British folk musicians for peace


This video from the USA says about itself:

Music [starts after about 2 minutes] by Josh Hisle.

Josh Hisle is an Iraq War Veteran who served in the Marine Corp for two tours and who used music to help him cope. His music is one of only a handful of artists who speak out against the war, including Neil Young, who played one of his songs with him.

Neil Young concert review: here.

Spider species named for Neil Young: here.

From British daily The Morning Star:

Banners high!

(Monday 29 October 2007)

Red Folk with MIKE NEWMAN

MIKE NEWMAN looks at next month’s Raise Your Banners festival, featuring some of the best political music around.

SO, welcome to the first Red Folk column, which I hope will go on to become a regular feature in the Morning Star. I’ll be aiming to put the spotlight firmly on the more radical side of folk and associated music, both here in Britain and abroad. …

The whole event is being sponsored by Rock’n’Reel magazine and it really does read like a who’s who of political music.

And, if all that was not enough, a new CD called Not In Our Name will be officially launched at the festival. A compilation CD highlighting the immoral wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it features many of the principled artists performing at RYB mentioned above as well as people such as Leon Rosselson, Rory McLeod and Jim Page.

Proceeds from the sale of Not In Our Name will be going to the Stop the War Coalition and will be on sale at RYB at a special festival price of £10, but it can also be ordered through www.songsforchange.com.

The organisers of Raise Your Banners deserve a huge amount of praise for the work that has gone into putting all this together. It really is an event not to be missed, so get there if you can. Full details from www.raiseyourbanners.org.

And there’s just time to mention another important musical event, this time organised by the Stop the War Coalition, the Rhythms of Peace Concert, which is on Friday November 30 from 7pm at St James’s Church, Piccadilly, London. There are too many performers to mention so visit their website at www.stopwar.org.uk for the full details.

Body imprints of Carboniferous amphibians discovered in the USA


This video is called: Evolution, fish with fingers. Transitional fossils.

From ScienceDaily:

Fossilized Body Imprints Of Amphibians Found In 330 Million-year-old Rocks

(Oct. 29, 2007) — Unprecedented fossilized body imprints of amphibians have been discovered in 330 million-year-old rocks from Pennsylvania. The imprints show the unmistakably webbed feet and bodies of three previously unknown, foot-long salamander-like critters that lived 100 million years before the first dinosaurs.

“Body impressions like this are wholly unheard of,” said paleontologist Spencer Lucas, a curator at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. Lucas will present the discovery on October 30, 2007, at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver.

The fossil imprints, while lacking any bones of the animals, actually contain rare information that bones cannot, said Lucas. Without the imprints of the webbed four-toed feet, for instance, it would be virtually impossible to say they were truly amphibians. The imprints also provide body proportions and important clues to the kind of outer skin the little beasts had. The skin is smooth, not armor plated as many would have expected, Lucas said.

The imprints were found in reddish brown, fine-grained sandstone rocks of the Mauch Chunk Formation in eastern Pennsylvania that correspond to what’s known as the Visean Age, an early part of the Mississippian Epoch. That, in turn, is part of the [Carboniferous period of the] Paleozoic Era that stretched from 542 million years ago to 251 million years ago, when the age of reptiles started. The Mauch Chunk is older and therefore located beneath the heavily mined coal beds of Pennsylvania.

Also found in rocks from the same formation and of the same age are footprints of other relatively large animals and fossils of insects and plants, Lucas explained. There is even a saucer-sized footprint of an unknown vertebrate that suggests larger four-footed beasts lived far earlier than ever before suspected.

“It’s bigger than anything discovered in the bone record,” said Lucas.

Interestingly, the rock specimen with the triple imprints was collected decades ago near Pottsville, Schuylkill County, eastern Pennsylvania, but had been sitting, unexamined, in the Reading Public Museum Collection, said Lucas. As part of his senior thesis, Kutztown State University student David Fillmore uncovered the imprint fossil while studying the large collection of Mauch Chunk Formation footprints in the Reading Public Museum Collection.

See also here.

Present amphibians in danger: here.

Fossil condor species discovered at Californian tar pits


This is a video from the USA about the La Brea Tar Pits.

From the Whittier Daily News in the USA:

Student finds California condors had company

By Elise Kleeman, Staff Writer

PASADENA – From the foul-smelling, belching black maw of the La Brea Tar Pits have come the bones of ancient beasts – and from these, a new understanding about condor history.

Caltech undergraduate Valerie Syverson has found that the California condor once likely co-existed with a separate condor species – one even larger than the avian giants still alive today.

“She looked at just about all the common elements of the wings and the legs and the skull,” said Donald Prothero, her advisor and an Occidental College paleontologist. “Sure enough, when you measure enough specimens and you plot them, boy they sure stand out like night and day.”

The ancient condors, the team found, had longer, narrower skulls and were about 10 percent to 20 percent larger than their modern relatives which, with 9-foot-wide wingspans, are no small potatoes themselves.

The giant La Brea condors lived alongside the saber tooth tigers, Ice Age lions, elephant-size ground sloths and massive dire wolves that ruled Los Angeles tens of thousands of years ago.

Paleontologists have unearthed millions of fossils of these and more than 600 other species of animals and plants from their asphalt graves beside Wilshire Boulevard’s Miracle Mile.

“The tar pits are one of the richest Ice Age fossil sites in the world,” said John Harris, chief curator of the George C. Page Museum at the tar pits. “They’re important not only because of the diversity, but because the fossils are very well preserved.”

In particular, the pits are a gold mine for the bones of ancient scavengers like the condors.

“One trapped horse may result in a couple of saber-toothed cats and some dire wolves,” Harris said.

The Page Museum’s collection contains thousands of the long-legged bones of birds of prey whose feet were caught by the dark morass.

Because the tar pits ensnared creatures between 9,000 and 40,000 years ago – a period encompassing an entire ice age – the cache proved an ideal location for Prothero and his students to study how climate change affected animal species.

Their work, Prothero said, suggests none of the animals changed in size because of the shifting temperatures.

But it also had the added benefit of answering a long-standing question about the California condor’s past, showing they are a species all their own, rather than direct descendents of the larger Ice Age birds.

In the near future, Prothero said, he plans to study ancient condor remains from other collections to learn if the La Brea species has been named before or is new – a prospect he considers likely.

Whatever he finds, though, the condors won’t be biggest bird to have tangled with La Brea’s sticky depths.

That honor, Harris said, goes to a bird called Merriam’s teratorn, which had a wingspan of 12 feet.

Teratornis: here.

Music video mocking Ann Coulter


Here, [Jewish US American] ‘Leah Kauffman – the voice behind “I Got a Crush on Obama” – performs in the music video “Perfected”‘, about anti-Semitic US far Rightist Ann Coulter.

Conservative website WND has dropped Ann Coulter as the keynote speaker at its upcoming conference over her plan to speak to a group in favor of gay rights. WND says that Coulter’s decision to speak at Homocon, an event sponsored by a gay Republican organization called GOProud, disqualifies her from speaking at their “Taking America Back National Conference”: here.

Scientist brings 50 million year old spider ‘back to life’


In this video from the USA, Dr. Timothy Rowe of the University of Texas explains the concepts used in the film Jurassic Park.

From the University of Manchester in England:

Scientist brings 50 million year old spider ‘back to life’

A 50-million-year-old fossilised spider has been brought back to life in stunning 3D by a scientist at The University of Manchester.

In a paper published in the latest issue of the Zootaxa journal, Dr David Penney and co-authors from Ghent University in Belgium report on the use of a technique called ‘Very High Resolution X-Ray Computed Tomography’ (VHR-CT) to ‘digitally dissect’ tiny fossils and reveal the preservation of internal organs.

Dr Penney, from The School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences (SEAES), specialises in studying spiders trapped and preserved in amber tens of millions of years ago.

The male spider studied in his latest paper is a new species named Cenotextricella simoni. It is around 53-million years old and was found preserved in amber in an area of France known as the Paris Basin.

This is the first time the VHR-CT technique has been used to digitally dissect a fossil in amber – and Dr Penney says it has the potential to ‘revolutionise’ their study.

The VHR-CT technique was originally developed for medical diagnostic purposes.

Dr Penney said: “This technique essentially generates full 3D reconstructions of minute fossils and permits digital dissection of the specimen to reveal the preservation of internal organs.

“Up until recently the only place to do such scans was at The University of Texas, although they never achieved results like these.

“My colleagues in the department of Subatomic and Radiation Physics at Ghent University in Belgium have significantly increased the resolution of the technology, bringing some quite amazing results.

“This is definitely the way forward for the study of amber fossils.

“Amber provides a unique window into past forest ecosystems. It retains an incredible amount of information, not just about the spiders themselves, but also about the environment in which they lived.”

Dr Penney is currently spending an indefinite period in the African jungle in a ‘living laboratory’ studying spiders.

Earlier this year, a species of spider which dates back more than 20 million years was named after Dr Penney. The amber-encased spider which was discovered deep in a Mexican mine is thought to have lived long before the first humans.

It was found by a Mexican researcher who earned the right to name the species and he chose the name ‘Episinus penneyi’ in honour of his former colleague.