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Imaginary Feathers Found on Dinosaur

first_imgThe science news outlets are all talking about a new dinosaur with feathers, but where are the feathers?  Bjorn Carey at LiveScience said that Guanlong wucaii were “likely covered in feathers” and MSNBC said it was “likely feathered as a chicken.”  John Roach on National Geographic News even went so far as to say, “Scientists say the 160-million-year-old animal, which had simple feathers and an elaborate head crest, is the oldest known tyrannosaur” (emphasis added in all quotes).    We went to the source looking for the feathers.  The original paper by Xu et al. in Nature1 says nothing about feathers.  Neither does the news story about it by Thomas R. Holtz in the same issue of Nature.2  Holtz does mention “feathered dinosaurs” from China, lists “feathered maniraptorans” in passing, and refers to an earlier discovery, Dilong paradoxus, that had some kind of coating that he calls “simple fuzzy ‘protofeathers’” in quote marks.  Still no conclusive feathers for Guanlong.  The plot thickens in The Case of the Missing Feathers.    The first solution to this mystery is to go back to an Oct. 6, 2004 story in National Geographic about D. paradoxus.  This mentions a “at least a partial coat of hairlike feathers” on this small tyrannosaurid, but the description of the feathers is not what most of us picture when we think of a bird feather.  These are called “featherlike structures” that apparently were for warmth or insulation, not flight.3  Since Sinosauropteryx had these “featherlike structures”, the discoverer assumed that this new fossil, along with birds, were “all expressions of the same evolutionary change.”  Holtz said, “then we have to infer that tyrannosaurids also had some expression of the same trait [feathers].”  Yet even these structures on D. paradoxus seem questionable.  The article goes on: “The description of Dilong paradoxus is based on the fossils of four specimens, including a fragmented one with evidence of protofeathers—precursors to the feathers found on modern birds.”  Then the article speculates on whether T. rex youngsters sported the downy coats, without mentioning any fossil evidence for such a claim.    Back to Guanlong wucaii.  Now we have the context for the claims about feathers in the science news articles, despite the absence of the word in the scientific paper.  The end of the MSNBC article quotes Mark Norell of the American Museum of Natural History, one of the co-discoverers of both fossils, who made a big point about the “featherlike structures” on the earlier find.  After referring back to Dilong paradoxus, he explains about the new fossil: “Because they’re so closely related [sic], there’s no reason at all to think it didn’t have feathers.”  (His museum is the same one with an exhibit that boldly announces to the public, “Birds Are Dinosaurs.”)1Xu et al., “A basal tyrannosauroid dinosaur from the Late Jurassic of China,” Nature 439, 715-718 (9 February 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature04511.2Thomas R. Holtz Jr., “Palaeontology: A Jurassic tyrant is crowned,” Nature 439, 665-666 (9 February 2006) | doi:10.1038/439665a.3See Jonathan Sarfati’s analysis on AIG #1 and AIG #2.  The fossil impressions could be from flayed collagen fibers, not feathers.This is very strange.  Only one specimen of the earlier fossil, a fragmented specimen, had some kind of hairy skin filaments, that were not feathers, but “protofeathers” or “featherlike structures.”  Then the new fossil has none at all.  One team member leaps from fragmentary evidence to pure imagination in a single bound, assuming evolution relates these two dinosaurs to birds according to a common evolutionary innovation.  From there, the news media print color drawings of Gualong coated in colorful plumage, with the word FEATHERS in bold type in the headlines.  What is going on here?  Why are they doing this to us?    Horsefeathers.  They should know better.  We are onto their tricks.  They are mixing and matching fragments of flimsy evidence to fit a preconceived speculation and market it as fact.  For earlier and similar claims, see 05/06/2004 on the questionable museum exhibit, 06/18/2001 on a New Mexico tale, and 08/21/2001 and 10/30/2002 on problems with feather evolution.  Mark Robertson on AIG called for more skepticism over the weak claims, and AIG has many other articles on dinosaurs and birds.(Visited 13 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

The Problem with Crowdsourcing Crime Reporting in the Mexican Drug War

first_img8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Market Related Posts Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hosting A Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai… Tags:#international#web center_img andres monroy hernandez There has been some excitement about the idea of using technology to address the problems of the Mexican Drug War. As someone involved in technology, I find it inspiring that other techies are trying to do something to end the conflict. However, I also worry when I read ideas based on flawed assumptions. For example, the assumption that “good guys” just need a safe way to report the “bad guys” to the cops reduces the Mexican reality to a kid’s story, where lines are easily and neatly drawn.So, here are a few reasons why building tools to enable citizens to report crime in Mexico is problematic and even dangerous.Anonymity does not depend only on encryption. Criminals do not need to rely on advanced crypto-techniques when information itself is enough to figure out who leaked it. Similar ideas are being discussed by researchers trying to figure out how to identiy future Wikileaks-like collaborators, something they call Fog Computing. The point is, the social dynamics around the Drug War in Mexico mean that people are exposed when they post something local. In an era of big data, it’s easy to piece things together, even if the source is encrypted. And, sadly, when terror is your business, getting it wrong doesn’t matter as much.Criminal organizations, law enforcement, and even citizens are not independent entities. Organized crime has co-opted individuals, from the highest levels of government down to average citizens working with them on the side– often referred to as “halcones.”Apprehensions do not lead to convictions. According to some data, “78% of crimes go unreported in Mexico, and less than 1% actually result in convictions.” Mexico is among those countries with the highest indices of impunity, even with high-profile cases such as the murder of journalists. All this is partly because of high levels of corruption.Criminal organizations have already discovered how to manipulate law enforcement against their opponents–there is even a term for it: “calentar la plaza“– the sudden increase of extreme violence in locations controlled by the opposite group, with the sole purpose of catching the attention of the military, which eventually takes over, and weakens the enemy.The failure of crowdsourcing became evident only a few weeks ago with a presidential election apparently plagued with irregularities. Citizens actively crowdsourced reports of electoral fraud and subsequently uploaded the evidence to YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. Regardless of whether those incidents would affect the final result of the election, the institutions in charge seem to have largely ignored the reports. One can only imagine what would happen with the report of highly profitable crimes like drug trafficking.Crowdsourcing is not entirely flawed in the Mexican context, though. We have seen people in various Mexican cities organize organically to alert one another of violent events, in real time. But these urban crisis management networks do not need institutions to function. However, law enforcement does, unless one is willing to accept lynching and other types of crowd-based law enforcement.In sum, as Damien Cave mentioned, what Mexico needs is institutions, and the people willing to change the culture of impunity. Technologies that support this kind of change would be more effective than those imagined with a “first world” mindset.Thanks to danah boyd for helping me think through some of these ideas.Top image: Frontpage / Shutterstock.com Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic…last_img read more

Mehbooba grants Rs 10 lakh for welfare of differently-abled

first_imgstudentsJammu, Dec 8 (PTI) The Jammu and Kashmir government today announced a grant of Rs 10 lakh for upgrading facilities for differently-abled students.Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti announced the grant after meeting the students and distributed various prizes among them, an official spokesman said.Waheed-ur-Rehman Parra, the secretary of J&K state sports council, and other state officials were present on the occasion, the spokesman added. PTI AB DPB SMNlast_img