Recent Science Diaries and Stories
On Mars: Investigating Planetary Flatulence
Now that we are at this point what do you think about the human mind?
by don mikulecky
Shut climate deniers up with this animated GIF graphic
This week in science: All aboard!
BBC: Bolivia returns stolen mummy to Peru
Bolivia has returned a 700-year-old mummy to Peru, from where it was stolen by antiquities traffickers.
The mummy of a child of about two years of age is only 30cm (12in) tall and sits wrapped in blankets.
Bolivian police seized it two years ago from a woman who was going to ship it to France.
Experts determined it was an original but found that one of its legs had been added later presumably by the smugglers who wanted to raise its value.
Experts have not been able to determine the sex of the mummy but archaeologists think it came from a pre-Inca culture of coastal Peru.
WTVR: Bomb squad removes Civil War relics from house
by Wayne Covil and Nick Dutton
Posted on: 8:47 pm, November 2, 2012,
PRINCE GEORGE, Va. (WTVR) - One man’s decision to clean house caused a bit of a scare for some neighbors in Prince George Friday morning.
Bob Cleveland, a former area Civil War relic hunter, called in the Bomb Squad as a precaution to help remove several items from his property.
Cleveland said he he started collecting the items decades ago and said that as time passed, he forgot about some of the items.
When Cleveland decided it was time to part with a Civil War-era cannonball and a mortar shell, he figured the safest and most effective way was to call police.
“The one’s they’re taking away came from around Petersburg,” said Cleveland. ”If you haven’t done anything to it, it’s dry powder – and it’s highly explosive. I’d rather have somebody handle it that knows what they’re doing.”
CBS 19 via Newsplex: 19th Century Grave Discovered at University of Virginia
Archaeologists discovered a burial site on the grounds of the University of Virginia. The discovery was made during a survey in preparation for an expansion to the already existing UVa cemetery.
Stone and marble markers show where people were laid to rest more than a hundred years ago.
"We have uncovered evidence, approximately 30 individual interments within our project area," Benjamin Ford said. "We don't know the names of the individuals of the people who were buried here. We believe that burial area would have been used throughout the 1800's."
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.
Ohio State University: How Butterfly Wings Can Inspire New High-Tech Surfaces
November 7, 2012
COLUMBUS, Ohio – A South American butterfly flapped its wings, and caused a flurry of nanotechnology research to happen in Ohio.
Researchers here have taken a new look at butterfly wings and rice leaves, and learned things about their microscopic texture that could improve a variety of products.
For example, the researchers were able to clean up to 85 percent of dust off a coated plastic surface that mimicked the texture of a butterfly wing, compared to only 70 percent off a flat surface.
In a recent issue of the journal Soft Matter, the Ohio State University engineers report that the textures enhance fluid flow and prevent surfaces from getting dirty – characteristics that could be mimicked in high-tech surfaces for aircraft and watercraft, pipelines, and medical equipment.
University of Wisconsin: Cells from Skin Create Model of Blinding Eye Disease
November 8, 2012
Madison, Wisconsin - For the first time, Wisconsin researchers have taken skin from patients and, using induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology, turned them into a laboratory model for an inherited type of macular degeneration.
Dr. David Gamm, director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's McPherson Eye Research Institute, said that while Best disease is relatively rare, having a patient-specific model of the eye disease, which destroys the macula of the retina, could lead to a greater understanding of more common eye disorders such as age-related macular degeneration.
“This model gives us a chance to understand the biological effects of human gene mutations in a relatively expeditious manner,” says Gamm, associate professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences and pediatrics at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. “Ultimately, we hope the model will help us craft treatments to slow or reverse the course of Best disease.”
NASA Television on YouTube: Suni Set to Return on This Week @NASA
International Space Station Commander, Suni Williams is beginning to prepare for her upcoming return home. The NASA astronaut and two of her Expedition 33 colleagues, Aki Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Malenchenko, are scheduled to make their way back to Earth with a parachute-assisted landing by their Soyuz capsule in rural Kazakhstan on November 19, local time. Also, Curiosity Roves On; Fire-Fighting in Space; Stump for STEM; Enterprising Student; HQ Honors; Happy Birthday
NASA Television on YouTube: ScienceCasts: NASA's Cure for a Common Phobia
NASA has an unusual candidate for the astronaut corps--a rubber chicken. Seriously. Beloved by schoolchildren around the country, Camilla the rubber chicken has been training in fighter jets, flying to the edge of space, and visiting classrooms around the country as she prepares to go where no chicken has gone before.
NASA Television on YouTube: ScienceCasts: Total Eclipse of the Sun
Scientists and sky watchers are converging on the northeast coast of Australia, near the Great Barrier Reef, for a total eclipse of the sun.
University of North Dakota: Astrophysicist Tim Young, computer scientist Ron Marsh team up again to deliver Solar event video
November 6, 2012
Once again, the University of North Dakota's popular team of scientists is taking its show on the global road to astronomical adventure.
UND professors Timothy Young, Physics and Astrophysics, and Ronald Marsh, chair, Computer Science, will travel with their team to Cairns, Australia, to share a live webcast of a total solar eclipse. In addition to the video webcast, the UND team will acquire and post high-resolution digital photographs of the corona.
The eclipse begins at 2 p.m. U.S. Central Standard Time, Tuesday, Nov. 13. The webcast can be viewed at http://www.sems.und.edu or on Facebook. The live webcast is also available on mobile devices.
Ohio State University: After Long-Ago Mass Extinction, Global Warming Hindered Species’ Recovery
November 5, 2012
CHARLOTTE, NC – Researchers have discovered why plants and animals had a hard time recovering from the largest mass extinction in Earth’s history 250 million years ago.
The reason: global warming.
Because of environmental consequences of rising temperatures, those species that survived the extinction didn’t fully recover for 5 million years.
The study adds a new chapter to the story of how life was forever altered by giant volcanic eruptions in the Early Triassic period – an event now called the “Great Dying” – and offers clues as to how climate change might impact life today, said Ohio State University doctoral student Alexa Sedlacek, who presented the results at the Geological Society of America meeting in North Carolina this week.
Purdue University: Scientists tracking down genes that help bees defend against mites
November 8, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University researchers are zeroing in on genes that help honeybees defend against varroa mites, one of the largest factors in bee population declines.
Varroa mites are parasites that attack honeybees and infect them with viruses that cause death. The mites can infest and kill entire bee colonies.
But certain honeybees have developed defensive behaviors that allow them to kill the varroa mites or disrupt mite reproduction. Greg Hunt, a professor of behavioral genetics, and Jennifer Tsuruda, a Purdue postdoctoral researcher, are searching for the genes that provide those defenses and believe they've narrowed the options considerably.
University of Wisconsin: Stirred, not shaken, lake mixing experiment shows promise
by Terry Devitt
Nov. 5, 2012
The question is simple: can a lake be cleansed of a pernicious invader by simply raising the water temperature?
The answer so far: maybe, maybe not.
In an experiment playing out on a small lake in northern Wisconsin, scientists from UW-Madison are deploying a novel lake-mixing technology to alter the lake's temperature profile and see if warmer water will drive out the cold water-loving rainbow smelt, an invasive sardine-sized fish. The smelt were accidentally introduced into the Great Lakes in the 1920s. They are now found in about 25 inland lakes in Wisconsin.
University of Wisconsin: UW student awarded one of nation's first organic plant breeding fellowships
by Nicole Miller
November 7, 2012
The story of how Tessa Peters ended up snagging one of the nation's first graduate fellowships in organic plant breeding begins in an unlikely place: the middle of the ocean.
After earning a bachelor's degree in physics, she set out as a geophysicist, mapping the ocean floor aboard a large ship, working five weeks on, five weeks off. During her time off, she traveled widely and stumbled upon her new career path.
"Oftentimes I found myself staying on farms or talking to farmers or just trying to find out about the local food system where I was visiting – just out of my own curiosity," says Peters.
One thing led to another-a stint on an organic farm in Ecuador, a second bachelor's degree in agroecology, and finally, becoming a graduate student in the University of Wisconsin-Madison's plant breeding and plant genetics program.
University of Florida: New study describes perils of delivering anti-malarial drugs through private sector
November 8, 2012.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Getting high-quality anti-malarial drugs to people in places like Zanzibar and Mozambique is a tricky business.
A 2009 program, called the Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria, or AMFm, tried to do it by giving subsidies directly to drug manufacturers, but critics are now saying that the program has promoted dangerous misuse of these expensive medications. A new study co-authored by a University of Florida researcher, however, suggests that misuse is a bigger problem in some areas than others, and that an AMFm-like approach could still have value in some regions.
The study is published in the Nov. 2 edition of the journal Science.
University of Iowa: Cancer researcher wins 'Provocative Questions' grant
Funding will help develop tools to find genes that drive cancer growth
By: Jennifer Brown
2012.11.08 | 10:35 AM
Modern DNA sequencing technology is beginning to reveal the complete genetic makeup of various forms of cancer, and the results indicate that cancers are far more genetically complex than anticipated. One question raised by this new data is how to determine which of the hundreds of gene mutations found in tumors are important.
“Our idea is that tumor growth is probably driven by a few driver mutations and the vast majority of the observed mutations are just ‘along for the ride,’” says Adam Dupuy, associate professor of anatomy and cell biology and pathology at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. “But the ‘drivers’ are not obvious. So, the question is, how do we distinguish drivers from passengers?”
It's a question that the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has defined as one of around 20 "provocative questions" in cancer research—major unsolved or neglected problems that if answered could lead to significant advances in oncology.
UI team is runner up in international genetics challenge
Contest develops 'best practices' to use genome sequencing in patient care
2012.11.09 | 10:20 AM
A University of Iowa team of more than 30 researchers from five different colleges has been named a finalist and awarded $5,000 in a competition that challenged international research teams to provide the best interpretation and communication of DNA sequencing results for three children with rare, undiagnosed genetic diseases.
The CLARITY challenge, which was organized by Boston Children’s Hospital and launched in January 2012, pinpointed the genetic cause of one child's muscular condition and deafness, and identified a probable cause for heart rhythm disturbances in a second family. The first-of-its-kind contest also produced approaches that contest organizers hope will form the basis of much-needed “best practices” in genome analysis, interpretation, and reporting.
“As the cost of genome sequencing drops and its availability rises, patients are more likely to make use of this technology to learn how their genes affect their health,” says Richard Smith, M.D., director of Iowa Institute of Human Genetics at the UI. “But a huge challenge is how to help physicians and patients interpret the genetic data in ways that will improve patient care and protect patient privacy. This competition generated some really sound, innovative ways to use genomic sequencing in patient care safely, responsibly, and in a meaningful way.”
Purdue University: Researchers home in on structure of 'Sputnik' virus
November 6, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - An international team of researchers has determined key structural features of the Sputnik virus, thought to play a role in illnesses caused by eating raw fish.
Findings also may help scientists learn details about the infection mechanisms in other viruses.
Sputnik is referred to as a "satellite virus" because it can only be propagated in combination with another virus, in this case the mimivirus, which infects amoebas. While inside the single-cell amoeba, the DNA for both Sputnik and mimivirus are replicated, allowing the viruses to multiply.
The amoeba host implies that both mimivirus and Sputnik are frequently present in aquatic food, causing disease when humans eat raw fish.
University of Massachusetts, Amherst: UMass Amherst Cell Biologists Identify New Protein Key to Asymmetric Cell Division
November 8, 2012
AMHERST, Mass. – Recently biologists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst led by Wei-lih Lee have identified a new molecular player in asymmetric cell division, a regulatory protein named She1 whose role in chromosome- and spindle positioning wasn’t known before. Asymmetric cell division is important in the self-renewal of stem cells and because it ensures that daughter cells have different fates and functions.
When a fertilized egg develops in a fruit fly or a human being, the number of asymmetric cell divisions must be precisely balanced by symmetric cell divisions, Lee explains. He has spent years studying the cell’s molecular engine called dynein, which in many cases controls how embryos accomplish asymmetric cell division, though exactly how is not completely understood.
Now, Lee and postdoctoral researcher Steven Markus, with undergraduate Katelyn Kalutkiewicz, in experiments supported by the NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), have identified She 1 as the first known regulator of asymmetric cell division that inhibits the dynein engine, but surprisingly also promotes asymmetric division. Their work is described in an early online edition of Current Biology and will appear in the December 4 print edition.
Montana State University: MSU researchers develop six new biotechnologies
November 08, 2012 -- MSU News Service
BOZEMAN -- Researchers at Montana State University have developed six new biotechnologies that have implications for battling bacterial infections and boosting vaccine efficacy, baking a better loaf of bread, detecting harmful microbes, preventing brucellosis, fighting neurological and inflammatory diseases, and developing bacterial vaccines.
The technologies are available for licensing to interested companies and entrepreneurs.
Science News: An ancient civilization's wet ascent, dry demise
Newly documented climate shifts helped shape Classic Maya destiny
By Bruce Bower
Classic Maya civilization rose and fell with the rains.
This once-majestic society, known for massive pyramids and hieroglyphic writing, expanded during an unusually rainy time and declined as the sky’s spigots dried up and periodic droughts arrived, a new study suggests.
A 2,000-year climate record, gleaned from a stalagmite inside a Belize cave, highlights a central role for climate shifts in the ancient civilization’s fortunes, say anthropologist Douglas Kennett of Penn State University and his colleagues.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
University of Colorado, Boulder: 2001-02 drought helped to shift Rocky Mountain pine beetle outbreak into epidemic
November 5, 2012
A new University of Colorado Boulder study shows for the first time that episodes of reduced precipitation in the southern Rocky Mountains, especially during the 2001-02 drought, greatly accelerated development of the mountain pine beetle epidemic.
The study, the first ever to chart the evolution of the current pine beetle epidemic in the southern Rocky Mountains, compared patterns of beetle outbreak in the two primary host species, the ponderosa pine and lodgepole pine, said CU-Boulder doctoral student Teresa Chapman. The current mountain pine beetle outbreak in the southern Rockies -- which range from southern Wyoming through Colorado and into northern New Mexico --is estimated to have impacted nearly 3,000 square miles of forests, said Chapman, lead study author.
While the 2001-02 drought in the West played a key role in pushing the pine beetle outbreak into a true regional epidemic, the outbreak continued to gain ground even after temperature and precipitation levels returned to levels nearer the long-term averages, said Chapman of CU-Boulder’s geography department. The beetles continued to decimate lodgepole pine forests by moving into wetter and higher elevations and into less susceptible tree stands -- those with smaller diameter lodgepoles sharing space with other tree species.
University of Massachusetts, Amherst: UMass Amherst Climate Modeler Identifies Trigger for Earth’s Last Big Freeze
November 6, 2012
AMHERST, Mass. – For more than 30 years, climate scientists have debated whether flood waters from melting of the enormous Laurentide Ice Sheet, which ushered in the last major cold episode on Earth about 12,900 years ago, flowed northwest into the Arctic first, or east via the Gulf of St. Lawrence, to weaken ocean thermohaline circulation and have a frigid effect on global climate.
Now University of Massachusetts Amherst geoscientist Alan Condron, with Peter Winsor at the University of Alaska, using new, high-resolution global ocean circulation models, report the first conclusive evidence that this flood must have flowed north into the Arctic first down the Mackenzie River valley. They also show that if it had flowed east into the St. Lawrence River valley, Earth’s climate would have remained relatively unchanged.
“This episode was the last time the Earth underwent a major cooling, so understanding exactly what caused it is very important for understanding how our modern-day climate might change in the future,” says Condron of UMass Amherst’s Climate System Research Center. Findings appear in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
University of Montana: UM Professor Finds Greenland Absorbs Large Amounts Of Melt
November 7, 2012
University of Montana glaciologist Joel Harper will publish research findings in an article titled “Greenland Ice Sheet Contribution to Sea Level Rise Buffered by Meltwater Storage in Firn” in the Nov. 8 issue of the journal Nature.
According to the research, a large storage sink for meltwater generated on the surface of Greenland exists in a layer of old compacted snow called firn, which is up to 100 meters thick. Because some of the melt is absorbed by the firn, not all of the melt from the huge ice sheet contributes to rising sea levels, yet.
Scientists know that sea level currently rises about 3.2 mm per year, with about half of that rise comes from melting ice around the world. Researchers estimate that 20 to 40 percent of that new water comes from Greenland.
University of New Hampshire: UNH Expert Available to Discuss Politics of Climate Change
November 2, 2012
DURHAM, N.H. – Lawrence Hamilton, professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire, is available to discuss how politics, knowledge, and weather influence personal beliefs about climate change, and how local factors such as unemployment and population growth influence views about the value of conservation and regulation.
According to Hamilton, across major science organizations, national academies, and scientific reviews there is a broad consensus about climate change, and agreement on certain key observations such as the global increase in CO2 levels and the decline of Arctic ice. In his research, he has turned some of those key observations into questions on public opinion surveys to map out which facts have reached public awareness.
“People who agree with the scientific consensus that climate change is happening now, caused mainly by human activities, are more likely to know what the term ‘greenhouse effect’ means. They also are more likely to give accurate answers to questions about whether, in recent decades, the late-summer area of Arctic sea ice has decreased, CO2 levels in the air have increased, melting land or sea ice could have greater effects on sea level, and volcanoes or human activities released more CO2,” Hamilton says.
However, the pattern of wrong answers on these questions is interesting.
National Geographic News: Tsunamis in the Alps?
A killer wave slammed medieval Geneva, a new study says. And it could happen again.
National Geographic News
Published October 31, 2012
Nearly 1,500 years ago a massive flood in Geneva reportedly swept away everything in its path—mills, houses, cattle, even entire churches.
Now researchers believe they've found the unlikely sounding culprit: a tsunami-like killer wave in the Alps. The threat, they add, may still be very much alive. (Video: Tsunamis 101.)
Spurred by a huge landslide, the medieval Lake Geneva "tsunami" (technically defined as a seismic ocean wave) swamped the city, which was already a trading hub, according to a new study.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
Indiana University: IU Bloomington geologist calls for new attention to restoring sedimentology of river deltas
November 7, 2012
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Rapid advances in the new and developing field of restoration sedimentology will be needed to protect the world's river deltas from an array of threats, Indiana University Bloomington geologist Douglas A. Edmonds writes in the journal Nature Geoscience.
The commentary, published this week in the November issue, addresses the fact that land is disappearing from river deltas at alarming rates. And deltas are extraordinarily important: They are ecologically rich and productive, and they are home to about 10 percent of the world's population.
"There's a lot of talk about ecological restoration of the coast," Edmonds said. "But with delta environments, before ecological restoration can happen you have to stabilize the coastline."
University of Connecticut: Neag Study: School Psychologists Can Play Key Role in Reducing Obesity, Raising Scores
Scott McCarthy is studying the link between obesity and academic achievement.
By: Cindy Wolfe Boynton
November 7, 2012
How school psychologists can help students prevent obesity and, in turn, achieve academic success is the focus of a study conducted by Neag School of Education researchers and published in the National Association of School Psychologists’ School Psychology Forum.
Based on research conducted by educational psychology doctoral student Scott McCarthy for his dissertation, the study, “The Link Between Obesity and Academics: School Psychologists’ Role in Collaborative Prevention,” outlines for educators what McCarthy calls a “practical and sustainable” plan for school psychologists like himself to implement interventions such as increased regular physical activity and nutrition education that, among other benefits, can help improve academic achievement.
“It’s proven that obesity leads to physical health problems such as diabetes and emotional problems like depression, as well as to other troublesome, negative results like social isolation, being bullied, and low self-esteem,” says McCarthy, who in addition to pursing his Ph.D. works full-time as a public school psychologist in Greenwich. “The science of how weight influences students’ school performance is still emerging, but real evidence is there and as educators, we need to be concerned and begin conceptualizing what we can do to help students succeed.”
Ohio State University: Diabetes Study: ‘Mindful Eating’ Equals Traditional Education In Lowering Weight and Blood Sugar
November 8, 2012
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Eating mindfully, or consuming food in response to physical cues of hunger and fullness, is just as effective as adhering to nutrition-based guidelines in reducing weight and blood sugar levels in adults with Type 2 diabetes, a new study suggests.
In a comparison study of the effectiveness of the two types of behavioral interventions, participants lost about the same amount of weight – an average of between 3 1/2 and 6 pounds – and lowered their long-term blood sugar levels significantly after three months.
One treatment group followed an established diabetes self-management education program, with a strong emphasis on nutrition information. The other group was trained in mindful meditation and a mindful approach to food selection and eating. Both interventions, involving weekly group meetings, also recommended physical activity.
“The more traditional education program includes general information about diabetes, but with more emphasis on nutrition and food choice: What are different types of carbohydrates and fats and how many am I supposed to have? What should I look for when I read a food label? What are healthy options when dining out? That was the traditional diabetes education program,” said Carla Miller, associate professor of human nutrition at Ohio State University and lead author of the study.
Ohio State University: Link Found Between Child Prodigies and Autism
November 9, 2012
COLUMBUS, Ohio - A new study of eight child prodigies suggests a possible link between these children’s special skills and autism.
Of the eight prodigies studied, three had a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders. As a group, the prodigies also tended to have slightly elevated scores on a test of autistic traits, when compared to a control group.
In addition, half of the prodigies had a family member or a first- or second-degree relative with an autism diagnosis.
The fact that half of the families and three of the prodigies themselves were affected by autism is surprising because autism occurs in only one of 120 individuals, said Joanne Ruthsatz, lead author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University’s Mansfield campus.
Virginia Tech: Marketing researchers study effect of red on consumer behavior
November 8, 2012
Background colors, whether on websites or walls in brick-and-mortar stores, can influence consumer shopping behavior, in particular, willingness to pay, new marketing research from the Pamplin College of Business shows.
“Colors are ubiquitous in consumer contexts,” said marketing associate professor Rajesh Bagchi. “Identical products are often sold in different colors or with different colors of packaging. Shopping mall walls, aisles, and displays use multiple colors, as do website backgrounds and product displays. Colors are also an integral part of ads and company logos.”
Yet, most shopping studies have focused on consumers’ evaluation of stores and products, he said, and little is known about how color affects consumers’ willingness to pay. So Bagchi and co-researcher Amar Cheema, of the University of Virginia, set out to investigate how red and blue colors, in particular, influence willingness to pay and purchase likelihoods in different types of purchase settings: auctions, negotiations, and fixed-price (retail, for example) contexts.
The researchers found that at auctions and similar situations where consumers compete with one other to buy a scarce or a limited edition product, willingness to pay was strengthened through exposure to red rather than blue backgrounds.
Agence France Presse via Google: Israel dig uncovers 8,500-year-old well
(AFP)–2 days ago
JERUSALEM — Israeli archaeologists have uncovered a well dating back to the Neolithic period some 8,500 years ago, the Antiquities Authority said on Thursday, adding that two skeletal remains were found inside.
The well, discovered in the Jezreel Valley in the northern Galilee region, contained a variety of artefacts, as well as the remains of a woman approximately 19 years old, and an older man, the IAA said.
Archaeologists said it was unclear how the pair came to be in the well, but hailed the discovery of the ancient water source.
Universitaet Tübingen (Germany) via Science Daily: Archeologists Examine One of the Oldest Hoards Found in Europe
Nov. 6, 2012
Jewelry and female figurines from Belica, Serbia, to be exhibited for the first time at Tübingen University Museum.
Archeologists from the University of Tübingen's Institute of Prehistory are working with the Serbian Archeological Institute in Belgrade to analyze the most comprehensive Early Neolithic hoard ever found. Work on the nearly 8000 year old collection of jewelry and figurines is funded by the Thyssen Foundation.
The unique hoard is composed of some 80 objects made of stone, clay and bone. "This collection from Belica, in all its completeness, provides a unique glimpse into the symbols of the earliest farmers and herdsmen in Europe," says Tübingen archeologist Dr. Raiko Krauss, who heads the German side of the project.
LiveScience: First Polynesians Arrived in Tonga 2,800 Years Ago
Tia Ghose, LiveScience Staff Writer
Date: 07 November 2012 Time: 06:40 PM ET
The first Polynesian settlers sailed to Tonga between 2,830 and 2,846 years ago, according to new research.
The findings, published Nov. 7 in the journal PLoS One, relied on ultraprecise dating of coral tools found at Tonga's first settlement.
"The technique provides us with unbelievable precision in dating quite ancient materials," said David Burley, a co-author of the study and an archaeologist at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. "This stuff is almost 3,000 years old, and the date range is within 16 years."
Reuters via Yahoo! News: Ancient Thracian gold hoard unearthed in Bulgaria
Fri, Nov 9, 2012
SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgarian archaeologists unearthed ancient golden artifacts, including bracelets with snake heads, a tiara with animal motifs and a horse head piece during excavation works at a Thracian tomb in northern Bulgaria, they said on Thursday.
The new golden artifacts are dated back to the end of the fourth or the beginning of the third century BC and were found in the biggest of 150 ancient tombs of a Thracian tribe, the Getae, that was in contact with the Hellenistic world.
The findings also included a golden ring, 44 applications of female figures as well as 100 golden buttons.
Popular Archaeology: Excavations Uncover Common Life in Ancient Petra
Mon, Nov 05, 2012
The word "Petra" brings to mind images of the elaborately sculpted rock-cut temples and tombs that characterize this much-visited site in southeastern Jordan, a site that has been voted one of the "Seven Wonders of the Modern World". But like most ancient monumental centers revealed by the careful work and research of archaeologists and conservationists, what meets the eye at Petra is only part of the picture. It represents an ancient populace that constituted the elite minority. The rest of its forgotten inhabitants remain shrouded in comparative mystery. They have been overlooked.
But not now.
Led by Dr. Tom Parker of North Carolina State University and colleague Dr. Megan Perry of East Carolina University, a team of archaeologists, students and volunteers are investigating the lives of the ordinary people at Petra -- the people (everyday Nabataeans) who really made the city hum.
Looks like North Carolina snuck in after all.
The Daily Telegraph (UK): Buried with a stake through a heart: the medieval 'vampire' burial
New details of one of the few 'vampire' burials reserved for social 'deviants' in early medieval Britain have emerged.
By Telegraph reporters
10:40AM GMT 01 Nov 2012
The discovery of a skeleton found with metal spikes through its shoulders, heart and ankles, dating from 550-700AD and buried in the ancient minster town of Southwell, Notts, is detailed in a new report.
It is believed to be a 'deviant burial', where people considered the 'dangerous dead', such as vampires, were interred to prevent them rising from their graves to plague the living.
In reality, victims of this treatment were social outcasts who scared others because of their unusual behaviour. Only a handful of such burials have been unearthed in the UK.
The Daily Telegraph (UK): Anglo-Saxon hall found in Kent is 'tip of the iceberg'
An Anglo-Saxon feasting hall unearthed beneath a village green in Kent could represent the "tip of the iceberg", according to archaeologists who believe it lies amid an entire complex of ancient buildings.
By Nick Collins, Science Correspondent
The rare 7th to 9th century hall, which would have accommodated up to 60 people during royal feasts, was the first to be discovered in more than 30 years when it was excavated by Reading University experts this summer.
But further developments are expected over the coming years as researchers plan to scour the surrounding area in the hope of finding an entire network of other buildings.
Feasting halls like the one uncovered in Lyminge, which contained jewels, animal bones and a broken horse's harness, were always part of a larger complex of houses built for accommodation and other ceremonial purposes during royal visits, experts explained.
BBC: Jersey team discovers medieval priory
Jersey archaeologists had the first chance to explore a rare medieval priory after uncovering a stone wall.
Robert Waterhouse, Societe Jersiaise Archaeologist, said the St Clement's priory had been an accidental find.
He said the society knew it must have existed as there was documentary evidence, but that it had not been able to find it until now.
Mr Waterhouse said: "In the summer we carried out a student excavation in the cemetery looking for [an] Iron Age and Roman settlement that was known to exist here.
Science Nordic (Norway and Denmark): Medieval copper smelter find is Norway's oldest
Medieval copper production in Norway was surprisingly sophisticated, a new archaeological find suggests
By: Asle Rønning
November 2, 2012 - 06:44
A rushing river in Nord-Trøndelag County, near the Swedish border, is slowly giving up its secrets.
This summer, archaeologists excavated a smeltery on a little island where advanced metal production was carried out in the 1300s.
“This is the first evidence that copper was produced from copper ore in Norway during the Middle Ages,” says Associate Professor Lars F. Stenvik, at the Museum of Natural History and Archaeology in Trondheim.
He’s spent a lot of time searching for traces of Norwegian copper production from this period. The evidence is starting to fall in place.
BBC: Bishop's seal found in field on display at museum
By Mark Edwards BBC News
A 14th century Bishop's seal discovered by metal detector enthusiasts is on display at the Manx Museum for the first time.
The silver seal, which was discovered by Andy Falconer, is described by historians at Manx National Heritage (MNH) as "incredibly significant".
Curator of archaeology at MNH, Allison Fox, said: "It is a very rare find and an important part of Manx history."
Nature: The DNA of Aztec conquest
Genetic evidence tracks missing inhabitants of Mexican city.
The decline of one group of Mexico’s Otomí people is an anthropological cold case. In the fifteenth century, the population of the city state of Xaltocan all but vanished, replaced by the growing Aztec culture. But the ultimate fate of the Otomí in the region is known only as an outline pieced together from conflicting historical documents and archaeological evidence. A genetic study recording the biological comings-and-goings of the Otomí now deepens the mystery.
In the fifteenth century, what is now Mexico was made up of warring city states with separate cultural identities. In 1428, several of these city states joined together to form the Triple Alliance, which spread and became the Aztec empire. Xaltocan in central Mexico was among the city states that were assimilated. But the fine details of what happened there are unknown.
Huffington Post: World War II Carrier Pigeon With Coded Message Found In England
Posted: 11/01/2012 12:07 pm EDT Updated: 11/02/2012 2:34 pm EDT
A retired probation officer in England cleaning out his chimney recently was startled to sweep up a 70-year-old secret amid the soot: the skeleton of a World War II carrier pigeon with a coded message still attached to its leg.
David Martin, 74, found the bird's remains while renovating a unused fireplace at his Surrey home not far from the wartime headquarters of Gen. Bernard Montgomery, the Daily Mail writes. The British commander planned the D-Day invasion at a hotel in nearby Reigate.
"It could have been a secret message for him. I hope it is something interesting it will be amazing if we discover an unknown detail from such an important part of British history," Martin told the newspaper.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman, who sent in the above articles.
University of Iowa: UI engineers receive NSF grant to develop threat detection network
Developing a nuclear and radioactive threat detection network
By: Gary Galluzzo
2012.11.08 | 08:09 AM
A team of researchers in the University of Iowa College of Engineering has received a three-year, $1 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to develop an improved nuclear and radioactive threat detection network for the United States.
Although the United States currently has nuclear and radioactive detection systems in place, the systems mainly focus on seaports, airports, and other mass transport centers. Er-Wei Bai, project principal investigator and professor of electrical and computer engineering, notes that the systems need improvement.
“There is a growing recognition of the inadequacy of current capabilities with respect to threat detection and localization in a large area, for example, in the downtown area of a metropolitan city. There already exists a number of ways to detect radioactive material in an isolated area, such as a seaport,” Bai says.
University of Wisconsin: In static friction, chemistry is key to stronger bonds
by Renee Meiller
November 6, 2012
Inspired by phenomena common to both earthquakes and atomic force microscopy, University of Wisconsin–Madison materials engineers have learned that chemical reactions between two silicon dioxide surfaces cause the bonds at that interface to "age," or strengthen gradually over time.
In researchers' understanding of static friction, it's an advance with staying power. "What happens is that when you form one bond across the interface, it actually affects the local environment and makes it harder for other bonds to form," says Izabela Szlufarska, a UW–Madison associate professor of materials science and engineering. "As a result, the process slows down in a very specific way — logarithmically — and that happens in materials such as silica that have strong directional bonding."
Szlufarska and Ph.D. student Yun Liu (now a postdoctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) published results of their research in the Nov. 2, 2012 online issue of the journal "Physical Review Letters."
University of Missouri: Powered up
How Mizzou is harnessing energy
Story and photos by University Affairs staff
Published: Nov. 8, 2012
Mizzou is plugged in.
Faculty and students at the University of Missouri engage in energy research, education, service, commercialization and policy development to improve lives in Missouri and around the world.
During the past 20 years, Mizzou has reduced campus energy consumption by 14 percent per square foot and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 42 percent per square foot. The university has won national and international awards for innovations in energy management, including an Energy Star CHP Award from the Environmental Protection Agency for significant pollution reduction and energy efficiency.
University of North Dakota: 'Fire birds' freeze for the camera
November 5, 2012
Human activity impacts wildlife ecology, and Susan Ellis-Felege is hunting down the details.
Three years ago, North Dakota Game and Fish (NDGF) began a five-year study on demographic parameters in and around energy development areas in Western Dakota. They wanted to know what effects, if any, harvesting of natural resources has on the survival, movement, and reproduction of wildlife.
When Felege, known for her game bird research at the University of Georgia, migrated to UND in 2011, the NDGF jumped at the opportunity to add her unique expertise to the mix.
"I felt honored," said Felege. "I am an applied wildlife ecologist and any time I can work with agencies, it provides me with an opportunity to use my expertise to inform management decisions. NDGF has a long history of working with UND and I am excited to have the opportunity to continue that tradition."
Science, Space, Environment, and Energy Policy
N.Y. Times: Strays Amid Rome Ruins Set Off a Culture Clash
ROME — Cats have prowled the streets of Rome since ancient times, more recently finding refuge with an association of volunteers who have lovingly tended to thousands of strays over the years amid the ruins of a site where Brutus is thought to have stabbed Julius Caesar in 44 B.C.
The shelter, in an underground space abutting a cherished archaeological site, consists of several bright, cage-lined rooms that hold dozens of strays at a time and has gained fame — and donations — as a popular tourist draw.
But after a couple of decades of tolerated, if not quite authorized, occupancy, Italy’s state archaeologists have told the association that it has to go, saying the illegal occupation risks damaging a fragile ancient monument. The cat lovers issued a ready reply: They have no intention of leaving.
N.Y. Times: Revolution Brings Hard Times for Egypt's Treasures
By FARAH HALIME
CAIRO — Cairo’s salmon-colored Egyptian museum is a conspicuous landmark on Tahrir Square, where it stands in almost perfect condition despite the intense protests that took place on its doorstep almost two years ago.
At the height of the revolution last year, a human chain formed to protect the priceless artifacts within the museum. A few yards away, the burnt out husk of former President Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party headquarters is a reminder of a different possible fate.
But the revolutionary, carnival enthusiasm of the square has since given way to neglect and disrepair and the difficult job of retrieving stolen antiquities is proving to be an uphill struggle.
Despite the efforts of its protectors, looters managed to make off with 50 of the museum’s treasures, including a statue of King Tutankhamun carried by a goddess, and a sandstone head of a princess from Amarna, a vast archaeological site in the southern province of Minya.
Of the stolen pieces, 29 have since been recovered. The most valuable, a statue of the Pharaoh Akhenaten, was found by a protester soon after it was taken and returned to the museum, the Antiquities Ministry said at the time.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.
University of Colorado, Boulder: U.S. State Department appoints CU-Boulder Professor Bernard Amadei as Science Envoy
November 9, 2012
University of Colorado Boulder Professor Bernard Amadei has been appointed one of three new Science Envoys who will help strengthen U.S. ties with other countries to address global challenges, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced today.
Amadei, who holds the Mortenson Endowed Chair in Global Engineering at CU-Boulder, along with professors Susan Hockfield of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Barbara Schaal of Washington University in St. Louis, make up the third cohort of Science Envoys since the program’s inception in 2009.
The scientists will seek to deepen existing ties, foster new relationships with foreign counterparts and discuss potential areas of collaboration that will help address global challenges and realize shared goals, according to the State Department announcement. The Science Envoys travel in their capacity as private citizens and advise the White House, the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. scientific community about the insights they gain from their travels and interactions.
Indiana University: IU expert comments on fuel shortage, logistical challenges following Superstorm Sandy
November 5, 2012
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, attention has shifted to coordination between agencies and the subsequent recovery that are part of the disaster management cycle.
Alfonso J. Pedraza-Martinez, an assistant professor of operations and decision technologies at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, is an expert on management in humanitarian operations and has studied some aspects of the International Red Cross' relief efforts.
Below are comments from Pedraza-Martinez:
"Although the immediate danger has passed ... demand for fuel has increased for both citizens and disaster response vehicles. This is mainly explained by the decrease in public transportation, as well as the uncertainty about the duration of the emergency. By allowing employees who have the capability to work from home during the duration of fuel shortages, employers can mitigate the emergency. By giving honest and frequent updates about the duration of the emergency, the government and the media can reduce uncertainty."
University of Cincinnati: UC Professor's Projection Model Measures the Environmental Impact of Infrastructure Proposals
Heng Wei, UC associate professor of civil engineering, presented research at the recent Ohio Transportation Engineering Conference. Wei proposed an actual and scenario-based system to project the impact that commercial development will have on the environment.
By: Arthur Davies
Date: 11/5/2012 12:00:00 AM
Over the past decade, a global effort has been initiated to conserve and protect natural resources for future generations and to protect human health through environmental stewardship. However, the “Go Green” campaign is challenged on a daily basis by increasing land-use and transportation needs.
University of Cincinnati researcher Heng Wei, associate professor of civil engineering in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences' School of Advanced Structures, presented research at the recent Ohio Transportation Engineering Conference (OTEC). His research focused on a model which projects traffic-related emission and energy-consumption demand based on various land-use and traffic-management scenarios. The presentation title was “Approach for Integrating Regional Level and Corridor Level Conformity Analysis.”
Wei’s proposed integrated system, called the Scenario-Based Planning Support System (SB-PSS), examines the impact of management and adaptation strategies on alleviating climate-change effects. The SB-PSS is developed through the integration of actual and scenario-based land use visioning and planning, demographic changes, transportation-emission analysis, and computer forecasting and evaluation of future scenarios. This system allows developers to understand how their plans—whether malls, apartments or roadways—are going to effect the environment prior to construction.
University of Wisconsin: With new high-tech materials, UW–Madison researchers aim to catalyze U.S. manufacturing future
by Renee Meiller
November 6, 2012
Drawing on methods similar to those used to sequence the human genome, a multi-university team of researchers aims to discover and create revolutionary advanced materials that could help solve grand challenges in such areas as energy, national security and human health.
Led by Chang-Beom Eom, the Harvey D. Spangler Distinguished Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Physics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the team has received $1.6 million from the National Science Foundation to fund its research. The grant is funded under the Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer our Future program of the U.S. Materials Genome Initiative. The UW–Madison grant is the largest award under the initiative.
A major goal of the initiative is to boost U.S. manufacturing competitiveness and make the process of discovering and developing advanced materials faster, less expensive and more predictable.
University of Wisconsin: Political scientist helps government officials understand, prevent genocide
by Dennis Chaptman
November 8, 2012
The unthinkable is Scott Straus’ stock-in-trade.
The barbarity and righteous conceit that spawns genocide is his research focus, and Straus, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is using his expertise to help agencies throughout the U.S. government better understand the causes of genocide and ways to prevent atrocity around the globe.
“It was an honor and challenge for me to translate some of the research findings that I’ve developed into concrete, learnable lessons for officials who have to wrestle, in real time, with how to identify and respond to these terrible events,” says Straus.
President Obama signed a directive last spring stating that preventing genocide and mass atrocities is a core moral and national security responsibility, and establishing a board to find new strategies and tools to prevent atrocity.
Des Moines Register: Female enrollment in STEM fields rises
Outreach efforts directed toward girls are credited.
Written by Jens Manuel Krogstad
November 6, 2012
The number of women seeking degrees in science and related fields at Iowa’s three public universities is on the rise, Iowa Board of Regents data show.
This fall, 11,388 women, or one in three female students, enrolled in science, technology, engineering and math majors at University of Iowa, Iowa State University and University of Northern Iowa. That’s a 13 percent increase from three years ago; total female enrollment during that time grew 2 percent.
University officials credit the burgeoning interest in STEM studies to outreach efforts directed at girls well before they reach high school, as well as a statewide and national emphasis on those disciplines.
Science Writing and Reporting
L.A. Times: 'Island of the Blue Dolphins' woman's cave believed found
A Navy archaeologist and his crew are digging out a cave on San Nicolas Island that seems likely to have sheltered the woman made famous by the 1960 award-winning book.
By Steve Chawkins, Los Angeles Times
October 29, 2012, 7:19 p.m.
The yellowing government survey map of San Nicolas Island dated from 1879, but it was quite clear: There was a big black dot on the southwest coast and, next to it, the words "Indian Cave."
For more than 20 years, Navy archaeologist Steve Schwartz searched for that cave. It was believed to be home to the island's most famous inhabitant, a Native American woman who survived on the island for 18 years, abandoned and alone, and became the inspiration for "Island of the Blue Dolphins," one of the 20th century's most popular novels for young readers.
The problem for Schwartz was that San Nicolas, a wind-raked, 22-square-mile chunk of sandstone and scrub, has few caves, all of them dank, wet hollows where the tides surge in and nobody could live for long.
So it's science about a book, not a book about science--it's still science writing.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
Science is Cool
University of Virginia: U.Va. Computer Science Grad Student Develops ‘Musical Heart’
November 5, 2012
A University of Virginia graduate student has developed a biofeedback-based system that helps smartphones select music that will help get their owners’ heart pumping during exercise, or slow it down when they want to cool down or relax.
“Whether I am driving, jogging, traveling or relaxing – I never find the appropriate music to listen to,” said Shahriar Nirjon, a doctoral student in computer science in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. “I believe there are many like me. The problem is: The heart wants to hear something, but our music player does not understand the need. My joy was in connecting them together – in a non-invasive and cost-effective way.”
Called “Musical Heart,” the system “brings together wellness and entertainment,” Nirjon said.
Musical Heart works by merging a microphone that detects the pulse in arteries in the ear with earphones that bring in music from a playlist on a smartphone. An app selects tunes that optimize the heart rate of an individual user based on a given activity, whether running, walking or relaxing – playing fast-paced music for hard workouts, and slowing the beat for cool-downs. An algorithm refines the music selection process of the system by storing heart rate data and calculating the effects of selected music on the rate. Over time, it improves music selections to optimize the user’s heart rate.
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