Welcome to Science Saturday, where the Overnight News Digest crew, consisting of founder Magnifico, regular editors maggiejean, wader, Man Oh Man, side pocket, rfall, and JML9999, alumni editors palantir, Bentliberal, Oke, jlms qkw, Interceptor7, and ScottyUrb, guest editor 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, health, energy, and the environment.
This week's featured story comes from NOAA.
NOAA: Atlantic hurricane season on track to be above-normal
August 8, 2013
NOAA issued its updated Atlantic hurricane season outlook today saying the season is shaping up to be above normal with the possibility that it could be very active. The season has already produced four named storms, with the peak of the season – mid-August through October – yet to come.
“Our confidence for an above-normal season is still high because the predicted atmospheric and oceanic conditions that are favorable for storm development have materialized,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service. “Also, two of the four named storms to-date formed in the deep tropical Atlantic, which historically is an indicator of an active season.”
The conditions in place now are similar to those that have produced many active Atlantic hurricane seasons since 1995, and include above-average Atlantic sea surface temperatures and a stronger rainy season in West Africa, which produces wind patterns that help turn storm systems there into tropical storms and hurricanes.
More stories after the jump.
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Huffington Post (UK edition): Bedlam Burial Site Uncovered By Crossrail Excavations Finds Skeletons And Roman Treasures
Posted: 08/08/2013 07:06 BST
If you ever walked down the London road linking Blomfield Street to Liverpool Street before 2011 it may perturb you to know you were walking on top of thousands of bodies.
Sometimes as little as 60cm below the road surface is the resting place of those buried in the grounds of Europe's first mental asylum - Bethlehem 'Bedlam' Hospital.
Since 2011 the site has been excavated as part of the massive Crossrail project and archaeologists are continuing to make discoveries that shed light on London's extensive past.
KTVB: Idaho gets grant to study Bear River Massacre site
by Doug Petcash
Posted on August 5, 2013 at 5:21 PM
BOISE-- A big archaeological project will aim to shed more light on one of the darkest chapters of Idaho history -- the Bear River Massacre.
The Idaho State Historical Society just received a grant of $55,567 from the National Park Service's American Battlefield Protection Program.
At the State Historic Preservation Office in Boise, State Archaeologist Dr. Ken Reid is busy planning the project to study the Bear River Massacre site.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.
NPR: Mosquito Exclusive! Yes, They Bite, But Half The Time They Miss
by Robert Krulwich
August 09, 201312:20 PM
Mosquitoes don't have a lot of time to do what they do. They land. They bite. They look for blood. Mosquito moms need that blood to feed their babies, which why only the females pounce. They know they're not welcome (Smack! Splat!) so they've got to be good at this; in, out, hitting their target most of the time. That's what I figured.
But I figured wrong. French scientists at the Louis Pasteur Institute in Paris were able to film mosquitoes biting for blood in fantastically extreme close up — and guess what?
They aren't that talented!
Nature (UK): Dolphins remember each other for decades
Bottlenose dolphin's 20-year recollection sets record for long-term memory in animals.
07 August 2013
Allie and Bailey knew each other when they both lived in Florida. More than 20 years later, Allie lives near Chicago and Bailey lives in Bermuda, but Allie’s name still rings a bell for Bailey. That would not be breaking news, except that Allie and Bailey are not people: they are dolphins.
Bailey’s recollection of Allie’s name — or more precisely, of her 'signature whistle', which functions as a name among dolphins — is the most durable social memory ever recorded for a non-human. Yet it is only one of many data points in a study that found that it is the rule, not the exception, for bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) to recognize whistles from their distant past.
“We can’t tell yet what the upper limit is time-wise, or even if there is one,” says Jason Bruck, a biologist at the University of Chicago who published the results today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. “We just know it’s at least 20 years.”
What happens when a nefarious bug threatens valuable California citrus crops? Unleash a swarm of foreign parasitic wasps to kick the little bug's butt! Trace explains how this is gonna work, and tells stories of what other invasive species are up to around the world.
Discovery News: What Kind of Tipper Are You?
Tipping can be a touchy topic. And it's a great power we wield when eating out: give us good service, or get a bad tip. Laci explains how this power trip works and the psychology behind tipping.
Discovery News: The Sun Is About To Flip
Ok, don't freak, but the the sun is flipping out! Scientists are spreading the word that it's about to undergo a complete polar reversal that will be felt throughout our solar system. Laci explains what's going on and how it will impact you.
NASA Television: One Year on Mars! On This Week @NASA
So what can a planetary rover do with a year on Mars? All NASA's Curiosity rover did was beam back over 190 gigabits of data, more than 36-thousand images and zap 75-thousand-plus laser shots at science targets ... and oh by the way, it also completed the mission's main science goal by finding evidence that life was possible on Mars in the past. The agency celebrated the one year anniversary of Curiosity's landing on Mars with live events from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory -- featuring rover team members. And at NASA Headquarters -- a discussion about how Curiosity and other robotic projects are benefitting future human space exploration. Also, Maven Arrives, Garver Leaving NASA, Great Ball of Fire, Supply Ship Arrives Safely, Carbon Copy, The First Barrel Segment and more!
NASA Television: ScienceCasts: The Strange Attraction of Hot Jupiters
An exotic class of exoplanets called "hot Jupiters" are even weirder than astronomers imagined. While these worlds may have Earth-like blue skies, new data show that they are anything but Earth-like.
Space.com: Jodie Foster Talks Elysium vs. District 9: Sci-Fi and Social Policy | Video
Foster, who plays 'Delacourt', the protector of the privileged aboard the Elysium space habitat, speaks of current state of Earth's citizens and Elysium's relationship to Blomkamp's earlier cult hit movie.
Daily Mail (UK): Scientists capture what the Universe looked like just 100,000 years after the Big Bang - and provide clues to how it all began
- Study involved an analysis of thermal radiation left over from the Big Bang
- Data suggests that radiation didn't give way to matter exactly as expected
- The excess radiation found may have been due to early neutrinos or dark energy- providing a new insight into the origin of cosmic acceleration
By Ellie Zolfagharifard
The furthest look back through time yet – 100 years to 300,000 years after the Big Bang – has provided enticing new clues as to what might have happened.
U.S. researchers have conducted an extensive analysis of the thermal radiation left over from the Big Bang, also known as cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation.
Their analysis supports the theory that the Big Bang occurred between 13.798 and 0.037 billion years ago, creating our subsequent Universe.
Daily Mail (UK): Pink alien planet is smallest yet to be photographed with an orbit around a sun
- Nasa believes the planet, GJ 504b is a magenta colour, based on infrared data from the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii
- The pink planet orbits its star at nearly nine times the distance Jupiter orbits the sun to challenge theoretical ideas of how giant planets form
- GJ 504b is about four times the mass of Jupiter and its star can be seen without a telescope in the constellation Virgo
By Sarah Griffiths
Astronomers at Nasa have discovered a pink alien planet orbiting a star like our sun 57 light-years away that they said is the smallest by mass photographed so far.
Scientists believe the planet, GJ 504b, is thought to be a magenta colour, based on infrared data from the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii.
While GJ 504b is the lowest-mass planet ever detected around a star using direct imaging techniques, but it is still several times the mass of Jupiter and similar in size.
Daily Mail (UK): Nasa launch mission to investigate whether it is possible to mine asteroids for precious metals - and add TRILLIONS to the economy
- OSIRIS-REx will launch in 2016 and arrive at the asteroid Bennu in 2018
- It[s] aim is to better understand the behaviour and composition of asteriods
- Asteroids could supply Earth with vital stockpiles of natural resources
By Ellie Zolfagharifard
Nasa has announced that it will be launching a mission in 2016 to lay the groundwork for asteroid mining- an activity that could add trillions of pounds to the world economy.
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will arrive at the asteroid Bennu in 2018 with the aim of collecting cosmic samples to return to Earth.
Scientists hope the mission will accelerate technology that will soon enable humans to mine asteroids for precious metals.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.
NPR: Look For Shooting Stars During This Weekend's Perseid Peak
by Scott Neuman
August 09, 201312:20 PM
Time to stretch out the lawn chairs, lie back and enjoy the once-a-year celestial show known as the Perseid meteor shower.
The Perseids, the dusty debris of Comet Swift-Tuttle, whisk through our upper atmosphere every August. They aren't the only meteor shower on the calendar, but "the Perseids are the good ones," says meteorite expert Bill Cooke of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
The shower appears to emanate from the constellation Perseus, which is relatively easy to find in the northeast after dark, just below the familiar "lazy 'W' " that is Cassiopeia.
Nature (UK): Ancient art fills in Egypt's ecological history
Mammal populations shrank during three abrupt climate shifts over the past 6,000 years.
08 August 2013
Ancient Egyptian rock inscriptions and cavings on pharaonic tombs chronicle hartebeest and oryx — horned beasts that thrived in the region more than 6,000 years ago. Researchers have now shown that those mammal populations became unstable in concert with significant shifts in Egypt’s climate.
The finding is based on a fresh interpretation of an archaeological and palaeontological record of ancient Egyptian mammals pieced together more than a decade ago by the zoologist Dale Osborn. Thirty-eight large-bodied mammals existed in Egypt roughly six millennia ago, compared to just eight species today.
Overlaying records of climate and species occurrences over time, his team found that three dramatic declines in Egypt’s ratio of predators to prey coincided with abrupt climate shifts to more arid conditions. The timing of these aridification events also corresponds to major shifts in human populations at the end of the African Humid Period, about 5,500 years ago; during the Akkadian collapse, about 4,140 years ago in what is now Iraq; and about 3,100 years ago, when the Ugaritic civilization collapsed in what is now Syria.
York Press (UK): Yorkshire bogs could have vital role in tackling climate change
By Nadia Jefferson-Brown
8:27am Friday 9th August 2013 in Ryedale news
WINDSWEPT hilltops and heather moors have long created classic images of Yorkshire - but they could also hold the key to tackling global warming.
A conference at York St John University will focus on the future of Yorkshire’s uplands and the vital role they could play in protecting the environment.
Bogs cover 70,000 hectares of Yorkshire, and a fifth of the British landscape.
Australian Policy Online: The impact of climate change on the archaeology of New Zealand’s coastline
A case study from the Whangarei District
Simon Bickler, Rod Clough, Sarah Macready | New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC)
7 August, 2013
Abstract: With rising sea levels, changes in precipitation patterns and an increased incidence of severe weather events being predicted as a result of global climate change, the Department of Conservation commissioned a study to determine the potential impacts of these effects on New Zealand’s archaeological sites, which are mostly located near the coast. A Geographic Information System (GIS)-based case study examined the distribution of archaeological sites in the Whangarei District and assessed the risk to the archaeological resource primarily from sea level rise associated with future climate change.
The results of the analysis are fairly conclusive. Currently, the major threats to archaeological sites in coastal areas are erosion, flooding and ground instability, and some sites are at risk from more than one of these threats. Approximately one-third of the recorded site locations in the Whangarei District are potentially threatened by these hazards, regardless of any future climate change effects. Climate change will exacerbate existing coastal hazards, and increase the likelihood and severity of impacts on archaeological sites. An additional 2.5–10% of archaeological sites might be affected by increased threats due to predicted changes in climate, including rising sea levels... The implications of the study are that coastal sites are already under considerable threat, and that important archaeological information is being lost at a rate that may increase significantly in the future. Action is needed now to protect or retrieve the information from significant sites under threat in coastal areas before these sites disappear completely.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.
Nature (UK): Chain reaction shattered huge Antarctica ice shelf
Draining of meltwater lakes from surface explains sudden demise of Larsen B.
09 August 2013
It took decades for global warming to slowly melt the surface of the Larsen B Ice Shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula, forming nearly 3,000 lakes. But at the end of the Antarctic summer of 2002, all the lakes drained away in the space of a week. And then the 2,700-square-kilometre ice shelf, which was some 220 metres thick and might have existed for some 12,000 years, rapidly disintegrated into small icebergs, leaving glaciologists scratching their heads.
It was “like the smashing of glasses at the throw of a stone”, University of Chicago geophysicist Douglas MacAyeal said last week at an International Glaciological Society meeting in Beijing.
Researchers have been wondering ever since what could have caused the sudden draining of the lakes, and whether this caused the demise of the ice shelf. Now, a study led by MacAyeal might answer both questions.
NPR: Swinging CO2 Levels Show The Earth Is 'Breathing' More Deeply
by Richard Harris
August 08, 2013 5:05 PM
Plant life on our planet soaks up a fair amount of the carbon dioxide that pours out of our tailpipes and smokestacks. Plants take it up during the summer and return some of it to the air in the winter. And a new study shows that those "breaths" have gotten deeper over the past 50 years.
This isn't just a curiosity. Plant life is helping to reduce the speed at which carbon dioxide is building up in our atmosphere. That's slowing the global warming, at least marginally, so scientists are eager to understand how this process works. The new study provides some clues.
If you look at the graph of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere, you'll notice that it has climbed sharply over the past five decades, from about 315 parts per million to 400 parts per million. But that's not the whole story.
"In addition to this steady increase caused by fossil fuel combustion and other human activities, there's a regular seasonal cycle of CO2 concentration," says Heather Graven, a postdoctoral researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
NPR: Fukushima Nuclear Plant Leaking 300 Tons Of Tainted Water Daily
Audie Cornish and Geoffrey Brumfiel
August 08, 2013 5:13 PM
The Japanese government has announced that radioactive groundwater is leaking from the Fukushima nuclear power plant. To try and stop it, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, which owns the plant, has proposed building an underground wall of frozen earth around the reactors. The ice wall is supposed to keep groundwater from flowing in and radioactive water from leaking out, but nobody knows for sure whether it will work.
Nature (UK): Plan seeks 'chaperones' for threatened species
Botanical gardens proposed as stopping-off points for plant species as climate warms.
09 August 2013
The notion of intentionally relocating plant species when climate change threatens their ability to survive in their natural habitats is steeped in controversy.
Critics claim that such ‘assisted migration’ could transform struggling species into destructive invaders, or inadvertently transmit disease, or that hybridization between species could occur that would lower the planet's overall genetic diversity. But without some form of assistance, many plants will face certain extinction as the planet warms.
With that in mind, researchers are proposing a heavily supervised form of assisted migration — using a network of more than 3,100 botanical gardens to 'chaperone' plant relocations.
NPR: Old Hawaiian Menus Tell Story Of Local Fish And Their Demise
by Christopher Joyce
August 09, 2013 3:05 AM
In the early to mid-1900s, the islands of Hawaii were a far-away, exotic destination. People who managed to get there often kept mementos of that journey including kitschy menus from Hawaiian fine dining restaurants and hotels like like Trader Vic's and Prince Kuhio's.
Now these old menus are serving a purpose beyond colorful relics from the past. , an ecologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says he's found a scientific purpose for the menus.
Years ago, he traveled to Hawaii to study sea turtles. He wanted to know where they ended up. In a shark's belly? Or as turtle soup?
One day he got one of those lightning-bolt ideas: Maybe turtle would show on old restaurant menus? Over time, he collected 500 menus.
NPR: Experimental Malaria Vaccine Shows Promise In Human Test
by Jason Beaubien
August 08, 2013 6:56 PM
A viable, effective vaccine against malaria has long eluded scientists. Results from a preliminary study have ignited hope that a new type of vaccine could change that.
The experimental vaccine offered strong protection against malaria when given at high doses, scientists Thursday in the journal Science.
The study was extremely small and short-term. And the candidate vaccine still has a long way to go before it could be used in the developing world.
Nevertheless, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who leads the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, calls the findings unprecedented.
SciDev.Net via Nature (UK): GM rice delivers antibodies against deadly rotavirus
Researchers have added an antibody to fight rotavirus into the rice genome
09 August 2013
A strain of rice genetically engineered to protect against diarrhoeal disease could offer a cost-effective way to protect children in developing countries, according a study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation yesterday (8 August).
Researchers engineered the rice, called MucoRice-ARP1, by adding an antibody to fight rotavirus originally found in llamas in the rice genome.
Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe diarrhea in young children and infants, killing more than 520,000 people each year, according to the WHO. More than 85 per cent of those deaths occur in impoverished countries in Africa and Asia.
The team fed MucoRice-ARP1 to mice they subsequently infected with rotavirus, and found these mice had significantly less virus than mice fed normal rice.
N.Y. Times: A Family Consents to a Medical Gift, 62 Years Later
By CARL ZIMMER
Published: August 7, 2013
Henrietta Lacks was only 31 when she died of cervical cancer in 1951 in a Baltimore hospital. Not long before her death, doctors removed some of her tumor cells. They later discovered that the cells could thrive in a lab, a feat no human cells had achieved before.
Soon the cells, called HeLa cells, were being shipped from Baltimore around the world. In the 62 years since — twice as long as Ms. Lacks’s own life — her cells have been the subject of more than 74,000 studies, many of which have yielded profound insights into cell biology, vaccines, in vitro fertilization and cancer.
But Henrietta Lacks, who was poor, black and uneducated, never consented to her cells’ being studied. For 62 years, her family has been left out of the decision-making about that research. Now, over the past four months, the National Institutes of Health has come to an agreement with the Lacks family to grant them some control over how Henrietta Lacks’s genome is used.
Washington Post: You won’t be eating a lab-grown hamburger anytime soon
By Brad Plumer
Published: August 6 at 12:17 pm
A hamburger grown in a laboratory costs about $330,000 to produce and tastes… well, only so-so for now. “The bite feels like a conventional hamburger,” one taster reported Monday, but the meat tastes “like an animal-protein cake.” Meh.
Still, environmentalists are hoping that lab-grown meat will keep getting better — and cheaper. The allure is powerful: Not only could we get burger patties without slaughtering cows, but we could also cut down on the greenhouse-gas emissions that are heating the planet.
As Ezra Klein pointed out, livestock accounts for 18 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions — more than the world’s entire transportation sector. (All those cows belch up lots of methane.) And one analysis found that getting meat from artificial cells grown in a lab and “fed” with algae could, in theory, produce 78 percent to 96 percent fewer emissions than getting the same amount of meat from an a cow. Sounds good, right?
But that’s a best-case scenario. The reality might not be that simple.
Nature (UK): If hunger doesn't kill you, it doesn't make you stronger
Low crop yields in preindustrial Finland led to decreased fertility and survival during nineteenth-century famine.
05 August 2013
People who were undernourished during infancy or in the womb are less resilient during famines later in life, have shorter lifespans and are less likely to reproduce than those who were well fed, a study of Finnish church records from the 1800s has found. The results contradict an often-cited hypothesis about the effects of prenatal under-nutrition.
The predictive adaptive response (PAR) hypothesis posits that people who are deprived of food during prenatal development or infancy compensate physiologically, storing fats and using sugars more efficiently. This, in turn, is thought to make them better able to withstand food scarcity later in life, and it has been suggested that these traits would be passed on to their offspring.
The PAR hypothesis could offer one explanation for the high rate of metabolic diseases such as high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes among people who experience food scarcity early in life. It proposes that if these individuals encounter plentiful food resources when they are older, they are more apt to store abdominal fat and gain weight, leading to a plethora of metabolic disorders.
Instead, the Finnish study, which appears this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concludes that people who were undernourished during early development are less able to cope with famine as older children and adults.
NPR: When Power Goes To Your Head, It May Shut Out Your Heart
by Chris Benderev
August 10, 2013 7:41 AM
Even the smallest dose of power can change a person. You've probably seen it. Someone gets a promotion or a bit of fame and then, suddenly, they're a little less friendly to the people beneath them.
So here's a question that may seem too simple: Why?
If you ask a psychologist, he or she may tell you that the powerful are simply too busy. They don't have the time to fully attend to their less powerful counterparts.
But if you ask Sukhvinder Obhi, a neuroscientist at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada, he might give you another explanation: Power fundamentally changes how the brain operates.
NPR: Can Chocolate Boost Brain Health? Don't Binge Just Yet
by Maria Godoy
August 08, 2013 1:20 PM
Wouldn't it be grand (and delicious) if we could boost our brain power with a daily dose of chocolate?
At first blush, a study published in the journal Neurology this week appears to offer tantalizing evidence that this may be the case, at least when it comes to seniors.
In the study, older adults (average age 73) who drank two cups of cocoa daily for one month showed improvements in how quickly they completed a set of cognitive tests. Brain imaging showed these patients also experienced better blood flow to the brain, the authors reported. Dozens of media outlets jumped on the news, with headlines blaring that cocoa "sharpens seniors brains."
Sounds like a good excuse to down a cup of hot chocolate, right?
Not so fast, says Catherine Kwik-Uribe.
Sunday August 4, 2013 8:36 AM
The invention of the bow and arrow allowed users to shoot projectiles more rapidly and more accurately than with the traditional spear.
A new theory argues that this innovation resulted in more than just a technological revolution. It also had profound social consequences wherever the bow was adopted.
BBC: Crossrail unearths evidence humans lived on Thames in 7,000 BC
Rare evidence that humans lived on the River Thames 9,000 years ago has been discovered by archaeologists working on the Crossrail project.
A Mesolithic tool-making factory featuring 150 pieces of flint was found at the tunnelling worksite in Woolwich.
Asahi Shimbun: Mystery dagger molds imply ancient links to northern China
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
TAKASHIMA, Shiga Prefecture--Ancient molds for daggers with a double-ringed pommel and a straight blade, which have no precedent in Japan or even the nearby Korean Peninsula, have been unearthed at an archaeological site in this western city, cultural property officials said.
The Shiga Prefectural Association for Cultural Heritage said Aug. 8 the finds from the Kami-Goten site likely date from between 350 B.C. and A.D. 300.
Arutz Sheva/Israel National News: Byzantine Garbage Pit Yields Mystery
What were 400 Byzantine coins, 200 Samaritan lamps, an ancient ring and gold jewelry doing in a refuse pit?
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 8/7/2013, 11:01 AM
The archaeological excavations on behalf of the Tel Aviv University and the Israel Antiquities Authority have given rise to a mystery involving 400 Byzantine coins, 200 Samaritan lamps, an ancient ring and gold jewelry
The excavations, funded by the Israel Land Authority prior to expanding the city of Herzliya, are being conducted in an area located between Kfar Shmaryahu and Rishpon, north of Tel Aviv.
Numerous finds dating to the Late Byzantine period (fifth, sixth and seventh centuries CE) were among the antiquities discovered in excavations conducted in the agricultural hinterland of the ancient city of Apollonia-Arsuf, located east of the site.
ABC News: Giant Carving Reveals New Info on Ancient Maya Wars
By MANUEL RUEDA (@ruedareport)
Aug. 8, 2013
Archaeologists in Guatemala have announced the discovery of a "spectacular" 1,400-year-old carving that depicts Mayan leaders and mythological figures.
The frieze, which is eight meters wide and 2 meters tall, was found underground at the base of a pyramid in the ancient city of Holmul, near the Guatemala-Belize border.
Daily Mail (UK): Search for a Saxon king: Archaeologists hope to find Alfred the Great in an unmarked grave in Winchester
- Remains of Alfred the Great are believed to lie in a grave in Winchester
- A team of archaeologists have applied for permission to dig in the churchyard of St Bartholomew’s Church
- Archaeologists from the University of Winchester believe the task of identifying the Saxon king will be difficult
By Sarah Griffiths
PUBLISHED: 05:39 EST, 9 August 2013
Archaeologists plan to recover the remains of Anglo Saxon king, Alfred the Great, which are believed to lie in an unmarked grave in the city of Winchester.
A team of scientists have applied for permission to dig in the churchyard of St Bartholomew’s Church, where the king is thought to be buried in an unmarked grave.
Leamington Observer (UK): Medieval barn uncovered in Southam
Tuesday 06 August 2013 Updated: 06/08 08:52
Archaeologists working at the town's Little Park have uncovered the remains of a building, thought to be a medieval tithe barn.
The archaeology team have discovered the foundations of three sides of a substantial stone building with walls about a metre wide constructed of local limestone blocks.
National Geographic News: Mideast's Largest Crusader-Era Hospital Unveiled
The Jerusalem site is the largest hospital of that era ever found in the region.
for National Geographic
Published August 5, 2013
Part of a gigantic, thousand-year-old structure that served as the largest hospital in the Middle East during the Crusader period will soon be open to the public, following a 13-year excavation, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Monday.
Located in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem and owned by the Muslim Waqf (an Islamic endowment of property held in trust for charitable or religious purposes), the 11th-century structure spans more than 150,000 square feet and is characterized by massive pillars and ribbed vaults, with ceilings as high as 20 feet.
BBC: 'Lost' medieval manor house found in Leicestershire
A medieval manor house in a Leicestershire village, which "disappeared" for three centuries, has been found by archaeologists.
The house, in Croxton Kerrial, near the Lincolnshire border, was last recorded in the 16th Century and had disappeared from maps by the 1790s.
It was discovered by a community archaeology group, working with the county council, using geophysical techniques to probe the ground.
The house dates from the 12th Century.
BBC: Medieval boat discovered on River Chet, Loddon
The remains of a boat which could be more than 600 years old has been discovered by a team excavating a new drainage dyke in Norfolk.
The oak timber remnants, dated circa 1400, were found near Loddon during work on the Broadland Flood Alleviation Project (BFAP) along the River Chet.
The Herald (UK): 'Cumbersome weapons' behind heavy Scottish defeat at Battle of Flodden
Friday 9 August 2013
SCOTS' poor skills with medieval weapons lead to the country's worst ever defeat in battle, experts have claimed.
History experts have recreated a key part of the 1513 Battle of Flodden to determine why Scotland suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the English.
They found the Scots were unable to use their new 18ft pikes effectively, as they charged down a hill in the rain. This meant the English, with shorter polearms, could cut them apart. The battle ended with around 10,000 Scots dead, including King James IV and most of the country's nobility.
NY1: Construction Project By South Street Seaport Turns Up Colonial-Era Artifacts
By: Jon Weinstein
The South Street Seaport may be a modern-day haven for tourists, but this area of Lower Manhattan is also steeped in history.
"This was a very lively commercial area in the 18th century," says Alyssa Loorya of Chrysalis Archaeology.
Newly found artifacts are proof of that.
The State: An archaeologist’s dream: Exploring Camp Asylum
By DAWN HINSHAW — email@example.com
Chester DePratter is committed to uncovering personal items that Union soldiers may have discarded or dropped on the ground as prisoners of war, held captive inside the walls of Columbia’s state mental hospital.
The 1,200 men weren’t held there long, just two months. But period drawings from what was called Camp Asylum show where they were corralled as the calendar turned from the Christmas season of 1864 to the New Year of 1865.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.
Nature (UK): Fossils throw mammalian family tree into disarray
Studies disagree on whether Jurassic animals were true mammals.
07 August 2013
Two fossils have got palaeontologists scratching their heads about where to place an enigmatic group of animals in the mammalian family tree. A team analysing one fossil suggests that the group belongs in mammals, but researchers looking at the other propose that its evolutionary clan actually predates true mammals. The situation begs for more analysis, more fossils, or both, experts say.
The fossils represent previously unknown species, described today in Nature. Both are members of the haramiyids, a group of animals that first appeared around 212 million years ago and that researchers first recognized in the late 1840s. Until now, the creatures have been known only from isolated examples of their distinctive teeth — which have some rodent-like features — and a single fragmentary jawbone. But both fossils described today include not only the distinctive teeth, but also vertebrae and bones from the limbs, feet and tails.
“It’s remarkable, for such an incredibly obscure group, to have two fairly complete skeletons pop up at the same time,” says Richard Cifelli, a vertebrate palaeontologist at the Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in Norman, who co-authored a related News & Views. “These new fossils change everything.”
LiveScience: 'Ghost Glaciers' Protect Greenland's Ancient Landscapes
By Becky Oskin, Staff Writer
August 06, 2013 01:50pm ET
A Greenland landscape carved when humans first conquered fire has been protected from erosion ever since by "ghost glaciers," a new study finds.
In central northwestern Greenland, near Baffin Bay, the island's ice sheet advanced and retreated many times in the past 800,000 years. But the local highlands were never scoured by ice as other areas were.
"These ghost glaciers come and go, and leave very little evidence of their presence," said lead study author Lee Corbett, who conducted the research as a master's student at the University of Vermont in Burlington. The findings were published July 23 in the Geological Society of America Bulletin.
Inside Science News Service via LiveScience: Tiny Collisions Power SandstormsSophie Bushwick, ISNS Contributor
August 08, 2013 12:48pm ET
Sandstorms can sweep up millions of tons of soil and send dust whirling away for thousands of miles. Although these storms seem enormously powerful, some of their strength actually derives from the tiniest of sources: the midair collisions between individual grains of sand or dust.
When airborne particles smash into the ground during a sandstorm, they throw land-based particles into the atmosphere, like water splashing out of a lake. This process, called saltation, drives even more dirt and debris into the atmosphere. Some of those particles will fly into the air as saltons, while so-called reptons fall back down and ultimately remain earthbound.
But a new study in Physical Review Letters suggests a particle's fate depends on more than just this ground splash. A collision in midair can change an individual particle's behavior—and the motion of the storm as a whole.
Bizarre 'Meteotsunami' Stirred Waves in UK
By Tia Ghose, Staff Writer
August 05, 2013 03:07pm ET
A tsunami that struck the UK in 2011 was caused by a storm roiling the ocean hundreds of miles away, a new study confirms.
The "meteotsunami" (or weather-induced tsunami) of June 27, 2011, caused swells on a normally calm estuary on a sunny day, left some people knee-deep in water and made other people's hair stand on end in southwest England. Scientists suspected that a storm was to blame for the bizarre waves, but the new study, published in the June issue of the journal Weather, confirms it.
"As far as Britain is concerned this is the first time that a meteotsunami has been recorded," said study co-author David Tappin, a marine geologist at the British Geological Survey.
Washington Post: Is peak oil demand just around the corner?
By Brad Plumer
Published: August 9 at 12:56 pm
For years, there’s been lots of debate over “peak oil” — the notion that, at some point in the near future, the rate of global oil production will bump up against a hard ceiling. This is generally considered a gloomy prospect.
But another, related concept has started to bubble up in energy discussions lately. It’s the notion of peak oil demand.
This is the idea that the world’s appetite for oil may not be bottomless after all. Thanks to a combination of price increases, improvements in vehicle efficiency, as well as the advent of alternative fuels and electric cars, we may reach a point in the coming decades where the world’s demand for oil actually starts declining. And if that happens before peak oil production hits, well, that would come as a relief.
Nature (UK): Twisted magnetic fields tie information in a knot
Elusive skyrmions made in the lab.
08 August 2013
Tying knots in a piece of string is an age-old way of remembering things. Now physicists have succeeded in tying and untying microscopic magnetic vortices that may lead to more efficient computer memory.
The twisted vortices, known as skyrmions, are arrangements of atoms, with each atom acting like a bar magnet owing to a quantum property of its electrons called spin. An external magnetic field would normally tend to align all the atomic bar magnets in the same direction, but in the case of a skyrmion, the magnetization of the atoms is arrayed in a twisted vortex.
A skyrmion resists unravelling because magnetic perturbations can change the arrangement of the atomic spins but will not undo the twisting. This property, called topological stability, is shared by geometric objects such as the Möbius strip, a shape that can be obtained by joining the two ends of a ribbon together with a half-twist in between. The half-twist in a Möbius strip is 'stable' because it can be pushed around but not undone — short of cutting the ribbon, untwisting it and pasting it back again.
Nature (UK): Squeezed light mutes quantum noise
Silicon zip reduces energy fluctuations in laser beams to improve sensitivity of optical motion sensors.
07 August 2013
Oskar Painter spends his time carving silicon blocks into shapes that interact with light in strange ways. The latest of these — what Painter calls “Legos for adults” — squeezes the light from laser beams to push the limits of what they can measure.
By eliminating some of the noise caused by quantum effects, researchers can use squeezed light to illuminate movements too small to see with normal light. Painter’s silicon sculpture, built on a microchip, could boost the sensitivity of sensors that use lasers to monitor motion, such as the gyroscopes that keep track of an aircraft’s orientation.
“We have an opportunity to push the performance of these sensors by orders of magnitude,” says Painter, an applied physicist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, whose team reports how it squeezes light on page 185 (ref. 1).
Science News: On the Rebound
Scientists revive search for new rubber sources
By Cristy Gelling
Web edition: August 9, 2013
In the summer of 2008, Jan Kirschner led an expedition to the highlands of southeastern Kazakhstan in search of a dandelion. Not just any dandelion: He was hunting kok-saghyz, a flower much like the common roadside weed that flourishes all over the world. But kok-saghyz (pronounced “coke-suh-GEEZ”) grows only in remote valleys of the Tien Shan Mountains.
Kirschner, a Czech taxonomist, was not the only dandelion hunter to visit Central Asia around that time. An expedition from the U.S. Department of Agriculture scoured the same valleys just a few weeks behind him. Two years earlier, an Israeli-Kazakh team had visited the area and concluded that kok-saghyz was worryingly rare.
Scientists from around the world aren’t traveling to remote corners of Central Asia out of concern for the region’s dandelion biodiversity. Their motivation is a curious substance in the flowers’ roots: rubber.
Science Crime Scenes
Al Ahram (Egypt): British national officially charged with looting Egyptian antiquities
UK police have officially charged a British national with looting Egyptian antiquities
Amer Sultan in London
Tuesday 6 Aug 2013
Scotland Yard referred Neil Kingsbury to court after three months of investigations into suspicions that he smuggled Egyptian antiquities and tried to sell them through Christie's auction house.
"Kingsbury was charged with three counts of fraud by false representation," a Scotland Yard spokesman told Ahram Online.
Asia Times: Part of Indian heritage site bulldozed
By Sudeshna Chowdhury
The village of Hampi, in India's southern state of Karnataka, has long been an attraction for tourists from all over the world. It is now home to the ruins of what was the last capital of the Vijayanagar kingdom.
The Group of Monuments in Hampi is a World Heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). But a recent road-widening project carried out by the state's Public Works Department (PWD) in Hampi has drawn flak from UNESCO, activists and experts from all over the world.
The Hampi World Heritage Area Management Authority(HWHAMA), which is in charge of protecting the site, has sought an explanation from the PWD, according to various media reports.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.
Nature (UK): Scientists swept up in terrorism trials
Turkish government ignores calls that trials are unfair.
06 August 2013
“It was so emotional — we were crying after we left him,” says Hans-Peter Zenner of his visit to academic Fatih Hilmioglu in the Silivri prison, some 80 kilometres from Istanbul.
Zenner, a physician at the University of Tubingen in Germany, travelled to the penal facility in February as part of a small delegation to investigate cases of Turkish academics charged with terrorism offences. The delegation had been commissioned on behalf of an international human-rights network representing academies and scholarly societies including the US National Academies of Science and the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. It concluded in its draft report on 1 August that the scientists had not received fair trials.
On 5 August, the defendants — all former or current university rectors — received harsh sentences. Hilmiog(lu, a physician and former rector of I.nönü University in Malatya, was sentenced to 23 years in prison on charges of conspiring to destabilize the government through political violence. Four other academics — including a transplant surgeon and chemical engineer — were given sentences of between 10 and 15 years. Another, who had been in detention for more than 4 years, was released despite being sentenced to 12 years and 6 months in prison
Science, Space, Environment, and Energy Policy
Parks Canada via PR Newswire: On the Hunt for a Missing Piece of Canadian History - Parks Canada Continues Search for Lost Franklin Ships
OTTAWA, Aug. 9, 2013 CNW - The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Canada's Environment Minister and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, today announced that Parks Canada Underwater Archaeologists will return to Canada's Arctic to continue an expedition of international significance; the continuing search for the lost vessels HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, from the ill-fated Sir John Franklin voyage.
"Our government is pleased to pull together for a fifth season both existing and new Canadian partners and researchers to continue the search for HMS Erebus and HMS Terror," said Minister Aglukkaq. "Being from Nunavut, I am especially excited about this project, as it will collectively increase our understanding of early Arctic exploration and its impact on Canada's development as a nation, while showcasing the beauty and unique culture of the Arctic."
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.
Washington Post: State renewable-energy laws turn out to be incredibly hard to repeal
By Brad Plumer
Published: August 8 at 3:52 pm
With Congress deadlocked, a huge chunk of the action on clean energy in the United States is happening at the state level. Some 29 states and Washington D.C. have renewable standards requiring utilities to get a chunk of their power from sources like wind or solar.
Over the past year, conservative groups have made a big push to try to repeal these laws, arguing that the mandates drive up electricity prices (since wind and solar can be pricier than coal or natural gas in many cases).
What’s surprising, though, is that these attempts have been so unsuccessful — even in deeply conservative red states. As Matt Kasper of Think Progress documents here, repeal efforts by one major group have failed in every state so far:
NPR: U.S. 'Space Fence' Will Cease To Operate, Site Says
by Bill Chappell
August 08, 2013 2:27 PM
A U.S. radar system that tracks thousands of objects orbiting Earth — from satellites to harmful debris — has been slated for shutdown, according to the Space News site. The ground-based network known as the "Space Fence" may cease to operate in October.
"This is your notice to begin preparing the sites for closure," a memo from Air Force Space Command told the contractor that operates the arrays last week. The memo continues, "A specific list of action items will be provided as soon as it is finalized. A specific date to turn off the mission system has not been established yet, but will be provided to you immediately upon determination."
The pending shutdown is being blamed on the government's sequestration cuts and on the Strategic Choices and Management Review that the Pentagon is using to find areas of potential savings. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered that broad review several months ago.
Washington Post: The U.S. is hitting its ethanol limit. So the EPA may relax its biofuels rules.
By Brad Plumer, Published: August 7 at 11:24 am
When it comes to ethanol, the United States appears to have reached its limit — at least for the time being.
Back in 2007, Congress passed a law that would essentially require the nation to use more and more ethanol and other biofuels each year. But for reasons of chemistry and economics, those targets are becoming increasingly difficult to fulfill. That helps explain why, on Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency took the rather unusual step of announcing that it would look into ways to adjust those targets in the years ahead.
When Congress passed the law in 2007, lawmakers figured that Americans would keep using more and more gasoline each year, and all that ethanol would make up a small portion of the total. Instead, the opposite happened. Americans started buying more fuel-efficient cars and driving less. U.S. gasoline use is actually falling right now.
Washington Post: Here’s what Amazon lobbies for in D.C.
By Brad Plumer
Published: August 6 at 8:54 am
By now, everyone’s heard that Jeff Bezos has bought The Washington Post. This is the same Jeff Bezos, of course, who also founded and runs Amazon, a sprawling company that has plenty of policy interests in D.C., as well as a multi-million-dollar lobbying operation.
Now, Amazon won’t own The Post. Bezos will. And, in his letter to employees, Bezos appeared to address any potential conflict of interest head-on: “The values of The Post do not need changing,” he wrote. “The paper’s duty will remain to its readers and not to the private interests of its owners.”
Still, we thought it would be worth taking another look at all the policy issues Amazon.com has taken a keen interest in over the years — what the company has been pushing for and why.
Reno Gazette-Journal: UNR archaeologist leads excavation
August 6, 2013
The University of Nevada, Reno’s Department of Anthropology, in partnership with the Nevada Indian Commission and the Washoe Tribal Historic Preservation Office, is conducting an excavation at the historic Stewart Indian School in Carson City. The Stewart facility is a 110-acre historic district that is home to more than 50 historical buildings.
Sarah Cowie, assistant professor of anthropology in the University’s College of Liberal Arts, is directing the excavation, which also serves as a summer field school that teaches students about archaeology and historical preservation. This collaborative project combines the efforts of professional archaeologists, Native American specialists in heritage and students from diverse backgrounds.
“The district is on the National Register of Historic Places and is deteriorating rapidly,” said Sherry Rupert, executive director of the Nevada Indian Commission. “Many of the historic buildings were built in the early 1900s and sit unoccupied, adding to the urgency to protect these buildings.”
The Georgian via The Labradorian (Canada): Archeologist to give talk on historic plane crash sites
Published on August 8, 2013
Lisa Daly is an aviation archaeologist currently completing her doctorate degree at Memorial University.
She has been working on historic aviation sites around Newfoundland and Labrador since 2007, with most of her work focused on Second World War aviation sites around Gander and Goose Bay.
She has included other areas of historic aviation, such as assisting her supervisor in collecting photographs and memories of the Hindenburg over Newfoundland.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.
NPR: Why Aren't More Girls Attracted To Physics?
by Shankar Vendatum
August 09, 2013 3:03 AM
You don't need to be a social scientist to know there is a gender diversity problem in technology. The tech industry in Silcon Valley and across the nation is overwhelmingly male-dominated.
That isn't to say there aren't women working at tech firms. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook have raised the profile of women at high-tech firms. But those prominent exceptions do not accurately portray who makes up the engineering ranks at those and other tech companies.
Visit Silicon Valley and you will hear many people talk about the need to increase the number of female hackers. The conventional wisdom about why there are so few female coders usually points a finger at disparities in the talent pool, which is linked to disparities in tech education. In fact, starting as early as adolescence, girls and boys often choose different academic paths. When the time comes for young people to elect to go into engineering school, serious gender disparities become visible.
Science Writing and Reporting
Science News: The Attacking Ocean: The Past, Present, and Future of Rising Sea Levels
By Brian Fagan
Review by Erin Wayman
Web edition: August 9, 2013
The threat of rising seas is not new. Since the last Ice Age began windingdown 15,000 years ago, the ocean has ascended 120 meters in a series of pulses. But when the world was thinly populated, small bands of hunter-gatherers could pick up and go when the sea surged. Now that hundreds of millions of people are settled in crowded coastal cities, the rising seas predicted for a warming world are more dangerous than ever, argues Fagan, an archaeologist.
Fagan chronicles the history of the climbing oceans and their influence on the development of early civilizations such as those of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. He also shows how modern societies from New Orleans to Shanghai continue to feel these effects. Without hyping the risks, Fagan provides solid geological, archaeological and historical evidence to support his arguments about what the future may hold.
Science is Cool
Christian Science Monitor: Decoding Mona Lisa: Have archaeologists found the face behind the smile?
Mona Lisa, painted by Leonardo da Vinci, is likely based on Lisa del Giocondo, who lived in Florence at the turn of the 16th century. On Friday, archaeologists cut into the del Giocondo family crypt in hopes of confirming the identity of the Mona Lisa's model.
By Liz Fuller-Wright, Correspondent
August 9, 2013
The most mysterious smile in art history has spawned endless speculation. Who was the model? Why is she smiling? What does the background mean? Whole books have been devoted to musing about hidden messages in the painting, including asking whether the model was actually a man, or had bad teeth, or maybe was Leonardo da Vinci himself.
While speculation continues, most art historians have now coalesced around the idea that the model was a young woman named Lisa del Giocondo, née Lisa Gherardini. "Mona" is a contraction from "madonna," which in Italian means "my lady."
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.