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Welcome to Science Saturday, where the Overnight News Digest crew, consisting of founder Magnifico, regular editors jlms qkw, Bentliberal, wader, Oke, rfall, and JML9999, alumni editors palantir and ScottyUrb, guest editors maggiejean and annetteboardman, and current editor-in-chief Neon Vincent, along with anyone else who reads and comments, informs and entertains you with this week's news about science, space, and the environment.

Between now and the end of the primary/caucus season, Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday will highlight the research stories from the public universities in each of the states having elections and caucuses during the week (or in the upcoming weeks if there is no primary or caucus that week).  Tonight's edition features the science, space, environment, health, and energy stories from universities in the states of Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas (list from

This week's featured story comes from Agence France Presse by way of Al-Ahram (Egypt) and Google.  Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for both articles.

Mali Islamists destroy tombs at ancient Timbuktu mosque
Armed with hoes, pick-axes and chisels, the Islamists who control northern Mali are accused of destroying all World Heritage sites in the region after destroying tombs in an ancient mosque
Tuesday 10 Jul 2012

The Islamists controlling northern Mali on Tuesday destroyed two tombs at the ancient Djingareyber mosque in fabled Timbuktu, vowing to destroy all World Heritage sites in the region.

Armed with hoes, pick-axes and chisels, members of Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) hammered away at the two earthen tombs until they were completely destroyed, witnesses told AFP.

"Currently the Islamists are busy destroying two tombs of Timbuktu's great Djingareyber mosque. They are shooting in the air to chase away the crowd, to scare them," one witness said earlier as the rampage began.

"The two mausolea are adjacent to the western wall of the great mosque and the Islamists have hoes, chisels, they are hitting the mausolea which are made out of packed earth," said a source close to the mosque's imam.

"They say they will destroy everything."

Al Qaeda in Mali is making the same mistake that the Taliban did in Afghanistan when they defaced the Buddha statues, except they're doing it to other members of their own faith.  That's the sign of kooks: practice your mistakes; you may get them right.  Fortunately, saner heads have prevailed.

Timbuktu Arabs set up armed watch at ancient tombs
(AFP) – 3 days ago

BAMAKO — Members of Timbuktu's Arab community said Wednesday they have set up an armed brigade to prevent further destruction of the tombs of ancient Muslim saints by Islamists occupying northern Mali.

"Today we have a vigilance brigade so that no one touches the mausolea of Araouane and Gasser-Cheick," said Tahel Ould Sidy, leader of the unit, referring to two tombs in the greater Timbuktu region.

Thank you, Agence France Presse, for your reporting.

More stories after the jump.

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WBND (ABC 57): Mysterious stones, bones found in Granger
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GRANGER, Ind. -- A South Bend archaeologist is now looking into a mistaken discovery. Landscapers found bones just feet away from a popular shopping plaza in Granger.

Those bones are believed to be from an animal and date back to the 1870s. The archaeologist who examined the remains said people stumble across bones, artifacts and tombstone all the time. What is unusual about this discovery are the stones that were also found.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.

Texas Tech on YouTube: Dengue Fever: The Intricate Relationship between Disease and Climate Change

Texas Tech: Climate Change Likely Will Allow Tropical Disease to Thrive in United States
Researchers Katharine Hayhoe and Richard Erickson discuss the possible impact of dengue fever.
July 5, 2012

Dengue fever most likely will become a disease the United States must learn to live with as climate change creates opportunities for the disease to gain a foothold.

But after careful study of the disease’s characteristics, the mosquitoes that carry it and future climate change, two researchers at Texas Tech University said the impact on areas likely to experience dengue won’t necessarily play out along the lines of conventional wisdom.

Their findings were published July 5 in Environmental Research Letters.

NASATelevision on YouTube: Soyuz Crew Primed for Launch on This Week @ NASA

At the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Expedition 32/33 Soyuz Commander Yuri Malenchenko, NASA Flight Engineer Suni Williams and Flight Engineer Aki Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency participated in a variety of activities in preparation for their launch to the International Space Station. Meanwhile, onboard the ISS, the other three members of Expedition 32, Commander Gennady Padalka, NASA astronaut Joe Acaba and Cosmonaut Sergei Revin -- continue their daily activities as they await the Soyuz crew and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's HTV-3 transfer vehicle scheduled to arrive there later this month. Also, when the Curiosity rover sets off from its landing site near Gale Crater to explore the Martian surface, it might encounter some sand dunes. Project engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have prepared for that possibility by putting a test rover through the paces here on Earth, the Cassini spacecraft has spotted signs that a change of seasons may be coming on Saturn's largest moon Titan, Deputy Administrator Lori Garver participates in a workshop focused on Innovation in Manufacturing, Celebrating Telstar I, Inspiring Inquisitive Minds and more!

NASA Television on YouTube: ScienceCasts: The First Extraterrestrial Marathon

More than 8 years after landing on the Red Planet, Mars rover Opportunity is still running. Indeed, mission planners say the tireless robot is poised to complete a full marathon--the first ever long-distance race on an alien planet.


University of Georgia: Study in Nature sheds new light on planet formation
July 4, 2012

Athens, Ga. - A study published in the July 5 edition of the journal Nature is challenging scientists' understanding of planet formation, suggesting that planets might form much faster than previously thought or, alternatively, that stars harboring planets could be far more numerous.

The study—a collaboration between scientists at the University of Georgia; the University of California, San Diego; the University of California, Los Angeles; California State Polytechnic University and the Australian National University—began with a curious and unexpected finding: Within three years, the cloud of dust circling a young star in the Scorpius-Centaurus stellar nursery simply disappeared.

"The most commonly accepted time scale for the removal of this much dust is in the hundreds of thousands of years, sometimes millions," said study co-author Inseok Song, assistant professor of physics and astronomy in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "What we saw was far more rapid and has never been observed or even predicted. It tells us that we have a lot more to learn about planet formation."

Texas A&M: NASA Space Tech Program to sponsor nuclear engineering research
July 13, 2012

NASA’s Space Technology Program has selected 14 proposals on commercial reusable suborbital launch vehicles for development and demonstration. Each idea was innovative in its own way, and one of these 14 proposals, "Demonstration of Variable Radiator,” was that of Dr. Richard “Cable” Kurwitz, lecturer in the Department of Nuclear Engineering at Texas A&M University.

Kurwitz, associate research engineer and director of the Interphase Transport Phenomena Laboratory, is to develop a variable thermal energy rejection technology for spacecraft. The technology modulates portions of the spacecraft radiator to control spacecraft temperature during different phases of the mission. Variable heat rejection is considered an enabling technology for future NASA mission. The technology utilizes expertise gathered from over 20 years of reduced gravity research and technology development within the laboratory.
The submitted proposals offer unique approaches and solutions to high-priority technology needs recently identified in the National Research Council’s Space Technology Roadmaps and Priorities report. Each report seeks to further advance and enable technology development for NASA’s current and future missions in exploration, science and space operations.


Georgia Tech: Giving Ancient Life Another Chance to Evolve
Scientists place 500-million-year-old gene in modern organism
July 11, 2012

It’s a project 500 million years in the making. Only this time, instead of playing on a movie screen in Jurassic Park, it’s happening in a lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Using a process called paleo-experimental evolution, Georgia Tech researchers have resurrected a 500-million-year-old gene from bacteria and inserted it into modern-day Escherichia coli(E. coli) bacteria. This bacterium has now been growing for more than 1,000 generations, giving the scientists a front row seat to observe evolution in action.

“This is as close as we can get to rewinding and replaying the molecular tape of life,” said scientist Betül Kaçar, a NASA astrobiology postdoctoral fellow in Georgia Tech’s NASA Center for Ribosomal Origins and Evolution. “The ability to observe an ancient gene in a modern organism as it evolves within a modern cell allows us to see whether the evolutionary trajectory once taken will repeat itself or whether a life will adapt following a different path.”


University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: UNC research: Corals on ocean-side of reef are most susceptible to recent warming
July 09, 2012

Marine scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have linked the decline in growth of Caribbean forereef corals — due to recent warming — to long-term trends in seawater temperature experienced by these corals located on the ocean-side of the reef. The research was conducted on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System in southern Belize.

The results were revealed online in the July 8 issue of Nature Climate Change, a journal that publishes research on the impacts of global climate change and its implications for the economy, policy and the world at large.

Agrilife Today: Texas AgriLife Research study updates population of endangered golden-cheeked warblers
July 9, 2012

COLLEGE STATION — The projected number of golden-cheeked warbler males across their breeding range in Central Texas is more than previous estimates had indicated, according to results from a Texas AgriLife Research study recently published online in the Journal of Wildlife Management.

The study — the first to survey for the presence of the warblers and their habitat across their entire breeding range — estimated approximately 262,000 male warblers occur within 4 million acres of potential habitat in parts of nearly 40 counties in Central Texas, said Dr. Heather Mathewson, assistant research scientist at the Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources and lead author of the paper.

Mathewson said the golden-cheeked warbler was designated as federally endangered in 1990 because of concerns about a small population size and loss and fragmentation of its woodland habitat. Since then, abundance estimates for the species have mainly relied on localized population studies on public lands and qualitative-based methods.

“Those estimates — some now over 20 years old — were often based on a limited amount of data from only a handful of study areas in the breeding range,” she said. “Depending on the data and analyses, estimates varied from roughly 9,000 to 54,000 individuals.”


University of Georgia: UGA study shows why hypertension increases damage to eyes of diabetic patients
July 12, 2012

Athens, Ga. - Hypertension frequently coexists in patients with diabetes. A new University of Georgia study shows why the co-morbid conditions can result in impaired vision.

"Results showed early signals of cell death in eyes from diabetic animals within the first six weeks of elevated blood pressure. Later, the tiny blood vessels around the optic nerve that nourish the retina and affect visual processing showed signs of decay as early as 10 weeks after diabetic animals develop hypertension," said Azza El-Remessy, assistant professor in the UGA College of Pharmacy and director of the UGA clinical and experimental therapeutics program.

The study examined animals with early and established stages of diabetes that also had hypertension. The results, which highlight the importance of tight glycemic control and blood pressure control to delay diabetes-related vision loss, were published in the June issue of the Journal of Molecular Vision. The study was the first to understand or explain why combining increased blood pressure with diabetes would hurt blood vessels in the eye.

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: Child diabetes levels higher in China than in U.S., study finds
July 05, 2012

A study led by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found Chinese teenagers have a rate of diabetes nearly four times greater than their counterparts in the United States.  The rise in the incidence of diabetes parallels increases in cardiovascular risk, researchers say, and is the result of a Chinese population that is growing increasingly overweight.
China has experienced unprecedented economic growth in the past two decades, but the study finds that at the same time, China has seen equally dramatic changes in the weight, diets and physical activity levels of its people.  UNC-CCDC researchers followed a randomly selected sample representing 56 percent of the Chinese population in 2009 and found large increases in overweight and cardiometabolic risk factors.

“What is unprecedented is the changes in diet, weight and cardiovascular risk for children age 7 and older,” said Popkin.  “These estimates highlight the huge burden that China’s health care system is expected to face if nothing changes.”

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: Antibodies reverse Type 1 diabetes in new immunotherapy study
Scientists at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine have used injections of antibodies to rapidly reverse the onset of Type I diabetes in mice genetically bred to develop the disease.
Thursday, July 5, 2012

CHAPEL HILL, NC – Scientists at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine have used injections of antibodies to rapidly reverse the onset of Type I diabetes in mice genetically bred to develop the disease. Moreover, just two injections maintained disease remission indefinitely without harming the immune system.

The findings, published online ahead of print (June 29, 2012) in the journal Diabetes, suggest for the first time that using a short course of immunotherapy may someday be of value for reversing the onset of Type I diabetes in recently diagnosed people. This form of diabetes, formerly known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s own immune T cells target and destroy insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.

The immune system consists of T cells that are required for maintaining immunity against different bacterial and viral pathogens. In people who develop Type 1 diabetes, “autoreactive” T cells that actively destroy beta cells are not kept in check as they are in healthy people.

Texas A&M: Chickens May Fight Cancer
July 10, 2012

The common barnyard chicken could provide some very un-common clues for fighting off diseases and might even offer new ways to attack cancer, according to a team of international researchers that includes a Texas A&M University professor.

James Womack, Distinguished Professor of Veterinary Pathobiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, is co-author of a paper detailing the team’s work that appears in the current issue of PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists).  Womack was a leader in the international effort to sequence the cattle genome in 2004.

Womack and the team, comprised mostly of scientists from the Seoul National University in Korea, examined 62 White Leghorn and 53 Cornish chickens for diversity in NK-lysin, an antibacterial substance that occurs naturally in animals and is used as a method of fighting off diseases.

They were able to obtain two genetic variations of NK-lysin and the results offered two unexpected shockers:  both showed abilities to fight off bacterial infections and other diseases, while one showed it could successfully fight cancer cells as well.

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: New understanding of cell metabolism provides therapeutic target
July 2, 2012

One of the reasons that cancer cells proliferate is that they metabolize fuel differently from normal cells. A team led by Blossom Damania, PhD, reports that two inter-related metabolic processes contribute to cell proliferation in non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Dr. Damania is professor of microbiology and immunology in the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and a member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.


Discovery News: 2012 Hottest Half-Year Ever
By Tim Wall
July 10, 2012

2012 is staying on track as a year of extreme weather events. NOAA reports that June was two degrees F hotter than the 20th-century average, which contributed to making the first half of 2012 the warmest ever in the U.S. since record keeping began in 1895.

The period from June 2011 to June 2012 was also the hottest 12-month period in the nation's history, with an average national temperature of 52.9 degrees F (11.61 degrees C), 4.5 degrees F above average.

Hidden within the average is a great degree of variety across the United States. While some areas were scorched and parched, others were chilly, drowned in deluges or lashed by freak storms.

Science News: East Coast faces faster sea level rise
Cities from North Carolina to Massachusetts see waters rising more rapidly
By Devin Powell   
July 28th, 2012; Vol.182 #2 (p. 17)

Property values aren’t all that’s been rising in Manhattan. The height of the water lapping up against the Big Apple and many East Coast cities has been creeping up faster in recent decades.

“We have direct evidence of a hot spot stretching from Cape Hatteras in North Carolina to just above Boston,” says Asbury Sallenger Jr., an oceanographer at the U.S. Geological Survey’s St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center in Florida. “The area has an unusual sea level rise acceleration compared to the rest of the United States.”

Global warming could be driving the acceleration, researchers report online June 24 in Nature Climate Change. With temperatures still climbing, further ocean rises could increase the risk of flooding, encroach on wetlands and give hurricane storm surges extra punch.

Texas A&M: Antarctica At Risk
July 12, 2012

The continent of Antarctica is at risk from human activities and other forces, and environmental management is needed to protect the planet’s last great wilderness area, says an international team of researchers, including a Texas A&M University oceanographer, in a paper published in the current issue of Science magazine.

Mahlon “Chuck” Kennicutt II, professor of oceanography who has conducted research in the area for more than 25 years, says Antarctica faces growing threats from global warming, loss of sea ice and landed ice, increased tourism, over-fishing in the region, pollution and invasive species creeping into the area. One of the longer-term concerns that may present the greatest threat overall is the potential for oil, gas and mineral exploitation on the continent and in the surrounding ocean, the authors note.Antarctic ice sheets

Kennicutt says the Antarctic Treaty System that governs the continent has worked well since it was established in 1962 and that 50 countries currently adhere to the treaty, but it is under pressure today from global climate changes and the ever-present interest in the area’s natural resources, from fish to krill to oil to gas to minerals.

Texas A&M: Cool U.S. Places In A Hot Summer
July 11, 2012

Q: What’s the coolest location in the U.S. during the summer?

A: The place with the lowest daily temperature is Mount Washington, N.H., which has an average July temperature of only 54 degrees, says Brent McRoberts of Texas A&M University. “But the problem is that no one lives on Mount Washington,” he explains. “If you’re talking about places where people live, San Francisco has to be rated near the top with an average July temperature of 66 degrees, which is tied with Whidbey Island, Wash., also at 66. San Francisco has one of the most stable climates in the country – the average high temperature in January is only 56 degrees, only 10 degrees difference from its July high.”

Mark Twain was right to complain about how cold San Francisco was in the summer.  However, July is not the warmest month in the city.  October is.

Texas A&M: Geosciences Professor Develops System To Better Predict Droughts
July 9, 2012

A Texas A&M geography professor is developing a drought-prediction system that benefits everyone from a rancher in South Texas to a weekend gardener in Kansas. Steven Quiring has received a $486,000 award from the National Science Foundation to develop the first soil-moisture dataset for the Great Plains, one of the country’s most fertile but fickle climate regions.

In the United States, the Great Plains stretch from the Rio Grande to the Canadian border. Its annual agricultural production yields than $40 billion a year, a number that can be decimated in just one season. The 1988 drought, for instance, resulted in a $30 billion loss, so the ability to pinpoint the moisture in the soil at any given time and place will help scientists better predict drought conditions and take steps to lessen its effects.

The content of moisture in the soil plays a critical role, Quiring says, in the global carbon cycle, and in weather and climate patterns. Drier soil means less moisture escapes into the atmosphere, triggering more radiant heat returned to the soil and exacerbating already dry conditions. “In other words, drought begets drought.”


Carnegie Institution via ScienceDaily: Solar System Ice: Source of Earth's Water

ScienceDaily (July 12, 2012) — Scientists have long believed that comets and, or a type of very primitive meteorite called carbonaceous chondrites were the sources of early Earth's volatile elements -- which include hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon -- and possibly organic material, too. Understanding where these volatiles came from is crucial for determining the origins of both water and life on the planet. New research led by Carnegie's Conel Alexander focuses on frozen water that was distributed throughout much of the early Solar System, but probably not in the materials that aggregated to initially form Earth.

The evidence for this ice is now preserved in objects like comets and water-bearing carbonaceous chondrites. The team's findings contradict prevailing theories about the relationship between these two types of bodies and suggest that meteorites, and their parent asteroids, are the most-likely sources of Earth's water. Their work is published July 12 by Science Express.

Discovery News: Greenland Ice Motion Mapped: Big Pic
By Sarah Simpson

July 10, 2012 -- This digital map of ice motion across Greenland is the first of its kind. Assembled from carefully calibrated satellite measurements gathered during the recent International Polar Year (2008–2009), the new map reveals that half of the ice sheet is drained by the top 68 fastest glaciers, which all flow at least 1.3 kilometers per year (red). Only small portions of the interior show no motion at all (brown).


University of Texas, Austin: Memories Serve as Tools for Learning and Decision-Making, New Study Shows
July 11, 2012

AUSTIN, Texas — When humans learn, their brains relate new information with past experiences to derive new knowledge, according to psychology research from The University of Texas at Austin.

The study, led by Alison Preston, assistant professor of psychology and neurobiology, shows this memory-binding process allows people to better understand new concepts and make future decisions. The findings could lead to better teaching methods, as well as treatment of degenerative neurological disorders, such as dementia, Preston says.

“Memories are not just for reflecting on the past; they help us make the best decisions for the future,” says Preston, a research affiliate in the Center for Learning and Memory, which is part of the university’s College of Natural Sciences. “Here, we provide a direct link between these derived memories and the ability to make novel inferences.”

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: Questionnaire completed by parents may help identify 1-year-olds at risk for autism
The First Year Inventory, a 10-minute questionnaire filled out by parents after a child’s first birthday, shows promise in identifying children who are later diagnosed with autism or other developmental problems.
Friday, July 13, 2012

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – A new study by University of North Carolina School of Medicine researchers found that 31 percent of children identified as at risk for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) at 12 months received a confirmed diagnosis of ASD by age 3 years.

In addition, 85 percent of the children found to be at risk for ASD based on results from the First Year Inventory (FYI), a 63-item questionnaire filled out by their parents, had some other developmental disability or concern by age three, said Grace Baranek, PhD, senior author of the study and an autism researcher with the Program for Early Autism, Research, Leadership and Service (PEARLS) in the Department of Allied Health Sciences at the UNC School of Medicine.

“These results indicate that an overwhelming majority of children who screen positive on the FYI indeed experience some delay in development by age three that may warrant early intervention,” she said.

University of Texas, Arlington: Quicker diagnosis, better treatment hoped for autistic children through robot technology
July 6, 2012

Zeno doesn’t make judgments. He has empathetic eyes in a beautiful hazel hue. His lifelike skin is called Frubber and allows his face to smile, frown and look inquisitive.

Zeno is a two-foot tall robot that has facial expressions, can walk and can gesture with two hands.

But most importantly, researchers believe Zeno may be able to help diagnose autism in infants and toddlers – before traditional diagnoses that rely on speech and social interactions may be obvious.

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: Autism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder may share common underlying factors
July 2, 2012

CHAPEL HILL, NC – New research led by Patrick F. Sullivan, MD, FRANZCP, a psychiatric geneticist at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, points to an increased risk of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) among individuals whose parents or siblings have been diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

The findings were based on a case-control study using population registers in Sweden and Israel, and the degree to which these three disorders share a basis in causation “has important implications for clinicians, researchers and those affected by the disorders,” according to a report of the research published online July 2, 2012 in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

“The results were very consistent in large samples from several different countries and lead us to believe that autism and schizophrenia are more similar than we had thought,” said Dr. Sullivan, professor in the department of genetics and director of psychiatric genomics at UNC.


University of Witwatersrand (South Africa) via Science Daily: Early Human Ancestor, Australopithecus Sediba, Fossils Discovered in Rock

ScienceDaily (July 12, 2012) — Scientists from the Wits Institute for Human Evolution based at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg have just announced the discovery of a large rock containing significant parts of a skeleton of an early human ancestor. The skeleton is believed to be the remains of 'Karabo', the type skeleton of Australopithecus sediba, discovered at the Malapa Site in the Cradle of Humankind in 2009.

Professor Lee Berger, a Reader in Palaeoanthropology and the Public Understanding of Science at the Wits Institute for Human Evolution, will make the announcement at the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum in Shanghai, China on 13 July 2012.

USA Today: Early humans settled in Arabia
By Dan Vergano, USA TODAY

"The expansion of modern humans out of Africa and into Eurasia via the Arabian Peninsula is currently one of the most debated questions in prehistory," begins an upcomingJournal of Human Evolution  report led by Anne Delagnes of France's Université Bordeaux. The archaeologists report from the site of Shi'bat Dihya located in a wadi, or gully, that connects Yemen's highlands to the coastal plains of the Red Sea.

NPR: In Ancient Ore. Dump, Clues To The First Americans?
by Christopher Joyce
Morning Edition

Some of the most interesting discoveries in archaeology come from sifting through ancient garbage dumps. Scientists working in Oregon have found one that has yielded what they say are the oldest human remains in the Americas and a puzzle about the earliest American tools.

Early Americans used Oregon's Paisley Caves for, among other things, a toilet. Little did they know that scientists would be picking through what they left behind.

The scientists extracted DNA from dried-up feces in the cave, known politely as "coprolites." And they've got something more — four projectile points, flaked from stone and presumably used for weapons. They're broken; their makers probably trashed them.

The Oregonian via Oregon Live: Ancient people discovered in Oregon may shake up understanding of 1st Americans
By Ian C. Campbell, The Oregonian
Published: Thursday, July 12, 2012, 11:50 AM     Updated: Friday, July 13, 2012, 10:15 AM

The first Americans may have had neighbors, according to a new study from University of Oregon and Oregon State University researchers published today in the journal Science. Based on ancient human waste discovered in caves in central Oregon, historians might have to rewrite our understanding of how humans populated North America.

An ancient culture called Clovis lived in America roughly 12-13,000 years ago, as archaeologists have located their distinctly made tools throughout North and South America. Clovis are likely partial ancestors of Native Americans. However, researchers debated whether other American tool-making cultures arrived on the continent independently or merely descended from Clovis.

New research demonstrates that Clovis couldn't be the only tool-makers at that time. Another people with their own crafting technique lived here too -- and may even have predated Clovis.

LiveScience: 'Frankenstein' Mummies Are a Mix of Corpses
Charles Choi, LiveScience Contributor

Mummies found off the coast of Scotland are Frankenstein-like composites of several corpses, researchers say.

This mixing of remains was perhaps designed to combine different ancestries into a single lineage, archaeologists speculated.

Sofia News Service (Bulgaria): Archaeologists Discover Bulgarian Herculaneum
Archaeology | July 13, 2012, Friday|

A Bulgarian Herculaneum, named Akra, has been discovered by archaeologists on the Akin cape, near the town of Chernomorets on the southern Black Sea coast.

The information was reported by the Director of the National History Museum, NIM, Bozhidar Dimitrov, speaking in an exclusive interview for the online edition of the Bulgarian 24 Chassa (24 Hours) daily.

The historian says that the settlement had been destroyed by an Avar invasion.

Ivan Hristov, who leads the archaeological team and is a Deputy of Dimitrov, is continuing excavations on the cape, where a unique for the Bulgarian Black Sea coast underwater district with remnants from an early Byzantine fortress have been found. The fortress, initially believed to be named Krimna, dates from the end of the 5th century A.C.

National Geographic News: Lost Viking Military Town Unearthed in Germany?
James Owen
for National Geographic News
Published July 11, 2012

A battle-scarred, eighth-century town unearthed in northern Germany may be the earliest Viking settlement in the historical record, archaeologists announced recently.

Ongoing excavations at Füsing (map), near the Danish border, link the site to the "lost" Viking town of Sliasthorp—first recorded in A.D. 804 by royal scribes of the powerful Frankish ruler Charlemagne.

Reuters India: Hoard of gold coins found at Israel Crusades site
HERZLIYA, Israel | Wed Jul 11, 2012 5:54pm IST

(Reuters) - A 1,000-year-old hoard of gold coins has been unearthed at a famous Crusader battleground where Christian and Muslim forces once fought for control of the Holy Land, Israeli archaeologists said on Wednesday.

The treasure was dug up from the ruins of a castle in Arsuf, a strategic stronghold during the religious conflict waged in the 12th and 13th centuries.

The 108 coins - one of the biggest collections of ancient coins discovered in Israel - were found hidden in a ceramic jug beneath a tile floor at the cliff-top coastal ruins, 15 km (9 miles) from Tel Aviv.

The Daily Mail (UK): Archaeologists unearth 'cosmopolitan' 1500s settlement near Lake Ontario which was the size of Manhattan

Scientists have unearthed evidence of a 500-year-old settlement near Lake Ontario so cosmopolitan it has been branded the 'ancient New York City of Canada'.

The recently-discovered 'Mantle site' is thought to have had almost 2,000 inhabitants in a 'cosmopolitan' area in 1500 A.D. which was the size of Manhattan.

Archaeologists say pottery and art found at the site shows how inhabitants had 'unprecedented' trade with the Iroquois - the nations and tribes of indigenous North America.

Foster's Daily Democrat: A real discovery: Spanish piece of eight from 1600-1700s found at dig near Hamilton House in South Berwick
Wednesday, July 11, 2012

SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — "At first I thought it was just a shell," Whitney Parrish, a University of Southern Maine student from Portland said. "But before I discarded it I sprayed it down with some water and noticed the unique markings."

And it's a good thing she wasn't too quick to act on her initial presumption. As it turns out, her irrelevant "shell" turned out to be something much more significant — and historical.

BBC: Buckler's Hard excavation begins on former WWII site

Archaeologists and volunteers are hoping to uncover evidence of World War II activity during an excavation in the New Forest.

Buckler's Hard village was the base for building dummy landing craft for an enemy deception operation.

The waterfront site was also used as a major departure point during the D-Day landings.

The week-long dig at Buckler's Hard waterfront on Saturday is part of The Festival of British Archaeology.

The Scotsman (UK): Marine survey uncovers the hidden secrets of Scapa Flow naval graveyard
By Alistair Munro
Published on Friday 13 July 2012 09:48

THE seabed of Scapa Flow is a shipwreck graveyard – an underwater maritime museum – with wrecks from the two World Wars.

The former naval base in Orkney was the scene of the largest intentional sinking in seafaring history when, in 1919, a German fleet scuttled 74 ships at the end of the First World War to prevent them from falling into British hands.

Now, a remarkable new sub-sea survey has mapped 18 sites revealing previously unseen detail of wreckage and contributing valuable information about Scapa Flow’s immense history.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman, who sent in the above articles.


The University of Southampton (UK) via Science Daily: Engineering Technology Revealing Secrets of Roman Coins

ScienceDaily (July 10, 2012) — Archaeologists and engineers from the University of Southampton are collaborating with the British Museum to examine buried Roman coins using the latest X-ray imaging technology.

Originally designed for the analysis of substantial engineering parts, such as jet turbine blades, the powerful scanning equipment at Southampton's µ-VIS Centre for Computed Tomography is being used to examine Roman coins buried in three archaeological artefacts from three UK hoards.

The centre's equipment can scan inside objects -- rotating 360 degrees whilst taking thousands of 2D images, which are then used to build detailed 3D images. In the case of the coins, the exceptionally high energy/high resolution combination of the Southampton facilities allows them to be examined in intricate detail without the need for physical excavation or cleaning. For those recently scanned at Southampton, it has been possible to use 3D computer visualisation capabilities to read inscriptions and identify depictions of emperors on the faces of the coins -- for example on some, the heads of Claudius II and Tetricus I have been revealed.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.


Idaho State University: Idaho State University research scientist David Peterson uncovers secrets about ancient Russian gold
Posted July 11, 2012

Using a powerful scanning electron microscope at the Idaho State University Center for Archaeology, Materials, and Applied Spectroscopy (CAMAS), ISU anthropologist and research scientist David Peterson is helping shed light on the making of gold by nomadic horsemen nearly 4,000 years ago on the Eurasian steppe grasslands of present-day Russia.

About 1850-1700 B.C. at the beginning of the Late Bronze Age in Russia's Middle Volga River Region, herders began to settle in small villages and buried their dead in burial mounds known as kurgans. Kurgan is a Russian term borrowed from Turkish that refers to elaborate prehistoric mound cemeteries with graves that often included metalwork, chariots, and human and animal sacrifices.

Peterson discovered that ornaments from these graves were decorated using a technique called depletion gilding. Late Bronze Age inhabitants of the Middle Volga covered pendants with a foil no more than one-tenth of a millimeter thick made of an alloy of gold and silver known as electrum. While the overall gold content of the foil is less than silver, through depletion gilding ancient Eurasian metallurgists were able to manipulate the concentration of gold on the outer surface to make the ornaments look like solid gold.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.

North Carolina State University: Researchers Create Highly Conductive and Elastic Conductors Using Silver Nanowires
July 12, 2012

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed highly conductive and elastic conductors made from silver nanoscale wires (nanowires). These elastic conductors can be used to develop stretchable electronic devices.

Stretchable circuitry would be able to do many things that its rigid counterpart cannot. For example, an electronic “skin” could help robots pick up delicate objects without breaking them, and stretchable displays and antennas could make cell phones and other electronic devices stretch and compress without affecting their performance. However, the first step toward making such applications possible is to produce conductors that are elastic and able to effectively and reliably transmit electric signals regardless of whether they are deformed.

Dr. Yong Zhu, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NC State, and Feng Xu, a Ph.D. student in Zhu’s lab have developed such elastic conductors using silver nanowires.

University of Texas, Arlington: UT Arlington research team says DMAA in workout supplements almost certainly synthetic
July 12, 2012

A University of Texas at Arlington professor is adding new evidence to the debate over DMAA, a popular sports supplement that has been embroiled in controversy involving professional athletes and even the U.S. Army.
Daniel Armstrong

Daniel W. Armstrong, who holds the Robert A. Welch Chair in Chemistry at UT Arlington, investigated whether 1,3-dimethylamylamine (DMAA) in numerous supplements came from natural or synthetic sources. Armstrong’s team found that it is unlikely the DMAA in supplements comes from the geranium plant or its extracted oil, as companies have sometimes claimed.
DMAA, also known as 1-3 dimethylpentylamine or methylhexaneamine, is not regulated as a drug by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because supplement manufacturers claimed it was a natural component of the geranium plant. However, the agency sent letters in April to 10 companies that manufactured and distributed dietary supplements containing DMAA, warning them about marketing products for which evidence of safety has not been submitted. The letters informed the companies that synthetic DMAA is not a “dietary ingredient” and, therefore, is ineligible for use as an active ingredient in a dietary supplement, according to an FDA press release.


Science Magazine: A Million-Year Hard Disk
by Daniel Clery on 12 July 2012, 12:15 PM |

DUBLIN—It seems these days that no data storage medium lasts long before becoming obsolete—does anyone remember Sony's Memory Stick? So have pity for the builders of nuclear waste repositories, who are trying to preserve records of what they've buried and where, not for a few years but for tens of thousands of years.

Today, Patrick Charton of the French nuclear waste management agency ANDRA presented one possible solution to the problem: a sapphire disk inside which information is engraved using platinum. The prototype shown costs €25,000 to make, but Charton says it will survive for a million years. The aim, Charton told the Euroscience Open Forum here, is to provide "information for future archaeologists." But, he concedes: "We have no idea what language to write it in."

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.

Georgia Tech: Triboelectric Generator Produces Electricity by Harnessing Frictional Forces
July 10, 2012

Researchers have discovered yet another way to harvest small amounts of electricity from motion in the world around us – this time by capturing the electrical charge produced when two different kinds of plastic materials rub against one another. Based on flexible polymer materials, this “triboelectric” generator could provide alternating current (AC) from activities such as walking.

The triboelectric generator could supplement power produced by nanogenerators that use the piezoelectric effect to create current from the flexing of zinc oxide nanowires. And because these triboelectric generators can be made nearly transparent, they could offer a new way to produce active sensors that might replace technology now used for touch-sensitive device displays.

“The fact that an electric charge can be produced through this principle is well known,” said Zhong Lin Wang, a Regents professor in the School of Materials Science & Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “What we have introduced is a gap separation technique that produces a voltage drop, which leads to a current flow, allowing the charge to be used. This generator can convert random mechanical energy from our environment into electric energy.”

Science, Space, Environment, Health, and Energy Policy

The Art Newspaper (UK): Sudan relics at risk from dam floods
Appeal to archaeological community as proposals leave three- to six-year window
By Emily Sharpe. Conservation, Issue 237, July-August 2012

The Sudanese ministry for antiquities is appealing to the international archaeological community to conduct rescue operations to salvage Sudan’s rich archaeological heritage, which is at risk from a series of dams planned in areas including Kajbar, Shereiq and Upper Atbara. The proposed dams will flood various regions along the Nile within three to six years. International experts met representatives from the ministry and the Dams Implementation Unit at the British Museum in London in May to share information and lay the foundation for a large-scale rescue campaign reminiscent of the one mounted more than a decade ago when the Merowe Dam project was under way.

One of the meeting’s key outcomes was learning how much time archaeologists have to work before the flooding begins—a simple yet vital question that resulted in much to-ing and fro-ing before those assembled received an answer. It appears that scholars have around three years until flood waters from the Upper Atbara dam are released, and around six years in the case of the Kajbar and Shereiq dams.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.

University of Georgia: UGA study finds that physical education mandates not enough in most states
July 6, 2012

Athens, Ga. - Children need quality physical education to combat obesity and lead healthy lives. Georgia elementary schools make the grade when it comes to providing that education, but middle and high schools in the state don't even come close, according to a University of Georgia study.

A study by UGA kinesiology professor Bryan McCullick examined the mandates for school-based physical education in all 50 United States. The results found only six states mandate the appropriate guidelines-150 minutes each week-for elementary school physical education. For older students, two states mandate the appropriate amount of physical education instruction for middle school, and none require adequate physical education at the high school level, a weekly 225 minutes for both. The National Association of Sport and Physical Education set guidelines for the amount of school-based physical education instructional time.

The results of his research were published in the June issue of the Journal of Teaching in Physical Education.

Science Education

Virgina Gazette: British bestow honor on archaeologist Bill Kelso
Originally Published: Saturday, July 14, 2012
Modified: Saturday, July 14, 2012 7:51 AM EDT

WASHINGTON -- William Kelso, director of archaeology at Historic Jamestowne, received one of Britain’s highest honors Friday when he became an Honorary Commander of the British Empire  during a ceremony at the British Embassy.

The CBE is awarded for especially inventive and celebrated contributions, in this case recognizing Kelso for his groundbreaking rediscovery of the original 1607 James Fort at Jamestown Island, Virginia. The honor was bestowed in Washington by Sir Peter Westmacott, British ambassador to the U.S. Kelso is one of only two Americans to receive this honor from Britain this year.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.

University of North Carolina, Charlotte: UNC Charlotte Awarded Presidential Honor for Community Service
July 13, 2012

UNC Charlotte was named recently to the 2012 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for its exemplary commitment to service and volunteering to local communities.

This distinction is one of the highest federal recognitions an institution can receive for service-learning and civic engagement.  According to University leaders, this honor recognizes UNC Charlotte’s efforts to be an integral part of the social, cultural and economic fabric of the region.

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) acknowledges the nation’s leading college and universities along with their students, faculty and staff for their commitment to bettering their communities.

Georgia Tech: Using Hip-Hop to Teach Computer Science
July 11, 2012

Georgia Tech is welcoming 18 metro Atlanta high school students to campus this week, hosting a musical summer camp that is intended to have broad implications for the future of computer science education. The teenagers are creating and remixing hip-hop beats using a software program called Earsketch. Although only 5 of the students had ever written computer code before they arrived at the camp, each high schooler will create a three-minute, computerized tune by Friday.

Earsketch was designed by School of Music Associate Professor Jason Freeman and School of Literature, Communication and Culture Assistant Professor Brian Magerko. The software was created to address the nation’s shortage of high school students, especially females and minorities, who are interested in computer science careers.

“We believe that we can get people more motivated in this field by placing introductory computing education into a really interesting, fun context,” said Freeman. “Instead of writing programs that sort lists or crunch numbers, students learn all of these skills while making music.”

University of Texas, Arlington: UT Arlington physics professor helping shape national science standards
July 9, 2012

UT Arlington Physics Professor Ramon Lopez has been honored nationally for his role in elevating science education. So, it’s a natural that he would be involved in the Next Generation Science Standards, an ongoing effort to create a new set of standards for science education for the United States.

In 2010, Lopez was asked to serve on the leadership team that would guide the work of a 41-member writing team composed of educators from numerous states. The process began with the development of “A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas,” a document that was produced by a committee of the National Research Council, the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences. The writing team’s first public draft of the Standards based on the Framework was released in late May.

“Our goal is to provide educators with a roadmap for achieving the ambitious objectives of the Framework for K-12 Education, which outlines what the National Academies think is important for all students to know in science and engineering,” Lopez said. “The NGSS will flesh out the Framework and provide educators with a vision of what students who meet the goals of the Framework can do, and how the practices, cross-cutting concepts, and core ideas weave together.”

Science Writing and Reporting

Science News: Blog: Arsenic-based life gets even more toxic
Scientists pound two more nails into the coffin of an incredible scientific claim
By Rachel Ehrenberg   
Web edition : Monday, July 9th, 2012

The brouhaha over a 2010 report that a microbe can incorporate the toxic element arsenic in its cells continues — though most experts consider the issue settled long ago. A study from Rosemary Redfield’s lab at the University of British Columbia that replicated the original experiments and found no evidence that microbe GFAJ-1 was using arsenic to survive has now been published online in Science (Science News covered it in February).

Science is also publishing a second paper by ETH Zurich microbiologists that comes to the same conclusion: GFAJ-1 is extremely tolerant of arsenic and very good at scavenging phosphorus. That makes it a pretty cool microbe, but poor GFAJ-1 will never live up to its original hype. When you’ve been touted as a New Form of Life, well, Really Good at Finding Phosphorus just doesn’t have the same cachet.

That brings Science, a journal with plenty of cachet, to a total of eight technical comments and two papers unquestionably refuting the original findings by Felisa Wolfe-Simon and her colleagues. Yet their paper still hasn’t been retracted. Why not?

Science is Cool

Huddersfield Daily Examiner (UK): Hilarie Stelfox: Is this a pre-historic holiday hot spot?
by Hilarie Stelfox, Huddersfield Daily Examiner

BEING A northerner my geographical knowledge of the soft south is minimal.

So it seemed quite logical to me last week that if we wanted to visit the world-famous Anglo-Saxon burial site of Sutton Hoo on the South East coast we should book a hotel in Cambridge.

It was only as we set off in the car and consulted a road atlas that I discovered my error. Sutton Hoo is in Suffolk, many miles away.

Actually, I blame the Time Team Guide to the Archaeological Sites of Britain and Ireland, which contains some highly misleading maps of a scale that leads cartographic illiterates such as myself to believe if places look close together on paper they must be so in real life. We reluctantly crossed Sutton Hoo off our list.

The Daily Mail: 'Someone digs up an ancient relic every day in Britain': TV historian Bettany Hughes on our very own treasure island
By Bettany Hughes
PUBLISHED: 16:30 EST, 13 July 2012

It’s the stuff of fairytales. Small boys find golden treasure that holds a sacred secret. Farm labourers uncover riches in muddy cow fields. An unsung hero stumbles on a pot of gold that will rewrite history. But this is no fantasy.

Every year the British public discover no fewer than 90,000 archaeological artefacts, some up to half a million years old. They are enthusiasts, collectors – or simply members of the public who happen upon something unexpected while building a patio.

Every day in Britain someone, somewhere digs up treasure. And together with a panel of experts from the British Museum and the Council of British Archaeology, myself and Michael Buerk have been given the exhilarating task of picking 50 of the best for a new TV show.

Spoilt for choice doesn’t even come close to describing how we feel. So far almost a million of these finds have been reported, each with a vivid back story.

Possibly my favourite involves a keen-eyed farmer from East Yorkshire who realised his pigs had uprooted a golden Anglo-Saxon cross, studded with garnets. Yet the bulk of these finds happen not by chance, but by a very British passion for collecting, and a very British virtue – patience.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.

Originally posted to Overnight News Digest on Sat Jul 14, 2012 at 09:08 PM PDT.

Also republished by SciTech.

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