Monday, April 26, 2010

Palaeoporn 14

Ménage à trois!

These are Estangia bilobata trilobites from the Lower Cambrian Emu Bay Shale on Kangaroo Island, South Australia. Estangia is the most common fossil found in the Emu Bay Shale. However, these came from the outcrop of Emu Bay Shale at Emu Bay, and not from the more famous site further along the coast that contains exceptionally preserved fossils such as Anomalocaris and Myoscolex. (The Emu Bay Shale outcrops at two locations on Kangaroo Island)

These little critters show the difference between the two depositional sites. The site with exceptional preservation shows evidence - palaeontological (whole specimens, low diversity) sedimentological (fine grained sediments), and chemical (evidence of reducing environment-enriched trace elements) - of a low energy, low oxygen environment conducive to exceptional preservation.

On the other hand at Emu Bay the site shows evidence of a higher energy, higher oxygen depositional environment. This is because the sediments show more interbedded sands and silts (coarser grained therefore higher energy), oxidating environment-enriched trace elements, and the fossils do not show exceptional preservation, and are fragmented.

In the example above, the fossils assemblage comprises the heads of three Estangia trilobites (the lower one is both turned over and spun through 180 degrees). The heads are not complete. The sides of the head - the librigena (or the free cheeks) are missing. This shows that the heads represent molts.

Trilobites are arthropods and so have to molt the outer exoskeleton in order to grow. To do this, they have special lines of weakness in the exoskeleton called sutures. When the trilobite molts, these suture lines break apart, allowing the trilobite to leave the exoskeleton. These sutures are particularly obvious on the head where they run from the margin down to the eye, around the eye and then back out to either the side margin or the back margin.

In this case the suture lines are opisthoparian,
as they run from the eye to the back of the head rather than out to the side They run along the eye so that the eyes will be the first thing to break out of the old exoskeleton - allowing the trilobite to keep its vision while the molting process continues. This results in the librigena breaking away from the head. Often the molting process breaks the attachment between the head and the rest of the body, resulting in the head becoming detached from the rest of the body.

Since these fossils comprise the cranidium only (head minus the librigena), this indicates that they are molts and that they have been sorted by currents that have separated them from the body and librigena.

Compare this with another Emu Bay Shale Estangia, this time from the site of exceptional preservation (right).

Here the head and body is present. However, it is still a molt because the librigena have been freed from the head. In this specimen, the right librigena (outlined) is still associated with the body but has moved some distance away, and is both turned over and spun through 180 degrees so the the spine (that normally points backwards) now points forwards.

So the three in the top image represent a disarticulated random grouping, and have not been caught in flagrante delicto. So move along . . . nothing to see here . ..

Diagram credit:
Trilobite Facial Sutures

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Possible Association Between Multivitamins and Breast Cancer

It's well known that the primary result of taking vitamins is basically expensive urine (e.g. here), despite alternative medicine sites claiming it's a myth.

However, now there may potentially be a much more serious downside to multivitamins than just expensive urine - breast cancer.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition studied 35,000 women over a 10-year period.

In 1997, 35,329 cancer-free women completed a self-administered questionnaire that provided information on multivitamin use as well as other breast cancer risk factors.

During a follow-up, 974 women were diagnosed with incident breast cancer. When researchers checked, they found that women using multivitamins were over-represented. For those taking at least seven vitamin pills per week, the risk of contracting breast cancer increased by 19 percent in comparison with those who did not take vitamins at all.

The study concluded that the results suggest multivitamin use is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, and that this observed association is of concern and merits further investigation.

It is known that some women who use multivitamins get firmer breasts than other women, through an increase in breast tissue density, and significant increases the density of breast tissue is a strong risk factor for breast cancer.

This is not a causal link, but, as the study concludes, needs further investigation.

Complimentary health is a A$2.5 billion industry in Australia.

Multivitamin use and breast cancer incidence in a prospective cohort of Swedish women. Susanna C Larsson, Agneta Åkesson, Leif Bergkvist and Alicja Wol. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, March 24, 2010. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.288

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Helpful Hints when Protecting Pedophiles

Don't leave a paper trail.

The ongoing PR disaster that is the current revelations about the pedophile priests cover up by the Catholic Church has now drawn Ratzinger even more into the frame.

The BBC is reporting on a letter delaying action on a priest in America in 1985, and signed by then Cardinal Ratzinger. The first evidence of direct involvement by Ratzinger.

According to the BBC, in 1978 a catholic priest Stephen Kiesle was sentenced to three years of probation for lewd conduct with two young boys in San Francisco. The Oakland diocese had recommended Kiesle's removal in 1981 but that that did not happen until 1987.

Cardinal Ratzinger took over the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which deals with sex abuse cases, in 1981.

So the diocese asked for the Kiesle to be defrocked in 1981. In 1985 Ratzinger wrote to the diocese:
Most Excellent Bishop

Having received your letter of September 13 of this year, regarding the matter of the removal from all priestly burdens pertaining to Rev Stephen Miller Kiesle in your diocese, it is my duty to share with you the following:

This court, although it regards the arguments presented in favour of removal in this case to be of grave significance, nevertheless deems it necessary to consider the good of the Universal Church together with that of the petitioner, and it is also unable to make light of the detriment that granting the dispensation can provoke with the community of Christ's faithful, particularly regarding the young age of the petitioner.

It is necessary for this Congregation to submit incidents of this sort to very careful consideration, which necessitates a longer period of time.

In the meantime your Excellency must not fail to provide the petitioner with as much paternal care as possible and in addition to explain to same the rationale of this court, which is accustomed to proceed keeping the common good especially before its eyes.

Let me take this occasion to convey sentiments of the highest regard always to you.

Your most Reverend Excellency

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

So . . , like . . , 'we think the arguments are grave, but we need more time, think about how the Church would look if we defrocked him, consider the impact on him, and be sure to minister to him'.

Nothing about protecting the flock that placed their trust in the Church and who may be in harms way.

Now the Church claims that this must be taken in context of a long series of correspondence on this matter between the Vatican and the diocese, and this is true. There may be other letters laying out protections for the flock, but if there are, surely the Vatican could release them?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Catholic Sycophancy 101

The latest PR disaster that is the Catholic church continues unabated. And much of it has to be put at the feet of Ratzinger. Confirming once again what a terrible "choice" he was. I put choice in inverted commas because, of course it was no such thing.

Having run the Vatican for several years while the incumbent Pope was literally a dribbling idiot, he successfully entrenched the fundamentalists in power behind the scenes. Having done so, the majority had unelectable sycophants, while all the best candidates were moderate and so blocked by Ratzinger's faction. Having created the impasse Ratzinger graciously steps up to the plate for the good of the Church - his church of course.

The problem with surrounding yourself with sycophants is that, well, their qualifications are that they are sycophants, not that they have experience or expertise with the issues.

This has been highlighted by the series of PR disasters the Vatican continues to stumble through.

The welcoming back into the Church of a holocaust denier.
The excommunication of people involved with saving the life of a 12 year old rape victim.
The ongoing falsehoods regarding condoms and AIDS in Africa.

Now comes the latest scandels, the continuing revelations of pedophilia by Catholic priests and the failure by the church to deal with it.

This time Ratzinger is intimately involved, as it appears he was informed about these activities but failed the victims. In fact, he apparently issued an letter in 2001 instructing that all case should be kept quiet and dealt with within the church (now I'm no lawyer, but isn't instructing someone to hide a crime, itself a crime?)

Clearly the Catholic church holds it's priests to a different standard to everyone else. That standard appears to be 'all priests are considered innocent until the crime becomes public'.

The latest attempts at damage control continues the inept performance of this Pope and the Vatican.

The victims have been blamed.
The media has been blamed.
The holocaust has been invoked to support the church.
The 'the fact that some boys were pubescent means that it wasn't pedophilia' defence. (No, seriously!).

The latest defence - change the story. It's now all about atheism

And with that we welcome the latest sycophant to be promoted - Bishop Anthony Fisher OP, DD, BA(Hons), LLB, BTheol(Hons), DPhil, the new Bishop of Parramatta, and historical ignoramus.

In his first easter message The good Bishop says:
Last century we tried godlessness on a grand scale and the effects were devastating. Nazism, Stalinism, Pol-Pottery, mass murder, abortion and broken relationships: all promoted by state-imposed atheism or culture-insinuated secularism, the illusion that we can build a better life without God.
Natzism? Really? The army that had "Gott Mit Uns" on their uniform was godless?

The new Bishop of Parramatta, on message and clueless - should go far in Ratzinger's brave new world.