Welcome to Science Saturday, where the Overnight News Digest crew, consisting of founder Magnifico, regular editors jlms qkw, Bentliberal, wader, Oke, rfall, and JML9999, alumni editors palantir and ScottyUrb, guest editors maggiejean and annetteboardman, and current editor-in-chief Neon Vincent, along with anyone else who reads and comments, informs and entertains you with this week's news about science, space, and the environment.
Between now and the end of the primary/caucus season, Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday will highlight the research stories from the public universities in each of the states having elections and caucuses during the week (or in the upcoming weeks if there is no primary or caucus that week). Tonight's edition features the science, space, environment, and energy stories from universities in the states of California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Wisconsin.
This week's featured story comes from University of California, Berkeley.
Scientists uncover evidence of impending tipping point for Earth
By Robert Sanders, Media Relations
June 6, 2012
A prestigious group of scientists from around the world is warning that population growth, widespread destruction of natural ecosystems, and climate change may be driving Earth toward an irreversible change in the biosphere, a planet-wide tipping point that would have destructive consequences absent adequate preparation and mitigation.
“It really will be a new world, biologically, at that point,” warns Anthony Barnosky, professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and lead author of a review paper appearing in the June 7 issue of the journal Nature. “The data suggests that there will be a reduction in biodiversity and severe impacts on much of what we depend on to sustain our quality of life, including, for example, fisheries, agriculture, forest products and clean water. This could happen within just a few generations.”
The Nature paper, in which the scientists compare the biological impact of past incidences of global change with processes under way today and assess evidence for what the future holds, appears in an issue devoted to the environment in advance of the June 20-22 United Nations Rio+20 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The result of such a major shift in the biosphere would be mixed, Barnosky noted, with some plant and animal species disappearing, new mixes of remaining species, and major disruptions in terms of which agricultural crops can grow where.
More stories after the jump.
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University of California, Berkeley on YouTube: Berkeley Initiative in Global Change Biology
The Berkeley Initiative in Global Change Biology (BiGCB) is a group of approximately 70 scientists who are working to improve models that predict how plants and animals will respond to climate change and habitat destruction. Anthony Barnosky, professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley discusses the goal of the BiGCB.
University of California: Stealth behavior allows cockroaches to seemingly vanish
June 7, 2012
BERKELEY — New cockroach behavior discovered by University of California, Berkeley, biologists secures the insect's reputation as one of nature's top escape artists, able to skitter away and disappear from sight before any human can swat it.
In addition to its lightning speed, quick maneuvers and ability to squeeze through the tiniest cracks, the cockroach also can flip under a ledge and disappear in the blink of an eye, the researchers found. It does this by grabbing the edge with grappling hook-like claws on its back legs and swinging like a pendulum 180 degrees to land firmly underneath, upside down.
Always eager to mimic animal behaviors in robots, the researchers teamed up with UC Berkeley robotics experts to recreate the behavior in a six-legged robot by adding Velcro strips.
The UC Berkeley team published the results of the study on Wednesday (June 6) in the online, open-access journal PLoS ONE.
UCLA on YouTube: New Sustainable Cities in China by Brian Heimberg, Bluepath City Consulting
Published on Jun 5, 2012
Brian Heimberg is an advisor for emerging growth clean-technology companies and a sustainable city developer in the United States and China. Brian currently serves small and medium size energy and transportation enterprises with strategic and private financing needs. In 2007 the Chinese government recruited Brian as the first foreigner to help plan and develop its 30 square mile Eco-city prototype. Two years later Brian co-founded Beijing based Bluepath City Consulting. Subsequently, he has worked on more than a dozen Eco-city construction projects including a Chinese-Singaporean governmental joint venture, an estimated 22 billion dollar new city project with 16 million square feet currently under construction for a population of 350 thousand by 2020. While in China, Brian also founded and continues to manage a successful culinary tourism agency and co-founded a green building materials trading company that he sold in 2010. Brian is a Santa Barbara native and graduate of UC Berkeley with a self-designed interdisciplinary studies major entitled, "Food Politics." He lived in China for five years between 2006 and 2011 and speaks fluent Mandarin. Brian currently serves on the Clean Business Investment Summit executive board.
Montana State University: Hundreds gather to watch transit of Venus
NASA Television on YouTube: A Last in our Lifetime event on This Week @NASA
NASA Television helped observe the last transit of Venus we'll see here on Earth until 2117 by showcasing live-streaming Websites the world over, including observations made by scientists in central Australia, by the NASA Edge team, stationed atop the Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawaii, by scientists at NASA Headquarters and other NASA Centers around the country. Also, development of technologies to enable exploration of extreme environments such as those found on Venus, The Voyage of Space Shuttle Enterprise concludes in New York, Girl Scouts Rock at NASA Headquarters, Development of inflatable spacecraft and the NASA family mourns the passing of Ray Bradbury, one of our era's greatest and most noted science fiction/fantasy writers.
NASA Television on YouTube: ScienceCasts: Andromeda vs. the Milky Way: Astronomers Predict a Titanic Collision
Astronomers no longer have any doubt: Our Milky Way Galaxy will have a head-on collision with Andromeda. Fortunately, they say, Earth will survive when the two great star systems meet 4 billions years from now.
University of California: Telescope eyes hot regions of black holes, supernovas
June 6, 2012
BERKELEY — NASA is scheduled to launch an orbiting X-ray satellite on Wednesday (June 13) that will open a new window on the universe, allowing scientists to probe the roiling edges of black holes, the turbulent outflow from exploding stars, and the smallest, most frequent flares on the sun.
The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, is the first orbiting satellite to produce sharp images of high-energy X-rays produced by explosive events and extreme objects such as black holes and neutron stars.
"We believe most, if not, all galaxies have a massive black hole at their center, but a lot of these are hidden from the view of optical and normal X-ray telescopes by gas and dust," said Steve Boggs, University of California, Berkeley, professor of physics and a co-investigator for the NuSTAR mission. "This thwarts our ability to understand the nature of a majority of the black holes that are feeding from their host galaxy. By using high-energy X-rays, the properties of these black holes will be revealed."
Science News: Some newfound planets are something else
Re-evaluation suggests one-third of hot giant orbs are misclassified
By Nadia Drake
Web edition : Thursday, June 7th, 2012
When the Kepler spacecraft finds a giant planet closely orbiting a star, there’s a one in three chance that it’s not really a planet at all.
At least, that’s the case according to a new study that put some of Kepler’s thousands of candidate planets to the test using a complementary method for discovering celestial objects in stellar orbits. The results, posted June 5 on arXiv.org, suggest that 35 percent of candidate giants snuggled close to bright stars are impostors, known in the planet-hunting business as false-positives.
“Estimating the Kepler false-positive rate is one of the most burning questions in this field,” says astronomer Jean-Michel Désert of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who has performed similar calculations for smaller planets.
University of California: Protein knots gain new evolutionary significance
June 4, 2012
SANTA BARBARA — A new study suggests that protein knots, a structure whose formation remains a mystery, may have specific functional advantages that depend on the nature of the protein's architecture.
"The presence of a knotted or slipknotted structure in a protein is relatively rare but really is very interesting," said Kenneth Millett, a professor of mathematics at UC Santa Barbara and a co-author of the paper, "Conservation of complex knotting and slipknotting patterns in proteins," published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Relatively little is known about protein folding, the process by which a polypeptide chain with a specific sequence of amino acid chains forms the three-dimensional structures — their "native states" — required to become functional. How this process reproducibly achieves the required structure is the subject of intensive study. Even harder is understanding how this is accomplished for knotted proteins, where the chain loops around itself in entanglements of varying complexity; or the even rarer slipknotted proteins, where a loop is bound by another segment of the protein chain, similar to a shoelace bow.
University of California: Fly question may hold answer to mosquito-borne fever
June 5, 2012
DAVIS — The office of Michael Turelli, distinguished professor in the UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology, is lined with books written by the world’s preeminent evolutionary geneticists. Most are Turelli’s friends and colleagues. Picking up and flipping the pages of one after another, he tells the story of evolutionary genetics and his 35-year career at UC Davis.
“For me, the history of science is a history of personal interactions,” Turelli said. “I’ve gotten where I am by meeting people. From the whole field of population genetics, I’m at most 1 degree removed.”
His combination of smart connections, rampant curiosity and hard work — including research that could help stop the spread of dengue fever — has not gone unnoticed by his campus colleagues. The Davis Division of the Academic Senate has selected Turelli for the 2012 Faculty Research Lecture Award.
Science News: Ancient birds wiped out huge insects
Aerial competition trumped the advantage of extra atmospheric oxygen
By Devin Powell
Web edition : Monday, June 4th, 2012
A prehistoric prequel to Godzilla took place about 150 million years ago, when insects of monstrous size met their doom battling the ancestors of modern birds.
The epic struggle ended an era of insect growth spurts that coincided with upticks in the amount of oxygen in the air. Starting with the Cretaceous period, predators kept the sizes of insects down, researchers report online June 4 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“That’s when birds evolved and started to become better at flying,” says Matthew Clapham, a paleontologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. “Even though oxygen continued to increase during that time, the insects got smaller.”
University of New Mexico: UNM Researchers Discover Why Birds Vary in Rates of Egg Production
By Steve Carr
June 7, 2012
The albatross and the hummingbird have something in common – both are very slow egg producers for their size. A new study by UNM researchers shows how and why wild bird species vary in their rates of egg production.
The study was a collaboration between Distinguished Professor James H. Brown, Assistant Professor Chris Witt, and Ph.D. candidate Natalie Wright, all of the UNM Biology Department. Other members of the research team included: a longtime collaborator of Brown’s, Professor Richard Sibly, University of Reading (United Kingdom); a former postdoc of Brown’s who is now a professor at Yale, Walter Jetz; and an expert on evolutionary statistical analyses Chris Venditti, University of Hull (United Kingdom).
“An animal’s productivity is the rate of production of biomass (babies, eggs, etc),” explained Witt. “Darwin’s theory tells us that individuals should seek to maximize this rate in order to maximize their contribution of genes to the next generation (i.e. their fitness).
“However, lower productivity sometimes leads to higher fitness – it’s slightly counterintuitive, but think of the potential advantages of producing a few high quality offspring versus many low quality ones.”
University of California: How infectious disease may have shaped human origins
June 4, 2012
SAN DIEGO — Roughly 100,000 years ago, human evolution reached a mysterious bottleneck: Our ancestors had been reduced to perhaps 5,000 to 10,000 individuals living in Africa. In time, "behaviorally modern" humans would emerge from this population, expanding dramatically in both number and range, and replacing all other co-existing evolutionary cousins, such as the Neanderthals.
The cause of the bottleneck remains unsolved, with proposed answers ranging from gene mutations to cultural developments like language to climate-altering events, among them a massive volcanic eruption.
Add another possible factor: infectious disease.
University of California: Maize diversity findings may help ease world hunger
June 4, 2012
DAVIS — Researchers at the University of California, Davis, report that ancient farmers had a stronger impact on the evolution of maize, or corn, than modern plant breeders have had on the grain — now one of the world's top production crops.
The findings, together with a companion study on maize diversity, appear in the online edition of the journal Nature Genetics. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and conducted by scientists from 17 international institutions, including BGI, the world's largest genomics organization. It will serve as the basis for future research in crop evolution.
"These two studies provide a new and more comprehensive understanding of genomic variation in maize, which will be critically important to plant breeders as they work to increase corn yield in the face of global population growth and climate change," said plant geneticist Jeffrey Ross-Ibarra, the lead researcher on the UC Davis-directed study.
University of California: Rattlesnakes bites more toxic
June 4, 2012
SAN DIEGO — Each year, approximately 8,000 Americans are bitten by venomous snakes. On average, 800 or so bites occur annually in California, home to an abundance of snake species, but only one family is native and venomous: rattlesnakes.
"This is the time of year when we see a rise in snake bites," said Dr. Richard Clark, director of the Division of Medical Toxicology at UC San Diego Health System.
Toxin levels in rattler venom vary from year to year and season to season, but typically venom is weaker in winter and stronger in summer because snakes are more active, fighting for food and territory.
University of Montana: Montana Osprey Viewed Around The World
June 8, 2012
MISSOULA – Any day now two osprey chicks will emerge from their eggs, which have been diligently cared for by an adult pair nesting in their high perch above the Dunrovin Guest Ranch in Lolo.
For the past 10 years, this same pair has fledged one to three young per year. Now thanks to a partnership between The University of Montana and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the entire world can watch these iconic birds bring up their young.
When the Cornell Lab, a Cornell University-affiliated world leader in the study and conservation of birds, expressed interest in partnering with UM on this webcam project, Professor Erick Greene and researcher Heiko Langner were thrilled.
“These cameras are a way to engage the public and to have the entire world view the ospreys we are researching,” Greene said. “It is an incredible opportunity for the world to gain an intimate perspective of an iconic Montana bird.”
University of Wisconsin: Wisconsin Team Reveals Way to Treat Drug-resistant Brain Tumor Cells
June 1, 2012
New research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison explains why the incurable brain cancer, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), is highly resistant to current chemotherapies.
The study, from the brain-tumor research lab of Dr. John Kuo, assistant professor of neurological surgery and human oncology at UW School of Medicine and Public Health, also reports success for a combination therapy that knocks out signaling of multiple members of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) family in brain-cancer cells.
The late U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy died of GBM in 2009. People diagnosed with GBM live on average for only 15 months after diagnosis, even after undergoing aggressive surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Earlier research from Dr. Kuo and other scientists showed that GBM cancer stem cells escape current treatments and proliferate rapidly to cause tumor recurrence.
University of California: Amerindian women's breast milk higher in omega-3
June 8, 2012
SANTA BARBARA — Working with researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the Cincinnati Children's Hospital, anthropologists at UC Santa Barbara have found high levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids in the breast milk of economically impoverished Amerindian woman as compared to women in the United States. Their research appears in the current issue of the journal Maternal and Child Nutrition.
The study compared breast milk fatty acid composition in U.S. and Tsimane women. The Tsimane live in Amazonian Bolivia, and eat a diet consisting primarily of locally grown staple crops, wild game, and freshwater fish. Samples of Tsimane mothers' milk contained significantly higher percentages of the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is crucial for infant cognitive and visual development.
Additionally, the percentages of DHA in breast milk did not significantly decrease across the first two years postpartum, the period during which infant brains experience peak growth and maximal uptake of DHA. This was also true for the U.S. women, and the study suggests that extended breastfeeding by both U.S. and Tsimane mothers may provide infants with a constant source of DHA during the critical period of brain development.
University of California: Redefining future stroke risk among pre-diabetics
June 8, 2012
SAN DIEGO — Millions of pre-diabetic Americans may be at increased risk of future stroke, say researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine in a new meta-analysis of epidemiological studies, but the precise degree of that threat is confounded by differing medical definitions and factors that remain unknown or unmeasured.
"The immediate implication of our findings is that people with pre-diabetes should be aware they are at increased risk of stroke, and that this condition is frequently associated with one or more major risk factors for cardiovascular disease," said Dr. Bruce Ovbiagele, professor of neurosciences at UC San Diego School of Medicine and the study's senior author. "Beyond that, there's a great need to further refine our understanding of that risk and how it's measured."
Writing in today's (June 8) online edition of the British Medical Journal, Ovbiagele and an international team of colleagues reviewed 15 qualifying prospective cohort studies that looked at the association between pre-diabetes and stroke risk. The studies, published between 2004 and 2011, involved 760,925 participants.
University of California: Scientists reprogram skin cells into brain cells
June 7, 2012
SAN FRANCISCO — Scientists at the UCSF-affiliated Gladstone Institutes have for the first time transformed skin cells — with a single genetic factor — into cells that develop on their own into an interconnected, functional network of brain cells.
The research offers new hope in the fight against many neurological conditions because scientists expect that such a transformation — or reprogramming — of cells may lead to better models for testing drugs for devastating neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
This research comes at a time of renewed focus on Alzheimer’s disease, which currently afflicts 5.4 million people in the United States alone — a figure expected to nearly triple by 2050. Yet there are no approved medications to prevent or reverse the progression of this debilitating disease.
University of California: Stem cells real culprit behind hardened arteries
June 6, 2012
BERKELEY — One of the top suspects behind killer vascular diseases is the victim of mistaken identity, according to researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, who used genetic tracing to help hunt down the real culprit. The guilty party is not the smooth muscle cells within blood vessel walls, which for decades was thought to combine with cholesterol and fat that can clog arteries. Blocked vessels can eventually lead to heart attacks and strokes, which account for one in three deaths in the United States.
Instead, a previously unknown type of stem cell — a multipotent vascular stem cell — is to blame, and it should now be the focus in the search for new treatments, the scientists report in a new study appearing today (June 6) in the journal Nature Communications.
"For the first time, we are showing evidence that vascular diseases are actually a kind of stem cell disease," said principal investigator Song Li, professor of bioengineering and a researcher at the Berkeley Stem Cell Center. "This work should revolutionize therapies for vascular diseases because we now know that stem cells rather than smooth muscle cells are the correct therapeutic target."
University of California: ER visits often presage hospital death for elderly
June 4, 2012
SAN FRANCISCO — Half of adults over age 65 made at least one emergency department (ED) visit in the last month of life, in a study led by a physician at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco. Three quarters of ED visits led to hospital admissions, and more than two-thirds of those admitted to the hospital died there.
In contrast, the 10 percent of study subjects who had enrolled in hospice care at least one month before death were much less likely to have made an ED visit or died in the hospital.
"For too many older Americans, the emergency department is a conduit to hospital admission and death in the hospital," said lead author Alexander K. Smith, M.D., MS, MPH, a palliative medicine doctor at SFVAMC and an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Geriatrics at UCSF.
Science News: Arctic's wintry blanket can be warming
Forest snows keep northern soils relatively toasty, diminishing how much climate-warming carbon they can sequester
By Janet Raloff
Web edition : Wednesday, June 6th, 2012
Arctic winters may be snowy and cold, but a deep blanket of snow can actually keep the soil surface fairly warm, a new study finds — at least in taiga, the conifer forests that may constitute almost half of the Arctic’s land cover.
Temperature plays a major role in determining not only plants’ uptake of climate-warming carbon, but also the soil’s potential for storing the element.
Scientists who develop computer programs to evaluate climate under changing conditions know this. Yet for convenience, their simulations have largely treated Arctic snows as if they blanket forest-free tundra, notes climate modeler Isabelle Gouttevin of the CNRS/University Joseph Fourier-Grenoble in France.
University of California: $1M grant to study effect of quakes on newer structures
June 7, 2012
LOS ANGELES — The unexpectedly poor performance of modern buildings during recent major earthquakes has demonstrated that revisions to design practices are needed to ensure that future construction is more resilient.
"The structural damage observed after powerful earthquakes over the past few years — particularly in Japan, New Zealand and Chile — has been eye-opening and concerning," said John Wallace, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and principal investigator of UCLA's Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES@UCLA) laboratory.
Now, a research team led by Wallace and co-principal investigators Jack Moehle and Claudia Ostertag of UC Berkeley has received a $1 million research grant from the National Science Foundation's National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program to examine these construction issues, focusing in particular on the design and performance of modern buildings' structural walls.
University of Wisconsin: Stress may delay brain development in early years
by Chris Barncard
June 6, 2012
Stress may affect brain development in children — altering growth of a specific piece of the brain and abilities associated with it — according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
"There has been a lot of work in animals linking both acute and chronic stress to changes in a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in complex cognitive abilities like holding on to important information for quick recall and use," says Jamie Hanson, a UW-Madison psychology graduate student. "We have now found similar associations in humans, and found that more exposure to stress is related to more issues with certain kinds of cognitive processes."
Children who had experienced more intense and lasting stressful events in their lives posted lower scores on tests of what the researchers refer to as spatial working memory. They had more trouble navigating tests of short-term memory such as finding a token in a series of boxes, according to the study, which will be published in the June 6 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.
Tel Aviv University (Israel) via Science Daily: Ancient Jugs Hold the Secret to Practical Mathematics in Biblical Times
June 4, 2012
Archaeologists in the eastern Mediterranean region have been unearthing spherical jugs, used by the ancients for storing and trading oil, wine, and other valuable commodities. Because we're used to the metric system, which defines units of volume based on the cube, modern archaeologists believed that the merchants of antiquity could only approximately assess the capacity of these round jugs, says Prof. Itzhak Benenson of Tel Aviv University's Department of Geography.
Now an interdisciplinary collaboration between Prof. Benenson and Prof. Israel Finkelstein of TAU's Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures has revealed that, far from relying on approximations, merchants would have had precise measurements of their wares -- and therefore known exactly what to charge their clients.
The Local (Sweden): 'World's oldest fishing tools' in Swedish waters
Swedish archaeologists believe they have discovered the world's oldest wooden fishing equipment on the Baltic Sea floor of the coast of southern Sweden.
The find, located of the eastern coast of Skåne County, consists of an arrangement of several finger-width sticks dated to be 9,000 years old.
"It's the world's oldest find of fishing equipment," Johan Rönnby, a professor of marine archaeology at Södertörn University College, told Sveriges Radio (SR).
BBC: China's Great Wall is 'longer than previously thought'
The Great Wall of China has been officially declared even longer than previously thought, state-run media report.
The wall measures 21,196.18km (13,170.6956 miles) long based on the latest state survey results, state-run news agency Xinhua reported on Tuesday.
BBC: Coin from 32 BC oldest in Beau Street Hoard
By Jane Onyanga-Omara BBC News Bristol
The oldest Roman coin in a hoard discovered in Bath dates back more than 200 years earlier than the others already examined.
The Beau Street Hoard of more than 20,000 silver coins was found in a stone-lined box by archaeologists working in Bath in 2007.
Work has begun at the British Museum to clean them.
Stephen Clews, manager of the Roman Baths, said a coin from 32BC was the oldest identified so far.
LiveScience via Fox News: 2,000-year-old treasure includes gold earrings, precious stones
By Jeanna Bryner
A trove of gold and silver coins and jewelry discovered near the Qiryat Gat in Israel was likely stashed there by a wealthy woman during the Bar Kokhba Revolt, the last Jewish-Roman war, archaeologists announced today June 5.
Scientists uncovered about 140 gold and silver coins, along with gold jewelry , during an excavation that exposed rooms of a building dating to the Roman and Byzantine period. The treasure trove was wrapped in cloth and hidden in a pit in the building's courtyard.
The jewelry could make even a modern gal smile; among the hoard is a flower-shaped earring and a ring holding a precious stone that is covered with a seal of a winged goddess. Two sticks of silver in the trove were likely kohl sticks, which were used type of like eyeliner in Arabia and Egypt to darken the edges of eyelids. The coins date to the reigns of emperors Nero, Nerva and Trajan, who ruled the Roman Empire from about A.D. 54 to 117; the emperors' images adorn one side of the coins.
NPR: Ancient Suburb Near St. Louis Could Be Lost Forever
by Véronique LaCapra
Weekend Edition Saturday
Across the Mississippi River from St. Louis' famous Gateway Arch is a part of Illinois that's a post-industrial wasteland.
Some hope the construction of a new bridge across the Mississippi River will help revitalize the area. But archaeologists worry future development could destroy what's left of another neighborhood — one that flourished there almost a thousand years ago.
This East St. Louis dig sits halfway between a crumbling meat packing plant and a now-closed strip club. But Joe Galloy, who is coordinating research here for the Illinois State Archaeological Survey, says 900 years ago, visitors paddling here by canoe from the Mississippi River would have seen the tall wooden temples that stood on top of many of the pyramids. And at their bases, rows and rows of thatched-roof huts.
Bulgarian News Service: Archaeologists Stumble Upon 'Vampire' Skeleton in Bulgaria
Archaeology | June 4, 2012, Monday
Bulgarian archaeologists have discovered a buried man with an iron stick in his chest in the Black Sea town of Sozopol.
The man, who was buried over 700 years ago, was stabbed multiple times in the chest and the stomach, as his contemporaries feared that he would raise from the dead as a vampire, National History Museum director Bozhidar Dimitrov has told local media.
Experts believe that the man may have been an intellectual and perhaps a medic, as such individuals often raised suspicions in the Middle Ages.
Belleville News-Democrat: Digging up dirt: Summer excavations under way at Cahokia Mounds
By ELIZABETH DONALD — News-Democrat
COLLINSVILLE — A group of Italian archaeologists recently kicked off another year of historical investigation at Cahokia Mounds.
For the past few weeks, a group from the University of Bologna in Italy was excavating a site west of Monks Mound.
"They're focusing on an enclosure first located in the 1960s," Assistant Site Manager Bill Iseminger. "It had bastions along it, a series of round and rectangular enclosures."
As to what the structure's purpose might have been, "Your guess is as good as mine," Iseminger said.
For the ancient Mississippian culture that once built a great city spanning the entire metro-east and beyond thousands of years ago, it could have been a marketplace, a house for visiting dignitaries or anything at all.
BBC: Shakespeare's Curtain Theatre remains found
Archaeologists have discovered the remains of an Elizabethan theatre where some of William Shakespeare's plays were first performed.
The remains of the Curtain Theatre, which opened in 1577, were found behind a pub in Shoreditch, east London, as part of regeneration works.
The venue was immortalised as "this wooden O" in the prologue to Henry V.
It is hoped the site could be opened to the public, with plays staged there in the future.
Irish Times: Ship's exotic cargo may be pirates' haul
LORNA SIGGINS, Marine Correspondent
A LEADING marine archaeologist has described as “absolutely incredible” some of the initial exotic findings on a shipwreck recently discovered off the west Cork coast.
South sea coconuts and Iberian pottery have so far been recovered by Julianna O’Donoghue and her underwater archaeology team from the wreck, which may have been a pirate ship dating from the late 16th or 17th century.
William and Mary University: Archaeologists seek evidence of 18th-century Bray School
by Joseph McClain
June 8, 2012
An archaeological collaboration between William & Mary and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation hopes to find conclusive evidence of the Bray School, an 18th-century institution dedicated to the education of free and enslaved black children.
Terry Meyers, Chancellor Professor of English at William & Mary, has collected evidence that indicates that the original Bray School building still exists—but the building has been modified extensively over the years and even moved from its original site.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman, who sent in the above articles.
Science News: Quantum teleportation leaps forward
Two teams improve long-distance transmission of information about particles
By Alexandra Witze
Web edition : Thursday, May 31st, 2012
Quantum information has leapt through the air about 100 kilometers or more in two new experiments, farther and with greater fidelity than ever before. The research brings truly long-distance quantum communication networks, in which satellites could beam encrypted information around the globe, closer to reality.
Both studies involve quantum teleportation, which transports the quantum state of one particle onto another. This Star Trek–like feat is possible because of a phenomenon called entanglement, in which pairs of particles become linked in such a way that measuring a certain property of one instantly determines the same property for the other, even if separated by large distances.
In teleportation, two people — physicists call them Alice and Bob — share one each of a pair of entangled particles. Alice measures a property on her particle and sends Bob a note, through regular channels, about what she did. Bob then knows how to alter his own particle to match Alice’s. Bob’s particle then possesses the information that had been contained in Alice’s, which was obliterated by her measurement. Thus the information has been “teleported” from Alice’s lab to Bob’s.
Science News: Flerovium and livermorium debut on periodic table
New element names honor work of Russian and American laboratories
By Alexandra Witze
Web edition : Friday, June 1st, 2012
Two labs and longtime partners in creating synthetic superheavy chemicals have been honored by new names for two of those elements. Element number 114 is now officially known as flerovium (symbol Fl), after the Flerov Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions in Russia. And element 116 is now livermorium (Lv), after the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.
The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry announced the new names May 30.
Both elements were created at the Flerov lab in Dubna, Russia, by hurling calcium ions, with 20 protons each, into a piece of curium with 96 protons. That merger made element 116, which decayed almost immediately into element 114 and then into lighter elements. Element 114 was also created by colliding calcium with plutonium, element 94 (SN: 2/6/99, p. 85).
University of New Mexico: UNM Key Part of Microgrid Collaboration
By Karen Wentworth
June 4, 2012
UNM Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor Andrea Mammoli is leading a team in a series of research projects involving renewable energy. The UNM School of Engineering Center for Emerging Energy Technologies (CEET) is collaborating with the Public Service Company of New Mexico to integrate a microgrid with PNM’s distribution systems at Mesa del Sol.
Mammoli says there are several specific research projects involving collaborators within the university and with other entities. At UNM, faculty members who are involved include Olga Lavrova, assistant professor, Computer Engineering Tom Caudell, professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Francesco Sorrentino,assistant professor, Mechanical Engineering.
Science, Space, Environment, and Energy Policy
The Guardian (UK): WikiLoot aims to use crowdsourcing to track down stolen ancient artefacts
Man behind WikiLoot hopes crowdsourcing experiment will help to find some of the world's oldest and most valuable treasures
Tom Kington in Rome
Campaigns to combat archaeological tomb raiders have notched up some big successes, notably a deal under which the J Paul Getty museum in Los Angeles agreed to hand back 40 precious artefacts after it was shown they had been looted from digs in Italy.
Activists, however, call that a drop in the ocean in a business valued at as much as $10bn (£6.5bn) a year, and claim hard-pressed lawyers and police forces are struggling against unscrupulous dealers.
Egypt Independent: Attempt to steal Pharaonic artifact in Aswan foiled
Security guards foiled an attempt to steal an antique panel depicting King Merenptah, the fourth ruler of the 19th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, in the Selsela mountain quarries 20 kilometers north of Kom Ombo, Aswan.
Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim Ali announced on Wednesday that four people were seen attempting to steal the piece, and were immediately detained by security guards in the area.
N.Y. Times: Cambodia Says It Seeks Return Of Met Statues
By TOM MASHBERG and RALPH BLUMENTHAL
Published: June 1, 2012
The Cambodian government is convinced that two life-size 10th-century statues that have anchored the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Southeast Asian galleries for nearly two decades were looted from a jungle temple and plans to ask for their return.
“The government is very serious about moving this forward, and we are getting much legal advice,” said Im Sokrithy, a director of Apsara, the Cambodian agency that oversees heritage and land management at the sprawling temple complex where, archaeologists say, the statues stood for centuries. “We are taking a forceful position, and we hope they can be returned.”
McClatchy/Tribune via Oregon Live: Historians fret fate of War of 1812 sites
McClatchy/Tribune - MCT Information Services
June 3, 2012, 5:07 a.m. PDT
BENEDICT, Md. — On a grassy hill a mile west of the Patuxent River, historian Ralph Eshelman can see the same bucolic view of fields and placid water anxious British soldiers likely saw when they landed in the summer of 1814 — the first stop in their campaign to burn Washington to the ground.
Despite an earlier raid that was repulsed by American militia, the more than 4,000-man British force faced no resistance on Aug. 19 as it swarmed ashore in Southern Maryland. Four days later, after defeating disorganized American defenses at Bladensburg, the soldiers marched into Washington unopposed, setting fire to the Capitol and White House and demoralizing the nation.
CBC: Parks Canada urged to abandon artifact move
"It's almost scandalous," says Acadian leader
Nova Scotia's Mi'kmaq and Acadian groups are calling on Parks Canada to abandon plans to move centuries-old artifacts out of the province to save money.
Thousands of items are currently kept in a brand new, custom-built facility in Dartmouth with climate-controlled labs that hold historical artifacts from Atlantic Canada's national parks and historic sites.
Last month, the federal government announced that to deal with budget cuts, Parks Canada will merge its six labs across the country over the next three years and consolidate the collections in Ottawa.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.
University of California: Specialized elder care could significantly cut costs
June 8, 2012
SAN FRANCISCO — Creating specialized hospital units for elderly people with acute medical illness could reduce national health care costs by as much $6 billion a year, according to a new study by UCSF researchers.
The team assessed a program called “Acute Care for Elders,” or ACE, which offers individualized care for older patients in specially designed hospital units. It is being piloted in 200 hospitals nationwide, serving an estimated 100,000 patients annually.
“The Medicare proportion of the health care budget is going up faster than anything else, and the cost of hospital stays is one of the fastest growing components of that care,” said senior author Seth Landefeld, M.D., chief of the UCSF Division of Geriatrics. “This was really an opportunity to look at how you can deliver higher value care while maintaining or improving quality and reducing cost.”
University of California: Health experts named to statewide task force
June 5, 2012
Ten health policy experts from the University of California system have been appointed to a task force that will develop a 10-year plan to help make the state's residents healthier.
California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Diana S. Dooley made the appointments Monday (June 4) to the Let's Get Healthy California Task Force, formed under an executive order from Gov. Jerry Brown to make recommendations to improve the delivery of health care in the state.
The task force and a panel of expert advisers will work together to gather, evaluate and prioritize the best ideas and practices and organize them into a 10-year plan to improve quality, control costs, promote personal responsibility for individual health and advance health equity.
University of California: Advocate of toxic substance policy reform joins panel
June 5, 2012
RIVERSIDE — Carl F. Cranor, a distinguished professor of philosophy at the University of California, Riverside, and a longtime advocate of reforming policies for regulating exposure to toxic substances, has been appointed to the Scientific Guidance Panel of the California Environmental Contaminant Biomonitoring Program.
The appointment by the state Senate Rules Committee to the nine-member panel is effective immediately. His term ends Jan. 1, 2014. Cranor said he was nominated by the University of California Office of the President and by Davis Baltz, director of the Precautionary Principle Program of Commonweal, a nonprofit health and environmental research institute in Bolinas, Calif., soon after he presented research at a UC Berkeley symposium on flame retardant chemicals and policies in February 2011.
The Scientific Guidance Panel plays a significant role in the California Biomonitoring Program, making recommendations about the program’s design and implementation — including the identification of chemicals that are a priority for monitoring in California — and providing scientific peer review. Five members are appointed by the governor, two by the speaker of the Assembly, and two by the Senate Rules Committee.
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture: Ancient Treasures Discovered on National Forest in Southern Illinois
Posted by Mary McCorvie, Heritage Program Manager, Shawnee National Forest and Deidra L. McGee, U.S. Forest Service Office of Communication, on June 4, 2012 at 11:12 AM
A recent archaeology project shed light on the history of the Shawnee National Forest, uncovering the remains of a 19th Century home and an ancient cemetery.
Archaeologists Mary McCorvie and Heather Carey, and AmeriCorps VISTA team member Eraina Nossa worked with 23 volunteers from across the country on this five-day project to inventory 140-acres of the Illinois Iron Furnace Historic Site and to create a more complete picture of what life was like there. Built around 1837, the Illinois Iron Furnace is the only remaining iron furnace structure in the state.
The Passport in Time volunteers used a compass to walk in transects through the woods, digging and screening for artifacts, producing scaled maps of new archaeological sites and exploring the hills and valleys within the study area.
Alexandria Times: Veterans learn valuable job skills curating archaeological finds in north Old Town
By: Derrick Perkins
Community History News __Featured Slider — 01 June 2012, 7:00 am
Transitioning from military service to civilian life remains daunting for many veterans, but the men and women staffing a north Old Town archaeology laboratory are getting a lift from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Inside the small North St. Asaph Street office a handful of veterans pours through portions of the corps’ massive archaeological collection, updating records, photographing artifacts and storing them in protective containers. During their six-month stint with the Veterans Curation Program, they learn valuable job skills and earn a competitive wage, officials said, preparing them for postwar life.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.
University of Wisconsin: All-terrain vehicle competition begins Friday, June 8
by Mark Riechers
June 4, 2012
Most people would do anything they could to avoid driving their car through anything resembling a "mud bog." But beginning Friday, more than 1,200 students will work hard to plow as far into the mud as they possibly can.
The 2012 Baja SAE Competition hits Burlington, Wis. June 8-10, bringing 115 teams from numerous countries to test off-road vehicles they've designed in a barrage of rough terrain and water-based driving challenges.
"The competition's premise is to apply engineering principles to design and build an all-terrain vehicle, then challenge other students from around the world," says competition organizer and University of Wisconsin-Madison vehicle team adviser Glenn Bower.
New Mexico State University: NMSU “Lego Lab” helps students learn robotics, builds interest in engineering
Writer: Dana Beasley
White coats, safety glasses and serious scientists are what most of us would expect to see in an engineering lab. However, in one lab at New Mexico State University’s College of Engineering researchers have been using a favorite childhood building block to stir creativity and problem solving skills in thousands of students for a quarter of a century.
The Controls and Automation Lab (CAL) is a sector of the Manufacturing Technology and Engineering Center (M-TEC) and is an instructional lab that specializes in teaching industrial controls and automation.
Appropriately nicknamed the “Lego Lab,” this facility specializes in support for high school robotics competitions, workshops to educate teachers about robotics and competitions to build student interest in engineering through the use of specialized Lego training kits that result in the completion of a small robot.
Science Writing and Reporting
University of Arizona via Physorg: Ceramics tell the story of an ancient Southwest migration
Another look at a nearly 80-year-old pottery collection at the Arizona State Museum is yielding new information about migrants who abandoned the Four Corners region.
By Jeff Harrison
June 4, 2012
Approximately eight centuries ago, people living along the Colorado Plateau in what is now the Four Corners area faced a crisis. Environmental changes that devastated their agricultural practices and likely aggravated social unrest forced significant numbers of these people to move away.
Many of them headed south into central and southern Arizona and western New Mexico, into lands already inhabited by well-established groups.
What is remarkable about this diaspora is that while there is no written record of what happened, much of what archaeologists know is told in the ceramic bowls, plates and figurines that were created and left behind when those civilizations later collapsed.
Patrick Lyons, acting associate director of the Arizona State Museum at the University of Arizona and head of the museum's collections, has been analyzing hundreds of ceramics from Kinishba, the ruins of an 800-room pueblo just below the Mogollon Rim in east-central Arizona.
Lyons's results will be published later this year by the Arizona State Museum Archaeological Series as a chapter in "Kinishba Lost and Found: Mid-Century Excavations and Contemporary Perspectives."
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
Science is Cool
Science News: Stone Age art gets animated
Ancient cave paintings depict moving animals
By Bruce Bower
Welcome to Animation Domination, Stone Age style. By about 30,000 years ago, Europeans were using cartoon-like techniques to give observers the impression that lions and other wild beasts were charging across cave walls, two French investigators find.
Ancient artists created graphic stories in caves and illusions of moving animals on rotating bone disks, say archaeologist Marc Azéma of the University of Toulouse–Le Mirail in France and Florent Rivère, an independent artist based in Foix, France.
“Stone Age artists intended to give life to their images,” Azéma says. “The majority of cave drawings show animals in action.”
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.