Welcome to Science Saturday, where the Overnight News Digest crew informs and entertains you with this week's news about science, space, and the environment. In keeping with the theme of the past four months, Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday is featuring science and other news from the major public research universities in the midwestern states where Republican governors and legislatures are threatening the collective bargaining rights of public employees.
This week's featured stories come from Wired and National Geographic, respectively.
Goodbye, Space Shuttle: Now the Space Race Can Really Begin
By David Axe
July 21, 2011
NASA’s 135th space shuttle flight ended this morning when Atlantis touched down at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, marking the close of a 30-year run for NASA’s ambitious, controversial and troubled orbital vehicle.
America’s space programs will continue, but without their flagship space plane — or any manned vehicle, for now. Over the next few years at least, U.S. astronauts will hitch rides to the International Space Station in Russian capsules. Meanwhile, purely robotic systems will take over other space duties.
Listening to some critics, you’d think America had just retreated from space, forever. “We’re basically decimating the NASA human spaceflight program,” former astronaut Jerry Ross told Reuters. “The only thing we’re going to have left in town is the station and it’s a totally different animal from the shuttle.”
Today many observers consider the Shuttle the ultimate expression of American technological prowess, and see its demise as a signal of America’s decline. In one sense, they’re right: With its huge size, distinctive shape and fiery launches, the shuttle has always been an impressive symbol. But as a practical space vehicle, it has long been an overpriced, dangerous compromise.
New Moon Discovered Orbiting Pluto
And a NASA spacecraft may soon be able to pop by for a visit.
for National Geographic News
Published July 20, 2011
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has spied a previously unknown moon around Pluto, bringing the dwarf planet's total number of natural satellites up to four.
Astronomers estimate that the tiny fourth moon is between 8 and 21 miles (13 to 34 kilometers) wide. By contrast, Pluto's largest moon, Charon, is 648 miles (1,043 kilometers) across.
The dwarf planet's other moons, Nix and Hydra, are both in the range of 20 to 70 miles (32 to 113 kilometers) wide.
The new moon has been given the temporary designation P4.
More after the jump.
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Wired: Experimental Archaeologists Test Past by Making It Real
By Brandon Keim
July 19, 2011
Of all the scientific disciplines, archaeology lends itself most to the imagination. It's the scholarly embodiment of the impulse to imagine oneself as a Mongol raider or Roman slave, tracking gazelle across the Great Rift Valley or navigating by stars across the Pacific.
For a few lucky researchers, these dreams become hypotheses. Experimental archaeologists test ancient tools and techniques, determining how they worked and whether modern interpretations are correct. Sometimes the studies look more like play than research — but why shouldn't research be fun?
From ancient noodle recipes to spear throwing, here are a few of our favorite studies.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
Debra and Brian Schutte talk about CoSAGE, their research project in partnership with a unique mid-Michigan community that investigates the genetic causes of common diseases with the goal of promoting community wellness across generations.
Michigan State University: Faculty conversations: Debra and Brian Schutte
July 22, 2011
CoSAGE — an MSU research project focusing on the genetic causes of disease — is unique because of the partners involved in the project: Not only are the husband/wife team of Debra and Brian Schutte involved but also members from the community in which the project is based, who are equally active in the research.
“We’re working with the community in the early phases of this project to learn: What are the prevalent health problems in the community?” Debra Schutte said. “And what is of most concern to the members of the community?
“That will help us identify where to go next in our research.”
The purpose of the Community-based Cooperative for Studies Across Generations, or CoSAGE, is to study the genetic factors that cause common disease – particularly adult onset hearing loss and Alzheimer’s disease, said Debra Schutte, an associate professor in the College of Nursing.
The mid-Michigan community they are working in was chosen because of their extensive genealogical records dating back to the original German settlers in the area, who came in the mid-1800s. These records have been compiled in a database that contains 28,000 people.
In the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, science research across the country was disrupted. The community of plant scientist at Michigan State University engaged their network of collaborators in Japan, and extended an offer to host scientist who needed to continue their research and advance their education.
Wired: Giant Crater Is Next Mars Rover Landing Site
By Dave Mosher
July 22, 2011
The next fantastic voyage across the red planet will begin in just over a year when NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover lands in a crater 96 miles wide and three miles deep that contains a geological record of the planet’s epic history.
On July 22, NASA officially announced that Curiosity will land at Gale Crater, where they hope to learn how Mars turned from a wet, potentially habitable planet into a dry, acidic wasteland. Mission managers selected the site over an ancient river-like delta in Eberswalde Crater, which may contain stronger traces of organic carbon.
“It’s like the layers in the Grand Canyon, a sequence of rocks laid out before you that traverse a lot of geologic history,” said planetary scientist John Mustard of Brown University, a 20-year veteran of Mars missions. “Layer by layer, Curiosity’s going climb from the bottom and up through Martian time.”
Wired: Mass Extinction Easier to Trigger Than Thought
By Brandon Keim
July 21, 2011
The cataclysmic extinctions that scoured Earth 200 million years ago might have been easier to trigger than expected, with potentially troubling contemporary implications.
Rather than 600,000 years of volcanic activity choking Earth’s atmosphere with carbon dioxide, just a few thousand years apparently sufficed to raise ocean temperatures so potent greenhouse gases trapped in seafloor mud came bubbling up.
Much of everything alive on Earth was soon wiped out. Another half-million years of vulcanism were just icing on the cake. The immediate question: What lessons, if any, can be drawn?
New Scientist (UK): Chimp nest architecture has lasting foundations
by Michael Marshall
22 July 2011
WHEN a chimpanzee builds a tree house, it goes for the lazy option: prefab. Although they make a new nest every night, chimps often build them on branches that have previously been shaped into the perfect foundation.
While animals like beavers and birds are famous for their nest-building, the great apes - including chimpanzees - are the only primates to build such structures. Chimps start by climbing high into the trees, often tens of metres above ground. There they bend and break branches to form a circular platform, which they top off with a soft mattress of twigs and leaves.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
Purdue University: Insect expert: Watch for hornworms, other garden pests
July 19, 2011
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Now that the weather is getting warmer, gardeners should be on the lookout for hornworms and other garden pests, says a Purdue Extension insect specialist.
Tomato and tobacco hornworms are the caterpillars of two large moths that fly in June. Easily identified by their protruding "horn," hornworms grow to four inches long and can destroy foliage and eat on the green fruit, Rick Foster said.
Both species of hornworms also feed on peppers, eggplants and potatoes. Removing them by hand is the best solution for most home gardeners, he said.
"Most of the time there aren't that many of them and they move very slow, so they are easy to pick up," Foster said. "Oftentimes people are nervous because they think the horn is a stinger, but it's just a diversion for predators."
Purdue University: European corn borer numbers up this year
July 19, 2011
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Reports of European corn borer damage have increased this year, but a Purdue Extension entomologist says there is little cause for alarm.
European corn borers devastated fields in the 1990s, but the development of a genetically modified hybrid called Bt-corn greatly reduced the pest's numbers. There have been very few reports of European corn borer in recent years, said Christian Krupke.
While there have been more sightings of corn borer damage in non-Bt-corn, he said the reason for that increase is uncertain and probably stems from environmental conditions.
"This is more of a curiosity than anything to be concerned about as levels are still considerably lower than in the past," Krupke said. "There is no evidence that the European corn borer has resistance to the Bt protein."
Michigan State University: Avian ‘Axe effect’ attracts attention of females and males
July 19, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. — In a case of life imitating art, avian scents given off by male songbirds have the females (and males) flocking in.
A Michigan State University researcher revealed the process of how males draw attention to themselves through chemical communication in the current issue of Behavioral Ecology. Scents are used in all organisms for many purposes, such as finding, attracting and evaluating mates. But this is the first study of its kind that demonstrates that it is happening among songbirds, said Danielle Whittaker, managing director of MSU’s BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action.
Body-spray commercials feature young men dousing themselves with fragrance and – voila – hordes of beautiful women or even bands of angels descend upon them. Male birds deploy a similar tactic when they release their cologne – or preen oil – secreted from a gland at the base of their tail. It not only works to attract the attention of female birds, but it also has the unintended effect of attracting males as well.
University of Michigan: Breakthrough: Real-time data recorded on football player captures impact that caused broken neck
July 20, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—While studying concussions in a high school football team, researchers captured the impact of an 18-year-old player who broke his neck during a head-down tackle in real-time.
Steven Broglio, an assistant professor in the University of Michigan School of Kinesiology, studies concussive impacts. His lab is the high school football field. The injured student in the study in Illinois healed and was cleared 12 weeks later to play basketball, Broglio said.
Though other researchers have captured concussion impact data in humans, this is believed to be the first time these data have been captured for a spinal fracture. The data appears July 20 in a letter in the New England Journal of Medicine.
University of Michigan: Cancer stem cells recruit normal stem cells to fuel ovarian cancer, U-M study finds
Researchers also find protein that blocks this effect, suggesting potential therapy
July 18, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center have found that a type of normal stem cell fuels ovarian cancer by encouraging cancer stem cells to grow.
Cancer stem cells are the small number of cells in a tumor that drive its growth and spread. Traditional cancer treatments do not kill these cells, which is why cancer treatments often fail.
In a study published online in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers looked in ovarian tissue at the mesenchymal stem cells, which are normal cells found throughout the body. These cells can form different specialized cells such as fat, bone or cartilage.
University of Michigan: Standard three-drug therapy beats four-drug regimens against H. pylori in Latin America study
New results suggest different populations need different therapies
July 20, 2011
Helicobacter pylori, the bacterium known to cause peptic ulcers, is also the primary cause of gastric cancer, which is a leading cancer killer globally.
A large clinical trial at seven sites across Latin America has now found that a standard three-drug regimen for treating H. pylori is more effective, at least in the population studied, than either of two four-drug regimens that proved superior in studies in Europe and Asia.
“This study turns recent literature a bit on its head,” says study coauthor William D. Chey, M.D., of the University of Michigan. “Specifically, virtually all other randomized, controlled trials that have tested the four-drug therapy, either sequentially over ten days or concomitantly over five days, have found it superior.”
Wayne State University: Wayne State University researchers examining how toxicity of fatty acids links obesity and diabetes
Research may lead to new anti-obesity drugs
July 19, 2011
DETROIT - Though it generally is known that obesity dramatically increases the risk for type 2 diabetes, the biological mechanisms for that connection still are unclear.
Backed by several grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), James Granneman, professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences and pathology in Wayne State University's School of Medicine, is examining the nature of those mechanisms, specifically how the toxicity of lipids, or fatty acids, links obesity and diabetes.
As people become obese, their adipose tissue, which stores energy from food, loses its ability to do so, releasing toxic lipids, or free fatty acids (FFAs), which make their way to muscles and the liver. The FFAs then interfere with insulin's ability to promote the use of glucose as a fuel by cells in the muscle and liver. As a result, the pancreas is stimulated to produce more insulin, but diabetes can occur if the pancreas is unable to meet the higher demand. Some 20 million people in the United States suffer from type 2 diabetes and its complications.
"It's not how fat you are that causes diabetes, but rather how well your adipose tissue functions to handle toxic fatty acids," said Granneman, whose laboratory is part of WSU's Center for Integrative Metabolic and Endocrine Research (CIMER).
Ohio State University: PROTEINS ENABLE ESSENTIAL ENZYME TO MAINTAIN ITS GRIP ON DNA
July 21, 2011
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Scientists have identified a family of proteins that close a critical gap in an enzyme that is essential to all life, allowing the enzyme to maintain its grip on DNA and start the activation of genes.
The enzyme, called RNA polymerase, is responsible for setting gene expression in motion in all cells. RNA polymerase wraps itself around the double helix of DNA, using one strand to match nucleotides and make a copy of genetic material.
RNA polymerase cannot fall off of the DNA or stop this process once it starts. If it does, no proteins will be made, and the cell will die.
A team led by Ohio State University researchers demonstrated in a bacterial model that a specific protein binds to two sides of a space in the RNA polymerase molecule at a critical point in its connection to DNA, effectively closing the gap and creating a clamp around the two strands.
Indiana University: Soil samples reveal urban mercury footprints
July 19, 2011
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis, St. Louis, Detroit, Buffalo, Richmond and Providence -- cities scattered across the eastern half of the United States -- have something in common. They all have coal-fired power plants.
A new study from the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis is among the first to investigate mercury deposits in industrialized city soil near this type of facility. The study, which appears in the July 2011 issue of the journal Water, Air & Soil Pollution, reports that measurable amounts of the mercury emitted by coal-fired power plants is deposited in local soil and subsequently enters regional watersheds, contaminating fish and making them unsafe for human consumption.
Previous research on the spread of environmental mercury has focused on waterways. The IUPUI researchers looked at land, testing soil samples, detecting hot spots of mercury contamination in central Indiana specifically tied to local coal-fired power plants by chemical signatures. Winds blew the mercury contaminated soil to the northeast and the natural flow of waterways brought the mercury back to the southwest, far into bucolic appearing areas frequented by anglers.
Indiana University: Geology journal addresses global water sustainability
July 18, 2011
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Water, water, everywhere, but not enough to drink -- at least not where it's needed. That's the dilemma that Indiana University geochemist Chen Zhu and colleagues explore in the current issue of Elements, a peer-reviewed publication sponsored by 16 geological societies.
Zhu serves as guest editor of the special issue on global water sustainability, along with Eric H. Oelkers of the University of Toulouse in France and Janet Hering of EAWAG, a Swiss research institute. In the lead article, "Water: Is There a Global Crisis?" they examine what seems to be a paradox:
The Earth's renewable water resources are 10 times as much as required by the demands of the current population. Yet an estimated 1 billion people lack safe drinking water, and poor water quality and management are responsible for more than 1.5 million deaths per year. While there is excess water in some parts of the globe, other areas face severe shortages or water that is ruined by pollution.
"Is there really a water crisis? In a sense yes; our current water policy is unstable and unsustainable," the editors write. "Yet, in contrast to non-renewable resources such as petroleum, we will not run out of water. The solution to this global water crisis is improved management of this valuable resource."
Purdue University: Purdue economists report on causes of high commodity prices
July 19, 2011
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Growing demand for corn to use in biofuels and for soybeans to help feed a booming Chinese economy are among key forces driving commodity prices higher this year, according to a report by three Purdue agricultural economists.
A weak U.S. dollar, high oil prices, declining grain supplies and poor harvests in 2010 also contributed, they wrote in the report, which predicts that high prices will continue beyond the 2011 crop year.
The economists – Phil Abbott, Chris Hurt and Wally Tyner – detailed their findings in "What's Driving Food Prices in 2011," commissioned by Farm Foundation, NFP, and released Tuesday (July 19). Costs of commodities influence retail food prices as do general inflationary pressures such as transportation, packaging and food processing.
Michigan State University: Students ID remote Michigan sites for earth imaging
July 21, 2011
Spending the summer crisscrossing Michigan and traveling remote back roads may not sound like science, but for two Michigan State University graduate students, it is a key role in the establishment of a massive imaging array to better predict natural disasters.
Benjamin Johnson and Jamie Ryan are identifying locations across the lower peninsula that will host 25 seismic stations as part of EarthScope – a program of the National Science Foundation that is deploying thousands of seismic, GPS and other geophysical instruments to study the structure and evolution of the North American continent and the causes of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
"The seismometers will record earthquakes to produce high-resolution images of the Earth’s interior and allow us to better understand origins and characteristics of earthquakes, both local and distant," said Kaz Fujita, professor of geological sciences and leader of the program at MSU. "These advanced instruments will provide 3-D images of the Earth from 2,000 locations across the continent."
University of Michigan: Positive thinking: Optimism lowers risk of having stroke
July 21, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—A positive outlook on life might lower the risk of having a stroke, according to a new University of Michigan study.
A nationally representative group of 6,044 adults over age 50 rated their optimism levels on a 16-point scale. Each point increase in optimism corresponded to a 9 percent decrease in acute stroke risk over a two-year follow-up period.
"When people have a positive outlook on life, they undertake actions more likely to produce good outcomes," said Eric Kim, the study's lead author and a clinical psychology doctoral student.
Previous research has shown that an optimistic attitude is associated with better heart health outcomes and enhanced immune-system functioning, among other positive effects. This study is the first known to discover a correlation between optimism and stroke.
University of Wisconsin: High school rank linked to survival throughout adulthood
by Stacy Forster
July 21, 2011
A person's high school class rank is good for more than just getting into a prestigious college.
A new study by a pair of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers links class rank — a cumulative measure of responsible performance — with survival throughout adulthood. Class rank contributes to the development of mature behavior by late adolescence, the research shows.
"The effect of class rank on survival was three times greater than that of IQ over the course of adult life, from 18 to 69," says Robert Hauser, Vilas Research Professor Sociology, emeritus, who authored the study with Alberto Palloni, Samuel Preston Professor of Sociology. "IQ is highly reliable but is based on a single test and reflects a narrow set of abilities."
Ohio State University: MS RESEARCH: MYELIN INFLUENCES HOW BRAIN CELLS SEND SIGNALS
July 21, 2011
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The development of a new cell-culture system that mimics how specific nerve cell fibers in the brain become coated with protective myelin opens up new avenues of research about multiple sclerosis. Initial findings suggest that myelin regulates a key protein involved in sending long-distance signals.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease characterized by damage to the myelin sheath surrounding nerve fibers. The cause remains unknown, and it is a chronic illness affecting the central nervous system that has no cure.
MS has long been considered a disease of white matter, a reference to the white-colored bundles of myelin-coated axons that project from the main body of a brain cell. But researchers have discovered that the condition also affects myelinated axons scattered in gray matter that contains main bodies of brain cells, and specifically the hippocampus region, which is important for learning and memory.
Wired: The Hazy Science of Hot Weather and Violence
By Brandon Keim
July 22, 2011
The link between violence and hot weather is so intuitive that it’s embedded in our language: Hotheads lose tempers that flare, anger simmers and comes to a boil, and eventually we cool down.
So what does science have to say? Do tempers truly soar with temperature? The answer, appropriately enough for these triple-digit days, is hazy and hotly contested.
To be sure, extensive literature exists on hot weather and violence, stretching from poorly controlled regional studies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries — oh, those hot-blooded southerners! — to more sophisticated modern analyses. This doesn’t just apply to the United States, but countries like England and Wales and New Zealand.
But whether weather is cause or coincidence is difficult to determine.
Deutsche Welle (German Broadcasting): Human ancestor had 'modern' feet 3.7 million years ago, study says
Author: Amanda Price
July 20, 2011
New research suggests that our ancestors' feet took on modern features nearly 2 million years earlier than previously thought - literally laying the groundwork for hominin migration beyond Africa.
Nearly four million years ago, our human relatives were very different from modern man. Australopithecus afarensis had a longer torso, a smaller brain and significantly stubbier legs - but we did have one thing in common: our feet.
After examining the ancient species' footprints using a new type of analysis, a team of British scientists concluded that the "human" gait emerged 3.7 million years ago. The study challenges previous research, which suggests that human-like walking did not develop in homonin species until nearly 2 million years later.
BBC: Mesolithic 'rest stop' found at new Sainsbury's site
Archaeologists believe the remains of burned oak uncovered at the site of the first Sainsbury's in the Highlands to be evidence of an ancient "rest stop".
The supermarket and a filling station are being constructed on the outskirts of Nairn, at a cost of about £20m.
Headland Archaeologists investigated the site ahead of building work.
They radiocarbon-dated the hearth to the Mesolithic period, which started as the last Ice Age ended about 12,000 years ago.
LiveScience: Ancient Egyptian Royalty Wielded Serious Weapons
Owen Jarus, LiveScience Contributor
Date: 21 July 2011 Time: 12:29 PM ET
Elite members of ancient Egypt, including the pharaoh himself, likely wielded ornate daggers, swords and axes in battle, or to personally execute prisoners, rather than using the shiny metal for ceremonial purposes, research suggests.
The weapons were used during the Bronze Age, a period between 5,000 and 3,000 years ago when the civilization was at its height, according to Daniel Boatright, an Egyptologist at Isle of Wight College in the United Kingdom.
This finding is "strange considering the amount of literature that's been composed so far that basically says that all of them were for ritualistic purposes and were never used in battle," Boatright told LiveScience.
Daily Star (Lebanon): Archaeologists write final chapter of century-old excavation
By Matti Friedman
July 23, 2011 01:57 AM
NABLUS, Occupied West Bank: Archaeologists unearthing a biblical ruin inside a Palestinian city in the West Bank are writing the latest chapter in a 100-year-old excavation that has been interrupted by two world wars and numerous rounds of Mideast upheaval.
Working on an urban lot that long served residents of Nablus as an unofficial dump for garbage and old car parts, Dutch and Palestinian archaeologists are learning more about the ancient city of Shekhem, and are preparing to open the site to the public as an archaeological park next year.
Doncaster Free Press (UK): Roman jug unearthed at site of new theatre
Published on Thursday 21 July 2011 12:47
They came, they saw, they conquered - and they left behind some fascinating artefacts.
Archaeologists working on the site of Doncaster’s new civic and cultural quarter have unearthed a rare Roman glass jug dating back to around AD150.
The area is believed to have been the site of a Roman cemetery where cremations took place.
Israel National News: Archaeologists Discover High Priest's Bell?
Archaeologists have discovered a rare gold bell during an excavation in the City of David National Park in Jerusalem.
by Elad Benari
Published: 21/07/11, 11:21 PM
Archaeologists have discovered a rare gold bell with a small loop at its end. The finding was made during an archaeological excavation in the City of David National Park (near the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem) by the Israel Antiquities Authority in cooperation with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Ir David Foundation.
The directors of the excavation on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, archaeologists Eli Shukron and Professor Ronny Reich of Haifa University, said after the finding, “The bell looked as if it was sewn on the garment worn by a man of high authority in Jerusalem at the end of the Second Temple period.
USA Today: Invasion of the Viking women unearthed
By Dan Vergano, USA TODAY
So much for Hagar the Horrible, with his stay-at-home wife, Helga. Viking women may have equaled men moving to England in medieval invasions, suggests a look at ancient burials.,
Vikings famously invaded Eastern England around 900 A.D., notes Shane McLeod of the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Western Australia in the Early Medieval Europe journal, starting with two army invasions in the 800's, recounted in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles. The Viking invaders founded their own medieval kingdom, 'the Danelaw', in Eastern England.
Washington Times: The List: Greatest world discoveries of the last century
July 24 will be the 100th anniversary of American historian Hiram Bingham discovery of the forgotten Inca city Machu Picchu in Peru. In honor of Bingham, The List this week looks at some noted archaeology and geographical discoveries made in the last 100 years since Machu Picchu was revealed to the broader world.
National Geographic News: What Was Machu Picchu For? Top Five Theories Explained
Popular ideas include a royal retreat and sacred memorial.
for National Geographic News
Published July 21, 2011
Nestled atop a mountain ridge in Peru, the 15th-century Inca city of Machu Picchu had sat largely forgotten for centuries—until archaeologist Hiram Bingham began excavations of the ruins a hundred years ago this week.
Now one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, Machu Picchu's original purpose is still unknown—though many archaeologists think they are closer to finding an answer. (Take a Machu Picchu quiz.)
Here are some of the top theories about Machu Picchu proposed—and in some cases disproven—in the century since its "rediscovery."
KTVB via Northwest Cable News: 600-year-old artifact found in Hells Canyon
Posted on July 21, 2011 at 8:44 AM
Updated today at 1:31 PM
BOISE -- A hiker stumbled upon a really old piece of Idaho history in Hells Canyon. Now, archaeologists know just how old it is. It dates back centuries.
"We know that people have lived in Idaho for at least 130 centuries," said State Archaeologist Dr. Ken Reid.
PennLive: Group digs into tavern’s history
An archaeological dig at the historic Dill’s Tavern in Dillsburg was aimed at trying to identify whether an area next to the kitchen contains the original foundation of the tavern that dates to about the 1750s.
This dig won’t produce any evidence of the location of the original structure, but the team has found a wall line next to the kitchen that appears to be the foundation of a summer kitchen.
Steve Warfel, a retired archaeologist from State Museum of Pennsylvania said he and his team are following the wall line in hopes of finding a corner. That would allow them to determine the size of the building that stood on the site and help prove what it might have been.
Warfel described the stone foundation as lightweight, indicating it would not have been able to support a stone building. The evidence points to a summer kitchen, he said.
WXIX (Fox 19): Revolutionary War era cemetery getting a major facelift
By Chelsey Collins
Posted: Jul 22, 2011 7:28 PM CDT Updated: Jul 22, 2011 7:28 PM CDT
One of Cincinnati's most historically significant pioneer sites is taking another step toward restoration.
Cincinnati Preservation Association with a group of volunteer are working to advance the documentation and preservation of Prebyterian-Fulton-Fulton Mechanick Cemetery. This cemetery contains the remains of some of Cincinnati's earliest settlers, including veterans of Revolutionary War.
The cemetery dates back to 1794 and it is the final resting place of a least six Revolutionary War veterans. One of the veterans buried there is believed to be Sgt. William Brown, the first man to receive a Badge of Military Merit from George Washington. That medal was the forerunner for the current, Medal of Honor.
National Post (Canada): Under Montreal, archaeologists search for charred scraps of Canadian parliament
Jul 17, 2011 – 7:19 PM ET
Under a non-descript Old Montreal parking lot, archaeologists are combing for evidence of an early Canadian parliament burned down by rioters in 1849.
The building was burned down by an English-Canadian mob following the passage of the Rebellion Losses Bill, a controversial bill that gave government compensation to participants in an 1837 anti-government uprising. Mobs used a fire truck to smash their way through the building’s locked doors and began flipping over tables and slashing paintings. The fire erupted when a protester hurled rocks at a gas chandelier.
Seattle Times: Archaeologists go treasure-hunting in city's (very) old garbage
Archaeologists are taking to the streets to excavate relics exposed through construction on Highway 520 and the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The Burke Museum will eventually house and own the uncovered pieces of Seattle history.
By Jessie Van Berkel
Seattle Times staff reporter
Archaeologists are toiling side by side with construction workers on the Alaskan Way Viaduct and Highway 520 projects.
They're collecting broken bottles, peach pits and peanut shells. But instead of litter sticks and garbage bags, they are wielding trowels and shovels, and paying $342,000 for a space to preserve the junk.
Because one man's trash is another man's ... really, really old trash.
Associated Press via Seattle Times: Oil spill cleanup turns up trove of Indian relics
By CAIN BURDEAU
CAMINADA HEADLAND, La. —
Cleanup after the BP oil spill has turned up dozens of sites where archaeologists are finding human and animal bones, pottery and primitive weapons left behind by pre-historic Indian settlements - a trove of new clues about the Gulf Coast's mound dwellers more than 1,300 years ago. But they also fear the remains could be damaged by oil or lost to erosion before they can be fully studied.
So far, teams of archaeologists hired by the oil giant have visited more than 100 sites and sent back a growing list of finds to labs for radiocarbon dating and other tests, though extensive excavations haven't been done. Scholars have also accompanied cleanup crews to make sure they don't unwittingly throw away relics.
New Orleans Times-Picayune: Claims over Madisonville founder's grave are rejected by Louisiana officials
By Bob Warren, The Times-Picayune
Published: Monday, July 18, 2011, 6:30 AM
The top archaeologist for Attorney General Buddy Caldwell's office says that after poring over old records and databases, he cannot say with any certainty such a grave exists.
"We're at a dead end," said Ryan Seidemann, an attorney and archaeologist who was asked to probe the mystery of whether the bones of Jean Baptiste Baham, Madisonville's founder, lie underground on a spit of land near the Maritime Museum. "We've gone about as far as we can go."
Australian Broadcasting Corporation: Convict past unearthed
Updated July 20, 2011 10:21:06
Archaeologists in Tasmania have found more than 300 convict-era artefacts under the floorboards of a 180-year-old chapel.
The discovery at Hobart's historic Penitentiary Chapel includes coins, clay pipes, home-made wooden gambling tokens, a writing slate and bones.
Archaeologist David Roe says it is particularly exciting because the artefacts are very personal items belonging to the prisoners.
International Business Times: Skull Found at Pearl Harbor Dated 1940s Could Belong to Japanese Pilot
By IBTimes Staff Reporter
July 22, 2011 3:53 AM EDT
An excavation crew recently found a human skull at the bottom of Pearl Harbor, and archaeologists are suspecting that the skull could be of a Japanese pilot who died in the historic attack in World War II, in the year 1941.
Jeff Fong, an Archaeologist of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific said, he is 75 percent sure that the skull belongs to a Japanese pilot.
The skull discovered in April during dredging work in Hawaii was found intact with forks, metal scraps and a soda bottle from the war era. The skull is not from any recent missing person case, officials reported.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman, who sent in the above articles.
Wired: Physicists Confirm Existence of New Particle
By Duncan Geere, Wired UK
Physicists working at Fermilab’s particle accelerator have confirmed the observation of an entirely new particle — the the Xi-sub-b baryon.
Baryons are particles formed of three quarks, in different configurations. The proton is a baryon that consists of two up and one down quark, and the neutron is two down and one up. The Xi-sub-b has an up quark, a strange quark (yes, that’s its real name) and a heavy bottom quark (again, real name), meaning that it weighs around six times as much as a proton or neutron.
Ars Technica via Wired: Solar-Charged Nanotube Fuel May Replace Batteries
By Yun Xie, Ars Technica
July 18, 2011
Since the 1970s, chemists have worked on storing solar energy in molecules that change state in response to light. These photoactive molecules could be the ideal solar fuel, as the right material should be transportable, affordable, and rechargeable. Unfortunately, scientists haven’t had much success.
One of the best examples in recent years, tetracarbonly-diruthenium fulvalene, requires the use of ruthenium, which is rare and expensive. Furthermore, the ruthenium compound has a volumetric energy density (watt-hours per liter) that is several times smaller than that of a standard lithium-ion battery.
Alexie Kolpak and Jeffrey Grossman from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology propose a new type of solar thermal fuel that would be affordable, rechargeable, thermally stable, and more energy-dense than lithium-ion batteries. Their proposed design combines an organic photoactive molecule, azobenzene, with the ever-popular carbon nanotube.
Michigan State University: Researchers find potential key for unlocking biomass energy
July 21, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Pretreating non-edible biomass – corn leaves, stalks or switch grass – holds the keys for unlocking its energy potential and making it economically viable, according to a team of researchers led by Michigan State University.
Shishir Chundawat, a postdoctoral researcher, and Bruce Dale, professor of chemical engineering and materials science, of MSU led a team of researchers in identifying a potential pretreatment method that can make plant cellulose five times more digestible by enzymes that convert it into ethanol, a useful biofuel. The research was supported by the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, a partnership between the University of Wisconsin and MSU and published in the current issue of Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Currently, ethanol or other biofuels can only be produced in usable quantities if the biomass is pretreated with costly, potentially toxic chemicals in an energy-intensive process. The new discovery could change that.
Michigan State University: Convincing farmers to grow biofuel crops may be difficult
July 21, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 calls for increasing cellulosic ethanol production to 16 billion gallons by 2022. But persuading farmers to start growing biomass crops to produce this biofuel may prove challenging, according to two new studies by Michigan State University scientists.
In the first study, researchers calculated how many more acres of corn and wheat farmers planted after prices for those crops increased dramatically from 2006 to 2009. This allowed them to estimate how many acres of biomass crops farmers might plant on land that is currently fallow.
To meet the mandated levels, about 71 million acres of biomass crops are needed. In 2011, biomass crops covered so little land that the U.S. Department of Agriculture created a pilot program to encourage farmers to plant 50,000 acres – far less than what is required.
"We looked at the nation’s top 10 crops that already have consistent, recognized markets – and found that even when prices went up 65 percent, farmers only expanded production by about 2 percent," said Scott Swinton, professor of agricultural, food and resource economics who is also an AgBioResearch scientist and affiliated with the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center.
University of Wisconsin: Hybrid vehicle team to test drive new efficient dual-fuel engine
July 22, 2011
An award-winning University of Wisconsin-Madison student hybrid vehicle will become a showcase for advanced fuel technology that harnesses the advantages of both diesel and gasoline.
The UW-Madison Hybrid Vehicle Team, which has placed first in the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Vehicle Competition six times in the past 20 years, is taking a break from competition to work on a new challenge, in conjunction with the UW-Madison Engine Research Center.
There, mechanical engineering professor Rolf Reitz is perfecting a new mixed-fuel technology that harnesses the advantages of both diesel and gasoline.
Science, Space, Environment, and Energy Policy
AP via Native American Times: Stolen petroglyph returned to original home in southern Nevada
Written by Associated Press
Wednesday, 20 July 2011 09:26
LAS VEGAS — A petroglyph bearing the distinct images of bighorn sheep has been returned to its original home in southern Nevada after it was stolen in 2008.
The 300-plus-pound boulder was lifted by helicopter early this month to a remote site in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
"It doesn't belong in a museum," said Kelly Turner, an archaeologist for the U.S. Forest Service. "It's kind of like caging a bird."
- Other Science Policy Stories
CNN: Iraq harnesses technology to protect ancient treasures
By Laura Allsop for CNN
July 21, 2011 11:17 a.m. EDT
(CNN) -- Known to many as the "cradle of civilization," Iraq is a treasure trove of important archaeological sites including Babylon, Ur and Nimrud.
Yet hostile circumstances on the ground have left the country's antique heritage vulnerable to looting and damage.
International calls for the safeguarding of Iraq's ancient sites have resulted in the development of a sophisticated geodatabase record of ancient sites and monuments, which it is hoped will allow them to be better monitored and protected.
MEGA-Iraq (Middle Eastern geodatabase for heritage) is being developed by the Getty Conservation Institute and the World Monuments Fund alongside Iraq's State Board of Antiquities and Heritage.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.
University of Michigan: Decent minimum standard of health benefits should not be based on social productivity, says U-M doctor
Proposals for limiting health care based on productivity get uncomfortably close to “death panel” fears; public needs to believe allocation is fair
July 21, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Basing health care or life-prolonging treatments on the basis of whether patients are productive citizens gets too close to justifying fears reflected in the public response to “death panels,” according to commentary co-authored by a U-M physician.
The commentary, published in the American Journal of Bioethics, calls for engaging the public in deliberations about health care spending, especially what counts as a decent minimum set of health benefits.
The University of Michigan’s Susan Goold, M.D., M.H.S.A., M.A., co-wrote the commentary with Matthew Wynia, M.D., M.P.H., Director of the American Medical Association’s Institute for Ethics, in response to an article in the journal by Lawrence J. Schneiderman, M.D. of the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of California, San Diego. Schneiderman’s article advocates rationing health care based on a patient’s social productivity.
“Whether it is defined as working, going to school or raising a family or in any other way, using social productivity as a criterion for rationing isn’t a good idea that might be taken too far, as the author claimed, it is a bad idea from the outset,” says Goold, professor of Internal Medicine and Health Management and Policy at U-M.
University of Wisconsin: UHS seeks $23.5 million in public health funding
July 18, 2011
The Wisconsin Clearinghouse for Prevention Resources, a unit of University Health Services (UHS) at UW–Madison, has submitted a grant application to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for $4.7 million a year in public health funding over five years to combat chronic disease in Wisconsin.
The application, to the CDC’s Community Transformation Grant program, seeks funding for prevention initiatives against obesity and tobacco use and exposure, which are risk factors for serious chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer. If awarded, the funds would be distributed to local community-based coalitions and other public health partners throughout the state.
Public health advocates expressed concern last week when Secretary of Health Services Dennis Smith would not commit to providing a required letter from the state Department of Health Services in support of the grant application. Without such a letter from the state, the application cannot be considered complete and might have been ineligible for consideration.
University Health Services received the letter from DHS last week.
The Guardian (UK): How to teach ... archaeology
This week on the Guardian Teacher Network you can find lots of fun resources in celebration of archaeology
guardian.co.uk, Monday 18 July 2011 20.30 BST
Offer a class the chance to make fake poo, and they might think the teacher had lost the plot.
But making fake poo and learning how to excavate it is just one of the resources lined up for teachers on the Guardian Teacher Network this week – in celebration of the start of the 21st British Festival of Archaeology.
And if constructing fake poo for an Aztec or a Viking doesn't appeal, then pupils can have a go at mummifying an orange, making a Viking braid, or even making a tussy mussy or medieval nosegay to ward off illness and disease.
These resources, which have been provided by the Young Archaeologists' Club (YAC), offer more than just a fun activity to fill a bit of space in the timetable. They are also not just about "history", but offer routes into drama, maths, science and geography.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
Michigan State University: Professor helps lead effort to reform math and science education
July 22, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. — A Michigan State University professor will bring together more than 50 leading researchers, educators and policymakers in the nation’s capital next week in an effort to reach a consensus on reforming math and science education.
Research on “learning progressions” – which focus on improving how students develop scientific or mathematical knowledge – has been growing during a critical time for the field. New common standards in math education are being implemented by most states, and on Tuesday the National Research Council released an initial framework for new K-12 science standards.
The Learning Progressions Footprint Conference, co-chaired by MSU education professor Charles “Andy” Anderson and Paul Cobb of Vanderbilt University, will explore how learning progressions research has shaped thinking about classroom practice in those subject areas, and what’s next. The conference, funded by the National Science Foundation, will be July 26-27 in Washington.
University of Wisconsin: International panel: Is U.S. losing ground in higher education competitiveness?
by Kerry Hill
July 20, 2011
Countries around the world are ramping up investments in higher education in a push to create world-class research institutions. At the same time, the top research universities in the United States are confronting the challenges of dwindling resources and support.
Interim Chancellor David Ward will welcome a group of education leaders from around the world to the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Tuesday, July 26 for a panel discussion on these trends and what they mean for the U.S. pre-eminence in higher education.
"Education and Competitiveness: The End of an American Century?" will be held on Tuesday, July 26, from 3:30-5:30 p.m., in the Wisconsin Idea Room (Room 159) of the Education Building on Bascom Hill. Sponsored by the UW-Madison Division of International Studies and School of Education, the program is free and open to the public.
"This is an important topic, not just for higher education, but for the future of the U.S. economy and the U.S. role in the world," says Gilles Bousquet, dean of UW-Madison's Division of International Studies and vice provost for globalization.
Wayne State University: New Literacies Conference at Wayne State addresses new technologies to transform K-12 education
July 21, 2011
The integration of technology in the classroom as a tool for promoting diversity and addressing education inequality will be the focus of the College of Education's 2011 New Literacies Conference, "Teaching and Learning in the Decades Ahead."
The conference, which takes place 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. August 18, 2011, on Wayne State's main campus, includes breakout sessions, two keynote addresses and a presentation by newly appointed College of Education Dean Carolyn Shields. Educators, school administrators, college and high school students, community organization staff members and parents are encouraged to attend.
The conference explores how teachers and faculty can integrate technology and social media into curricula in a way that positively tackles education inequalities, highlights the value of diversity and provides ideas to improve public education.
Purdue University: 6 Purdue researchers win NSF early-career awards
July 19, 2011
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Six Purdue University faculty members have won the National Science Foundation's most prestigious honor for outstanding young researchers in 2010.
The Faculty Early Career Development awards range from $300,000-$525,000 in research funding over four or five years. About 400 researchers win the awards annually.
Purdue's 2010 recipients were Alice Pawley, Sanjay Rao, Thomas Hacker, Vijay Raghunathan, Luis Kruczenski and Lyudmila Slipchenko.
In case you're wondering, Hacker teaches computer science. Yes, I had to check.
Purdue University: Team USA captures 4 gold medals at International Biology Olympiad
July 22, 2011
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Four high school students, representing the United States and selected during a two-week national competition at Purdue University, captured gold medals at the International Biology Olympiad.
The event took place from July 10-17 in Taipei, Taiwan. All four Team USA member received gold medals and placed in the top 10 based on individual scores among the more than 200 participants at the International Biology Olympiad
University of Michigan: New entrepreneurship master's degree leverages know-how from two top schools
July 21, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Two top-ranked University of Michigan schools are teaming up to establish a unique professional master's degree in entrepreneurship.
The U-M Board of Regents today approved a proposal by the College of Engineering and the Stephen M. Ross School of Business to offer a joint program that specializes in training students to turn ideas into inventions and inventions into successful businesses.
Pending approval by the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan in October, the program will accept its first students to start in fall 2012.
Michigan State University: More students to study in China
July 21, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- In an effort to strengthen United States-China ties, Michigan State University is the only institution in the Midwest - and one of six in the nation - to receive a grant from the Coca-Cola Foundation in support of the U.S. State Department's "100,000 Strong Initiative."
MSU received $200,000 to send 30 students to China to participate in programs focused on Chinese language, business and culture. In total, the foundation awarded $1 million for about 160 students nationwide.
The initiative was inspired by President Barack Obama's vision to see 100,000 American students study abroad in China. Specifically, the program targets the areas of education, culture, sports, science and technology and women's issues.
"This grant will make opportunities to study in China more accessible to MSU students, who may not have otherwise considered a study abroad program," said Brett Berquist, executive director of the Office of Study Abroad. "Through the richness and diversity found within Chinese cultures, our students will learn how cultural traditions, history and language affect global business practices within the United States and Michigan."
University of Wisconsin: National Guard agribusiness team comes to CALS for “Ag 101” training
Many from campus are pitching in to help prepare troops for 2012 Afghanistan mission
Friday, July 22nd, 2011
CALS is welcoming 58 members of the Wisconsin National Guard Agribusiness Development Team to campus July 25–29 for a 40-hour “Ag 101” training. The course, organized by the Babcock Institute for International Dairy Research and Development and the Arlington Agricultural Research Station, is tailored to focus on farming techniques in Kunar province to help prepare the team for their spring of 2012 deployment. The training will take place at the Arlington station and on campus, with tours at area farms and the West Madison Ag Research Station.
The Agribusiness Development Team is a self-contained volunteer unit composed of Army National Guard Soldiers and Air National Guard Airmen with backgrounds and expertise in various sectors of the agribusiness field that work directly with Afghanistan farmers. During their deployment, members of the 82nd ADT will use their military occupational specialties and their civilian skills to teach Afghan farmers in Kunar province how to effectively farm and herd to expand agribusiness, create jobs and reduce poverty. The team is comprised of Wisconsin Army and Air National Guard members. Thirty-one of them, mainly infantry soldiers, will serve as security for the team. The other members consist of various administrative and technical staff, including forestry specialists, agronomist, agricultural marketing specialist, a hydrologist, a pest control specialist, engineers, a veterinary technician and multiple mechanics, medics and communications specialists.
Science is Cool
Michigan State University: Michigan State scholar helps make MLB umpire schedule a hit
July 20, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Growing up in soccer-crazed Turkey, Hakan Yildiz knew so little about baseball, even the word “umpire” had no meaning to him.
Today, Yildiz, an assistant business professor at Michigan State University, is part of a team of researchers whose complex method for scheduling Major League Baseball umpires has proven so successful the league has used it five of the past six seasons.
The method – by Yildiz, Michael Trick from Carnegie Mellon University and Tallys Yunes from the University of Miami – will be highlighted in a forthcoming special issue of the research journal Interfaces focusing on sports analytics.
“Major League Baseball has benefited from this study,” said Yildiz, a faculty member in MSU’s Department of Supply Chain Management. “The umpire schedules are more balanced and have fewer violations of league-imposed travel rules and restrictions.”