Tuesday, 11 December 2012


From Science Mag
A team of paleontologists thinks it may have identified the earliest known dinosaur—a creature no bigger than a Labrador retriever that lived about 243 million years ago. That's at least 10 million years earlier than the oldest known dinos and could change researchers' views of how they evolved. But some scientists, including the study's authors, caution that the fossils could instead represent a close dino relative.
Tracing back the earliest dinosaurs has not been easy. Fossils that old tend to be fragmentary, and researchers don't always agree about their evolutionary pedigree. Paleontologists do agree, however, that pint-sized specimens found in Argentina and dated to 230 million years ago—with names like Eoraptor and Eodromaeus—are true dinosaurs. And in 2010, a team led by Sterling Nesbitt, a paleontologist at the University of Washington, Seattle, reported in Nature the discovery of a close dinosaur relative in Tanzania's Manda Beds, a geological formation dated to between about 242 million and 245 million years ago. That specimen, called Asilisaurus, is not a dinosaur, but belongs to a so-called "sister taxon"—that is, the closest it can be to a dinosaur without actually being one.
That made Nesbitt and his colleagues take a closer look at what else has been found in the Manda Beds. One set of fossils, including an arm bone and several vertebrae, had been discovered in the 1930s and studied for decades by Alan Charig, a famed paleontologist at London's Natural History Museum. Before he died in 1997, Charig named the specimens Nyasasaurus, but he never published his conclusions about whether it was a dinosaur.
For the new study, which also includes Nyasasaurus fossils housed in the South African Museum in Cape Town, Nesbitt's team carried out a systematic comparison of the bones with those of other dinosaurs and their relatives. The researchers, who report their findings today in Biology Letters, find a number of features characteristic of true dinos. For example, Nyasasaurus has a broad crest of bone along the edge of its upper arm, to which the animal's chest muscles would have attached; this crest appears to extend more than 30% of the bone's length, a telltale dino feature. Nyasasaurus also has three vertebrae in its sacrum, the part of the spine that is attached to the pelvis, whereas dino ancestors only had two. And a microscopic study of the arm bone, carried out by team member Sarah Werning of the University of California, Berkeley, shows that it had grown very rapidly during the animal's development, also typical of dinosaurs as well as later mammals and birds.
Nesbitt says that this combination of characteristics, rather than any one taken alone, makes a strong case thatNyasasaurus was "either a dinosaur or the closest relative." Moreover, by the time early dinosaurs such asEoraptor and Eodromaeus show up in Argentina at least 10 million years later, they already represent diverse groups that must have been evolving for millions of years. That means that dinosaur evolution must have begun a considerable time before that, Nesbitt says. And it makes Nyasasaurus a good candidate for an early dino, especially as a very close dinosaur relative, Asilisaurus, was also living in the Manda Beds some 243 million years ago.

The team stresses that its findings don't suggest that the earliest dinosaurs evolved in Africa, despite the Tanzanian location of the fossils: At that time, Africa was part of a supercontinent called Pangaea, which also included present-day South America, Antarctica, and Australia. But the results may contradict the views of some researchers that the first dinosaurs diversified in an "early burst" of rapid evolution soon after they appeared.
The authors are "properly careful" in saying that Nyasasaurus is probably, but not definitely, a dinosaur, because the arm bone is not complete, says Michael Benton, a paleobiologist at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom. But even if the team is not "100% certain" that it's a true dinosaur, Benton adds, the existence of a close dinosaur relative that early "guarantees [dinosaurs] must have originated then also."
Max Langer, a paleontologist at the University of São Paulo in Brazil, agrees that the fragmentary nature of the arm bone makes estimates of the length of its crest "highly speculative" and argues against making any "bold claims" about finding the earliest dinosaur.
As for the discovery's implications for the "early burst" hypothesis, Stephen Brusatte, a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, insists that it "doesn't nix the early burst idea at all." IfNyasasaurus is only a sister taxon to dinosaurs, Brusatte says, then the early burst hypothesis "would only be falsified if true dinosaurs lived between the time of Nyasasaurus and the time that we see several species of unequivocal true dinosaurs in Argentina" 230 million years ago.
Nevertheless, Brusatte says, "within the next decade I expect the Manda finds to greatly change our understanding" of the rise of the mighty dinosaurs. 

Wednesday, 28 November 2012


Solar energy in this country has grossly been underutilized!

Equatorial Kenya has been blessed with an uninterrupted solar supply 365 days in an year and the government has seemed oblivious to this fact. Rural Kenya has been a beneficiary of the rural electrification project that has tried to connect more people to the national power grid that is already grappling with power shortages and inadequate supply to the fast growing economy. Understandably rural Kenya demand for power is not that high but penetration has also been an issue for the project. Rural homes grapple with high prices of fuel used primarily for lighting as firewood remains the most preferred cooking fuel. Most of the projects undertaken many companies and individuals have been small scale and has involved supply of solar lanterns. This, however small can have a great impact of these families lives. On average it is estimated that these families use about 75/= a day on kerosene and in an economy where most people live on a dollar a day that amount is ridiculously high! If we get enough lanterns into these homes we could solve a problem that could seem hard in a very simple way.

Urban Kenya can also benefit greatly from solar power. The government recently passed a law that required installation of solar panels in certain households and businesses. Establishments coming up have been trying to comply to this law and this could significantly reduce the power costs for these businesses and households although more should be done to push for proper implementation of the law. The Nairobi City Council comes under a lot of criticism with its archaic laws, askaris, and councilors alike! But I must commend them on one fact, their use of solar panels for street lights. Along Parliament Road all these street lights have solar panels and this should be used in almost if not all of the light in the city.

This model would have worked very well on the lighting along the Thika Super highway.
All in all the government MUST reduce taxes on solar equipment being imported! This is the only way that we can encourage use of solar energy in the country and county governments will be wise to encourage use of solar in their counties since it will solve some of the problems that people grapple with. That said......

Thursday, 8 November 2012

GATE TO HELL: Not As Far As You'd Imagine

Remember the 50 Year Old Fire in Centralia Pennsylvania? Of course you do. Because you have subscribed this this blog and thus receive regular updates of geological happenings in the world. Thank you for doing that by the way.

So if you thought the 50 year old fire was bad, wait till you hear this. Somewhere in Turkmenistan in a town called Derweze ( take some time to Google that location), there is another crater that has been on fire for 40 years.
On the edge: Two people stand and look into the burning hole, which has become known as 'The Door to Hell'
These are probably geologists wondering how far hell was from where they stood. Photo credit: DailyMail
This giant hell hole in the middle of the Karakum Desert is a result an assumption gone haywire. Soviet geologists in 1971 were drilling for natural gas when the cavern collapsed and their rig got lost in the 70 m wide hole. In anger, Boris, the lead contractor, decided to make the hole pay by setting it on fire.
'Burn in hell you piece of schist!'
But as it turned out, the supply of gas was almost unlimited and the fire has been burning ever since.

Watchu doing Philpski? Nothing just chilling

According to the Daily Mail: In April 2010 the country's president, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, visited the site and ordered that the hole should be closed but this is yet to happen.

What I think should happen is they find ways of harvesting that fire. Maybe put up pipes that will go to everyone home (it's a small town) where it will be used for heating shower water and swimming pools.

What do you think they should do with it? Let me know.
Light show: A spectacular view of the flames burning inside the crater in the heart of the Karakum Desert
If the locals haven't started using this pit for disposal of waste, then they are really wasting it.
Hot: A closer view of the fire inside the hole, which locals have named 'The Door to Hell'

Long way down: The hole was formed in 1971 when ground beneath a drilling rig collapsed
This is why you need good data.  And maybe some 3d imaging

 Forl the actual real reason as to why they burnt off the gas, read the article on the DailyMail

Thursday, 25 October 2012

How Dinosaurs Mated: The Sexisaurus Chronicles

During your lifetime you have probably spent huge amounts of time wondering, how the hell did dinosaurs have sex? Did the male mount the female or vice versa? How much semen did one ejaculation produce? How tricky was it considering that a T-Rex can weigh up to 30 tonnes and one crucial body part was 12 feet [sch]long?

If you have not been wondering such things, well then congratulations. You are not a weirdo. Or a paleontologist.

 These are the questions that keep paleontologist up at night (probably playing with themselves to such thoughts. Probably). They finally came up with the answer. 'Dinos made love like dogs'.

I am going to give you a moment or two to absorb this shocking revelation by the researchers.

'All dinosaurs used the same basic position to mate,' said Dr Beverly Halstead, an English researcher who spent too much time on this issue. 'Mounting from the rear, he put his forelimbs on her shoulders, lifting one hind limb across her back and twisting his tail under hers.' Well!
Most researchers concluded that dinosaurs had sex like 
The males and females of modern-day birds and reptiles have a single body opening for urination, defecation, and reproduction--something called a cloaca (Latin for sewer! wow!). Paleontologists believe that dinosaurs had the same basic equipment, and that they coupled by pressing their cloacas together. Kinda sapphic if you ask me.

Pelecanimimus dinosaurs mating - these bird-like creatures lived 120 million years ago during the Cretaceous period
No penis is needed to perform a "cloacal kiss." But some birds have penises and crocodiles sport penis-like "intromittent organs," and male dinosaurs might have had something similar. As you might imagine, a dinosaur penis might have been pretty big--perhaps up to 12 feet in length for T. Rexes.

But how did Mr. Dino ever get his cloaca near Ms. Dino's? By mounting her from behind. At least that's the view of many paleontologists, including one Beverly Halstead, an Englishman who became known for his candid talk about dinosaur mating before his death in 1991. For an article that appeared in the now-defunct science magazine "Omni" magazine in 1988, Dr. Halstead said:
All dinosaurs used the same basic position to mate. Mounting from the rear, he put his forelimbs on her shoulders, lifting one hind limb across her back and twisting his tail under hers to align the cloaca.
I am going to assume that all that liquid is from both of them. Orgasmic

Some of Halstead's present-day counterparts concur that that's the way dinos did it.

"I don't think there's much doubt about that," Dr. Gregory M. Erickson, an evolutionary biologist at Florida State University, told The Huffington Post in a telephone interview. But, he acknowledged, "It must have been a hell of a thing to see."

This does not look safe.

So what do you think of this discovery? Are geoscientists venturing into matters that don't help us grow or is such discoveries useful for the growth of earth sciences? Let me know in the comments below.

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More images for you to pleasure yourself with:

40 Dinosaurs Having Sex (NSFW if You Are a Dino)

Daily Mail 
Huffington Post

Tuesday, 23 October 2012


October is "pink month" and is the designated breast cancer month by the UN. being Pink month i decided got to looking for a lighter side of pink and i came across the Pink Terraces of New Zealand!!!
wikipedia describes the rocks as....

The Pink Terraces, or Otukapuarangi ("fountain of the clouded sky") in Māori, and the White Terraces, also known as Te Tarata ("the tattooed rock")

Visitors wore special shoes in order to climb up and gaze into the throat of the gigantic geyser whose silica-charged waters had formed the terraces over countless centuries.The only sad thing about them is that they are now buried under layer of volcanic ash and mud but not before some spectacular snapshots and paintings were made of them in the 1800's before the eruption of Mount Tarawera in 1886. The terraces are made of Traventine ( A type of limestone (a calcium-rich rock composed primarily of the CaCO3 minerals calcite and aragonite) which forms by chemical precipitation (the stuff that makes the rock falls out of solution) from certain types of shallow or surface waters, such as springs and rivers. courtesy of georneys) of alternate white and pink color. They formed heated pools in which people used to bathe in. 

the first paintings were very well detailed and showed this spectacular sites in available detail. 
Charles Blomfield (1848–1926) painted the Pink Terraces four years after they were buried by the eruption of Mt Tarawera. His highly romantic paintings strove for an aesthetic ideal. link

Charles Blomfield, The Pink and White Terraces Rotomahana, New Zealand. link
Painting of the White Terraces, near Rotorua, New Zealand.  
Delightful illustration of bathers at the White Terrace before the famous eruption of Mt Tarawera in 1886. link
when a geologist Ferdinand von Hochstetter and fellow friend Bruno Hamil undertook a geological survey of the area he came up with a lithograph of the terraces. 
Bruno Hamil's 1860 lithograph of Ferdinand von Hochstetter talking to the local chief at the bottom left of the white terraces. link
black and white photos of the 8th wonder of the world
The hot water basins, White Terrace, 1885. link
Boars Head, White Terrace by George Valentine. link
Hot Baths, Pink Terrace George Valentine. link
White Terrace -by Alfred Burton. link
A part of the White Terraces was rediscovered in June 2011. The announcement of the rediscovery of the White Terraces coincided with the 125th Anniversary of the eruption of Mt Tarawera in 1886.
Digital underwater photographs of area around the pink terrace structures in Lake Rotomahana, New Zealand. Photo by Dan Fornari, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. link

Monday, 24 September 2012


Former Tukana district occupied the larger part of the north west of Kenya all within the Great East African Rift Valley bordering South Sudan and Ethiopia to the north and Uganda to the West
The area is semi-arid with extreme day temperatures and equally low temperatures at night.
 Dr Richard Leakey, a renowned Kenyan paleoanthropologist and conservationist, together with a group of paleotologists discovered  the famous "Turkana boy" the oldest and most complete skeleton of Homo erectus. 

Nariokotome Boy, or “Turkana Boy,” a Homo erectus found by Alan Walker and Richard Leakey, Lake Turkana, Kenya is the most complete Homo erectus ever found.
 The 9-12 year old boy believed to be around 1.6 million years old was an important milestone filling the gaps palaeotologists had found hard to fill back then. 
Watch a video of Dr Leakey and the Turkana boy here  

He and and his team made further discoveries. A new species of Australopithecus a bipedal species with an upright posture that dated over 4 million years ago, the earliest stages of human evolution. Human and animal remains were trapped and fossilized in the stratified sediments of the Great Rift Valley. Tectonic activity has uplifted many ancient sediments and the constant erosion of them by wind and water exposes new finds every year. The lake basin is rich in specimens of Australopithecus, the primitive “transitional” hominid with many ape-like features. Koobi Fora to the east of the lake has yielded some of the most fascinating animal fossils in the world. Different types of primitive elephants, prehistoric hippos, giraffes and ancient species of crocodiles are but a few of the fossils discovered around the lake shore.

 So Kenya and Turkana in specific has been scientifically proven to be the cradle of mankind!

further reading can be found here

Saturday, 22 September 2012


Many of you .ke citizens have been to the north of the country. The dry north with its numerous whirl winds, sand storms, strong winds and the hell’s kitchen temperatures. Since independence the only available power source we had was hydrothermal power plants which provided electricity for the urban elites. The rural folk got used to firewood until Wangari Mathai came along. She was a rural folk make no mistake about that but she foresaw doom with this trend. Here is how that scenario played out. The urban had all the electricity and the rural folk made away with all the trees. In the beginning it was a harmless unrelated relationship. But then the trees started reducing in number in effect the rains measured mm less in the rain gauges. In effect they started rationing the water supplied to the turbines because it could run out and the factories would had to be closed up and the rich could not afford to stay without electricity. The rural folk didn’t know this at that time but they were helping to bring electricity to their homes. So when the government was alerted to this disparity in energy supply they sought to stop the rural folk from cutting down the trees by starting the rural electrification project to reduce usage of trees in farm use.  But the damage was already done and so now the government is trying to look for other energy sources to help supply the ever rising demand for energy.

Ngong hills just outside Nairobi was to host the 1st  pilot project wind turbines in the country. Why they didn’t choose the very effective winds in the north is still up for debate. It however seemed to have worked out well with the 300mw wind project in Turkana, the biggest wind project in Africa apparently, yet to start it could provide much needed relief to the energy crises the country almost fell to.

In my opinion Kenya should be divided into energy zones to ease on the strain of putting all the energy into one national grid. The wind energy in the north could be divided with some of it taken to the national grid and the chunk of it used exclusively by the inhabitants of the northern half of the country. Almost every part of the country has the potential of producing its own energy and if the supply proves to be insufficient then the national grid comes into play. With resort cities, railway lines and meat factories in the works for the north in vision 2030 this could help in provision of energy for the north who have been in the receiving end of economic injustices from this government and the past two in resource allocation.

Friday, 21 September 2012

#FACTSvsFALLACIES The Crying Stone of Ilesi - Kakamega

Ikhonga Murwe- the crying stone of llesi. Folklore and myth surround this rock found in the western region of the country in the county of Kakamega. Legend has it the rock can't stop 'crying'.

To the government it is a tourist attraction, to the Luhya community living around it, it holds both cultural and spiritual significance. the community carried out rituals to avoid droughts and for cleansing ceremonies. In modern society too the rock holds religious significance as churches like Legio Maria and Rosary Church make pilgrimages to it.

Geologically the rock is a large boulder of acidic plutonic rock, 8 meters tall, made up of quartz, alkali feldspars and mica. there is a small groove in the middle from which water flows out from. the water is believed to be from a moss growing inside the rock that soaks up water during the wet season which allows it to flow long periods of time. 

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Thursday, 20 September 2012


so what geological misconceptions have people had in the past and still have? well here is one

Reblogged from Lounge of the Lab Lemming

Diamonds are not former coal. Coal is the organic-rich remains of terrestrial plant matter, and this is younger than the oldest land plants, which are roughly 400 million years old. Pb isotope studies of diamonds show that they are generally between 2 and 2.8 billion years old, 5-7 times older than the oldest land plants. Thus diamonds were already collecting their pensions by the time the first coal beds were formed.

Secondly, they have different isotopic compositions. Plants, which fix CO2 via photosynthesis, contain 2% less 13C than the Earth’s mantle, while most diamonds have mantle carbon isotopic composition. The light isotopic composition of coal is due to the preferential uptake of 12C over 13C during photosynthesis. Diamonds, not being related to coal, never photosynthesized, and do not show this effect.

Thirdly, metamorphic minerals have very different textures than hydrothermal ones. Diamonds are thought to precipitate from a CO2 fluid when said fluid is reduced in the mantle. This allows big, low strain crystals to form. Solid state phase transitions generally involve lots of deformation and recrystallization. Were coal to be metamorphosed into diamond, it would probably form a diamond rock with micron-scale crystals. Impact diamonds have grainsizes that are micron to sub-micron, and the source of the carbon is difficult to determine. But they are tiny, and it is theoretically impossible for them to be more than a few carats (they need to be small enough to cool off before the shockwave dissipates, or they will revert to graphite).

Of course, it is theoretically possible to synthesize diamonds from coal in a lab. But this is unlikely to occur for several reasons. If the diamonds are being grown in a traditional metal catalyst belt apparatus, then a low sulphur carbon source should be used to prevent the nickel catalyst from being attacked. If coal was sulphur free, then trout in the Adirondacks would have nothing to complain about. In the case of Chemical Vapor Deposition diamond, a gaseous source- usually methane- is used. With either method, nitrogen from organic compounds in the coal would impart a yellow-green color in the diamond due to the absorption of the single N defect. So coal would be a poor source material for synthetic diamond production.

To summarize: Diamonds are too old to be squished coal, and even if they weren’t they contain the wrong sort of carbon and form through different processes. Furthermore, coal is a poor choice of precursor for synthetic diamond production, as spectroscopic graphite is best for metal catalyst diamonds, and methane is preferred for CVD.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012


YES! I have had a lot of my friends who have asked me this question countless times. And the answer is always the same!
Question I always ask them is if a cook goes to the grocery to buy his/her ingredients aren’t we doing the same when we go collecting rock samples? Is it any different?

 Many think its child play. It is, just more professionally done with the expertise of an educated adult. “The field is our office” a former lecturer used to say.
But the field is more than just rocks and stones. Its snakes, scorpions, hostile people, friendly people, its no people at all, the witchcraft THE ALL!! 

Never is one day in the office the same as the other. The excitement never ends. Not a day ever ends without something to remember.its never a dull day at the office!!

The beauty of it all has nothing to do with what we bring along with us after we come back from our excursions, it’s the loads we leave behind (Thank God for the digital camera). 

From  witchcraft
to the innocent smiles

and the innovative

the future and the present
feel free to email me your favorite office, work or field pics to rockescientist@gmail.com and i will publish some of them in a later post