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Welcome to Science Saturday, where the Overnight News Digest crew, consisting of founder Magnifico, regular editors maggiejean, wader, Man Oh Man, side pocket, rfall, and JML9999, alumni editors palantir, Bentliberal, Oke, jlms qkw, Interceptor7, and ScottyUrb, guest editor annetteboardman, and current editor-in-chief Neon Vincent, along with anyone else who reads and comments, informs and entertains you with this week's news about science, space, health, energy, and the environment.

Between now and the general election, Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday will highlight the research stories from the public universities in each of the states having elections for federal or state office this year plus stories from all research universities in major cities having municipal elections.  That written, tonight's edition features the science, space, health, environment, and energy stories from universities in the states of Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia (list from The Green Papers), and the cities of Boston and New York.

This week's featured stories come from, Columbia University, and the Los Angeles Times.

Secrets of Sunday's Rare Solar Eclipse Explained
by Joe Rao, Skywatching Columnist
November 01, 2013 07:28pm ET

A slice of eastern North America will undergo a weird and dramatic event early Sunday (Nov. 3) morning:  a partial eclipse of the sun.

For most North American observers, the partial eclipse will coincide with sunrise.  But within a very narrow corridor that extends for 8,345 miles (13,430 kilometers) across the planet, the disks of the sun and the moon will appear to exactly coincide, providing an example of the most unusual type of eclipse: a "hybrid" or "annular-total eclipse."

During annular solar eclipse, the sun looks like a "ring of fire," while the moon and sun line up perfectly during a total eclipse. Throughout a hybrid eclipse, however, the celestial sight transitions from annular to total.

Hurricane Sandy, One Year Later
October 29, 2013

The year since Hurricane Sandy blew ashore in the New York area has been one of rebuilding and searching for how best to prevent the level of destruction and death it brought with it.

Columbia, with experts across multiple schools and disciplines and broad expertise in climate science, has played an important role in the recovery. “We have 700 people in the Earth Institute working on this,” said Steve Cohen, the institute’s executive director. “The Lamont Doherty Observatory has close to 100 doctoral level scientists working on this all the time.”

Columbia students and staffers helped communities rebuild. Scores of Columbia scientists have been explaining the causes behind the storm in hundreds of media interviews. Columbia professors serve on government panels that study how to prevent future damage and make recommendations to elected officials on preparedness and infrastructure changes.

Clocks fall back Sunday as Daylight Saving Time ends
By Michael Muskal
November 1, 2013, 12:39 p.m.

Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a person healthy, wealthy and wise, goes the popular wisdom. If you believe that, then this is your weekend as clocks change and most of the U.S. falls back an hour.

The change, officially the end of Daylight Saving Time, comes at 2 a.m. Sunday, when the clocks fall back to 1 a.m. In theory this should give everyone an extra hour of sleep, though how many hours people sleep is often the result of factors other than the clock. The changeover also takes place on the weekend, so what is a rest day can be used in part to offset the chronological changes that for some are akin to jet lag or traveling across a time zone.
Perhaps the biggest misconception about the whole process is that somehow by shifting the clock, people are changing the number of hours of daylight. Wrong. What is changing is how society organizes itself to take advantage of time.

More stories after the jump.

Recent Science Diaries and Stories

Watch this space!

A questionable theory for Dr. Michio Kaku
by blogographer

Green diary rescue: Fukushima on the edge, fighting Big Oil, LOLing over Keystone XL bike path
by Meteor Blades

Tillandsia: Florida's Air Plants
by Lenny Flank

Pew Poll Highlights Interesting Intrapartisan Divides on Climate Change
by Liberty Equality Fraternity and Trees

This week in science: Infernos
by DarkSyde


PBS Newshour featured the one year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy's landfall this week.  Here are the videos about the event the show posted to its YouTube channel.

Climate Change, Hurricane Sandy and How to Cope

Klaus Jacob, a special research scientist with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, explains how climate change will turn events like Hurricane Sandy into more frequent and more disastrous events."One weather event like Sandy does not make climate change. But it is a symptom with many other events that will show yes there is something going [on] and we call it climate change," Jacob said.

What the lowlands can teach about warding off high water

Superstorm Sandy showed U.S. coastal cities the damage water can do -- a threat the Dutch have lived with for centuries. Their system of dams and dikes, locks and levees is keeping the Netherlands safe in a world with rising seas. Miles O'Brien reports on what Americans can learn from the Dutch model of flood management.

Will Beach Nourishment Save Coney Island?

Coney Island reopened after Hurricane Sandy wiped out the beach amusement park. Its new roller coaster Cyclone towers over a beach nourishment project, where dredges pull up sand from the ocean floor and pump it back onto the shore. This has been a Coney Island tradition since the 1920s, but is it enough to save the beach?

Blue Mussels Clean and Protect New York Harbor

After the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy, New York City looks for ways to protect the metropolis from future floods. Civil engineers look to floodgates, but landscape architect Kate Orff is looking at tiny blue mussels for answers. Rebuilding the natural mussel beds and marshes around the city offers natural protection against waves, and they will clean the harbor's dirty waters, she said.

The Sand Engine Churns to Bring Sand to the Beach

As beaches around the world rapidly erode, Marcel Stive of the Delft University of Technology says we need to nourish the coasts by putting sand back on the shore. These beaches are vital to coastal cities, holding back the ocean during storms, he said. He has developed the Sand Engine, a means of restoring sand to the beach with minimal environmental impact.

National Geographic: Halloween Special: Real-Life Zombies.

In a spooky coup, a parasitic worm hijacks a snail's brain and makes the snail sacrifice itself to a hungry bird. Carl Zimmer, a contributor to National Geographic's "Phenomena" science salon and author of the book "Parasite Rex," explains how the snail's death helps the parasite perpetuate its sneaky species.

Rutgers University: The Tennis Ball Games

What do you know about the economic principle of diminishing marginal product? Rutgers Professor Rosanne Altshuler gave her students 30 seconds to figure it out on a real-life assembly line complete with tennis balls. Take a look.

Boston University: Smarter Cities: Traffic Control

Christos Cassandras, BU Professor and Head of the Division of Systems Engineering, talks about the future of traffic control in cities.

Boston University: Smarter Cities: Parking

Christos Cassandras, BU Professor and Head of the Division of Systems Engineering, talks about the future of finding parking in cities.
Also see the story under Energy.

NASA Television: Mars Mission Briefed on This Week @NASA

During a news briefing at NASA headquarters officials and scientists discussed MAVEN, the agency's next mission to Mars. Scheduled to launch November 18 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, MAVEN will study the history and change of Mars' atmosphere, climate, and planetary habitability. Also, Bolden visits Langley, Power Up, Solar Flares, A busy time!, Free flight and Ice Flight!

Science at NASA: ScienceCasts: The Sounds of Interstellar Space

As Voyager 1 recedes from the solar system, researchers are listening for "interstellar music" (a.k.a. plasma waves) to learn more about conditions outside the heliosphere.

JPL/NASA: What's Up for November 2013

MAVEN, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission, will explore the planet's upper atmosphere and backyard astronomers can watch Comet ISON race towards the sun at 5 degrees a day.

Hubble Space Telescope: Tonight's Sky: November 2013

Backyard stargazers get a monthly guide to the northern hemisphere's skywatching events with "Tonight's Sky." November brings both the Leonid meteor shower and a hybrid solar eclipse.


University of Massachusetts: Astronomer, with International Team, Identifies Earliest Galaxy Ever Detected
October 31, 2013

AMHERST, Mass. ­– In a major new survey of the early universe conducted from the NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, University of Massachusetts Amherst astronomer Mauro Giavalisco and colleagues at several other institutions identify the most distant, thus the earliest galaxy ever detected.

Although other Hubble-based observations have identified many other candidates for galaxies in the early universe, including some that may be even more distant, this galaxy is the farthest and earliest whose distance can be definitively confirmed with follow-up observations from the Keck I telescope, one of the largest on earth.

The surprise finding of a young galaxy from a survey that was not designed to find such bright early galaxies suggests that the infant universe may harbor a larger number of intense star-forming galaxies than astronomers believed possible, say first author Steve Finkelstein of the University of Texas (UT) at Austin, Giavalisco and others writing in a recent issue of Nature. This means theories and predictive models of the distribution of galaxies’ star formation activity may need revision.

Columbia University: Faculty Q&A: Sean Solomon on Lamont-Doherty, Earth Science and Space
October 30, 2013

As a scientist, Sean Solomon has studied Mercury, Venus and Mars. Now he heads Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, whose researchers study planet Earth, from its deepest ocean to its highest peak.

Solomon arrives at Columbia from the Carnegie Institute, where he was its principal investigator for research with NASA’s Astrobiology Institute. Astrobiology is an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the origin of life on Earth and its potential for existing elsewhere.

“The four inner planets of our solar system are nature’s experiments in how a planet like the Earth became the planet it is today, and they had four extraordinarily different outcomes,” he said. “To understand our own planet, we must understand how all Earth-like planets formed and evolved.”


WBUR: Climate Change, More Storms Like Sandy Threaten Virginia’s Tangier Island
Thursday, October 31, 2013

Virginia’s Tangier Island, on the lower eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay, was hit by Superstorm Sandy one year ago. But it’s also being slammed by the changing climate and a rising sea level.

In fact, climate scientists estimate that in 50 to 100 years, Tangier Island could be underwater.

Longtime resident Carol Pruitt-Moore says she doesn’t want Tangier Island to be a memory she has to tell her grandchildren about — she wants them to be able to share her way of life on the island.

Columbia University: Oceanographer Studies Clues to Global Warming, Develops Educational Tools for Science
October 28, 2013

Sonya Dyhrman’s interest in marine biology began when she was a child, exploring tidal pools with her grandfather on the coast near her Tacoma, Washington home. For a science project in high school she studied toxin-producing microbes in Puget Sound that accumulate in shellfish during parts of the year and can cause paralysis and even death in humans if those shellfish are consumed.

Now a microbial oceanographer at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and an associate professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, her research focuses on tiny microbes in the ocean that play a role in the earth’s climate.

These phytoplankton, or algae, consume massive amounts of carbon—a byproduct of burning fossil fuels—and release oxygen, the process known as photosynthesis. Higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have made the oceans more acidic, which could have a detrimental impact on marine life.

“We’re used to thinking about the importance of green photosynthetic plants like grass and trees to climate,” Dyhrman says. “People are less used to thinking about the very important role of oceans. Microscopic organisms in the ocean make the planet habitable for humans. Every other breath you take comes from microbes in the sea that produce oxygen.”

Rutgers University: Global Warming as Viewed from the Deep Ocean
The intermediate waters of the Pacific Ocean are absorbing heat 15 times faster over the past 60 years than in the past 10,000
by Ken Branson
Thursday, October 31, 2013

Some climate change skeptics have pointed out that global atmospheric temperatures have been stable, or even declined slightly, over the past decade. They claim it’s a sign that global warming has either ceased, slowed down or is not caused by human activity.

So, where did all that heat that we’re supposedly producing go?

Climate scientists say it went into the ocean, which over the past 60 years has acted as a buffer against global warming.  However, a new study led by Rutgers’ Yair Rosenthal shows that the ocean is now absorbing heat 15 times faster than it has over the previous 10,000 years.  Although the increased heat absorption by the ocean may give scientists and policymakers more time to deal with the issue of climate change, Rosenthal says the problem is real and must be addressed.

“We may have underestimated the efficiency of the oceans as a storehouse for heat and energy,” Rosenthal said. “It may buy us some time – how much time, I don’t really know – to come to terms with climate change. But it’s not going to stop climate change.”


Virginia Tech: Undergraduate researchers study the complexity of community ecology

BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 29, 2013 – Have you ever been part of a ‘complicated relationship’?

Branchiobdellid worms and crayfish sure have, according to the research of Bryan Brown, an assistant professor of biological sciences in the College of Science, and an affiliate of the Fralin Life Science Institute.

Brown studies these critters, which live in freshwater streams, as a model for the larger question he has about community ecology: Why do we find what we find where we find it?


Rutgers University: Young Mother's Death Inspires Family to Improve Maternal Health Care
Rutgers co-sponsors one of the country's first conferences to lower postpartum mortality rates in nation
By Lisa Intrabartola
Thursday, October 31, 2013

The delivery of Tara Hansen’s first son, Brandon Ryan, was expected to be textbook.

After all, she was a healthy, 29-year-old who didn’t suffer from diabetes, high blood pressure or any other condition commonly associated with postpartum complications.

There were no red flags to cause her medical team concern: Except the one Tara was waving.

Rutgers University: Rare Childhood Disease May Hold Clues to Treating Alzheimer's and Parkinson's
Rutgers scientists investigate excess protein production in brain cells
By Robin Lally
Sunday, October 27, 2013

Scientists at Rutgers University studying the cause of a rare childhood disease that leaves children unable to walk by adolescence say new findings may provide clues to understanding more common neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and developing better tools to treat them.

In today’s online edition of Nature Neuroscience, professors Karl Herrup, Ronald Hart and Jiali Li in the Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, and Alexander Kusnecov, associate professor in behavioral and systems neuroscience in the Department of Psychology, provide new information about A-T disease, a rare genetic childhood disorder that occurs in an estimated 1 in 40,000 births.

Children born with A-T disease have mutations in both of their copies of the ATM gene and cannot make normal ATM protein. This leads to problems in movement, coordination, equilibrium and muscle control as well as a number of other deficiencies outside the nervous system.

Rutgers University: Drowsy Driving an Increasing Hazard Say Rutgers Medical Experts
Sleep deprivation and darkness can cause drivers to doze when they believe they are alert
By Patti Verbanas
Monday, October 28, 2013

Many of us make light of that relatively short drive home. But getting behind the wheel when you’re sleepy can cost lives and lead to imprisonment and a hefty fine.

Drowsy drivers number in the millions. In a 2011 National Sleep Foundation poll, 60 percent of adults said they had driven at least once while drowsy, and 37 percent admitted to have actually fallen asleep at the wheel in the past year. AAA reports that one in six fatal traffic accidents results from drowsy driving.

Sergio Bichao nearly added to those fatalities.

Boston University: Higher-Level TB Research to Begin at NEIDL
Boston Public Health Commission gives go-ahead
By Rich Barlow

BU’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories will begin doing tuberculosis research at a higher biosafety level in the coming months, following approval of the work by the Boston Public Health Commission. The research will be transferred from another lab on the Medical Campus.

TB researchers Igor Kramnik, a School of Medicine professor of medicine and director of NEIDL’s Aerobiology Core, and James Galagan, a College of Engineering professor of biomedical engineering and NEIDL associate director of systems biology, have also received approval from BU’s Institutional Biosafety Committee (ISB) to begin preparing for Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) research at NEIDL. BSL-3 research at the lab was green-lighted by a federal court in September.

Kramnik says his research probes the “mechanisms of host susceptibility to tuberculosis, to determine how to prevent destructive lung inflammation caused by the pathogen.” He and his colleagues have managed to stem the disease’s lung lesions in mice, and they are now trying to figure out how to activate such protection in humans and prevent TB transmission by coughing.

Rutgers University: Zebrafish Shown to be Useful Tool in Prostate Cancer Stem Cell Research
Monday, October 28, 2013
Research from Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey demonstrates that using zebrafish to identify self-renewing tumor stem cells in prostate cancers may be more beneficial than using traditional experimental models when aiming to predict response to therapy.

Prostate cancers are suggested to contain self-renewing tumor stem cells that have the ability to grow uncontrollably and spread.  Identified as tumor-initiating cells (TICs), research has shown that these cells are found to be resistant to standard chemotherapy. A desirable treatment strategy is to develop therapies that would effectively target the self-renewing capabilities of the TICs, which requires better identification of TICs themselves.    Utilizing prostate cancer samples from patients diagnosed at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey between 2008 and 2012, Cancer Institute investigators used mouse and zebrafish models to identify the frequencies of TICs from each patient’s prostate cancer cells.   The research appears in the latest edition of The Prostate (DOI 10.1002/pros.22740).

University of Massachusetts: Biochemists Find Incomplete Protein Digestion is a Useful Thing for Some Bacteria
October 30, 2013

AMHERST, Mass. – Usually indigestion is a bad thing, but experiments by researcher Peter Chien and graduate student Robert Vass at the University of Massachusetts Amherst recently showed that for the bacteria Caulobacter crescentus, partial degradation of a DNA replication protein is required to keep it alive.

DNA replication is one of the most highly controlled biological processes in all organisms, says Chien, an assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at UMass Amherst. From humans all the way back to bacteria, all cells must faithfully duplicate their genomes in order to survive. To coordinate the start, ensure the completion and repair damages during DNA replication, specialized proteins play a key role by regulating processes.

Protein degradation by energy-dependent proteases normally results in the complete destruction of target proteins, Chien notes. However, under particularly harsh artificial conditions in the test tube, these proteases can stall on certain targets. But until the recent UMass Amherst experiments, such an effect had never been seen inside a living bacterial cell, he adds.

University of Massachusetts: Reproductive Biologists, with International Team, Move in vitro Fertilization Knowledge Forward
October 29, 2013

AMHERST, Mass. – Two new papers from reproductive biologists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, with international partners, report advances in understanding the basic processes of sperm capacitation that may one day improve success rates of in vitro fertilization (IVF) by providing a shortcut to bypass problems, and may eventually lead to a male contraceptive.

A “pill for men” may be a long way down the road, says Pablo Visconti, lead UMass Amherst author, but this new fundamental knowledge of how sperm acquire the ability to fertilize an egg, allowing scientists to either block or enhance the process, is at the heart of controlling it. Findings appear in early online editions this month of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC), which named one study its “Paper of the Week.”

As Visconti recalls, it was the discovery in the 1950s of sperm capacitation that made IVF possible. Sperm are not fertile until they spend time in the specialized environment of the female reproductive tract, moving through a series of biochemically delicate stages known as capacitation. In the past 50 years it has become clear not only that this signal transduction cascade for capacitation involves many stages, but that each mammalian species has its own different and specific requirements for success.

Virginia Tech: Veterinary researcher focuses on swine disease with U.S. Department of Agriculture postdoctoral fellowship

BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 1, 2013 – A researcher in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine seeks to better understand the cause of a global swine disease that has caused significant economic losses since its first discovery in the late 1990s.

Shannon Matzinger, postdoctoral associate in the college’s Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, received a two-year, $150,000 postdoctoral fellowship grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate how porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2) depletes the lymphatic system and causes inflammation in pigs.

“Although this is arguably one of the most economically important pig viruses, we still do not fully understand the mechanism for how it causes disease,” Matzinger said. “If we can identify the underlying mechanism that causes the disease, we can design better control and prevention strategies against the virus.”


CBS: Gaze-tracking Study Apparently Confirms Everyone Really IS Staring At Your Chest
October 29, 2013 11:53 AM

LINCOLN, NE (CBS) – A new study has confirmed something women have been complaining about for years.

The research, out of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and published in the Springer-published journal Sex Roles, essentially corroborates the belief that people tend to focus more on the breasts and figure of a woman when analyzing her appearance than they do on her face.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.

New York University: Instant gratification poses barrier to addressing climate change
October 23, 2013

Researchers have detected a huge impediment when it comes to working together to halt the effects of climate change: instant gratification.

A study conducted by Jennifer Jacquet, a clinical assistant professor in NYU’s Environmental Studies Program, and her colleagues finds that groups cooperate less for climate change mitigation when the rewards of cooperation lay in the future, especially if they stretch into future generations. The work was published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

“People are often self-interested, so when it comes to investing in a cooperative dilemma like climate change, rewards that benefit our offspring – or even our future self – may not motivate us to act,” says Jacquet. “Since no one person can affect climate change alone, we designed the first experiment to gauge whether group dynamics would encourage people to cooperate towards a better future.”

Rutgers University: Autism and Language Impairment Genetically Linked
Rutgers scientists also find strong evidence of a genetic connection in areas of social skills and repetitive behaviors
By Robin Lally
Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Lorenzo Miodus-Santini, an 11-year-old sixth-grader from Princeton, who was classified as autistic at only 13 months old, was never a big talker. As an infant he didn’t babble or coo. When he was a toddler beginning to speak, he would learn one word but forget another.

His older brother, Christian, a 15-year-old high school sophomore, shared some similar characteristics – difficulty with reading, processing words and speaking clearly. Doctors said he had language impairments but was not autistic.

New research published online today in the American Journal of Psychiatry, by scientists at Rutgers University and The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio, reveals that there is a genetic link connecting family members with autism like Lorenzo Miodus-Santini to those like his brother, Christian, who have specific language impairment characterized by speech and language difficulties that can’t be explained by cognitive or physical problems.

University of Virginia: U.Va. Medical Researchers, Colleagues Find Unexpected Genetic Mosaic in the Brain
November 1, 2013

Scientists at the University of Virginia and elsewhere have discovered that nerve cells in the brain are unexpectedly varied in their genetic makeup, a surprising finding that may help explain schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, autism and other such conditions thought to be genetically linked but not yet tied to a single gene.

Researchers at U.Va.’s School of Medicine and their collaborators found that up to 41 percent of the neurons they examined displayed at least one significant variation in DNA – a percentage far greater than anticipated. This variation could be in the form of either a duplication or a deletion in the genetic code. A deletion could lead to reduced expression of the affected genes, while a duplication could lead to greater expression.

“That might be why it’s been so hard to figure out the genetics of these complex diseases – because we’ve been building on the assumption that all the cells in there had the same genome,” said Mike McConnell of U,Va.’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics. “If we’ve been over- or under-representing some of the risk genes, now we might have a better understanding.”

The work represents an important application of single-cell sequencing, allowing scientists to examine the genetic makeup of an individual cell. McConnell said this was, to his knowledge, the first time the approach had been applied to neurons.


Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey): Unearthed Hittite artifacts in Istanbul break new ground

Traces of the Hurrian civilization discovered in excavations in the ancient city of Bathonea in Istanbul’s Küçükçekmece river basin are being hailed as the year’s most important discovery as they provide the first ever proof that the Hittites came to Europe and civilisations’ long history

An archaeological discovery in suburban Istanbul could soon force a rewrite in history books as new research has shown that the early Hittites actually ventured onto the European continent, having previously been assumed to have remained only in Asia.

Agence France Presse via IOL (New Zealand): Mapping archaeology's ‘final frontier’
October 29 2013 at 09:57am

Rome - Armed with laser rangefinders, GPS technology and remote control robots, a group of speleologists is completing the first ever mapping of the aqueducts of ancient Rome on archaeology's “final frontier”.

They abseil down access wells and clamber through crevices to access the 11 aqueducts that supplied Rome, which still run for hundreds of kilometres underground and along stunning viaducts.

The mission of these “speleo-archaeologists” is to update the last above-ground map of the network compiled at the beginning of the 20th century by British Roman archaeologist Thomas Ashby.

The Guardian (UK): Roman eagle found by archaeologists in City of London

The 1,800-year-old sculpture of the imperial symbol is regarded as one of the best pieces of Romano-British art ever found

Maev Kennedy A superb Roman eagle in near pristine condition, serpent prey wriggling in its beak, has been found by archaeologists in the City of London. A symbol of immortality and power, it was carefully preserved when the aristocratic tomb it decorated was smashed up more than 1,800 years ago – and is regarded as one of the best pieces of Romano-British art ever found.

The preservation is so startling that the archaeologists who found it a few weeks ago at the bottom of a ditch, on the last day of an excavation on a development site at the Minories, were worried in case they had unearthed a Victorian garden ornament.

Heritage Daily (UK): Archaeologists to investigate network of Roman ports

The University of Southampton has been awarded €2.49 million (£2.1 million) by the European Research Council to study a large network of Roman ports stretching from Turkey in the east, to Spain in the west.

Archaeologist Professor Simon Keay will lead the project, ‘Roman Mediterranean Ports’, to examine 31 ports in nine different countries. His team will examine the sites using a combination of geophysical surveys (including ground penetrating radar), data from satellite imagery, and the study of ancient texts.

Professor Keay is leading the project in very close collaboration with Ancient Historian Professor Pascal Arnaud, from the Université de Lyon La Lumière, who will be analysing key Greek and Latin texts and inscriptions to learn more about what they tell us about the character and capacity of ports and the connections between them, port officials and port communities. This will be the first time that both the archaeological and historical evidence will have been studied in an integrated manner.

Tamworth Herald (UK): Scientists prepare to open Roman coffin found buried in field near Tamworth
By Tamworth Herald

A CHILD’S coffin – believed to be more than 1,700 years old – is to be opened by scientists in the coming days.

The relic, discovered last week in a field six miles outside Tamworth, has been in the hands of archeologists all week and is set for the next stage.

BBC: Bute Park artefacts could shed light on 16th Century Cardiff
By Neil Prior BBC News

More than 3,000 finds have been buried in silt for more than 300 years

Artefacts excavated from Bute Park could help our understanding of Cardiff's role in the 16th Century, archaeologists say.

Fragments of the city's burgeoning industry have been unearthed during restoration work on Mill Leat watercourse, west of Cardiff Castle.

They include evidence of potteries, tanners and metallurgy.

Lynn News (UK): Secrets of Brethren uncovered in Reffley Wood in King’s Lynn

If you go down to Reffley woods today, you’re sure to find some fine porcelain tableware and an American coin left by members of a historic secret society.

The West Norfolk and King’s Lynn Archaeology Society have uncovered evidence of the Reffley Brethren at an excavation in the remains of the old temple.

During the summer, the society has been running a number of digs across the Gaywood Valley to learn more about the area’s heritage.

The final digs were undertaken in Reffley, which has yielded proof of the secret society, which apparently still meets today.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.


The Jakarta Post (Indonesia): Researchers trace genes of ancient humans in Flores
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Researchers from the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology in Jakarta are collaborating with their US counterparts to trace the presence of the genes of the prehistoric Denisovan and Homo floresiencis humans in modern-day residents of Flores, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT).

"It has never been thought before whether there is Denisovan and Homo floresiensis genes both in our genes and theirs [Flores residents]. We will carry out research into the issue," said Eijkman Institute deputy director, Herawati Sudoyo, in Jakarta on Tuesday, as quoted by Antara news agency.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.


Columbia University: Lamont Doherty Scientist Tries to Predict Rise in Ocean Levels
October 30, 2013

Columbia climatologist Maureen Raymo is trying to predict the planet’s future by looking to its past.

About 3 million years ago, prior to the last Ice Age, carbon dioxide (CO2) levels were roughly the same level they are now – about 400 parts per million. But they arrived there far more gradually.

Raymo, a marine geologist and paleoclimatologist at Columbia’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, is studying how much those levels caused the oceans to rise. From that, scientists can figure out how much of Earth’s land mass may be inundated as the climate warms and polar ice caps melt.


Boston University: If Boston Were Smart
Imagining intelligent traffic lights, parking spaces, buildings, and appliances
By Leslie Friday

Last year, the Daily Beast named Boston the country’s smartest metropolitan area. The website was referring to the people of Boston, of course, not the city itself. But what if the city itself were smart? What if technology, designed by the smart people who work in Boston, could help us save time and energy and spare us from daily frustrations? We talked to some BU researchers who are studying, designing, and building the technology for a more enlightened city.

University of Virginia: U.Va., Clemson Researchers Convert Waste Heat into Electrical Energy
October 31, 2013

The University of Virginia and Clemson University will compete on the football field this weekend, but researchers from these two institutions are working together to convert waste heat into high-quality electricity.

The researchers say that the conversion of waste heat into electrical energy will play a role in today’s challenge to identify alternative energy technologies that reduce dependence on fossil fuels and lessen greenhouse gas emissions.

Joseph Poon, William Barton Rogers Professor of Physics and chair of U.Va.’s Department of Physics, and Terry Tritt, Alumni Distinguished Professor at Clemson’s physics and astronomy department, are developing thermoelectric materials that provide direct conversion of heat into electricity.

“In the last decade, there have been continuous improvements in the science and production of thermoelectric materials,” Poon said. “Thermoelectric materials can now be incorporated into power-generation devices that are designed to convert waste heat into useful electrical energy.”


Virginia Tech: Researchers publish study on jellyfish movement that will improve bio-inspired robotic designs for Navy

BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 28, 2013 – Virginia Tech College of Engineering researchers are part of a national study that has cracked how jellyfish move with the lowest transport cost of any animal. The findings will be used as researchers continue to design bio-inspired jellyfish for the U.S. Navy.

Published in a recent issue of the Proceedings of National Academy of the Sciences, the study highlights jellyfish as one of the most energetically efficient natural propulsors on the planet. Researchers found that rather than moving continuously through water while swimming, jellyfish use a critical pause between the contraction and expansion of their bell-shaped body to create a vortex that pushes them forward. In essence, the creature displaces the water behind them, creating a “hole” that when re-filled propels them forward.

This feat of motion allows the creature to travel 30 percent farther each stroke cycle, thereby reducing metabolic energy demand by swimming muscles, said Shashank Priya, professor of mechanical engineering and Turner Fellow, who led Virginia Tech efforts on the project. “The fluid is helping the jellyfish to move and conserve the energy,” he said. “The fluid is actually pushing them, and when that energy dissipates, they contract again.”


Virginia Tech: Nanomaterials inventory improved to help consumers, scientists track products

BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 28, 2013 – Nanomaterials are the heart of the smaller, better electronics developed during the last decade, as well as new materials, medical diagnostics and therapeutics, energy storage, and clean water. However, exposure to nanomaterials may have unintended consequences for human health and the environment.

As a resource for consumers, scientists, and policy makers, the Virginia Tech Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology has joined the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars to renew and expand the Nanotechnology Consumer Product Inventory, an important source of information about products using nanomaterials.

“We want people to appreciate the revolution, such as in electronics and medicine. But we also want them to be informed,” said Nina Quadros, a research scientist at Virginia Tech’s Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science and associate director of the Virginia Tech center, who leads a team of Virginia Tech faculty members and students on this project. Todd Kuiken, a senior program associate, and David Rajeski, director of the science and technology innovation program, lead this project at the Wilson Center.

Science Crime Scenes

LiveScience via Discovery News: Viking Graves Yield Grisly Find: Sacrificed Slaves
by Tia Ghose, LiveScience
Oct 31, 2013 04:30 PM ET

Viking graves in Norway contain a grisly tribute: slaves who were beheaded and buried along with their masters, new research suggests.

In Flakstad, Norway, remains from 10 ancient people were buried in multiple graves, with two to three bodies in some graves and some bodies decapitated. Now, an analysis reveals the beheaded victims ate a very different diet from the people with whom they were buried.

Christian Science Monitor: Myanmar Buddha sculpture returns home after wild ride
An 11th-century Buddha was returned to Myanmar after two decades abroad. Several Southeast Asian countries - including Myanmar and Cambodia - are trying to reclaim cultural artifacts.
By Mike Ives, Correspondent
November 2, 2013

Yangon, Myanmar

In 1989, four ancient sculptures were taken from a pagoda near Bagan, a city in central Myanmar known for its 11th-century religious structures and artifacts. One of the sculptures, a damaged sandstone Buddha measuring less than two feet tall, is widely regarded by scholars as an integral part of Myanmar's Buddhist heritage.

The sculpture then went for a ride. In 1990, a San Francisco-based art dealer imported it to the United States. It was later seized by the FBI in New York City, exhibited at a university in Illinois for several years, and in 2012 sent to Paris at the order of Myanmar's ambassador to France.

Daily Hampshire Gazette: Belchertown fifth-graders find loaded gun during archaelogical field dig
By Eric Goldscheider

BELCHERTOWN — At first Wendy Robinson thought it was a joke when one of the fifth-graders participating in this year’s archaeology day yelled “gun” while digging in the dirt near Main Street. She soon saw with her own eyes that three boys wielding garden trowels had unearthed a loaded Smith & Wesson model 10 .38-caliber revolver.

She instructed the children to back away and called the police, who determined the firearm was old and not likely a hazard.

Robinson, a teacher at the Chestnut Hill Community School, who organizes the annual archaeological dig for Belchertown students, chose the excavation site precisely because the owner of the property at 15 Main St. had found part of a very different kind of gun there while clearing brush a year ago last July. Arthur Lemire came across what looked like a rusted glob of metal. He took it over to Cliff McCarthy, the archivist at The Stone House Museum, who ascertained that it was the firing mechanism of a Colonial-era flintlock musket.

The Independent (UK): US investigates National Geographic over ‘corrupt payments’ to Egypt's keeper of antiquities
David Usborne
New York
Monday 28 October 2013

National Geographic may be facing an unexpected challenge to its reputation as one of the world’s most respected educational and scientific institutions amid reports that it is under investigation in the United States over its ties to a former Egyptian official who for years held the keys to his country’s many popular antiquities.

At issue is whether the Washington-based organisation, which in recent years has rapidly extended its public reach beyond its well-known glossy magazine to a cable television channel and other enterprises, violated strict US laws on payments to officials of foreign governments in contracts starting in 2001 with Dr Zahi Hawass, who, until the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak, was the government’s sole gatekeeper to all things ancient Egypt.

North Kitsap Herald: Suquamish Tribe celebrates return of ancestral objects
by RICHARD WALKER,  North Kitsap Herald Editor
posted Oct 31, 2013 at 3:24 PM— updated Nov 1, 2013 at 10:19 AM

SUQUAMISH — The natural order of things was being restored, and creation could sense it.

A ferry carrying boxes of objects — some of them thousands of years old — taken from the Old Man House village site in the 1950s and 1970s sailed from Seattle to Bainbridge on Tuesday, bringing the objects home.

“On the way over from Seattle, a pod of orcas surrounded the ferry —  stopped the ferry for I don’t know how long,” said David Sigo, Suquamish. “It was a powerful thing. They were welcoming the ancestors back home.”

The Telegraph (India): Tampering charge haunts gold hunt
- GSI chief speaks out day after retirement

New Delhi, Nov. 1: A scientific report from the Geological Survey of India cited by the government to justify a hunt for gold under an old fort in Uttar Pradesh had been tampered with, according to GSI sources who say their original report neither mentioned gold nor recommended an excavation.

The version of the GSI report that prompted the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) exercise at Daudiya Kheda near Unnao said that studies had indicated “possible gold, silver, and/or some alloys” at the site and suggested excavation.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Science, Space, Health, Environment, and Energy Policy

United Press International: Buddhist carvings in Pakistan said to need protection
By Fazal

MINGORA, Pakistan, Oct. 24 -- Archaeologists and cultural activists say Buddhist rock carvings in the Swat district of Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province are fading fast and urgently need a well-thought-out preservation strategy by the province's Archaeology Department to protect them from vandalism.

The carvings date from the Gandhara Civilization, considered a cradle of Buddhism, which lasted from early in the first millennium BC to the 11th century AD in what is now northern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan. Most depict Buddha or other prominent figures in ancient Buddhism. The rest are considered masterpieces of art and history that could attract tourists and scholars from around the world.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.

Rutgers University: Most Americans Pay Little Attention to Genetically Modified Foods, Survey Says
Lots of money, not much public awareness, in GM food debate
Friday, November 1, 2013

A national survey shows that most Americans pay little attention to the debate over genetically modified foods, despite extensive media coverage of the issue.

The survey, released by researchers at Rutgers University, found that more than half (53 percent) say they know very little or nothing at all about genetically modified (GM) foods, and one in four (25 percent) say they have never heard of them. Even with the media attention resulting from recent ballot initiatives in California (Proposition 37) and Washington State (Initiative 522) and legislative actions in at least 20 other states that would require labeling of GM foods, the Rutgers study found that only about a quarter (26 percent) of Americans realize that current regulations do not require GM products to be labeled.

“Americans do care about what’s in their food, and they do read labels,” said William Hallman, professor of human ecology in Rutgers’ School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, and lead author of the study. “Eighty-two percent of the respondents told us they sometimes or frequently or always read food labels. But determining what labeling information they value is not a straightforward task. Whether consumers say they want GM food labels depends on how you ask the question, so we asked about it in several ways.”

Rutgers University: Rutgers Study: Overwhelming Majority of New Jerseyans Support Paid Sick Days
Wednesday, October 30, 2013

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As New Jersey’s policymakers consider establishing a minimum standard for paid sick days, the Center for Women and Work (CWW) at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey has released an issue brief on the subject that finds an overwhelming majority (83 percent) of state residents of all political affiliations support paid sick day policies.

While there is a great deal of public support, results reported in, It’s Catching: Public Opinion toward Paid Sick Days in New Jersey, document a persistent need: 37 percent of state residents currently lack access to paid sick days, particularly Hispanic and Latino workers, younger workers and those who work part time or earn less than $50,000 per year.  

“Over 37 percent of New Jersey residents work in jobs with no paid sick days,” said Linda Houser, CWW affiliate fellow, assistant professor at Widener University and co-author of the report. “This proportion is significantly higher for some of New Jersey’s most vulnerable citizens – low-income earners, part-time workers and young adults. Additionally, over 50 percent of these workers cited concerns about financial affordability, job loss or bad performance reviews as having an impact on their decision about taking time off from work to recover from illness.”

Boston University: Science Coalition Report: Federal Funding Critical in Supporting New Technologies
Three BU start-ups cited as fruits of research grants
By Amy Laskowski

One company developed genomic tests to diagnose and manage lung cancer. Another created a technology that can quickly detect harmful and unwanted bacteria in food and health care products. And the third invented a tiny chip-like timing device that can function as a clock.

These three start-ups—all launched at BU—are featured in the Science Coalition report Sparking Economic Growth 2.0: Companies Created from Federally Funded Research, Fueling American Innovation, and Economic Growth, released yesterday. The report from the nonprofit organization of more than 50 public and private research universities, including BU, highlights the achievements of 100 companies, all born of federally funded research, that are bringing cutting-edge innovations to the marketplace and creating new jobs.

University of Massachusetts: Portuguese Fulbright Schuman Scholar to Give Distinguished Lecture, Study Wind Power in Massachusetts
October 31, 2013

Anthropologist Ana Isabel Afonso, a Fulbright Schuman Scholar from the University of Lisbon, will deliver the Distinguished Lecture in the Anthropology of Europe on Monday, Nov. 4 at 4 p.m.  in W32 Machmer Hall. She will speak on “Wind Power and Environmental Conflicts in Portugal: The Social Construction of Landscape.”  
Afonso’s Fulbright research project focuses on how the production of wind energy is integrated into an overall understanding of landscape, and how the implementation of this new technology is reshaping political relations in different regions of the world.

Her U.S.-based research will build on her experience as the Portuguese representative for the research program “Paysage et Développement Durable,” co-sponsored by the French Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development and the French Energy Council. That project brought together an interdisciplinary and multinational team to compare how wind power was impacting communities at the local level, and to trace the legislative processes involved in the building of wind farms in Portugal, Germany and France.

University of Virginia: Government Must Upgrade Its Planning Capacity, Batten School Visitor Argues
H. Brevy Cannon
November 1, 2013

In the face of accelerating and ever more complex and disruptive global challenges and technologies – from climate change to highly automated manufacturing, aerial drones or the vast proliferation of genetic engineering – can the U.S. government move beyond month-to-month crisis management to make the sort of long-term plans and policies required to meet such challenges?

Not without substantial structural upgrades to the government’s capacity for systematic foresight and future planning, argued Leon Fuerth, former national security adviser to Vice President Al Gore, in a presentation Tuesday at the University of Virginia’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.

Fuerth spoke in Garrett Hall to a graduate-level Batten School class of about 30 students on “Congress 101: Leadership Strategies,” taught by Gerald Warburg, who introduced the talk, noting that future planning “will be a central challenge of all your careers.”

Virginia Tech: An engineer's focus on fixing the nation's infrastructure gains momentum

BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 31, 2013 – Four years ago, America's energy infrastructure system earned a "D+" and the water infrastructure system earned a "D" on its report card, issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Unfortunately, not much has changed. The professional society gave energy and water infrastructure a D+ for 2013.

"Pipelines provide the lifeblood to society by transporting energy, water, waste, and other critical services.Our pipeline infrastructure systems was created in an era of inexpensive fossil fuel, stable climate, growing water demand, and rapidly expanding  gross domestic product," said Sunil Sinha,  associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech.

"Unfortunately, the pipeline infrastructure is aging and already operating outside its design limits. How a nation operates, retrofits, and expands its pipeline infrastructure will help determine the quality of life for future generations and that nation's competitiveness in the global economy," he added.

Sinha predicted that if the U.S. is to meet important challenges of the 21st century, a new paradigm for the building and retrofitting of critical pipeline infrastructure system is required, one that addresses the conflicting goals of diverse economic, environment, societal, and policy interests.

Science Education

Rutgers University: Training the Doctor's Eye Through the Study of Art
The new Rutgers paves the way for an innovative interdisciplinary humanities course designed to graduate better doctors
By Patti Verbanas
Sunday, October 27, 2013

At a time when physicians rely increasingly on new technologies as diagnostic tools, Gloria Bachmann is one of the growing number of Rutgers faculty who want these doctors to see their patients as “complete” people – not as a series of symptoms or injured body parts.

“We need to address the educational foundation of health care providers by making them rethink how they view the human body,” says Bachmann, interim chair of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences and the director of the Women’s Health Institute at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Bachmann is one of the leaders of an innovative working group – which also includes a Rutgers art history professor who began her academic career as a premed student  – that is developing a humanities elective for medical students.

The inaugural course – combining art history and narrative writing – will be offered for the first time to Robert Wood Johnson medical students this spring. The ultimate goal: Prepare better doctors by making them more observant diagnosticians and more effective communicators.

Rutgers University: Rutgers Students and Alumni Receive 26 Fulbright Grants, a University Record
Tie for third place among research universities ranks Rutgers with prestigious Big Ten and Ivy League schools
Monday, October 28, 2013

Rutgers University students and alumni received 26 Fulbright Grants this year, a record number for the university.

The prestigious grants offer students and young professionals the opportunity to do graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and primary and secondary school teaching in more than 140 countries worldwide.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program, which administers the grants, reported that Rutgers is tied for third place among research universities nationwide for the number of students and alumni receiving grants. Rutgers is joined in the top 10 by two other Big Ten universities – Michigan and Northwestern – along with other prestigious schools such as Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale.

Science Writing and Reporting

Rutgers University: 'Jersey Shore Hurricane News' Promotes Virtues of Participatory Journalism in Tracking Disasters
Rutgers Graduate Justin Auciello might be New Jersey's biggest one-man volunteer operation
By Jen. A. Miller
Friday, October 25, 2013

If there is a natural disaster, storm, traffic accident, fire, lost pet or missing child in the Garden State, chances are the details are posted on Justin Auciello’s Facebook page, Jersey Shore Hurricane News.

Auciello, who earned his master’s degree from the university’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Public Policy in 2005, started the page just before Hurricane Irene slammed the state in August 2011.

After that storm, his page had 27,000 users. Instead of shutting it down once the hurricane blew over, Auciello kept Jersey Shore Hurricane News alive and expanded its coverage beyond natural disasters, using tips, photos and messages from the site's fans to report on the state’s other major happenings in real time.

"The Internet continues to democratize media," he said. "People are realizing they do have a stake in news reporting and are willing participants in the process."

After Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast on Oct. 29, 2013, the site was thrown into another stratosphere, and now has more than 200,000 users.

Science is Cool

The Daily Mail (UK): Is this the world's oldest warning sign? 9,000-year-old wall painting of volcano tells people of nearby danger

  • Mural was found on a wall in the ancient Turkish settlement of Catalhoyuk
  • It depicts a village in the foreground in front of an erupting volcano
  • Researchers believe it warns about the dangers of nearby Mount Hasan
  • Mount Hasan is a stratovolcano situated around 70 miles from Catalhoyuk

By Victoria Woollaston
In a play on the old adage 'if walls could talk', a mural has been discovered that could be the world's earliest warning sign.

The 9,000-year-old painting, found on a wall buried in the ancient Turkish settlement of Catalhoyuk, shows a village in front of an erupting volcano.

Researchers now believe, through the use of mineral dating and geochemical tests, that the volcano shown in the painting is the nearby Mount Hasan, found 70 miles from the settlement site.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.

Boston University: How Did Halloween Get Started?
CGS lecturer on vampires, zombies, things that go bump in the night
By Amy Laskowski

When you think of Halloween, you’re likely to conjure up images of Jack o’-lanterns, superhero costumes, and haunted houses. And candy—Americans will purchase nearly 600 million pounds of the sweet stuff to hand out and consume today. Overall, we are expected to spend a whopping $6.9 billion celebrating the holiday, according to a recent survey by the National Retail Federation.

Often lost among all the costumes, decorations, and sugar is the origin of the holiday. Halloween is based largely on Celtic religious traditions, says Regina Hansen, a College of General Studies senior lecturer in rhetoric and an expert in the supernatural and how it’s portrayed in literature and film. She is also a scholar of Neo-Victorianism.

Hansen’s affinity for the supernatural began as a child, fueled by her love of authors like J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and Edgar Allan Poe. In graduate school she joined the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts, a scholarly organization devoted to the study of the fantastic, which includes the genres of fantasy, horror, science fiction, and the supernatural. There, she says, she “found a home for people who wanted to write about scary stuff. Now my scholarship has moved from writing about Victorian literature and sneaking in supernatural stuff, to being more on top of it.”

Originally posted to Overnight News Digest on Sat Nov 02, 2013 at 09:12 PM PDT.

Also republished by SciTech and Astro Kos.

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