Fragments of Continents Hidden Under Lava in Indian Ocean

The islands Reunion and Mauritius, both well-known tourist destinations, are hiding a micro-continent, which has now been discovered. The continent fragment known as Mauritia detached about 60 million years ago while Madagascar and India drifted apart, and had been hidden under huge masses of lava.

lemuria - gondwana

The coloured track (left colour scale) west of Reunion is the calculated movement of the Reunion hotspot. The black lines with yellow circles and the red circle indicate the corresponding calculated track on the African plate and the Indian plate, respectively. The numbers in the circles are ages in millions of years. The areas with topography just below the sea surface are now regarded as continental fragments. (Credit: © GFZ/Steinberger)

Such micro-continents in the oceans seem to occur more frequently than previously thought, says a study in the latest issue of Nature Geoscience.

The break-up of continents is often associated with mantle plumes: These giant bubbles of hot rock rise from the deep mantle and soften the tectonic plates from below, until the plates break apart at the hotspots. This is how Eastern Gondwana broke apart about 170 million years ago. At first, one part was separated, which in turn fragmented into Madagascar, India, Australia and Antarctica, which then migrated to their present position.

Plumes currently situated underneath the islands Marion and Reunion appear to have played a role in the emergence of the Indian Ocean. If the zone of the rupture lies at the edge of a land mass (in this case Madagascar / India), fragments of this land mass may be separated off. The Seychelles are a well-known example of such a continental fragment.

A group of geoscientists from Norway, South Africa, Britain and Germany have now published a study that suggests, based on the study of lava sand grains from the beach of Mauritius, the existence of further fragments. The sand grains contain semi-precious zircons aged between 660 and 1970 million years, which is explained by the fact that the zircons were carried by the lava as it pushed through subjacent continental crust of this age.

This dating method was supplemented by a recalculation of plate tectonics, which explains exactly how and where the fragments ended up in the Indian Ocean. Dr. Bernhard Steinberger of the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences and Dr. Pavel Doubrovine of Oslo University calculated the hotspot trail: “On the one hand, it shows the position of the plates relative to the two hotspots at the time of the rupture, which points towards a causal relation,” says Steinberger. “On the other hand, we were able to show that the continent fragments continued to wander almost exactly over the Reunion plume, which explains how they were covered by volcanic rock.” So what was previously interpreted only as the trail of the Reunion hotspot, are continental fragments which were previously not recognized as such because they were covered by the volcanic rocks of the Reunion plume. It therefore appears that such micro-continents in the ocean occur more frequently than previously thought.


Courtesy: science Daily

Discussing the Divine Comedy with Dante- World’s Famous People Art Image

Discussing the Divine Comedy with Dante
Discussing the Divine Comedy with Dante

( Click on image to enlarge)

There are totally 103 famous people present in the image( a Taiwanese Oil Painting by Dai Dudu, Li Tiezi, and Zhang in the year 2006 ), You may recognise some of them, but not all of them. I want to share this art along with their names , here it is

Influential people oil painting

( Click on image to enlarge)

1 Bill Gates, Microsoft founder
2 Homer, Greek poet
3 Cui Jian, Chinese singer
4 Vladimir Lenin, Russian revolutionary
5 Pavel Korchagin, Russian artist
6 Bill Clinton, former US President
7 Peter the Great, Russian leader
8 Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister
9 Bruce Lee, martial arts actor
10 Winston Churchill, former British Prime Minister
11 Henri Matisse, French artist
12 Gengis Khan, Mongolian warlord
13 Napoleon Bonaparte, French military leader
14 Che Guevara, Marxist revolutionary
15 Fidel Castro, former Prime Minister and President of Cuba
16 Marlon Brando, actor
17 Yasser Arafat, former leader of Palastine
18 Julius Caesar, Roman emperor
19 Claire Lee Chennault, Second World War US Lieutenant
20 Luciano Pavarotti, singer
21 George W. Bush, former US President
22 The Prince of Wales
23 Liu Xiang, Chinese hurdler
24 Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General
25 Zhang An (the painter)
26 Mikhail Gorbachev, former Russian leader
27 Li Tiezi (the painter)
28 Dante Alighieri, Florentine poet
29 Dai Dudu (the painter)
30 Pele, footballer
31 Guan Yu, Chinese warlord
32 Ramses II, Egyptian pharoah
33 Charles De Gaulle, French general
34 Albert Nobel, Swedish chemist, founder of Nobel prizes
35 Franklin Roosevelt, former US President
36 Ernest Hemingway, American novelist
37 Elvis Presley, American singer
38 Robert Oppenheimer, American physicist
39 William Shakespeare, English playwright
40 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Austrian composer
41 Steven Spielberg, American film director
42 Pablo Picasso, Spanish painter
43 Marie Curie, physicist and pioneer of radioactivity
44 Zhou Enlai, first Premier of the People’s Republic of China
45 Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, German writer
46 Laozi, Chinese philosopher
47 Marilyn Monroe, American actress
48 Salvador Dali, Spanish painter
49 Dowager Cixi, former ruler of China
50 Ariel Sharon, former Israeli Prime Minister
51 Qi Baishi, Chinese painter
52 Qin Shi Huang, former Emperor of China
53 Mother Teresa, Roman Catholic Missionary (India- Missionaries of Charity)
54 Song Qingling, Chinese politician
55 Rabindranath Tagore, Indian poet
56 Otto Von Bismarck, German statesman
57 Run Run Shaw, Chinese media mogul
58 Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Swiss philosopher
59 Audrey Hepburn, Belgian-born actress
60 Ludwig Van Beethoven, German composer
61 Adolf Hitler, Nazi leader
62 Benito Mussolini, Italian fascist politician
63 Saddam Hussein, former President of Iraq
64 Maxim Gorky, Russian writer
65 Sun Yat-Sen, Chinese revolutionary
66 Den Xiaoping, Chinese revolutionary
67 Alexander Pushkin, Russian author
68 Lu Xun, Chinese writer
69 Joseph Stalin, former Soviet Union leader
70 Leonardo Da Vinci, Italian painter
71 Karl Marx, German philosopher
72 Friedrich Nietzche, German philosopher
73 Abraham Lincoln, former US President
74 Mao Zedong, Chinese dictator
75 Charlie Chaplin, British actor
76 Henry Ford, founder of Ford motor company
77 Lei Feng, Chinese soldier
78 Norman Bethune, Canadian physician
79 Sigmund Freud, Austrian psychiatrist
80 Juan Antonio Samaranch, former International Olympic Committee president
81 Chiang Kai Shek, Chinese general
82 Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom
83 Leo Tolstoy, Russian novelist
84 Li Bai, Chinese poet
85 Corneliu Baba, Romanian painter
86 Auguste Rodin, French artist
87 Dwight Eisenhower, former US President
88 Michael Jordan, American basketball player
89 Hideki Tojo, former Japan Prime Minister
90 Michelangelo, Italian Renaissance painter
91 Yi Sun-Sin, Korean naval commander
92 Mike Tyson, American boxer
93 Vladimir Putin, Russian Prime Minister
94 Hans Christian Andersen, Danish author
95 Shirley Temple, American actress
96 Albert Einstein, German physicist
97 Moses, Hebrew religious leader
98 Confucius, Chinese philosopher
99 Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Indian Nationalist Movement leader
100 Vincent Van Gogh, Dutch painter
101 Toulouse Lautrec, French painter
102 Marcel Duchamp, French artist
103 Behind George Bush (former US President) is Osama bin Laden ( founder of Al Qaeda a global militant Islamist organisation  )


Origin of Life

A coherent pathway — which starts from no more than rocks, water and carbon dioxide and leads to the emergence of the strange bio-energetic properties of living cells — has been traced for the first time in a major hypothesis paper in Cell this week.At the origin of life the first protocells must have needed a vast amount of energy to drive their metabolism and replication, as enzymes that catalyse very specific reactions were yet to evolve. Most energy flux must have simply dissipated without use.

origin of life

A major new hypothesis outlines a coherent pathway that starts from no more than rocks, water and carbon dioxide and leads to the emergence of the strange bio-energetic properties of living cells. (Credit: iStockphoto/Henrik Jonsson)

So where did it all that energy come from on the early Earth, and how did it get focused into driving the organic chemistry required for life?

The answer lies in the chemistry of deep-sea hydrothermal vents. In their paper Nick Lane (UCL, Genetics, Evolution and Environment) and Bill Martin (University of Dusseldorf) address the question of where all this energy came from — and why all life as we know it conserves energy in the peculiar form of ion gradients across membranes.

“Life is, in effect, a side-reaction of an energy-harnessing reaction. Living organisms require vast amounts of energy to go on living,” said Nick Lane.

Humans consume more than a kilogram (more than 700 litres) of oxygen every day, exhaling it as carbon dioxide. The simplest cells, growing from the reaction of hydrogen with carbon dioxide, produce about 40 times as much waste product from their respiration as organic carbon (by mass). In all these cases, the energy derived from respiration is stored in the form of ion gradients over membranes.

This strange trait is as universal to life as the genetic code itself. Lane and Martin show that bacteria capable of growing on no more than hydrogen and carbon dioxide are remarkably similar in the details of their carbon and energy metabolism to the far-from-equilibrium chemistry occurring in a particular type of deep-sea hydrothermal vent, known as alkaline hydrothermal vents.

Based on measured values, they calculate that natural proton gradients, acting across thin semi-conducting iron-sulfur mineral walls, could have driven the assimilation of organic carbon, giving rise to protocells within the microporous labyrinth of these vents.

They go on to demonstrate that such protocells are limited by their own permeability, which ultimately forced them to transduce natural proton gradients into biochemical sodium gradients, at no net energetic cost, using a simple Na+/H+ transporter. Their hypothesis predicts a core set of proteins required for early energy conservation, and explains the puzzling promiscuity of respiratory proteins for both protons and sodium ions.

These considerations could also explain the deep divergence between bacteria and archaea (single celled microorganisms) . For the first time, says Lane, “It is possible to trace a coherent pathway leading from no more than rocks, water and carbon dioxide to the strange bioenergetic properties of all cells living today.”

courtesy: sciencedaily

New Way to Look at Dawn of Life

One of the great mysteries of life is how it began. What physical process transformed a nonliving mix of chemicals into something as complex as a living cell?For more than a century, scientists have struggled to reconstruct the key first steps on the road to life. Until recently, their focus has been trained on how the simple building blocks of life might have been synthesized on the early Earth, or perhaps in space. But because it happened so long ago, all chemical traces have long been obliterated, leaving plenty of scope for speculation and disagreement.

living cell


Assorted diatoms. One of the great mysteries of life is how it began. What physical process transformed a nonliving mix of chemicals into something as complex as a living cell? (Credit: NOAA)

Now, a novel approach to the question of life’s origin, proposed by two Arizona State University scientists, attempts to dramatically redefine the problem. The researchers — Paul Davies, an ASU Regents’ Professor and director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, and Sara Walker, a NASA post-doctoral fellow at the Beyond Center — published their theory in the Dec. 12 issue of the Royal Society journal Interface.

In a nutshell, the authors shift attention from the “hardware” — the chemical basis of life — to the “software” — its information content. To use a computer analogy, chemistry explains the material substance of the machine, but it won’t function without a program and data. Davies and Walker suggest that the crucial distinction between non-life and life is the way that living organisms manage the information flowing through the system.

“When we describe biological processes we typically use informational narratives — cells send out signals, developmental programs are run, coded instructions are read, genomic data are transmitted between generations and so forth,” Walker said. “So identifying life’s origin in the way information is processed and managed can open up new avenues for research.”

“We propose that the transition from non-life to life is unique and definable,” added Davies. “We suggest that life may be characterized by its distinctive and active use of information, thus providing a roadmap to identify rigorous criteria for the emergence of life. This is in sharp contrast to a century of thought in which the transition to life has been cast as a problem of chemistry, with the goal of identifying a plausible reaction pathway from chemical mixtures to a living entity.”

Focusing on informational development helps move away from some of the inherent disadvantages of trying to pin down the beginnings of chemical life.

“Chemical based approaches,” Walker said, “have stalled at a very early stage of chemical complexity — very far from anything we would consider ‘alive.’ More seriously they suffer from conceptual shortcomings in that they fail to distinguish between chemistry and biology.”

“To a physicist or chemist life seems like ‘magic matter,'” Davies explained. “It behaves in extraordinary ways that are unmatched in any other complex physical or chemical system. Such lifelike properties include autonomy, adaptability and goal-oriented behavior — the ability to harness chemical reactions to enact a pre-programmed agenda, rather than being a slave to those reactions.”

“We believe the transition in the informational architecture of chemical networks is akin to a phase transition in physics, and we place special emphasis on the top-down information flow in which the system as a whole gains causal purchase over its components,” Davies added. “This approach will reveal how the logical organization of biological replicators differs crucially from trivial replication associated with crystals (non-life). By addressing the causal role of information directly, many of the baffling qualities of life are explained.”

The authors expect that, by re-shaping the conceptual landscape in this fundamental way, not just the origin of life, but other major transitions will be explained, for example, the leap from single cells to multi-cellularity.


courtesy: science daily

Australian Multicellular Fossils Point to Life On Land, Not at Sea, Geologist Proposes

Ancient multicellular fossils long thought to be ancestors of early marine life are remnants of land-dwelling lichen or other microbial colonies, says University of Oregon scientist Gregory J. Retallack, who has been studying fossil soils of South Australia.Ediacaran (pronounced EDI-akran) fossils date to 542-635 million years ago. They’ve been considered fossil jellyfish, worms and sea pens, but are preserved in ways distinct from marine invertebrate fossils. The fossils — first discovered in 1946 in Australia’s Ediacara Hills — are found in iron-colored impressions similar to plant fossils and microbes in fossil soils.

multicellular fossils

Dickinsonia fossils in South Australia, shown here, were likely formed by lichen or other microbial consortia, not from marine invertebrates or giant protists as previously theorized. (Credit: Courtesy of Greg Retallack)

Retallack, a native of Australia, examined ancient Ediacaran soils with an array of state-of-the-art chemical and microscopic techniques, including an electron microprobe and scanning electron microscope in the UO’s CAMCOR Microanalytical Facility headed by John Donovan and rock-analysis technology in the UO’s stable isotope laboratory of Ilya Bindeman.

The soils with fossils, Retallack writes in his study, “are distinguished by a surface called ‘old elephant skin,’ which is best preserved under covering sandstone beds.” The healed cracks and lumpy appearance of sandy “old elephant skin” are most like the surface of microbial soil crusts in modern deserts.

“This discovery has implications for the tree of life, because it removes Ediacaran fossils from the ancestry of animals,” said Retallack, professor of geological sciences and co-director of paleontological collections at the UO’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History. His evidence, mostly gathered from a site in the Flinders Ranges, is presented in a paper placed online ahead of print by the journal Nature.

“These fossils have been a first-class scientific mystery,” he said. “They are the oldest large multicellular fossils. They lived immediately before the Cambrian evolutionary explosion that gave rise to familiar modern groups of animals.”

Retallack studied numerous Ediacaran fossils and determined that the diversity reflects a preference by the ancient organisms for “unfrozen, low salinity soils, rich in nutrients, like most terrestrial organisms.” Thus the fossils in Australia’s iconic red-rock ranges, he concludes, were landlubbers. In his closing paragraph, Retallack outlines implications for a variety of other Edicaran fossils, that could have been lichens, other microbial consortia, fungal fruiting bodies, slime molds, flanged pedestals of biological soil crusts, and even casts of needle ice.

Ediacaran fossils, he said, represent “an independent evolutionary radiation of life on land that preceded by at least 20 million years the Cambrian evolutionary explosion of animals in the sea.” Increased chemical weathering by large organisms on land may have been needed to fuel the demand of nutrient elements by Cambrian animals. Independent discoveries of Cambrian fossils comparable with Ediacaran ones is evidence, he said, that even in the Cambrian, more than 500 million years ago, life on land may have been larger and more complex than life in the sea.

Retallack leaves open the possibility that some Ediacaran fossils found elsewhere in the world may not be land-based in origin, writing in his conclusion that the many different kinds of these fossils need to be tested and re-evaluated.

“The key evidence for this new view is that the beds immediately below the cover sandstones in which they are preserved were fossil soils,” he said. “In other words the fossils were covered by sand in life position at the top of the soils in which they grew. In addition, frost features and chemical composition of the fossil soils are evidence that they grew in cold dry soils, like lichens in tundra today, rather than in tropical marine lagoons.”

Fossil soils are usually recognized from root traces, soil horizons and soil structures, but in rocks of Ediacaran age, before the advent of rooted plants, only the second two criteria can be used to recognize fossil soils. Ediacaran fossil soils, Retallack said, represent ecosystems less effective at weathering than the modern array of ecosystems, so that soil horizons and soil structures are not as well developed as they are in modern soils.

courtesy: Science Daily

“The research conducted by Dr. Retallack helps to unravel the mystery of very ancient life on Earth,” said Kimberly Andrews Espy, UO vice president for research and innovation, and dean of the graduate school. “It also serves as an example of how technology, some of it developed at the University of Oregon, can be used to analyze materials from anywhere in the world.”

Human Ancestors Used Fire One Million Years Ago

An international Research team has identified the earliest known evidence of the use of fire by human ancestors. Microscopic traces of wood ash, alongside animal bones and stone tools, were found in a layer dated to one million years ago at the Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa.”The analysis pushes the timing for the human use of fire back by 300,000 years, suggesting that human ancestors as early as Homo erectus may have begun using fire as part of their way of life,” said U of T anthropologist Michael Chazan, co-director of the project and director of U of T’s Archaeology Centre.

View from the bottom of the excavated area towards the entrance to Wonderwerk Cave. (Credit: R. Yates)

Wonderwerk is a massive cave located near the edge of the Kalahari where earlier excavations by Peter Beaumont of the McGregor Museum in Kimberley, South Africa, had uncovered an extensive record of human occupation. A research project, co-directed by U of T’s Chazan and Liora Kolska Horwitz of Hebrew University, has been doing detailed analysis of the material from Beaumont’s excavation along with renewed field work on the Wonderwerk site.

Analysis of sediment by lead authors Francesco Berna and Paul Goldberg (pictured below right) of Boston University revealed ashed plant remains and burned bone fragments, both of which appear to have been burned locally rather than carried into the cave by wind or water. The researchers also found extensive evidence of surface discoloration that is typical of burning.

“The control of fire would have been a major turning point in human evolution,” said Chazan. “The impact of cooking food is well documented, but the impact of control over fire would have touched all elements of human society.

“Socializing around a camp fire might actually be an essential aspect of what makes us human.”

First Modern Humans Settled in Arabia

A new study, using genetic analysis to look for clues about human migration over sixty thousand years ago, suggests that the first modern humans settled in Arabia on their way from the Horn of Africa to the rest of the world.Researchers said, “A major unanswered question regarding the dispersal of modern humans around the world concerns the geographical site of the first steps out of Africa,” explains Dr Luísa Pereira from the Institute of Molecular Pathology and Immunology of the University of Porto (IPATIMUP). “One popular model predicts that the early stages of the dispersal took place across the Red Sea to southern Arabia, but direct genetic evidence has been thin on the ground.”

A new study, using genetic analysis to look for clues about human migration over sixty thousand years ago, suggests that the first modern humans settled in Arabia on their way from the Horn of Africa to the rest of the world. (Credit: © photoromano / Fotolia)

The international research team, which included colleagues from across Europe, Arabia and North Africa, analysed three of the earliest non-African maternal lineages. These early branches are associated with the time period when modern humans first successfully moved out of Africa.

Using mitochondrial DNA analysis, which traces the female line of descent and is useful for comparing relatedness between different populations, the researchers compared complete genomes from Arabia and the Near East with a database of hundreds more samples from Europe. They found evidence for an ancient ancestry within Arabia.

Professor Martin Richards of the University of Leeds’ Faculty of Biological Sciences, said: “The timing and pattern of the migration of early modern humans has been a source of much debate and research. Our new results suggest that Arabia, rather than North Africa or the Near East, was the first staging-post in the spread of modern humans around the world.”