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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, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington (list from Politics1.com).

This week's featured stories come from the White House on YouTube, the University of Texas at Austin, and Reuters.

Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) Winners
August 3, 2012


On July 31st President Obama welcomed 96 winners of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. Hear, in their own words, what some of them are doing in the wide world of Science.
President Obama Honors Engineering and Natural Science Faculty Members with Early Career Awards
August 1, 2012
"Discoveries in science and technology not only strengthen our economy, they inspire us as a people," Obama said. "The impressive accomplishments of the awardees so early in their careers promise even greater advances in the years ahead."

Obama spends his 51st birthday on the golf course
Reporting by Samson Reiny in Washington and Eric Johnson in Chicago; Writing by Laura MacInnis; Editing by Anthony Boadle
August 4, 2012

President Barack Obama celebrated his 51st birthday on Saturday with a round of golf, then helicoptered to the Camp David presidential retreat for a quiet evening off the campaign trail.

Obama, an avid golfer, played with colleagues and friends at the Andrews Air Force Base in hot, muggy weather conditions before taking Marine One to Maryland's Catoctin Mountains in the afternoon.

The White House did not release details of the president's evening plans or share the menu for the birthday meal he was expected to share with wife, Michelle.

Happy birthday, Mr. President!

More stories, including four videos about Curiosity and its seven minutes of terror, after the jump.

Recent Science Diaries and Stories

This week in science: Mars, bitches!
by DarkSyde

OH. DEAR. GOD. Here's what we're up against.
by Brainwrap

I Made the New York Times!
by SteveG

James Hansen: Climate Change is here-and worse than we thought
by beach babe in fl

Northwest passage seems to be open
by JMcDonald

Slideshows/Videos

NASA Television on YouTube: Curiosity's Landing on This Week @NASA


The much-anticipated landing of the Mars Science Laboratory with Curiosity, the Red Planet's next resident rover, is this Monday, at 1:31 a.m. Eastern. Having been configured by the MSL flight team for entry, descent and landing the spacecraft is on final approach for its targeted touchdown in Gale Crater. Coverage of Curiosity's landing begins Sunday at 11:30 p.m. Eastern on all three NASA TV channels, nasa.gov, AND, Xbox 360. Also, engineers at the Johnson Space Center have conducted test firings of the Project Morpheus Lander, the quickest trip ever to the International Space Station of an unpiloted Russian Progress resupply ship , Marking History at Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility and more!

University of Michigan Engineering on YouTube: "7 minutes of terror" during landing of Mars Science Lab


This video provides a quick overview of the Mars Science Laboratory mission, including the "7 minutes of terror" that NASA coined to describe the unprecedented landing plan designed for the mission.

Michigan Engineering faculty, staff and students have played a role in the NASA mission, which will set the Curiosity rover on a carefully selected site called Gale Crater.

Yes, it's the same video, but this one has original narration with an original take on the mission.

University of Tennessee on YouTube: Two UT Scientists to Begin Searching for Clues of Life of Mars


NASA's Curiosity rover is scheduled to land on Mars Sunday, Aug. 5. The work will then begin for two UT professors searching for potentially habitable environments on the red planet. Linda Kah and Jeffrey Moersch, associate professors in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, are an integral part of the NASA team working on the rover. The Curiosity rover is looking for clues to whether the Martian surface has ever had an environment capable of evolving, or potentially sustaining life.
For the accompanying press release, click on Two UT Scientists to Begin Searching for Potential Habitats for Life on Mars.

ReelNASA on YouTube: ISS Update: Mars Science Laboratory -- 07.31.12


ISS Update commentator Pat Ryan interviews Dr. Doug Archer of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Science Team about the MSL mission, the Curiosity Rover and the SAM instrument.
Curiosity, the car-size, one-ton rover is bound for arrival on Mars at 1:31 a.m., EDT on Monday, Aug. 6. The landing will mark the beginning of a two-year prime mission to investigate one of the most intriguing places on Mars.

Archer discusses SAM, which will analyze samples of material collected and delivered by the rover's arm. It includes a gas chromatograph, a mass spectrometer, and a tunable laser spectrometer with combined capabilities to identify a wide range of organic (carbon-containing) compounds and determine the ratios of different isotopes of key elements. Isotope ratios are clues to understanding the history of Mars' atmosphere and water.

ReelNASA on YouTube: ISS Update: Food Technology on a Mission to Mars -- 08.01.12


ISS Update commentator Pat Ryan interviews Michele Perchonok, Advanced Food Technology Program Scientist, about developing food for a human crew on a mission to Mars.

NASA Televison on YouTube: NASA Chooses Next-Gen Companies for Human Spaceflight


At a briefing from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announces new agreements with three American commercial companies, Sierra Nevada, SpaceX and Boeing, to design and develop the next generation of U.S. human spaceflight capabilities, enabling a launch of astronauts from U.S. soil in the next five years.

Science at NASA on YouTube: ScienceCasts: Meteor Smoke Makes Strange Clouds


A key ingredient of Earth's strangest clouds does not come from Earth. New data from NASA's AIM spacecraft proves that "meteor smoke" is essential to the formation of noctilucent clouds.

University of Washington: Rockets, roller coasters and more for young scholars – with slideshow
July 31, 2012

Pedestrians along the UW’s Rainier Vista may have noticed an unusual warning last Friday. “Danger Rocket Launching Area,” the sign read. Below that someone had drawn a cartoon stick figure receiving a “doink” to the head from a descending bottle rocket.

The sign was part of a demonstration by students in grades five through 10 enrolled in summer sessions for advanced learners, organized by the UW Robinson Center for Young Scholars. This year’s 507 participants came from around Puget Sound.

Apart from the rocket launch, which was part of the robotics class, seventh-through-ninth graders in the “Summer Stretch” program could choose four-week sessions on math, chemistry, filmmaking, literature and more.

Astronomy/Space

University of Michigan: Scientists 'hear a star scream as it gets devoured' by a lurking supermassive black hole
Written by Nicole Casal Moore   
Published on Aug 03, 2012

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Astrophysicists have detected, for the first time, the oscillating signal that heralds the last gasps of a star falling victim to a previously dormant supermassive black hole.

Led by researchers at the University of Michigan, the team documented the event with the Suzaku and XMM-Newton orbiting X-ray telescopes. These instruments picked up semi-regular blips in the light from a numerically-named galaxy 3.9 billion light years away in the northern constellation Draco the dragon.

The blips, scientifically known as "quasiperiodic oscillations," occurred steadily every 200 seconds, but occasionally disappeared. Such signals have often been detected at smaller black holes and they're believed to emanate from material about to be sucked in, explained Rubens Reis, an Einstein Postdoctoral Fellow at U-M and first author of a paper on the work published this week in Science Express.

Evolution/Paleontology

Science News: DNA hints at African cousin to humans
Gene profiles suggest people interbred with a now-extinct species on the continent not that long ago
By Tina Hesman Saey

Expeditions to Africa may have brought back evidence of a hitherto unknown branch in the human family tree. But this time the evidence wasn't unearthed by digging in the dirt. It was found in the DNA of hunter-gatherer people living in Cameroon and Tanzania.

Buried in the genetic blueprints of 15 people, researchers found the genetic signature of a sister species that branched off the human family tree at about the same time that Neandertals did. This lineage probably remained isolated from the one that produced modern humans for a long time, but its DNA jumped into the Homo sapiens gene pool through interbreeding with modern humans during the same era that other modern humans and Neandertals were mixing in the Middle East, researchers report in the August 3 Cell.

The evidence for ancient interbreeding is surprisingly convincing, says Richard "Ed" Green, a genome biologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. "There is a signal that demands explanation, and archaic admixture seems to be the most reasonable one at this point," he says.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.

The University of Kansas: Insect fossil from Devonian may shed light on birth of insect flight
August 2, 2012

LAWRENCE — As scientists have toiled to chronicle of the evolution of insects, a frustrating blank spot in the fossil record has masked one of the most critical points in insects’ development — the Devonian, or roughly 365 million years ago.

The biodiversity of insects, the greatest radiation of all life today, during the Devonian is captivating to researchers because it was around this period when insects first diversified. They developed novel feeding strategies and first evolved wings, becoming the original organisms on Earth to evolve powered flight.

“Insects do have a good fossil record, but unfortunately not from this critical time period,” said Michael Engel, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Kansas. “Prior to this, only two definitive insects have been recorded from the Devonian, and both are exceptionally fragmentary.”

University of Missouri: Research Team Discovers Eating Habits of Jurassic Age Dinosaur
MU researcher says findings could help scientists better understand feeding habits of giant animals
By Jerett Rion
July 30, 2012

COLUMBIA, Mo. – A team of researchers from the University of Bristol, the Natural History Museum of London, the University of Missouri and Ohio University has discovered the eating habits of Diplodocus using a three-dimensional model of the dinosaur’s skull. The eating habits of the herbivore have been uncertain since its discovery more than 130 years ago. Understanding these behaviors could help scientists better understand extinct and modern ecosystems and what it takes to feed these giant herbivores as well as today’s living animals.

Diplodocus was a giant, herbivorous sauropod dinosaur from the Jurassic period, which was around 150 million years ago. The dinosaur, which was more than 170 feet long and weighed more than 12 tons, was the longest animal ever to walk the planet. Its neck was about 20 feet in length.

“Since Diplodocus was such a huge animal, its eating habits and behavior have always been a question in the paleontology community,” said Casey Holliday, an assistant professor of pathology and anatomical sciences at MU. “With the 3D model of the skull, we were able to simulate three eating scenarios using a computer-based analysis to determine the stresses that the skull would experience in each situation.”

Biodiversity

Michigan State University: Massive data for miniscule communities
August 1, 2012

EAST LANSING, Mich. — It’s relatively easy to collect massive amounts of data on microbes. But the files are so large that it takes days to simply transmit them to other researchers and months to analyze once they are received.

Researchers at Michigan State University have developed a new computational technique, featured in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that relieves the logjam that these “big data” issues create.

Microbial communities living in soil or the ocean are quite complicated. Their genomic data is easy enough to collect, but their data sets are so big that they actually overwhelm today’s computers. C. Titus Brown, MSU assistant professor in bioinformatics, demonstrates a general technique that can be applied on most microbial communities.

BBC: African snail: Deadly invasion in South America
By William Kremer
August 2, 2012

An African snail appears to be on a campaign to conquer central and southern America. But how much mess can a mollusc make - and are they really deadly to humans?

At an average size of just a couple of inches long, the so-called giant African land snail (Achatina fulica) probably wouldn't qualify for a starring role in a 1950s horror film, but it is still wreaking havoc in several South American countries and the US state of Florida.

The threat lies in its ability to multiply at enormous speed. The snails reach maturity after a year and can then produce 200-300 eggs a month, leading to huge infestations within a short space of time. The snails, which are native to East Africa, appear on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's list of the world's top 100 invasive species.

University of Michigan: Predatory beetles eavesdrop on ants' chemical conversations to find best egg-laying sites
Written by Jim Erickson   
Published on Aug 03, 2012

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Predatory beetles can detect the unique alarm signal released by ants that are under attack by parasitic flies, and the beetles use those overheard conversations to guide their search for safe egg-laying sites on coffee bushes.

Azteca instabilis ants patrol coffee bushes and emit chemical alarm signals when they're under attack by phorid flies. In an article published online July 27 in the journal Ecology and Evolution, University of Michigan researchers and their colleagues show that pregnant lady beetles intercept the ants' alarm pheromones, which let the beetles know that it's safe to deposit their eggs.

The findings, which may have practical implications for pest management on coffee plantations, are the first documentation of a complex cascade of interactions mediated by ant pheromones, according to the authors.

University of Washington: Bears, scavengers count on all-you-can-eat salmon buffet lasting for months
By Sandra Hines
August 2, 2012

Salmon conservation shouldn't narrowly focus on managing flows in streams and rivers or on preserving only places that currently have strong salmon runs.

Instead, watersheds need a good mix of steep, cold-running streams and slower, meandering streams of warmer water to keep options open for salmon adapted to reproduce better in one setting than the other, new research shows.

Preserving that sort of varied landscape serves not just salmon, it provides an all-summer buffet that brown bears, gulls and other animals need to sustain themselves the rest of the year.

Michigan State University: Human relationship with wildlife one key to conservation
July 31, 2012

EAST LANSING, Mich. — To protect a dangerous and endangered animal – be it a tiger in Nepal or a wolf in Michigan – you really do have to ask people “how do you FEEL about your predatory neighbor?”

Effective conservation calls for figuring out what protected species need – like habitat and food sources. It also requires an understanding of what it takes for their human neighbors to tolerate them. A Michigan State University doctoral student studying tigers in Nepal found that those feelings can provide critical information on how best to protect species.

“People have complex psychological relationships with wildlife,” said Neil Carter, researcher in MSU’s Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability. “Picking apart these complex relationships is the best way to get a really good idea of what’s affecting their tolerance of the animal.”

University of Washington: Critically endangered whales sing like birds; new recordings hint at rebound — with audio
By Nancy Gohring
July 31, 2012

When a University of Washington researcher listened to the audio picked up by a recording device that spent a year in the icy waters off the east coast of Greenland, she was stunned at what she heard: whales singing a remarkable variety of songs nearly constantly for five wintertime months.

Kate Stafford, an oceanographer with UW’s Applied Physics Lab, set out to find if any endangered bowhead whales passed through the Fram Strait, an inhospitable, ice-covered stretch of sea between Greenland and the northern islands of Norway. Only around 40 sightings of bowhead whales, which were hunted almost to extinction, have been reported there since the 1970s.

Stafford and colleagues put two hydrophones, or underwater microphones, on moorings attached to the seafloor in Fram Strait, leaving them there for as long as the batteries would last: nearly a year. Since the population of bowhead whales likely to pass through was thought to number in the tens, they didn’t anticipate much interesting data.

“We hoped to record a few little grunts and moans,” Stafford said. “We were not expecting to get five months of straight singing.”

Biotechnology/Health

University of Washington: Americans gaining more weight than they say
By William Heisel
August 3, 2012

Despite the increasing awareness of the problem of obesity in the United States, most Americans don’t know whether they are gaining or losing weight, according to new research from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, also known at IHME, at the University of Washington.

Obesity increased in the U.S. between 2008 and 2009, but in response to the questions about year-to-year changes in weight that were included in the most widespread public health survey in the country, on average, people said that they lost weight. Men did a worse job estimating their own weight changes than women. And older adults were less attuned to their weight changes than young adults. The findings are being published in the article “In denial: misperceptions of weight change among adults in the United States” in the August edition of Preventive Medicine.

“If people aren’t in touch with their weight and changes in their weight over time, they might not be motivated to lose weight,” said lead author Catherine Wetmore. “Misreporting of weight gains and losses also has policy implications. If we had relied on the reported data about weight change between 2008 and 2009, we would have undercounted approximately 4.4 million obese adults in the US.”

Michigan State University: Researchers find potential cancer roadblock
August 1, 2012

EAST LANSING, Mich. — By identifying a key protein that tells certain breast cancer cells when and how to move, researchers at Michigan State University hope to better understand the process by which breast cancer spreads, or metastasizes.

When breast cancer metastasizes, cancer cells break away from a primary tumor and move to other organs in the body, including the lungs, liver and brain. In work published recently in the journal Cancer Research, MSU researchers Kathy Gallo and Jian Chen show a protein called MLK3 (mixed lineage kinase 3) is a critical driver of breast cancer cell migration and invasion.

More importantly, Chen and Gallo showed that in triple-negative breast tumor cells, which are more aggressive and for which targeted therapies are needed, it is possible to thwart that cell migration and invasion.

Wayne State University: Wayne State research team finds possible clue to progression of MS
July 31, 2012

DETROIT — Wayne State University School of Medicine researchers, working with colleagues in Canada, have found that one or more substances produced by a type of immune cell in people with multiple sclerosis (MS) may play a role in the disease’s progression. The finding could lead to new targeted therapies for MS treatment.

B cells, said Robert Lisak, M.D., professor of neurology at Wayne State and lead author of the study, are a subset of lymphocytes (a type of circulating white blood cell) that mature to become plasma cells and produce immunoglobulins, proteins that serve as antibodies. The B cells appear to have other functions, including helping to regulate other lymphocytes, particularly T cells, and helping maintain normal immune function when healthy.

In patients with MS, the B cells appear to attack the brain and spinal cord, possibly because there are substances produced in the nervous system and the meninges — the covering of the brain and spinal cord — that attract them. Once within the meninges or central nervous system, Lisak said, the activated B cells secrete one or more substances that do not seem to be immunoglobulins but that damage oligodendrocytes, the cells that produce a protective substance called myelin.

University of Michigan: http://www.ns.umich.edu/new/releases/20658-concussions-and-head-impacts-may-accelerate-brain-aging
Written by Laura Bailey   
Published on Jul 31, 2012

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Concussions and even lesser head impacts may speed up the brain's natural aging process by causing signaling pathways in the brain to break down more quickly than they would in someone who has never suffered a brain injury or concussion.

Researchers from the University of Michigan School of Kinesiology and the U-M Health System looked at college students with and without a history of concussion and found changes in gait, balance and in the brain's electrical activity, specifically attention and impulse control, said Steven Broglio, assistant professor of kinesiology and director of the Neurotrauma Research Laboratory.

The declines were present in the brain injury group up to six years after injury, though the differences between the study groups were very subtle, and outwardly all of the participants looked and acted the same.

University of Michigan: Stem cell therapy could offer new hope for defects and injuries to head, mouth
Written by Laura Bailey   
Published on Jul 30, 2012

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—In the first human study of its kind, researchers found that using stem cells to re-grow craniofacial tissues—mainly bone—proved quicker, more effective and less invasive than traditional bone regeneration treatments.

Researchers from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry and the Michigan Center for Oral Health Research partnered with Ann Arbor-based Aastrom Biosciences Inc. in the clinical trial, which involved 24 patients who required jawbone reconstruction after tooth removal.

Patients either received experimental tissue repair cells or traditional guided bone regeneration therapy. The tissue repair cells, called ixmyelocel-T, are under development at Aastrom, which is a U-M spinout company.

Kansas State University: Future of fiber: Researcher seeks to update fiber recommendation in children, increase understanding of nutrient
July 30, 2012

MANHATTAN -- Experts have long since determined the recommended daily amounts of certain nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D, but the numbers for nutrients like fiber have proven more difficult to nail down.

One researcher at Kansas State University is seeking to clear the fog, particularly when it comes to the recommended daily allowance of fiber for children. Casey Weber, doctoral student in human nutrition from Mound City, recently completed his first of two studies examining dietary fiber in children.

"Fiber essentially is anything that is not digested or provides a functional benefit, but there's no easy way to classify what that fiber is," Weber said. "While findings exist for adults, there isn't a lot of information about children and the effects of their fiber intake."

Climate/Environment

KQED: Rising Seas Threaten California’s Coastal Past
Higher tides and increased erosion will wipe out archaeological sites
Mike Newland

A site with evidence of more than 1,000 years of occupation is eroding due to high tides hitting the base of the cliff.

On a sunny day earlier this summer at Point Reyes National Seashore, I scrambled behind Mike Newland as he clambered across gullies and bushwhacked through thigh-high lupine. Once we got to the spot he was aiming for, on the edge of a sandy beach-side cliff, he stopped and started to pick through shells and stones.

“You can see, we’ve got sort of a handful of little guys here, popping out of the ground,” he noted. “Some of these that we’re going to see, they weren’t here a year ago, when I came here last time.”

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.

Michigan State University: Pollution can make citizens – both rich and poor – go green
July 30, 2012

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Nothing inspires environmentalism quite like a smog-filled sky or a contaminated river, according to a new Michigan State University study that also indicates environmentalism isn’t just for the prosperous.

People living in China’s cities who say they’ve been exposed to environmental harm are more likely to be green – re-using their plastic grocery bags or recycling. Moreover, the study, published July 30 in the international journal AMBIO, indicates that the poor would sacrifice economic gain to protect their environment.

“The human and natural worlds are tightly coupled and we cannot protect the environment without empirical studies on how rich and poor people are understanding and reacting to the natural world around them.” said Jianguo “Jack” Liu, a co-author of the AMBIO paper and director of the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability at MSU.

The paper, “How Perceived Exposure to Environmental Harm Influences Environmental Behavior in Urban China,” flies in the face of the conventional wisdom that the poor cannot afford to protect the environment.

Geology

Wayne State University: Startup company gives $120,000 grant to Wayne State University geology department for energy, mining research
July 31, 2012

Faculty and research assistants in Wayne State University’s Department of Geology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences soon will become the latest additions to a national team of experts at a newly formed consulting company.

The department recently received a one-year, $120,000 grant from Quarkonics Applied Research Corp. (QARC), which is based in TechTown, the university’s research and technology park and business incubator.
...
The grant will support the hiring of a new geology research faculty member and two part-time graduate students, all of whom will study geophysical parameters in the energy sector. Company officials say the funding is likely to continue beyond this year.

Psychology/Behavior

Michigan State University: Parents get physical with unruly kids, study finds
August 3, 2012

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Parents get physical with their misbehaving children in public much more than they show in laboratory experiments and acknowledge in surveys, according to one of the first real-world studies of caregiver discipline.

The study, led by Michigan State University’s Kathy Stansbury, found that 23 percent of youngsters received some type of “negative touch” when they failed to comply with a parental request in public places such as restaurants and parks. Negative touch included arm pulling, pinching, slapping and spanking.

“I was very surprised to see what many people consider a socially undesirable behavior done by nearly a quarter of the caregivers,” Stansbury said. “I have also seen hundreds of kids and their parents in a lab setting and never once witnessed any of this behavior.”

Michigan State University: When rules change, brain falters
July 30, 2012

EAST LANSING, Mich. — For the human brain, learning a new task when rules change can be a surprisingly difficult process marred by repeated mistakes, according to a new study by Michigan State University psychology researchers.

Imagine traveling to Ireland and suddenly having to drive on the left side of the road. The brain, trained for right-side driving, becomes overburdened trying to suppress the old rules while simultaneously focusing on the new rules, said Hans Schroder, primary researcher on the study.

“There’s so much conflict in your brain,” said Schroder, “that when you make a mistake like forgetting to turn on your blinker you don’t even realize it and make the same mistake again. What you learned initially is hard to overcome when rules change.”

Kansas State University: Smooth transition: Researchers helping freshmen with ADHD succeed in college find it helps to plan management strategies before coming to campus
August 2, 2012

MANHATTAN -- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, affects 1 to 4 percent of college students, according to national studies. For freshmen with ADHD, the transition to college can be especially difficult.

Kristy Morgan, recent Kansas State University doctoral graduate in student affairs and higher education, Leavenworth, has studied ways to help college students with ADHD plan a successful transition to college. Research shows that college students with ADHD have a tangible struggle with a medical condition that cannot be dismissed as an everyday struggle.

"Nobody had really studied the transition from high school to college," Morgan said. "Transitions can be the toughest time for people. This can be especially true when the transition is from the home environment where parents have been involved in daily plans, schedules and medication."

Archeology/Anthropology

Der Spiegel (Germany): Revolutionizing Archaeology Flying Lasers Reveal Buried Historical Structures
By Markus Becker

The Glauberg is a hot spot for archaeologists. For decades, researchers have been studying the hill in the central German state of Hesse, where people settled some 7,000 years ago.

Over the millennia, the plateau was inhabited by Celts and Alemanni and, in the Middle Ages, people there built castles that reached for the sky. Accordingly, researchers have found plenty of artifacts. In 1996, they made the sensational discovery of an almost perfectly preserved statue of a Celtic warrior, which is now known as the Celtic Prince of Glauberg.

It was thought unlikely that the mound would yield any more big surprises. At least that was the assumption until people with flying lasers showed up. They flew an airplane over the Glauberg multiple times, sending pulses of light to the ground and measuring their echoes. This "light detection and ranging" technology, known as LIDAR, helps scientists record differences in altitude down to just a few centimeters. Trees and bushes are no obstacle to accurate measurements -- they can simply be calculated out later with a computer. What remains is a three-dimensional image of the naked earth's surface, including geometric formations that betray any structures that might be hidden underground.

The Daily Telegraph (UK): James Mellaart
6:28PM BST 03 Aug 2012

James Mellaart, who has died aged 86, ranked among the most controversial archaeologists of the 20th century after claiming to have uncovered priceless royal artefacts plundered from Dorak, near the ancient city of Troy, which he said had been missing since the site was first excavated in the 1920s.

He later played a prominent part in the discovery and excavation of the world’s oldest known cities at Hacilar and Çatal Hüyük in Turkey. These Neolithic settlements contained not only the earliest textiles and pottery known to man but also, Mellaart reported, the earliest paintings found on walls (as distinct from caves) which he described in breathless detail.

Times of Israel: A crowd turns out to honor (most of) an archaeological giant
Locals gather at the Jerusalem grave that contains nearly all of Sir Flinders Petrie, the brilliant, eccentric pioneer of Egyptology and biblical archaeology, who died 70 years ago
By Matti Friedman
August 1, 2012

More than a hundred people gathered in Jerusalem to remember Sir Flinders Petrie, one of the fathers of modern archaeology, in the lovely, little-known cemetery on Mt. Zion where most of him was buried 70 years ago this week.

A towering figure in the study of Egyptology and biblical history, the brilliant, driven and eccentric Briton is no longer a household name. But a memorial for Petrie organized by the Israel Antiquities Authority on Monday at the Protestant Cemetery, just outside the walled Old City, nonetheless drew a capacity crowd of local archaeologists, Bible scholars and aficionados of the ancient past.

Petrie’s modest grave — which houses all of his body except for his head — is marked simply with his name and an ankh, the Egyptian hieroglyph for “life.”

Before Petrie’s groundbreaking work in Egypt and Palestine in the late 1800s and early twentieth century, many archaeologists looked chiefly for spectacular finds and simply discarded the rest. Petrie “established that every single find is important” and could be used to decode history, archaeologist Gabriel Barkay told those gathered at the cemetery.

Wales Online (UK): Archaeologist accuses Heritage Minister of 'potentially damaging' his reputation
By Martin Shipton, WalesOnline

One of Wales’ best known archaeologists says he is baffled at how Heritage Minister Huw Lewis came to describe an important site he is excavating as of Roman origin when he is certain it dates back to the Bronze Age.

Steve Clarke, who runs Monmouth Archaeology, feels his professional integrity has been impugned by the Minister’s statement, and has asked for an independent expert to be called in to review the dating evidence.

The significant find at the site in Monmouth has astonished historians and archaeologists, who believe it could reflect a structure entirely unique to Britain, which dates back to at least the Bronze Age.

Experts have suggested that the structure’s size and the fact it was made from entire trees mean it could be a “long house” – raising the possibility it could date as far back as the New Stone Age (the Neolithic Age) and could pre-date the Pyramids from 3,000-2,000BC.

Vanderbilt University: Test flight over Peru ruins could revolutionize archaeological mapping
by Jim Patterson
Posted on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012 — 9:17 AM

Archaeological sites that currently take years to map will be completed in minutes if tests underway in Peru of a new system being developed at Vanderbilt University go well.

The Skate by Aurora Flight Sciences unmanned aerial vehicle will be integrated into a larger system that combines the flying device that can fit into a backpack with a software system that can discern an optimal flight pattern and transform the resulting data into three-dimensional maps. The project is an interdisciplinary collaboration between Vanderbilt archaeologist Steven Wernke and engineering professor Julie A. Adams.

TG Daily:
Archaeologists unearth colossal human sculpture

Posted on July 30, 2012 - 11:28 by TG Daily Staff

An international team of archaeologists recently unearthed a colossal human structure along with an ornately decorated semi-circular column in southeastern Turkey.??

Both pieces were originally part of a monumental gate complex that provided access to the upper citadel of Kunulua, capital of the Neo-Hittite Kingdom of Patina (ca. 1000-738 BC).

"These newly discovered Tayinat sculptures are the product of a vibrant local Neo-Hittite sculptural tradition," explained Professor Tim Harrison of the University of Toronto.??

Reuters via NBC News on MSN: First Pisa, now Rome's Colosseum - it's leaning
Writing by Catherine Hornby; Editing by Michael Roddy
updated 7/29/2012 2:32:57 PM ET

ROME (Reuters) - The ancient Colosseum of Rome, where gladiators fought for their lives, is slanting about 40 cm (16 inches) lower on the south side than on the north, and authorities are investigating whether it needs urgent repairs.

Experts first noticed the incline about a year ago and have been monitoring it for the past few months, Rossella Rea, director at the 2,000-year-old monument, said in an article published in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera on Sunday.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa, another of Italy's most popular attractions, was reopened in 2001 after being shut for more than a decade as engineers worked to prevent it from falling over and to make it safe for visitors.

Public Radio International: Italy turns to shoe company billionaire to pay for Colosseum rennovations

Italy's historic Colosseum has been showing its age in recent years. There are cracks in the walls and pieces have even been falling off. But, with Italy's budget in a crunch, the government had to turn to private funds, from Tod's owner Diego Della Valle, to fix it up.

Virginia Gazette: Dig at W&M reveals Civil War artifacts
Rifle found, marbles, buttons
By Joseph McClain, W&M News The Virginia Gazette
August 4, 2012

WILLIAMSBURG—

-- Archaeologists working in Brafferton Yard at William & Mary continue to uncover evidence when the normally placid Old Campus was a Civil War battleground. Through this weekend, you can see for yourself.

Williamsburg and the college were near a shifting line between the Union-controlled lower Peninsula and the Confederate upper portion. The W&M Center for Archaeological Research has excavated a small plot near the Brafferton Kitchen that is crowded with features dating to the occupation by Union troops 1862-65.

BBC: Australian outlaw Ned Kelly's remains to go to family

The remains of Australian outlaw Ned Kelly will be handed to his descendants for burial more than 130 years after he was hanged for murder.

The headless remains of Kelly, who led a gang in Victoria in the late 1800s, were identified last November through DNA tests.

The bones were found in a mass grave outside the former Pentridge Prison.

KTVB: Archeological dig taking place in the Basque Block
KTVB.COM

BOISE -- A big dig is going down in the Basque Block in downtown Boise, over 100 years after the Basque community settled here.

In a partnership between the Basque Museum & Cultural Center and the University of Idaho, students are doing a two-week archaeological excavation at the Boarding House, near the museum.

The Canadian Press via CP24: U.S. recovers bodies of WW2 airmen in Quebec water
Published Sunday, Jul. 29, 2012 9:45AM EDT

The wind was fierce and the waves were surging on Josephine Vibert's wedding day, 70 years ago in Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan, a small fishing village on Quebec's north shore.

In 1942, the village became the site of an emergency airstrip on the U.S. military's so-called "Crimson Route," a strategic air corridor to Europe through Maine and Newfoundland.

Late in the afternoon on Nov. 2, 1942, not long before the wedding reception, Vibert and most of the village stopped to watch a U.S. Army seaplane taxi from the harbour.

But the plane -- a PBY Catalina -- struggled to clear the water. Vibert recalls the towering waves of the Gulf lashing at the cockpit during its second take-off attempt.

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

Physics

Georgia Tech: The Science of Running: Follow the Bouncing Ball
August 2, 2012

Muscle size, genetics and training are among the countless factors that separate Olympic sprinters from the average person. On a fundamental level, however, the mechanics of running are the same for all humans. In fact, they’re basically identical for animals too.

“Science has shown that running is very similar to a bouncing ball,” says Young-Hui Chang, an associate professor who oversees Georgia Tech’s “running lab,” officially called the Comparative Neuromechanics Laboratory. “When humans, horses and even cockroaches run, their center of mass bounces just like a pogo stick.”

This bouncing effect, Chang explains, means that the hip, knee and ankle joints all flex and extend at the same time when the foot hits the ground. Many of the leg muscles are turned on simultaneously, creating force and propelling the runner into the air.

Chemistry

Georgia Tech: Researchers Study How to Avoid Charge Traps in Plastic Electronics
July 29, 2012

Plastic electronics hold the promise of cheap, mass-produced devices. But plastic semiconductors have an important flaw: the electronic current is influenced by “charge traps” in the material. These traps, which have a negative impact on plastic light-emitting diodes and solar cells, are poorly understood.

However, a new study by a team of researchers from the University of Groningen and the Georgia Institute of Technology reveals a common mechanism underlying these traps and provides a theoretical framework to design trap-free plastic electronics. The results are presented in an advance online publication of the journal Nature Materials.

Plastic semiconductors are made from organic, carbon-based polymers, comprising a tunable forbidden energy gap. In a plastic light-emitting diode (LED), an electron current is injected into a higher molecular orbital, situated just above the energy gap. After injection, the electrons move toward the middle of the LED and fall down in energy across the forbidden energy gap, converting the energy loss into photons. As a result, an electrical current is converted into visible light.

Energy

University of Michigan: Vehicle fuel economy stays the same in July
Written by Bernie DeGroat   
Published on Aug 02, 2012

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—After a three-month drop, fuel economy of all new vehicles sold in the United States remained unchanged in July, say researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

Average fuel economy (window-sticker values) of cars, light trucks, minivans and SUVs purchased last month was 23.6 mpg, a 17 percent increase (3.5 mpg) from October 2007, the first month of monitoring by UMTRI researchers Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle.

University of Texas at Austin: Biologist Receives $1.5 Million to Study Potential Biofuel Crops
August 2, 2012

A biologist at The University of Texas at Austin has received a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to study native prairie grasses as potential sources of biofuel.

The project, which is being led by Tom Juenger, is looking in particular at “panicgrass,” which is native to Texas, Louisiana and New Mexico. The grass is useful as a proxy for studying the genetics and physiology of switchgrass, one of the most likely sources of biofuel in the near future.

“Switchgrass shows enormous potential as a source of biofuels,” said Juenger, associate professor of integrative biology in the College of Natural Sciences. “It’s a beast to study, though. It is a very large perennial plant, requiring a lot of space to grow, and has a very complex genome and breeding system.”

Kansas State University: NEWS TIP: ELECTRICAL AND COMPUTER ENGINEER CAN TALK ABOUT POWER GRID COLLAPSE IN INDIA
August 1, 2012

MANHATTAN -- With India's power grid collapse affecting hundreds of millions of people, a Kansas State University expert who studies power systems engineering can provide insight into the infrastructure issues behind the collapse.

Anil Pahwa, professor of electrical and computer engineering, is originally from India and has worked with power systems for more than 30 years. He researches intelligent power distribution systems, including ways to improve these systems and make them more stable and efficient.

With the collapse in India, Pahwa said the initial indication is that some states were overdrawing power beyond the allotment, which caused the collapse. Whenever the power lines are beyond capacity, there is a danger of collapse.

Science, Space, Environment, Health, and Energy Policy

Voice of America: Cards Protect Combat Zone Historic Sites
July 27, 2012

AMELIA, Italy — Laurie Rush is on a mission. The American scientist is teaching the U.S. military about the value of archeological sites and ancient artifacts in combat zones.

Rush joined forces with the U.S. military in 1998, when she accepted a civilian post as an archeologist at Fort Drum, New York. The area is rich in Native American history, Rush’s specialty, and part of her job is to ensure that construction and training on the vast base don’t harm any valuable archeological sites.

That’s what happened in the ancient Iraqi city of Babylon in 2003 following the U.S.-led invasion. As American and Polish troops were building a camp, they inadvertently crushed an ancient brick pavement and destroyed dragon decorations on the Ishtar Gate, which was constructed at around 575 BC.

Addison Independent: Vergennes drug bust nets stolen Bixby artifact
By John Flowers
Posted on July 26, 2012

VERGENNES — Bixby Memorial Library officials held out little hope of recovering a valuable Native American spearhead when it was stolen from the organization’s museum last October.

But thanks to a vigilant public and some good police work, the spearhead has been located and is on target for return to the Bixby’s museum within the next few weeks. And soon after it does, the spearhead and the rest of the museum’s thousands of artifacts will be formally catalogued to give Bixby officials a more polished picture of the little-known treasure trove of historical artifacts that has reposed for generations in a non-descript, second-floor room in the historic library.

“The Bixby Library is thrilled and impressed,” library Director Jane Spencer said of the recovery of the Shoshoni ceremonial spearhead by Vergennes police. Police on July 17 cited Susan J. Curavoo, 46, of Vergennes, for possession of stolen property after executing a search warrant at her home. Vergennes police Chief George Merkel said the spearhead — around a foot long and colored black on one side, red on the other — was found safely ensconced in bubble rap. He said Curavoo is scheduled to answer to citations for possession of stolen property and possession of marijuana at the Addison County Courthouse on Aug. 27.

It was last fall that someone unscrewed a hasp and removed a padlock to get into the glass display case that housed the spearhead. The culprit ignored other, potentially more valuable items in the same display case, Merkel noted. The spearhead is part of an expansive collection of Native American artifacts from throughout the country donated to the Bixby by the late Ernest Bilhuber, a former summer resident who was a friend of the late Lois Noonan, former longtime Bixby director.

Business Recorder (Pakistan): Almost 90 percent of seized Gandhara-era artefacts fake: report
RECORDER REPORT
August 04, 2012

Almost 90 percent of the seized "ancient relics of Gandhara civilisation" seized some time ago by police in Karachi are fake and unauthentic, a member of a five-member committee of archaeologists cited a report compiled by the panel on Friday. The committee was formed to verify the authenticity of the seized artefacts by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government.

The panel of experts, led by the former director and chairman of the University of Peshawar's Department of Archaeology, Professor Farid Khan, comprised Curator of Peshawar Museum Nidaullah Sehrai, Chairman of Hazara University's Department of Archaeology Dr Abdul Samad, Curator of Swat Museum Faizur Rehman and Mohammad Fawad Khan, a Gallery Assistant in the Peshawar Museum.

The Arizona Republic via USA Today: U.S. border agents find rare artifacts
By Daniel Gonzalez, The Arizona Republic
TUCSON, Ariz. – At a conservation center here, archaeologists are studying several ancient Native American pots discovered earlier this year deep in the remote desert mountains of southern Arizona.

The archaeologists believe the pots are hundreds of years old but still haven't determined their exact age or who made them. That could take a year or more.

What they do know is that the discovery of the pots was a rare and unusual find.

The reddish-brown pots, which likely stored water and food, were intact when they were found in mountainous alcoves of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, which lies just north of the U.S.-Mexico border and west of the Tohono O'odham Reservation. Most of the ancient pottery found these days are shards.

Washington Post: In Egypt, archaeologists reopen tombs to woo tourists
By Simon Denyer, Published: July 29

GIZA, Egypt — More than 4,500 years since the paint was first applied, the reds, yellows and blues still stand out on the walls of the tomb of Queen Meresankh III.

A hunter throws a net to catch water birds, craftsmen make papyrus mats while a stream of people carry baskets filled with offerings for the afterlife.

Decorating the walls all around are paintings, reliefs and statues of Meresankh, draped in a leopard-skin cloak, standing beside her mother in a boat, pulling papyrus stems through the water or being entertained by musicians and singers.

Egypt’s tourism industry has been battered since last year’s revolution, but here, beside the pyramids of Giza, officials are trying to attract the visitors back.

Coast Reporter (Canada): SIB will fight to protect 4,000-year-old burial site
Christine Wood/Staff Writer
August 3, 2012

The Sechelt Nation will fight to save an ancient chieftain burial site found at the mouth of Salmon Inlet, described as one of the most important archeological discoveries in the province.

“We’ve proven without a shadow of a doubt this site is one of the most important in British Columbia — one of the most important for showing the development of chiefly status, and it’s right here,” Dr. Terence Clark of the Canadian Museum of Civilization said during Archeology Day at the Sechelt Indian Band (SIB) hall July 29.

The Art Newspaper (UK): Outstanding Roman sarcophagus recovered after more than 20 years
Executor of late, unnamed US antiquities dealer contacted Italian authorities
By Tina Lepri and Ermanno Rivetti. Web only
Published online: 26 July 2012

An ancient Roman alabaster sarcophagus, which was stolen more than 20 years ago from a church south of Rome, was returned to Italy on 18 July. It came from the London-based collection of an unnamed antiquities, flown back to Rome on a cargo flight in a container reportedly displaying the official seal of the Italian Embassy in London.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

University of Michigan: Medicaid changes under the Affordable Care Act will simplify enrollment, reduce number of uninsured in Michigan
Act consolidates existing eligibility categories, eliminates asset tests, and provides more federal funding for new categories, enabling more people to obtain Medicaid coverage
July 30, 2012

The Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation (CHRT) released a policy paper that shows how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2014 will streamline eligibility categories and may also help between 400,000 and 500,000 citizens to become newly eligible for Medicaid coverage. Currently, there are at least 40 different ways—each with varying eligibility requirements—to qualify for Medicaid in Michigan.

Whether or not Michigan decides to expand coverage for Medicaid, the paper shows that enrolling in Medicaid and maintaining that coverage should become easier for Michigan residents starting in 2014, when the ACA requires states to eliminate asset tests—a review of an individual’s assets to ensure they do not exceed certain limits—and consolidate existing eligibility categories.

“Many changes were included in the ACA that go beyond the Medicaid expansion. These changes were designed to make enrollment policies and processes simpler for those who have existing Medicaid coverage, and enable those newly eligible to go through an easier enrollment process than exists today. These enrollment changes alone should help ensure that more people have access to the affordable care when they need it,” says Marianne Udow-Phillips, CHRT’s director.

Wayne State University: State of Michigan adopts NIH's PRB progesterone therapy to combat infant mortality
August 1, 2012

DETROIT - The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) has unveiled the state's Infant Mortality Reduction Plan, a strategy that includes significant recommendations developed from medical research conducted by the Perinatology Research Branch (PRB) of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health (NICHD/NIH), at the Wayne State University School of Medicine.

Announced Aug. 1, the plan promotes the adoption of universal cervical length screening by ultrasound and the use of progesterone in women identified as high risk for premature birth. The use of progesterone in women with a short cervix can reduce the rate of preterm birth - the leading factor in infant mortality - by as much as 45 percent, according to research findings published by the PRB. The study, released last year, was conducted at more than 40 centers worldwide. Roberto Romero, M.D., branch chief of the PRB, was the principal investigator on behalf of NICHD/NIH. Wayne State was the lead center in the trial, led by Sonia Hassan, M.D., associate dean for maternal, perinatal and child health at WSU.

The ultrasound examination is simple to perform, painless and can be performed between the 19th and 24th weeks of pregnancy. Pregnant women with a cervix less than 20 millimeters are at very high risk for preterm delivery. If a woman is found to have a short cervix, she can be treated with vaginal progesterone. Treatment with vaginal progesterone reduced the rate of preterm birth, neonatal morbidity and respiratory distress syndrome. Women can self-administer a once-daily dose.

Wayne State University: Wayne Law professor leads state group creating guidelines for public health emergencies
July 30, 2012

In venues from medical labs to the Supreme Court, Americans deal increasingly with bioethical issues, as science brings developments in life and death cases.

Wayne Law Associate Professor Lance Gable leads a multi-disciplinary state ethics committee, that is creating guidelines for healthcare and public health systems in Michigan in the case of a public health emergency in which resources — such as vaccines, medicines, ventilators, even hospital beds — become scarce.

The proposed guidelines, which took three years to debate and draft, are available online at www.mimedicalethics.org. Gable, who teaches bioethics and public health law at Wayne Law, and officials at the Michigan Department of Community Health want public feedback on the ethical guidelines, which are meant to help healthcare providers and other public officials make hard decisions.

Suppose, for instance, a deadly pandemic erupts, and the medicine to treat the illness is in limited supply. How do public health officials decide who gets the medicine?

Science Education

Michigan State University: GE Foundation grant to fund MSU math study
August 1, 2012

EAST LANSING, Mich. — An MSU education scholar will use a $1 million grant from the GE Foundation as he studies a major effort to improve math education – the implementation of new common standards.

William Schmidt, University Distinguished Professor in the College of Education, will expand his research on the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.

Known for his global research on math instruction, Schmidt forged a partnership with the two organizations that led the development of the standards, the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governor’s Association. The common core standards were released in 2010 and have been adopted by 46 states.

Michigan State University: MSU receives grant to expand robotics programs
July 31, 2012

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan State University has received $40,000 as part of the Innovation Generation grant program from the Motorola Solutions Foundation, the charitable arm of Motorola Solutions, Inc., to support its middle school and high school robotics programs.

This is the sixth consecutive year that MSU's College of Engineering has received Innovation Generation funding.

MSU will use the grant to expand its VEX Robotics program, targeting historically underrepresented middle school and high school students, specifically those in the Detroit, Grand Rapids and Lansing school districts.

Kansas State University: Going the distance: Frontier program uses field trip to Mexican border to inspire students studying food security
August 2, 2012

MANHATTAN -- At the Santa Teresa, N.M., port of entry, about 300,000 cattle a year imported from Mexico pass through the national security checkpoint.

This summer, students from Kansas State University, as well as other universities, traveled to the New Mexico entry port to observe the intricate process of maintaining secure borders.

"We take students on field trips to learn about the complexity of the food system, to see firsthand why it's important to have an interdisciplinary approach to studying trade issues that relate to the food system and security," said Justin Kastner, co-director of the Frontier Program and an associate professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology at the university's College of Veterinary Medicine.

Kansas State University: The digital student: E-books, tablets and even smartphones becoming classroom staples
July 31, 2012

MANHATTAN -- The use of technology in the classroom is growing beyond computers to improve student learning, according to a Kansas State University education technology expert.

"Today it is very common that elementary school classrooms are equipped with SMART boards, which are interactive white boards, as well as a projector and at least one classroom computer with a high-speed Internet connection," said Lotta Larson, an assistant professor of curriculum and instruction who studies how technology can aid learning.

"More traditional technologies, such as audio recorders and players, are also useful and common at the elementary level," she said. "Preferably, all students have access to computers several times a week, whether that is through the use of laptops, tablets or stationary desktop computers in a computer lab."

University of Tennessee: UT Continually Tweaking Programs to Better Meet State Workforce Needs
August 2, 2012

UT is listening to the advice of the business community on how the university can better prepare students with skills to meet the state’s workforce needs.

“We changed our chemistry curriculum based on feedback from Eastman Chemical,” Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek told a group of business leaders during a summit Tuesday hosted by Governor Bill Haslam. “We’re listening to them to make sure we’re doing the right thing.”

The summit was the third of seven Haslam is hosting around the state to discuss the future of higher education and to find out how UT and other higher education institutions can do a better job of matching skills students are learning with the needs of employers.

University of Tennessee: Accounting Professor to Assist US Treasury with Implementation of JOBS Act
July 31, 2012

United States Treasury officials have invited accounting professor Joe Carcello to join a conversation tomorrow about how best to implement the Jumpstart Our Business Startups, or JOBS Act.

The JOBS Act encourages the growth of new ventures and supports small businesses. President Barack Obama signed it into law in April.

Carcello will participate in a roundtable discussion from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Wednesday, August 1, with senior officials from the Treasury and the National Economic Council. The meeting will be held in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the US Treasury Department.

Science Writing and Reporting

Laboratory Equipment: Neolithic People Didn’t Have Defined Gender Roles
Wed, 08/01/2012 - 8:43am

The buried remains of people living between 7,500 and 10,000 years ago show that the stereotypical view of how Neolithic men and women lived is wrong: they were compassionate and gender was not clearly defined. Image: Univ. of ManchesterModern men should take a lead from their more enlightened and compassionate Stone Age ancestors, according to a Univ. of Manchester archaeologist. Karina Croucher, who has studied buried remains of people living between 7,500 and 10,000 years ago across the Middle East, says the stereotypical view of how Neolithic men and women lived is wrong.

She argues, it was normal for men and women to show compassion for each other- and gender was not so clearly defined. The researcher argues male bias in archaeology has distorted our understanding of how ancient peoples lived, in a new book published by Oxford Univ. Press.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.

Science is Cool

NBC News: A hotel? An archaeology site? Or both?
By Geoff Tofield, NBC News

ANTAKYA, Turkey – When Necmi Asfuroglu decided to build a hotel in Antakya, a small city in southern Turkey near the Syrian border, it made good business sense. The city, like the country, is in the middle of a growth spurt.  Trade has been expanding and tourism from Turkey and other countries is on the rise.

Asfuroglu, who built his family firm on steel and concrete production, as well as textiles, moved into construction. He secured building permits, got a franchise from Hilton Hotels, had plans drawn up, brought in his project manager, and thought he’d have a working hotel within 18 months.

Three years later, his has to be one of the most ambitious hotel projects in the world. While digging the foundation of the building, workers found … the past. Lots of it.

The Daily Telegraph (UK): Archaeologists find traces of 2,500-year old chocolate

Archaeologists say they have found traces of 2,500-year-old chocolate on a plate in the Yucatan peninsula, the first time they have found ancient chocolate residue on a plate rather than a cup, suggesting it may have been used as a condiment or sauce with solid food.

Experts have long thought cacao beans and pods were mainly used in pre-Hispanic cultures as a beverage, made either by crushing the beans and mixing them with liquids or fermenting the pulp that surrounds the beans in the pod. Such a drink was believed to have been reserved for the elite.

But the discovery announced this week by Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History expands the envelope of how chocolate may have been used in ancient Mexico.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.

Georgia Tech: Animation Research Could Offer Unparalleled Control of Characters Without Skeletons
August 2, 2012

Computer-generated characters have become so lifelike in appearance and movement that the line separating reality is almost imperceptible at times. “The Matrix” sequels messed with audiences’ perceptions of the real world (in more ways than one) with action scenes mixing CG characters and real actors. Almost a decade later, superheroes and blue aliens dominate the multiplex. But while bipeds and quadrupeds have reigned supreme in CG animation, attempts to create and control their skeleton-free cousins using similar techniques has proved time-consuming and laborious.

Georgia Tech researchers have found a possible solution to this challenge by developing a way to simulate and control movement of computer-generated characters without a skeletal structure, anything from starfish and earthworms to an elephant’s trunk or the human tongue.

Their modeling techniques have the potential to allow amateur animators and even young children unparalleled control of digital creatures by simply pointing and clicking on a screen to have them move the way they want. One can imagine aspiring animators with tools in the near future to build a more boisterous Bob - “Monsters vs. Aliens’” resident blob - or an updated Ursula from “The Little Mermaid,” with her sinister tentacles used to full effect with computer graphics.

Originally posted to Overnight News Digest on Sat Aug 04, 2012 at 09:17 PM PDT.

Also republished by SciTech and Astro Kos.

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