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Welcome to Science Saturday, where the Overnight News Digest crew, consisting of founder Magnifico, regular editors maggiejean, wader, Man Oh Man, side pocket, rfall, and JML9999, alumni editors palantir, Bentliberal, Oke, jlms qkw, Interceptor7, and ScottyUrb, guest editors annetteboardman and Doctor RJ, 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, health, energy, and the environment.

Between now and the end of the primary season, Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday will highlight the research stories from the public universities in each of the states having primary or special elections for federal or state office this year plus stories from all research universities in major cities having municipal elections as listed in the 2014 Daily Kos Elections Calendar.  Tonight's edition features the research and outreach stories from the states of Connecticut, Michigan, and Virginia.

This week's featured story comes from Scientific American.

Feeling Simpatico with Your Dog? It May Be Based on Similar Human–Canine Brain Structures
New research shows that humans and dogs have very similar voice-sensitive brain regions, which may help explain our intense bonds with these furry, four-legged friends
Feb 20, 2014 |By Annie Sneed

You may snicker when you see dog owners talk to their pets as though they were human or view YouTube videos of dogs supposedly speaking English back to their owners, saying words like “banana” and “I love you.” And with good reason: although dogs have the capacity to understand more than 100 words, studies have demonstrated Fido can’t really speak human languages or comprehend them with the same complexity that we do. Yet researchers have now discovered that dog and human brains process the vocalizations and emotions of others more similarly than previously thought. The findings suggest that although dogs cannot discuss relativity theory with us, they do seem to be wired in a way that helps them to grasp what we feel by attending to the sounds we make.

To compare active human and dog brains, postdoctoral researcher Attila Andics and his team from MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group in Hungary trained 11 dogs to lie still in an fMRI brain scanner for several six minute intervals so that the researchers could perform the same experiment on both human and canine participants. Both groups listened to almost two hundred dog and human sounds—from whining and crying to laughter and playful barking—while the team scanned their brain activity.

The resulting study, published in Current Biology today, reveals both that dog brains have voice-sensitive regions and that these neurological areas resemble those of humans. Sharing similar locations in both species, they process voices and emotions of other individuals similarly. Both groups respond with greater neural activity when they listen to voices reflecting positive emotions such as laughing than to negative sounds that include crying or whining. Dogs and people, however, respond more strongly to the sounds made by their own species. “Dogs and humans meet in a very similar social environment but we didn’t know before just how similar the brain mechanisms are to process this social information,” Andics says.

More stories after the jump.


Ely Standard (UK): GALLERY: Village excavation turns up a wealth of finds dating back 1,400 years

Archaeologists gained a valuable insight into life and death in Saxon England thanks to a dig in Haddenham.
More photos here.

The Reporter: Lansdale archaeology, historic preservation company CHRS exhumes pieces of the past
By Brian Bingaman, The Reporter
Posted: 02/20/14, 9:53 PM EST | Updated: 1 day ago

A motorist slows down when he notices the archaeologists from Cultural Heritage Resource Services Inc. in Lansdale have returned to their Delaware County dig site.

Recently snow and extreme cold have delayed this third and final phase of the stratified layer excavation. But today temperatures will reach the 30s, and warm sunlight is shining just right in the area of the Marcus Hook SEPTA train station.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Michigan State University: Spartans feed the world
February 18, 2014

By 2050, the world’s population is expected to reach nine billion. To feed a population that size, food production will need to increase by 70 percent to 100 percent, according to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

NASA: Cygnus Released on This Week @NASA

With delivery of more than a ton of supplies and experiments completed, Orbital Sciences Corporation's Cygnus cargo craft was detached and released from the International Space Station February 18 -- wrapping up the first of at least eight NASA contracted supply missions to the space station for Orbital through 2016. Also, Orion recovery tests, NuSTAR findings, Stofan visits Stennis, Virginia Aerospace Days and Friendship 7 anniversary!

NASA: ScienceCasts: Follow the Water

NASA and JAXA are about to launch a new satellite that can see through storms, tracking rain and snow around the globe better than any previous observatory. The Global Precipitation Measurement Core Observatory is scheduled to lift off from Japan on Feb. 27th.


Physics Today: Investigating the early universe through “stellar archaeology”
The New York Times calls attention to a metaphorical way of understanding certain astrophysics work.
By Steven T. Corneliussen

The Nature paper “A single low-energy, iron-poor supernova as the source of metals in the star SMSS J031300.36-670839.3” has inspired international media coverage. In the New York Times, science writer Curtis Brainard wrote a Science Times front-page-dominating commentary calling a relatively new astrophysical method “archaeology of the stars.”

The opening paragraphs from’s report introduce the news from Nature:

Astronomers have found what appears to be one of the oldest known stars in the universe.

The ancient star formed not long after the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago, according to Australian National University scientists. The star . . . is located 6,000 light-years from Earth and formed from the remains of a primordial star that was 60 times more massive than the sun.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

University of Virginia: Hubble Watches Stars’ Clockwork Motion in Nearby Galaxy
February 21, 2014

Using the sharp-eyed NASA Hubble Space Telescope, a University of Virginia astronomer and colleagues have for the first time precisely measured the rotation rate of a galaxy based on the clock-like movement of its stars.

According to the researchers’ analysis, the central part of the neighboring galaxy, called the Large Magellanic Cloud, completes a rotation every 250 million years. Coincidentally, it takes our sun the same amount of time to complete a rotation around the center of our Milky Way galaxy.

The research team, composed of U.Va. astronomer Nitya Kallivayalil and astronomer Roeland van der Marel of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, used Hubble to measure the average motion of hundreds of individual stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud, located 170,000 light-years away. Hubble recorded the stars’ slight movements over a seven-year period.


The Economist: Dem bones
Winter storms threaten Orkney’s archaeological treasures
Feb 22nd 2014 | ORKNEY | From the print edition

“SEE that spade cut?” says David Reay, pointing with his archaeologist’s trowel at the clay bank of a beach in Deerness, on the main island of the Orkney archipelago. “That’s where the Viking grave ends and the prehistoric midden begins.” Protruding from the clay, above the 800-year-old incision, is a human skull. Either side of it are more bones: a chunky hip bone, orange with age; a set of vertebrae; the slender tibula of a Viking child. They were uncovered by the wind and waves pounding the shore of one of Britain’s most northerly and remote places.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Michigan State University: Common ground fosters climate change understanding
February 17, 2014

Grasping the concept of climate change and its impact on the environment can be difficult. Establishing common ground and using models, however, can break down barriers and present the concept in an easily understood manner.

In a presentation today during the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Michigan State University systems ecologist and modeler Laura Schmitt-Olabisi shows how system dynamics models effectively communicate the challenges and implications of climate change.

“In order to face the ongoing challenges posed by climate adaptation, there is a need for tools that can foster dialogue across traditional boundaries, such as those between scientists, the general public and decision makers,” Schmitt-Olabisi said. “Using boundary objects, such as maps, diagrams and models, all groups involved can use these objects to have a discussion to create possible solutions.”


Science Magazine: Scientists Solve Mystery of World-Traveling Plant
10 February 2014 3:00 pm

By land or by sea? That’s the question scientists have been pondering for decades when it comes to the bottle gourd, a plant with a hard-skinned fruit that’s used by cultures all over the world to make lightweight containers and other tools. Archaeologists know that people were using domesticated bottle gourds in the Americas as early as 10,000 years ago. But how did the plant make the jump from its original home in Africa to the New World with an ocean in the way? A new study overturns previous evidence pointing to a human-assisted land migration and concludes that the bottle gourd floated across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas on its own.

Simon Fraser University (Canada): Ancient herring catch nets fisheries’ weakness

Archaeological data indicate modern herring management needs to take a longer look into the past to manage fisheries for the future says a new study involving Simon Fraser University researchers.  

That is one of the study’s key findings just published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). SFU researchers Iain McKechnie, Dana Lepofsky and Ken Lertzman, and scientists in Ontario, Alberta and the United States are its co-authors.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Virginia Tech: Black-footed ferret: Wild heart of the Great Plains

BLACKSBURG, Va., Feb. 20, 2014 – “If you are able to restore the black-footed ferret to the prairie, you can say you have restored at least a fraction of the Great Plains back to its former self,” said David Jachowski, a post-doctoral research associate in wildlife conservation at Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment who spent a decade on the effort to restore the ferrets to their natural habitat.

In March, the University of California Press will release Jachowski’s book about his experience, “Wild Again: The Struggle to Save the Black-Footed Ferret.”

The federally endangered black-footed ferret is cute enough to be the poster child for species conservation, but it requires healthy colonies of an unpopular critter to survive. This ferret species lives only in active prairie dog colonies, using prairie dog burrows for shelter and to rear its young. And more than 90 percent of the ferret’s diet is prairie dogs.


Bio News Texas: The Mystery Of Why Neolithic British Peoples Switched From Seafood To Milk For 4,000 Years
Posted by: Charles Moore
February 20, 2014

A University of Bristol Past Horizons release notes that recent research has determined that British Neolithic farmers preferred milk over fish as sustenance.

The article observes that farming culture had spread from its origins in the Near East around 12,000 years ago to the northwestern extremes of Europe by the fourth millennium BC or shortly thereafter, and that various models have been proposed to explain the Neolithisation of northern Europe. Resolving these various theories has proved problematic due to poor faunal preservation and a need to have a quantitative methodology to examine disparate locations.

However, the article cites new research by archaeologists and chemists from the University of Bristol and Cardiff University, and published in Proceedings of the Royal Society, that attempts to answer the question of dietary change utilizing multiple evidence strands, and which qualitatively and quantitatively maps subsistence dietary change in the northeast Atlantic archipelagos from the Late Mesolithic into the Neolithic and up to 1400 AD.

Culture 24 (UK): Bronze Age woman suffered from tooth decay, say archaeologists digging Scottish grave
Toothache may have troubled an energetic woman buried in the Highlands 4,000 years ago, say archaeologists
By Ben Miller
18 February 2014

An early Bronze Age woman buried in prehistoric woodlands near Inverness suffered from tooth rot and dental decay, according to osteoarchaeologists investigating her molars, incisors and jaw.

Aged between 40 and 44 at the time of her death, her remains, found in a cist originally disturbed while an access track was being created at Cullaird Wood two years ago, are believed to point to a sporty woman who died at some point between 1982 and 1889 BC.

Despite widespread attrition, a recession of her left jaw bone and a dental pulp infection which completely exposed two of her tooth roots, her dental disease would have only caused “mild pain”, according to her finders.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

University of Virginia: Researchers Find Possible Golden Cure for ‘Baghdad Boil,’ Infection Afflicting Millions
February 21, 2014

A protozoan parasite that causes unhealing, potentially disfiguring skin sores appears to have a weakness for gold.

A University of Virginia-led research team has discovered that an existing gold-based drug is toxic to the microscopic parasite that causes the disease known as cutaneous leishmaniasis, a condition that affects millions worldwide, including U.S. troops. The discovery is notable because there is no reliable treatment for the disease, as existing treatments are inconsistently effective or act by a mechanism that is poorly understood. These treatments can be extremely painful, as they are usually injected directly into an open sore, and sometimes can prove fatal.

“There are neglected diseases, and this is one of the most neglected of the neglected diseases,” said Elizabeth R. Sharlow of the U.Va. School of Medicine, the lead author of a new paper outlining the leishmaniasis discovery.

Virginia Tech: Company started by students uses innovative 3-D body scanners to track fitness and diet progress

BLACKSBURG, Va., Feb. 17, 2014 – A 3-D body scanner created by Virginia Tech students will soon be a handful of gyms across Southwest Virginia – including McComas Hall on campus – that will help track fitness and diet progress.

Caroline Pugh of Roanoke, Va., Louis Cirillo of Breckenridge, Colo., and Nick Gagianas of McMurray, Pa. started VirtualU in 2012. The company quickly grew leading Pugh – who was majoring in business information technology in the Pamplin College of Business -- and Cirillo – who was majoring in computer engineering in the College of Engineering – to take time off school to focus on VirtualU fulltime. Gagianas graduated with a degree in marketing in 2012.

Since then, the company has taken off and these student entrepreneurs have been busy making sure it’s a success. They spent the last year-and-a-half developing the technology, designing the product, gaining investors, and performing case studies.

Virginia Commonwealth University: Antibiotic may improve metabolism and heart function and protect against diabetes risk
Researchers examine molecular relationships between diabetes and heart disease
By Sathya Achia Abraham
Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014

Chronic treatment with low doses of a drug used to boost organ survival in transplant patients has been found to improve metabolism and heart dysfunction in an animal model, according to a new study from Virginia Commonwealth University.

As the number of patients with type 2 diabetes reaches epidemic proportions worldwide – and is expected to double during the next 20 years – researchers are working to gain a basic understanding of the molecular relationships between diabetes and heart disease to identify new drug targets. Diabetes is associated with heart attack, and patients with elevated fasting glucose are at a three-fold increased risk of mortality following a heart attack.

In a study published Feb. 14in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, researchers report that rapamycin, an antibiotic used to boost organ survival in transplant patients, may protect the heart against complications associated with type 2 diabetes in an animal model.

Virginia Commonwealth University: VCU researchers show experimental drug could enhance the effectiveness of existing multiple myeloma and myeloid leukemia therapies
By John Wallace
Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014

A pre-clinical study led by Virginia Commonwealth UniversityMassey Cancer Center and Department of Internal Medicine researchers suggests that an experimental drug known as dinaciclib could improve the effectiveness of certain multiple myeloma and myeloid leukemia therapies.

The study, recently published in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, showed that dinaciclib disrupted a cell survival mechanism known as the unfolded protein response (UPR). Without the UPR, multiple myeloma and myeloid leukemia cells were unable to combat damage caused by some anti-cancer agents.

University of Michigan: Roads pose more risk in some places than poor health
February 20, 2014

ANN ARBOR—The next time you go to Africa or the Middle East, you may want to stay off the roads.

A dozen of the world's countries with the highest traffic fatality rates per 100,000 population are part of the African continent, according to researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. Another 10 of the top 25 nations with the worst road crash death rates are evenly split among the Middle East and Latin America.

The United States? We rank 97th out of the world's 193 countries.


Virginia Commonwealth University: Environmentally sensitive cells with a Hulk-like rage
Human exposure to urban air pollution may trigger toxic responses in brain cells and impact neurodegenerative disease pathways
By Sathya Achia Abraham
Monday, Feb. 17, 2014

From diesel exhaust to gaseous pollutants and suspended particulate matter, such as dust, smoke and fumes, air pollution from transportation, industry and energy generation has taken a toll on the environment and human health.

While the adverse effects of air pollution on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems have been well documented, little is known about how the associated toxins may impact the brain and the central nervous system. In recent years, experts have linked air pollution exposure to an increased risk for stroke, autism and cognitive decline in the elderly.

Researchers such as Michelle Block, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, are now on a mission to define the impact of air pollution on the brain and central nervous system.

University of Michigan: Military programs to prevent combat-related psychological disorders need improvement    Feb 21, 2014

ANN ARBOR—Despite numerous resilience and prevention programs to address the psychological health of military veterans and their families, no evidence exists to prove their effectiveness, according to a new report issued by the Institute of Medicine.

Kenneth Warner, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and chair of the committee that wrote the report for the U.S. Department of Defense, said the military should develop, track and evaluate programs based on scientific evidence to ensure their effectiveness. In addition, more frequent evaluations of programs are needed.

"Increasing rates of mental health problems among service members and the related psychological toll on families point to an urgent need to prevent and mitigate these conditions," said Warner, the Avedis Donabedian Distinguished University Professor of Public Health at U-M. "DOD should rigorously evaluate any new programs that are developed to do so, because we remain uncertain about which approaches work and which ones are ineffective."


The Independent (UK): ‘New’ Luxor mummy is 3,600 years old
The exact identity of the well-preserved find will now be studied
Mariam Rizk, Cairo

Spanish archeologists have unearthed a 3,600-year-old mummy in the ancient city of Luxor, Egypt’s Antiquities Minister has said.

Mohammed Ibrahim said the rare find in a preserved wooden sarcophagus dates back to 1600 BC, when the Pharaonic 17th Dynasty reigned. He said the mummy appears to belong to a high official. The sarcophagus is engraved with hieroglyphs and decorated with inscriptions of bird feathers.

Al-Ahram (Egypt): A part of Memnon colossi uncovered in Luxor
Quartzite blocks belong to the colossi of Memnon was discovered Sunday at King Amenhotep III's funerary temple on Luxor's west bank
Nevine El-Aref
Sunday 16 Feb 2014

The European-Egyptian archaeological mission headed by famed Egyptologist Horig Sourouzian has unearthed a collection of quartzite blocks that had been missing since antiquity from Memnon colossi, at the entrance of King Amenhotep III's temple at Kom El-Hitan on Luxor's west bank.

Egypt's antiquities minister Mohamed Ibrahim told Ahram Online on Sunday that the blocks belong to the northern colossus and depict a part of the statue's arm, painted belt and skirt.

LiveScience: Silver Hoop Earrings Found Among Ancient Treasure in Biblical City
By Owen Jarus, LiveScience Contributor

A jug containing silver earrings and ingots has been discovered at the ancient biblical city of Abel Beth Maacah in Israel.

Found to the north of a massive structure that may be a tower, the jug and its treasure appear to date back to about 3,200 years ago, long before minted coins were invented, archaeologists said. Curiously, they found no sign that the treasure was hidden, and no one appears to have gone back for it, they added.

LiveScience via Discovery News: Ancient Rural Town Uncovered in Israel
by Megan Gannon, Live Science News Editor
Feb 18, 2014 11:20 AM ET

On the outskirts of Jerusalem, archaeologists have discovered the remains of a 2,300-year-old rural village that dates back to the Second Temple period, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced.

Trenches covering some 8,000 square feet (750 square meters) revealed narrow alleys and a few single-family stone houses, each containing several rooms and an open courtyard. Among the ruins, archaeologists also found dozens of coins, cooking pots, milling tools and jars for storing oil and wine.

Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs: 2,300-year-old village discovered near "Burma Road"
18 Feb 2014

The remnants of a rural settlement that was occupied for approximately two centuries during the Second Temple Period were uncovered from August 2013 – January 2014.

The remnants of a rural settlement that was occupied for approximately two centuries during the Second Temple Period were uncovered from August 2013 – January 2014 near the "Burma Road" (not far from Mitzpe Harel in the Jerusalem hills). The find was made during an Israel Antiquities Authority archaeological salvage excavation, before the start of work on a natural gas pipeline to Jerusalem as part of a national project directed by Israel Natural Gas Lines (INGL).

Times of India: ASI launches excavation to ascertain Sarnath's actual age
The author has posted comments on this article
TNN | Feb 20, 2014, 10.16AM IST

VARANASI: The Archaeological Survey of India has launched a hunt for past of Sarnath, the famous Buddhist site where Buddha delivered his first sermon.

The ASI began excavation on the west side of Ashoka pillar on Wednesday. According to ASI officials, the known history of Sarnath dates back to 3rd Century BC to 12th Century AD. The excavation aims to ascertain the actual age of Sarnath and the missing links through scientific dating of the place.

The Daily Telegraph (UK): Ancient cemetery of 'plague victims' discovered next to Uffizi Galleries
Construction work next to the famed Florence galleries reveals a 1,500-year old burial pit filled with skeletons
By Nick Squires, Rome

A centuries-old burial pit packed with the bodies of probable plague victims has been discovered by chance near the Uffizi Galleries in Florence.

Workers who were digging the foundations for a new lift for an annex to the world-famous art galleries stumbled on the ancient cemetery, which contains at least 60 skeletons and dates to the fourth or fifth century AD.

Heritage Daily: Irish Early Christians, Not So Christian After All?
Written by Michelle Comber

Excavations at Caherconnell in the Burren region of county Clare on Ireland’s western coast are revealing some interesting practices undertaken by Ireland’s early Christians.

It is traditionally accepted that Christianity arrived in Ireland some time before the middle of the 5th century AD. You might be forgiven, then, for assuming that Christianity and Christian practices could be found throughout Ireland within a century or two of this date.

Recent excavations by the Caherconnell Archaeology Field School are proving otherwise. It was discovered in the summer of 2013 that Caherconnell cashel or ‘caher’ (a circular drystone enclosure containing dwelling houses and other domestic structures) had been deliberately constructed over the top of an earlier burial mound.

Heritage Daily: Researchers Claim Discovery of America’s Oldest Fort
February 21, 2014

In an announcement likely to rewrite the book on early colonization of the New World, two researchers today said they have discovered the oldest fortified settlement ever found in North America.

Speaking at an international conference on France at Florida State University, the pair announced that they have located Fort Caroline, a long-sought fort built by the French in 1564.

“This is the oldest fortified settlement in the present United States,” said historian and Florida State University alumnus Fletcher Crowe. “This fort is older than St. Augustine, considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in America. It’s older than the Lost Colony of Virginia by 21 years; older than the 1607 fort of Jamestown by 45 years; and predates the landing of the Pilgrims in Massachusetts in 1620 by 56 years.”

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.


Uppsala University (Sweden) via Heritage Daily: Jawed vertebrates get a face
February 21, 2014

A  team of French and Swedish researchers present new fossil evidence for the origin of one of the most important and emotionally significant parts of our anatomy: the face.

They show how a series of fossils, with a 410 million year old armoured fish called Romundina at its centre, documents the step-by-step assembly of the face during the evolutionary transition from jawless to jawed vertebrates.

Vertebrates (backboned animals) come in two basic models: jawless and jawed. Today, the only jawless vertebrates are lampreys and hagfishes, whereas jawed vertebrates number more than fifty thousand species, including ourselves. It is known that jawed vertebrates evolved from jawless ones, a dramatic anatomical transformation that effectively turned the face inside out.

Past Horizons: Aztec dog burials puzzle archaeologists
Article created on Saturday, February 15, 2014

During salvage excavations in Azcapotzalco (Northwest Mexico City), archaeologists from the National Institute of anthropology and history (INAH) discovered the remains of 12 dogs.

The dogs were placed there around 500 years ago, but unusually, without any apparent association to human burial – acting as a guide for the soul to the underworld, or as an offering dedicated to a temple or building.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

University of Michigan: Chemical chaperones have helped proteins do their jobs for billions of years
February 20, 2014

ANN ARBOR—An ancient chemical, present for billions of years, appears to have helped proteins function properly since time immemorial.

Proteins are the body's workhorses, and like horses they often work in teams. There exists a modern day team of multiple chaperone proteins that help other proteins fold into the complex 3D shapes they must achieve to function. This is necessary to avert many serious diseases caused when proteins misbehave.

But what happened before this team of chaperones was formed? How did the primordial cells that were the ancestors of modern life keep their proteins folded and functional?

Scientists from the University of Michigan discovered that an extremely simple, ancient chemical called polyphosphate can perform the role of a chaperone. It likely played that role billions of years ago, and still keeps its old job today.


University of Connecticut: Hidden New England Landscape Comes to Life
By: Sheila Foran
February 18, 2014

Assistant professor of geography and geosciences William Ouimet and Ph.D. student Katharine Johnson have successfully combined state-of-the-art remote sensing technology with their mutual appreciation of New England’s rich and varied history to uncover long-lost features beneath the forest canopy that covers the region.

As part of their research into the cultural, climatic, and geological transformation of the region over time, Ouimet and Johnson have gathered images of the towns of Ashford, Conn., Westport, Mass., and Tiverton, RI, that were taken by airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) laser-based scanners. The scanners provide high-resolution, three-dimensional images of topographic and archaeological features that are hidden by the forest, such as stone walls, building foundations, mill dams, and abandoned roads and pathways.

Modern laser-based remote sensing dates from the 1970s, starting with efforts by NASA for atmospheric research and meteorology. With the addition of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) in the 1980s that allowed for precise positioning of aircraft, the resolution and quality of LiDAR has improved through the years, and now the technology is regularly utilized by geologists, archaeologists, and other scientists who need detailed topographic information. The quality of currently available images has given researchers such as Ouimet and Johnson access to a trove of information that had previously been difficult, if not impossible, to access.


N.Y. Times: Liquid-Cooled Supercomputers, to Trim the Power Bill
FEB. 11, 2014

TOKYO — Dropping a home computer into a vat of liquid would wreck it.

Yet some operators of supercomputers are submerging their machines in liquids, without causing any apparent damage, to keep them from overheating. Advocates say so-called immersion or submersion cooling could solve one of the biggest challenges of the digital economy: reducing the air-conditioning bills and environmental strains of the power-hungry servers and supercomputers that crunch ever-rising mountains of data.

A prototype supercomputer at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, which is submerged in a tank of mineral oil, was named in November in an industry ranking, the Green500, as the most energy-efficient machine of its kind. The computer, called Tsubame KFC, is 50 percent more powerful than an older supercomputer at the institute but uses the same amount of energy.

“The university administration said, ‘You’re not going to get any more power,’ ” said Satoshi Matsuoka, the project leader. “But we still wanted more performance.”


Science Magazine: Rush Holt to Leave Congress
18 February 2014

One of two physicists in the U.S. House of Representatives announced today that he is retiring at the end of the year.

Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ), a plasma physicist, didn’t reveal why he has decided to leave Congress after eight terms, or what lies in his future. “This is not the time to discuss next steps in my career; that can come later,” said Holt, who was assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory before coming to Washington in 1999.

However, one science lobbyist who knows him well speculates that Holt, who was beaten badly in the Democratic primary last year for an open Senate seat, could still harbor statewide ambitions. “If you wanted to run for governor [in New Jersey in 2017], getting out of the House is probably a good idea,” says Mike Lubell, head of the Washington, D.C., office of the American Physical Society. “At least, that’s what I’d advise him if he asked me.”


University of Connecticut: A New Way to Create Porous Materials
By: Colin Poitras
February 20, 2014

A team of UConn chemists has discovered a new way of making a class of porous materials that allows for greater manufacturing controls and has significantly broader applications than the longtime industry standard.

The process, more than three years in the making and outlined in the December 2013 edition of Nature Communications, has resulted in the creation of more than 60 new families of materials so far, with the potential for many more. The key catalyst in the process is recyclable, making it a ‘green’ technology.
“This is definitely the most exciting project I’ve been involved in over the past 30 years,” says Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor Steven L. Suib, the project’s principal investigator. “What we’ve done is similar to discovering a new insect, only now there is a series of families of these things that can be discovered. That’s pretty cool.”
Suib’s research involves the creation of uniform, or monomodal, mesoporous metal oxides using transition metals such as manganese, cobalt, and iron. Mesoporous describes the size of the pores in the material. In this case, they are between 2 and 50 nanometers in diameter and are evenly distributed across the material’s surface, similar to what one might see if a pin is used to poke numerous holes in a material. Only the UConn process allows scientists to use nitric oxide chemistry to change the diameter of the “pin,” in order to change the size of the holes. This unique approach helps contain chemical reactions and provides unprecedented control and flexibility.

Michigan Tech: A Better Way to Purify Peptide-Based Drugs
By Marcia Goodrich
Last Modified 4:50 PM, February 14, 2014

Peptides are an intriguing class of drugs. They are made of amino acids, just as humans are, and because of their intimate relationship with our own biological molecules, they have the potential to fight some of the most intractable diseases, including cancer.

But they can be difficult and expensive to make. A year’s worth of the anti-HIV peptide drug enfuvirtide costs $25,000. Now a chemist at Michigan Technological University has overcome an important hurdle in the manufacturing process by developing a quicker, simpler purification method. As a bonus, his technique also works on DNA.

The new technology separates perfect peptides from those that do not make the grade, says Shiyue Fang. During production, amino acids attach to each other in chains to form the desired peptide, but some of the chains are never completed. To separate these truncated peptides, Fang’s team adds a polymerizable group of atoms to the mix.

Science Crime Scenes

LiveScience via Yahoo! News: Great Pyramid at Giza Vandalized to 'Prove' Conspiracy Theory
By By Benjamin Radford, Live Science Bad Science Columnist
February 19, 2014 8:03 AM

Two German men who visited the Egyptian pyramids in April 2013 now face criminal charges for their attempt to prove their "alternative history" conspiracy theories through vandalism. The men, Dominique Goerlitz and Stefan Erdmann, were joined by a third German, a filmmaker who accompanied them to document their "discoveries."

The men were allowed to enter the inner chambers of the Great Pyramid at Giza normally off-limits to the public and restricted to authorized archaeologists and Egyptologists. The group reportedly took several items from the pyramids, including taking samples of a cartouche (identifying inscription) of the pharaoh Khufu, also known as Cheops. Goerlitz and Erdmann, who are not archaeologists but have instead been described as "hobbyists," allegedly smuggled the artifacts out of the country in violation of strict antiquities laws, according to news reports.

CBC: Stolen artifact from Montreal museum recovered in Edmonton
Investigators still searching for missing 1st century antiquity
CBC News

Quebec provincial police have found an ancient artifact in Edmonton after it was stolen in broad daylight from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Police have been searching for more than two years for two pieces of art, which were stolen from the museum in September 2011.

Investigators said they believe a man slipped the antiquities into his pockets and slipped outside.

The Herald (UK): Archaeologists uncover 900-year-old murder victim during dig at Scottish Seabird Centre
Friday 21 February 2014

Archaeologists have discovered a 900-year-old murder victim during a dig at the Scottish Seabird Centre.

They found the skeleton of a young man dating from the 12th or 13th centuries while investigating the historic Kirk Ness, which was the site of a church and cemetery in North Berwick, East Lothian.

The Hindu (India): Emergence of antiques triggers treasure hunt in Kollam
Ancient Chinese coins surface during seabed dredging
Ignatius Pereira
Updated: February 21, 2014 05:04 IST

Suction dredgers, operated to increase the draft of the newly constructed cargo port at the Tangasseri harbour complex here, have uncovered a treasure trove in the seabed. The dredgers have thrown up an amazing array of antique artefacts, including Chinese coins.

This has triggered a treasure hunt at the harbour complex. Historians and archaeologists who inspected the site said the artefacts had the potential to tell the story of a bygone India-China link, and even strong trade links with other ancient empires.

But because of the late arrival of Kerala’s Archaeology Department at the site, a good portion of the treasure has fallen into wrong hands. A man who collected about 11 kg of ancient Chinese coins from the site sold it to a scrap-dealer for a pittance. Efforts by the Archaeology Department officials on Tuesday to retrieve them from the scrap-dealer drew a blank as he had sold them to someone else.

The Montana Standard: $1,000 offered for information on archaeological looting
By Kelley Christensen The Montana Standard
February 19, 2014 12:00 am

The Bureau of Land Management is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for looting archaeological sites on public lands near Dillon.

Mike Ramirez, a special agent with the BLM’s office for law enforcement, said that a ranger and an archaeologist recently discovered a large hole that had been excavated at an American Indian archaeological site about 10 miles south of Dillon.

The History Blog: New evidence of mass graves found at Treblinka

A team of archaeologists from the University of Birmingham have discovered new evidence of huge mass graves on the former site of the Nazi extermination camp Treblinka.

Since the Nazis razed the camp in November of 1943 after a prisoner revolt, leaving little visible evidence of the 800,000+ Jews they’d slaughtered in just over a year of operation, Holocaust deniers have claimed that Treblinka wasn’t a death camp at all, but rather a transit station where prisoners were sorted before being shipped off to other labor camps. (Interestingly, that’s just what the SS told new arrivals before making them undress and sending them to the “showers” for “delousing.”)

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Science, Space, Health, Environment, and Energy Policy

University of Michigan: U-M School of Public Health, Detroit partners aim to improve air quality in the city
February 18, 2014

ANN ARBOR—Plant trees near freeways to serve as green buffers for neighborhoods. Install air filters in city schools. Develop community campaigns to get everyone involved. These are just some of the ideas on the table.

The desired outcome: Improve air quality in the city of Detroit.

The University of Michigan School of Public Health, in partnership with several community groups in Detroit, received a new five-year, $2.8 million grant to combat air pollution and related health risks in Detroit, which has long had among the highest asthma and cardiovascular disease rates in Michigan.

The hope is that the grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Services will create a model for change that can be applied in similar communities throughout the country.

Michigan State University: Vet Med students take issues to Washington
February 17, 2014

For Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine students Amanda Craig and Matthew Kuhn, last week was no ordinary week.

From February 9 to 11, both took part in the 2014 American Veterinary Medical Association’s Legislative Fly-in, which gives college students a chance to learn more about federal legislation and voice their opinions on certain bills that are important to their future profession.

“I spoke with congressional staff about legislation that directly affects the everyday lives of American veterinarians and the welfare of animals around the United States,” said Kuhn, president of his 2017 graduating class. “I focused most of my time on the Veterinary Medical Mobility Act.”

Science Education

Cornell Sun: Cornell Students, Faculty Uncover Ithaca History During Excavation
February 21, 2014 1:00 am

Thousands of artifacts are currently being cleaned and identified in the Cornell Archaeology Lab by a team of Cornell students and faculty who have excavated a local archaeological site that has shed light on the daily lives of nineteenth-century Ithaca-area residents.

The site — located in modern-day Robert H. Treman State Park — marks the location of the Enfield Falls hamlet, which once included a resort hotel, a blacksmith, a school and other homes and businesses, according to Prof. Sherene Baugher, archaeology and landscape architecture.

The Times-Picayune: Bettie Pendley, an enthusiastic archaeologist, dies at 85

Bettie Dinkins Stoner Pendley, an archaeologist who participated in digs around the world and used her passion for the subject to help start a citywide archaeology program in New Orleans, died Wednesday (Feb. 19) at Passages Hospice. She was 85.

"I once called Bettie the firebrand of New Orleans archaeology," University of Chicago archaeologist and anthropologist Shannon Dawdy said in presenting Ms. Pendley an award for her work.

Ms. Pendley, Dawdy said, was "a human beacon who lights the way with her example, and ... a rabble-rouser who can put a fire under our butts when we need it."

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Science Writing and Reporting

Haaretz (Israel): The naked truth about King David, the 8th son
The bible has conflicting accounts of this most famous monarch. Prof. Jacob Wright has ideas for resolving the mysteries.
By Julia Fridman
Feb. 20, 2014 | 4:22 PM

“How many are the ways we remember David—that striking, brash lad who strides confidently upon the stage of history and, with one well-aimed shot of the sling, launches a career that has bedazzled generations for 3,000 years. We know David as majestic king and lowly shepherd boy, as valiant warrior and soothing singer, as ruthless killer and passionate lover, as enraptured dancer and pious saint.”

Thus begins the new book called King David and his Reign Revisited by Prof. Jacob Wright of Emory University.

David is the most popular of the Biblical kings but the only archaeological evidence of his existence is a stele dating from the 9th century BCE which recounts the victory of an Aramean king (most likely Hazael) over the King of Israel and over the "king of the House of David."

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Science is Cool

The Daily Pennsylvanian: Dildos, hermaphrodites and old-age intimacy
The Penn Museum hosts an annual event on ancient works concerning sexuality
By Jessica McDowell · February 20, 2014, 9:17 pm

Even 3,000 years ago, people were kinky.

Last night, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology hosted its annual Valentine’s Day presentation, this year called “Blurred Lines,” sponsored by the Young Friends Society. The event, which was rescheduled from Feb. 13 , didn’t suffer in attendance - more than 50 people sat in the audience in the Egyptian gallery.

Surrounded by dozens of artifacts, each thousands of years old, professors Jennifer Wagner and Brian Rose took turns discussing different artifacts and myths from Egypt and Greece, respectively. But this wasn’t just a normal talk. Each story and image projected on the screen detailed the “blurred lines” of sexuality in ancient Egypt and Greece. From winged penises to hermaphrodites to wind chimes made out of dildos, the professors spoke intimately about how sexuality was portrayed in the ancient world.

LiveScience via Sudan Vision: Drug References Found on Walls of Ancient Egyptian School

Archaeologists working in the western desert of Egypt have discovered a school dating back about 1,700 years that contains ancient Greek writings on its walls, including a text about ancient drug use that references Homer's "The Odyssey."

The school — which contains benches that students could sit on to read, or stand on and write on the walls — dates back to a time when the Roman Empire controlled Egypt, and Greek was widely spoken.

In use for less than 20 years, the school structure eventually became part of a large house that contained colorful art, including images of the Olympian gods, the researchers said.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation: How archaeology is turning monarchs into superheroes
Jill Hamilton
Tuesday 18 February 2014 3:03PM

Since their graves were found and excavated Richard III and King Herod have gone from historical villains to heroes. Historian Jill Hamilton asks who benefits from the good press the ancient kings have been receiving and whether the present is getting in the way of understanding of the past.

During the last six years, archaeological discoveries have turned two much maligned monarchs into modern-day superheroes. Despite the 10,000 miles and 1,500 years between King Herod's last breath in Jericho and King Richard III's fatal fall during the Battle of Bosworth Field, the two were linked in infamy; portrayed in the Bible and in Shakespeare as bloodthirsty tyrants who killed off their competitors.

DNA Info New York: Mystery Artifact Unearthed at City Hall Is 19th-Century Feminine Device
By Irene Plagianos on February 19, 2014 6:35am

CITY HALL — An excavation at the city’s political center has unearthed a 3-inch artifact that initially baffled archaeologists — until they realized it was one of the earliest documented feminine hygiene products in New York.

“At first we thought it was maybe a spice-grinder or needle case,” said Alyssa Loorya, president of Chrysalis Archaeology, the firm that oversaw the dig, part of a Department of Design and Construction rehabilitation project at City Hall. “We were stumped.”

The early incarnation of a douche — a hollow, cylinder with small holes at its top made from unidentified mammal bone — was found in a massive heap of buried garbage that dates back to between 1803 and 1815, Loorya said.

KSL-TV: Filmmakers search for Montezuma's treasure in Kanab pond
By Celeste Tholen Rosenlof

KANAB, Kane County – For 100 years, locals have believed Montezuma’s treasure lies at the end of a tunnel below Three Lakes pond in Kanab, Utah. Now, filmmakers hope to discover just what is there.

Producer Mike Wiest along with landowner Lon Child and a crew of filmmakers are setting out to tell the story of Three Lakes, Montezuma and the treasure hunters whose attempts of recovering the gold have been foiled.

The pond that lies along U.S. 89 is the site of Montezuma’s lost treasure that could be worth more than $3 billion, according to local legend. Though some details vary, locals believe Aztecs dug the Three Lakes pond to cover the treasure’s cavernous hiding place in a water trap on the west side of the pond. Once dug, they could divert a river to the pond, fill it up and walk away from an ordinary looking pond with a valuable secret.

Neatorama: Forensic Scientists Create The Face Of Crystal Skull Vodka
Zeon Santos
Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 1:00 PM

Forensic artists can’t come across a skull, or skull shaped decanter, without wondering what that person’s fleshy face looked like when they were among the living, and there’s no better testament to your artistic skills than creating a skull sculpture from scratch that actually looks like a human being when clay skin is added.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

University of Virginia: Game-Day Challenge Added to ‘RecycleMania’ Schedule
February 18, 2014

The University of Virginia is defending its in-state “Gorilla Prize” title in the annual RecycleMania competition, which has added a game-day challenge category – this time for a men’s basketball contest.

The statewide Gorilla Prize, which U.Va. has held for five years, recognizes schools that recycle the highest gross tonnage of combined paper, cardboard and bottle and cans, regardless of campus population. Last year, U.Va placed 27th in the nation.

This year, more than 450 colleges and universities have entered the contest, which began Feb. 2 and runs through March 31. U.Va. is competing in 10 categories, including the Gorilla Prize, waste minimization, composting and several individual categories of recycling. The game-day challenge is one of these categories.

Michigan State University: RecycleMania returns to MSU
February 18, 2014

MSU is again competing in RecyleMania, an annual recycling competition among more than 400 colleges and universities across North America. This is MSU's fourth year participating in the event.

The goal of RecycleMania is to increase awareness of recycling and waste management programs by including students, staff and faculty in friendly competitions. Each school reports the amount of recycling and trash it collects while promoting further waste-reduction activities in campus communities.

MSU is competing in three categories again this year: Gorilla Prize, E-cycleMania and Grand Champion.

Michigan State University: Darwin Discovery Day
February 18, 2014

Feb. 9 marked the 10th anniversary of Darwin Discovery Day at the MSU Museum. This year more than 400 visitors attended the celebration of Darwin’s birthday, some even lining up outside before the doors opened at 1 p.m.

At Darwin Discovery Day, there was something for everyone. Kids could take part in a scavenger hunt or other hands-on activities. There were behind-the-scenes tours of the MSU research collections and the once-a-year opportunity to see and touch interesting specimens from the MSU Museum’s natural science collections and MSU’s Bug House. And there was even cake.

MSU Museum's naturalist, Jim Harding, the “Critterguy,” helped visitors get up close to live reptiles and amphibians. Rich Bellon, MSU Darwin scholar, worked the Darwin “KidZone,” helping kids become a junior scientist and earn a science item to take home.

Originally posted to Overnight News Digest on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 09:07 PM PST.

Also republished by Astro Kos and SciTech.

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