologies, building new infrastructure, and getting us to 100% renewable energy.”

Hot New Pic From Juno

NASA’s Juno spacecraft, currently orbiting Jupiter, took a dramatic image of the gas giant earlier this month.

The color-enhanced image comes from Kevin M. Gill, a NASA software engineer who moonlights as one of the Juno’s amateur image processors, shows a large circular storm trailed by clouds swirling in a jet stream in Jupiter’s northern hemisphere.

An image of Jupiter captured by the Juno spacecraft on Feb. 12. NASA software engineer Kevin M. Gill enhanced the colors

Juno has been in a highly elliptical orbit around Jupiter since 2016. The spacecraft captured the image on Feb 12, during its 18th close pass of the planet. Juno was just 8,000 miles above Jupiter’s cloud tops at the time.

First launched in 2011, Juno took five years traveling to Jupiter from Earth. The mission seeks to map Jupiter’s interior and determine how much water is inside the planet, among other goals. Scientists hope that by studying Jupiter, they will have a better understanding of how the planets formed.

NASA makes raw images from Juno available to the public online. The agency encourages amateur astrophotographers to download and enhance the images before uploading them back to Juno’s website. Dozens of space enthusiasts have participated, some by simply cropping the images and others by performing advanced color reconstruction or highlighting a particular atmospheric feature of the planet.

NASA plans to end Juno’s mission in July 2021, at which point the spacecraft will self-destruct in the most metal way by hurling itself into Jupiter.