1. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    The Piltdown Man forgery was revisited using modern forensic techniques.

    Researchers applying modern forensic techniques to a century-old puzzle have laid bare intriguing new details about one of the most notorious scientific hoaxes on record, the so-called Piltdown Man, and are confident in the culprit’s identity.
    The phony fossil remains of a “missing link” between apes and humans, planted in gravel near the English village of Piltdown, were concocted using the jawbone and teeth from a single orangutan, two or three sets of old human remains and the liberal use of dental putty, the researchers said on Wednesday.
    They said their findings left little doubt the perpetrator was amateur archaeologist Charles Dawson, who in 1912 “discovered” the first of the bogus Piltdown remains and has long been the chief suspect.
    The study, using DNA analyses, high-precision measurements, spectroscopy and other techniques, was published in the journal Royal Society Open Science on the 100th anniversary of Dawson’s death…
    DNA analysis showed the original “discovery” and a second set of remains announced by Dawson included teeth, filed down to make them appear human, and a lower jaw from a single orangutan, mostly likely from southwestern Sarawak, Borneo.
    Remains from two or perhaps three possibly medieval humans were used to make up the forged cranial fossils, using the same part of the back of the skull, anthropologist Isabelle De Groote of Liverpool John Moores University said.
    Skull holes were filled with putty, which also was employed to reset the teeth in the jaw and reconstruct one of the teeth.
    The fact a single orangutan specimen was used in both sets of remains implicates Dawson, the only person associated with both, Stringer said. There was also a consistent modus operandi in the concoction of the two sets, indicating a single forger, Stringer said.
    Experts suspect Dawson’s motives were winning fame and recognition from the scientific community. A recent analysis of Dawson’s collection of fossils and antiques revealed other forgeries.


  2. says

    A rat quintet! Amazing how some scientist using massive drugs doses have propelled rats up the intelligence ladder! They’ll be right up there with the roaches and robots waiting to take over what remains of the planet after the climtageddon hits…

  3. amstrad says

    Has anyone read: Death from a Distance and the Birth of a Humane Universe: Human Evolution, Behavior, History, and Your Future. Paul M. Bingham, Joanne Souza

    It describes a theory that what makes us human is our ability to inexpensively manage conspecific conflicts of interests via coercive threats. Initially through thrown weapons. Everything else about our culture, society and evolved human behavior falls out from this one “trick”.

    I’ve read it and it sounds compelling. I’m looking for other thoughts/objections to the theory.

  4. lepidoptera says

    New York farm creates “Super Mario Bros.” themed corn maze.

    Tim Stoughton told ABC News the nearly eight acre farm has presented a different theme every year since 2005.

    “My wife, Deb, decides the theme,” he said. “She just liked the idea of the Mario brothers because everybody pretty much knows what they are and it’d be fun for the kids to see.”

    According to Stoughton, they use grids to create the images and lay it all out on the field before the corn is too tall to see over.

    “We wanted something big to do, to keep us profitable and keep the place running,” he said.

  5. F.O. says

    Can anyone suggest material/resources regarding the teaching of critical thinking / higher-order thinking and such?
    (Not too fond of either terms, TBH, both lack focus on understanding one’s own errors, not other’s).
    Is it teachable at all?

  6. F.O. says

    @amstrad #5: Not entirely sure what that means. Could any other animal do that? It seems like several social animals could.

  7. Rowan vet-tech says

    My current batch of bottle baby kittens are 10 days old today. I also watched overnight a 10 week old kitten who is so emaciated she cannot stand. Yesterday was a clusterfuck and because this kitten was willing to eat the vet decided to try to save her. Too much death yesterday.

  8. amstrad says

    @F.O. #8: Many other animals gang up on individual freeloaders, but with melee combat it’s 1 on 1, or at best 3 on 1. The fatality risk cost associated to an individual in the coercive group is too high and the chance of successful coercion too low. With thrown weapons, the number of individuals in the coercive group that can simultaneously apply pressure goes up an order of magnitude based on the radius of the group around the outcast.

    No other animal can accurately throw weapons.

  9. Rich Woods says

    @amstrad #11:

    No other animal can accurately throw weapons.

    But plenty have got to grips with other forms of projectile weapons. Could the theory be extended to archerfish or spitting cobras? OK, maybe not, since to the best of my knowledge they aren’t social species. But then doesn’t language turn out to be our best trick? Why take the risk of violent escalation by chucking rocks when you can negotiate, yell socailly humiliating abuse or simply lie?

  10. Rich Woods says

    ‘Socially’. My clumsy fingers can’t even work a keyboard let alone throw a spear in a straight line. In the right straight line.

  11. magistramarla says

    Rowan vet-tech @ #9
    Last month our grandson brought me an injured baby kitten. The grandson is a lifeguard at our local pool. While picnicking on the hill next to the pool a family found the tiny grey and white kitten hanging by her right front leg between two wooden slats of the fence. No one knows how she got there or how long she was hanging there. The theory is that she was trying to follow mamma cat and couldn’t get over the fence.
    The family took her to the concession stand and some of the lifeguards cared for her. They found a red, white and blue towel in lost & found, named her G.I. Jane (because she’s a trooper) and carried her around while giving her bits of beef jerky. My grandson told them that he would give her to his Grandma, since she knows a lot about cats.
    After I picked her up from the pool, my first stop was to see a neighbor who rescues feral cats. The kitten was so emaciated that we both thought that she would need a feeding bottle. She equipped me with a bottle and formula. We tried splinting the leg until I could get her to the vet.
    When I tried to feed Gigi (shortened name), she bit right through the nipple. She was obviously older than she appeared, and happily started eating wet kitten food and then kitten kibble. My vet determined that the leg wasn’t broken, but there was nerve damage. We tried a few weeks of steroids, but she still drags the leg. He has decided that when he spays her, he will also amputate that right front leg.
    After a month at our house she’s growing and gaining weight quite well. Leia, my one year old female Lynx Point, has decided that she is now a Mommy and hates to be separated from “her baby”. My husband’s 11 year old Maine Coon named Dax is doing his Pappa Dax bit and can be found curled up with Gigi, grooming her. My elderly 13 year old Flame Point tolerates her, but that’s about it. My sweet German Shepherd desperately wants to be friends, but the kitten doesn’t trust him yet, even though she sees Mamma Leia curled up with him on his bed. She has certainly settled into the household, so I guess we now have four cats.

  12. birgerjohansson says

    Reposted: The first catalogue from the Gaia astrometric satellite should arrive by September. Expect LOTS of exoplanets and quasars.
    — —- —
    Nothing much has happened in Sweden, which I suppose is good news of a kind. The country keeps shrinking, since the highest point is a mountain glacier.
    It is getting cold at night again, I have started buying Xmas gifts to avoid the December stress.

  13. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    For the Space aficionados, Friday morning two American ISS astronauts will be installing IDA2 on the ISS. Televised on NASA TV starting at 6:30 am ET. This will allow ULA and SpaceX capsules, and any other countries compatible capsules, to dock, rather than berth, to the station.
    The end result of docking and berthing are the same, but berthing has only the ISS side active (used for CRS missions from American companies) which requires ISS crew time, whereas with docking, the capsule is the more active unit, which results in minimal involvement by the ISS crew.
    IDA3 will be launched and installed (at the moment) in early 2018. At that time, ULA and SpaceX could launch crewed missions to the ISS.

  14. carlie says

    F.O.: there’s a site called ENSIWEB that has teaching modules on the scientific method and critical thinking (and other things as well). It would be a good place to start. It has been around forever, so forgive it its Geocities style.

    My cat has stupid fleas. Over 20 years of cat ownership and we’ve never had fleas. Zero idea where they came from. Treated her yesterday and combed a bunch out of her fur today that were alive, but I assume in bad enough shape to not be able to jump away (hence the high number caught). Did tons of washing and vacuuming and such yesterday, lots more today. Child 1 leaves for college on Sunday, so I’m hoping his stuff is not contaminated. Plan to bag it all and put it in the car in the sun for a couple of days first to kill off any stowaways, although the weather is getting cooler this week so I’m not entirely sure. Also got a scary growth inhibitor spray from the vet that is getting used judiciously in the most common cat areas. I don’t know how anyone can really believe in a good God and in parasites at the same time.

    Some of the rats appear to be eating their instruments.

    They’re just bad actors, chewing the scenery.

  15. Rowan vet-tech says

    @magistramarla, congratulations on your new kitty and thankyou for rescuing it!

  16. says

    Well, I’m a little sad. Just watched the final few episodes of Assassination Classroom. I kept waiting for something that never happened. Good anime. Really good.

  17. archangelospumoni says

    Drumpfh Haiku time, please. Some of these shamelessly plagiarized, but a little better than the newest Drumpfh spouse’s speech:

    Little fingers grasp
    Hateful straw sinking with him
    Fetid bubbles now

    Drumpfh is really pissed:
    “Ferret-wearing shitgibbon–
    Swim in the Firth of Clyde”

    Cheeto Jesus mad
    Press replays Drumpfhspeak as said
    Stinky bubbles pop.

    Drumph is cockwomble
    incompressible jizztrumpet
    Scots say “fucknugget!”

    Cheeto Jesus mad
    Media plays back his tapes
    Shitgibbon REALLY pissed off!

    Don’t worry Donald
    The world already knows that
    Trump means “massive dick”

    A con man at heart:
    Knows value of a dollar
    But he has no cents.

  18. birgerjohansson says

    timgueguen, judging by the geographical location of the giant (Afghanistan) it was likely a western yeti or a striped pygmy Balrog rather than a true giant.
    — — — — — — —
    The comments section is fantastic. There is a guy stating the Smithsonian is hiding skeletons of giants (nephilim),
    (they have things like that warehoused in big wooden crates, waiting to be evaluated by Top Men.)

  19. birgerjohansson says

    The veep candidate of Drumpf is on record saying condoms are “too modern”. But aren’t condoms -or at least the principle-going back quite far? Is he demanding kerosene-powered condoms?

  20. birgerjohansson says

    Mano Singham has discovered where Trump got his inspiration.
    (Rowan Atkinson begins a few seconds in)

  21. blf says

    [A]ren’t condoms going back quite far?

    Yes. From memory, some Roman-era condoms were found in / near London(?) some years ago, made from (as I now recall) animal intestines. My (extremely vague) recollection is this was the first(? only?) time actual specimens had been found, until then their existence was both disputed and interfered.

    Ye Pfffft! of All Knowlegde doesn’t seem to mention this, saying only “The oldest condoms ever excavated were found in a cesspit located in the grounds of Dudley Castle and were made from animal membrane, the condoms dated back to as early as 1642”, but acknowledging “[t]he history of condoms goes back at least several centuries, and perhaps beyond.”

    Having said that, the modern condom is only c.100 years old.

  22. blf says

    Traces of sun storms locked in tree rings could confirm ancient historical dates:

    A new science, astrochronology, could finally fix precise dates for key events in prehistory using traces of violent solar storms preserved by trees

    Archaeologists believe they have identified a new way of putting accurate dates to great events of prehistory. Rare and spectacular storms on the sun appear to have left their mark in forests and fields around the planet over the past 5,000 years.

    Michael Dee, of Oxford University’s research laboratory for archaeology and the history of art, thinks evidence of such solar storms could help put precise years to some of the great uncertainties of history: the construction of Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza, the collapse of the ancient Mayan civilisation in Central America, and perhaps even the arrival of the Vikings in the Americas.
    In 2012, the Japanese scientist Fusa Miyake identified a dramatically raised level of C-14 in one set of growth rings that is known to date from 775AD. Since then, what the Oxford team call a second Miyake event — a consequence of a catastrophic extraterrestrial discharge of energy — has been identified from the year 994AD.

    Dee and his co-author Benjamin Pope propose a new science, astrochronology, to harness this solar storm evidence, in an article in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A . The technique could very precisely tie so-called “floating chronologies” of ancient Egypt, Mayan civilisation or the bronze age to fixed dates in the universal calendar. The Mayan day numbering system spans a thousand years and is well established — but researchers have so far been unable to tie any event in that to any date in the Gregorian calendar of Europe.

    “In fact, the earliest truly fixable date in the Americas is still taken to be the arrival of Columbus in 1492,” the authors write.

    Where checks have been made on tree rings, these have been on a decadal basis — which is why no-one noticed the rare single-year anomalies of the past. Such celestial violence may also have been witnessed: the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records an eerie “red crucifix” in the sky in 774AD. Another spectacular solar storm in 1859 [the Carrington Event –blf] led to aurorae visible in Hawaii and the Caribbean.

    The scientists propose cutting-edge mathematical techniques to re-examine all the existing data and identify hints of more possible solar storm spikes.

  23. Saad says

    How come interracial couples in modern, otherwise progressive TV shows are almost always black man-white woman?

    Is it because showing a black character married to a white woman raises his status and showing a white man married to a black woman would lower his?

  24. blf says

    How come interracial couples in modern, otherwise progressive TV shows are almost always black man-white woman?

    I have no idea if that is true(-ish?) or not, but just eyeballing the list 14 Interracial Couples on TV that Broke Stereotypes in 2015 I’m not immediately convinced that’s the case. However, for assorted reasons, I didn’t try to count; and I have no idea how representative that list is of “TV” (presumably in the USA) in general (it’s more-or-less just the first thing found in a quick search…).

  25. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    As an addendum to my #17, those who would like to see the six to eight hour spacewalk compressed into 8 minutes, NASA has provided an animation of tasks that will be accomplished.

    “Spacewalk” sounds like something that happens when astronauts decide to toke up and go off script, but in reality it’s a precisely orchestrated set of maneuvers that mission control times down to the minute. To appreciate just how much planning goes into an operation like this, you can check out NASA’s eight minute-long “teaser trailer” of the upcoming August 19th spacewalk:

    Link. Scroll down for the video. I don’t see much enjoying the view of the Earth time.

  26. Menyambal says

    Lepidoptera, thanks for that link. I’ve had a few critters hitch rides with me, but never a duck.

    Saad, I don’t know about TV’s choices, but almost every black/white couple in what passes for real life around Springfield, Missouri, is a black man with a white woman. There’s such a couple across the street from my house, and there were several taking their kids in to the first day of school this morning. It’s almost a cliché, because white man/black woman couples almost never happen, while the other case happens much more than chance would allow – it isn’t from folks being colorblind.

  27. Rowan vet-tech says

    :D *happy dances* So so so… little Britney, my emaciated foster kitten, can today now stand with her belly off the ground if I position her hind legs for her and she can pull herself sternal and turn herself over AND she CRAWLED TO ME! This is her third night in my care. The first night she could only move her head!

  28. Saad says

    Menyambal, #49

    I didn’t think about that. In my experience too, black man-white woman couples are far more common than the other way around.

  29. Saad says

    India’s Gulabi Gang, a group of women activists who fight against patriarchy, child marriages, domestic abuse and other human rights issues

    They dress in all pink and carry sticks as a symbol and means of defense. I wish them lots of success. I’m pretty sure they face a ton of opposition and disapproval from men all over the country. We need such a group across the border in Pakistan too.

    Known as the Gulabi Gang or Pink Gang, it has just inspired two films – a documentary and a full-length feature film which captures the collective imagination.

    “Yes, we fight rapists with lathis [sticks]. If we find the culprit, we thrash him black and blue so he dare not attempt to do wrong to any girl or a woman again,” boasts Sampat Devi Pal, the group’s founder and head.

    Devi first discovered the power of the stick in the 1980s when she used it against a neighbour who abused his wife.

    Devi’s model of delivering alternative justice inspired a movement that now boasts of a network of 400,000 women – dressed in pink sarees and all wielding a stick – across 11 districts of India’s largest province of Uttar Pradesh.

    From fighting violence against women, preventing child marriages, arranging weddings of couple in love despite local resistance, to ensuring delivery of basic rights for the poorest of poor, the Gulabi Gang’s vision is to ‘protect the powerless from abuse and fight corruption’ has found easy resonance across much of India’s hinterland, blighted by unending reports of sex crimes and gang rapes.

    “When a woman seeks the membership of Gulabi Gang, it is because she has suffered injustice, has been oppressed and does not see any other recourse,” says Suman Singh, the group’s deputy commander, from Mahoba district. “All our women can stand up to the men and if need be seek retribution through lathis,” she adds.

    [. . .]

    It is against this background that Devi and her vigilante group had their tasks cut out. The sticks are an integral part of the gang’s identity.

    When an incidence of crime, corruption or malpractice is brought to their notice, the group seeks redress through dialogues, rallies and hunger strikes. But when nothing works, their sticks do the trick.

    That’s awesome. I bet whenever the sticks are put to use, men all over cry out “but violence is bad!!!1”

  30. parrothead says

    This is of course opinion, but of the greatest married couples on TV one would have to include Wash and Zoe from Firefly (white man/ black woman). Fox actually had argued against them being married but the producer didn’t relent.

    I am a leaf on the wind…

  31. Jake Harban says

    Today is an asspicious day. (I’d write “auspicious” properly, but with a Firefly reference in #53 just above, I couldn’t resist.)

    Today is the day that I finally qualified for disability benefits! *woo* *fireworks*

    So I went in to learn exactly what “benefits” I had successfully qualified for and learned that I would now receive: Fuck all.

    OK, technically a phone call from someone who was planning to look into whether any benefits were offered and if I could receive them.

    But basically, after a lengthy process, I was shunted to the autism division of the disability benefits office where an autism specialist who knows his shit about autism and autism related services asked me what I needed. I told him what I needed. And he responded with: “Well, we’ve never heard that before.” Apparently, the autism division of the disability benefits office has two major categories of benefits for autistic people. Category (1) covers people who are only barely disabled and need a few minor accommodations to live normal lives. Category (2) covers people who are severely disabled (as in, basic self-care is sort of the limit of what they can do), who have absolutely no expectation of ever living normally and just need the sort of “accommodations” that allow them to remain alive in spite of their disability.

    The idea that I was (essentially) disabled enough to fall into Category (2) “Basic self-care but not much else” yet wanted to live an ordinary life? This was a strange thing that caught him completely by surprise. Apparently, my kind of people usually come in with advocates to speak on their behalf, and even when they do speak for themselves, they never express a desire for Ideas Above Their Station, like jobs and houses and fulfilling lives not spent locked away in darkened rooms.

    For what it’s worth, the meeting actually started very well. I’ve been infantilized before, but this guy was instantly and entirely willing to treat me as an adult— I actually showed up with my father since I can’t drive, but he never so much as said a word to my father; he asked me about why I was here, listened to me, ushered me into his office, and expressed not the slightest bit of surprise when Dad remained in the waiting room.

    He asked for a full account of my problems, asked detailed and relevant questions, and just seemed to be completely on top of everything. Then I asked him exactly what sort of benefits, accommodations, and treatments might be available. He said: “I don’t know. I mean, an autistic person who knows how to do everything a neurotypical can, but doesn’t have the spoons to do any of it? I don’t doubt anything you said, but I’ve never heard of it before and I don’t know if there’s anything that can be done.” He promised he’d ask some other people (remember, this is the official autism specialist person) and get back to me.

    But then he started spouting the “neurodiversity” claptrap.

    I expressed my disappointment with the lack of solutions on offer; I mentioned exactly how much misery my disability has inflicted. In the process, I referred to my disability as a “defect” because it damn well is.

    And then came the tirade about how the fact that I can’t function isn’t a bad thing, it’s just who I am and maybe I should learn to be happy with myself instead of seeking a cure.

    So thank you Mr. Neurotypical Person for explaining to me how all of my goals, aspirations, hopes, and dreams are invalid because those are for neurotypical people and I should learn to “accept who I am” by throwing them away in exchange for goals that are appropriate for The Disableds like, what exactly? Showering everyday? Remaining biologically alive for an average of 72 years? Unless there are some cures or treatments on offer, I’ll never be able to accomplish anything or do anything I can be proud of, so unless I have a spontaneous heart attack or throw myself in front of a truck I’ll be forced to spend the rest of my life in a living hell of incapacitation while a bunch of “neurodiversity” fuckwits claim to speak on my behalf, insisting that were I capable of making my opinion more widely heard I would say that I enjoy being disabled, that I consider it to be a harmless personality quirk and an important part of my identity, that I’d rather die than be offered a cure.

    And when I do manage to make my opinions heard in a forum frequented by people who don’t deny the existence of my disability outright or label it a choice or a moral failure, I’m immediately confronted by people like Vivec who dismiss my plight out of hand with a simple: “Oh, I’ve been convinced by the ‘no-cure’ camp.”

    Of course you fucking have. The “neurodiversity” whackjobs who believe autism shouldn’t be cured consist of people who aren’t disabled. Which is why they can become activists who make their opinions widely known. Us disabled folks with no spoons don’t have enough spoons to make ourselves widely heard. Because how can a few brief spurts of verbosity on someone else’s blog where I’m already established compete against the sort of activist base none of us have the spoons to organize?

    Hell, maybe I’ll get lucky. According to the Infallible Font of Knowledge that is Wikipedia, autistic people can, in rare cases, experience spontaneous cures or remissions. I know I had a remission of sorts that lasted for many years; if I could pass for neurotypical then, maybe I’ll be able to again someday.

  32. lepidoptera says

    Jake Harban @ 54 – I’m sorry to hear that you are having so many issues. I hope things go more smoothly for you soon.

  33. Ice Swimmer says

    The North of Finland is fairly sparsely populated. The following long (and to some extent boring) video will show you what it can be like.

    This link will consume a lot of time and bandwidth: From Kemijärvi to Kelloselkä by train

    It’s a bit more than two hours long Youtube video taken from a locomotive. I have nothing to do with the video myself, nor do I know any of the people involved in this. I have a reason to believe that the train is a museum train. The time of photography isn’t given but it must be in autumn* 2009. The railway is no longer in use now. It is roughly an west to east journey and I think the elevation is higher in the middle part.

    Kemijärvi is town by the eponymous lake and Kelloselkä is a village in the municipality of Salla, by the Russian border.
    * = Autumnn comes early there. It can even be September or October, not sure.

  34. Ice Swimmer says

    Jake Harban @ 54

    Seconding lepidoptera, I hope the things go better for you in the future.

    Saad @ 52

    No functional and equitable justice system => vengeance.

    Me @ 57

    Actually the train isn’t likely to be a museum train, because the locomotive is dirty, the number of the train is in the range used for freight trains and the sound and looks of the locomotive correspond best to type Dv12 and no museum locomotive was a Dv12 at the time (all in use except for one that was scrapped after a fire).

  35. blf says

    (How the heck do you get a picture to embed?)

    Please, no, don’t. Amongst other issues, doing so slows things down for no particularly good reason.

    E.g., I have serious performance issues with both my connection and my computer, and really detest gratuitous time-wasters (including those idiotic picture-thingies by people’s handles: The only thing they contribute is to my annoyance).

  36. blf says

    An apparently new, possibly pre-conquestslaughter, and extremely probably genuine, Mayan codex has been found, Hidden codex may reveal secrets of life in Mexico before Spanish conquest:

    Hi-tech imaging has revealed exceptionally rare manuscript overlaid by 16th-century deerhide document held at Oxford University

    One of the rarest manuscripts in the world has been revealed hidden beneath the pages of an equally rare but later Mexican codex, thanks to hi-tech imaging techniques.

    The Codex Selden, a book of concertina-folded pages made out of a five-metre strip of deerhide, is one of a handful of illustrated books of history and mythology that survived wholesale destruction by Spanish conquerors and missionaries in the 16th century.

    Researchers using hyperspectral imaging […] discovered the underlying images hidden beneath a layer of gesso, a plaster made from ground gypsum and chalk, without damaging the priceless later manuscript.

    The underlying images must be older than the codex on top, which is believed to have been made about 1560 […].

    The codex is one of fewer than 20 dating from before or just after the colonisation […]

  37. blf says

    More ancient texts, this time being made much more accessible, Ancient Egyptian works to be published together in English for first time (edits by The Grauniad in {curly braces}):

    There has been a tendency to see the writings as mere decoration, says UK academic who translated them for book

    Ancient Egyptian texts written on rock faces and papyri are being brought together for the general reader for the first time after a Cambridge academic translated the hieroglyphic writings into modern English.

    Until now few people beyond specialists have been able to read the texts, many of them inaccessible within tombs. While ancient Greek and Roman texts are widely accessible in modern editions, those from ancient Egypt have been largely overlooked, and the civilisation is most famous for its monuments.

    And, I would suggest, wall-paintings and sculptures (and mummies), and perhaps models / figurines, but that is a quibble.

    Toby Wilkinson said he had decided to begin work on the anthology because there was a missing dimension in how ancient Egypt was viewed: “The life of the mind, as expressed in the written word.”

    The written tradition lasted nearly 3,500 years and writing is found on almost every tomb and temple wall. Yet there had been a temptation to see it as “mere decoration”, he said, with museums often displaying papyri as artefacts rather than texts.
    Penguin Classics, which is releasing the book [Writings from Ancient Egypt] on Wednesday, described it as a groundbreaking publication because “these writings have never before been published together in an accessible collection”.

    Wilkinson, a fellow of Clare College and author of other books on ancient Egypt, said some of the texts had not been translated for the best part of 100 years. “The English in which they are rendered — assuming they are in English — is very old-fashioned and impenetrable, and actually makes ancient Egypt seem an even more remote society,” he said.
    The literary fiction includes The Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor, a story of triumph over adversity that Wilkinson describes as “a miniature masterpiece”. It is about a magical island ruled by a giant snake — his body “fashioned in gold, his eyebrows in real lapis lazuli” — who shares his own tragedy in encouraging a shipwrecked sailor to face his predicament.

    “I was here with my brothers and my children{…} we totalled 75 snakes{…} Then a star fell and they were consumed in flames{…} If you are brave and your heart is strong, you will embrace your children, you will kiss your wife and you will see your house,” it reads.

    Letters written by a farmer called Heqanakht date from 1930BC but reflect modern concerns, from land management to grain quality. He writes to his steward: “Be extra dutiful in cultivating. Watch out that my barley-seed is guarded.”

    Turning to domestic matters, he sends greetings to his son Sneferu, his “pride and joy, a thousand times, a million times”, and urges the steward to stop the housemaid bullying his wife: “You are the one who lets her do bad things to my wife{…} Enough of it!”
    The number of people who can read hieroglyphs is small and the language is particularly rich and subtle, often in ways that cannot be easily expressed in English.

    Wilkinson writes: “Take, for example, the words ‘aa’ and ‘wer’, both conventionally translated as ‘great’. The Egyptians seem to have understood a distinction – hence a god is often described as ‘aa’ but seldom as ‘wer’ — but it is beyond our grasp.”

  38. blf says

    [Cats] can predict where possible prey hides.

    Instead the tins opened by their domesticated long pigs.

  39. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Texas college students are protesting “concealed carry” on campus, using sex toys.

    Hundreds of University of Texas students waved sex toys at a campus rally during the first day of classes, protesting a new state law that allows concealed handguns in college classrooms, buildings and dorms.
    Organizers said the sex toys were used Wednesday to mock what they consider an absurd notion that guns should be allowed in academic settings. The law took effect Aug. 1.
    Students and faculty at the Austin campus fiercely opposed allowing license holders to carry their concealed handguns to class. One prominent dean left the school after the law passed in 2015. Several faculty members attended the rally.
    Organizers said they distributed more than 4,500 free sex toys.
    Texas has allowed concealed carry since 1995 but had kept college campuses gun-free until this year.

  40. blf says

    Negative campaign: Votes sought for most disliked English word:

    Oxford Dictionaries is launching a global public vote to find English speakers’ least favourite word, with strong early showings for ‘moist’ and ‘hello’

    “Moist” has emerged as an early contender for the least popular word in the English language, as Oxford Dictionaries launches a global search to find the least favourite English word.

    Kicking off what it hopes will be the largest global survey into people’s language gripes, the dictionary publisher is inviting English speakers around the world to answer a range of language-related questions under the #OneWordMap initiative, starting with the quest to find the least popular English word.

    Oxford Dictionaries is hoping that tens of thousands of people will contribute, enabling it to put together a list of the least popular words by country, age, and gender, and revealing similarities and differences around the world.


    [… D]ifferences beginning to emerge between countries. In the UK, “moist” tops the list, followed by “no”, “hate”, “like” and “can’t”. Moist is also top of the list in the US and Australia.

    In the Netherlands, by contrast, “war” and “love” both make appearances in the list of the top five least popular words, while in Spain, “hello” is a surprising No 1. Just one submission, so far, has been made in Gibraltar: “yellow”. In New Zealand, the first response was “phlegm”.

  41. wondering says

    I’m not sure if this is considered appropriate, but I would like to signal raise an online friend’s fundraiser.

    She and her four kids were previously made homeless after losing her job in California. They spent time living in tents and motor homes. Since then, she has moved to the MidWest and started a teaching job, which keeps them going, but doesn’t really get them any further ahead, as teaching pay where she is is not very good. Nonetheless, she is a great teacher and has been selected as an International STEM fellow, meaning she has been asked to travel to China to teach and learn there. As some of her children are Chinese, this is a pretty fantastic opportunity for her.

    The Chinese government will cover travel costs, but there is still a cost to her to prepare a project and procure the right resources, without which she cannot participate. This is a teacher whose pay is so low that she struggles to heat her trailer home in the winter, so she needs to meet those costs via donations. If you’re interested in helping her out, here’s her DonorsChoose page.

    Thanks for reading.

  42. blf says

    Your daily coffee habit could be partly genetic, new study suggests:

    Scientists have found a gene that appears to have an influence over the amount of coffee people drink, and how the body processes caffeine

    A gene that appears to wield influence over the amount of coffee people drink has been found by scientists who believe the section of DNA alters how caffeine is broken down in the body.

    Italians villagers who carry a specific variant of the PDSS2 gene consume about one less cup of coffee per day compared with non-carriers, according to researchers at Edinburgh University.

    The gene variant appears to affect people’s coffee intake by slowing the metabolism of caffeine in the body. When caffeine is broken down more slowly, the stimulant lingers in the blood for longer and gives people a more enduring “hit” for every cup.


    In the study, researchers analysed the genetic makeup of 370 people living Puglia in southern Italy and a further 843 from six villages in the Friuli Venezia region in the north east. All were asked to complete a survey, which included a question about how many cups of coffee they drank each day.

    The researchers found that people with a specific variant of the PDSS2 gene tended to drink fewer cups of coffee than those who carried other variations of the gene. To check the result, the researchers went to 1731 people in the Netherlands and found a similar effect, though the gene’s apparent influence over coffee consumption was weaker there.

    One explanation could be that national preferences for coffee differ in Italy and the Netherlands. While moka and espresso are popular in Italy, the Dutch favour more filter coffee. And even though the concentrations of caffeine in the drinks are much the same, the difference in cup sizes means the Dutch imbibe nearly three times as much caffeine per cup as the Italians.

  43. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Beginning to see some fallout from the senior Bundy’s cattle and the Bundy Bungling Militia.
    Two men have pleaded guilty.

    Prosecutors characterized DeLemus and Cooper as “mid-level organizers” and leaders of the conspiracy to prevent federal agents and contract cowboys from rounding up Bundy cattle that federal authorities said were trespassing on public land.
    “Federal law enforcement officers must be able to engage in their official duties, including executing federal court orders, without fear of assault or losing their lives,” U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said in a statement after the pleas.
    DeLemus and Cooper became the first among 19 defendants to take plea deals in the Nevada case.
    The government agreed to drop nine other felony charges against them.
    Trial for some of the remaining 17 defendants is scheduled to begin Feb. 2 on charges also including threatening a federal officer, carrying a firearm in a crime of violence, and obstruction.
    Seven defendants in the Nevada case, including Cooper and Bundy sons Ammon and Ryan Bundy, are also among 26 people charged in Portland, Oregon, with conspiracy, weapon, theft and damaging government property counts stemming from a 41-day occupation of a wildlife refuge earlier this year.
    Eleven people have taken plea deals in the Oregon case, including Cooper. He pleaded guilty in July to conspiracy and is expected to be sentenced to six months in prison, with credit for time served, and six months in a halfway house or home detention.

    Sounds like their attorneys got through to them that attempting a “sovereign citizen” defense just annoys the judge unnecessarily, and results in longer sentence.

  44. KG says


    From my experience of living about half the time in Italy over the past 2 years, an Italian coffee is a drug hit rather than a refreshing (and stimulating) drink: a tiny amount (a “cafe lungo” is still a single mouthful) of extremely bitter liquid – Italians usually add sugar to counteract this, so adding a sugar hit to the concentrated caffeine. I’m surprised to read that the caffeine concentration is the same in Dutch coffees!

  45. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    This is a feel good item. A Jewish woman woke up last week to a swastika painted on her garbage bin. The neighbors painted their garbage bins in support of the woman.

    A Jewish woman in suburban Philadelphia woke up last week to a spray-painted swastika on her trash bin, and now her neighbors and strangers from other countries are rallying to support her by painting their own garbage cans with flowers, hearts, birds and butterflies.
    Esther Cohen-Eskin was stunned when she went outside the morning of Aug. 19 and saw the Nazi symbol on her bin. She said she felt targeted because the sign didn’t appear anywhere else in her Havertown neighborhood, where she’s lived for almost 20 years.
    “It’s not like someone wrote some obscenity on my trash can or gave me the finger,” she said in a telephone interview Thursday. “The swastika is such a deep-rooted sign of hatred for everyone, especially Judaism, that I felt so targeted.”…
    She called a friend for advice and he told her: “The only way to triumph hate is with love.” Hearing that, Cohen-Eskin, an artist, decided to paint over the swastika with flowers, and to stick letters in mailboxes asking her neighbors to paint their trash bins as well, turning symbols of hate into symbols of love.
    “We decided that painting something over this … it kind of made the swastika completely meaningless,” Cohen-Eskin said.
    In this tight-knit community of different religions and creeds, the searing symbol of hate made Cohen-Eskin’s letter electrifying.
    “I still get goosebumps,” said Megan Connell, one of Cohen-Eskin’s neighbors. “I had to explain to my three-year-old that someone could do something so ugly, and we took it as a family thing.”
    A local bar, Connell’s mailman, and others spread word across town, and people online started passing around Cohen-Eskin’s story. After she sent the letters, she went out for an art show — and came back to hundreds of messages and phone calls from people as far afield as Canada, Germany, and Ireland. Many sent pictures of trash cans they painted in a show of support.
    A tough part of Cohen-Eskin’s request was that neighbors first paint a swastika, and then cover it with images of love and peace. Connell said that part of the task was “very, very difficult.”
    “It’s something you would never want to put ever, and not anything I ever thought I would be painting on anything,” she said.
    Connell decorated her bin with an owl to send the message that the neighborhood is watching, even at night. Other neighbors painted the word “unity” on their bins up and down the block….

  46. KG says

    Further to my #73, , here is a critique of the article ChasCPeterson linked to @66. Why ChasCPeterson thinks an article in a journal that is the mouthpiece of an ultra-conservative Catholic advocacy group is of such interest, remains a mystery.

  47. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    RIP Gene Wilder… to the Chocolate Factory in the sky. :-(

  48. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Looks like recovered booster rockets will now be flight tested in a commercial launch.
    Typical used car salesman approach, “flight proven”.
    I think the launch insurers were a harder bunch to satisfy. The SpaceX recovered booster that landed with only 3 seconds of LOX left and was subject to the highest reentry heating has since undergone three full 2.5 minute test firings with no problems.

  49. says

    while in Spain, “hello” is a surprising No 1.

    Which is only surprising if you never took a single Spanish lesson.
    “Hello” is often the first word in a conversation, your literal first impression and it starts with a phoneme that doesn’t exist in Spanish. Then it goes on to have a double L in the middle which is mostly pronounce like the “y” in “you” in Spanish. Furthermore, that particular variation of “L” doesn’t exist in Spanish either, so there’S a very good chance that the first word you say to somebody in English makes you sound completely off and we all know how well people are treated who are not totally fluent, especially by snobbish English native speakers.

  50. says


    From my experience of living about half the time in Italy over the past 2 years, an Italian coffee is a drug hit rather than a refreshing (and stimulating) drink: a tiny amount (a “cafe lungo” is still a single mouthful) of extremely bitter liquid – Italians usually add sugar to counteract this, so adding a sugar hit to the concentrated caffeine. I’m surprised to read that the caffeine concentration is the same in Dutch coffees!

    Something few people know is that roasting plays a major role in how much caffeine there is in the coffee. The darker roast for espresso often has less caffeine than grandma’s bland mildly roasted stuff.
    But yeah, espresso, café solo, petit café, they all need sugar.

  51. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    The Juno probe finally returned to the neighborhood of Jupiter, and took some pictures. Here is a picture of its approach.
    More detailed (closer) pictures are being examined by the researchers as they are downloaded prior to posting.

    During this encounter, Juno had every single one of its science instruments up and running for the first time in the mission. But it will be some time before most of the data and images from the flyby will be available to the public, researchers said. [See more Jupiter photos by NASA’s Juno probe]
    “We are getting some intriguing early data returns as we speak,” Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, said in a statement. “It will take days for all the science data collected during the flyby to be downlinked and even more to begin to comprehend what Juno and Jupiter are trying to tell us.”
    The first flyby data to be released will be high-resolution photographs from JunoCam, the spacecraft’s visible-light camera. NASA will likely release those photos in the next couple of weeks. Images from JunoCam will offer the closest and most detailed views of Jupiter’s atmosphere, NASA officials said.
    “We are in an orbit nobody has ever been in before, and these images give us a whole new perspective on this gas-giant world,” Bolton said.

  52. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Why “women’s safety” with regard to abortion laws can and do backfire.

    It sounded like a simple, innocuous safety regulation: Doctors administering medication to end a pregnancy would have adhere to a protocol set by the federal Food and Drug Administration.
    But according to a new study, the effect of the law in one state, Ohio, was to actually increase the number of complications women getting abortions experienced.
    Ohio passed the medication abortion law in 2004 — it was among a half dozen similar ones nationwide and came from the playbook of anti-abortion activists.
    Even though abortion providers said that the FDA protocol, set in 2000, was outdated and that clinical trials had come up with a safer regimen for the pill that involved a lower, cheaper dose and a longer window of use, the law finally went into effect in 2011.
    Now, a new study, published in the Public Library of Science jounral PLoS Medicine and conducted by researchers at the University of San Francisco’s Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, has found that patients suffered a dramatic increase in side effects compared to the time before the law.
    “It is ironic because it was passed with the stated intention of protecting women’s health. Our evidence showed that women’s health was really compromised because of this law,” said the study’s lead author, Ushma Upadhyay, in an interview.
    According to records kept by Ohio abortion clinics surveyed by the researchers, “women who had medication abortions in the post-law period had three times the odds of requiring at least one additional treatment compared to women in the pre-law period.” The older protocol also resulted in less effective abortions, with many more women having to return to have a different method of terminating their pregnancy.
    “I’m not saying abortion was dangerous for women who got abortions after the law was enacted,” said Upadhyay. “But it was a lot more burdensome. They had to go through additional treatments for their course of care.”

    Pretend there are no advances in medical practice, even prior to implementation, due to further studies. Yep, sounds like authoritarian bullshit designed to hurt women.

  53. roachiesmom says

    Jake @54 —

    Wow, some of that is breathtakingly familiar. Like, almost need to crawl in a hole, rocking, and try to block re-lived trauma familiar.

    I had to get one of those disability lawyers to get mine through. With a lot of issues and situations at least somewhat similar to yours, or at least parallels, from what I have read on your posts. The guy was an ass. His office was an hour away, and I also don’t drive. Fortunately my son was able to cut classes, drive two hours to get me, and an hour to the lawyer. He did go in with me, there were a couple times I was ‘invisible’ with questions directed at him that one might think my input could be pertinent on, except yeah, if I could be aware enough to know or answer, how could anything be wrong with me, amirite? My kid was actually offended* by the way the guy spoke to me, more than once, and when he said that after and I was surprised, it was because I’m so used to that sort of treatment I sometimes don’t even register it as something I’m allowed to be pissed off at anymore. Or register it all, it’s just the status quo. But ass or not, that lawyer did get it to go through, and I never had to appear in court or anything for it. Just go to the social security office when I found out, which I managed to screw up THREE times because I fail at phone and life and All The Things before getting it all set up.

    You, of course, may have reasons this isn’t for you, or whatever; I don’t know, and I don’t want to dismiss that or anything, but, in the end it was what worked for me. And it’s a good thing they don’t expect payment unless they succeed, because I went to the guy with no income but food stamps (and a couple of generous online people keeping my lights on and my cats fed.)

    *Which is saying something, because he is/has been a frequent advocate of ‘get over it, mom’ or otherwise explaining to me how I was wrong about X or Y since he started adulting.

  54. blf says

    Finally! Antibacterial soaps banned in US amid claims they do ‘more harm than good’:

    The Food and Drug Administration has washed its hands of the products, saying there is no scientific evidence that they are better than plain soap and water

    Antibacterial soaps were banned from the US market on Friday in a final ruling by the Food and Drug Administration, which said that manufacturers had failed to prove the cleansers were safe or more effective than normal products.


    Manufacturers had failed to show either the safety of “long-term daily use” or that the products were “more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections”.


    The FDA first proposed a rule about the chemicals in 2013, following research that they might affect human hormones or change natural resistance to bacteria. The agency requested research from the producers to back up their health claims, but in the three years since has found that data lacking or their requests ignored.


    People should still keep their hands clean, the FDA noted. “Washing with plain soap and running water remains one of the most important steps consumers can take to avoid getting sick and to prevent spreading germs to others,” the agency said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that if people need to use a hand sanitizer, it should have at least 60% alcohol.

    Professor Patrick McNamara, who has published research on antimicrobial soaps, called the ruling “logical” because research shows “there is no added benefit to having these antimicrobial chemicals in soaps”.

    He added that triclosan [the most common compound used in these soaps –blf] could play a part in driving antibiotic resistance, saying, “after these chemicals are used in our homes they go down the drain to wastewater treatment plants and eventually to the environment where they can select for antibiotic resistance genes”.

    “In short, triclosan and triclocarbon present a risk towards propagation of antibiotic resistance,” he said. “Since they do not offer added benefits when washing hands, their use is not worth their environmental risk.

    I believe USAlienstan still allows antibiotics in animal feed (and water?) to promote animal growth. That stupid usage is not, of course, banned by the sensible step, but also needs to stop for similar reasons. The EU banned antibiotics in animal feed / water about ten years ago.

    (I’m not too clear on what the situation is with triclosan and triclocarbon in the EU in soaps and similar products. I think triclosan has been recently banned in cosmetics, but just when that ban comes(? came?) into effect is unknown-to-me. The FDA’s ban comes into effect in one year (Sept-2017).)

  55. blf says

    Evidence of 9,000-year-old stone houses found on Australian island:

    Circular foundations excavated on Rosemary Island date to the end of the last ice age — a time of ‘environmental stress’ for the Indigenous inhabitants

    Archeologists working on the Dampier archipelago off Australia’s north-west coast have found evidence of stone houses dating back 9,000 years — to the end of the last ice age — building the case for the area to get a world heritage listing.

    Circular stone foundations were discovered in a cave floor on Rosemary Island, the outermost of 42 islands that make up the archipelago. The islands and the nearby Burrup peninsula are known as Murujuga — a word meaning “hip bones sticking out” — in the language of the Ngarluma people.

    Prof Jo Mcdonald, director of the Centre for Rock Art Research and Management at the University of Western Australia, said the excavations showed occupation was maintained throughout the ice age and the period of rapid sea level rise that followed.

    “Around 8,000 years ago, it would have been on the coast,” McDonald told Guardian Australia. “This is the time that the islands were starting to be cut off and it’s a time when people were starting to rearrange themselves.”

    The sea level on Australia’s north-west coast rose 130 metres after the end of the ice age, at a rate of about a metre every five to 10 years. “In people’s lifetimes they would have seen loss of territory and would have had to renegotiate — a bit like Miami these days,” McDonald said.


    The entry to the largest [Aboriginal] heritage site, a valley containing close to a million rock carvings dating back 40,000 years, is within a kilometre of a fertiliser plant. Last year the WA [(Western Australian)] government removed a large umbrella heritage listing for the peninsula because it complicated development applications.


    Whilst no clew as to what the thug-likes of the time were doing (“No rise sea! You lie! Glug, glug…“, the current thug-likes are distressingly familiar (“Old savages piffle! Gets in the way of profits!! And my paybacks!!!”).

  56. blf says

    Lost Philae lander found as Rosetta mission draws to a close:

    Images from camera aboard Rosetta space probe reveal exact location on comet 67P of hibernating Philae lander, two years after its bumpy landing

    Almost two years after it touched down on the surface of comet 67P, the Philae lander has been found.

    In images taken just three days ago by a camera on board the Rosetta space probe, the lander can be seen nestled in a dark crack on the comet’s surface, with two of its three legs sticking out.


    News of the discovery, said [European Space Agency’s Rosetta project scientist Matt] Taylor, reached him late at night over the weekend. “It is a typical thing with Rosetta, things seem to occur at the weekends and usually on Sunday.”


    The Rosetta mission itself is shortly to come to an end, with the probe due to be set on a collision course with the comet later this month.

    “What we are doing at the moment is actually more complicated than when we deployed Philae itself,” said Taylor, adding that Rosetta is currently being put in ever-closer orbits around the comet, yielding new data about 67P’s low atmosphere.

    Finding Philae, he says, was a timely discovery. “I think it is a nice prelude for the end of the mission,” said Taylor. “It’s bloody exciting basically.”

    And, Philae has been found — now every ounce of science can be wrung out of it:

    Finding the European Space Agency’s lost Philae comet lander is not only a triumph for the spacecraft’s operators, it lets the scientists finish their job


    Although it touched down exactly where it was supposed to at exactly the right time, butter fingers Philae failed to anchor itself to the icy comet and so bounced across the surface for the next two hours before coming to rest in an unknown location.

    The next day, Philae took some selfies that showed it was in a dark spot, wedged on its side in some kind of crevice with one leg sticking up into the sky. No one knew where this was but one thing was clear — there was not going to be much power falling on its solar panels. Once its primary battery drained, Philae would go silent.

    For the next three days, as the power ebbed away from its electronic body, Philae worked hard and communicated with the Rosetta mothership, relaying data from its instruments. Meanwhile, back on Earth, engineers tried to figure out where the lander had come to rest.


    [… Although] most of the mission’s objectives were met despite the strange angle of the lander, there were some analyses that proved impossible to complete without a knowledge of the lander’s location.

    One of these was the CONSERT experiment, which beamed radar through the comet’s interior between Philae and Rosetta. This data could reveal the comet’s interior structure and composition but without knowing Philae’s location, the analysis could not be completed because the radar’s path through the comet was unknown. Now the final piece of this puzzle is in place and scientists can work towards understanding what lies inside the comet.


    Characteristically for a mission that has been high on drama, the identification has been made just weeks before the mission is due to end by landing the Rosetta spacecraft itself on the comet — something it was never designed to do.


    The mildly deranged penguin is urgently semaphoring a message to the Clangers, asking them to alert the Soup Dragon and hide the cheese!

  57. blf says

    This is an interesting and charming article, Did milk and fur evolve before the earliest mammals?: “Research on facial nerves and gene mutations show that milk and fur may have evolved before the earliest mammals”. I won’t excerpt it or summarise in any detail, but basically, as I understand it, by tracing “the facial nerves of the upper jaw” in fossils of “mammals and their non-mammalian ancestors” — which, as the article puts it, are “the nerves that tickle your whiskers” — Julien Benoit’s team at South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand could follow the evolutionary developments of whiskers (which are, apparently, unique to mammals). In the process of doing so, they also gained some clews as to the evolution of fur (not too surprisingly) and milk (perhaps more surprisingly).

  58. blf says

    Interesting, I didn’t know tsunami simulators weren’t very good, Tsunami simulator recreates devastating waves for first time in a lab:

    Huge tank in Oxfordshire [UK] replicates the power and shape of the waves and will lead to improved coastal defences, building design and response plans

    [… R]esearchers have created the world’s most realistic tsunami simulator at the HR Wallingford research centre in Oxfordshire. The 70m-long tank can, for the first time, replicate the shape and long duration of the tsunamis that wrought havoc around the Indian Ocean in 2004 and smashed into Japan in 2011.

    The simulator is also the first to look at how clusters of buildings affect the destruction caused by a tsunami, by channelling the flowing water. […]

    The new tsunami simulator is built at 1:50 scale and is 4m wide. In the real world, underwater earthquakes trigger tsunamis, but in the simulator a pump at one end of the tank is used to raise up 70,000 litres of water. Then an air valve is used to let the water flood back into the tank, setting off the tsunami.

    Crucially, the initial lifting of the water allows, for the first time, the creation of a wave that starts with a trough — the type of tsunami that hit Japan and Thailand. In the real world, this trough manifests as the water on the beach rushing out to sea, before a huge crest races back on to land.

    “We are the only facility in the world that can generate trough-led waves,” said [Prof Tiziana Rossetto, from University College London (UCL)]. She visited sites in Sri Lanka and Thailand after the 2004 tsunami: “In some places the buildings completely failed, but in others they stayed standing. However, there was a total lack of understanding of the forces involved.”


    The second vital feature of the new simulator is the air valve, which allows the wave to be controlled and creates very long duration waves like those seen in the real world. In Japan, the wave continuously poured water on to the land for 28 minutes, while in Thailand the wave lasted for 20 minutes. Earlier simulators, using paddles or dropped concrete blocks, could only produce short waves and did not replicate the punishing duration of the real tsunamis.


    The researchers suspect that very high sea walls could actually make the impact of a tsunami worse by effectively creating a dam, against which water builds up, before breaking and releasing an even more violent torrent.

    “You can see {in the tank} the carnage that occurs when the wall fails,” said Dr David McGovern, part of the UCL team. […]

  59. blf says

    The Einstein–Szilard refrigerator reemerges in a clever application, Einstein-inspired Isobar vaccine cooling system wins UK James Dyson award:

    Designed to keep temperature-sensitive vaccines stable in transit in remote regions, Will Broadway’s Isobar is based on invention from early 1900s

    A portable cooling system for temperature-sensitive vaccines which could save millions of lives in developing countries has won its 22-year-old designer a prestigious James Dyson award.

    Will Broadway, an industrial design and technology graduate from Loughborough University, developed the Isobar system for his final degree project after seeing the huge waste of valuable vaccines, which lost their potency as a result of inadequate storage and transportation conditions in remote regions.


    Current vaccine programmes in developing countries do not meet rigorous international standards for temperature-safe vaccine distribution. Ice or cold packs are generally used, which can freeze the vaccine to a temperature lower than considered thermally stable, and leads to vaccines losing potency.

    Broadway’s hi-tech, rechargeable cooling system was inspired by an invention developed by Albert Einstein in the 1920s. The device was originally intended to provide electricity-free refrigeration, and required only a heat source to drive a chemical process.

    The Isobar is specifically designed to maintain stable temperature control between 2C (35F) and 8C (46.4F) during the “final mile” distribution of vaccine in remote regions without power. The cooling effect lasts for up to six days inside an insulated backpack, and can be recharged in just over an hour using either electricity or propane.


    Jack Lang, fellow at the Judge Business School at Cambridge University […] said: “Isobar is a brilliant invention. It solves a real problem and is a complete, well thought-through system.”

  60. blf says

    Bloody camelopards have gone off and speciated, Researchers discover there are not one — but four species of giraffe:

    Researchers have discovered there are not just one but four distinct species of giraffe, overturning two centuries of accepted wisdom in a finding that could boost efforts to save the last dwindling populations.

    Analysis of DNA evidence from all of the currently recognised nine sub-species found that there is not just one species of giraffe but enough genetic differences to recognise four distinct species. Experts said the differences are as large as those between brown bears and polar bears.


    The four recommended new species are the southern giraffe, with two subspecies, the Angolan giraffe and South African giraffe; the Masai giraffe; the reticulated giraffe; and the northern giraffe including the Kordofan giraffe and west African giraffe as subspecies.

    If formally recognised as four separate species, three of those four would suddenly be deemed more seriously threatened by the Red List [of Threatened Species], [Dr Julian] Fennessay said, which would hopefully catalyse greater efforts to protect them.


    Both [Dr Fennessay and co-author Axel Janke] said they were surprised at the number of genetically distinct species, because the currently recognised nine subspecies are relatively similar-looking. The most obvious differences are in the shape of their patterns and how far they extend, and how many horns the creatures have.

    The study also suggested that the four species do not mate with each other in the wild, an unexpected finding given giraffe move far and wide, and have been shown to interbreed in captivity.


  61. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Barack Obama is officially now a parasite (it’s an honor)

    It’s no Nobel Peace Prize, but Barack Obama has a new honor to brag about. Scientists have named a parasite after him — and there’s no worming out of it.
    Meet Baracktrema obamai, a tiny parasitic flatworm that lives in turtles’ blood. A new study officially names the two-inch-long, hair-thin creature after Obama.
    Thomas Platt, the newly retired biology professor at Saint Mary’s College in Indiana who chose the name, says it’s an honor, not an insult. Really.
    Platt, who discovered and named the flatworm to crown his career before retiring, has 32 new species to his credit. In the past, he’s named them after his father-in-law, his doctorate adviser “and other people I have a great deal of respect for. This is clearly something in my small way done to honor our president,” Platt says.
    A distant relative of the president, Platt says people pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of having a species named after them…

  62. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    speaking of Oxford comma:

    Among those interviewed were Merle Haggard’s two ex-wives, Kris Kristofferson and Robert Duval.
    This book is dedicated to my parents, Ayn Rand and God.
    […]encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector.

    Merle Haggard was twice married to other men?
    And that author had quite a set of parents, phew.
    and who knew Mandel was that old?

  63. blf says

    The BBC has a good article on the Paolo Macchiarini and Karolinska Institute (KI) affair, Paolo Macchiarini: A surgeon’s downfall. The article is long and I won’t attempt to excerpt it, but basically, multiple investigations found that (this is paraphrase deliberately conflating several of the investigation’s conclusions) “The scientific foundation for the new operation (synthetic organ transplant replacing the trachea with a plastic tube) was weak, with no risk analyses before the operations; The necessary ethical approval was not sought; There were mistakes made in Macchiarini’s recruitment by KI and also again later when allegations of misconduct were made; Macchiarini misrepresented the success of the operations, omitting or even fabricating data; and There were no pre-clinical animal tests.”

    The Swedish government has sacked the entire KI board. Since KI is who decides on the winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine, this affair has received perhaps some extra attention.

    Sadly, of the nine people who underwent the operation (not all done at KI, in Sweden, or by Macchiarini), seven have died; the two survivors have had the artificial trachea replaced by those from donors. Adding to the appalling problems, at least some of the cases cannot be considered emergency life-saving interventions — as the article says, “Macchiarini was treating humans as guinea pigs”.

  64. blf says

    Global food crisis triggered cultural shift towards junk food, say researchers:

    Millions of people who struggled to pay for traditional staple foods like maize, rice and wheat when global food prices dramatically rose between 2007–2011 have switched to western-style processed “junk-food” alternatives that are high in sugars, fats and salt, a four-year study across 10 countries has found.

    The sudden rise and volatility in the price of basic foods, which was linked to trading in the global commodity markets and the rundown of food stocks in many countries, triggered a major cultural shift because it forced more people to seek cash incomes and enter the work market, said the authors.

    But although people in countries including Kenya, Bolivia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Vietnam and Zambia worked much harder to earn enough to feed their families, they had much less family time.

    The result, said the report by the Institute for Development Studies and Oxfam, Precarious Lives: Food, Work and Care After the Global Food Crisis (PDF), was that they started buying convenience and fast foods as they moved around for work.


    The authors asked why so many people moved towards more processed, packaged and purchased foods, and concluded it was for a mix of practical and psychological reasons, including the accessibility and addictive nature of junk food, with its high sugar, salt and fat content.

    As people worked harder and longer, and migrated to towns, other regions or countries to find work, more turned to heavily marketed convenience food, particularly unhealthy processed items with high levels of fat, sugar and salt […]

  65. blf says

    Eagles v drones: Dutch police to take on rogue aircraft with flying squad:

    Officers unveil ‘low-tech solution to high-tech problem’ after birds of prey prove ace interceptors in tests

    Dutch police are adopting a centuries-old pursuit to resolve the modern-day problem of increasing numbers of drones in the skies, becoming the world’s first force to employ eagles as winged warriors.


    A series of tests have been organised since early 2015, and the Dutch forces announced Monday that the results had been good.


    “None of the eagles were hurt, but as for the drones, none of them survived,” said [police spokesman Dennis] Janus, brushing aside concerns from animal rights groups.

    “The eagles see the drones as prey and intercept them as they are flying, before landing where they feel safe with the drone still in their claws.”

    There’s some pictures of unhappy-looking drones with Eagles still attached at the link.

  66. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    The trial for the Bungling Bundy Militia leaders starts today.

    Armed protesters at a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon were exercising their rights to freedom of speech and assembly in a bid to expose the U.S. government’s illegal ownership and mismanagement of public lands in the West, lawyers for the defendants are expected to argue at trial on Tuesday.
    Opening arguments are set for the morning at a federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon in the case of ranchers Ammon and Ryan Bundy and five other limited-government activists who led an armed 41-day takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge earlier this year.
    The seven defendants are charged with conspiracy to impede federal officers, possession of firearms in a federal facility, and theft of government property. A jury was seated last week.
    The takeover at Malheur was the latest flare-up in a decades-old conflict over federal control of millions of acres of public land in the West….
    Lawyers for the Bundys and other defendants said they will argue, among other things, that the peaceful demonstration was an effort to draw attention to federal government overreach, and illegal control and mismanagement of public lands.

    Sounds like a non-defense.

  67. blf says

    Another round of comedy is brewing involving Malcom Roberts, the Australian One Nation (Ozland nazi) senator — the AGW-denier and general conspiracy kook who insists all(?) evidence for AGW is faked by Nasa and others — since he will be soon be meeting with CSIRO (Ozland’s science agency) about AGW, Malcolm Roberts to discuss climate science with CSIRO:

    One Nation senator asks for briefing to see science agency’s proof that carbon dioxide affects climate because they’ve never provided it before
    Roberts told Guardian Australia he would listen to the evidence, despite having described climate data that contradicted his view as corrupted.

    In Senate question time on Thursday Roberts asked the minister for resources and Northern Australia, Matt Canavan, for the specific location of data that proves claims that humans affect global climate change.


    My core aim is, as always, to get the empirical data that underlies their claim that carbon dioxide is affecting global climate, because they’ve never provided it before, he said.

    The CSIRO publishes a wealth of such data on the Climate Change in Australia website.

    In his inaugural speech Roberts said atmospheric temperatures fell between the 1930s and the 1970s.

    Temperatures are now cooler than 130 years ago and this is the reverse of what we’re blatantly told by the Bureau of Meteorology that has manipulated cooling trends into false warming trends, he said.

    That’s a new one (to me) — cooler than 130 years ago? I have no idea where that came from (other than, presumably, Robert’s arse), presuming he’s not talking about some specific locale(s?). The temperature rise is to the world-wide average; it is neither an absolute (higher everywhere all the time) nor would all locations on the planet show a rise. A cooler spot (or fall?) like he claims, in some location somewhere, is not impossible.

    The Grauniad has a handy summary of Robert’s lies, Debunking Malcolm Roberts: the case against a climate science denier (“The One Nation senator dismisses the conventional scientific view of climate change. Here are the holes in his most commonly deployed arguments”). That does not directly address the 130 years claim, but does explain another, similar (and wrong) claim, that temperatures were higher in the 1930s. Roberts is indeed thinking of a specific locale, but is mangling the denialists’s argument:

    The weird thing here is that Roberts isn’t even getting the conspiracy theory right. The theory he is thinking of — which even most climate change deniers now reject — is not that global temperatures were higher in the 30s and 40s, but that specifically temperatures just in the US were higher than today.

    Climate scientists used to believe that was the case. Even then, they knew the world as a whole was warming, so the scientific discussion revolved around trying to explain the spatial variation — why temperatures in the US were different. It was in no way a challenge to the clear observation that global temperatures were rising sharply.

    Since then, the analysis of the historical data has been refined: “The changes didn’t alter the trend much but did mean that the hottest year on record in the US became 1998 rather than 1934.”

  68. blf says

    Scientists reveal most accurate depiction of a dinosaur ever created:

    Reconstruction is based on studies of a spectacular fossil from China, preserved with skin and pigments intact
    [Paleoartist Bob Nicholls’ new reconstruction of Psittacosaurus is] not like anything seen alive on Earth today: it’s the size of large turkey, but with a face like a Jim Henson puppet. The head is a shoe-box with eyes, the Frankensteinian flatness on top accentuated by horns sticking out horizontally from each cheek. A parrot-like beak juts out at the front. […]

    […] Psittacosaurus fossils are commonly found across most of Asia. The bipedal adults used their distinctive beaks to nibble through the vegetation of the Cretaceous, more than 100m years ago. The relatively large brain of Psittacosaurus leads scientists to suspect it may have been a relatively smart dinosaur, with complex behaviours. The large eyes hint that it had good vision.

    The Psittacosaurus specimen [Dr Jakob Vinther’s (UK’s University of Bristol)] team studied is held at the Senkenberg Museum in Frankfurt. It is a complete skeleton from one of the world’s best preserved fossil deposits in China. Named the Jehol Biota, these deposits are a Lagerstätte, from the German for storage place: they are literally a rocky safehouse for the world’s most well-preserved fossils. There are a handful of Lagerstätte around the world, famed for yielding remains that retain their fossilised soft tissues, feathers, fur, skin and stomach contents. The Senckenburg Psittacosaurus is an exceptional example, even having its cloaca preserved — the multi-purpose opening for excretion, reproduction and urination.

    [… A very interresting description of how the model — which is stunning (see pictures at the link) — was created …]

    Usually when reconstructing an animal, paleoartists research the creature’s anatomy, then the habitat it lived in, and use modern analogues to imagine likely colouration that matches the extinct animal’s lifestyle. Vinther’s study turns this process on its head: if you know the animal’s skin patterns in great detail, what does this tell you about how it lived?


    “Colouration”, says Vinther, “tells us something about the dynamics between predators and their prey, among others. It is an important defence strategy in modern animals.”

    To examine countershading in their Psittacosaurus, Nicholls created a second, plain grey model without pattern. This “blank” was placed outside, first in overhead strong sunlight, then in diffuse light, and photographed to examine how light and shadow fell on the body.

    The images of the “blank” model in diffuse light matched perfectly with the skin pigments revealed in the Senckenberg fossil. The countershading told Vinther’s team that Psittacosaurus lived in a closed light environment, such as under a forest canopy.


  69. blf says

    Arctic sea ice shrinks to second lowest level ever recorded:

    ‘Tremendous loss’ of ice reinforces clear downward trend towards ice-free summers due to effects of climate change

    Arctic sea ice this summer shrank to its second lowest level since scientists started to monitor it by satellite […].

    The National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado said the sea ice reached its summer low point on Saturday, extending 4.14m sq km (1.6m sq miles). That’s behind only the mark set in 2012, 3.39m sq km.


    This year’s minimum level is nearly 2.56m sq km smaller than the 1979 to 2000 average. That’s the size of Alaska and Texas combined.


    It was an unusual year for sea ice in the Arctic, [Center director Mark] Serreze said. In the winter, levels were among their lowest ever for the cold season, but then there were more storms than usual over the Arctic during the summer. Those storms normally keep the Arctic cloudy and cooler, but that didn’t keep the sea ice from melting this year, he said.

    “Summer weather patterns don’t matter as much as they used to, so we’re kind of entering a new regime,” Serreze said.


  70. blf says

    Norway plans to cull more than two-thirds of its wolf population:

    Environmental groups criticise plan that will allow hunters to shoot up to 47 of an estimated 68 wolves living in wilderness

    Norway is planning to cull more than two-thirds of its remaining wolves in a step that environmental groups say will be disastrous for the dwindling members of the species in the wild.


    The government has justified this year’s planned cull — the biggest in more than a century — on the basis of harm done to sheep flocks by the predators. Environmental groups dispute this, saying the real damage is minimal and the response out of all proportion.


    [Nina Jensen, chief executive of WWF in Norway] said the losses to farmers from wolves had been minimal, and pointed to settlements by the Norwegian parliament in 2004 and 2011 that stipulated populations of carnivores must be allowed to co-exist with livestock.

    “This decision must be stopped,” said Silje Ask Lundberg, chair of Friends of the Earth Norway. “With this decision, three out of six family groups of wolves might be shot. We are calling on the minister of environment to stop the butchering. Today, Norway should be ashamed.”

  71. blf says

    No details to speak of in this article, Obama administration updates rules on publishing results of clinical trials: “On Friday [today], federal health officials released updated rules making clear exactly what kinds of studies must be listed on the website [] so potential participants can consider enrolling, and which ones must post the results by certain deadlines.”

    I presume Dr Ben Goldacre, who has been writing / campaigning on these & related issues for some years now, will probably have sometime very interesting to say.

  72. blf says

    World’s oldest library reopens in Fez: ‘You can hurt us, but you can’t hurt the books’:

    After years of restoration, the ninth-century Qarawiyyin library in north-eastern Morocco is finally set to reopen — with strict security and a new underground canal system to protect its most prized manuscripts

    The caretaker stares at the wrought iron door and its four ancient locks with a gleam in his eyes. Outside, the Moroccan sun shines down upon the ornate coloured tiles of Khizanat al-Qarawiyyin, located in the old medina of Fez. This, it is widely believed, is the oldest library in the world — and soon it will be open to the general public again.

    “It was like healing wounds,” says Aziza Chaouni, a Fez native and the architect tasked with restoring the great library.

    The iron door is found along a corridor that once linked the library with the neighbouring Qarawiyyin Mosque — the two centres of learning and cultural life in old Fez. Inside it were kept the most prized tomes in the collection; works of such immense import that each of the four locks had separate keys held with four different individuals, all of whom had to be present for the door to be opened.

    The restored library boasts a new sewage and underground canal system to drain away the moisture that had threatened to destroy many of its prized manuscripts — plus an elaborate lab to treat, preserve and digitise the oldest texts. The collection of advanced machinery includes digital scanners that identify minuscule holes in the ancient paper rolls, and a preservative machine which treats the manuscripts with a liquid that moistens them enough to prevent cracking.

    A special room with strict security and temperature and humidity controls houses the most ancient works. The most precious is a ninth-century copy of the Qur’an, written in ornate Kufic script on camel skin.


    In 2012, the ministry of culture, which manages the Qarawiyyin library and university, asked Chaouni to assess the library, and she was pleasantly surprised when her architecture firm was awarded the contract, in a field traditionally seen as a man’s province.

    The Qarawiyyin library was also founded by a woman. In the ninth century, Fatima al-Fihri, the daughter of a wealthy merchant from Tunisia’s Kairouan, arrived in Fez and began laying the groundwork for a complex that would include the library, the Qarawiyyin Mosque, and Qarawiyyin University, the oldest higher education institution in the world […]


    […] Chaouni also drafted a plan to restore the river in Fez, which was once known as the river of jewels, but was gradually drenched in waste from the local tannery and sewage from the surrounding residences, and then partially covered with concrete and trash. The river is slowly coming to life now.

    “I would like my kids to be able to see this heritage,” she says, recalling how in her childhood she could scarcely see inside the walled-off complex.

    “The medina of Fez has the largest pedestrian network, the largest number of historic buildings inside, and I think as a model, as a living city, it’s not just a city for tourists,” she adds. “It is still transforming and adjusting, and as a pedestrian city it’s a great model for sustainability.”

    There’s some argy-bargy in the readers’s comments about the term “world’s oldest library” (used in the title & first paragraph), and “oldest university” (not actually used at all!), mixed with anti-Islam / Muslim bigotry. The summary from Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge: “The University of al-Qarawiyyin […] is the oldest existing, continually operating and the first degree awarding educational institution in the world according to UNESCO and Guinness World Records and is sometimes referred to as the oldest university.”

  73. blf says

    It is, as far as I am aware, well-established that there are more guns in the USA than adults. However, it seems that roughly half of those guns (c.130m) are owned by only c.3% of the population, ‘More guns in fewer hands’: US study charts rise of hardcore super owners:

    New survey shows just 3% of American adults own nearly half of guns in the US, as part of most definitive portrait of gun ownership in decades

    Americans own an estimated 265m guns, more than one gun for every American adult, according to the most definitive portrait of US gun ownership in two decades. But the new survey estimates that 130m of these guns are concentrated in the hands of just 3% of American adults — a group of super-owners who have amassed an average of 17 guns each.

    The unpublished Harvard/Northeastern survey result summary […] estimates that America’s gun stock has increased by 70m guns since 1994. At the same time, the percentage of Americans who own guns decreased slightly from 25% to 22%.

    The new survey, conducted in 2015 by public health researchers from Harvard and Northeastern universities, also found that the proportion of female gun owners is increasing as fewer men own guns. These women were more likely to own a gun for self-defense than men, and more likely to own a handgun only.


    “The desire to own a gun for protection — there’s a disconnect between that and the decreasing rates of lethal violence in this country. It isn’t a response to actuarial reality,” said Matthew Miller, a Northeastern University and Harvard School of Public Health professor and one of the authors of the study.

    The data suggests that American gun ownership is driven by an “increasing fearfulness”, said Dr Deborah Azrael, a Harvard School of Public Health firearms researcher and the lead author of the study.


    The article continues with a long analysis of the yet-to-be-published study (still being peer-reviewed), plus some interviews / quotes, one of which caught my attention (edits in the original in {curly braces}):

    “Why do you need more than one pair of shoes?” said Philip van Cleave, the president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a gun rights group that views itself as being to the political right of the NRA. “The truth is, you don’t, but do you want more than one pair of shoes? If you going hiking, you don’t want to use that one pair of high heels.”

    Walking around the beach with shirt off and shorts{…} I’m probably going to use a different gun than putting on a sport coat and going out to dinner, he said.

    You carry a gun to, and on, the beach?
    (Or for that matter, to, and presumably at, dinner?)

  74. blf says

    DNA from the deep? Antikythera shipwreck yields ancient human bones:

    Site has already revealed most spectacular cargo ever found from antiquity, but bones are first hope of sequencing DNA from 1st century BC shipwreck victim
    The catastrophe in the 1st century BC scattered the ship’s cargo across the seabed. It lay there until 1900, when sponge divers found it by chance in 50m of water. Salvage operations have since hauled up stunning bronze and marble statues, ornate glass and pottery, gold jewellery, and an extraordinary geared device — the Antikythera mechanism — which modelled the heavens. The cargo, for good reason, is considered the most spectacular ever found from antiquity.

    With the latest discovery of human bones, scientists have their first real hope of sequencing DNA from a victim of an ancient shipwreck. The only comparable efforts have focused on remains from King Henry VIII’s great ship, the Mary Rose, and the Swedish warship Vasa, which sank on her maiden voyage in 1628. If the ancient bones contain intact DNA, it will cast fresh light on the ill-fated ship’s occupants.

    “This is the most exciting scientific discovery we’ve made here,” said Brendan Foley at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution […]. “We think he was trapped in the ship when it went down and he must have been buried very rapidly or the bones would have gone by now.”


    There is little wear on the teeth and the bones in the skull are not fully fused, pointing to an upper age of about 25 years. Meanwhile, the upper leg bone is thicker than might be found on a female. The bones likely survived because the ship sank fast into the cool depths and was buried by a mound of silt that slid down the cliff after the vessel.

    Foley expected to find human remains on the wreck and had one of the world’s leading experts in ancient DNA, Hannes Schroeder at the Natural History Museum of Denmark, lined up to help. […]

    […] “Human remains have started to become a source of information that can tell us incredible things about the past,” Schroeder told the Guardian. “Even with a single individual, it gives us a potentially great insight into the crew. Where did they come from? Who were these people?”

    In a stroke of good luck, the remains include the petrous bone, the hard part of the skull behind the ear. Dense and impenetrable to water and microbes, this is Schroeder’s best hope for finding intact DNA. […]


    How much of a story the scientists can tell is not yet clear. “This is uncharted waters. I’ve never dealt with submerged remains like this before,” Schroeder said. “We won’t know if it works until we try, but it is definitely worth trying.”

  75. blf says

    A correct but misleading title, Amateur archaeologist finds ‘phenomenal’ trove of rock engravings — this is not one(or a small number) of finds, but over 600 in a span of c.15 years (edits in the original in {curly braces}):

    Walking in all weathers once or twice a week, George Currie, 66, a musician by trade, has located more than 670 Neolithic and Bronze Age carvings over the past 15 years. […]

    There are many more to be found, he believes. Describing the thrill of uncovering ancient artworks that no one has seen for thousands of years, he said: “It’s quite a privilege.”

    Currie’s discoveries will be included in the biggest research project into British prehistoric rock art, a five-year, £1m study starting next year. The project will be hosted by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) under the leadership of Dr Tertia Barnett, an honorary fellow of the University of Edinburgh. Rock art is “relatively undervalued and little known”, she said. “This project is very exciting.”

    More than 6,000 prehistoric carved rocks are recorded across Britain, of which some 2,500 are in Scotland. Most have patterns based on cup marks — circular depressions in the surface, often surrounded by concentric rings, with lines or grooves that extend from them — and are thought to date from 4000 to 2000BC.


    The designs and symbols appear to have been shared across Europe, Barnett said. “The cup-and-ring symbol, almost a universal symbol, is found in almost every country — France, northern Spain, Switzerland, northern Italy, Sardinia, Scandinavia. […]” She praises Currie’s solo efforts as a contribution “to scholarship, protection and conservation”.


    [Mr Currie said] “You might imagine that a smooth surface would be ideal to make an engraving, but very often it’s rough surfaces{…} Sometimes the markings actually use the contours, cracks and fissures as part of the ornamentation. It’s almost as if the engraver is working with the material and that’s really influencing their decisions.”


  76. blf says

    Samoa hit by hail storm so rare residents thought it was a hoax:

    Meteorologist forced to release satellite images of the storm to convince some locals that the hail wasn’t part of a practical joke

    Samoa has been hit by a hail storm so rare that it was believed to be a hoax by many of the island’s inhabitants.

    The tropical nation of Samoa lies in the Pacific Ocean, where the average temperature at this time of year is 29C.

    But on Friday evening an unexpected hail storm struck the eastern side of the island of Savai’i, accompanied by heavy rain and strong wind gusts.

    It was only the second time since records began that hail has fallen on Samoa, the first was in 2011.


    Samoans took to social media to share their photos of the hail, many voicing disbelief at the incident, and then saying it was the “first time” they had been convinced of the the phenomenon of climate change.


  77. blf says

    World’s oldest fish-hooks found on Okinawa, Japan:

    The world’s oldest fish-hooks, approximately 23,000 years old, have been found in a cave on Okinawa Island off the coast of Japan.

    Researchers say the fish-hooks, made from the shells of sea snails and found in the Sakitari cave, show the development of fishing technology at an earlier stage than previously thought and more widespread than previously known.

    Humans are believed to have moved offshore to Okinawa and its sister islands about 50,000 years ago, but much of the history of their adaptation to life there and the evolution of maritime technology is unknown.


    It was previously believed resources were too scarce on the island for it to have supported life for long periods of time. But the excavation of the cave found evidence of eels, frogs, fish, birds and small mammals, which had been charred, suggesting consumption by humans, in various layers of rock.

    Researchers believe this and the other findings of their excavation indicates the island has been nearly continuously occupied since 35,000 years ago. […]

    The discovery of the charred remains of the crab is also significant, say the researchers, in that it provides evidence of seasonal eating habits. […]

  78. blf says

    Fears for Antarctic penguins as new bird flu strain reaches frozen continent:

    Migratory birds that interact with infected poultry in North and South America blamed as scientists worry virus reaching Antarctica more often than thought

    The discovery of a new strain of bird flu in Antarctic penguins has raised concerns the virus is reaching the frozen continent more often than previously thought, flown in by migratory birds.


    Associate professor Aeron Hurt, of the Melbourne-based Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, said scientists had previously thought viruses rarely reached Antarctica.

    “What the most recent finding shows is that viruses do get down there more often than we thought and it’s a red flag towards the future,” Hurt said on Tuesday.


    Several migratory birds, including the Arctic tern and skua are thought to be the most likely culprits for delivering the viruses to Antarctica.

    The birds can interact with poultry farms infected with avian influenza in North and South America before returning to Antarctica.

    While the influenza hasn’t made the penguins ill, the fact that the viruses have arrived in Antarctica worries scientists.

    “The impact of a pathogenic influenza virus, one that causes death or severe illness in birds, would have a really devastating impact,” Hurt said.


    The mildly deranged penguin suggests airdrops of vaccine-containing cheese, a nice vaccine-containing vin, moar vaccine-containing cheese, plus, to be on the safe side, some vaccine-containing cheese.

  79. Owlmirror says

    [I tried leaving this comment on this page, originally linked to by PZ here, but it vanished. It may reappear at some point, but I’d like to post the text here for now]

    I just recently stumbled across a description of classical thoughts on the topic of cosmology, including where the sun went at night, and was reminded of this essay.

    Apparently, while the Ptolemaic view was that the sun orbited the earth, there was an opposing rabbinical idea was that the sun went behind the firmament above after it set in the west and traveled back to the east to rise again.

    Anyway, I thought it was relevant, and that I’d paste the link here.


  80. blf says

    Jubilation as scientists use ‘virtual unwrapping’ to read burnt ancient scroll:

    An ancient scroll that was crushed and burned in a blaze that engulfed an entire town more than 1,400 years ago has been digitally unfurled and identified as a copy of the book of Leviticus.

    Researchers made the discovery after computer scientists used a ground-breaking procedure called “virtual unwrapping” to flatten out digital sheets of the carbonised document and read the Hebrew words originally inscribed on the parchment in AD300.

    Based on 3D x-ray scans of the charred remains, the computer reconstruction reveals the ancient writing with such clarity that scholars have read entire verses of the work and found its place in the history of important biblical texts.

    No more than a lump of disintegrating charcoal, the scroll is so fragile that it has barely been touched since it was discovered in 1970. It was found in the holy ark of a synagogue in En-Gedi, a town on the western shore of the Dead Sea that was destroyed by fire around AD600.

    [… description of digital unwrapping, including a video …]

    [… T]he US team unwrapped five pages of the ancient scroll. Though [Brent Seales, a computer scientist who led the research at the University of Kentucky] does not read Hebrew, it was clear that markings on the pages were written words. To find out what they said, he sent the images back to the team in Jerusalem. When [Pnina Shor, head of the Dead Sea Scrolls Project at the IAA (Israel Antiquities Authority)] replied, she said they had not only read the text, but identified it as the book of Leviticus, the third book of the Hebrew bible. “At that point we were jubilant,” Seales said. “The En-Gedi scroll is proof positive we can potentially recover whole texts from damaged material, not just a few letters or a speculative word.”


    The scientists now hope to read other ancient artefacts that have been damaged in the course of history. High up on their wish list is a library of Roman scrolls that were burned and buried when the town of Herculaneum was destroyed in the eruption of Vesuvius nearly 2000 years ago. Vito Mocella at the National Research Council in Naples has already read single letters from the scrolls.

    “Although this approach is bespoke at present, this type of technology will become more and more available in the future, potentially unlocking ancient libraries thought lost forever,” said Melissa Terras, Director of the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities. Her team has used digital techniques to read The Great Parchment Book, a 17th century survey of Irish estates that was also damaged by fire.


  81. blf says

    UN agrees to fight ‘the biggest threat to modern medicine’: antibiotic resistance:

    All 193 United Nations member states are set to sign a declaration agreeing to combat “the biggest threat to modern medicine” in Wednesday’s high-level meeting on antibiotic resistance.

    The agreement was reached just before the general assembly convened to discuss the threat of antibiotic resistance, which is only the fourth health issue to trigger a general assembly meeting.


    The declaration routes the global response to superbugs along a similar path as the one used to combat climate change. In two years, groups including UN agencies will provide an update on the superbug fight to the UN secretary general.


    I assume the antibiotics-in-animal-feed supporters will soon be (if they haven’t already) consult with Big Tobacco and Big Oil about how to deny and obfuscate their contribution to the problem (which, as an aside, isn’t mentioned in what is, admittedly, a not-too-well written article).

  82. blf says

    Related to @86 and @116 (antibiotic resistance), Secrecy surrounding antibiotic use on Australian farms sparks superbug fears:

    [Prof Peter] Collignon said that while antibiotic resistance in humans through overprescribing of the drugs was part of the problem, the use of antibiotics in the food industry was being “widely abused around the world”.

    “There is a lack of appropriate controls in Australia for antibiotic use in food,” said Collignon […].

    “We know the US pork industry uses four to five times the amount of antibiotics as the industry in Denmark. In Australia we don’t really know, we don’t know which antibiotic is given for which animal and how much.

    “In humans you need prescriptions so we can get that data but in food and animals we don’t know because there’s not the mechanism to get the data, and manufacturers cite commercial confidence.”


    “Perdue chickens in US produce twice as many chickens as the whole of Australia and yet they’ve managed to go completely antibiotic-free.

    “They had to invest about $100m to do so but, by making the investment and improving animal husbandry, it was possible. So any argument from industry that they need antibiotics and it can’t be stopped is facetious.”


    And, in India, Delhi hospitals fighting uphill battle against drug-resistant superbugs:

    Nowhere is growing global threat of antibiotic resistance as stark as in the Indian capital
    One of the resistance-enabling enzymes that most concerns doctors was discovered to be rampant in Delhi in 2008, and named after the city: NDM-1. It has since spread to 70 countries around the world.

    [… P]oor conditions inside some Indian hospitals, cities and villages are only part of the problem. A 2010 study found Indians were the largest consumers of antibiotics in the world, and the Indian Medical Association has estimated that about 50% of prescriptions might be inappropriate or unnecessary.

    “Doctors try to be on the cautious side, so they usually prescribe antibiotics for conditions where it is not required,” says Dr Ajay Kumar, a senior specialist in paediatrics at Kalawati Saran.

    There are also financial incentives: doctors routinely receive commissions from drug companies for prescribing particular medicines.


    As a reminder, “multidrug-resistant superbugs that no antibiotic can fight” are already causing problems, or, as the CDC puts it, “It is the end of the road for antibiotics unless we act urgently” (US reports first case of bacteria resistant to antibiotic of last resort).

  83. blf says

    A follow-up to @67 and @79, from last month (Aug-2015, I missed this then), Oxford Dictionaries halts search for most disliked word after ‘severe misuse’:

    The #OneWordMap, an online survey soliciting readers’ least favourite words, is abandoned after site is flooded with offensive choices

    It was intended to be a lighthearted quest to find the least popular word in the English language, but only a day after it launched, Oxford Dictionaries has ended its search following “severe misuse” of the feature by visitors to their website.

    The dictionary publisher had invited users around the world to name their least favourite English word, intending to highlight differences between countries, genders and ages. […]

    But the #OneWordMap feature has now been closed, with a notice blaming the shutdown on “severe misuse”.

    The dictionary publisher did not expand on which words had caused the shutdown, saying only that it was “a mixture of swearwords and religiously offensive” vocabulary. Posts on Twitter suggest that some users’ picks for their least favourite words included “Islam” and “Israel”.


  84. blf says

    Not sure there is anything new here, but I do rather like the introduction (excerpted below), How climate science deniers can accept so many ‘impossible things’ all at once:

    New research claims psychological traits could help explain why climate science deniers often make contradictory arguments

    Sometimes, climate science deniers will tell you that we can’t predict global temperatures in the future. Sometimes, they’ll say we’re heading for an ice age.

    Occasionally, contrarians will say that no single weather event can prove human-caused global warming. But then they’ll point to somewhere that’s cold, claiming this disproves climate change.

    Often, deniers will tell you that temperature records show that global warming stopped at some point around 1998. But also they’ll insist that those same temperature records can’t be relied on because Nasa and the Bureau of Meteorology are all communist corruption monkeys. Or something.

    Black is also white. Round is also flat. Wrong is also right?

    A new research paper published in the journal Synthese has looked at several of these contradictory arguments that get thrown around the blogosphere, the Australian Senate and the opinion pages of the (mostly) conservative media.

    The paper comes with the fun and enticing title: “The Alice in Wonderland mechanics of the rejection of (climate) science: simulating coherence by conspiracism.”

    Why Alice? Because, as the White Queen admitted: “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”


    One of the authors’ examples of incoherent logic comes from the Australian geologist and mining industry figure Prof Ian Plimer and his 2009 book, Heaven and Earth — a book favourably cited by the likes of the former [Ozland] prime minister Tony Abbott and [child rapist protector] Cardinal George Pell.

    On page 278, Plimer writes that “temperature and CO2 are not connected” but, on page 411, writes that “CO2 keeps our planet warm”.


    The article does touch on one denier’s line of “reasoning” which drives me nuts — if there is a problem, dealing with it will cost money, therefore there is not a problem:

    Accepting the scientific consensus would likely see increased levels of regulation, which challenges [some people’s] identity as free-market advocates. So instead, the authors argue, the only options open are to either deny the consensus or try and discredit it.

    Because cutting GHG emissions requires interventions — such as regulation or increased taxation — that interfere with laissez-faire free-market economics, people whose identity and worldview centres around free markets are particularly challenged by the findings from climate science.

  85. blf says

    Africa’s portable solar revolution is thwarting thieves:

    More secure supplies of electricity are helping to spawn new industries in rural Africa by enabling reliable refrigeration and irrigation

    When South Africa’s government started giving laptops to off-grid schools, James van der Walt spotted an opportunity for a solar business. But his market research revealed a problem: of 12 schools he visited, 11 had previously lost solar panels to thieves. So he decided to pack his system into a reinforced shipping container, creating a secure, mobile power station that could be shut away at the end of each day.

    The prototype Solar Turtle has survived its first year powering a school in the Eastern Cape, despite civil unrest that forced the school to close for three months. Save for some scratches where someone tried to break in, the unit came through intact. “Nothing got broken, nothing got damaged,” says van der Walt. “It was like, ‘Yes, it’s actually working’.”


    The article then continues on with other examples and discussion of some of the benefits and drawbacks. And problems, such as financing:

    Despite the buzz around such ventures, most are very small and in need of funds. Commercial investors have shown some appetite for backing bigger players such as solar systems business M-Kopa Solar, which raised $19m in one investment round last November. But young, innovative startups still rely on money from donors and so-called impact investors, who look for social benefits as well as a financial return […].

    [Torsten] Schreiber’s experience at Africa GreenTec [who make a similar system –blf] bears this out. Having crowdfunded the money for four containers (at around €150,000 a go) he is now looking to mainstream investors to back 50 more. This plan would make him the biggest decentralised energy provider in Mali, he says, but is too small for venture capitalists approached to date: “They told me ‘If you need $100m, come again’,” he says.

  86. blf says

    A follow-up to @101, the continuing stomping through the bizarre faerieland of the AGW-dening, sovereign citizen, all-weird conspiracy kook, Ozland nazi Senator Malcom Roberts, he’s had his meeting on AGW with the CSIRO (Ozland science agency), Malcolm Roberts says he will consider CSIRO’s evidence on climate change:

    The onus of proof is on the CSIRO, they are the tip of $1tn climate industry. They’ve pushed the de-industrialisation of Queensland and Australia, [Roberts] said.

    Normally this is shut down with name-calling and smears. This time we’re starting a debate.


    He said policies to mitigate climate change — such as a carbon price — were important because they impact on jobs, the cost of living, and are especially harsh on the poor. It’s anti-human, he summarised.


    The article also reports a recent Ozland survey “found 77% of Australians believe climate change is happening, up from 64% four years ago and 70% last year.”

  87. Jake Harban says

    Today, my many-weeks-long wrestling match with the disability office has ended. Apparently, I ticked the wrong box on a form months ago, so now I need to start over from then. Everything since then has been for nothing.

    Meanwhile, my support network (such as it is) seems to be evaporating around me. This makes for a very bad head day in which I’m basically being held together by surface tension and one tiny thing can make everything turn into misery forever.

    That thing was milk.

    Or more accurately, it was the single sip of sour milk that I swallowed. Intellectually, I may be consciously aware of the fact that a single sip of sour milk is unlikely to cause any symptoms of illness at all, but with everything collapsing around me that sort of feels like the end of the world. Because it was brand-new and sealed which means it must have been contaminated before or during shipping so I may have swallowed bacteria which will reproduce and poison me forever or something.

    Now I sort of want to vomit and/or melt down just for the catharsis of having it over with, but both are incredibly miserable and it’s not like I can just decide to do either.

    Say, lots of people here are all science and everything does anyone know the effects of drinking sour milk?

  88. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court suspended for defying a Federal Court Order again.

    Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s defiance of federal court rulings on gay marriage violated judicial ethics, a disciplinary court ruled on Friday before suspending him for the rest of his term.
    The punishment effectively removes Moore from office without the nine-member Alabama Court of the Judiciary officially ousting him. Given his age, he will not be able to run for chief justice again under state law.
    Moore was found to have encouraged probate judges to deny marriage licenses to gay couples six months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that everyone has a fundamental right to marry in all 50 states.
    Moore vehemently denied that his administrative order was an act of defiance and said his personal beliefs had nothing to do with it.
    The same panel removed the outspoken Republican in 2003 because he refused to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building. Voters later re-elected him as chief justice after he lost a race for governor.
    This time, Moore sent an administrative order to the state’s 68 probate judges, maintaining that the Alabama Supreme Court’s gay marriage ban remained in “full force and effect” despite the ruling from the nation’s highest court.

    Sure, your religious beliefs had nothing to do with your actions. *snicker*

  89. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Large scale study looking at the use of police body cameras. It reduces the number of complaints against the police by up to 93%.

    Police body cameras can dramatically reduce the number of complaints against officers, research suggests.
    The Cambridge University study showed complaints by members of the public against officers fell by 93% over 12 months compared with the year before.
    Almost 2,000 officers across four UK forces and two US police departments were monitored for the project.
    Dr Barak Ariel, who led the research, said no other policing measure had led to such “radical” changes.
    The study aimed to find out if the use of cameras, which are usually clipped to the top half of an officer’s uniform, affected complaints against police made by the public.
    The experiment involved police from Northern Ireland, the West Midlands, West Yorkshire, and Cambridgeshire, as well as the Rialto and Ventura police departments in California, working for a total of almost 1.5 million hours.
    The findings, published in the journal Criminal Justice and Behaviour, showed there were 113 complaints made against officers during the year trial period, compared with 1,539 in the 12 months before – a reduction of 93%.
    Dr Ariel, who is based at the Cambridge Institute of Criminology, said: “I cannot think of any [other] single intervention in the history of policing that dramatically changed the way that officers behave, the way that suspects behave, and the way they interact with each other.”
    He said the results indicated both police and the public were adjusting their behaviour.
    “Once [the public] are aware they are being recorded, once they know that everything they do is caught on tape, they will undoubtedly change their behaviour because they don’t want to get into trouble.
    “Individual officers become more accountable, and modify their behaviour accordingly, while the more disingenuous complaints from the public fall by the wayside once footage is likely to reveal them as frivolous.”

  90. chigau (違う) says

    Jake Harban #123
    Sour milk is an essential part of many cuisines. Swedes have it on their breakfast cereal.
    I don’t like to drink it so I make buttermilk biscuits.

  91. says

    Jake Harban:

    Say, lots of people here are all science and everything does anyone know the effects of drinking sour milk?

    It won’t hurt you. As Chigau pointed out, sour milk has a serious and strong presence in many cuisines. It’s one of the basics of food all over the planet. Clotted cream is very popular, and you get that by letting milk naturally sour. I don’t care for drinking it, but my husband will, with great enthusiasm. I will, and do use it in cooking, it makes for fantastic food stuffs.

    Out of all the things hassling and hanging over your head, this is the one you least need worry about.

  92. chigau (違う) says

    Martyn Poliakoff and his crew have a bazillion science videos on the yutub.
    A time-sink worth sinking in.

  93. blf says

    Dark Matter: Did we just hear the most exciting phrase in science?:

    A new analysis shows a surprisingly simple relationship between the way galaxies move, and the distribution of ordinary matter within them. Unexpectedly this seems to hold however much mysterious dark matter they contain. That’s funny.

    [… After an analysis of 2693 measurements in 153 galaxies studied by the Space Telescope, the three astrophysicists, Stacy McGaugh and Federico Lelli from Case Western reserve University, and Jim Schombery from the University of Oregon] then observe two things.

    Firstly, the acceleration of those stars furthest from the centre of the galaxy is much higher than would be expected from gravitational attraction of the stars and gas alone. This is well-known and is one of the strongest pieces of evidence for the existence of Dark Matter. By including the gravitational attraction of a certain amount of Dark Matter, the results can be brought into agreement.

    Secondly […] there seems to be a very simple relationship between the ‘expected’ acceleration (stars and gas only) and the observed acceleration. This is peculiar, because they have studied a wide range of different rotating galaxies. Some of them have a big bulge of stars in the middle, some don’t. Some have more gas than stars, some have more stars than gas. The Dark Matter fraction also varies between galaxies, and also within galaxies, as most are dominated by normal matter in the middle and by Dark Matter around the edges.


    [… I]t’s a careful analysis, and the result is intriguing and not easy to explain. There is a quote attributed to the scientist and author Isaac Asimov

    The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but ‘That’s funny…’

    What exactly this observation heralds, I don’t know yet, and nor do the authors. Maybe it is telling us something about how galaxies form, or about the nature of Dark Matter, or about gravity, or something else. But “That’s funny” is a good description of the current reaction of many physicists, including me.

  94. blf says

    One of the largest dinosaur footprints ever found unearthed in Gobi desert:

    One of the largest ever dinosaur footprints has been found by a joint expedition of Japanese and Mongolian researchers in the Gobi desert.

    The giant print measures 106cm (42in) long and 77cm (30in) wide […]. It is thought to have belonged to a titanosaur, a group of giant, long-necked herbivores. Researchers said the creature may have been more than 30 meters (98ft) long and 20 meters (66ft) tall.

    The print was discovered in August in a geologic layer formed between 70m and 90m years ago by researchers from Okayama University of Science and the Mongolian Academy of Science.


    In 2014, a titanosaur skeleton was discovered in Argentina and was dubbed the largest dinosaur ever discovered. A replica of the dinosaur, which has yet to be named, is currently on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. It weighed about 70 tons and its skeleton is 37 meters (122ft) long.

  95. blf says

    “Biocentric universe” (see @133) is, as the mildly deranged penguin points out, a cheaper version of the phenomenal cheese producing proper penguintric pan-universes.

  96. Jake Harban says

    @chigau, Caine:

    It seems that soured milk is a different thing from spoiled milk (requiring raw milk to start with maybe)? I only heard “sour” milk as another term for spoiled milk that’ll make you sick.

    In other news, I found someone with the disability office who can help expedite paperwork so hopefully I’ll have something to show for this process within a week or two. The initial conversation did not bode well— she simply took it as given that I was a parent calling on behalf of my disabled child. Luckily, she responded instantly to correction and I won’t hold it against her since apparently she normally works in a child-centric office and kind of runs on autopilot; while my case is nominally under the auspices of the autism office, they don’t seem to have any paperwork expediting people or, for that matter, any people who actually do their jobs at all. So I’m not the most optimistic, but we’ll see how this goes.

    In other other news, I’m currently sick due to spoiled milk. This was different, brand-new milk. It looked fine. It smelled fine. It tasted fine. It was not fine. Luckily, today is a better head day so the admittedly minor annoyance of bad milk is kept firmly in perspective and not likely to make me fall apart at the seams. If past experience is any guide, I will be better in an hour or two. Although I may just decide to never drink milk ever again.

  97. Vivec says

    I’ve just been made aware that my entire pond of shubunkin fish has just been found belly up.

    I’d raised four generations of them and was working on the fifth when I had to leave them to a caretaker for a while, and as of yet the cause of death appears to be an improperly cleaned pond.

    They will sorely be missed.

  98. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Jake, how does your “sour milk” differ from cultured buttermilk? That, if it works for you, should be a stable source of commercially available sustenance. My grandmother used in in her fried cornbread recipe,

  99. blf says

    Freak out some woo-woos, Panic in the zodiac: astrologers quash fears over ‘new’ 13th sign:

    A Nasa blogpost about constellations that described a 13th sign, Ophiuchus, left astrologers and astronomers oddly aligned — by trying to calm people down
    “All my clients are freaking out,” said Shelley Ackerman, a New York-based astrologer and member of the American Federation of Astrologers. “It’s ridiculous.”

    Ackerman’s clients lost their composure because of a Nasa blogpost about constellations that described a 13th sign, the snake-bearer Ophiuchus, devised by Babylonians about 3,000 years ago but left out of their 12-month calendar. Because Earth’s axis has slowly shifted over the centuries, shifting the perspective of the stars, Ophiuchus now spends more time aligned with the sun than before, a change noticed years ago.

    Many saw their birthdays suddenly ticked backward one sign — potentially changing their whole identity.

    The space agency tried to warn people not to read too much into the calendar or the many zodiacal constellations: “Astrology is something else. It’s not science.” But inattentive news sites blamed Nasa or declared: your life is a lie. People panicked.

    [… brilliant Nasa tweet: “Have you heard that we changed the zodiac signs? Nope, we didn’t…we just did the math.” …]

    It’s disturbing a lot of people, Arizona astrologer Salvador Russo said. I think it’s aimed at discrediting astrology to prevent people from gaining wisdom and enlightenment.


    The space agency also distanced itself from astrology. “Astronomers and other scientists know that stars many light years away have no effect on the ordinary activities of humans on Earth,” Nasa said.

    Russo still saw dark forces at the space agency. Don’t be fooled to think that astrology isn’t real or valuable, he wrote on Facebook. The 1% have been using it in secret for centuries. There’s evidence of this everywhere. We have entered the Age of Aquarius. It’s time for all of mankind to become wise to the stars.


  100. blf says

    Researchers find film by early cinema pioneer thought to be lost forever:

    Czech archive discovers 1904 Georges Méliès film Match de Prestidigitation after it had been donated wrongly labelled
    The silent 1904 two-minute Match de Prestidigitation (“conjuring contest”) was found on a reel given to the archives by an anonymous donor, labelled as another film.

    Frenchman Méliès, a stage magician turned movie-maker, is credited with many technical and narrative developments in the 500-plus movies he made between 1896 and 1912.

    “The reel was titled ‘Les Transmutations Imperceptibles’, which is the name of another work by Méliès. But our specialist immediately realised it was another film,” archives spokeswoman Jana Ulipova told AFP.


    The recovered film shows a magician who divides into two. The two doubles then take turns to perform tricks before merging back into one man.


    The Czech archives have 22 movies by Méliès, whose Le Voyage dans la Lune (“A Trip to the Moon”) from 1902 is seen by many as the first science fiction film.


  101. Jake Harban says

    Today I was approved for disability benefits, for the most tenuous definition of “approved” ever.

    Basically, I got a letter telling me I was approved and as a result I will, at some point in the next two weeks, receive a call from someone at the disability office so that I can set up an appointment at some distant future point so that I can come in and discuss what benefits I may or may not have been approved for. So paperwork hell continues.

    In other news, I made a cake. It seems to have turned out well enough, but my cake-making process was constantly hampered by autism kicking at my brain and saying: “This is NEW! This is DIFFERENT! This is a CHANGE that BREAKS YOUR ROUTINES! I’ll just go ahead and turn your anxiety levels up to 11 for you.” I persevered nonetheless because it’s been the first time in weeks that I had enough spoons to do any serious cooking or baking and I wanted cake dammit, but now I’m in a mood to murder the first person who says that autistic people like me “prefer” routines and “dislike” change.

    And it looks like I’ll be eating cake for dinner because I spent all my spoons making it and don’t have any left to prepare real food. Maybe there’s a sandwich hidden in the fridge? I’m pretty sure one or both of my parents picked something up from the deli.

  102. Jake Harban says

    Success. Sandwich obtained.

    It’s not my sandwich but my parents have grown accustomed to me stealing their food when I don’t have the spoons to make my own or the money to buy it. And besides, this time I have cake as a bargaining chip.

  103. Rob Grigjanis says

    Dylan* wins Nobel Literature Prize. Apparently the Committee are also long long time fans of Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense. And Irvine Welsh is not amused;

    I’m a Dylan fan, but this is an ill conceived nostalgia award wrenched from the rancid prostates of senile, gibbering hippies

    Now that‘s literature.

    *No, not the good poet he stole the name from.

  104. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Another stupid gun trick, except this happened a few miles from where i live.

    A 3-year-old boy is believed to have shot and killed himself in north suburban Waukegan early Thursday morning, police said.
    Waukegan Fire Department Battalion Chief Tom Christenson said emergency responders were called to the 1100 block of Greenfield Avenue just before 3 a.m. on reports of a child who had been shot in the head.
    The boy, identified as Jerome Banks, was was transported to Vista East Medical Center in critical condition, where he later was pronounced dead, police said.
    An investigation revealed the toddler’s wounds appear to have been self-inflicted, authorities said. According to the Lake County Illinois Coroner’s autopsy report, the boy died from a single shot.
    Detectives believe the boy woke up just before 3 a.m., went into his parents’ room and took his father’s 9mm semi0automatic Diamondback off the dresser. They say the boy then went into the living room when the gun discharged, striking him in the head.
    The boy’s father possessed a valid FOID card and no charges had been filed as of Thursday afternoon.
    One other weapon was taken into police custody from the home.

    The gun owner should be charged with negligent homicide. No loaded gun should be in any area where a child could pick it up. Your sleep doesn’t change that safety rule.

  105. blf says

    Universe has 2 trillion galaxies, astronomers say:

    Hubble telescope images from deep space were collected over 20 years to solve the puzzle of how many galaxies the cosmos harbors

    There are a dizzying 2 trillion galaxies in the universe, up to 2 times more than previously thought, astronomers reported on Thursday. The surprising finding, based on 3D modeling of images collected over 20 years by the Hubble Space Telescope, was published in the Astronomical Journal.

    Scientists have puzzled over how many galaxies the cosmos harbors at least since US astronomer Edwin Hubble showed in 1924 that Andromeda, a neighboring galaxy, was not part of our own Milky Way. But even in the era of modern astronomy, getting an accurate tally has proven difficult.

    To begin with, there is only part of the cosmos where light given off by distant objects has had time to reach Earth. The rest is effectively beyond our reach. And even within this “observable universe”, current technology only allows us to glimpse 10% of what is out there, according to the new findings.


    Using deep space images from Hubble, [Christopher Conselice of the University of Nottingham,] and his team painstakingly converted them into 3D to measure the number of galaxies at different times in the history of the universe. The analysis reached back more than 13bn years — very near the time of the “Big Bang” thought to have given birth to the universe.


    When the universe was only a few billion years old, there were 10 times as many galaxies in a given volume of space as there are today, the findings suggest. This in turn suggests that “significant evolution must have occurred to reduce their number through extensive merging of systems”.

  106. blf says

    Cane-toad sausages help biologist win top science prize:

    [Australian] PM’s science award given to researcher who used minced cane toads in sausages to teach animals not to prey on larger, lethal toads

    A biologist who came up with the idea to release small, non-lethal cane toads into the wild to teach snakes and lizards a life-saving lesson in bush tucker has been awarded the 2016 prime minister’s prize for science.

    Rick Shine, from the University of Sydney, has led the world in cane toad research, and successfully taught quolls and goannas not to eat cane toads by feeding them sausages made from cane toads. After eating a non-lethal dose of cane toad poison, the predators learn not to eat large toads that will kill them.

    Cane toads are a rampant introduced species that kills predators such as quolls and snakes when eaten due to poison in the amphibian’s glands.

    Shine’s next plan is to release small “non-lethal” toads into the wild, ahead of the toad invasion front to buffer the toad-naive predators before the large toads enter their area.

    Explained by First Dog on the Moon, Science is back! To help educate quolls about cane toads. With sausages (cartoon): “In the epic battle between cane toads and native northern quolls, science may just have given the quolls a fighting chance for a comeback”.

  107. blf says

    Monkeys smash theory that only humans can make sharp stone tools (the word “tools” in the headline is extremely misleading):

    Capuchins observed producing razor-edged stone pieces similar to earliest known hominin tools, rewriting view that only humans create such artefacts

    Monkeys have been observed producing sharp stone flakes that closely resemble the earliest known tools made by our ancient relatives, proving that this ability is not uniquely human.

    Previously, modifying stones to create razor-edged fragments was thought to be an activity confined to hominins, the family including early humans and their more primitive cousins. The latest observations re-write this view, showing that monkeys unintentionally produce almost identical artefacts simply by smashing stones together.

    The findings put archaeologists on alert that they can no longer assume that stone flakes they discover are linked to the deliberate crafting of tools by early humans as their brains became more sophisticated.

    Tomos Proffitt, an archaeologist at the University of Oxford and the study’s lead author, said: “At a very fundamental level — if you’re looking at a very simple flake — if you had a capuchin flake and a human flake they would be the same. It raises really important questions about what level of cognitive complexity is required to produce a sophisticated cutting tool.”

    Unlike early humans, the flakes produced by the capuchins were the unintentional byproduct of hammering stones — an activity that the monkeys pursued decisively, but the purpose of which was not clear. Originally scientists thought the behaviour was a flamboyant display of aggression in response to an intruder, but after more extensive observations the monkeys appeared to be seeking out the quartz dust produced by smashing the rocks, possibly because it has a nutritional benefit.

    “We’re not altogether certain of why they’re doing it,” said Proffitt.

    He and colleagues made a series of observations of the wild-bearded capuchin monkeys who live in Brazil’s Serra da Capivara National Park, as they visited a rocky outcrop and selected rounded quartz hammer stones. The monkeys typically pounded their chosen stone on embedded quartz cobbles and then licked the quartz dust that this produced.

    They made no attempts to use the sharp fragments and showed no interest in them […]


    “I don’t think this discovery is going to throw anything into doubt,” said Matt Pope, an archaeologist at University College London, who was not involved in the work.

    But the findings could be relevant to future discoveries of even earlier, unrefined stone flake collections. “This is putting us on notice that if we find knapped or struck stone tools in the archeological record, they’re not necessarily cutting tools,” he said.

  108. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I’ve been keeping an eye on the Malheur Wildlife Refuge Occupation Trial with the two Bundy’s and five others of the Bungling Bundy Militia fame. Today, the trial went to the jury. Even the defendants admitted they were in violation of the conspiracy law, but tried to blame their actions on the government. Their weapons shouldn’t have be considered a threat. *snicker*
    Their hope is for jury nullification. But, much to their chagrin, before the trial, the US Circuit Court Judge ruled with a judicial notice that the ownership of the wildlife refuge by the US was fact without question. Which put the burden of evidence upon them to show their claims of ownership by the State of Oregon had a basis in fact. Which was never shown.

  109. Jake Harban says

    Trigger warning for emesis. Not sure anyone here needs it but I know someone who does so just in case.

    Today’s exciting edition of Living With Crippling Anxiety is: Apparently I’m going to die of norovirus.

    Because I stepped in puke.

    Now, my brain has made the following seemingly-unshakeable arguments:

    1. Puke on the street in a college town in October? Norovirus is probably not the most likely explanation for its existence. That’d be ethanol.

    2. Norovirus is spread primarily through infected people handling food and aerosolized puke spread during the act of vomiting. Puke on the ground is an unlikely vector.

    3. According to an inspection of my shoes and pants, I didn’t actually step in it. Just very uncomfortably near it.

    4. Just in case, I left anything that could have touched a viral particle near the door and then took a shower.

    5. Norovirus isn’t actually fatal. My anxiety demands a “reason” for its existence but it can get a bit lazy and try to pass off an inconvenience as a threat to life and limb.

    However, my anxiety shook those arguments with the following counterarguments:

    1. It could have been infectious, therefore it is!

    2. Infected puke can have billions of viral particles, and it only takes five to cause infection. That many must have got on you somewhere!

    3. Puke aerosol was probably floating in the air for hours just waiting for you!

    4. You think it’s not a big deal to catch norovirus? You think it’s an unpleasantness you’ll get over in 1-3 days? Well just for that I’m gonna insist that you may have tracked the virus into your house so you’ll have to be nervous for weeks! No waiting out the incubation period for you, wise ass!

    When my parents wake up, I’ll ask them to confirm my arguments so I can ad populum my anxiety to death.

    PS. I tried to make the voice of anxiety have creationist-font but I’m not sure I got the HTML right so it may look weird.

  110. says

    @Jake — The Anxiety-Monster sucks, especially when it’s nibbling away at your sanity with “what if” and “here’s the worst possible thing that could happen — let’s find a way to make it even worse!“.

    Your HTML worked, Anxiety is all creationist-y.

  111. blf says

    Italy’s ‘monuments men’ unearth treasures from ruins of Amatrice quake:

    For the ‘Blue Helmet’ squad of police and art experts, recovering cultural heritage is part of rebuilding after August’s earthquake

    The first mission of the new Italian “Blue Helmet” force dedicated to defending cultural heritage was supposed to go to Palmyra, the ancient Syrian city whose monuments were destroyed by Islamic State, when it was established last February.

    But when a 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck central Italy in August, killing 298 people and devastating the town of Amatrice, the 60 modern-day “monuments men” headed to the rubble, in territory far more familiar than they were trained for.

    On Friday their work was completed. After working intensively in Amatrice and surrounding towns, the blue helmets left the area having recovered some 900 pieces of art such as altarpieces and other paintings from museums, chapels and shrines.

    Fabrizio Parrulli, commander of the Carabinieri cultural heritage protection department, said the pieces were being kept in Rieti, where they would be restored before returning home. Among the items recovered were an altarpiece, a painting from 1700 depicting a local saint, San Giuseppe of Leonessa, rare reliquaries, a 19th-century silver-gilt tabernacle, terracotta stations of the cross and a wooden Madonna behind which locals would gather for processions.

    “[…] The people who have already lost everything, even in an earthquake, should not feel stripped of their memories, which often remain the only identifying elements of a community,” Parrulli told the Italian newspaper La Stampa.

    The “Blue Helmets of Culture” were established in February following a landmark agreement between Italy and […] Unesco, which created a rapid-response mechanism to deal with assaults on cultural heritage as part of the UN’s broader peacekeeping operations.

    I must admit I hadn’t heard of these “Blue Helmets of Culture” below, but it sounds like a good idea.

  112. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Dang, looks like the Mars curse struck another lander, this one from the ESA..

    BERLIN — Europe’s experimental Mars probe hit the right spot — but at the wrong speed — and may have ended up in a fiery ball of rocket fuel when it struck the surface, scientists said Friday.
    Pictures taken by a NASA satellite show a black spot in the area where the Schiaparelli lander was meant to touch down Wednesday, the European Space Agency said. The images end two days of speculation following the probe’s unexpected radio silence less than a minute before the planned landing.
    “Estimates are that Schiaparelli dropped from a height of between 2 and 4 kilometers (1.4-2.4 miles), therefore impacting at a considerable speed, greater than 300 kilometers per hour (186 mph),” the agency said.
    It said the large disturbance captured in the NASA photographs may have been caused by the probe’s steep crash-landing, which would have sprayed matter around like a blast site on Earth.
    “It is also possible that the lander exploded on impact, as its thruster propellant tanks were likely still full,” the agency said.

    The orbiter the lander separated from went successfully into orbit around Mars.
    Space flight is tough.

  113. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    With the Bundy Bungling Militia trial under jury deliberations, I took a look at the claim of “adverse possession”.
    Wiki has a long article on the subject.

    The opening paragraph sounds like what the bungling had in mind.

    Adverse possession is a method of acquiring title to real property by possession for a statutory period under certain conditions, viz: proof of non-permissive use which is actual, open and notorious, exclusive, adverse, and continuous for the statutory period.[1][Note 1] It is governed by statute[2] concerning the title to real property (land and the fixed structures built upon it). By adverse possession, title to another’s real property can be acquired without compensation, by holding the property in a manner that conflicts with the true owner’s rights for a specified period. For example, squatter’s rights are a specific form of adverse possession.

    Turns out there are a few caveats to the concept.

    1) Generally doesn’t work with government property.

    Adverse possession does not typically work against property owned by the public.

    2) Then there are the items which condemn their claims.

    Exclusive use of the property – The disseisor holds the land to the exclusion of the true owner. There may be more than one adverse possessor, taking as tenants in common, so long as the other elements are met. But if any time the true owner uses the land for any reason, adverse possession cannot be claimed.

    Essentially, if the workers at the Wildlife Refuge show up and do their normal work, no “adverse possession” can be claimed. Which is why the prosecution claimed just trying “adverse possession” fits a conspiracy to impede the federal workers from doing their jobs.

    One final caveat:

    Dispossession not under force of arms. Dispossession by armed invasion does not establish a claim of adverse possession against the true owner

    Bringing in a number of weapons goes against this.

    Sounds like they are up the creek without a paddle legally, but juries can be sympathetic.

  114. Jake Harban says

    @153: Adverse possession normally requires occupying the property for a matter of years, during which time the owner makes no effort to reclaim the property. Although your points are also true.

    I think they’re clearly hoping for nullification. We do have rather a history of sympathetic juries nullifying to acquit white terrorists.

  115. Jake Harban says

    So today’s funtime experience: I’d snagged an invite to a Halloween party with all the fun things.

    The problem is that parties of this sort are inevitably loud and crowded and busy. That’s a giant sensory overload in a social setting full of novel non-routine activities— not a very good combination.

    Yesterday, I found myself looking up information about managing autism and found an autistic activist with a blog for dispensing advice on the subject, including the specific issue of parties and the sensory issues thereof. Their advice? “Just don’t go to parties!”

    Yeah. Um. See, that doesn’t actually address the issue at hand.

    But that was the only “advice” I could find; most of it was just about how to design an autism-friendly party, and most of that was specifically about autism-friendly parties for children. All of which is, of course, completely inapplicable to the situation of me, an autistic adult, attending a party with three dozen neurotypical adults who think I’m neurotypical too.

    So in the end, I dumped my spoon drawer out onto the table, counted up its contents, and decided to just go to the damn party because I deserve to have fun sometimes, damn it.

    It was a highly stressful experience that left me incredibly drained. I can’t honestly say I enjoyed it. Apparently, whether I “deserve” to have fun is irrelevant because I am not physically capable of having it. So instead, I’ll be having an afterparty in my room in the dark and no one is invited except Misery (who will show up 90 minutes early and outstay its welcome) and Cure For Autism (who won’t show up no matter how many invitations I send but I can always hope).

  116. Jake Harban says

    Today’s funtime experience: I finally heard back from the disability office! Again!

    For, what, the fourth time? I’m losing count, I completed the process of paperwork hell and received an approval letter declaring: “I’m sorry, but your benefits are in another castle.” And now I have to start another process of paperwork hell to get another meaningless “approval.” But not for a couple months— it takes that long for their system to register my current meaningless approval.

    Meanwhile, even my parents are trying to research autism cures and autism treatments but there’s pretty much nothing out there. Dad has resorted to looking into brain injury specialists on the hope that there might be something analogous; Mom found dubious experimental treatments that someone would be willing to perform on me for $5,000. Meanwhile, whenever I have a spare spoon I usually look into autism forums and blogs trying to find someone with similar disability who can tell me what sort of treatments work for them but few people have had comparable symptoms and those that do have no idea how to treat them.

  117. John Morales says

    Two current stories about disability, putting it into a different context (one seems exploitative, the other not-so-much):

    Piggery seeks employees on autism spectrum for animal husbandry and welfare roles

    Information technology and cyber security organisations have discovered employees with autism are perfect for high attention to detail roles.

    And in what is believed to be a world-first for the agricultural industry, Sunpork Farms has advertised for eight animal husbandry and welfare positions — but as a prerequisite, applicants must provide medical proof that they are on the autism spectrum.

    The business owners beating their mental health issues

    ‘Like a super power’

    While Laura-Leigh might seem a rarity, a lone example of someone with mental health problems succeeding in business, she is in fact far from alone.

  118. Rob Grigjanis says

    Discuss: Art seems to be dead, and I don’t want to intrude on the autopsies in the other threads, so I’ll leave this poem by Charles Bukowski here;

    a challenge to the dark

    shot in the eye
    shot in the brain
    shot in the ass
    shot like a flower in the dance

    amazing how death wins hands down
    amazing how much credence is given to idiot forms of life

    amazing how laughter has been drowned out
    amazing how viciousness is such a constant

    I must soon declare my own war on their war
    I must hold to my last piece of ground
    I must protect the small space I have made that has allowed me life

    my life not their death
    my death not their death…

  119. says

    Rob Grigjanis @ 161:

    Discuss: Art seems to be dead, and I don’t want to intrude on the autopsies in the other threads, so I’ll leave this poem by Charles Bukowski here;

    Sorry about that, my plate is overflowing. You could always wander over to TNET* at Affinity. Not only will it be seen, good chance I might post it. :D

    *The Never Ending Thread.

  120. Akira MacKenzie says

    This afternoon, I had it.

    Ever since Tuesday night, my emotions have been on high-alert. Reading about Trump’s potential cabinet posts and future legislative goals, and the apologetics made by Right-wing Internet thugs, made things worse. How often do you get a front row seat to the rise of fascism in America and know you can’t do anything to stop it?

    Then, while driving to work, the “Check Engine” light on my car went on and I noticed there was a definite difference with acceleration and some stuttering. I’m afraid to take it in because I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to afford repairs, but I’m afraid NOT to take in it because if my car is disabled I can’t get to work. So that added more to my worries.

    Even though it was a bank holiday, the FIs still need to handle fraud prevention, and today was particularly busy. Call, after call, after call… one after another with no pause in between. Throw in a kludgey slow computer that would freeze up or crash every time you opened a window, and not being allowed to take a breather (I’m only allowed 30 min a month for “Emergency Breaks.”) and I was in a stress-filled hell.

    I felt trapped. Trapped at a desk I couldn’t leave, surrounded by paralyzing problems in a nation that was going insane. I couldn’t take anymore. I limped on until my lunch break and broke down. I called my shrink’s office in hopes for some advice, but they were busy when I called and they didn’t return my message. I spent my half-hour lunch break sitting on the steps, resting my head on the railing, trying to get my head together. Dozens of people walked right by me. Only one bothered to ask if I was OK. After I told one of my managers of my trouble, she let me sit for a while in the nurse’s station after lunch until I felt calm enough to go back to work.

    Now I’m home, lying in bed, wondering what the hell I’m going to do and if I can hold together another day in this new world.

  121. says

    Akira, please, keep reaching out, get to your shrink, or call another resource, whatever you have to do. There’s a massive list of help resources here.

    I’m barely functional myself, so I do understand. This is a terrible time for so many people, and we are all going to need support to get through it, to say the least. Remember, I have an open thread over at Affinity, where you can vent, cry, rage, whatever you need to do, okay?

  122. John Morales says

    Cane toad sausages (for conservation)

    “The idea is that we feed toad sausages to animals like northern quolls, and their experience in eating that sausage causes vomiting and aversion to the taste of a toad, and the smell of the toad,” explains Corrin Everitt, who heads up the State Cane Toad Initiative for WA Parks and Wildlife