Europe against GMO crops! Please, sign the Avaaz petition! I already did.
It's us who decide, not Monsanto!!!

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Past connections come alive, 09.2009

Today:

  1. Millet traveled from China to the West
  2. Hungarian Researcher on the Trail of the Hun Tribes
  3. Huge Pre-Stonehenge Complex Found via "Crop Circles"
  4. Prehistoric gold source traced to Mourne mountains (!)
Few links:
Ancient temple wall discovered, shaped like Andean chakana
-read about a new temple discovered in Peru with a 4000-old room in the form of Inca's symbol.
This pile of rocks was once the seat of kings-yep, the Thracians finally made it up to the Western media. Check out this article by independent.co.uk. Some of the things, even I haven't heard. I can't believe to what extent Bulgaria oppresses Thracian knowledge!
Archaeologists Discovered Roman Settlement in North-Eastern Bulgaria

Millet traveled from China to the West

(China Daily)
Updated: 2009-05-13 10:23

Latest research by the University of Cambridge suggests that millet may have been the world's first Chinese takeaway 7,000 years ago.

In a paper published this week, archaeologists from the University of Cambridge reveal that the cultivation of broomcorn millet may have spread to the West after beginning in early Chinese farms.

The transition from gathering food in the wild to producing it on farms was the greatest revolution in human ecological history. Until relatively recently, pre-historians believed that it began in the Fertile Crescent of the Near East, between 12,000 and 7,000 years ago. Early communities there began to produce the so-called "founder crops" such as wheat and barley.

More recently, it has become clear that early Chinese communities domesticated their own grains, such as rice and millet, independently of any Western influence. Until now, however, no evidence had emerged of such methods spreading from China to the West.

Writing in the journal Science under the title Origins of Agriculture in East Asia, Professor Martin Jones and research colleague Liu Xinyi put together evidence from a number of recent excavations (including their own) to suggest that millet may have made precisely that journey. source

My comment: The archeological fight between China and the rest of the world goes on full power. I must say I like it. Of course, I think it's clear even for Chinese scientists that they have problem in their legends and their understanding, so obviously, the civilisation that domesticated the crops is not their own, but let's face it - even the wrong motivation can lead to good results. And this is one of them.

Hungarian Researcher on the Trail of the Hun Tribes Special

Jun 11, 2009 by Christopher Szabo

The Huns are widely thought of as savage barbarians who appeared briefly in history, wreaked death and destruction, then disappeared again. Recent archaeological and historical discoveries are raising questions about this view.
Of the European countries, Hungary has the most legends about the Huns and in these legends they are the heroes, not the villains. Hungarian academic and researcher, Dr. Borbála Obrusánszky, has followed their trail all the way to China and Mongolia, where she did postgraduate work. In an interview with Digital Journal, she explained that while the Huns, as a people, no longer exist, much of their culture remains:

When I was studying in Mongolia, I discovered very many similarities between traditional Hungarian and Mongolian folk cultures. I started to seek the roots of this and , I found (the answers) in the Huns.

Responding to a question about the Hun’s reported barbarism and savagery, Obrusánszky said:

Only the Western Roman chroniclers thought that. The other sources, for example the Chinese, always painted a realistic picture of the Huns. They were not wild or barbarians, but only had different customs, which the town-dwellers did not know. But those who spent a long time among the Huns soon sang their praises, because they considered them a very hospitable people.
...According to the new opinion(s), however, the Huns survived on the Eurasian Steppe until the 6th Century A.D. What is more, certain researchers consider it possible that they stayed in contact with each other, or knew about each other....
Attila is the greatest figure in European history, many still tremble at his name.He was victorious in practically all his campaigns, he went wherever he wanted to, because his military knowledge and his army stood above that of the Romans. Despite this, at the Pope’s request, he spared Rome. By contrast, the Vandals sacked it. Attila was the ancestor of both the Hungarian and Bulgarian dynasties, and among us he was counted as a Hungarian king in the Middle Ages. (The Hungarian) leader, Árpád, considered him his ancestor and conquered the land (of Hungary) by this right. source

My comment: I must say I met the same idea of Attila being a ancestor of a Bulgarian dynasty recently and I found it very odd. Now I find it even weirder. This name was met in a book prepared by order of a Bulgarian king (or khan, I don't remember precisely the timing) and it contained the names of all of the previous Bulgarian kings, khans and so on. One of the first names was Attila's. And this is strange, since Bulgarian history has no clear connections with the Huns. Hm, hm.
And anyway, what I find very interesting is the way the western tradition painted the Huns as barbarians, while the Chinese were much more balanced towards them. This reminds me of how Greek historians considered Tracians evil, pervert and cruel, while Omis said they fought on the side of Troya and were numerous and so on. Unfortunately we don't have a second opinion on the issue, but it's clear that Western historians are masters in bad public relations and publicity.


Huge Pre-Stonehenge Complex Found via "Crop Circles"

James Owen in London
for National Geographic News
June 15, 2009

Given away by strange, crop circle-like formations seen from the air, a huge prehistoric ceremonial complex discovered in southern England has taken archaeologists by surprise.

A thousand years older than nearby Stonehenge, the site includes the remains of wooden temples and two massive, 6,000-year-old tombs that are among "Britain's first architecture," according to archaeologist Helen Wickstead, leader of the Damerham Archaeology Project.

The central features are two great tombs topped by massive mounds—made shorter by centuries of plowing—called long barrows. The larger of the two tombs is 70 meters (230 feet) long.

Estimated at 6,000 years old, based on the dates of similar tombs around the United Kingdom, the long barrows are also the oldest elements of the complex.

Such oblong burial mounds are very rare finds, and are the country's earliest known architectural form, Wickstead said.

The Damerham tombs have yet to be excavated, but experts say the long barrows likely contain chambers—probably carved into chalk bedrock and reinforced with wood—filled with human bones associated with ancestor worship. source

My comment: Oh, that would be lovely to excavate :) I can't wait to see what they'll find inside. And again, just notice, how we keep on finding older and older sites that show not merely habitation but civilisation. That pose many inconvenient questions for many "great civilisations" dating approximately from the same time. As for me, I just want to know the truth, nothing more and nothing less.

Prehistoric gold source traced to Mourne mountains

SEÁN Mac CONNELL

THE MOUNTAINS of Mourne may be fabled in song but now they have a new focus as scientists believe they were the source for most of Ireland’s prehistoric gold.

Ireland has a very high level of prehistoric gold objects especially from the early Bronze Age (2400-1800BC) when large quantities of it was used by skilled craftsmen.

They turned out beautiful objects such as the gold collars or lunula similar to the one which turned up recently following a robbery in Co Roscommon.

This led to speculation for centuries about the source of so much easily available gold and a belief there had to be lots of gold available locally to the craftsmen.

Now archaeologists and geologists believe they have found that source, following a 14-year study which used not only the most modern scientific equipment but also involved the teams using primitive gold-mining methods.

According to a report in the current edition of Archaeology Ireland, the scientists used X-ray fluorescence spectrometry to look at the silver content of prehistoric Irish gold in more than 400 objects. As that work was going on, others were literally out panning for gold in Irish rivers, walking the mountains looking for gold in the hills and extracting gold from rocks by fire, as prehistoric people would have done.

The teams even extracted gold from rocks on Croagh Patrick, Co Mayo, by heating and quenching the rock, crushing it and panning the resultant sand.

The scientific work found the average silver content of gold in the early Bronze Age ornaments was 10 per cent and this matched perfectly the profile of gold taken from the river Bann and its tributaries but not that of gold taken from other Irish sources.

The scientific work on gold recovered from artefacts matched because gold grains from areas of high gold abundance invariably exhibit a distinct compositional signature, said the report.

source

My comment: Wow, that article is significant for me, because as you very well know already, the Thracians were extremely skilled in crafting gold and they left amazing treasures dating from the approximately the same period. They also had reddish hair. And now we find out that Irish people did the same! That's so exciting and interesting. I badly want to see DNA tests done to the Irish and Bulgarian population! And also, the same gold-silver study done on Thracian treasures (of course without damaging them). Because I'm not sure if anyone bothered to check where the gold for those precious beauties we have came from.

Short stories

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Sugar and stress damage in action, September, 2009

Today:

  1. Testosterone Decreases after Ingestion of Sugar
  2. Stress makes your hair go gray
  3. Huntington's disease deciphered
  4. Memories may be formed throughout the day, not just while sleeping
Short stories:
  1. Research uncovers clues to virus-cancer link
  2. Fish can learn despite small brains
  3. Magnetic bacteria found in Lonar lake
  4. Mayo researchers: Dramatic outcomes in prostate cancer study
Ok, I think this is one of the last really long posts I have stashed in my blogger account. The more recent posts are 5 articles long with the idea to make them 4. And in any case, as you can check for yourself, the short stories are very short as never :) Enjoy!

Testosterone Decreases after Ingestion of Sugar

June 14th, 2009

Men with low testosterone should have their hormone levels retested after they fast overnight because eating may transiently lower testosterone levels, a new study concludes.

In current guidelines for evaluating men with hypogonadism (low testosterone), The Endocrine Society recommends measuring blood levels of testosterone—the major male sex hormone—on two or more occasions in the morning, when testosterone is highest. However, no guidelines exist on when to draw a testosterone sample in relation to food intake, Hayes said.

Past research shows that a high level of insulin, the hormone primarily secreted after eating, is related to low testosterone levels. Like eating, glucose intake causes (sugar) levels to rise, which stimulates secretion of insulin. Hayes and her colleagues examined the impact of a standard dose of glucose on testosterone levels in 74 men. The authors found that the glucose solution decreased blood levels of testosterone by as much as 25 percent.

Two hours after glucose administration, the testosterone level remained much lower than before the test in 73 of the 74 men, a statistically significant difference, the authors reported. Of the 66 men who had normal testosterone levels before the test, 10 (15 percent) became hypogonadal at one or more time points during the test.

The results did not differ by changes in insulin levels, according to the abstract. source

My comment: I think that the moral here is if you want your man to be a man, don't give him chocolate. I wonder if with women it's the same. Because sexual desire in women is also due to testosterone. Interesting enough I haven't noticed such correlation in my body and I eat a lot of chocolate, but who knows. Maybe this applies only to men after all.

Stress makes your hair go gray

June 11th, 2009

Researchers have discovered that the kind of "genotoxic stress" that does damage to DNA depletes the melanocyte stem cells (MSCs) within hair follicles that are responsible for making those pigment-producing cells. Rather than dying off, when the going gets tough, those precious stem cells differentiate, forming fully mature melanocytes themselves.

Anything that can limit the stress might stop the graying from happening, the researchers said.

"The DNA in cells is under constant attack by exogenously- and endogenously-arising DNA-damaging agents such as mutagenic chemicals, ultraviolet light and ionizing radiation," said Emi Nishimura of Tokyo Medical and Dental University. "It is estimated that a single cell in mammals can encounter approximately 100,000 DNA damaging events per day."

Consequently, she explained, cells have elaborate ways to repair damaged DNA and prevent the lesions from being passed on to their daughter cells.

"Once stem cells are damaged irreversibly, the damaged stem cells need to be eliminated to maintain the quality of the stem cell pools," Nishimura continued. "We found that excessive genotoxic stress triggers differentiation of melanocyte stem cells." She says that differentiation might be a more sophisticated way to get rid of those cells than stimulating their death.

Nishimura's group earlier traced the loss of hair color to the gradual dying off of the stem cells that maintain a continuous supply of new melanocytes, giving hair its youthful color.

Now, they show in mice that irreparable , as caused by ionizing radiation, is responsible. They further found that the "caretaker gene" known as ATM (for ataxia telangiectasia mutated) serves as a so-called stemness checkpoint, protecting against MSCs differentiation. That's why people with Ataxia-telangiectasia, an aging syndrome caused by a mutation in the ATM gene, go gray prematurely.

The findings lend support to the notion that genome instability is a significant factor underlying aging in general, the researchers said. They also support the "stem cell aging hypothesis," which proposes that DNA damage to long-lived stem cells can be a major cause for the symptoms that come with age.
In addition to the aging-associated stem cell depletion typically seen in melanocyte stem cells, qualitative and quantitative changes to other body stem cells have been reported in blood , cardiac muscle, and skeletal muscle, the researchers said. Stresses on stem cell pools and genome maintenance failures have also been implicated in the decline of tissue renewal capacity and the accelerated appearance of aging-related characteristics. source

My comment: The moral - say "NO" to stress. I just want to see how this is going to happen. Besides, as the article suppose, it's not so much up to the stress itself, as to DNA damaging. If a cell can have a DNA damaging experience 100 000 times a day, I won't bet that the stress of finishing a project is the biggest threat for the day. I think it's more a cumulative effect - like you're under stress, because of the project, you cannot find the time to have a lunch, you eat some junk food, you smoke too much (smoking kills you!), you get in a fight with your boss, you don't sleep enough, when you're done, you get desperately drunk. All this will affect the body, obviously, it will decrease the immune response, it will make you more vulnerable to all kinds of infection. And thus more reasons for DNA damaging. Not to mention the sun radiation and all other kinds of microwave emissions that fly around your head. Thus, if you want to have a beautiful hair (and healthy body) - say "No" to procrastination, stay positive, find time to eat and to rest and make sure you laugh enough.

Huntington's disease deciphered

June 14th, 2009

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine have discovered how the mutated huntingtin gene acts on the nervous system to create the devastation of Huntington's disease.

The researchers were able to show that the mutated huntingtin gene activates a particular enzyme, called JNK3, which is expressed only in neurons and, further, to show what effect activation of that enzyme has on neuron function.

Huntington's disease is an adult onset neurodegenerative disease marked by progressive mental and physical deterioration. It has been known for more than a decade that everyone who develops the disease has mutations in a particular gene, called huntingtin.

"There are several puzzling aspects of this disease," said Brady, who is co-principal investigator on the study. "First, the mutation is there from day one. How is it that people are born with a perfectly functioning nervous system, despite the mutation, but as they grow up into their 30s and 40s they start to develop these debilitating symptoms? "

The second problem, according to Brady, is that the gene is expressed not just in the nervous system but in other parts of the body. However, the only part of the body that is affected is the .

Brady, Gerardo Morfini and their colleagues found that at extremely low concentrations, huntingtin was a potent inhibitor of axonal transport, the system within the neuron that shuttles proteins from the cell body where they are synthesized to the synaptic terminals where they are needed.

A neuron's critical role in making connections may require it to make the cellular trunk, called an axon, between the cell body and the synaptic terminal to be very long. But even in the brain, axonal projections are very long compared to other cells. In addition to the challenge of distance, neurons are very complex cells with many specialized areas necessary to carry out synaptic connections, requiring a robust transport system.

"Inhibition of neuronal transport is enough to explain what is happening in Huntington's," said Brady. Loss of delivery of materials to the terminals results in loss of transmission of signals from the neuron. Loss of signal transmission causes the neurons to begin to die back, leading to reduced transmissions, more dying back and eventual neuronal cell death.

This mechanism also explains the late onset of the disease, Brady said. Activation of JNK3 reduces transport but does not eliminate it. Young neurons have a robust transport system, but transport gradually declines with age.

Brady's group has also linked this pattern of progressive neurodegeneration -- marked by a loss of signaling between neurons, a slow dying back of , and eventual neuron death -- to damage to the transport system in several other hereditary adult-onset neurodegenerative diseases and to Alzheimer's disease.source

My commentt: It's great that they understand the mechanism of this horrible disease (as well as all the other brain diseases - I mean, it's bad to have your body damaged, but to hurt you brain means to change you, to hurt you as a person, and that's really horrible) . But now, I think we have to start thinking how to fix the problem. That's all I can say.

Memories may be formed throughout the day, not just while sleeping

June 16th, 2009

Scientists have long thought that processes occurring during sleep were responsible for cementing the salient experiences of the day into long-term memories. Now, however, a study of scampering rats suggests that the mechanisms at work during sleep are also active while the animals are awake -- and that they encode events more accurately.

The finding has significant implications for understanding the way the brain learns and remembers, the researchers say. Among other things, it could offer insights into, and possible strategies for combating, post traumatic stress disorder.

The current study focused on the neural activity in a region of the brain known as the hippocampus, a horseshoe-shaped structure responsible for encoding all spatial and event memories of daily life. It is thought that the hippocampus rapidly encodes all experiences in highly plastic, or flexible, neural circuits within it and then, later, reactivates those neural representations of the experience that are deemed significant, allowing their patterns to be engrained in less-plastic hippocampal-neocortical circuits where they are stored as long-term memory.

"The accepted dogma has been that one learns something while awake - the process of rapid encoding -- and that later, while asleep, one replays the memory over and over again until it is cemented, or consolidated, in circuits throughout the brain," says the senior author of the study, Loren M. Frank, PhD, assistant professor of physiology and member of the W.M. Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience at UCSF.

But this theory has not explained what happens if one does not sleep right after an experience, Frank notes.

Scientists have known that rats, during brief pauses in movement as they scurry about their day, replay their immediate experience. This allows them to learn the experience in the short term and to integrate knowledge about it with past experiences in order to make decisions about next steps. The process may even prompt changes in synaptic connections between neurons that begin the process of laying down long-term memories.

However, until now, scientists have thought that awake replay of events was limited to the immediate past.

In the current study, Frank and first author Mattias P. Karlsson, PhD, a graduate student in Frank's lab, studied rats' neural replay in several settings - while they sniffed and explored two different places, one familiar, one novel -- and while they dozed in a rest box. In each case, the scientists recorded the activity of individual neurons in the hippocampus as they fired, one after the other, as the hippocampus "reflected" back on their experience in each place.

The first surprise was that in both awake settings there was a near constant replay of events that had taken place in the past - some 20 to 30 minutes earlier. These replay events were seen in peppered bursts of activity present during the brief pauses the animals made repeatedly during their exploration.

More surprisingly, the awake replay often involved events that had occurred in a different setting than the ones the animals were in during replay. In fact, 40 to 50 percent of the replays of past experience the animals had as they moved through the familiar place involved events they had experienced in the novel place.

"These findings suggest that elements of past experience are constantly being reactivated as we go about our daily lives, independent of incoming sensory information," says Frank.

Provocatively, the neural replay of past experiences detected in the animals while they slumbered was significantly less accurate than when they were awake. One possible explanation, says Frank, is that the replay during a sleep-like state may not be intended to be a perfect reenactment of what occurred. Evidence suggests that sleep is a time for making connections.

source

My comment: This article is extremely interesting for many reasons. I recommend that you read it in its wholeness, since I had to cut it since it was so long. But it's worth the time to read it. Now, about memories. I don't exactly understand how the scientists knew what memories the mice replay in their brain, but I guess they just recorded the neural pathways what were activated when the mouse first saw the new environment and then saw the same neural pathways fire over and over again. In any case, it's pretty obvious people don't form memories only while they are sleeping. For example, people who take strong sedatives should miss the stages of sleep when there are dreams and other kinds of "replays" but they still form memories of their experiences. At least when I took sleeping pills, in the beginning, when I dozed off like immediately and woke up in the morning without dreams, I didn't have problems with my memories. Of course you could argue that I simply didn't remember my dreams, but there are different ways of sleeping - when you had dreams, you had the memory of time during the night, while if you didn't dream, you just fall asleep and then wake up - like after a surgery. There is no in-between period of time. And if there's not such period, there were no dreams in the meaning used in the research. Sure, they might mean that the replay wasn't conscious and that it didn't require any form of experiencing, but then what does it mean replay during the day?

Anyway, let's focus on what it is important. Obviously the daily chattering in our mind is not only annoying, it has some purpose. Especially when we're brought back to an even we experienced earlier and we try to make sense of it. If we trust this research (as well as few others, that I've already published), this remembering serves to form a long-lasting memory of the event. Thus, if we monitor and even control these experiences - like we don't allow in them bitter or fearful feelings in them, maybe, we'll evade forming long-lasting traumatic memories.

And in any case, I'm completely disgusted by the idea "we want to see if we can CONTROL this neural circuits and thus PREVENT traumatic memories from replaying". This is sick!

Short stories:

Research uncovers clues to virus-cancer link

June 17th, 2009

In a series of recently-published articles, a research team from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center has uncovered clues to the development of cancers in AIDS patients.

In an April article published in the journal PLoS Pathogens, Dirk Dittmer, Ph.D. associate professor of microbiology and immunology at UNC's School of Medicine, demonstrated that the Kaposi sarcoma associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is not only present in every tumor cell, but that the cells also transcribe microRNAs (miRNA) from the virus.

MicroRNAs are small molecules that regulate gene expression. Scientists have hypothesized that viruses can cause cancer through a mechanism where the viral genes take over the cell and induce cancerous growth through alteration of cell miRNA, since certain kinds of miRNA are responsible for putting the 'brakes' on uncontrolled cell growth.

Dittmer's team examined samples of tissue provided with the consent of Kaposi's sarcoma patients and found that specific miRNA biomarkers accurately identify stages of tumor progression. They found that certain miRNAs were lost as the tumors progressed, effectively accelerating the cancer's growth. More aggressive tumor stages expressed higher levels of KSHV miRNA.

In second study, published June 4 in the journal Blood, the team looked for the presence of tumor suppressor mRNAs in primary effusion lymphoma and Kaposi's Sarcoma.

His team found that several miRNAs known to suppress tumor activity were significantly less active in both types of cancer.

Scientists believe that finding the mechanisms through which viruses take over cellular systems, resulting in cancer, is a promising strategy for cancer prevention and treatment, since it is much more feasible to block viral infection or develop specific inhibitors of the viral genes than try to inhibit all of the genetic changes within a . source

Bacteria can plan ahead

Fish can learn despite small brains

Tue Jun 16, 7:43 pm ET

LONDON (Reuters) – A small fish found in streams across Europe has a human-like ability to learn, British scientists reported Wednesday.

The nine-spined stickleback could be the first animal to exhibit a key human social learning strategy that allows it to compare the behavior of others to its own experience and make choices that lead it to better food supplies.

"Small fish may have small brains but they still have some surprising cognitive abilities," said Jeremy Kendal of Durham University.

Kendal and colleagues from St. Andrews University found in tests that 75 percent of sticklebacks were clever enough to know from watching others that a feeder in a tank was rich in food, even though they had previously got little from it themselves.

source

Magnetic bacteria found in Lonar lake

18 Jun 2009, 1158 hrs IST, PTI



NEW DELHI: Microbiologists in Maharashtra have found 'magnetic bacteria' in the ancient Lonar lake formed due to meteorite impact, a finding that might open a vista for searching extra-terrestrial life. The magnetotactic bacteria, which are object of interest of scientists from various fields world over, were isolated from the lake in Maharashtra's Buldana district which is the only impact crater formed in basaltic rock.

The bacteria are unique as they swim along geomagnetic field lines because they contain tiny magnetic crystals called magnetosomes, said Mahesh Chavadar, a microbiologist at the Yashwantrao Chavan College of Science in Karad.

The fact that the bacteria was found in the lake has thrown open doors for research on life outside universe. source

Mayo researchers: Dramatic outcomes in prostate cancer study

June 19th, 2009

Two Mayo Clinic patients whose prostate cancer had been considered inoperable are now cancer free thanks in part to an experimental drug therapy that was used in combination with standardized hormone treatment and radiation therapy. The men were participating in a clinical trial of an immunotherapeutic agent called MDX-010 or ipilimumab. In these two cases, physicians say the approach initiated the death of a majority of cancer cells and caused the tumors to shrink dramatically, allowing surgery. In both cases, the aggressive tumors had grown well beyond the prostate into the abdominal areas.

The patients first received a type of hormone therapy called androgen ablation, which removes testosterone and usually causes some initial reduction in . Researchers then introduced a single dose of ipilimumab, an antibody, which builds on the anti-tumor action of the hormone and causes a much larger immune response, resulting in massive death of the tumor cells. Both men experienced consistent drops in their prostate specific antigen (PSA) counts over the following weeks until both were deemed eligible for surgery. Then, during surgery, came a greater surprise.

"The tumors had shrunk dramatically," says Michael Blute, M.D., Mayo , co-investigator and surgeon, who operated on both men. "I had never seen anything like this before. "

One patient underwent radiation therapy after ; both have resumed their regular lives. source

Thursday, 17 September 2009

The past keeps on getting older, august, 2009

Today:

  1. Mobile DNA Elements In Woolly Mammoth Genome Give New Clues To Mammalian Evolution
  2. Engraved pigments point to ancient symbolic tradition
  3. Study shows Maya intensively cultivated manioc 1,400 years ago
  4. Ancient well, and body, found in Cyprus
  5. Prehistoric flute in Germany is oldest known
Links:
New Thracian tomb unearthed close to Bulgaria’s Kazanlak

Mobile DNA Elements In Woolly Mammoth Genome Give New Clues To Mammalian Evolution

ScienceDaily (June 9, 2009) — The woolly mammoth died out several thousand years ago, but the genetic material they left behind is yielding new clues about the evolution of mammals. In a study published online in Genome Research, scientists have analyzed the mammoth genome looking for mobile DNA elements, revealing new insights into how some of these elements arose in mammals and shaped the genome of an animal headed for extinction.

Interspersed repeats, also known as transposable elements, are DNA sequences that can "jump" around the genome, causing mutations in the host and contributing to expansion of the genome. Interspersed repeats account for a significant fraction of mammalian genomes, and some of these elements are still actively mobile. In humans, interspersed repeats account for approximately 44% of the entire genome sequence. Even more extreme is the opossum genome, where more than half of the sequence is composed of repetitive elements.

Scientists recently sequenced the woolly mammoth genome, using DNA samples obtained from preserved specimens. The mammoth genome is an excellent candidate for comparative analysis of interspersed repeats in mammals, as it had a remarkably large genome of approximately 4.7 billion bases, 1.5 times larger than the human genome. Using the mammoth genome sequence and sequences of other mammals for comparison, Schuster's group found that the mammoth genome contained the largest proportion of interspersed repeats of any other mammal studied. In fact, a single class of elements, known as the BovB long interspersed repeat, accounted for nearly 12% of the mammoth genome alone.

Dr. Fangqing Zhao, a postdoctoral researcher in Schuster's group and primary author of the work, emphasized that the BovB family of repeats is particularly interesting, because while this family has been identified in other mammalian genomes its distribution in the mammalian lineage is inconsistent. Zhao explained that this finding in mammoth further supports the hypothesis that BovB may have been acquired "horizontally," meaning that vertebrate genomes attained the element from another organism, rather than inherited from ancestors. source

My comment: Hmm, really, and where did they acquire this group from? This is very interesting... And not only that - how come mammoths have bigger genome than us? And is there any correlation between the percentage of this jumping elements and the intelligence of the specie. It might sounds a little far-fetched, but if you think about it - the more such genes (groups, whatever...) the bigger possibility for mutation and thus for adaptation to new circumstances. Sure, maybe it's all about the balance between mutations and heritage, but still it's very interesting research.


Engraved pigments point to ancient symbolic tradition

Web edition : Friday, June 12th, 2009

Scientists excavating a Stone Age cave on South Africa’s southern coast have followed a trail of engraved pigments to what they suspect are the ancient roots of modern human behavior.

Analyses of 13 chunks of decorated red ochre (an iron oxide pigment) from Blombos Cave indicate that a cultural tradition of creating meaningful geometric designs stretched from around 100,000 to 75,000 years ago in southern Africa, say anthropologist Christopher Henshilwood of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and his colleagues.

Much debate surrounds the issue of when and where language, religion, symbolic decorations and other facets of modern human behavior originated. Researchers such as Henshilwood hypothesize that modern human behavior developed gradually in Africa, beginning more than 100,000 years ago. Others posit that a brain-boosting genetic mutation around 50,000 years ago fostered modern behavior in Africa. Some researchers suspect that behavioral advances first appeared in Europe, Asia and Africa at that later time.

Possible examples of symbolic behavior from around 100,000 years ago — such as proposed human burials in the Middle East and pigment use in Africa — have been controversial.

“What makes the Blombos engravings different is that some of them appear to represent a deliberate will to produce a complex abstract design,” Henshilwood says. “We have not before seen well-dated and unambiguous traces of this kind of behavior at 100,000 years ago.”

Further studies need to confirm that the ancient incisions were not the result of, say, slicing into ochre with stone tools in order to remove powder quickly, cautions anthropologist Curtis Marean of Arizona State University in Tempe, who studies ancient human behavior at another South African cave (SN: 10/20/07, p. 243).

Henshilwood and study coauthor Francesco d’Errico of the University of Bordeaux I in Talence, France, disagree. In their view, the Blombos pigments bear intentionally fashioned designs that held some sort of meaning and were passed down the generations for 25,000 years. Thus, the two researchers say, it’s likely that a 100,000-year-old society already steeped in symbolic behavior originally produced the ochre engravings.

A microscopic analysis indicates that ochre designs were made by holding a piece of pigment with one hand while impressing lines into the pigment with the tip of a stone tool. On several pieces, patterns covered areas that had first been ground down.

Geometric patterns on the ochre pieces include cross-hatched designs, branching lines, parallel lines and right angles.

Pigment powder had also been removed from many of the recovered ochre chunks. Incised patterns may have served as models for pigment designs applied to animal skins or other material, the scientists speculate.source

My comment: Well, we continue to find older and older evidences of human brain activity. I'm not going to comment a lot, it's quite obvious - we really need to reconsider human evolution in view of the new facts. Axes 500 000 years old, abstract art 100 000 years old. It kind of contradicts the idea of human evolution 30 000 years ago. Yeah, maybe that wasn't Homo Sapiens, but certainly it was someone!Връзка

Study shows Maya intensively cultivated manioc 1,400 years ago

June 16th, 2009

A University of Colorado at Boulder team has uncovered an ancient and previously unknown Maya agricultural system -- a large manioc field intensively cultivated as a staple crop that was buried and exquisitely preserved under a blanket of ash by a volcanic eruption in present-day El Salvador 1,400 years ago.

Evidence shows the manioc field -- at least one-third the size of a football field -- was harvested just days before the eruption of the Loma Caldera volcano near San Salvador in roughly A.D. 600, said CU-Boulder anthropology Professor Payson Sheets, who is directing excavations at the ancient village of Ceren. The cultivated field of manioc was discovered adjacent to Ceren, which was buried under 17 feet of ash and is considered the best preserved ancient farming village in all of Latin America.

The ancient planting beds of the carbohydrate-rich tuber are the first and only evidence of an intensive manioc cultivation system at any New World archaeology site, said Sheets.

Sheets said manioc pollen has been found at archaeological sites in Belize, Mexico and Panama, but it is not known whether it was cultivated as a major crop or was just remnants of a few garden plants.

Ash hollows in the manioc planting beds at Ceren left by decomposed plant material were cast in dental plaster by the team to preserve their shape and size, said Sheets. Evidence showed the field was harvested and then replanted with manioc stalk cuttings just a few days before the eruption of the volcano.

A few anthropologists have suspected that manioc tubers -- which can be more than three feet long and as thick as a man's arm -- were a dietary salvation for ancient, indigenous societies living in large cities in tropical Latin America. Corn, beans and squash have long been known to be staples of the ancient Maya, but they are sensitive to drought and require fertile soils, said Sheets.

Calculations by Sheets indicate the Ceren planting fields would have produced roughly 10 metric tons of manioc annually for the 100 to 200 villagers believed to have lived there. "The question now is what these people in the village were doing with all that manioc that was harvested all at once," he said. "Even if they were gorging themselves, they could not have consumed that much."

The CU-Boulder team also found the shapes and sizes of individual manioc planting ridges and walkways varied widely. "This indicates the individual farmers at Ceren had control over their families' fields and cultivated them they way they wanted, without an external higher authority telling them what to do and how to do it," he said.

The team also found that the manioc fields and adjacent cornfields at Ceren were oriented 30 degrees east of magnetic north -- the same orientation as the village buildings and the public town center, said Sheets. "The villagers laid out the agricultural fields and the town structures with the same orientation as the nearby river, showing the importance and reverence the Maya had for water," he said.

Sheets said Maya villagers living in the region today have a long tradition of cutting manioc roots into small chunks, drying them eight days, then grinding the chunks into a fine, flour-like powder known as almidón. Almidón can be stored almost indefinitely, and traditionally was used by indigenous people in the region for making tamales and tortillas and as a thickening agent for stews, he said.

Since indigenous peoples in tropical South America use manioc today to brew alcoholic beverages, including beer, the CU-Boulder team will be testing ceramic vessels recovered from various structures at Ceren for traces of manioc.

Sheets is particularly interested in vessels from a religious building at Ceren excavated in 1991. The structure contained such items as a deer headdress painted red, blue and white; a large, alligator-shaped painted pot; the bones of butchered deer; and evidence that large quantities of food items like meat, corn, beans and squash were prepared on-site and dispensed to villagers from the structure, said Sheets.

Ceren's residents apparently were participating in a spiritual ceremony in the building when the volcano erupted, and did not return to their adobe homes, which excavations showed were void of people and tied shut from the outside. "I think there may have been an emergency evacuation from the ceremonial building when the volcano erupted," he said. To date, no human remains have been found at Ceren. source

My comment: Wow! That is extremely interesting! I mean seriously, what did they do with all those tones of food. Obviously they didn't eat it themselves, but they took care of the plants. That speaks of either trade or that someone badly needed that manioc. Yeah, I would love to say some extraterrestrial tyrant, but it could be also someone on Earth. Now, if they discover many such fields, that would pose the question - who needed so much food and why. And I liked that the almidon can be stored indefinitely. That so cool! It's like a storage for the whole Earth forever. Never again famine. Nice, huh? Also, note the good organisation of labor - those people worked on the fields, somebody brought them food during the day and a nice food it was. Obviously, they weren't exactly starving.

Ancient well, and body, found in Cyprus

June 24th, 2009 By MENELAOS HADJICOSTIS , Associated Press Writer

(AP) -- Archaeologists have discovered a water well in Cyprus that was built as long as 10,500 years ago, and the skeleton of a young woman at the bottom of it, an official said Wednesday.

Pavlos Flourentzos, the nation's top antiquities official, said the 16-foot (5-meter) deep cylindrical shaft was found last month at a construction site in Kissonerga, a village near the Mediterranean island nation's southwestern coast.

After the well dried up it apparently was used to dispose trash, and the items found in it included the poorly preserved skeleton of the young woman, animal , worked flints, stone beads and pendants from the island's early Neolithic period, Flourentzos said.

The skeleton could be as old as the well itself, but don't know how the girl died or when and why the was left there, he said. Radiocarbon dating found the well is between 9,000 to 10,500 years old, he said.

That was around the time migrating humans started to build permanent settlements on the island. Before then, temporary settlements were inhabited by sea-borne migrants using Cyprus as a way station to other destinations.

Thomas Davis, director of the Nicosia-based Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute, said the well - which he called "among the earliest in the world" - offers proof of the "high level of sophistication" of the island's early Neolithic farmers. source

My comment: I wonder if Cyprus was populated by this time, then why Malta considers itself inhabited so much later. It's odd. And yeah, I always wondered when and from where the Hellenic people came from. Wikipedia claim Hellenic people came around 3000 b.c.. There were Thracians on the Balkans during this time. Obviously, those tribes inhabited the southern parts of the peninsula first. Remember how Plato in his famous dialogues that mention Atlantis says that the Greek people are young people. I wonder who are the old people. Note the years mentioned in the article - we're talking about people from 10 000 years ago. Who were they? Seriously....

Prehistoric flute in Germany is oldest known

June 24th, 200

Excavations in the summer of 2008 at the sites of Hohle Fels and Vogelherd produced new evidence for Paleolithic music in the form of the remains of one nearly complete bone flute and isolated small fragments of three ivory flutes.

The most significant of these finds, a nearly complete bone flute, was recovered in the basal Aurignacian deposits at Hohle Fels Cave in the Ach Valley, 20 km west of Ulm. The flute was found in 12 pieces. The fragments were distributed over a vertical distance of 3 cm over a horizontal area of about 10 x 20 cm. This flute is by far the most complete of all of the musical instruments thus far recovered from the caves of Swabia.

The preserved portion of the bone flute from Hohle Fels has a length of 21.8 cm and a diameter of about 8 mm. The flute preserves five finger holes. The surfaces of the flute and the structure of the bone are in excellent condition and reveal many details about the manufacture of the flute. The maker carved two deep, V-shaped notches into one end of the instrument, presumably to form the proximal end of the flute into which the musician blew. The find density in this stratum is moderately high with much flint knapping debris, worked bone and ivory, bones of horse, reindeer, mammoth, cave bear, ibex, as well as burnt bone. No diagnostic human bones have been found in deposits of the Swabian Aurignacian, but we assume that modern humans produced the artifacts from the basal Aurignacian deposits shortly after their arrival in the region following a migration up the Danube Corridor.

The maker of the flute carved the instrument from the radius of a griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus). This species has a wingspan between 230 and 265 cm and provides bones ideal for large flutes. Griffon vultures and other vultures are documented in the Upper Paleolithic sediments of the Swabian caves.

The 2008 excavations at Hohle Fels also recovered two small fragments of what are almost certainly two ivory flutes from the basal Aurignacian. The different dimensions of the fragments indicate that the two finds are not from the same instrument. Excavators at Vogelherd in the Lone Valley 25 km northwest of Ulm recovered another isolated fragment of another ivory flute.

The technology for making an ivory flute is much more complicated than making a flute from a bird bone. This process requires forming the rough shape along the long axis of a naturally curved piece of ivory, splitting it open along one of the bedding plains in the ivory, carefully hollowing out the halves, carving the holes, and then rejoining the halves of the flute with an air-tight seal. Given the tendency of delicate ivory artifacts to break into many pieces, it is not unusual to find isolated pieces of such artifacts.

The 10 radiocarbon dates from the basal Aurignacian fall between 31 and 40 ka BP. Available calibrations and independent controls using other methods indicate that the flutes from Hohle Fels predate 35,000 calendar years ago. Apart from the caves of the Swabian Jura there is no convincing evidence for musical instruments predating 30 ka BP.

These finds demonstrate that music played an important role in Aurignacian life in the Ach and Lone valleys of southwestern Germany. Most of these flutes are from archaeological contexts containing an abundance of organic and lithic artifacts, hunted fauna, and burnt bone. This evidence suggests that the inhabitants of the sites played musical instruments in diverse social and cultural contexts and that flutes were discarded with many other forms of occupational debris. In the case of Hohle Fels, the location of the bone flute in a thin archaeological horizon only 70 cm away from a female figurine of similar age suggests that a possible contextual link exists between these two finds.source

My comment: Ok, I edited one absurd sentence how the music contributed to human expansion versus the more culturally conservative Neanderthals. That's absurd. We just found out that the Neanderthals were intelligent, we have no idea whether they liked music or not. I can't believe people write this and believe themselves. Whatever. Note - the date is 35 000 years ago. That also is closer to the 100 000 years mentioned in the second article. Because the production of this type of flute is more complicated, they maybe had flutes 40 000 years ago. And that is way longer ago than anyone guessed 20 years ago.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Technology of June, 2009- touchable holograms and solar roads

Hi all! Today I have some amazing technology stories. I was fascinated while writing this post, so I hope you enjoy it too. But first, the video of the day:

It's about a new type of ink relying on magnetic nanoparticles to create ANY color when magnetic field is applied to them. Read the article for more info, I personally find it awesome.

Today:

  1. Touchable Hologram Becomes Reality
  2. Atom Pinhole Camera Acts as a Shrinking Copy Machine
  3. These batteries are made for walkin’
  4. Solar Panels Built Into Roads Could Be the Future of Energy
Short stories:
  1. Hybrid remotely operated vehicle 'Nereus' reaches deepest part of the ocean
  2. Researchers study salt's potential to store energy
  3. Mitsubishi rolls out zero-emission electric minicar

Touchable Hologram Becomes Reality (w/ Video)

August 6th, 2009 by Lisa Zyga
(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers from the University of Tokyo have developed 3D holograms that can be touched with bare hands. Generally, holograms can't be felt because they're made only of light. But the new technology adds tactile feedback to holograms hovering in 3D space.

Called the Airborne Ultrasound Tactile Display, the projector uses an ultrasound phenomenon called acoustic radiation pressure to create a pressure sensation on a user's hands, which are tracked with two Nintendo Wiimotes. As the researchers explain, the method doesn't use any direct contact and so doesn't dilute the quality of the hologram.

"A retroreflective marker is attached on the tip of user's middle finger," the researchers explain on their website. "IR LEDs illuminate the marker and two Wiimotes sense the 3D position of the finger. Owing to this hand-tracking system, the users can handle the floating virtual image with their hands."

In the video, the researchers demonstrate how a user can dribble a virtual bouncing ball, feel virtual raindrops bouncing off their hand, and feel a small virtual creature crawling on their palm. The researchers hope that the technology will have applications in video games, 3D CADs, and other uses source
My comment: Nooo, this is absolutely amazing! I urge you to go to the source site and see the video there, because it's great. I won't even discuss the opportunities this method has to offer, you can think of them alone. I just can't wait to see a commercial version of 3d with such sensor. Yay!

Atom Pinhole Camera Acts as a Shrinking Copy Machine

June 1st, 2009 By Lisa Zyga

(PhysOrg.com) --

In pursuit of this goal (machine that can produce nanometer-sized copies of micrometer-sized objects), scientists from the Institute of Spectroscopy, Russian Academy of Sciences have developed a method of using an atom pinhole camera. For the first time, the researchers, along with coauthors from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, have experimentally demonstrated how to use the camera to manufacture an array of identical atomic nanostructures of controlled shapes and sizes. The technique could produce individual nanostructures down to 30 nm, a size reduction of 10,000 times compared with the original object.

As the scientists explain, the atom pinhole camera they designed is based on the idea of an optical pinhole camera, which is often used in optics when creation of a focusing lens is difficult. Instead of light traveling through a lens, light travels through a pinhole on a mask, and creates an inverted image on a substrate on the other side. Optical pinhole cameras can produce high-quality images with high resolution that depends on the diameter of the pinhole.

In an atom pinhole camera, atoms act like photons in an optical pinhole camera, and so the main principles are the same in both versions. In their experimental setup, the scientists used ion beam milling to poke a pinhole in a mask. After the atoms passed through the pinhole, they created an atomic nanostructure on a . As the atom pinhole camera provides a way to replicate micro-sized objects as nano-sized ones, the camera is an example of Feynman’s scalable manufacturing system.

The scientists also created another mask with a large array of pinholes. In this “atom multiple pinhole camera,” each pinhole could generate its own image, which does not intersect with neighboring images. As the scientists noted, a camera with up to 10 million pinholes could open up opportunities for simultaneous generation of large numbers of identical (or diverse) nanostructures.

Using an atom pinhole camera to fabricate nanostructures offers several advantages compared to other nanofabrication techniques, which include optical photolithography (in which a photosensitive material is molded by light), nanolithography (in which focused particle beams mold objects), and atom optics methods that use lenses, which are limited by diffraction.

source

My comment: Ok, that is quite cool for many reasons. But mainly, it really allows you to produce multiple nano-scale structures in the same time. Yeah, maybe you won't be able to produce a complete nano-submarine trough this, but you'll be able to produce basic elements and then to construct whatever you like with them. And that is really exciting. Not to mention what such discoveries mean philosophically. I mean, if you can use ions to make copy of some structures, what if you could use something else to copy yourself?! It's crazy, but you never know where you could go from a discovery, nor how far you could get.

These batteries are made for walkin’

Soldiers on the battlefield and aid workers in remote outposts may soon be able to recharge their mobile phones simply by walking, thanks to a device being developed by Canadian researchers.

The Bionic Energy Harvester attaches to a knee brace, capturing energy with each step. One minute of walking can generate 10 minutes of talk time on a cellphone.

The mechanism works much like the regenerative braking found in some hybrid cars, which capture kinetic energy that would otherwise dissipate as heat to drive a generator.

“Walking is a lot like stop-and-go driving,” says Dr. Donelan. In walking, the knee extends at the end of the stride and the hamstrings flex. The Bionic Energy Harvester helps the muscles slow the knee during the swing phase while capturing the energy. Gear trains drive the generator, altogether producing about 5 watts of electricity with each stride.

The 3-1/2-pound energy harvester only engages for brief moments at the end of the swing phase. “In that way it can produce a substantial amount of energy without adding any additional effort to walking,” says Donelan.

When the researchers tested the device, subjects on a treadmill didn’t notice using any extra exertion when it was turned on. Donelan was surprised to discover, however, that when he turned off the mechanism, the subjects did notice and in fact missed the assistance. “For three or four strides they swung their legs a little faster [than normal].”

Donelan and his team at Bionic Power, a company he set up to develop and sell the device, expect to double the output to 10 watts per step.

Bionic Power plans to deliver a slimmed-down two-pound version of the energy harvester to the Canadian military in June for field testing.

Donelan knows his device provides just a small fraction of the energy humans consume. Global consumption works out to about 10 kilowatts a second per person, he estimates. source

My comment: That is absolutely cool and I'm deeply sorry that first the army would get it. I mean, it's not just people that go in the mountain for weeks that need such stuff. Imagine how useful add-on to your car this could be. Yeah, you can always use your battery to charge your phone, but imagine what happens when your battery is dead, you car is broken and you have to call for help. You only have to walk for few minutes and the phone would be ready. Or imagine how fun this could be-you make your daily routine of walking for 30minutes and you recharge your laptop battery. Or what if you happen to walk a lot during your day (yes, this happen to some people, like me) - the main problem of most modern devices is that their batteries are either too heavy or too weak. What if you could charge all of your devices while you're out doing your business. I also don't think that human electricity could replace other sources-yes, we produce and waste a lot, but not that much. But with new efficiency, maybe we could get pretty close to getting off the grid, at least for electronic devices. And that's SO cool!

Solar Panels Built Into Roads Could Be the Future of Energy

By Adrian Covert Posted 08.27.2009 at 5:45 pm
The Department of Energy just gave $100,000 to upstart company Solar Roadways, to develop 12-by-12-foot solar panels, dubbed "Solar Roads," that can be embedded into roads, pumping power into the grid. The panels may also feature LED road warnings and built-in heating elements that could prevent roads from freezing.

Each Solar Road panel can develop around 7.6 kwh of power each day, and each costs around $7,000. If widely adopted, they could realistically wean the US off fossil fuels: a mile-long stretch of four-lane highway could take 500 homes off the grid. If the entire US Interstate system made use of the panels, energy would no longer be a concern for the country.

In addition, every Solar Road panel has its own microprocessor and energy management system, so if one gives out, the rest are not borked. Materials-wise, the top layer is described as translucent and high-strength. Inhabitat says it's glass, which seems odd, especially since Solar Roadways claims the surface provides excellent traction. The base layer under the solar panel routes the power, as well as data utilities (TV, phone, Internet) to homes and power companies.

Still, this is a ways away from actual implementation, seeing as a prototype has yet to be built. source
My comment: Another absolutely cool thing, although I also want to see one built-I mean if it really is glass, how could it provide the friction needed for the road? This really should be very carefully tested, but if we assume it will work as proposed, then it's very cool. Because on the roads, there is a lot of heat dissipated, also the sun heats them to unbelievable temperatures, so why wasting this? I love the way people started thinking of gathering every piece of energy we produce. This is the right attitude. It's not so much how to stop using energy, as to how to stop wasting it!

Short stories:

Hybrid remotely operated vehicle 'Nereus' reaches deepest part of the ocean

June 2nd, 2009

A new type of deep-sea robotic vehicle called Nereus has successfully reached the deepest part of the world's ocean, reports a team of U.S. engineers and scientists aboard the research vessel Kilo Moana. The dive to 10,902 meters (6.8 miles) occurred on May 31, 2009, at the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific Ocean.

The dive makes Nereus the world's deepest-diving vehicle and the first vehicle to explore the Mariana Trench since 1998.

Nereus's unique hybrid-vehicle design makes it ideally suited to explore the ocean's last frontiers. The unmanned vehicle is remotely operated by pilots aboard a surface ship via a lightweight, micro-thin, fiber-optic tether that allows Nereus to dive deep and be highly maneuverable. Nereus can also be switched into a free-swimming, autonomous vehicle.

On its dive to the Challenger Deep, Nereus spent over 10 hours on the bottom, sending live video back to the ship through its fiber-optic tether and collecting geological and biological samples with its manipulator arm, and placed a marker on the seafloor signed by those onboard the surface ship.

source


Researchers study salt's potential to store energy

June 2nd, 2009 by Renee Meiller

(PhysOrg.com) --

At UW-Madison, researchers see potential for storing heat in a mineral found on kitchen counters and restaurant tables worldwide. They're studying salt.

Heated to temperatures sometimes far exceeding 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, salt liquefies. Despite this red-hot temperature, molten salt can act as both a coolant and as an agent for storing heat.

As a result, salts could gain a foothold in applications ranging from concentrating solar towers and nuclear reactors to oil recovery and biomass breakdown.

Anderson, Sridharan and Todd Allen, a UW-Madison engineering physics assistant professor, have been studying molten salt for about five years.

Similar to table salt, molten salt starts as pea-sized granules. The researchers are working with a salt that melts at around 220 degrees Fahrenheit, and one goal is to find salts that melt at low temperatures, but are still stable up to very high temperatures.

Applied to solar-energy towers, molten salt in the collector heats up as sunlight focuses on it. An exchanger converts heat in the salt into steam or a high-temperature gas, which spins a turbine for generating electricity. In nuclear energy, liquid salts are more versatile, acting as a coolant to strip heat from the fuel and generate electricity or serve as an environmentally friendly form of high-temperature process heat for chemical and industrial products. In addition, molten salt is useful in an electrochemical process for separating nuclear waste, enabling nuclear power plants to recycle fuel components.

For oil extraction, some companies are studying the feasibility of more environmentally friendly in-ground refineries, where they could use the heat in molten salt from a power plant to super-heat the earth around oil shale. "They can actually heat up the oil shale and try to remove the valuable petroleum products deep in the ground, without having to disrupt the surface by digging down and processing the oil shale above ground," says Anderson.

The researchers also are studying how high-temperature sodium chloride can break down biomass to form syngas, a synthetic natural gas that forms the basis for bio-petroleum products. source

Mitsubishi rolls out zero-emission electric minicar

  • Posted on - Fri Jun 5, 2009 12:05PM EDT
TOKYO (AFP) -The new "i-MiEV" -- short for Mitsubishi Innovative Electric Vehicle -- can seat four adults, emits no carbon dioxide and has a range of up to 160 kilometers (100 miles) on a fully-charged battery.

The distance should be enough for day-to-day city driving in Japan, said company president Osamu Masuko, who added that the automaker was initially targeting corporate and government clients.

Mistubishi says the car, priced at 4.6 million yen (47,500 dollars), runs quietly but accelerates quickly, and the running cost is one third of that of a petrol-powered car -- or less if it is charged during off-peak hours.

Because of its efficiency -- including converting braking energy into battery power -- the vehicle emits only one third of the CO2 of a petrol car when the electricity generated to recharge it at a power plant is factored in.

The battery can be charged overnight on a domestic power source, or it can be powered up through quick-chargers now being developed by power companies, Mitsubishi said.

source

Friday, 4 September 2009

Fun from the past, June 2009-ancient dentists and mercury pollution in Peru

Read here for an interesting article on the crystal skulls of the Maya (and what amazed me-elephant masks in some cruel games-where on earth did they know what an elephant is???)

  1. Ancient Gem-Studded Teeth Show Skill of Early Dentists
  2. Mercury Pollution's Oldest Traces Found in Peru
  3. Fire and water reveal true age of ancient relics
  4. Space rock yields answers about origins of life on Earth
Short stories:
  1. Rare burial ritual identified in Iran's Sialk
  2. A million-year-old mammoth skeleton found in Serbia: report

Ancient Gem-Studded Teeth Show Skill of Early Dentists

jeweled teeth (grills) picture



May 18, 2009—

Ancient peoples of southern North America 2500 years ago went to "dentists"—among the earliest known—to beautify their chompers with notches, grooves, and semiprecious gems, according to a recent analysis of thousands of teeth examined from collections in Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (such as the skull above, found in Chiapas, Mexico).

Scientists don't know the origin of most of the teeth in the collections, which belonged to people living throughout the region, called Mesoamerica.

But it's clear that people—mostly men—from nearly all walks of life opted for the look, noted José Concepción Jiménez, an anthropologist at the institute, which recently announced the findings.

"They were not marks of social class" but instead meant for pure decoration, he commented in an e-mail interview conducted in Spanish.

In fact, the royals of the day—such as the Red Queen, a Maya mummy found in a temple at Palenque in what is now Mexico—don't have teeth decorations, Jiménez said.

The early dentists used a drill-like device with a hard stone such as obsidian, which is capable of puncturing bone.

"It's possible some type of [herb based] anesthetic was applied prior to drilling to blunt any pain," Jiménez said.

The ornamental stones—including jade—were attached with an adhesive made out of natural resins, such as plant sap, which was mixed with other chemicals and crushed bones, Jiménez said.

The dentists likely had a sophisticated knowledge of tooth anatomy, Jiménez added. For example, they knew how to drill into teeth without hitting the pulp inside, he said.

source

My comment: Ok, what I really don't understand is that how they decided this was done for decoration. If the queen didn't have it, then it's either something only men do, or it wasn't any decoration at all. The "dentist" was a dentist and s/he was fixing the teeth of those people. Because obviously there were dental cavities even back then. I don't understand why people tend to simplify so much our past. Yes, it could be decoration as well, but it could be religious stuff too. Or it could be a mark of some achievement. Who knows. What I find extremely amazing is that the dentist knew how not to hurt the nerve and how to do a mixture that will keep the teeth healthy. That's the real discovery. The other stuff are just speculations.

My comment:

Mercury Pollution's Oldest Traces Found in Peru

John Roach
May 18, 2009

Demand for the mercury compound vermilion was strong enough to support a large-scale mercury mining industry in the Andes as far back as 1400 B.C., according to a new study.

A bright red pigment, vermilion was used in ancient Andean rituals and is frequently found adorning gold and silver ceremonial objects in ancient burials of kings and nobles in South America.

The find extends the record of New World mercury production back by more than 2,000 years and provides the first evidence of preindustrial mercury pollution, said geologist Colin Cooke, a Ph.D. student at Canada's University of Alberta and lead author of the study.

Mercury, a toxic heavy metal used to extract silver and gold from ore in a process called amalgamation, comes from the mineral cinnabar, which is crushed to make vermilion pigment.

Historical records kept by colonists from Spain, which ruled Peru from the 16th to 19th centuries, show that, by the late 16th century, liquid mercury was widely used to extract silver—one of the colonial economy's mainstays—from ore in the Andes.

Increasing levels of mercury pollution in sediments from two nearby lakes indicated the ancient mercury mining. The mining had started long before the Chavín culture—which Cooke described as "the cradle of complex Andean culture"—peaked, between 800 B.C. and 400 B.C. in central Peru.

The new study suggests that both mining and metallurgy might spur the rise of complex society. Preferential access to exotic goods such as cinnabar and gold would have supported the rise of early leaders, Cooke said.

The Chavín, and later the Inca, covered themselves in vermilion for ceremonial purposes, Burger said. The pigment was also used to decorate gold objects such as burial masks.

By 1450, long after the Chavín had collapsed and as the Incas were expanding their reach, levels of mercury pollution in the lakes had spiked more than tenfold and the type of pollution recorded there shifted from cinnabar dust to mercury vapor, Cooke's study shows.

This suggests the mercury was being heated, though it's unclear why.

Cooke said there is no evidence that the Inca were using mercury as part of the silver or gold extraction process. Rather, he said, they may have been experimenting with how to produce vermilion paint more efficiently.

But Burger believes the shift from dust to vapor likely correlates with the transition to colonial mining practices, which included smelting, even though the radiocarbon dates suggest that transition happened about a century before Spanish arrival. "Radiocarbon dates are really not sufficiently precise to distinguish between the late Inca and the early colonial," Burger said.

The three-millennia-long mercury mining tradition at Huancavelica—including a 450-year colonial history that earned the mine its nickname Mina de la Muerte (Mine of Death)—has likely left behind a poisonous legacy in this central Peruvian highland region, Cooke believes.
source

My comment: Ok, I suggest your read this article in original, since it's extremely interesting, but also quite long. I shortened it a great deal, cutting some very interesting parts and I guess I made it little bit unclear on parts. Anyway, I'd like to point out some very interesting moments. First, people actually knew how to use mercury to extract ore 2500 years ago. I find this quite astonishing. What did western civilization do at that time? Ok, this question has a complicated answer, but do you realise how far back in time this is? How did the learn about this process?! And why the hell did they need all this gold. Which of course reminds me of the Thracian gold that has probably the same age, I wonder where did the take all that gold from.

The other thing which I find very interesting is that they painted themselves in one of the most dangerous neuro-toxins. I don't know what the concentration of mercury was, but it should have had profound effects on the people using it. And it should have killed a lot of them! Then why did they use it?! Very very interesting!

Fire and water reveal true age of ancient relics

Fire and water are all that is needed to unlock the internal clocks' of archaeological remains and accurately reveal their age, say scientists. The research, published online today in Proceedings of the Royal Society A, will help archaeologists date remains that are thousands of years old, and also reveal where other techniques go wrong.

Dating methods are of paramount importance in the earth and environmental sciences, palaeontology, archaeology, and art history. Fired clay material such as bricks, tile and ceramics represent an important sample of the remains unearthed at archaeological digs, but they are notoriously hard to date accurately. Carbon 14 dating, which can be used on bone, does not work with ceramics, and those techniques that do exist are extremely complex.

Now a team of scientists from the Universities of Manchester and Edinburgh have found a surprisingly simple way to get around this issue.

From the moment they are fired, ceramics begin to absorb moisture from the environment which causes them to gain mass. Using a technique they call rehydroxilation dating' researchers led by Dr Moira Wilson from the University of Manchester found that heating a sample of the relic to extreme temperatures causes this process to be reversed all the moisture it has gained since it was fired is lost again.

The more weight a sample loses during heating, the more moisture there was to start with, and so the older the relic. After heating, Wilson and her team used an extremely accurate measuring device to monitor the sample as it began to recombine with moisture in the atmosphere. They then used a law to predict how long it would take for all the water lost in heating to be reabsorbed, and so reveal the true age of the sample.

To test their new technique the scientists teamed up with the Museum of London and tried it out on samples of know age. They successfully dated brick samples from the Roman, medieval and modern periods, and the method was so accurate that it looks to become the way in which such artefacts are dated in the future, according to Wilson.

So far, the technique has been used with specimens that are as much as 2000 years old, but has the potential to be used on much older artefacts, says Wilson, even those dating back 10,000 years.

What's more, the technique has revealed a flaw in previous dating verdicts. When clay objects are submitted to extreme temperatures, and moisture removed, this internal clock' is reset. That means that objects that have been subjected to extreme heat, such as those dating back to the WWII Blitz are often, in truth, much older.

. source
My comment: Ok I know most people wouldn't appreciate this, but I just had to put it in the spotlight, because if this new method is that good, it could really change the face of archaeology, since ceramics are often all we get from an ancient culture. With the one big exclusion, that probably cities that were objects of great fires, maybe will date earlier than they should, but I guess this is a risk that we have to take. But the technique is so simple, it's beautiful! They only have to test different materials and ways to do ceramics, to check their law is precise enough.

Space rock yields answers about origins of life on Earth

June 3rd, 2009 By Wanda Vivequin

(PhysOrg.com) -- Formic acid, a compound implicated in the origins of life, has been found at record levels on a meteorite that fell onto a frozen Canadian lake in 2000.

The U of A scientist found levels of formic acid that were four times higher than had previously been recorded on a meteorite. Formic acid is one of a group of compounds dubbed "organics" because they are rich in carbon. This compound is also commonly associated with ants and bees because of its presence in their venom.

Herd said the delivery of formic acid and other carboxylic acids to the early Earth by meteorites like the one that fell on Tagish Lake in northern British Columbia would have provided the components needed for life, especially the fatty acids that are an important part of cell walls.

He said the ultimate source of formic acid may be interstellar space as this and related compounds have been observed astronomically in cold, molecular clouds as well as in comets. source


My comment: Ok, just a little comment on this. I don't get why people continue this race to decide whether the source of life-compounds is Earth or Space. I think that there were plenty of experiments already that proved that organic molecules are easy to obtain both on Earth and in Space. Then what is the news here-for me, only that organic molecules are very widely spread. I think there was news recently that they observed such molecules in a nebula or other space object. Then, what are we discussing at all? Life is universal! Accept it and mover forward.

Rare burial ritual identified in Iran's Sialk
Mon, 11 May 2009 09:54:54 GMT

Archeologists have discovered a mysterious burial ritual performed 9,000 years ago in Iran's Sialk Mound located in the center of the country.

“In this 9,000-year-old practice, four bodies were burned at a heat of 400 to 700 degrees. The ash and remains of the bodies were then buried in a jar,” said Hassan Fazeli, the director of Iran's Archeology Research Center.

“A burial ritual encompassing burning has never been observed in Iran,” he claimed. “It makes the rare discovery of great importance.”

The Sialk Mound, located in the city of Kashan, is believed to be the origin of human technology, industry and religious thought in Iran. source
Zoran Markovic of Serbia's Nature museum said the skeleton "is extremely well preserved, with only a slightly damaged skull.

A million-year-old mammoth skeleton found in Serbia: report

June 3rd, 2009
A finely preserved skeleton of a mammoth, believed to be one million years old, was uncovered near an archaeological site in eastern Serbia, local media reported on Wednesday.

"We believe the skeleton is about one million years old, based on the layers of the grounds where it has been found," Markovic told B92 television.

Experts estimated that the mammoth was over four metres tall (13 feet), possibly weighing up to 10 tonnes.

The animal could have died near the Danube on its way from northern Africa and to southern Europe, B92 reported. source