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.
Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday is taking a break from highlighting the research stories from the public universities in each of the states having elections and caucuses during the week. Instead, tonight's edition features the science, space, environment, health, and energy stories from the UK in honor of the Olympics.
This week's featured stories come from Nature (UK).
Olympics: Run for your life
Humans evolved to run. This helps to explain our athletic capacity and our susceptibility to modern diseases, argue Timothy Noakes and Michael Spedding.
July 19, 2012
The forthcoming Olympics in London will celebrate the performance capacity of humans and our remarkable ability to prepare our bodies and minds for specific tasks. But, at the same time as we are pushing our bodies to new limits in athleticism, we are experiencing unprecedented levels of relatively modern diseases such as obesity, diabetes and psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders.
Over millions of years, humans evolved from tree-dwelling apes to become Homo sapiens, capable of elite athleticism. Simply put, we evolved to run. While early hominins were undergoing intense skeletal and metabolic changes, major changes also occurred in their brains. We propose that these changes have rendered us dependent on mental and physical exercise to maintain brain health. Exercise doesn't just help muscles — it activates our brains, particularly through one pathway that helps to increase the number of neuronal connections.
Most humans today do not live in an environment where they must exercise regularly to chase down meat. For many, exercise is no longer an integral part of daily life, leading to a host of modern ailments.
In short, we think that exercise is not just important for general health — it is essential to the molecular memory of who we are. Without it, we are at risk of being obese and diabetic, and of developing diseases linked to brain function, such as psychiatric disorders, dementia and even violent behaviour.
Olympics: Genetically enhanced Olympics are coming
Future Olympic Games may allow handicaps and gene therapy for people born without genes linked to athleticism, predict Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans.
July 19, 2012
Olympians can run faster, leap higher and lift more than 'normal' humans. Of course, such elite athletes earn their titles with an astonishing amount of hard work and support. But many also have some unearned advantages: the right genes.
There is growing evidence that world-class athletes carry a minimum set of particular 'performance-enhancing' genes. For instance, almost every male Olympic sprinter and power athlete ever tested carries the 577R allele, a variant of the gene ACTN3. About half of Eurasians and 85% of Africans carry at least one copy of this 'power gene'. The billion or so other people who lack the 577R allele might wish to reconsider their Olympic aspirations.
More and more genes are now being linked to athletic prowess, and future Olympic officials will have to wrestle with the implications. Are the games in fact a showcase for hardworking 'mutants'? And if Olympic rule-makers admit that the genetic landscape is uneven, should they then test every athlete and hold separate competitions for the genetically ungifted?
More stories after the jump.
Recent Science Diaries and Stories
NASA Made up 150 year melt cycles; NY Times Slammed NASA for "Unprecedented" Melt Every 150 Years
New Koch-funded study will say warming is real AND anthropogenic!!
Daily Bucket: Unexpected Visitors
by matching mole
Told You So - Climate Change Consequences Keep Building
This week in science: The good earth
Agence France Presse via Australian Broadcasting Corporation: Skeleton unearthed in hunt for Mona Lisa
Archaeologists in Florence have unearthed a skeleton which they believe may be crucial in the quest to find the remains of the woman who sat for Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa portrait.
Several bodies have been discovered in the hunt to find the mortal remains of Lisa Gherardini, the Florentine noblewoman widely believed to have served as Leonardo's muse.
Silvano Vinceti, who heads up the team of Italian archaeologists, said this latest discovery in an abandoned convent was particularly exciting - though tests would still have to be carried out to ascertain the identity of the remains.
Wired: On the intricacies of Hollywood archaeology
By Joanne McNeil
24 July 12
Cecil B DeMille's 1923 silent film The Ten Commandments was renowned for the massive set constructed in California's Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes -- some pieces stood over 30 metres tall. Worried that rival film studios might use the facsimiles of an ancient palace, massive Pharaoh statues and sphinxes, DeMille ordered the crew to dynamite and bury them all in the sand after filming.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.
New Scientist: Olympic extremes: The winning formulas for London 2012
ONE-HUNDREDTH of a second. That could be the difference between an athlete representing their country in this year's Olympic Games in London and one staying at home. Even finer margins can separate medal-winners from also-rans.
The Olympics is the ultimate goal for many sportspeople, and they will go to great lengths to get there. Ever since the modern games began in 1896, any research that might give athletes a boost - no matter how small - is leapt on by coaches. Behind the scenes, every athlete relies on a legion of psychologists, physiologists, engineers, biologists and nutritionists. Their work is a closely guarded secret: nobody will know whether it has been successful until long after the medals have been awarded. But it is possible to make educated guesses about the latest crazes...
NASA Television on YouTube: Red Planet Rendezvous on This Week @NASA
The Curiosity rover continues to make its way to Mars and its scheduled landing in Gale Crater on Monday, Aug. 6. Also Mars Yard; New record set; New heat shield test and new mission previewed; Landsat 40 and remembering Sally Ride and more....
NASA Televison on YouTube: ScienceCasts: Mars Landing Sky Show
On the same night Curiosity lands on Mars, a "Martian Triangle" will appear in sunset skies of Earth. The first-magnitude apparition on August 5th gives space fans something to do while they wait for news from the Red Planet.
BBC: Moon formation: Was it a 'hit and run' accident?
27 July 2012
Scientists have proposed a fresh idea in the long-running debate about how the Moon was formed.
What is certain is that some sort of impact from another body freed material from the young Earth and the resulting debris coalesced into today's Moon.
But the exact details of the impactor's size and speed have remained debatable.
In a report online to be published in Icarus, researchers suggest that the crash happened with a much larger, faster body than previously thought.
Nature (UK): Termites explode to defend their colonies
Older workers use chemical reaction to increase toxicity of 'explosive backpacks'.
26 July 2012
A species of termite found in the rainforests of French Guiana takes altruism seriously: aged workers grow sacks of toxic blue liquid that they explode onto their enemies in an act of suicidal self-sacrifice to help their colonies...
The "explosive backpacks" of Neocapritermes taracua, described in Science today, grow throughout the lifetimes of the worker termites, filling with blue crystals secreted by a pair of glands on the insects' abdomens. Older workers carry the largest and most toxic backpacks. Those individuals also, not coincidentally, are the least able to forage and tend for the colony: their mandibles become dull and worn as the termites age, because they cannot be sharpened by moulting.
"Older individuals are not as effective at foraging and nest maintenance as younger workers," says Robert Hanus, who studies termite biology at the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry in Prague, and led the study.
But when the workers are attacked, he says, "they can provide another service to the colony. It makes perfect sense to me because theories predict that social insects should perform low-risk, laborious tasks such as housekeeping in the first part of their life and risky tasks such as defence as they age."
BBC: 'Land not sea' origin for snakes
26 July 2012
One of the most primitive snake fossils ever found hints that the slithery reptiles might have originated on land, not in the sea as has been proposed.
The animal, which lived at the same time as the dinosaurs, probably emerged from a line of burrowing reptiles that lost their legs.
Where and how snakes diverged from their legged cousins the lizards has been a mystery.
BBC: Frogs rescued from killer fungus have 'massive' brood
By Matt Bardo Reporter, BBC Nature
29 July 2012
Rare tropical frogs rescued from a killer fungus in the Caribbean have produced a bumper brood in the UK.
The two female mountain chicken frogs responsible for the 76 new additions are part of an attempt to rescue the species from extinction.
All 12 frogs in the UK breeding programme came from Montserrat, where the chytrid fungus has ravaged the population.
"We're absolutely chuffed to bits," said herpetologist, Dr Ian Stephen.
Humans Invent: Dental detective: Decoding history using plaque
By Leo Kent
It may sound strange but dental plaque is proving a very useful tool in uncovering the past. Archaeological geneticist Christina Warinner has been using plaque to learn about the history of human disease all the way back to hominids. Dental plaque fossilizes microbial DNA as it mineralises on the teeth which can reveal what the person died of. In understanding the past, Warinner, who is a researcher at Zurich University, believes it will help in understanding and combating disease in modern humans. Humans Invent caught up with Warinner to find out more about this rather curious form of archaeology.
What is an archaeological geneticist?
Like other archaeologists I’m interested in the past and understanding the long-term history of people but the tools I use are genetic ones. Rather than looking at things like pots or stone tools or architecture, I focus on the biomolecules of people and what they’ve left behind and that includes their own biomolecules such as DNA and proteins as well as biomolecules from the things they ate and the environment that surrounded them.
PLoS via Science Daily: Ancient Incan Mummy Had Lung Infection, According to Novel Proteomics Analysis
July 25, 2012
A 500-year-old frozen Incan mummy suffered from a bacterial lung infection at the time of its death, as revealed by a novel proteomics method that shows evidence of an active pathogenic infection in an ancient sample for the first time.
The full report is published July 25 in the open access journal PLoS ONE.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.
Nature (UK): Can bacteria fight brain cancer?
The thinking behind an approach that has caused trouble in California.
27 July 2012
Last week, the Sacramento Bee reported that two neurosurgeons at the University of California, Davis, had been banned from research on humans after deliberately infecting three terminally ill cancer patients with pathogenic bacteria in an attempt to treat them. All three died, two showing complications from the infection. Nature explores what happened and the science behind it.
Nature (UK): Dormant HIV gets rude awakening
Researchers tackle virus particles hiding in the immune system as part of efforts to find a cure for AIDS.
27 July 2012
Following the success of antiretroviral therapy for HIV, some researchers are now focusing their attention on a loftier goal — a cure. That means targeting viral reservoirs, primarily the long-lived cells of the immune system in which the virus lies dormant. Eliminating these reservoirs isn’t easy, but recent research offers glimmers of hope that it may one day be possible.
The strongest proof that HIV can be cured comes from the case of Timothy Brown, who was infected with HIV until he received a stem-cell transplant in 2007 to treat leukaemia1. He has remained free of HIV since then. Brown’s transplant helped cure his HIV, in part, because the donor's stem cells lacked a key receptor that the virus needs to enter cells.
Nature (UK): The skin’s secret surveillance system
Microorganisms that reside on the skin found to influence host immunity.
26 July 2012
The skin has long been thought of as a mere physical barrier to attack by pathogens. Now, however, researchers are starting to realize that this simplistic view needs a radical rethink.
The folds, follicles and tiny oil-producing glands on the skin's surface create a multitude of diverse habitats, each with its own community of microbes. Most of these 'commensals' live harmlessly on the skin, and their presence is thought to stop pathogenic microbes from invading the skin's habitats. But these benign residents are not just innocent bystanders — according to a paper published today in Science, skin-specific bacteria also influence the response from the host's immune system to help fight off infection.
Immunologist Yasmine Belkaid and her team at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, decided to investigate the immunological role of the skin's resident microorganisms, known collectively as the skin microbiome. “For the first time, we’ve shown that the skin needs microbial signals for proper immune-cell function,” says study author Shruti Naik, a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, who is based in Belkaid's lab.
Anatolia News Agency via Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey): Ilisu River dam excavation sheds light on new artifacts
DI.YARBAKIR - Anatolia News Agency
Work on the new ‘Ilisu Protection Excavation’ is taking place at sites around Diyarbak?r on a river that is soon to be controversially dammed. The total number of excavation works will increase to 17, Diyarbak?r Museum manager Nevin Soyukaya says, noting that important discoveries have already been made at the sites
The excavation works at the southeastern province of Diyarbak?r’s Il?su River are soon to begin with seven local and two foreign teams. The works are slated to protect the areas that would otherwise be submerged after the construction of the contentious Il?su Dam.
The “Ilisu Protection Excavation” works will be located at Körtik, Salattepe, Karavelyan, Hakemi Use, Müslüman Tepe, Ziyarettepe and H?rbemerdon. The total number of excavation works will be 17, Diyarbak?r Museum manager Nevin Soyukaya told the Anatolia news agency. Works at Hakemi Use and Salattepe have already begun and the other works will begin this year.
Zee News (India):Beijing floods: 160 heritage sites damaged
Last Updated: Friday, July 27, 2012
Beijing: About 160 historical sites, including the Peking Man World Heritage Site at Zhoukoudian, were damaged in floods caused by the heaviest rainfall in six decades in Beijing and suburbs.
Seventy seven people were killed in the incessant rains which also left a trail of destruction causing direct economic losses of about USD 125 million, Beijing Municipal Administration of Cultural Heritage said.
The deluge caused several small-scale landslides at the Peking Man site and disabled its security system, Li Yan, the senior administrator at Zhoukoudian, located in a village 50 kilometres southwest of Beijing said.
LiveScience: Wet Climate May Have Fueled Mongol Invasion
Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer
Date: 20 July 2012 Time: 01:23 PM ET
Beginning in the 13th century, the Mongol Empire spread across Asia and into the Middle East like wildfire, growing into the largest contiguous land empire the world has ever seen.
Historians have long speculated that periods of drought pushed the Mongol hordes to conquer their neighbors, but preliminary new findings suggest that theory may be exactly backward. Instead, consistent rain and warm temperatures may have given the Mongols the energy source they needed to conquer Eurasia: grass for their horses.
This idea, bolstered by the discovery of tree rings that preserve a climate history of Mongolia back to 657 A.D., is still in the preliminary stages of investigation. LiveScience spoke with Amy Hessl, the dendochronologist, or tree-ring researcher, who along with collaborators Neil Pederson and Baatarbileg Nachin first discovered the preserved trees hinting at the weather during the era of the Mongols.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.
Nature (UK): Storms may speed ozone loss above the United States
Injection of water vapour makes ozone layer sensitive to global warming and geoengineering.
26 July 2012
Summer thunderstorms across the United States inject water vapour far higher into the atmosphere than was previously believed, promoting a cascade of chemical reactions that could pose an increased threat to Earth’s protective ozone layer as the climate warms.
James Anderson, an atmospheric chemist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and his colleagues made the discovery while investigating the origins of high-altitude cirrus clouds — thin and wispy formations that blanket the sky and trap heat, contributing to the greenhouse effect.
Anderson's team expected to see summer storms supply cirrus clouds by pumping water vapour up to an average altitude of about 14 kilometres. Instead, the researchers report today in Science1, about half of the storms that they studied injected vapour to altitudes of between 15 and 20 kilometres.
Science Magazine: Neandertals Didn't Bite the Volcanic Dust
by Michael Balter
on 23 July 2012
About 40,000 years ago, a huge volcanic eruption west of what is now Naples, Italy, showered ash over much of central and Eastern Europe. Some researchers have suggested that this super-eruption, combined with a sharp cold spell that hit the Northern Hemisphere at the same time, created a "volcanic winter" that did in the Neandertals. But a new study of microscopic particles of volcanic glass left behind by the explosion concludes that the eruption happened after the Neandertals were already mostly gone, putting the blame for their extinction on competition with modern humans.
Why the Neandertals disappeared is one of archaeology's longest-running debates. Over the years, opinions have shifted back and forth between climate change, competition with modern humans, and combinations of the two. Earlier this year, the climate change contingent got a boost when a European team determined that the Italian eruption, known as the Campanian Ignimbrite (CI), was two to three times larger than previous estimates. The researchers calculated that ash and chemical aerosols released into the atmosphere by the eruption cooled the Northern Hemisphere by as much as 2°C for up to 3 years.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
Nature (UK): Facebook 'likes' the scientific method
Social-networking giant may allow researchers to check the data underlying its studies.
25 July 2012
Social scientists hungry for Facebook’s data may be about to get a taste of it. Nature has learned that the social-networking website is considering giving researchers limited access to the petabytes of data that it has amassed on the preferences and behaviour of its almost one billion users.
Outsiders will not get a free run of the data, but the move could quell criticism from social scientists who have complained that the company’s own research on its users cannot be verified. Facebook's in-house scientists have been involved in publishing more than 30 papers since 2009, covering topics from what drives the spread of information and ideas1 to the relationship between social-networking activity and loneliness2. However, because the company fears breaching its users’ privacy, it does not release the underlying raw data.
Facebook is now exploring a plan that could allow external researchers to check its work in future by inspecting the data sets and methods used to produce a particular study. A paper currently submitted to a journal could prove to be a test case, after the journal said that allowing third-party academics the opportunity to verify the findings was a condition of publication.
Sci-News: 17,500-Year-Old Ceramic Figures Unearthed in Croatia
An international team of archaeologists has uncovered the first evidence of ceramic figurative art in late Upper Paleolithic Europe – from about 17,500 years ago, thousands of years before pottery was commonly used.
The evidence of a community of prehistoric artists and craftspeople who ‘invented’ ceramics during the last Ice Age has been found at the archaeological site of Vela Spila, Croatia.
The finds consist of 36 fragments, most of them apparently the broken-off remnants of modeled animals, and come from the site on the Adriatic coast. The archaeologists believe that they were the products of an artistic culture which sprang up in the region about 17,500 years ago. Their ceramic art flourished for about 2,500 years, but then disappeared.
A study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, adds to a rapidly-changing set of views about when humans first developed the ability to make ceramics and pottery. Most histories of the technology begin with the more settled cultures of the Neolithic era, which began about 10,000 years ago.
Now it is becoming clear that the story was much more complex. Over thousands of years, ceramics were invented, lost, reinvented and lost again. The earliest producers did not make crockery, but seem to have had more artistic inclinations.
Newark Advertiser (UK): Journeying into the Ice Age
9:00am Sat Jul 21, 2012
Celebrity archaeologist Mr Phil Harding was in Newark on Sunday to launch a project that aims to uncover more about the ancient history of the area.
Mr Harding, speaking at the Town Hall, said the Ice Age Journey’s project by Farndon Archaeology Research Investigations (Fari) could reveal a great deal about the area’s prehistoric history.
Fari plans to investigate a site the size of 21 football pitches that runs either side of the new A46 road near Farndon.
The area was investigated by archaeologists, including Mr Harding, during the construction of the road.
Croatian Times: 6,500 year old hunting trophy found in eastern Croatia
Archaeologists in Bapska, eastern Croatia have stumbled across 6,500 year old deer antlers. The hunting trophy was found hanging on the wall of prehistoric house along with valuable items of jewellery, writes website dalje.com.
"We have the oldest deer hunting trophy in Croatia," said Marcel Buric, the head researcher at the Department of Prehistoric Archaeology of the Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb.
Al-Ahram (Egypt): First Dynasty funerary boat discovered at Egypt's Abu Rawash
French archaeological mission discovers 3000BC funeral boat of King Den northeast of Giza Plateau, indicating earlier presence at the Archaic period cemetery
Ahram Online, Wednesday 25 Jul 2012
During routine excavation works at the Archaic period cemetery located at Abu Rawash area northeast of the Giza Plateau, a French archaeological mission from the French Institute of Oriental Archaeology in Cairo (IFAO) stumbled on what is believed to be a funerary boat of the First Dynasty King Den (dating from around 3000BC).
The funerary boat was buried with royalty, as ancient Egyptians believed it would transfer the king's soul to the afterlife for eternity.
Unearthed in the northern area of Mastaba number six (a flat-roofed burial structure) at the archaeological site, boat consists of 11 large wooden planks reaching six metres high and 150 metres wide, Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim said in a press release sent to Ahram Online on Wednesday.
LiveScience: Ancient Life-Size Lion Statues Baffle Scientists
Owen Jarus, LiveScience Contributor
Date: 25 July 2012 Time: 12:18 PM ET
Two sculptures of life-size lions, each weighing about 5 tons in antiquity, have been discovered in what is now Turkey, with archaeologists perplexed over what the granite cats were used for.
One idea is that the statues, created between 1400 and 1200 B.C., were meant to be part of a monument for a sacred water spring, the researchers said.
The lifelike lions were created by the Hittites who controlled a vast empire in the region at a time when the Asiatic lion roamed the foothills of Turkey.
The Financial Gazette (Zimbabwe): Ancient Sudan demystified
Wednesday, 25 July 2012 19:14
As foreign currency reserves dwindle in South Sudan, the world's newest nation, Zimba-bwean commodity brokers will become less enthusiastic about business trips to Juba, once touted as the fastest-growing city in the world, with ‘unlimited opportunities for investment and co-operation'.
Tension with Sudan over pipeline fees, and border disputes prompted South Sudan to shut down oil production, with a loss of revenue for both countries. While South Sudan is rich in oil resources, Sudan can lay claim to the best-known archaeological sites, which continue to attract intrepid researchers, travellers and archaeologists from all over the world.
At a meeting of the Prehistory Society last week, the German Ambassador to Zimba-bwe, Hans Gnodtke, gave an illustrated talk entitled ‘Recent Activities of German Sudan Archaeology: Recreating the Royal City of Naqa'.
Jerusalem Post: Archeologists find 3,300-year-old burnt wheat
By SHARON UDASIN
Team from Heb. U., Israel Nature and Parks Authority uncovers 14 large pithoi-style bulk storage jugs filled with wheat.
A team from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) uncovered 14 large pithoi-style bulk storage jugs filled with the wheat inside what was a storage room in a monumental, palace-like building from the Canaanite period (2,000-3,000 BCE), the INPA said on Monday.
After the jars are fully exposed the researchers will transfer them to conservation and restoration laboratories. Afterwards, the palace will be covered up again until the next excavation season.
The Guardian (UK): House of the Telephus Relief: raising the roof on Roman real estate
Buried by Vesuvius nearly 2,000 years ago, archaeologists at Herculaneum have excavated and carried out the first-ever full reconstruction of the timber roof of a Roman villa
John Hooper in Ercolano
guardian.co.uk, Monday 23 July 2012 13.15 EDT
For almost two millennia, the piles of wood lay undisturbed and largely intact under layers of hardened volcanic material. Now, after three years of painstaking work, archaeologists at Herculaneum have not only excavated and preserved the pieces, but worked out how they fitted together, achieving the first-ever full reconstruction of the timberwork of a Roman roof.
With several dozen rooms, the House of the Telephus Relief was "top-level Roman real estate", said Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, the director of the Herculaneum Conservation Project (HCP). It was more of a palace or mansion, thought to have been built for Marcus Nonius Balbus, the Roman governor of Crete and part of modern-day Libya, whose ostentatious tomb was found nearby.
The most lavishly decorated part of the immense residence was a three-storey tower. On the top floor was a nine-metre high dining room with a coloured marble floor and walls, a suspended ceiling and a wrap-around terrace. It offered the owners and their dinner guests a heart-stopping view across the silver-blue Bay of Naples to the islands of Ischia and Capri.
Tehran Times (Iran): U.S., Iranian archaeologists team up for underwater excavation in Persian Gulf
July 24, 2012
TEHRAN -- A team of U.S. and Iranian archaeologists have recently commenced a series of underwater excavations to identify the ruins of the historical port of Siraf in the Persian Gulf.
With a about an 1100-year-old history, Siraf is located in the northwestern part of Bushehr Province in southern Iran.
At one time, the port had been one of the major centers for marketing pearls and silk in the region, but it was gradually submerged over the centuries, Iranian Center for Archaeological Research (ICAR) Director Mahmud Mireskandari told the Persian service of ISNA on Monday.
BBC: Nit combs are 'nothing new'
It's official ... even ancient folk needed a nit comb.
A fine tooth comb is among treasures uncovered at an excavation site near Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.
Arrow heads, pottery and ancient human remains have been found at the crannog - a kind of artificial island - that could date back more than 1,000 years.
Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey): Arab Mosque’s ancient frescos hidden on the walls
ISTANBUL - Radikal
Istanbul’s Arap Camii (Arab Mosque) was recently reopened for worship after extensive restoration work. The mosque contains a number of frescos that are potentially important to art history, but few are aware of the existence of the frescos, because they have been covered over with plaster.
The mosque, located in Beyoglu, underwent a series of renovations as part of Istanbul’s year as European Capital of Culture in 2010. It was recently reopened with a ceremony in which Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Ar?nç participated.
The frescos in the mosque were revealed when some of the plaster covering them was broken off in the major earthquake of 1999. The mosque community worshipped for the next 10 years keeping the frescos covered with curtains.
Iceland Review: First 15th Century Fishermen’s Hut Excavated in Iceland
A fishermen’s hut (verbúð in Icelandic) from the first part of the 15th century was discovered during archaeological research at Gufuskálavör on Snæfellsnes peninsula this summer. It is likely the first verbúð from that period to be excavated in its entirety.
“We have obtained a pretty good picture of what fishermen’s huts looked like in the 15th century,” archaeologist Lilja Björk Pálsdóttir, who leads the excavation at Gufuskálavör, told Morgunblaðið.
Rowboats were operated by fishermen at Gufuskálavör for centuries, at least from the 13th century and until the 20th century.
Sofia News Service (Bulgaria): Bulgarian Archaeologists Rebury Medieval 'Vampire'
Bulgarian archaeologists have conducted a ritual reburial of a man discovered in a medieval grave who was treated against vampirism, the latest among a couple of other similar discoveries in Bulgaria that made global headlines.
The grave in question was one of the 10 medieval graves found during excavations by the team of Prof. Nikolay Ovcharov and Prof. Hitko Vachev in the necropolis of the St. Peter and St. Paul Monastery complex in Veliko Tarnovo, one of Bulgaria's medieval capitals, dating back to the 13th century, the apex of the Second Bulgarian Empire, BGNES reported.
The Canadian Press via The Daily Commercial News (Canada): Pioneer’s skull found at Winnipeg dig
A human skull found by crews digging for a water main line belongs to a 19th century pioneer.
Archeologist Brian Smith says judging by the size of the bones, the person was likely a teenager. He says the individual appears to have been properly buried in a coffin about 125 years ago.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman, who sent in the above articles.
Nature (UK): Theorists feast on Higgs data
But usurpers of ‘standard model’ have little to chew on.
18 July 2012
The popping of champagne corks may have subsided since scientists presented convincing evidence for the existence of the long-sought Higgs boson on 4 July, but the work has just begun for theoretical particle physicists, who are revelling in the biggest glut of data they’ve had since the 1990s. Many are working evenings and weekends to interpret the results, and they have already generated a publication boom, with dozens of papers about the discovery appearing on the preprint server arXiv.org during the past two weeks.
Some are using the fresh data from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, Europe’s particle-physics laboratory near Geneva in Switzerland, to eliminate theoretical models. Others are probing for hints of new particles. Most are still hoping that their investigations will produce a grand theory to replace the almost infallible standard model of particle physics, a framework that predicts the behaviour and properties of all fundamental particles and every force except gravity. Despite its success, the standard model contains some mathematical chinks hinting that there must be a deeper truth about how the Universe works — and theorists the world over dream of finding it first.
However, for those who have spent their careers pursuing a more powerful extension of the standard model called supersymmetry (SUSY), the data offer scant succour.
BBC: Coating heals itself after damage
27 July 2012
Scientists have taken a new approach to creating coatings that heal themselves when they are damaged.
The research could potentially have applications in scratch-resistant phones and "self-cleaning" cars.
"Functional" coatings that, for example, repel water and dirt have previously been dogged by relatively short lifetimes.
But the journal Advanced Materials reports that researchers have worked out how to increase their longevity.
The Guardian (UK): Pro-wind. Anti-wind. It's all so depressingly irrelevant
Only in Britain could such a vital, urgent issue as renewables be driven by political expediency and local skirmishes
25 July 2012
The UK is the Saudi Arabia of wind, and the other countries of Europe laugh at us. We come fifth in terms of installed capacity and seventh in terms of the amount of power we get from it. Germany, Spain, Italy et al don't mock us because we're lagging at something they're making such a success of – we lag at everything – but because we should be winning so effortlessly.
Yet the outlook remains mixed for UK renewables, which is market speak for "screwed"; subsidies have been cut, albeit only by 10% rather than the proposed quarter. It's up for grabs again in a year. The coalition covers the whole spectrum of belief on the environment, from climate change denier to deep green. It is impossible to predict who'll be in the ascendant next year or even next week. All you can say for certain is that this must be the worst system imaginable for the long-term planning of a nation's energy needs: hand the decision over to a group whose only uniting principle is that they want to keep their seats in parliament.
Science, Space, Environment, and Energy Policy
France 24: Conflict threatens Syria's archaeological heritage
With its ancient fortresses, castles, mosques and markets, Syria bears the imprint of millennia of Middle Eastern history. But the current uprising is threatening some of the world’s most valuable heritage sites.
By Leela JACINTO (text)
On October 21, 2004, Syria's First Lady Asma al-Assad, looking resplendent in a black and red-trimmed graduation gown, received an honorary degree from the prestigious Sapienza University of Rome for her work in the development of archaeological studies in Syria.
In her acceptance speech, the Syrian First Lady expressed the hope that archaeological finds would “foster mutual respect for what human societies have achieved over the millennia across the globe.”
Barely eight years later – a negligible period in archaeological terms – some of the world’s most magnificent heritage sites have fallen victim to the collapse of mutual respect between the opposing sides of the Syrian uprising.
The Express Tribune (Pakistan): Gandhara relics: Stolen or not, police and archaeologists can’t agree on one number
By Our Correspondent
Published: July 22, 2012
KARACHI: The police and archaeology experts seem to be at loggerheads over the actual number of Gandhara relics seized earlier in the month.
Amid press reports that some artefacts have been stolen from the Awami Colony police station, both parties associated with the case are coming up with a different total for the statues.
While National Museum’s director Mohammad Shah Bokhari claims to have photographed and documented around 330 pieces earlier, the newly posted SHO at the police station, Hatim Marwat, says there are only 308 artefacts.
The Independent Online (South Africa): Illegal digs threaten Pakistan’s Buddhist past
July 21 2012 at 02:21pm
By SAJJAD MALIK
Islamabad - When Taliban militants were expelled from Pakistan's north-west Swat region, many people thought it would be good for the area's ancient Buddhist heritage, which was under attack from the rebels.
But new threats have emerged to centuries-old sites from illegal excavations by amateur archaeologists and criminal gangs who compete to unearth relics worth millions of dollars abroad.
“This is our history because we were also Buddhist at that time. This is cultural heritage and the future of a nation is based on cultural legacy,” said Abdul Azeem, deputy director of Pakistan's Archaeological Department in Islamabad.
Remnants of Buddhist art and culture can be found at dozens of sites in north-western Pakistan which, in marked contrast to its tolerant past, is in the clutches of radical Islamic fundamentalism.
LiveScience: Ancient Statues Smuggled from Nigeria to Return Home
Wynne Parry, LiveScience Senior Writer
July 26, 2012
NEW YORK — A handful of roughly 2,000-year-old figurines began a journey back home to Nigeria today (July 26) after being seized at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City.
At a repatriation ceremony held at Homeland Security Investigation offices on the west side of Manhattan, Nigeria's Consul General Habib Baba Habu took legal possession of the terracotta sculptures, which he said had been stolen from the country's national museum.
Habu called today a special day. "It is the day that America has extended a gift of friendship that we will never forget," he said.
The Muslim News: Israel demolishes historic Islamic sites in Jerusalem
By Abdul Adil
Israeli bulldozers demolished historic Islamic sites dating back to the Umayyad, Abbasid and Ottoman eras in occupied Jerusalem on June 26.
The Al-Aqsa Foundation for Waqf and Heritage said that Israel’s Archaeological Authority has been destroying ancient Islamic sites over the last 5 years during excavations in al-Buraq, 100m west of the al-Aqsa Mosque. Some of the demolished sites are a mosque and a school building dating back to the Umayyad era.
The area is part of the Moroccan Quarter that was mostly demolished by Israel on June 11, 1967, after Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
annetteboardman's comment about the above: "The Israelis have claimed much the same thing about excavations under the temple mount – there are two sides that are wrong here." I agree, which is why I included this story in what is essentially the "Science Crime Scenes" portion of the diary.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.
Nature (UK): FDA’s claims over stem cells upheld
Drug watchdog wins right to regulate controversial therapies.
27 July 2012
A court decision on 23 July could help to tame the largely unregulated field of adult stem-cell treatments. The US District Court in Washington DC affirmed the right of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate therapies made from a patient’s own processed stem cells. The case hinged on whether the court agreed with the FDA that such stem cells are drugs.
The judge concurred, upholding an injunction brought by the FDA against Regenerative Sciences, based in Broomfield, Colorado. Under the treatment sold by the firm, stem cells are isolated from patients’ bone marrow, processed, and the resulting cells injected back into the patients to treat joint pain. The FDA calls this procedure the “manufacturing, holding for sale, and distribution of an unapproved biological drug product”, and in August 2010, ordered Regenerative Sciences to stop offering the treatment (see Nature 466, 909; 2010).
During investigations leading up to the injunction, the FDA also found that, because of flaws in its cell processing, the company was violating regulations on “adulteration” that are meant to ensure patients’ safety.
Nature (UK): US drug agency spied on scientists
Food and Drug Administration monitored five employees, defying promises about whistle-blower protection.
25 July 2012
Until last week, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had been remaking its image as a transparent organization that was supportive of its scientists, even when they spoke out against its decisions.
Now the agency is on the defensive, after the exposure of a clandestine computer-surveillance operation that tracked every keystroke made by five dissident FDA scientists whom it suspected of leaking confidential internal data to the press. The revelation may damage employees’ trust in the FDA, and erode their willingness to challenge the decisions of their bosses, say expert observers. “The mere act of monitoring e-mails can chill scientific discourse at the agency and leave scientists more vulnerable to retaliation,” says Michael Halpern, the integrity programme manager at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), an advocacy group based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
J Weekly: Back to School: New German-Israeli collaboration on anthropology, archaeology
rehovot, israel | When did modern humans arrive in Europe and Asia? At what rate have cultural changes spread from one region to another throughout history? How did Neanderthal teeth and bones differ from our own?
These are examples of topics to be investigated at the new Max Planck-Weizmann Institute of Science Center in the Field of Integrative Archaeology and Anthropology.
The agreement to establish the center was signed earlier this year at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot by professors Peter Gruss, president of the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science, and Daniel Zajfman, president of the Weizmann Institute.
University of Missouri, St. Louis: Student on a roll with research on marbles
Clocking many hours doing research and analysis can be a solitary experience. Oftentimes Mary Lynn Longsworth, a senior anthropology major at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, is left wondering if anyone besides her could be interested in the work she’s doing.
Her answer has come in the form of a $1,000 student research grant from the Missouri Archaeological Society.
Longsworth has been researching 19th century toy marbles recovered from Cochran Gardens Apartments, an Irish and German community in north St. Louis city once known as Kerry Patch. The grant money will further her research into these historic children’s toys, the children who played with them and how their family finances did or did not have an effect on what marbles they owned.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.
Science Writing and Reporting
Nature (UK): Conflicting verdicts on Romanian prime minister's plagiarism
Victor Ponta cleared of misconduct by government ethics board, but charges reaffirmed by university.
20 July 2012
Two investigations into the case of alleged plagiarism by Romania’s prime minister, Victor Ponta, have reached opposite conclusions, ramping up the tension in a fierce struggle over political power in Bucharest.
Ponta stands accused of having copied large sections of his 2003 PhD thesis on the International Criminal Court.
On Thursday, Romania’s 11-strong National Ethics Council (NEC) rejected the plagiarism charges against Ponta, first reported by Nature last month (see 'Romanian prime minister accused of plagiarism'). One day later, a 13-member ethics commission set up by the University of Bucharest — which awarded Ponta his PhD — reaffirmed the charges.
Science is Cool
The Scotsman (UK): Digging deep: Bid to pinpoint site of Battle of Bannockburn
Published on Thursday 26 July 2012 00:00
TV HISTORIAN Neil Oliver yesterday launched the hunt for the exact site of the Battle of Bannockburn.
The presenter will research the archaeology of the site, along with Dr Tony Pollard, of Glasgow University, to help commemorate the 700th anniversary of the battle.
They first worked together on BBC series Two Men in a Trench, in which they visited British battlefields, and are now focusing on uncovering what is seen as one of Scotland’s biggest historical mysteries.
Captain Morgan Rum via PR Newswire: Underwater Archaeologists Dig Deep For Iconic Privateer Captain Henry Morgan's Lost Fleet In The Caribbean
Team Recovers Sword, Chests and Wooden Barrels from 17th Century Shipwreck off the Coast of Panama Where Morgan Lost Five Ships in 1671
ST. CROIX, US Virgin Islands, July 26, 2012 PRNewswire -- For the third year in a row, with the help of the Captain Morgan brand, a team of leading U.S. archaeologists returned to the mouth of the Chagres River in Panama in search of real-life buccaneer Captain Henry Morgan's lost fleet.
"Morgan was one of the most infamous privateers of all time, so for me, this is a chance to use archaeological research to bridge the gap between science and pop culture. Most people associate Captain Morgan with spiced rum, but he was also an iconic historical figure who accomplished incredible feats throughout the Caribbean," said Frederick "Fritz" H. Hanselmann, underwater archaeologist and Research Faculty with the River Systems Institute and the Center for Archaeological Studies at Texas State University who has been leading the team in an effort to locate, excavate and preserve the remains of Morgan's lost ships.
L.A. Times: Amelia Earhart mystery: Expedition comes home with more questions
By Michael Muskal
July 24, 2012, 9:44 a.m.
The fate of famed aviator Amelia Earhart remains a mystery. The latest expedition failed to find the wreckage of the plane she was flying when she went missing 75 years ago.
Earhart, born 115 years ago Tuesday, and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were lost on their July 2, 1937, flight from New Guinea to Howland Island in the central Pacific Ocean. Earhart was trying to become the first woman to fly around the planet.
A $2.2-million expedition, led by The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, is now working its way back to Hawaii after failing to get the conclusive evidence that it sought about Earhart's disappearance.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.