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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 USA Today via the Detroit Free Press.

'Nemo' blizzard turns deadly; massive power outages in Northeast
By Gary Strauss, Doyle Rice and Kevin McCoy
February 9, 2013

A deadly blizzard of epic proportions pounded the Northeast, already bringing more than 3 feet of snow to some areas and cutting power to 650,000 homes and businesses.

More than 3 feet had fallen on central Connecticut by Saturday afternoon, and areas of southeastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire notched 2 feet or more of snow — as the storm began to wane.

The storm is being blamed on at least six deaths, three in Canada and three in the USA. A 74-year-old man died after being struck by a car in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; the driver said she lost control in the snowy conditions, police said. A second New Yorker, 23, died when a tractor he was using to plow his driveway went off the edge of the road. And a pedestrian was struck by a vehicle and killed Friday night in Connecticut, police said.

More stories after the jump.

Recent Science Diaries and Stories

Blaming Others for Wall St.'s Greed Causing Crisis
by workingwords

This week in science: The worm will turn
by DarkSyde

Slideshows/Videos

io9: What would the chemical elements look like as cartoon characters?
Lauren Davis
February 9, 2013

For her senior thesis project for the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, animator and illustrator Kaycie D. decided to take on a massive character design project. She would design a character based on each of the known chemical elements in the periodic table, until she had a complete world of science-inspired cartoon characters.
More at Kaycie's blog.

Wired: 3-D Cybertaxonomy: Fascinating Virtual Dissections That Will Freak You Out
By Nadia Drake
02.06.13

Scientists hope such virtual dissections will seed the growth of a global, digitized archive of organisms. Advantages of that include reducing the risk associated with shipping precious specimens from one lab to another, said Sarah Faulwetter, a graduate student who coauthored the current study. And, she adds: “The dissection of virtual specimens is something that is simply not possible with valuable, century-old museum material.”

In this gallery, we’ve collected some of Faulwetter’s recently published videos and other favorites produced by her team, who are archiving the marine fauna of the Mediterranean Sea.

Discovery News on YouTube: Big Game Blackout: The Power Grid Explained


If the blackout during the Big Game taught us one thing, it's to appreciate electricity. But what goes into delivering our power? And how does it get from power plants to our homes and offices? As Trace tells us, it's a whole lot more complicated than you think.
Also see the article under Energy.

Discovery News on YouTube: Love Stinks: The Smell of Attraction

There's a reason you're attracted to certain scents and it has to do with your own natural smell. Pheromone parties are predicated on this very logic, designed to help you smell out a mate. Join Anthony as he takes a big whiff.

NASA Television on YouTube: Countdown to Launch on This Week @NASA

The Atlas V rocket carrying NASA's Landsat Data Continuity Mission satellite is set to launch on Monday from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. LDCM, a joint NASA and U.S. Geological Survey mission, will extend the longest continuous data record of Earth's surface as viewed from space -- data critical to many aspects of life here on Earth. Also, Extreme Flyby; Distant Comet; Vacuum Test; Lithium Trails; Collaborating for the Cure; and more!

National Television on YouTube: ScienceCasts: Pink Planet at Sunset

The planet Mercury is about to make its best apparition of the year for backyard sky watchers. Look west at sunset for a piercing pink planet surrounded by twilight blue.

Astronomy/Space

Wired: Drill, Rover, Drill: Curiosity Bores Into Mars Rock for First Time
By Adam Mann
02.07.13

NASA’s Curiosity rover turned on its drill and bored into a rock on Mars early today, the first time humans have ever drilled on a planet other than Earth.
...
The shavings from this mini-drill test will be evaluated to see if they are suitable to be processed by the rover’s scoop and interior lab instruments. They will also be used to rub the drill bit of any remaining contaminants from Earth to ensure a clean sample. If everything checks out, the rover could perform its first major drilling, which will reach a depth of 5 cm, in several days.

Wired: How to Deflect Killer Asteroids With Spray Paint
By Adam Mann
02.07.13

A fresh paint job might be all that’s needed to prevent a giant asteroid from raining destruction upon our planet.

Though strange-sounding, the strategy would make use of a real-world phenomenon known as the Yarkovsky effect, named for the Russian engineer who discovered it in 1902. The effect results from the fact that asteroids heat up as they bask in the sun’s light.

“The coat of paint would be a very thin, almost like a Saran Wrap layer,” said aerospace engineer David Hyland of Texas A&M, who leads a team that has been studying this method for several years. “If we push it in the right direction, we can get the asteroid to cease crossing Earth’s orbit and completely eliminate the threat.”

Wired: Fate of Historic Landsat Mission Hinges on Upcoming Launch
By Betsy Mason
02.08.13

Since 1972 the Landsat mission has been monitoring natural and human-made changes to our planet. But the continuity of that scientifically precious dataset could be lost unless all goes according to plan on Monday, when the Landsat 8 satellite is scheduled to be launched into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Landsat 8 will take over for the hobbled 14-year old Landsat 7 that has been valiantly carrying the mission alone since December when, after 29 years in orbit, Landsat 5 began to be decommissioned after a gyroscope failure.

The launch is not likely to fail, but if it does, it won’t be the first time the continuity of the 40-year mission was jeopardized. Along the way funding has come under fire, ownership of the satellites has been transferred between government agencies and private companies, sensors have quit working, and one mission tragically failed to reach orbit. If Landsat 8 fails, Landsat 7 would run out of fuel near the end of 2016, before a replacement could be built and put into orbit.

Climate/Environment

Discovery News: Naming Nemo: How the Storm Got Its Name
by Larry O'Hanlon
Feb 8, 2013 12:03 PM ET

Back in October 2012, everybody was poohooing The Weather Channel’s (TWC) plan to start giving names to significant winter storms. Now it looks like a large number of reports on the storm, dubbed Nemo by TWC, have adopted the name (not all, by any means, but lots, including Discovery News).

What happened? I’ll say it in three words: search engine optimization. Despite very reasonable arguments against the naming of winter storms by many meteorologists, we are seeing them adopted anyway.

For an even snarkier assessment, read Caity Weaver at Gawker in Snow Panic Has Driven Weather.com Completely Insane and Gizmodo's The National Weather Service Refuses to Acknowledge Dumb Winter Storm Names.

Biodiversity

Wired: Braving Bison Traffic Jams in Pursuit of Extreme Microbes
By Jeffrey Marlow
02.08.13

It’s cold outside.  I’m wearing thermal underwear, an expedition-weight fleece, and my down parka, covered head to foot with the warmest clothes I own.  A gap in my thermal armor below my face protector makes it feels like someone has been shoving ice down my collar for the last hour.  Oh yeah, and there’s a traffic jam of bison blocking our path.

Dr. Gill Geesey and I are in Yellowstone National Park – in the middle of winter – to collect samples from an unnamed hot spring in the Norris Geyser Basin.  This newly discovered spring contains red clay, indicative of oxidized (Fe3+) iron, and, we hope, iron reducing bacteria.  Iron reducing organisms may hold implications for the early Earth and other oxygen-less planets, where iron is a promising electron acceptor for microbial metabolisms.

The ultimate goal is to show that microbes are using iron found in the clay – not iron dissolved in the water – to drive life-sustaining energetic processes.  In these hot spring systems we actually find that most of the cells are associated with the solid subsurface of the spring – in the form of biofilms or microbial mats – suggesting that solid mineral surfaces may be energetic power stations.  Once we know how much iron these organisms are using, we will have a better understanding of the entire biogeochemical cycle of Yellowstone’s springs system.

Biotechnology/Health

Wired: Antibiotics And Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria In Meat: Not Getting Better
By Maryn McKenna
02.09.13

A few days ago, the Food and Drug Administration released two important documents related to antibiotic use in livestock raising, and what the results of that antibiotic use are. I’d say that they released them quietly, except, when it comes to this issue, every release seems to be quiet, never accompanied by the press releases or briefings that other divisions of the FDA use to publicize their news.

The two documents are the 2011 Retail Meat Report from the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System, or NARMS, and the 2011 Summary Report on Antimicrobials Sold or Distributed for Use in Food-Producing Animals, which is known for short as ADUFA, after the 2008 Animal Drug User Fee Act which mandated the data be collected.

These two reports capture almost all the data we receive from the federal government about antibiotic use in livestock production (which is not the same thing as “all the data the federal government possesses” — there is evidence they receive more than they release). So their annual release is an important indicator for whether antibiotic use in meat production, and antibiotic resistance in meat, are trending up or down.

The news does not appear to be good.

Psychology/Behavior

Wired: Magnetic Memories May Guide Salmon Home
By Nadia Drake
02.07.13

After years at sea, sockeye salmon returning to their freshwater homes may be guided by an early memory of the Earth’s magnetic field, encoded at the site where natal streams empty into the Pacific Ocean, according to a study published today in Current Biology.

“Lots of folks have been wondering for decades how salmon and other animals, like sea turtles or seals and whales, go out in the ocean for a couple of years and then return with remarkable accuracy back to their home,” said study coauthor Nathan Putman, a marine biologist at Oregon State University. “The magnetic field is an important part of the [salmon's] migratory decision.”

To study salmon navigation, Putman and his colleagues took advantage of a serendipitous natural experiment. Near the mouth of British Columbia’s Fraser River is 460-kilometer-long Vancouver Island. Salmon returning from sea and aiming for the river face a choice: swim north around the island, or go around to the south. Putman pored over 56 years of data from federal fishery scientists who tracked salmon in both waterways, then matched that up with measurements of the Earth’s geomagnetic field, which shifts predictably in strength and orientation over time. He found that fish tended to choose the path where the field strength was more similar to that of the river mouth when they’d left, two years before.

Wired: Blind, Fuzzy Moles Smell in Stereo
By Nadia Drake
02.05.13

Tiny-eared and blind, common moles search for tasty meals – like crushed-up earthworms – with their noses. Now a study suggests that these unconventionally adorable critters find their food by smelling in stereo, by detecting small differences in the strength of an odor between the two nostrils.

The study “shows quite directly that stereo olfaction helps with finding food,” said Upinder Bhalla, a neurobiologist at Bangalore’s National Centre for Biological Sciences. Bhalla has studied stereo smelling in rats, but was not a part of the mole team. “It shows how there is a greater reliance on the stereo cues as the animal gets closer to the odor source.”

Stereo sensing is not an unfamiliar capability among mammals. Vision and hearing both work this way, with input from two eyes producing depth perception, and separated ears localizing sound. But for years, the question of whether mammals could smell in stereo has generated controversy. Studies have suggested that both rats and humans could do this, but not everyone believes it.

Archeology/Anthropology

New Hampshire Public Radio: Stone Age Stew? Soup Making May Be Older Than We'd Thought

The tradition of making soup is probably at least 25,000 years old, says one archaeologist.

Soup comes in many variations — chicken noodle, creamy tomato, potato and leek, to name a few. But through much of human history, soup was much simpler, requiring nothing more than boiling a haunch of meat or other chunk of food in water to create a warm, nourishing broth.

So who concocted that first bowl of soup?

Most sources state that soup making did not become commonplace until somewhere between 5,000 and 9,000 years ago. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America says, for example, "boiling was not a commonly used cooking technique until the invention of waterproof and heatproof containers about five thousand years ago."

That's probably wrong — by at least 15,000 years.

The Tampa Tribune: Little Salt Spring excavation has given glimpse of past
By KEITH MORELLI | The Tampa Tribune
Published: February 03, 2013

Five hundred years after Ponce de León landed near St. Augustine and named the land La Florida — celebrated this year with more than 100 historical commemorations and events — the state's main porthole into its distant past is being closed.

Little Salt Spring in Sarasota County has yielded more artifacts that shed light on the first occupiers in Florida than virtually any other archaeological site in the state. The artifacts gleaned from the spring in the past 21 years have given scientists a glimpse into what it was like to live here even before the first pyramids appeared in Egypt and ages before de León named the state.

Discovery News: Artifacts from the Oldest Known Museums
by Jennifer Viegas    
Feb 6, 2013 09:00 AM ET    

Multiple artifact collections unearthed in the U.K. suggest that the earliest known museums could date to around 680 B.C. or even earlier. They force a rethinking of what museums are, and how certain ancient populations valued treasured objects.

LiveScience: 35 Ancient Pyramids Discovered in Sudan Necropolis
Owen Jarus, LiveScience Contributor

At least 35 small pyramids, along with graves, have been discovered clustered closely together at a site called Sedeinga in Sudan.

Discovered between 2009 and 2012, researchers are surprised at how densely the pyramids are concentrated. In one field season alone, in 2011, the research team discovered 13 pyramids packed into  roughly 5,381 square feet (500 square meters), or  slightly larger than an NBA basketball court.

York Press (UK): Remarkable new finds below York Minster

ARCHAEOLOGISTS have found evidence of a previously-unknown settlement below York Minster, dating back more than 1,000 years.

Experts working at the Minster say the finds – including a ninth-century coin – help to plug a gap in York’s known history, between the departure of the Romans in the fifth century and the arrivals of the Normans in 1066.

The period is referred to as the Dark Ages due to the lack of knowledge about the time, and although Viking finds have increased awareness of York history from 866 onwards, broader understanding is scarce.

Now, a team from York Archaeological Trust working in a pit below the Minster say they have made priceless finds, including evidence of a local mint.

Art Daily: Archaeological dig finds that ancient groups incinerated and buried their departed in pots

MEXICO CITY.- Researchers from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH-Conaculta) keep acquiring knowledge of funerary practices in the ancient groups that inhabited the north of Sonora, such as the incineration and burial (in pots) of their departed, a custom that has been known to archaeologists since the finding of a pre Hispanic cemetery of approximately 700 years old in the Archaeological Zone of Cerro de Trincheras.

Archaeologist Elisa Villalpando Canchola, who directs the investigation in this pre Hispanic site, said the location of this funerary context is so enriching (found in the north hillside of Cerro de Trincheras) it has been named “Loma de las cremaciones” [Hilllock of cremations]

The Daily Mail: Curses, musical scores and a fisherman swallowed by a whale: Archaeologists' fascinating quest to decipher medieval graffiti scrawled on cathedral walls
Major project at Norwich Cathedral aims to catalogue inscriptions
By Hugo Gye

The daily lives of medieval townsfolk have been brought to light by an extraordinary haul of graffiti found in Norwich Cathedral.

Messages have been scratched into the walls of the historic buildings over hundreds of years, but few people have ever stopped to work out what they say.

Archaeologists have now started a major project to decipher the extraordinary messages, and have found a mixture of musical pieces, pious exhortations and even supernatural curses.

LiveScience: Richard III Announcement Spurs Excitement, Skepticism
Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer
Date: 04 February 2013 Time: 03:12 PM ET

The announcement that the bones of English King Richard III have been identified "beyond reasonable doubt" has spurred excitement — and some skepticism — among the archaeological community.

"I'm really excited by it," said Lemont Dobson, a historian and archaeologist at the School of Public Service and Global Citizenship at Central Michigan University. "This is one of those things where people are talking about archaeology and real science, not pseudoscience on television."

Boston Globe: Scan discovers possible site of meetinghouse
By Robert Knox
Globe Correspondent /  February 2, 2013

An archeological recovery project has discovered what might be the site of the First Meeting House in Duxbury, a historically significant building that centered a fledgling English settlement when Pilgrims Myles Standish, John and Priscilla Alden, and Elder William Brewster established a new community on Duxbury’s shores.

A ground radar scan revealed straight-line trenches that show a partial outline of a building that conforms to what is known about the First Meeting House, a 20- by 32-foot structure, according to archeologist Craig Chartier of the Plymouth Archeological Recovery Project, who supervised the examination last fall. The scan was made in an old burial ground now called the Myles Standish Burial Ground, where historians and local residents believe the first simple meetinghouse had been built.

The First Meeting House was built when some of the 1620 Pilgrims who left the Plymouth settlement sought permission in 1634 to hold worship services near their new homes rather than travel to Plymouth each Sunday. The colony’s governor required them to build a meetinghouse first.

BBC: Pembrokeshire seaweed forager finds 'World War I mines'

A woman foraging for seaweed on a beach in Pembrokeshire made a more interesting discovery - mines, believed to be from World War I.

Julia Horton-Powdrill was walking along Caerfai beach near St Davids when she noticed a mine during low tide.

She then discovered two more submerged in watery sand.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Evolution/Paleontology

LiveScience: Half-Million-Year-Old Human Jawbone Found
Tia Ghose, LiveScience Staff Writer
Date: 06 February 2013 Time: 05:00 PM ET

Scientists have unearthed a jawbone from an ancient human ancestor in a cave in Serbia.

The jawbone, which may have come from an ancient Homo erectus or a primitive-looking Neanderthal precursor, is more than 397,000 years old, and possibly more than 525,000 years old. The fossil, described today (Feb. 6) in the journal PLOS ONE, is the oldest hominin fossil found in this region of Europe, and may change the view that Neanderthals, our closest extinct human relatives, evolved throughout Europe around that time.

"It comes from an area where we basically don't have anything that is known and well- published," said study co-author Mirjana Roksandic, a bioarchaeologist from the University of Winnipeg in Canada. "Now we have something to start constructing a picture of what's happening in this part of Europe at that time."

BBC: Last-stand Neanderthals queried
By Jonathan Amos
Science correspondent, BBC News

DNA studies confirm there was some mixing between Neanderthals and modern humans

We may need to look again at the idea that a late Neanderthal population existed in southern Spain as recently as 35,000 years ago, a study suggests.

Scientists using a "more reliable" form of radiocarbon dating have re-assessed fossils from the region and found them to be far older than anyone thought.

The work appears in the journal PNAS.

LiveScience: The Origins of the Olive Tree Revealed

Tia Ghose, LiveScience Staff Writer

Date: 05 February 2013 Time: 07:14 PM ET

The olive was first domesticated in the Eastern Mediterranean between 8,000 and 6,000 years ago, according to new research.

The findings, published today (Feb. 5) in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, are based on the genetic analysis of nearly 1,900 samples from around the Mediterranean Sea. The study reveals that domesticated olives, which are larger and juicier than wild varieties, were probably first cultivated from wild olive trees at the frontier between Turkey and Syria.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

io9: Dinosaurs Went Extinct Almost Immediately After Mexican Asteroid Strike
George Dvorsky
February 8, 2013

Scientists using a new and highly precise dating technique have concluded that the late Cretaceous asteroid strike in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula coincided almost exactly with the extinction of the dinosaurs — give-or-take a few tens of thousands of years. While it's clear that other factors were contributing to the rapidly deteriorating environmental conditions, it's now obvious that the asteroid was the final coup-de-grace for the dinosaurs.

Indeed, all was not well on Earth when the asteroid struck. Volcanoes in India were wreaking havoc to the planet's ecosystems, and earlier asteroid strikes may have contributed to an already fragile environment. Other research shows that Earth experienced six abrupt temperature shifts of two degrees or more in mean temperatures in the one million years before the impact. In one instance, the temperature swung 6-8 degrees.

These factors left doubt in the minds of some researchers, who wondered what it was, exactly, that truly caused the dinosaurs to go extinct. Moreover, previous studies showed considerable inconsistencies with the timing of certain events, leading researchers from Berkeley's Geochronology Center (BGC), the University of California, Berkeley, and universities in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom to investigate further — but this time with a new tool.

Discovery News: Furry Insect-Eater Tops Our Family Tree
by Jennifer Viegas
Feb 7, 2013 02:00 PM ET

Meet your ancestor: This small and furry scampering insect-eater lies at the base of the family tree for humans and most mammals, according to the largest-yet study of mammalian evolution.

The agile animal is the earliest among placental mammals -- the largest branch of the mammal tree consisting of more than 5,100 living species. Only marsupials, such as kangaroos, and monotremes (egg-laying mammals including the platypus and echidna) fall outside of that huge group.

The mammal "had a diet of insects, a fleshy nose, a light underbelly in its fur, and a long tail," said Maureen O'Leary, an associate professor in the Department of Anatomical Sciences in the School of Medicine at Stony Brook University. O'Leary was lead author of a study about the mammal in the latest issue of Science.

Geology

Wired: Lessons on Martian Habitability From a Disruptive Icelandic Volcano
By Jeffrey Marlow
02.07.13

When the Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted in April, 2010, it caused some problems.  An enormous ash cloud spread over Europe, prompting 20 countries to close their air space, stranding 10 million travelers, and causing an estimated $1.7 billion loss for the airline industry and untold collateral damage in sectors dependent upon timely transportation.

By the time the ash had settled, it was the largest interruption of air travel since World War II.

Despite the disruption, Charles Cockell saw an opportunity.  The volcano spewed tons of ash that wreaked havoc on Europe, true, but it also generated fresh lava, a promising sampling opportunity for the University of Edinburgh astrobiologist.

Energy

Wired: How Much Gasoline Would It Take to Power the Superdome?
By Rhett Allain
02.04.13

Surely you are aware that there was a power issue during Super Bowl XLVVII in the Superdome. So, some of the lights went out near the beginning of the second half of the game.

I’m not entirely sure there is a backup generator for the Superdome, but what if there is? What if the power went out and they wanted to continue the Super Bowl using a generator. How fast would that thing use gasoline?

Physics

io9: Here’s how you make glass bulletproof — on only one side
Esther Inglis-Arkell
February 8, 2013

We're used to thinking of things as either/or -– especially when those things are panes of bulletproof glass and we're sitting behind them. How do people make glass that can stop a bullet one way, but let bullets fly through them another way? We'll take a look at the physics of bulletproof glass.

Wired: In Mysterious Pattern, Math and Nature Converge
By Natalie Wolchover, Simons Science News
02.06.13

In 1999, while sitting at a bus stop in Cuernavaca, Mexico, a Czech physicist named Petr Šeba noticed young men handing slips of paper to the bus drivers in exchange for cash. It wasn’t organized crime, he learned, but another shadow trade: Each driver paid a “spy” to record when the bus ahead of his had departed the stop. If it had left recently, he would slow down, letting passengers accumulate at the next stop. If it had departed long ago, he sped up to keep other buses from passing him. This system maximized profits for the drivers. And it gave Šeba an idea.

“We felt here some kind of similarity with quantum chaotic systems,” explained Šeba’s co-author, Milan Krbálek, in an email.

After several failed attempts to talk to the spies himself, Šeba asked his student to explain to them that he wasn’t a tax collector, or a criminal — he was simply a “crazy” scientist willing to trade tequila for their data. The men handed over their used papers. When the researchers plotted thousands of bus departure times on a computer, their suspicions were confirmed: The interaction between drivers caused the spacing between departures to exhibit a distinctive pattern previously observed in quantum physics experiments.

Chemistry

Wired: Feeding the Final Frontier: 3-D Printers Could Make Astronaut Meals
By Adam Mann
02.06.13

Several decades from now, an astronaut in a Mars colony might feel a bit hungry. Rather than reach for a vacuum-sealed food packet or cook up some simple greenhouse vegetables in a tiny kitchen, the astronaut would visit a microwave-sized box, punch a few settings, and receive a delicious and nutritious meal tailored to his or her exact tastes.

This is the promise of the rapidly maturing field of 3-D food printing, an offshoot of the revolution that uses machines to build bespoke items out of metal, plastic, and even living cells. Sooner than you think, 3-D printed designer meals may be coming to a rocketship, or a restaurant, near you.

“Right now, astronauts on the space station are eating the same seven days of food on rotations of two or three weeks,” said astronautical engineer Michelle Terfansky, who studied the potential and challenges of making 3-D printed food in space for a master’s thesis at the University of Southern California. “It gets the job done, but it’s not exactly home cooking.”

Science Crime Scenes

CNN: German education minister loses Ph.D. over plagiarized thesis
By Ben Brumfield, CNN
updated 5:38 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013

Her doctoral thesis dealt with how we form our conscience. Turns out she plagiarized chunks of it.

A university stripped Germany's education minister of her Ph.D. on Tuesday, after a blogger caught the plagiarism and spent months vigilantly presenting the evidence to the public.

Annette Schavan is the second minister in conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet who has this embarrassing distinction.

Former defense minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg stepped down in May 2011, after large passages of his dissertation were found to have been directly copied from other sources.

Science, Space, Environment, and Energy Policy

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130206110926.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Ftop_news%2Ftop_environment+(ScienceDaily%3A+Top+News+--+Top+Environment)
New Steps Recommended to Preserve China's Famous Terracotta Warriors and Other Relics
Feb. 6, 2013

The preservation of immovable historic relics displayed in large open spaces like China's world-renowned Museum of Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses requires air curtains and other modifications to recreate the primitive environment from which archaeologists excavated the relics. That's the conclusion of a study of environmental control measures for archaeology museums in the People's Republic of China.

Their study appears in ACS' journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Agence France Presse via Google: Ancient Pompeii gets 105 mn euro makeover
By Gildas Le Roux (AFP)

POMPEII, Italy — Conservation workers at the long-neglected Roman city of Pompeii began a 105-million euro ($142-million) makeover partly funded by the EU on Wednesday, a day after former site managers were put under investigation for corruption.

The project, which is being funded to the tune of 41.8 million euros from the European Union and is to be completed by 2015, is seen as crucial for the survival of Pompeii after a series of collapses at the 44-hectare site in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius.

Londonist: Temple Of Mithras Stays Boxed As City’s Big Dig Continues
By Londonist
February 6, 2013 at 9:27 am

British archaeology has enjoyed a surge of interest of late, with the recent unearthing of Richard III in a certain Leicester car park. However, one London archaeological site remains in limbo: the Temple of Mithras is still waiting for its new home, as one of the City’s biggest ever digs continues.

The temple, dating from 240AD, has been dismantled and is currently in storage with the Museum of London. It’s awaiting a permanent home in the rebuilt Bucklersbury House on Queen Victoria Street, which is set to be the European headquarters of media giant Bloomberg LP.

Bloomberg was granted planning permission in 2010 to uproot the temple’s remains and incorporate them into its new corporate base. However, work on the £300m project, designed by Foster + Partners, hasn’t yet begun. The site, occupying a huge city block, is still a big hole in the ground. Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA), which is leading the project to move the temple, says it will be “a matter of years” before it is once again visible to the public.

Bismarck Tribune: Landowner voices reservations about proposed study
By BRIAN GEHRING | Bismarck Tribune

A bill to appropriate $250,000 for archaeological and historical surveys in the Killdeer Mountains battlefield area before oil wells are developed drew widespread support Thursday, until the owner of the land testified.

The Senate Government and Veterans Affairs Committee took no action on SB2341 following nearly two hours of testimony.

Sen Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, one of the prime sponsors of the bill, said the area, which was the site of a battle between the U.S. Army and numerous American Indian tribes in July 1864, should be studied before more oil exploration is allowed.

The Scotsman: Edinburgh First World War trench survey begins
By DAWN MORRISON
Published on Friday 8 February 2013 12:49

WORLD renowned experts have begun a major survey aimed at unlocking the secrets of the Capital’s First World War trenches.

The network of trenches at Dreghorn Woods, Colinton, which will cost an estimated £10,000 to save, were almost forgotten and had been left to become overgrown by trees. In December, Edinburgh City Council awarded £3500 to enable survey work to take place following months of campaigning by writer and historian Lynne Gladstone-Millar and the Evening News, calling for the trenches to be preserved.

And yesterday, experts in military archaeology arrived to assess the significance of the practice trenches, using state-of-the-art surveying systems and GPS equipment.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Science Education

Nelson Mail via Stuff (New Zealand): On a quest to dig up our history
EMMA BEER

Amanda Young has been known to bore her friends by forcing upon them the history of the area that they are biking, kayaking or driving through. But for the Nelson-based archaeologist, knowing about history makes the landscape that much more meaningful.

Mrs Young was born in Christchurch but grew up and studied in Auckland before returning to the South Island in 2000.

"The sheer beauty of the place and the accessibility of the outdoors - that's why Nelson is such a fabulous place to live."

After completing a joint degree in New Zealand history and anthropology, she spent three years travelling overseas before completing her masters.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.

Science Writing and Reporting

Wired: Beware the Big Errors of ‘Big Data’
By Nassim N. Taleb
02.08.13

We’re more fooled by noise than ever before, and it’s because of a nasty phenomenon called “big data.” With big data, researchers have brought cherry-picking to an industrial level.

Modernity provides too many variables, but too little data per variable. So the spurious relationships grow much, much faster than real information.

In other words: Big data may mean more information, but it also means more false information.

Wired: On Writing: Culture Looks Down On These Novels, But You Should Read Them Anyway
By Maryn McKenna
02.07.13

Dropping out of scary diseases and scary food for a moment, and into the (more) personal: This past weekend I spoke at Science Online, a fantastic conference in the Triangle area of North Carolina that brings together the different tribes of science communication — journalists, bloggers, scientists, public information officers, museum curators, videographers and audio artists, on and on — for an adrenaline- and coffee-fueled weekend of brainstorming.

SciO, as it’s called, has been going for seven years; I’ve attended for three, speaking each time on some aspect of writing technique. I love going, even though journalists are a minor tribe within the conference’s loose federation, because attending forces me to think not only about why I write, but about how. The process of writing is something I engage with every day, of course, but I’m not often called on to articulate it outside my own head. Prepping presentations for the heterogenous attendees reminds me to examine attitudes and also techniques that I tend to take for granted.

This year, my Wired colleague and friend David Dobbs, from Neuron Culture over there in the right rail, did a storytelling-technique session that turned out to be really well-received, so I thought I’d reproduce it here for wider sharing. We started from this realization: When we learn to write, we’re told to study the greats. But under our noses — sold in airports and drug stores, argued over in blogs and book clubs — there exists a vast and separate world of published writing to which people are passionately attached. That’s genre fiction — mysteries, thrillers, westerns, romances, fantasy and sci-fi — and it keeps its audiences hungering for more via specific techniques that writers can analyze and learn from.

Wired: How Smart Is Your Dog? Test Your Pet’s Brain Power for Science
By Greg Miller
02.05.13

Is your dog a genius or a dolt? Probably both, according to biological anthropologist Brian Hare of Duke University.

Dogs are astoundingly good at reading our gestures and learning words, but they totally fail at physics, Hare says. He’s not talking string theory. Most dogs are at a loss, for example, when their leash gets wound around a tree. Today Hare is launching a new company called Dognition that will, for a fee, analyze the cognitive strengths and weaknesses of your own beloved pooch.
...
Hare and his wife and collaborator Vanessa Woods have also written a book on dog cognition, The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think. They argue that the social skills of dogs rival — and in some ways exceed — those of our closest primate relatives, chimpanzees, and may have much to tell us about how our own species evolved its social savvy.

Last week Wired visited Hare’s laboratory at Duke to ask him about his new company, what makes dogs smart and how much most dog owners know about their own best friends.

Science is Cool

LiveScience: Picasso's Genius Revealed: He Used Common House Paint
Clara Moskowitz, LiveScience senior writer
Date: 08 February 2013 Time: 10:43 AM ET

Pablo Picasso, famous for pushing the boundaries of art with cubism, also broke with convention when it came to paint, new research shows. X-ray analysis of some of the painter's masterworks solves a long-standing mystery about the type of paint the artist used on his canvases, revealing it to be basic house paint.

Art scholars had long suspected Picasso was one of the first master artists to employ house paint, rather than traditional artists' paint, to achieve a glossy style that hid brush marks. There was no absolute confirmation of this, however, until now.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.

Inside Science News Service via Physics Central: Oscar Sci-Tech Awards Honor Ingenious Screen Science And Engineering
This year's awards showcase the interplay between art and science.
Emilie Lorditch
Friday, February 08, 2013

The goal of every movie is for the audience to suspend its collective disbelief and become immersed in the world created on screen.  With special effects breakthroughs continuing to raise the bar for movie audiences, the technical folks behind the scenes are convening on Saturday to celebrate the science and engineering advances in moviemaking.

Audiences know that Daniel Day-Lewis is not really Abraham Lincoln and that Anne Hathaway is not Fantine, but when they watched "Lincoln" or "Les Miserables," they believed. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will hold its Scientific and Technical Achievement awards ceremony on Feb. 9, at the Beverly Hills Hotel. This year, the ceremony will be co-hosted by Zoe Saldana and Chris Pine, who both starred in 2009's "Star Trek" reboot. Nine science and technological awards will honor a total of 25 innovators whose hardware and software have changed the process of moviemaking. Numerous award winners spoke to Inside Science to explain the science, engineering, and mathematical tools behind the latest FX wonders.

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