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Welcome to Science Saturday, where the Overnight News Digest crew, consisting of founder Magnifico, regular editors jlms qkw, maggiejean, wader, Oke, rfall, and JML9999, alumni editors palantir, Bentliberal, and ScottyUrb, guest editor annetteboardman, and current editor-in-chief Neon Vincent, along with anyone else who reads and comments, informs and entertains you with this week's news about science, space, and the environment.

This week's featured story comes from Scientific American.

The Top 10 Science Stories of 2012
A devastating storm, a new phase of Mars exploration, a recipe for a pandemic flu—these and other events highlight the year in science and technology
December 20, 2012

Many more than 10 events took place during 2012 that reveal how science and technology play integral roles in our lives. As a broad topic, climate change took center stage, offering many possible choices, including efforts to combat it head-on with a rogue geoengineering experiment meant to suck carbon dioxide out of the air as well as efforts to develop clean energy, such as the creation of microbes that convert seaweed into ethanol.

The Internet and other communications technology still creates challenges for policymakers, companies and individuals. Among the most notable controversies was the one centered on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which led to a blackout protest by some well-trafficked sites, such as Wikipedia.

And research in basic science continues to assault conventional thinking, such as the reported discovery of ovarian stem cells. If confirmed, the finding would overturn the long-held notion that women are born with all the eggs they will ever have.

Alas, cultural norms and conventions dictate that we stick to 10 items; channeling Spinal Tap and dialing it up to 11 would hardly help.

More stories after the jump.

2012 in Review

Science News: Science News Top 25
The Year in Science 2012
By Science News Staff
Print edition: December 29, 2012; Vol.182 #13 (p. 16)

When it came to choosing the year’s best stories, the editors of Science News applied a simple criterion: We picked the ones that kept us up at night.

The top two stories on our list literally had us working the graveyard shift. In the wee hours of July 4, we tuned in online as physicists in Geneva held a morning (their time) seminar announcing the discovery of the long-sought Higgs boson. The next month found us working in our pj’s yet again, this time as NASA’s Curiosity rover executed a spectacular touchdown on Mars in the early a.m. of August 6, Eastern time.

Then there were the stories that thwarted our sleep with their terrifying implications. In June, researchers described in two controversial papers how easily bird flu can be mutated to render it capable of airborne transmission. And if global pandemic flu wasn’t enough to keep us staring at the ceiling, we could rest assured that no rest would come from pondering a warming trend that, far from being a theoretical concern for the distant future, is a clear and present danger. Several studies this year pinned recent record heat waves and droughts on human-caused warming, and in September the Arctic Ocean’s sea ice cover reached its smallest size on record, surpassing the previous record low by almost 20 percent.

But it wasn’t just anxiety and dread that kept us tossing and turning. Other stories made the list because they filled our sleepy heads with fascinating questions: Will we ever visit the planet that has been discovered in the Alpha Centauri system, just a few light-years away? What led humans to meet and mate with Neandertals and even more exotic relatives whose DNA has ended up in the genes of people living today? It’s enough to keep you up for days.

There’s just one story here that’s not worth losing a wink of sleep over. Despite archaeological evidence to the contrary, some modern-day mystics have claimed that the ancient Maya predicted a global apocalypse on December 21, 2012. Now we can put that one to bed for sure.

io9: The Biggest Scientific Breakthroughs of 2012
Robert T. Gonzalez and Annalee Newitz
December 26, 2012

This was an incredible year for science and engineering. We sent a powerful robot scientist to Mars, and we discovered the elusive Higgs Boson particle, plus there were world-changing innovations in medicine and materials science. We sequenced the genome of a human ancestor, and looked into the mind of an artificial intelligence that recognized the content of images on the web for the first time (of course it included cat faces). Here are the seventeen biggest scientific breakthroughs of 2012.

io9: The Most Futuristic Predictions That Came True in 2012
George Dvorsky   
December 28, 2012

Yesterday we told you about the biggest scientific breakthroughs of 2012. But now we turn our attention to those developments that make us realize just how futuristic things are quickly becoming.

And the past year provided no shortage of futureshock. We watched a cyborg compete at the Olympic Games, and marveled at the news that NASA was actually working on a faster-than-light warp drive. It was also a year that featured the planet's first superstorm, the development of an artificial retina — and primates who had their intelligence enhanced with a chip. Here are 16 predictions that came true in 2012.

UPI: Scientists look outward and inward, forwards and backwards
By JIM ALGAR, United Press International
Published: Dec. 22, 2012 at 4:01 AM

2012 saw science looking from the cosmically large to the infinitesimally small, from the end of some efforts -- like the Space Shuttle era -- to the beginnings of others, with the search for fundamental physical particles.

UPI: Notable deaths in Science-Technology
By PAT NASON, United Press International
Published: Dec. 26, 2012 at 2:02 PM

The first man on the moon, the first American woman in space and several Nobel laureates whose work transformed everyday life topped the list of figures in science and technology who died in 2012.

NBC News: The year's ancient mysteries (and missteps) put into perspective
By Alan Boyle

Long-ago lore still has the power to ignite modern-day controversies: Witness the tempests that were stirred up this year over the Maya calendar, the purported "Gospel of Jesus' Wife," a bone box linked to early Christians, a disputed dinosaur skeleton and the plan to clone a woolly mammoth.

It turned out that there was much more to each of these cases than met the eye. Or sometimes much less. Either way, we'll be hearing more about ancient mysteries in the year to come. Here's a status report on six of 2012's most controversial mysteries (and missteps) in the realms of archaeology, anthropology and paleontology.

Looking Ahead to 2013

Smithsonian Magazine: 5 Science Stories to Watch in 2013
December 28, 2012

Over the past year, we’ve seen a ton of scientific milestones and discoveries of historic importance, from the discovery of the Higgs Boson to the landing of a mobile laboratory on Mars. Science, though, is defined by its relentless march forward: No matter how much we learn, there are always more questions to answer. So, after our roundup of 2012?s most surprising (and significant) scientific events, we bring you the most exciting studies, projects and science developments we’ll be watching for in 2013.
The BBC has its own forecast in A science news preview of 2013.

Smithsonian Magazine: Six Innovators to Watch in 2013
December 27, 2012

In the spirit of the post-holiday season, allow me to present my final list of 2012: six innovators who are pushing technology in fresh directions, some to solve stubborn problems, others to make our lives a little fuller.

Smithsonian Magazine: Seven Must-See Art and Science Exhibitions of 2013
December 28, 2012

This New Year’s Eve, in addition to the typical resolutions to exercise more or spend more time with family, consider resolving to take better advantage of the cultural offerings of America’s cities and towns. Whether you seek to attend concerts, listen to lectures by authors and visiting scholars or become regulars at area museums, a few exhibitions slated for 2013 on the intersection of art and science will be must-sees in the New Year.

Recent Science Diaries and Stories

Watch this space!

Interdisciplinary Group on Preventing School and Community Violence

by USSpinWatcher

Women in Science: Jane Colden 1724-1766
by Desert Scientist

MIT announces a new kind of transparent flexible solar cell made from graphene sheets with nanowires
by HoundDog

Ancient Ireland: Celts?
by Ojibwa

Defining Dallas: Planning for West Nile
by Cyberwizard

This week in science: good riddance 2012
by DarkSyde


Discovery News: The Year in Natural Disasters: Photos

This year wasn't particularly bad in terms of natural disasters, but it may not have felt that way.

NASA Television on YouTube: Stephen Colbert, for This Year @NASA!

In case you missed it, here's Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert and his shout out for NASA TV's "This Year @NASA!"

NASA Television on YouTube: This Year @ NASA, 2012

Curiosity Has Landed, Flight of the Dragon, Antares Rolls and so much more...

NASA Television on YouTube: NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover Report #18 -- December 21, 2012

A NASA's Mars Curiosity rover team member gives an update on developments and status of the planetary exploration mission. The Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft delivered Curiosity to its target area on Mars at 1:31:45 a.m. EDT on Aug. 6, which includes the 13.8 minutes needed for confirmation of the touchdown to be radioed to Earth at the speed of light. The rover will conduct a nearly two-year prime mission to investigate whether the Gale Crater region of Mars ever offered conditions favorable for microbial life.

NBC News: Year in Space: 2012

io9: The Hottest Space Porn of 2012
Robert T. Gonzalez
Dec 24, 2012 12:30 PM

2012 was a remarkable year for jaw-dropping space imagery. Here, in no particular order, are our 22 favorite photos, videos, composites, timelapses and animations of the cosmos for the year.


NBC News: The Year in Space: Hello to Mars ... farewell to Neil Armstrong
By Alan Boyle

Every year marks beginnings and endings, but when it comes to space exploration, 2012 ranks as a big year for both starts and stops. SpaceX opened what could be a new era for commercial spaceflight. NASA's Curiosity rover began what could turn out to be a decade-long mission on Mars. First moonwalker Neil Armstrong, arguably the world's best-known (and most private) astronaut, passed away. So did Sally Ride, America's first woman astronaut. And after 30 years of service, the space shuttle fleet finally settled into museum retirement.

We've put together a slideshow that hits the off-world highlights of the past year. We've also put together an unscientific poll that lets you choose the top story for 2012 and the top trend for 2013. Without further ado, here's our 16th annual "Year in Space" roundup:

Smithsonian Magazine: Space Exploration and the End of an Era: Notable Deaths in 2012
December 28, 2012

The year is almost over and media outlets across the country are reflecting on the news makers of the past 365 days and the celebrated and notorious who passed away in 2012. Their compilations show that a handful of late greats of space exploration will not be with us in 2013.

2012 witnessed the passing of two legends in human space exploration: Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride.
The shuttle program itself reached the end of its lifetime in 2012. Look Up! 13 Must-See Stargazing Events in 2013
by Joe Rao, Skywatching Columnist
Date: 28 December 2012 Time: 11:40 AM ET

As 2012 comes to a close, some might wonder what is looming sky-wise for 2013.What celestial events might we look forward to seeing?

I’ve selected what I consider the top 13"skylights" (get it?) for the coming year, and have listed them in chronological order. Not all these night sky events will be visible from any one locality (you may have to travel to catch all the eclipses), but you can observe many of them from the comfort of your backyard, weather permitting.

The next year also promises two potentially bright comets: PANSTARRS and ISON. As any astronomer can tell you, comets are notoriously capricious; we can only guess at how bright they will get and how long their respective tails will be. We’ll just have to wait and see.

In general, 2013 promises an action-packed 12 months for stargazers.

NBC News has most of these and more in The 'Comet of the Century' ... and other night-sky highlights for 2013.


Smithsonion Magazine's Dinosaur Tracking blog: The Most Exciting (and Frustrating) Stories From This Year in Dinosaurs
By Brian Switek
December 14, 2012

There’s always something new to learn about dinosaurs. Whether it’s the description of a previously-unknown species or a twist in what we thought we knew about their lives, our understanding of the evolution, biology, and extinction is shifting on a near-daily basis. Even now, paleontologists are pushing new dinosaurs to publication and debating the natural history of these wonderful animals, but the end of the year is as good a time as any to take a brief look back at what we learned in 2012.

Discovery News via NBC News: Dinosaur found in Wyoming had an unforgettable smile
Kaatedocus lived 150 million years ago, during the Late Jurassic period, experts say
By Jennifer Viegas
updated 12/19/2012 5:54:53 PM ET

A new dinosaur unearthed in Wyoming had such large teeth that its mouth perpetually looked to be smiling a huge grin.

The dinosaur, described in the latest Journal of Systematic Paleontology, is called Kaatedocus siberi, with its name deriving from Diplodocus and the Native American Crow word for "small." Diplodocus was yet another dinosaur with a winning smile. This latest find was an early ancestor to that dino.

"Kaatedocus walked on four limbs, had a long neck and a whiplash tail, such as the famous Diplodocus did," co-author Octavio Mateus told Discovery News.


Slate: The Top Newfound Species of 2012
Meet the gorgeous, creepy, goofy plants and animals discovered this year.
By Kara Brandeisky
Posted Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, at 5:15 AM ET

It’s been a great year for newly discovered wildlife. Some of the plants and animals documented for the first time come from places like Papua New Guinea that are teeming with species unknown to science. Others come from college-town backyards.

LiveScience via MSNBC on MSN: The 10 Weirdest Animal Discoveries of 2012
By Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer
updated 12/19/2012 1:45:55 PM ET

As the year comes to an end, it's time to look back at the grossest, oddest and simply most fascinating animals to make the headlines in 2012. There were zombie worms and penis fish, not to mention turtles with a strange way of getting rid of urine. Read on for 2012's most bizarre. MSU scientist finds deforestation decreases biodiversity in bacteria, too
By Vince Lamb, Detroit Science News Examiner
December 28, 2012

For decades, scientists have known that deforestation is one of the greatest threats to the biodiversity of the Amazon rainforest, which has the highest number of plant and animal species of any region its size on the planet.  Now, scientists have found out that deforestation is a threat to the diversity of bacteria in the soil, too.

In a study published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Thursday, December 27th, an international team of scientists including Michigan State University professor James Tiedje, as well as researchers from the University of Massachusetts, University of Oregon, University of Texas at Arlington, and University of Sao Paolo, found that converting forest into cattle pasture reduced the number of species of bacteria present at first.  Although the number of species then increased, so that there were more in any soil sample than before the land was cleared, they also became more uniform over a wide area by eliminating endemic species and replacing them with bacteria found in pastures all over the Amazon.  This decreases bacterial diversity all thoughout the former rainforest as people clear the land for agriculture.

In a press release from the University of Texas at Arlington, lead researcher Jorge Rordigues said, “We have known for a long time that conversion of rainforest land in the Amazon for agriculture results in a loss of biodiversity in plants and animals.  Now we know that microbial communities, which are so important to the ecosystem, also suffer significant losses.”

This finding caused the scientists to worry that the loss of genetic variation in bacteria across a converted forest could reduce the ability of the ecosystem there to continue functioning.

Hat/tip to rfall for finding the UT Arlington press release.  I needed it.


UPI: Obesity rates decline, but U.S. health falters
By ALEX CUKAN, United Press International
Published: Dec. 28, 2012 at 4:30 AM

After decades of increasing U.S. child obesity rates, 2012 might be the watershed year when this trend started to reverse -- several cities and even the state of Mississippi, which for many years ranked the fattest state in the nation -- showed declines in child and teen obesity.
However, in other rankings the United States maintained a relatively poor showing when it came to health.
The areas in which the U.S. lagged behind other countries included life expectancy, infant mortality, and maternal mortality.  On the other hand, smoking rates are way down.

UPI: Medicine trying more innovative approaches
By ALEX CUKAN, United Press International
Published: Dec. 27, 2012 at 5:27 AM

2012 was not the year for new blockbuster drugs, but researchers used existing drugs for different purposes and tried innovative approaches to save patients.

LiveScience via NBC News: Joys of hottie dating-- and 11 other 'no, duh' studies of 2012
By Stephanie Pappas and Jeanna Bryner, LiveScience

For scientists, an answer to a question, or solution to a problem, is not true until proven so. And sometimes that means revealing what mere mortals already knew, like, say the fact that getting to the hospital quicker can save heart-attack victims, or, the seemingly far-fetched idea that exercise is good for you.

Here are a few of the most obvious findings of 2012.


Earth Island Journal: The Top Ten Environmental Stories of 2012
From oil to agriculture to wilderness, a rundown of the most important headlines of the year
by Jason Mark – December 25, 2012Follow Jason Mark on Twitter

On the interwebs the year-end “Top Ten” lists and “Best Of” rundowns have become as ritualized a part of the winter solstice season as holiday shopping and putting lights on the house. I’ve been known to suffer from good case of FOMO (ICYMI, that’s “fear-of-missing-out”), so I thought I should compile a list of my own this year. Here’s my take on the environment-related stories from 2012 that are likely to have a lasting impact beyond this calendar year.

Smithsonian Magazine: The Ten Best Ocean Stories of 2012
December 18, 2012

Despite covering 70 percent of the earth’s surface, the ocean doesn’t often make it into the news. But when it does, it makes quite a splash (so to speak). Here are the top ten ocean stories we couldn’t stop talking about this year, in no particular order.


Scientific American: December 28, 1908: The Tsunami of Messina
By David Bressan
December 28, 2012

In the early morning of December 28, 1908 a 30 to 42 seconds long earthquake with a reconstructed magnitude of 6.7-7.2 hit the Italian cities of Messina and Reggio Calabria. The earthquake damaged 90% of the buildings and broken pipes fuelled a firestorm, an aftereffect known from many other earthquakes; however one of the most unusual effects of this earthquake was an 8 meter high tsunami which killed almost 2.000 people.

The earthquake killed estimated 40.000 people in the two cities alone, 27.000 people along the shores of the Strait of Messina - some historic documents claim 100.000 to 200.000 victims – one of the deadliest natural disasters recorded during historic times in Europe.


LiveScience on NBC News on MSN: The 10 Most Blushworthy Science Stories of 2012
By Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer
updated 12/20/2012 12:54:32 PM ET

Sex is a part of life — and a subject of scientific research. This year was particularly sultry, with studies covering everything from hormone-triggered masturbation to our species' history with Neanderthal nookie.

Here are the top 10 science studies that made us blush in 2012.


BBC: Digging into 2012's archaeology
By Louise Iles University of Cambridge

As much as science looked to the future this year in fields ranging from particle physics to planetary exploration, 2012 also gave us a rich view into the past. Here's a month-by-month view of what excited archaeologists through the year.

The Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (China) via Phys.Org: Engraved stone artifact found at the Shuidonggou Paleolithic Site, Northwest China

Engraved objects are usually seen as a hallmark of cognition and symbolism, which are viewed as important features of modern human behavior. In recent years, engraved ochre, bones and ostrich eggs unearthed from various Paleolithic sites in Africa, the Near East and Europe have attracted great attentions. However, such items are rarely encountered at Paleolithic sites in East Asia. According to article published in the journal of Chinese Science Bulletin (vol.57, No.26), Dr. GAO Xing, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and his team reported an engraved stone artifact in a stone tool assemblage at the Shuidonggou Paleolithic site, Ningxia, Northwest China.

The Shuidonggou Paleolithic site includes 12 localities, ranging in date from Early Late Paleolithic to Late Paleolithic. The engraved stone artifact was found at Locality 1, which is about 30000 years ago. As the first Paleolithic site discovered in China, Shuidonggou Locality 1 is distinctive in Late Paleolithic industry of north China, because of its components of elongated tool blank production and Levallois-like technology. When analyzing the materials unearthed from the site during excavations in the 1920s, French archaeologist Henry Breuil observed parallel incisions on the surface of siliceous pebbles, but he did not provide details on those incised pebbles.

Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Temple and sacred vessels from Biblical times discovered at Tel Motza
26 Dec 2012
The finds, dated to the early monarchic period and including pottery figurines of men and horses, provide rare testimony of a ritual cult in the Jerusalem region at the beginning of the period of the monarchy.
(Communicated by the Israel Antiquities Authority)

Rare evidence of the religious practices and rituals in the early days of the Kingdom of Judah has recently been discovered at Tel Motza, to the west of Jerusalem. In excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is currently conducting at the Tel Motza archaeological site, prior to work being carried out on the new Highway 1 from Sha'ar HaGai to Jerusalem by the National Roads Company (previously the Public Works Department), a ritual building (a temple) and a cache of sacred vessels some 2,750 years old have been uncovered.

The Columbus Dispatch: Still lots to learn about Fort Ancient Earthworks

The Fort Ancient Earthworks is an irregularly shaped series of earthen embankments surrounding more than 100 acres of hilltop that overlook the Little Miami River in Warren County.

It was built by the Hopewell culture about 2,000 years ago and has been the focus of archaeological research since at least 1887, when Warren K. Moorehead, the Ohio Historical Society’s first curator of archaeology, conducted the first systematic excavations there.

Subsequent curators followed up on Moorehead’s work in 1908 and 1940. From the 1980s through the 1990s, the late Patricia Essenpreis and her student Robert Connolly led teams that greatly contributed to our knowledge of the site.

Capital Gazette: Centuries old burial rituals uncovered at Pig Point
By E.B. FURGURSON III Staff Writer
Updated: 11:13 am, Mon Dec 24, 2012.

It might have been the last thing they expected to find.

Since 2009, Anne Arundel County’s Lost Towns Project archaeologists have uncovered a trove of prehistoric Native American artifacts along the Patuxent River indicating the spot was a gathering place for thousands of years.

Now they think they know why.

This year’s dig at Pig Point uncovered what appears to be a ritualistic burial place with five or more oval pits with human bone and artifacts dating from 230 B.C. to 620 A.D.

The Christian Post: Archaeologist Believes Jesus Was Born in a Different Bethlehem

The Bible says the place of Jesus Christ's birth was the town of Bethlehem of Judea, but one archaeologist says the Christian savior was more likely born in a different Bethlehem that is farther from Jerusalem.

Aviram Oshri, an archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), told NPR that he has conducted extensive excavations in Bethlehem of the Galilee, and has found artifacts there which suggest that the traditionally held view of where Jesus was born may be incorrect.

The Guardian (UK): Hadrian's hall: archaeologists finish excavation of Roman arts centre
Arts centre discovered under one of Rome's busiest roundabouts was built in AD123 and could seat 900 people
Tom Kington in Rome, Wednesday 26 December 2012 09.01 EST

Archaeologists who have completed the excavation of a 900-seat arts centre under one of Rome's busiest roundabouts are calling it the most important Roman discovery in 80 years.

The centre, built by the emperor Hadrian in AD123, offered three massive halls where Roman nobles flocked to hear poetry, speeches and philosophy tracts while reclining on terraced marble seating.

With the dig now completed, the terracing and the hulking brick walls of the complex, as well as stretches of the elegant grey and yellow marble flooring, are newly visible at bottom of a 5.5 metre (18ft) hole in Piazza Venezia, where police officers wearing white gloves direct chaotic traffic like orchestra conductors and where Mussolini harangued thousands of followers from his balcony.

"Hadrian's auditorium is the biggest find in Rome since the Forum was uncovered in the 1920s," said Rossella Rea, the archaeologist running the dig.

Der Spiegel (Germany): Fortress in the Sky Buried Christian Empire Casts New Light on Early Islam
Archeologists are studying the ruins of a buried Christian empire in the highlands of Yemen. The sites have sparked a number of questions about the early history of Islam. Was there once a church in Mecca?
By Matthias Schulz

The commandment "Make yourself no graven image" has long been strictly followed in the Arab world. There are very few statues of the caliphs and ancient kings of the region. The pagan gods in the desert were usually worshipped in an "aniconic" way, that is, as beings without form.

Muhammad had a beard, but there are no portraits of him.

But now a narcissistic work of human self-portrayal has turned up in Yemen. It is a figure, chiseled in stone, which apparently stems from the era of the Prophet.

Paul Yule, an archeologist from the southwestern German city of Heidelberg, has studied the relief, which is 1.70 meters (5'7") tall, in Zafar, some 930 kilometers (581 miles) south of Mecca. It depicts a man with chains of jewelry, curls and spherical eyes. Yule dates the image to the time around 530 AD.

io9: Archaeology exposes the forbidden eating habits of a bunch of 6th century monks
Alasdair Wilkins
Dec 23, 2012 2:00 PM

Archaeological analysis of human remains can illuminate incredible truths about our ancient ancestors, revealing hidden truths about their daily lives that we wouldn't necessarily be able to find in written records. Other times, it can just be a damn tattletale.

In the 500s, Byzantine monasteries were found throughout the deserts of Africa and the Near East. The remote locations were no accident — these monks were meant to adhere to asceticism, which strictly forbade worldly pleasures and required the monks to live on little else but bread and water. One exception to the isolation of these early monasteries was St. Stephen's in Jerusalem, which afforded its monks access to temptations unknown to those of their desert-dwelling brethren.

Art Daily: Archaeologists discover objects, more than 700 years old, at Nevado de Toluca in Mexico

MEXICO CITY.- Ceramic remains, bars and copal cones, maguey thorns and a couple of pieces of timber with the form of snakes, also known as “Tlaloc scepters” of about 700 years old were found by underwater archaeologists of the National Institute of Anthropology and History, in the depths of the Laguna del Sol in Nevado de Toluca, Estado de Mexico.

The finding of said materials confirms that distinct groups from Valle de Toluca, such as the Otomis and Matlatzincas –and subsequently Mexicas–, climbed towards the volcano’s crater (more than 4200 meters above sea level [13779.52 feet]) to deposit these organic elements in said lake, as well as in Laguna de la Luna, where previous investigations had found remains of pre Hispanic objects.

Tuoi Tre News (Vietnam): Ancient water system found at Citadel
Updated : Fri, December 28, 2012,3:48 PM (GMT+0700)

Traces of a huge water supply system and parallel ground wall from the time of the Ly dynasty have been unearthed at the former Thang Long Imperial Citadel in downtown Hanoi, archaeologists have announced.

The findings were the first of their kind found in Vietnam and were heralded by most commentators and scientists as striking.

"Never before have architectural vestiges from the Ly dynasty (11th to 13th century) been detected in the North Gate area and what was found proves the dynasty's architecture was quite imposing," said Tong Trung Tin, head of Vietnam Institute of Archaeology, at a workshop on Dec. 26.

Crossrail dig unearths forgotten London
By Jane Mower BBC News, London

As a team of archaeologists digs through layers of history beneath London, the thought of the next find is never far away.

"Just about any new discovery is thoroughly exciting," says Jay Carver, the lead on what is currently the UK's largest archaeology project.

His team has been working alongside engineers building stations and digging two giant tunnels under central London as part of Crossrail since 2009.

On the journey so far, finds include rare amber, hundreds of skeletons and a Bronze Age track.

But for Mr Carver, among the most exciting discoveries was the Thames ironworks and ship building company which occupied the entire Limmo Peninsula.

ITV (UK): Volunteers unearth 500 year old water mill near Helmsley

Archaeology volunteers have unearthed a water mill at least 500 years old on Yearsley Moor, near Helmsley.

This is a highly significant and important find for the area.

Volunteer Geoff Snowden said: “There is no mention of a mill in official archaeological records and no sign of one on the earliest Ordnance Survey maps produced in the 1850s.

“Perhaps this is not so surprising as some of the later fragments of pottery recovered from the site suggest that the mill went out of use around the mid eighteenth century.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman, who sent in the above articles.


NBC News: The Year in Science: Higgs boson leads 2012's list of breakthroughs
By Alan Boyle

As 2012 draws to a close, physicists are celebrating — and being celebrated for — the end of a four-decade scientific quest to find a subatomic particle known as the Higgs boson. The discovery, made at the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider and reported in July, won honors this week as Science magazine's Breakthrough of the Year as well as a piece of the spotlight in Time magazine's Person of the Year package.
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But the story of what some have nicknamed "the God particle" isn't over yet. (Physicists hate that nickname, by the way.)

"This particle has the potential to be a portal to a new landscape of physical phenomena that is still hidden from us," the scientific team behind the LHC's Compact Muon Solenoid detector writes in a Science paper that lays out the details behind the discovery.

Physics World: Physics World reveals its top 10 breakthroughs for 2012
Dec 14, 2012

The Physics World award for the 2012 Breakthrough of the Year goes "to the ATLAS and CMS collaborations at CERN for their joint discovery of a Higgs-like particle at the Large Hadron Collider". Nine other research initiatives are highly commended and cover topics ranging from energy harvesting to precision cosmology.

Physics Central: Top 10 Physics Buzz Stories of 2012
Friday, December 28, 2012

It's been an eventful year in the world of physics. Curiosity landed on Mars, physicists found a Higgs-like particle, and ponytail physics made its popular debut. We covered these big stories in 2012, but many others proved more popular on our blog.

Here's the list of our 10 most popular blog posts of the year based on pageviews.


Chemical & Engineering News: Chemical Year In Review
By Josh Fischman
December 24, 2012

This past year, C&EN’s weekly coverage had hundreds of articles on important research advances, industry developments, and vital policy news. Our annual Research Year In Review, beginning on page 20, reveals some of the superlative achievements we featured in 2012. For instance, scientists made major progress in atomic-resolution imaging and began to capitalize on the synthetic potential of so-called frustrated Lewis pairs. Our selections, displayed in no particular order, are subjective and not intended to be comprehensive. What they do represent are some of the many ways that chemists are pushing the boundaries of what we know and are capable of doing.
In the U.S. Congress, the past year was less than rosy, which is our focus starting on page 31. Bitter partisanship between Democrats and Republicans in the legislature meant there was little progress on tackling key science issues such as climate change, energy policy, or attempts to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Federal lawmakers, however, did manage to pass some legislation, including measures to protect federal whistle-blowers, reauthorize user fees at the Food & Drug Administration, and normalize U.S. trade relations with Russia.

But a shadow has been cast over all of this activity: The stalemate over deficit reduction and arguments about ways to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, which involves significant cuts to federal programs that fund research, as well as expiring tax cuts.

A more in-depth but difficult to summarize review comes from Chemistry World: Cutting edge chemistry in 2012.


Christian Science Monitor: Top energy stories of 2012. What's your pick?
From the fracking revolution to the CAFE standards  to India's record blackout, 2012 had plenty of energy stories. Vote for your pick of top energy story for the year.
By Robert Rapier, Guest blogger
December 28, 2012

For the past several years, at year end I rank what I felt were the the major energy stories of the year. 2012 lacked a blockbuster energy story like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 or the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of 2011, so there was no clear #1 in my mind. But, I thought I would change things up a bit and just let readers vote. So below I have summarized 15 of the major energy stories of the year in no particular order. Please vote for up to 5 stories, and I will report the Top 10 vote getters on December 31.

MIT Technology Review: What Mattered in Energy Innovation This Year
Notable advances in renewable energy pale compared to the impact of shale gas.
By Kevin Bullis on December 29, 2012

Although renewable energy made impressive advances this year, its impact has been dwarfed by the changes caused by the surplus of cheap, abundant natural gas made possible by hydrofracturing—fracking—of shale deposits. It will also be hard for renewables to equal the impact of shale gas in the coming years.

As utilities shift electricity production from coal plants to natural gas ones, carbon dioxide emissions have dropped to levels not seen for 20 years. In China, the government has set ambitious goals to scale up fracking and shale gas production there as well.

Similar drilling technology has led to a surge of oil production in the United States that could have it rivaling the production of oil in Saudi Arabia. It’s led to credible estimates that within a couple of decades—with the help of rigorous fuel economy standards—North America could produce as much energy as it consumes.

Shale gas is having a major impact on renewable sources of energy as well. For example, as a result of cheap natural gas, some companies that had been founded to produce biofuels from renewable sources—and entrepreneurs who had dedicated much of their lives to developing such technologies—have given up and turned instead to making fuels with natural gas. At the same time, cheap natural gas has made it far more difficult for renewable sources of energy to compete.

The Guardian (UK): Top 10 green energy bright spots of 2012

From wind turbines to the US great green fleet, here are the top green energy stories of the year

Science, Space, Environment, and Energy Policy

The Arizona Republic: Effort to return Hopi artifacts stirs questions
Some archaeologists and anthropologists question the government's repatriation of Indian artifacts.
By Dennis Wagner The Republic | Fri Dec 28, 2012 11:34 PM

On an unknown date at an unidentified location, the U.S. government turned over a collection of undisclosed Sinagua artifacts to anonymous members of the Hopi Tribe for unspecified disposition.

The mysterious proceedings this fall involved an archaeological treasure trove and a substantial expenditure of tax dollars. Yet virtually everything about it remains secret under a federal law known as the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, or NAGPRA.

The 1990 law enables Indian tribes to reclaim ancestral remains and sacred objects that were unearthed from native burial sites by scientists or looters. Along with supplemental statutes, it also authorizes U.S. agencies to conceal virtually all details of those transactions.

The recent Hopi event involved archaeological digs from Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff. When The Arizona Republic sought a description of the repatriated items and an accounting of federal money spent, the government repeatedly answered, “Our intent is to honor the tribe’s request, made in consultation, not to disclose information.”

Israel National News: Court Ruling Preserves Caesarea's Antiquities
A court ruled that plans for a new neighborhood in Caesarea would have to be put on hold because of important archaeological artifacts.
By Yoni Kempinski
First Publish: 12/27/2012, 3:42 AM

After a long legal battle, a court recently ruled that building plans for a new residential neighborhood in the city of Caesarea would have to be put on hold because of the presence of important archaeological artifacts in the land where the construction is planned.

The ruling is a victory for the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). Arutz Sheva visited Caesarea and spoke with the IAA's legal council after the ruling was handed down.

Times of Israel: Is Israel hiding the secret source of Christianity?

Were the final resting-places of the family and disciples of Jesus discovered 30 years ago and then hidden as part of a religious-political conspiracy?

The archaeological controversy swirling around two Roma-era burial tombs in Jerusalem refuses to die. Indeed, it has become something of an ugly academic slugfest.

In one corner stands the Israeli archaeological establishment represented by the Israel Antiquities Authority and Professor Amos Kloner of Bar-Ilan University, backed by various respected archaeologists and scholars. In the other stands Simcha Jacobovici, the filmmaker and self-styled “Naked Archaeologist,” backed by another group of respected archaeologists and scholars.

In 1981, Prof Kloner led an archaeological survey of a 1st-century burial tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem, that was exposed during construction works in the area. Prof Kloner was able to spend only a few minutes inside the tomb before he was chased away by a group of ultra-orthodox Jews who objected to the disturbance of what they suspected were Jewish graves. A number of stone burial boxes or ossuaries were left inside the tomb and it was resealed, eventually hidden under the patio of a newly-built apartment.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Science Education

Electronic Intifada (Palestine): Tel Aviv University’s role in settler-run archaeological dig "playing into hands of BDS," Israeli academics complain
Submitted by Ben White
on Thu, 12/27/2012 - 05:18

Dozens of academics from Israel and abroad, worried about the threat of academic boycott, have sent a petition to Tel Aviv University (TAU) requesting the cancelation of the university’s participation in the settler-run archaeological dig in the Silwan neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem.

The partnership between TAU and Elad’s project was revealed in October, and TAU’s Institute of Archaeology began digging in the “City of David” national park last week. Elad “is responsible for settling over 500 Israeli Jews throughout Silwan,” and the organization’s director “has himself been caught on tape admitting the digs he oversees endanger Palestinian homes situated above.”

Libya Herald: Libyan archaeologists look to the future with new training
By Tom Little.

Tripoli, 23 December: The Department of Antiquities was badly neglected through the four decades of Qaddafi’s rule, but last week it took a step towards rebuilding its ability to preserve Libya’s rich archaeological heritage.

Amid the Roman ruins at Leptis Magna on Thursday, a class of forty Libyan archaeologists celebrated the end of an intensive training course organised by the American archaeological mission.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Science Writing and Reporting

Physics World: Physics World's 2012 Book of the Year
Physics World's choice of the 2012 Book of the Year is How the Hippies Saved Physics by David Kaiser
Dec 18, 2012

A generation from now, 2012 may be remembered as the year when research on quantum fundamentals came of age. The awarding of the year's Nobel Prize for Physics to two quantum-control pioneers, Serge Haroche and David Wineland, was a milestone in the field's development, and with stunning new experiments on quantum measurement or entanglement appearing in Physics World's annual list of top "breakthroughs" four years in a row, more honours seem likely to follow.
Cover image of How the Hippies Saved Physics by David Kaiser
Hippies, LSD and Bell's inequality

Not that long ago, however, the accolades were not so forthcoming. Well into the 1970s and 1980s interest in fundamental aspects of quantum mechanics was largely confined to a handful of physics oddballs, many of whom combined their enthusiasm for Bell's theorem and quantum entanglement with a penchant for psychedelic drugs and New Age philosophy. Their story is told in David Kaiser's book How the Hippies Saved Physics – our pick for Physics World's 2012 Book of the Year.

Nature: Nature Chemistry by the numbers – 2012
Posted by Stuart Cantrill
23 Dec 2012

As 2012 is winding down, I thought I’d take a look back at volume 4 of the journal. This isn’t a terribly in-depth analysis, and it’s based on what we’ve published rather than what was submitted, but you might find it a little bit interesting. Here are the covers of the 12 issues that made up the 2012 issues.

Science is Cool

Agence France Presse via The Times (South Africa): Mayan temple damaged by doomsday parties
AFP Relaxnews
24 December, 2012 08:18

Tourists flocking to Guatemala for "end of the world" parties have damaged an ancient stone temple at Tikal, the largest archaeological site and urban center of the Mayan civilisation.

"Sadly, many tourists climbed Temple II and caused damage," said Osvaldo Gomez, a technical adviser at the site, which is located some 550 kilometers (340 miles) north of Guatemala City.

Palm Beach Daily News: Travel: Looking for the slave ship Peter Mowell
By Christine Davis
Special to the Daily News

When the American-owned slave ship named the Peter Mowell ran ashore and ripped apart on July 25, 1860, the 129-ton, 88-foot schooner left behind its fragments in the silent gullies and craggy rocks at Lynyard Cay in the Abacos.

Of the 400 people aboard, 387 — many quite young — clambered safely ashore. And thanks to fate, the 96 men, 37 women, and 256 children were not to be sold as slaves. Saved by early salvager Ridley Pinder and other wreckers from Cherokee Sound, they were some of the last of the 37,000 African-born immigrants rescued in the Bahamas. Their descendants most likely make their homes there today.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

The Mary Sue: The Psychology of the Fake Geek Girl: Why We’re Threatened by Falsified Fandom
by Dr. Andrea Letamendi
12:30 pm, December 21st, 2012

I’ve been telling myself to stay out of this debate. I’ve been assuring myself that any time spent reading rants, posts, and their circular comments will only make me feel resentful and defensive. I tell myself that the fight is over and no one won. I rationalize that only a few people are ruining it for the rest of us and therefore, those few should just be ignored. I vow to stop drawing attention to this ridiculous creature, to stop reinforcing the idea that the “Fake Geek Girl” exists.

“Why don’t you just drop it?” “Why can’t you take a joke?” “Why aren’t you over this?” I ask myself these things too.

The truth is, I don’t know. But, recently, I’ve been asked by Badass Digest to weigh in on why such accusations have a strong impact on our community, and to provide some of the psychological explanations for why we’ve reacted the way we have to the recent verbal attacks on female fans and to the accusations that some are “fake nerds.” Can we learn anything from this, beyond acknowledging that these claims are rude and unequivocally sexist? We know that it’s absurd. We do! So why does it keep getting dragged into our dialogue? And if we are accused of fakedom, why do we snap back in defense? We’ve been called some awful, demeaning things in our past. But this “F”-word seems to have climbed the ranks to become one of the most insulting labels. Why so much power? Why are we so deeply threatened by the notion of falsified fandom?

File the above under "social justice in the strangest places."

Originally posted to Overnight News Digest on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 09:21 PM PST.

Also republished by SciTech and Astro Kos.

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