Stories tagged China


Pterodactylus ancestor discovered
Pterodactylus ancestor discoveredCourtesy Mark Ryan
Over in China, out of one of the richest hunting grounds for new and unusual dinosaur-era fossils, the earliest known member in the family of flying reptiles known as pterosaurs has been described in a paper published in Current Biology.

Named Kryptodrakon progenitor, the ancestral pterodactyloid was discovered in mudstones in the highly fossiliferous Shishugou Formation of northwest China by a team of international paleontologists.

The flying reptile's name essentially means "first-born hidden serpent", the genus name Kryptodrakon referring to the popular martial arts film, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" which was filmed near the location where the fossil was discovered in the Chinese autonomous region known as Xinjiang.

Sporting a wingspan of some 4.5 feet, Kryptodrakon lived in a floodplain environment during the Middle-Upper Jurassic period, about 163 million years ago. Descendents of the newly-discovered pterodactyloid would evolve into much larger flying reptiles such as the giant, Cessna-sized Quetzacoatlus found in Late Cretaceous sediments in Texas. Pterosaurs were not dinosaurs but share a common ancestor with them.

The research increases our knowledge of pterosaur development and was led by Brian Andres from the University of South Florida (USF), James Clark of George Washington Columbia College of Arts and Sciences, and Xu Xing of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Science Daily story
Pterosaur page
Paper in Current Biology


Bang, zoom! Straight to the Moon, Alice!: Actually, not to the Moon. Straight to space, though. This is one of China's Long March rockets, which carried the Taikonauts to Tiangong-1 yesterday.
Bang, zoom! Straight to the Moon, Alice!: Actually, not to the Moon. Straight to space, though. This is one of China's Long March rockets, which carried the Taikonauts to Tiangong-1 yesterday.Courtesy AAxander
The International Space Station, the pride of low Earth orbit, lives up to its name for the most part—work there is the joint effort of a fifteen-nation partnership. So it’s not just NASA up there, there’s also the Russian Federal Space Agency, and, uh … probably some other things too. (JK. The Japanese, European, and Canadian space agencies are all involved.)

When the partnership built this cool orbiting clubhouse, however, they hung a sign above the rope ladder, reading “No guRlz aLoud!!!” Except instead of “gurlz” it said “China,” and presumably the spelling was a little better. Also, there was no sign or rope ladder, because that would be ridiculous. But the sentiment remained: China is not part of the ISS partnership, because Congress has banned NASA from any contact, collaborations or partnerships with China, because of concerns over technology transfer.

In response, China has gone ahead with a space station program of their own. China has plans to build a full size space station in the not too distant future, but for the time being, they already have an orbiting module—sort of a mini space station. The module, “Tiangong-1,” has actually been in service for almost two years already, and China launched a three-person “taikonaut” crew to practice docking with the module yesterday. This will be China’s fifth manned mission to Tiangong-1, and it includes the second woman from China to travel into space.

What do y’all think? Exciting news? Would we be better off collaborating with China in space? Or are you all for a little competition? What’s the coolest name: astronaut, cosmonaut, or taikonaut? Let everyone know in the comments!

I feel like there should be some whacky music or pun-filled intro a la America's Funniest Videos, but we'll let this video just stand on its own.


A Chinese carrier rocket: Apparently in the process of transforming into or from a giant robot.
A Chinese carrier rocket: Apparently in the process of transforming into or from a giant robot.Courtesy AAxanderr
Of course, by “the skies,” I mean “space.” And by “eyes,” I mean “money.” “China” means “China,” though.

So, by “China sets its money on space,” I mean that China has announced its intentions to court that sweet maiden (or charming lad) we call space. (Also, it turns out that I like space travel/dating analogies quit a bit.)

China, already one of only three countries to send a human to space (after Mother Russia and the United States of Awesmerica), has big plans to expand its space program in coming years. While the US is cutting back its program, China intends to launch manned vessels, freighters, and space stations in just the next five years. (Space stations, plural, seems kind of strange to me, but that’s what the article said.)

China’s space program is run by the country’s military, which freaks some folks out, but China claims that the venture is purely scientific, and, being one of the big boy countries, it’s eager to make its own contributions to space exploration. Also, and this is a rough translation from the original Chinese, it has all this money, and the cool kids all have (or had) sweet space programs, so ….

Despite the impressive goals and Chinas recent rapid progress in space exploration, spokespeople acknowledge that China has a lot of work yet to do to get to the level of Russia’s and the USA’s space programs, seeing as how those institutions have a 50-year head start. So if you’re feeling defensive or jealous, you can keep that in mind.

But are you feeling defensive or jealous? Or are you just excited that more people will be going to space, and more science will be happening up there?

Only a few days after Google published satellite photographs of possibly secret nuclear facilities in Iran, new images of obviously manmade structures have been spotted in the Gobi desert in China. All of the structures are located in northwestern China, near the borders of Xinjiang and Gansu province. This is an area that China uses for its military, space and nuclear programs.

In this Google Map image, burnt-out vehicles can be see seen in what is speculated to be a military training facility. Northwest of that site can be seen an additional manmade facility. Another image reveals what appear to be large manmade bodies of water. This radial structure may be a targeting site.

News Article: Google map mystery of giant lines spotted by satellite in Gobi desert


Boom!Courtesy sfllaw
Word on the street is that the world may be ending on Saturday. Unfortunately, I’m not sure exactly when—I’m not keyed into the ins and outs of religious fear mongering enough to make an exact calculation—so I can’t tell you if you should cancel your lunch date, or if you’ve got until midnight to continue doing whatever it is you do. Jigsaw puzzles? Hard drugs? Far be it from me to judge.

And, you know, normally I’d dismiss this as an organization’s or individual’s effort to gain attention through a frightening claim that has no basis in reality, but … watermelons are freaking exploding in China!

Whatever holy scripture this May 21st thing was extrapolated from, I guarantee there’s a passage in there along the lines of, “And in the east, melons shall burst on the vine. Their shells will rupture, and tiny seeds shall fly forth. Juice will be everywhere.” I mean, it would fit, right? This is the sort of thing that always happens before the end of the world! How am I going to explain this to my cat?!

Now, some folks—I’ll call them unbelievers—insist that the exploding melons actually aren’t bursting from anxiety over the imminent end of everything they care about. Instead, they say that they’re bursting because of a lazy farming technique, where a chemical called forchlorfenuron has been over applied. Forchlorfer… whatever, causes increased cell division in fruit, and is sprayed on watermelons and their ilk to get bigger, faster growing fruit. The resulting watermelons can be oddly shaped, and don’t taste all that great, but they’re supposed to be harmless to humans. And, apparently, they can explode.

Now, generally we keep an open mind regarding fertilizers and high-yield farming techniques around here, but this is a good example of the hazards of wily-nily application of chemicals to farms. (Assuming, for the sake of argument, that this isn’t a symptom of the apocalypse.) If there’s no significant nutritional gain, it seems kind of crazy. And if this chemical is causing explosion in the crop it’s supposed to help, it makes one wonder what its effect will be when it’s absorbed in the soil or washed off the fields (and into other vegetation). And there’s the question of whether farmers should be allowed to do this. And what the market conditions are that make them want to/need to use chemicals like forchlorfenuron. And if there’s a benefit to using it in any situations.

But that’s all probably very complicated, and should only be considered by people who don’t believe that the world is on its way out. Me? I’m not even going to brush my teeth before Saturday.


It's a world leader in clean energy investment and clean coal research and development. Last year, it manufactured a third of the world's solar panels and wind turbines, and it's luring companies from all over the world to build factories there. It has recently made huge investments in clean energy education. But it's not America.

The green tide: Is green the new red?
The green tide: Is green the new red?Courtesy Jude Freeman

The country I'm describing is China. That's right--the world's newly-dubbed largest net emitter of greenhouse gasses. It isn't bound by reduction requirements under the Kyoto protocol, and its use of fossil fuels is powering a growing and booming economy. And yet, the Chinese are courting US companies with financial incentives to build clean tech factories and research centers in China. They're working to corner clean tech markets in California and South Africa. In fact, over the last three years, China has gone from controlling 2% of California's solar market to a whopping 46%--ousting its American competitors. And that's not all--the country has become a proving ground for clean coal with the guidance of US companies and researchers.

Oh, the terror: handouts from the Sun.
Oh, the terror: handouts from the Sun.Courtesy BrokenSphere

These companies hope to learn from their experiences testing clean coal tech in China, and bring that knowledge back to the US to transform our own polluting coal plants into next-generation powerhouses. So what's in it for the Chinese? They're quickly gaining lead on the cutting edge in green technology, making room for growth in the energy sector without increasing pollution or relying on foreign imports, and reaping economic benefits--and they foresee substantial economic benefits in the future, when they could be the major supplier of green technology and research to the world.

Given the US's slowing progress on clean technologies, what do you think this will mean for our future? Should we be trying to get on top of green tech research and development? Or is it best left to others? Or are those even the right questions--will we have the best success when we pool resources with other countries?


I was not even a thought in the 1970s, but I've heard it was a pretty good time to be a rock. People took you as their pets, and I'll bet Professor Lawrence Edwards had a couple Pet Rocks back in the day.

Family Portrait: From left to right: Momma Igneous, Baby Sedimentary, and Poppa Metamorphic.
Family Portrait: From left to right: Momma Igneous, Baby Sedimentary, and Poppa Metamorphic.Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

You see, Edwards is an isotope geochemist, which sounds just about as awesome as it is: he studies the teeny tiny radioactive elements in rocks. These elements help Edwards date rocks. No, that doesn't mean he wines and dines them. Quite the opposite! Edwards developed a sneaky way to figure out how old they are (and let me tell you, nobody wants to be reminded of their age when they're hundreds of thousands of years old).

Edwards' method is similar to carbon-14 dating, only way better. In certain kinds of rocks, Edwards can date rocks as old as 500,000 years compared to carbon-14's measly 50,000 years. That's a whole order of magnitude older! Here's how Edwards' method works: Scientists know that half of any quantity of uranium decays into thorium every 245,500 years. Edwards uses a mass spectrometer to measure the ratio of two radioactive elements -- uranium and thorium. Then, Edwards compares the present ratio of uranium to thorium to what scientists would expect from the half-life decay and bada-bing, bada-boom! Simply genius.

Why am I getting all hyped up over some old rocks? Because they're helping us learn more about ourselves and the tenuous place we hold in this world. For example, Edwards has used his super-special method to trace the strength of monsoon seasons in China. Turns out weak monsoon seasons correlate with the fall of several historical dynasties, and strong monsoons correlate with climatic warming in Europe. Edwards calls this work,

"the best-dated climate record covering this time period."


Here is a link to the BBC photo coverage of a devastating mud slide in China.

For videos, You Tube has a Chinese TV coverage of the Gansu, China landslide

In searching for links I discovered Dave's Landslide Blog by Dave Petley, who is the Wilson Professor of Hazard and Risk in the Department of Geography at Durham University in the United Kingdom. Check it out if you want to learn something.


Extreme heat, fires, and flooding

Weather hazard
Weather hazardCourtesy NOAA
In my previous post about our global warming trend you were told to expect more extreme rainfalls and record setting heat. Examples of each have recently made the news.

Globally, at least 14 different countries have reported all-time record high temperatures this year. AOL News

  • Moscow, Russia 102° F
  • Maryland and Virginia 105° F
  • Finland 99° F
  • Saudi Arabia &Iraq 125.6° F
  • Pakistan 128.3° F

Russia declares fires "a natural disaster"

"President Dmitry Medvedev called the fires "a natural disaster" Discovery News

Hundreds of thousands of firefighters, including army troops battled forest fires raging across central Russia in a heat wave that has killed more than 30 people.

Devastating floods in China and Pakistan

Over a thousan people have died or are missing in central and southern China in the country's worst floods in more than a decade. The huge Three Gorges Dam, designed to withstand a 10,000 year flood, was within 20m of overflowing.

Over a million people are effected by the flooding in Pakistan. In Swat alone, the floods have destroyed more than 14,600 houses and 22 schools.