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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 editors annetteboardman and Doctor RJ, 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 end of the primary season, Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday will highlight the research stories from the public universities in each of the states having primary or special elections for federal or state office this year plus stories from all research universities in major cities having municipal elections as listed in the Green Papers or the 2014 Daily Kos Elections Calendar.  Tonight's edition features the research and outreach stories from Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Oklahoma, New York, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.

This week's featured story comes from Huffington Post.

Summer Solstice 2014, Longest Day Of The Year, Arrives Saturday

Get set for the 2014 summer solstice! The longest day of the year arrives on Saturday, June 21 at 6:51 a.m. EDT.

The occasion brings celebrations across the Northern Hemisphere, from Swedes who wear wreaths and dance around maypoles to modern-day Druids who flock to Stonehenge to Americans who enjoy their pool parties and cookouts.

But what's the summer solstice all about in celestial terms?

More stories after the jump.

Recent Science Diaries and Stories

Elon Musk: Man on Mars in 10-12 years
by Jen Hayden

Spotlight on Green News & Views: Tar sands oil without Keystone XL, 5 Nebraska coal plants to close
by Meteor Blades

This week in science: Electric avenue
by DarkSyde


NASA: Orion Spacecraft Is Taking Shape on This Week @NASA

Science at NASA: ScienceCasts: A Laser Message from Space: "Hello World"

NASA: The James Webb Space Telescope described by Peter Cullen

Discovery News: How Do Astronauts Watch The World Cup In Space?


Polish Radio via News from Poland: Polish meteorite venerated by Neolithic man?
PR dla Zagranicy
Nick Hodge 10.06.2014 12:34

A meteorite found in the remains of a Neolithic hut in Bolkow, north west Poland, may have been used for shamanic purposes, academics have argued.

The meteorite was discovered among a large group of sacral objects in a hut on the banks of Swidwie Lake in the West Pomeranian region.

Delhi Daily News (India): Techno-archaeologists calling back abandoned ISEE3 spacecraft from graveyard
DDN Correspondent Posted on 16 Jun, 2014

The International Sun-Earth Explorer-3, the spacecraft which was launched by NASA 36 years ago and was abandoned by the world's premier agency in 1997 is finally heading back home from the graveyard of space.

Some civilians who have urged NASA to bring the spacecraft back. The civilians have collected some money to own this antique spacecraft.

"We call ourselves techno-archaeologists," said Dennis Wingo, an engineer and entrepreneur who keeps on taking out miracles from space antiques that are abandoned by NASA.

The Wire via Yahoo! News: Chilean Mountaintop Blown Off to Make Way for Extremely Large Telescope
By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
June 19, 2014

Today, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) began construction on the largest optical/near-infrared telescope in the world, by blowing up the top of a Chilean mountain.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Virginia Tech: Astronomers pierce galactic clouds to shed light on black hole development

BLACKSBURG, Va., June 20, 2014 – An international team of scientists including a Virginia Tech physicist have discovered that winds blowing from a supermassive black hole in a nearby galaxy work to obscure observations and X-rays.

The discovery in Thursday's issue of Science Express sheds light on the unexpected behavior of black holes, which emit large amounts of matter through powerful, galactic winds.

Using a large array of satellites and space observatories, the team spent more than a year training their instruments on the brightest and most studied of the “local” black holes — the one situated at the core of Type I Seyfert Galaxy NGC 5548.

What they found was a bit of a surprise.

University of Maryland: Comet’s Brush With Mars Offers Opportunity, Not Danger
June 19, 2014

Comet Siding Spring will brush astonishingly close to Mars later this year – close enough to raise concerns about the safety of a fleet of spacecraft orbiting the Red Planet. But after observing Siding Spring through a satellite-mounted telescope, University of Maryland comet experts found that it poses little danger to the Mars craft. The spacecraft will be able to get an unprecedented close look at the changes happening to this “fresh” comet as it nears the sun – as well as any changes its passing may trigger in the Martian atmosphere.

Fresh comets like Siding Spring, which have never before approached the sun, contain some of the most ancient material scientists can study. The UMD astronomers’ observations are part of a two-year-long research campaign to watch how the comet's activity changes during its travels.

"Comet Siding Spring is making its first passage through the inner solar system and is experiencing its first strong heating from the sun," said UMD assistant research scientist Dennis Bodewits, lead researcher on the UMD astronomy team that used NASA’s Swift satellite to estimate the comet’s size and activity. “Comets like this one, which formed long ago and remained for billions of years in the icy regions beyond Pluto, still contain the primeval building materials of our solar system in their original state.”


Washington University-St. Louis: Humans have been changing Chinese environment for 3,000 years
Ancient levee system set stage for massive, dynasty-toppling floods
June 18, 2014

For thousands of years, Mother Nature has taken the blame for tremendous human suffering caused by massive flooding along the Yellow River, long known in China as the “River of Sorrow” and “Scourge of the Sons of Han.”

Now, new research from Washington University in St. Louis links the river’s increasingly deadly floods to a widespread pattern of human-caused environmental degradation and related flood-mitigation efforts that began changing the river’s natural flow nearly 3,000 years ago.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.


University of Florida: Great White Shark population in good health along California coast, UF study finds
June 16th, 2014

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Great White Shark is not endangered in the Eastern North Pacific, and, in fact, is doing well enough that its numbers likely are growing, according to an international research team led by a University of Florida researcher.

George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research, said the wide-ranging study is good news for shark conservation. The study, to be published June 16 in the journal PLOS ONE, indicates measures in place to protect the ocean’s apex predator are working.

Scientists reanalyzed 3-year-old research that indicated white shark numbers in the Eastern North Pacific were alarmingly low, with only 219 counted at two sites. That study triggered petitions to list white sharks as endangered.

Virginia Tech: Researchers map fishing resources to assist land managers, anglers

BLACKSBURG, Va., June 18, 2014 – Anglers in North Carolina and Virginia who are looking for privacy at good fishing spots should head for the mountains, according to a Virginia Tech study of the capacity, quality, and demand of freshwater recreational fishing sites in the two states.

“Our objective was to map a cultural ecosystem service by identifying the key features that influence anglers’ enjoyment, such as environmental quality, accessibility, and fish abundance,” said Amy Villamagna, a research scientist with the College of Natural Resources and Environment’s fish and wildlife conservation department. “We hope that the resulting framework can be applied to other cultural services and used to guide landscape-level natural resource and land-use management.”

“Of course, savvy anglers will benefit from the map as well,” said Paul Angermeier, professor of fish and wildlife conservation, and assistant leader of the Virginia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. He is also affiliated with Virginia Tech’s Fralin Life Science Institute.

Virginia Tech: Researchers tap into social networks of endangered Indiana bat to aid in habitat management

BLACKSBURG, Va., June 16, 2014 – Depending on habitat availability, the endangered Indiana bat may be able to use its social connections to survive a certain amount of roost destruction, according to research by scientists at Virginia Tech and The Ohio State University.

Alexander Silvis of Lynchburg, Ohio, and Andrew Kniowski of Boones Mill, Virginia, both doctoral students in Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment, made findings from Ohio State field studies highly visual by applying graphic and spatial approaches to the data.

“Social dynamics are important to bat roosting behavior,” said Silvis, who is studying fish and wildlife conservation. “And now, looking at results of a study of roosting and foraging activity in a new light, we have evidence that Indiana bats make social contacts during foraging.”


Science Magazine: Modern parasite discovered in ancient graveyard
Priyanka Pulla
Thursday, June 19, 2014 - 6:30pm

More than 6000 years ago, a small child in ancient Mesopotamia went wading in a nearby stream. He or she might have been bathing, playing, or merely cleaning up after answering nature’s call on the stream’s bank, a common practice in the days long before toilets. But the wader was out of luck; lurking in the water were the treacherous larvae of a parasite called Schistosoma.

The larvae burrowed through the child’s skin and passed through the liver, before eventually settling in the intestines or urinary tract and growing into full-grown flatworms as long as 1 to 2 cm. In an acute case, these worms would have caused fever, bloody stools, and an enlarged liver. In a chronic case, the infected child would have grown anemic and wasted away, making him or her vulnerable to liver damage and bladder cancer.

It is hard to say which symptoms the ancient Mesopotamian child suffered because no soft tissue remains on his or her skeleton today. The disease did leave a trace, however. The mature worms in the child’s pelvis laid eggs, and one of them stayed buried for thousands of years. Now, a team of researchers, led by paleopathologist Piers Mitchell of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, has unearthed the egg in a grave in the Tell Zeidan archaeological site in modern Syria.

LiveScience: Remains of 'End of the World' Epidemic Found in Ancient Egypt
By Owen Jarus, Live Science Contributor
Date: 16 June 2014 Time: 07:42 AM ET

Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of an epidemic in Egypt so terrible that one ancient writer believed the world was coming to an end.

Working at the Funerary Complex of Harwa and Akhimenru in the west bank of the ancient city of Thebes (modern-day Luxor) in Egypt, the team of the Italian Archaeological Mission to Luxor (MAIL) found bodies covered with a thick layer of lime (historically used as a disinfectant). The researchers also found three kilns where the lime was produced, as well as a giant bonfire containing human remains, where many of the plague victims were incinerated.

Pottery remains found in the kilns allowed researchers to date the grisly operation to the third century A.D., a time when a series of epidemics now dubbed the "Plague of Cyprian" ravaged the Roman Empire, which included Egypt. Saint Cyprian was a bishop of Carthage (a city in Tunisia) who described the plague as signaling the end of the world

Culture 24 (UK): Boot-wearing high-status Saxon with infected legs among 10 skeletons found in Lincoln
By Ben Miller
18 June 2014

Archaeologists will investigate the injuries and infections of 10 bodies found at the medieval Lincoln Castle

A high-status Saxon suffering from severe infection to his legs, wrapped in linen and reburied in a church wall, could undergo DNA tests alongside a stabbed teenager as part of the £22 million refurbishment of the medieval Lincoln Castle.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

University of Florida: UF veterinary researchers discover new poxvirus in sea otters
June 19th, 2014

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — After studying unusual skin lesions seen in two orphaned sea otter pups, University of Florida scientists and their collaborators have identified a previously unknown poxvirus in the infected animals.

“To our knowledge, this is the first report of a poxvirus in a mustelid, the group of mammals including otters, mink, badgers and related species,” said James Wellehan, an assistant professor at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine who specializes in virology and zoological medicine.

Members of the poxvirus family cause significant disease affecting both animal and human populations, and the emergence of smallpox in humans became a global pandemic.

University of Florida: UF/IFAS study shows promise for antioxidants extracted from grape seeds, skin
June 17th, 2014

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Soaking muscadine grape seeds or skins in a solution of enzymes can boost antioxidants extracted from the fruit, creating possible new uses for grape leftovers, which are loaded with nutrients, a University of Florida study shows.

After making wine, a producer typically sends the grape seeds and skins to a landfill, said Maurice Marshall, a UF/IFAS food science and human nutrition professor and study co-author. But by using cellulase, pectinase and glucosidase, scientists found the grape seeds and skin aren’t just a waste product. The enzymes increase the antioxidant activity, from the grape seeds and skins. New uses could include food additives or nutritional supplements.

Changmou Xu, a doctoral student in food science and human nutrition at UF, led the study under Marshall’s advisement. Researchers ground muscadine skin or seeds to a powder and extracted phenolics by soaking the powder in a solution of enzymes, Marshall said.

University of Florida: Treatment could spur production of insulin in Type 1 diabetes
June 17th, 2014

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Combining two different medications could help patients with Type 1 diabetes at least partially regain the ability to produce their own insulin, a University of Florida study has shown.

Dr. Michael Haller, a pediatric endocrinologist, likens his approach to treating Type 1 diabetes to a game of cops and robbers. First, he ferrets out problematic cells of the immune system that could be behind a patient’s inability to produce insulin and wipes them out with a medication called Thymoglobulin, a drug initially developed for use in organ transplantation. Then he uses a medication called Neulasta, a drug designed to improve the lives of people with certain forms of cancer, to stimulate the production of new and potentially beneficial immune cells. Haller presented the results of the study on Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association in San Francisco.

“The treatment is almost like trying to hit the reset button on the immune system,” Haller said. “We’re trying to wipe out the bad cells and stimulate the good cells at the same time.”

Cornell University: Sex proteins may help fight mosquito-borne diseases
By Krishna Ramanujan
June 20, 2014

Better understanding of mosquito seminal fluid proteins – transferred from males to females during mating – may hold keys to controlling the Asian tiger mosquito, the world’s fastest-spreading invasive species, found in the U.S. and elsewhere. This mosquito is an important vector for dengue and chikungunya fevers as well as dog heartworm.

These seminal fluid proteins, it turns out, have profound effects on the female mosquito’s physiology post-mating, including rendering future eggs infertile and curbing the female’s appetite for blood.

For the first time, researchers from Cornell University and the College of Wooster have identified 198 seminal fluid proteins in the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus).

Cornell University: Poor neighborhoods – not poor parents – pack on pounds
By Karene Booker
June 19, 2014

By age 2, poor children have gained more weight than those who are better off. But after age 2, neighborhood poverty, not family poverty, puts the pounds on, finds a new study, published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology (35:3).

About one-third of America’s children are overweight or obese, but rates are highest among poor and minority children. The study identifies for the first time the effects of neighborhood-level poverty, family poverty and ethnicity on children’s weight, shedding new light on the origins of adult health disparities, the authors say.

“The effects of neighborhood poverty on children’s weight may be just as important as the effects of family poverty,” says Cornell’s Gary W. Evans, the Elizabeth Lee Vincent Professor of Human Ecology, who co-authored the study with Pamela Klebanov, Princeton University, and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Columbia University.

Cornell University: Chronic intake of Western diet kills mice
By Krishna Ramanujan
June 18, 2014

When Cornell researchers fed high-fat Western diets to mice engineered without key immune system receptors to recognize pathogens, the mice died from lethal lung damage.

But upon closer inspection, the cause of death in these mice may have resulted from a proliferation of a group of common gut bacteria, which released toxins that accumulated in the blood stream to deadly levels and led to lung hemorrhaging.

The findings, published June 18 in the journal Cell Reports, offer clues to a little-known area of research: how Western diets, which have driven an epidemic of obesity and metabolic syndrome, increase mortality in humans.

SUNY Binghampton: Bacteria may link stress, heart attacks
By Ryan Yarosh
Published on June 18, 2014

If you consistently experience high levels of stress, you may be stimulating bacteria that weaken your blood vessels, Binghamton University researchers have found.

The microbiologists discovered a link between stress hormones and bacteria that may explain how emotional shock or over-exertion can trigger heart attacks or strokes in vulnerable people. Researchers believe that this is how someone could literally be scared to death.

The research, published in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology, indicates that hormones released during stress could cause thin sheets of bacteria called biofilms to disperse.

SUNY Binghampton: Biologist targets dormant bacteria
By Kenny Berkowitz
Published on June 16, 2014

Persister cells aren’t naturally resistant to antibiotics, but by entering a dormant state and waiting until the medicine wears off, they’re able to start a new colony and produce a new infection. That’s why some diseases are so hard to shake, biologist Claudia Marques explains.

In her work with Binghamton colleague David Davies, Marques studied the formation of multispecies communities of bacteria called biofilms. The team succeeded in identifying a molecule that signals these colonies to disperse, making the microbes easier to kill with antibiotics. Those findings have been cited more than a hundred times.

“When you take antibiotics, you are only targeting the cells that are creating your symptoms,” says Marques, who came to Binghamton as a post-doctoral researcher in 2004 and is now an assistant professor of biology. “But there are other kinds of cells within the biofilm, and because they live in community, they’re much more protected than the cells that were killed. In theory, if you take an antibiotic in combination with something that will wake these dormant cells, you’ll treat your infection much more efficiently.”

Virginia Tech: Researchers map gene differences in yellow fever, malaria mosquitoes, to help prevent disease

BLACKSBURG, Va., June 17, 2014 – Virginia Tech entomologists have developed a chromosome map for about half of the genome of the mosquito Aedes agypti, the major carrier of dengue fever and yellow fever.

With the map, researchers can compare the chromosome organization and evolution between this mosquito and the major carrier of malaria, the Anopheles gambiae mosquito, to find ways to prevent diseases.

“Despite looking somewhat similar, these mosquitoes diverged from each other about 150 million years ago. So, they are genetically further apart than humans and elephants,” said Maria Sharakhova, a research scientist in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, a Fralin Life Science Institute affiliate, and the principal investigator of the study published in BMC Biology and highlighted on Biome.


University of Colorado: Kids whose time is less structured are better able to meet their own goals, says CU-Boulder study
June 18, 2014

Children who spend more time in less structured activities—from playing outside to reading books to visiting the zoo—are better able to set their own goals and take actions to meet those goals without prodding from adults, according to a new study by the University of Colorado Boulder.

The study, published online in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, also found that children who participate in more structured activities—including soccer practice, piano lessons and homework—had poorer “self-directed executive function,” a measure of the ability to set and reach goals independently.

“Executive function is extremely important for children,” said CU-Boulder psychology and neuroscience Professor Yuko Munakata, senior author of the new study. “It helps them in all kinds of ways throughout their daily lives, from flexibly switching between different activities rather than getting stuck on one thing, to stopping themselves from yelling when angry, to delaying gratification. Executive function during childhood also predicts important outcomes, like academic performance, health, wealth and criminality, years and even decades later.”

University of Colorado: Working women have more influence at home, says CU-Boulder study
June 16, 2014

When women who are married work, they wield more decision-making power over large household expenses -- like buying a car, large appliance or furniture -- according to a University of Colorado Boulder study.

If a married woman has worked in the past 12 months, the likelihood of her involvement in decisions over major household purchases with her husband increases by about 5 percentage points, the study found. Also, the likelihood that her husband is the sole decision maker on big buys for the home drops by about 5 percentage points.

“I think it’s so important because employment is the way that most women, by and large, are going to be able to improve their own situation,” said study author Francisca Antman about the finding.

Clemson University: Using artwork to improve health outcomes
June 20, 2014

The artwork in your hospital room may affect your mood, which can result in positive health outcomes, according to Ellen Vincent’s latest research.

“People felt better when they had the image as opposed to people who didn’t have an image,” said Vincent, a researcher in the School of Agricultural, Forest and Environmental Sciences, about her experiment. “If people feel better, they may heal faster. That’s documented in the literature.”

In her study, the most effective landscape pictures had both a physiological and psychological impact on patients, reducing blood pressures and increasing positive measurements on the Profile of Mood States scale.

University of Utah: The Bionics Man
U professor Richard Normann's brain electrode array has created possibilities for patients.
By Elaine Jarvik
Published Summer 2014

The Utah Electrode Array is a tiny little thing. Placed on a penny, it’s about the size of Lincoln’s face. Magnify it, though, and you can see a hundred needles reaching upwards like skyscrapers. The idea is this: Implant that array into the brain of a paralyzed person, and she’ll be able to move her arms and legs with nothing more than her thoughts. Implant the array in the brain of a blind man, and he’ll be able to see. This is pretty far-out stuff (headline writers often invoke the word “miracle”), but University of Utah professor Richard Normann is confident that his electrode array will help make all this happen.


Sydney Morning Herald (Australia): Archaeological cave dig unearths artefacts from 45,000 years ago
Tim Barlass
June 14, 2014

An archeological dig has revealed artefacts of early occupation so old they rival the dates of those found at sites of the earliest human settlement in Australia.

The discovery of the artefacts of animal bone and charcoal at the Ganga Maya Cave (named by traditional owners meaning  'house on the hill') in the Pilbara region of Western Australia are the subject of a scientific paper not yet submitted to archaeological journals.

The items analysed through carbon-dating techniques indicate first use of the cave from more than 45,000 years ago.

University of California: Researchers document underwater cave and ancient remains
By Tiffany Fox, UC San Diego
Wednesday, June 18, 2014

When exploratory divers discovered the underwater Mexican cave site known as Hoyo Negro, the conditions of the cave were so pristine and stable, says archaeologist Dominique Rissolo, “it looked like no one had ever exhaled a breath there.”

But there was evidence that at least one person had been inside the cave before the divers: a Paleoamerican girl nicknamed Naia, who had fallen to her death while presumably collecting water from the cave during the late Pleistocene era, between 13,000 and 12,000 years ago. The divers found her skeleton, as well as the remains of several Ice Age animals, on the cave floor. According to Rissolo and project co-director, James Chatters, it was like the La Brea tar pits without the tar.

The Express (UK): Archaeologists discover Britain's longest road to be 10,000 year old
BRITAIN’S longest road, built almost a century ago, may actually have been used for 10,000 years.
By: Paul Jeeves

Archaeologists were stunned to discover evidence of a Mesolithic settlement alongside the A1, which stretches 410 miles from London to Edinburgh.

The site, near Catterick in North Yorkshire, is believed to have been used by people travelling north and south as an overnight shelter, similar to today’s motorway service stations.

University of York (UK) via Science Daily: What amino acids in shells can tell us about Bronze Age people
June 17, 2014

A new study has shed new light on the use of mollusc shells as personal adornments by Bronze Age people. The research team used amino acid racemisation analysis (a technique used previously mainly for dating artefacts), light microscopy, scanning electron microscopy and Raman spectroscopy, to identify the raw materials used to make beads in a complex necklace discovered at an Early Bronze Age burial site at Great Cornard in Suffolk, UK.

Canadian Light Source via PhysOrg: Siberian Bronze Age skull reveals secrets of ancient society
Jun 19, 2014

Unlike most hunter-gatherer societies of the Bronze Age, the people of the Baikal region of modern Siberia (Russia) respected their dead with formal graves. These burial sites are a treasure trove for archaeologists and one particular specimen was so unique that bioarchaeologist Angela Lieverse traveled across the world just to bring it back to the Canadian Light Source synchrotron for examination.

Bristol University (UK): Hidden treasures of ancient Ur uncovered in Bristol

An enigmatic box from a bygone era, filled with pottery, seeds and animal bones, has been discovered in the University of Bristol's Department of Archaeology and Anthropology. The box was found while researchers were emptying current laboratory spaces in preparation for the installation of a new state-of-the-art radiocarbon dating facility.

Leiden University (Netherlands) via Science Daily: Egyptologist unravels ancient mystery
June 19, 2014

It is one of the greatest archaeological mysteries of all times: the disappearance of a Persian army of 50,000 men in the Egyptian desert around 524 BC. A professor has now unearthed a cover-up affair and solved the riddle.

It must have been a sand storm, writes the Greek historian Herodotus. He tells the story of the Persian King Cambyses, who entered the Egyptian desert near Luxor (then Thebes) with 50,000 men. The troops supposedly never returned; they were swallowed by a sand dune. A fantastic tale that was long the subject of many debates.

Egyptologist Olaf Kaper never believed it: 'Since the 19th century, people have been looking for this army: amateurs, but also professional archaeologists. Some expect to find somewhere under the ground an entire army, fully equipped. However, experience has long shown that you cannot die from a sand storm, let alone have an entire army disappear.'

Leicester Mercury (UK): Dig team uncovers coins, ceramics and 2,000-year-old tweezers
By Leicester Mercury

A pair of 2,000-year-old tweezers has been found during an archaeological dig at a Roman villa in Leicester.

The centuries-old artefact was part of a haul of buried treasures, including copper brooches, medieval coins, ceramics and pottery found last week in Blackfriars.

The tweezers are believed to date back as far as the first century AD and would have been used to pluck stray hairs from the brows of Roman ladies – and possibly men, according to Philip Briggs, of Wardell Armstrong Archaeology, which carried out the dig.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Peru This Week: Archaeologists discover Tiahuanaco tomb in southern Peru
By Rachel Chase
June 16, 2014

Joint Polish-Peruvian dig was able to recover a number of undamaged artifacts.

Archaeologists working in the Tambo Valley in the southern region of Arequipa recently discovered a tomb built by members of the Tiahuanaco culture.

El Comercio reports that a team of archaeologists from Wroclaw University and Poland and the Universidad Católica de Santa Maria in Arequipa found the tomb near the town of Punta de Bombon. Though the tomb had apparently been looted by antiquities traders, investigators were able to recover human remains as well as several other significant artifacts.

Culture 24 (UK): Archaeologists hail "magical moment" as rare Roman gold coin found at Vindolanda
By Ben Miller
19 June 2014

Archaeologists thought they had more chance of winning the lottery than finding a gold coin at the Roman site of Vindolanda – until a volunteer from France struck lucky

In a breakthrough which defied two generations of diggers along Hadrian’s Wall, a volunteer French archaeologist has found the first gold coin at Vindolanda, the Roman site which has been intriguing excavators for almost 50 years.

Described as being “well-worn”, the confirmed aureus bears the image of the Emperor Nero, dating it to around AD 64 or 65. The precious currency was worth half a year's salary for serving soldiers, but was lost on the northern outpost of the empire following 300 years in circulation.

Culture 24 (UK): Incredibly rare medieval abbey shows power of nuns, say archaeologists in Wales
By Ben Miller
10 June 2014

A rare medieval convent, cemetery and Tudor mansion has been found in Ceredigion. Dr Jemma Bezant reveals some of the discoveries made so far

“Medieval nunneries like this are incredibly rare with only one other known in Wales. This is an incredibly important site dating back to at least the late 8th century.

It gives us an unparalleled opportunity to gather more information about monastic life. We know the nuns farmed sheep and cattle successfully and they would have tended mills, orchards and fishponds.

There are medieval fairs nearby at Talsarn and LLanerchaeron and they could have been trading far and wide, with coastal access only a couple of miles away at Aberaeron.

Al-Ahram (Egypt): Surian facelift
The unique paintings decorating the walls of the Deir Al-Surian Church are being unearthed in an ongoing conservation project, reports Nevine El-Aref

In the parched desert of Wadi Al-Natroun on the Northern Coast stands the Deir Al-Surian Monastery enclosed within a large walled compound as a testimony to early Coptic monasticism.

The monastery was originally built during the sixth century CE in the aftermath of a theological dispute with the monks of the neighbouring Saint Bishoy Monastery over the incorruptibility of the body of Christ. The monks, who had refused to abide by the Julian heresy that had spread in Egypt during the papacy of Pope Timothy III of Alexandria, left the original monastery and established a new one, calling it the Monastery of the Holy Virgin Theotokos.

The so-called Julianists believed in the incorruptibility of the body of Christ, not accepted by the faith of the Orthodox Church.

Daily Press: Rewriting history at James Fort
By Mark St. John Erickson
June 15, 2014

JAMES CITY — Since pushing their first shovel into the ground 20 years ago, Jamestown archaeologists have rewritten the history of America's first permanent English settlement numerous times, beginning with the 1996 discovery of the landmark fort that most people believed had been lost.

Now they're probing the earth outside the perimeter of that iconic triangular citadel, searching for evidence of an early foothold that may have been much larger and more complex than many historians have thought.

Smithsonian Magazine: The Snowy, Barren Arctic Actually Contains a Sophisticated Network of Inuit Trails
Compiled from accounts over the past 200 years, a new atlas documents a network of trails stretching across the Arctic
By Mary Beth Griggs

Back before 19th century explorers came to the Arctic with their fancy equipment, Inuit trails crossed the treacherous landscape. These trails connected communities—by boat, by foot, by sled—with each other and with the resources they needed to survive. Now, researchers have put together a database of trails from all over the Arctic, pulling together historical notes and maps from the 19th and 20th centuries into an atlas.

Washington Post: Smithsonian restores historic vault with Shriver family ancestors
By Susan Svrluga

When Douglas Owsley first climbed down into the old and badly damaged Causten family vault at the historic Congressional Cemetery on Capitol Hill, he found rotting coffins, brass nameplates and human bones piled several feet deep on the floor.

“Whew,” thought Owsley, a forensic anthropologist at the National Museum of Natural History. “This is going to be a lot of work.”

Herald-Whig: 'You found the key to Grandma's house': Archaeological dig searches for Joseph Smith home
Herald-Whig Staff Writer

NAUVOO, Ill. -- Michelle Murri held a key to history in the palm of her hand.

The small house key, carefully teased from the soil, could open doors to an even better understanding of Nauvoo's past.

An archaeological dig is underway to find the location of the home built for Joseph Smith Sr. and his wife Lucy Mack in Nauvoo. Recent discoveries led to a possible site just south of the Joseph and Emma Smith Mansion House.

"You found the key to Grandma's house," Bob Smith, the dig site host and a great-great-great-grandson of Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith, said. "Working on the site, holding something they might have held before, making that connection is a positive thing."

Ottawa Citizen (Canada): Canadian Forces taking part in search for the ships of the Franklin Expedition
David Pugliese

The Canadian Forces will be involved this year in the search for the ships of the Franklin Expedition. Here are the details from the government’s news release:

OTTAWA, June 20, 2014 CNW Telbec – This summer, the Government of Canada and an unprecedented number of organizations from the public, private and non-profit sectors will partner together, using state-of-the-art technology, to locate the historic ships of the ill-fated 1845 Franklin Expedition.

The 2014 Franklin Expedition will also have the added benefit of furthering our knowledge in a number of priority areas, including through the collection of important scientific information about Canada’s most remote region.

The Wichita Eagle: John Brown, Bleeding Kansas and the search for buried history
By Beccy Tanner
The Wichita Eagle

Puddles of water line the driveway in this corner of Osawatomie, along with tents filled with volunteer archeologists scraping and sifting layers of dirt.

It was here 158 years ago that the beginnings of an abolitionist revolution were born, thanks to a man, his half-sister and her minister husband.

John Brown fought and killed to free slaves.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.


LiveScience: Human and Chimp Genes May Have Split 13 Million Years Ago
By Charles Q. Choi, Live Science Contributor  

The ancestors of humans and chimpanzees may have begun genetically diverging from one another 13 million years ago, more than twice as long ago as had been widely thought, shedding new light on the process of human evolution, researchers say.

Scientists also discovered that male chimps pass on far more genetic mutations to their offspring than male humans do, revealing previously unknown evolutionary differences between the species.

Chimpanzees are the closest living relatives to humans, so studying chimps can help scientists learn more about human evolution.

LiveScience: Ancient Skulls Reveal 'Mixed' Neanderthal-Like Lineage
By Charles Q. Choi, Live Science Contributor
Date: 19 June 2014 Time: 02:04 PM ET

A key first step in Neanderthal evolution may have been the development of front teeth that could act like a "third hand," researchers now say.

These new findings are based on 17 hominin skulls showing a mix of traits from Neanderthals and more primitive human lineages, dating back some 430,000 years. The specimens likely belonged to a hominin group within the Neanderthal lineage but perhaps not direct Neanderthal ancestors. (Hominins include modern humans and extinct ancestors and close relatives of the human lineage.)

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.


Newswer: Mystery of West's Mammoth Ancient Lakes Solved
Study: Lower evaporation rates led to far larger lakes
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff

(Newser) – During the period known as the Last Glacial Maximum some 21,000 years ago, mammoth lakes spread out across large swaths of the West, and scientists have long wondered why the now-dry lakes used to be so big. Mystery solved: A new study finds that the reason has nothing to do with higher precipitation—a long-running theory unraveled by recent analysis that found rain and snowfall levels were relatively low at the time—but rather slower evaporation. Analyzing limestone samples taken from the edges of Lake Surprise, a fossil lake in California, geologists found more amounts of the isotope known as oxygen-18 than oxygen-16, which is slightly lighter. Oxygen-18 water evaporates more slowly, and the ratio of the two isotopes indicates that evaporation rates during the Last Glacial Maximum were a whopping 40% lower than what we experience today.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.


Great Falls Tribune: Bakken oil boom increases archaeologist demand
Josh Wood 10:08 p.m. MDT
June 17, 2014

TIOGA, N.D. – Drilling crews are eager to plunge their equipment into the ground. Road builders are ready to start highway projects and construction workers need to dig.

But across the hyperactive oil fields of North Dakota, these and other groups often must wait for another team known for slow, meticulous study — archaeologists, whose job is to survey the land before a single spade of dirt can be turned.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Utah State University: USU Researchers Find Most Cost Effective Lighting Fixtures for Plant Growth
Thursday, Jun. 19, 2014

In a recently published study, Utah State University researchers found that lighting efficiency for plant growth has almost doubled in the past six years.

The study, published in the academic journal PLOS ONE, was co-authored by Jacob A. Nelson, a graduate student, and Bruce Bugbee, a professor in the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences, who said their goal was to aid growers in selecting the most cost effective lighting fixtures for greenhouse and indoor plant growth.

“We started doing this work at the request of growers who were confused by the extravagant claims being made by manufacturers about the efficiency of electric lights,” Bugbee said.

Nelson and Bugbee compared the efficiency of 22 lighting fixtures and found that the best light emitting diode fixtures — commonly known as LEDs — and the best high pressure sodium fixtures — often used in street lamps — are equally efficient. The two types of fixtures, however, provide optimum light for plants in significantly different ways.


LiveScience: First 'Quantum Computer' No Faster Than Classic PC
By Tanya Lewis, Staff Writer
Date: 19 June 2014 Time: 02:14 PM ET

The world's first commercial quantum computer, made by the Canadian company D-Wave Systems Inc., performed no better than a classical computer in a recent analysis.

Quantum computers are thought to be able to solve complex problems thousands of times faster than classical computers, and scientists have been working on developing them for more than a decade. These devices could be useful for modeling quantum mechanics — the realm of physics that describes how matter at the sub-microscopic scale can exist as both a particle and a wave — or for cracking encrypted online information.

A team of researchers compared the performance of a D-Wave Two device to that of a classical computer on a specific set of problems, and failed to find evidence that the quantum computer was faster.


LiveScience: New Synthetic Diamonds Are Hardest Gems Ever Created
By Jesse Emspak, Live Science Contributor
Date: 17 June 2014 Time: 10:53 AM ET

Diamonds are the hardest naturally occurring minerals known to man. Even so, scientists are working to make them even tougher, in order to use the sparkling gems as tools for cutting.

Now, a team of researchers, led by Yongjun Tian and Quan Huang at Yanshan University in China, has created synthetic diamonds that are harder, meaning they are less prone to deformation and breaking, than both natural and other man-made diamonds.

To create these tougher-than-steel diamonds, the researchers used tiny particles of carbon, layered like onions, and subjected them to high temperatures and pressures. The resulting diamonds had a unique structure that makes them more resistant to pressure and allows them to tolerate more heat before they oxidize and turn to either gas (carbon dioxide and monoxide) or ordinary carbon, losing many of their unique diamond properties.

Science Crime Scenes

USA Today via Pacific Daily News (Guam): In Iraq, echoes of Taliban's cultural purges
Jun. 20, 2014  

ISTANBUL - Ancient statues whispering of civilizations lost. Religious shrines from the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths. Tombs with relics and bones testifying to this region as the Cradle of Civilization - and where, in the city-states of Mesopotamia millennia ago, the world's first written language was born.

The land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers has an estimated half-a-million archaeological sites and countless priceless artifacts. Only recently recovered and restored following the 2003 war in Iraq, they are nonetheless in danger once again, this time from Islamic extremists taking over large swaths of Iraq who deem this rich heritage "un-Islamic."

LiveScience: Shaman's Herbal Hallucinogen a Fatal Lure for New Age Tourists
By Benjamin Radford, Live Science Bad Science Columnist  

The mother of a man who drowned while using a shamanic hallucinogenic drug has filed a lawsuit against the New Age spiritual retreat where the incident occurred.

Garth Dickson, according to his mother, was under the influence of an herbal mixture known as ayahuasca (pronounced eye-uh-WAH-skuh) when he walked into Shasta Lake and drowned in 2012 while at a retreat called the White Flame Institute, according to a lawsuit filed last week in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The White Flame Institute for Consciousness and Liberation offers "transformational life classes" and a "shamanic certification program" along with classes on healing and personal growth, according to the institute's website. Mrs. Dickson accuses the institute and its leader, Bonnie Serratore, of negligence and encouraging the use of ayahuasca as part of the treatments.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

The Verge: Bitcoin miner's control over minting new coins creates security risks, researchers say
By Casey Newton
June 15, 2014 06:24 pm

A single bitcoin-mining network has repeatedly supplied more than half the computational power necessary to mint new bitcoins, undermining the decentralized nature of the digital currency and creating new security concerns. Ars Technica reports on new research from Cornell University showing that GHash, a top mining pool whose leaders are unknown, performed more than 51 percent of all cryptographic hashing on at least five separate occasions beginning June 3rd. One of those periods lasted for 12 hours, according to the researchers.

Science, Space, Health, Environment, and Energy Policy

The Daily Telegraph (UK): Rome seeks £25 million to save Emperor Nero's lavish palace
£25 million appeal to save Emperor Nero's lavish palace, which sits on a hill opposite the Colosseum, from collapse
By Nick Squires, Rome

Covered in gold leaf, it was once a magnificent symbol of the wealth of ancient Rome, but two thousand years on, cash-strapped Italy has launched an appeal for £25 million to preserve a vast palace built by the Emperor Nero.

The Domus Aurea, loosely translated as the Golden House, is a sprawling complex of interconnecting dining halls, frescoed reception rooms and vaulted hallways perched on a hill opposite the Colosseum.

In the centuries since it was constructed by the tyrannical and vainglorious Nero, who was famously said to have played his lyre while Rome was engulfed in flames, it was built on by successive emperors so that it is now virtually underground.

Business World (Ireland): Archaeologists join union over low pay
Thursday, June 19 15:43:15

They may not be the first group to spring to mind in the debate about low pay, but contract archaeologists working in Ireland have joined a trade union in a bid to improve their terms and conditions, it has emerged.

The trade union Unite now has an archaeology branch committed to challenging "poverty pay".

L.A. Times: Navy faces daunting task of counting desert petroglyphs

Archaeologists know it as Renegade Canyon, a lava gorge in desert badlands with more than 1 million images of hunters, spirits and bighorn sheep etched in sharp relief on cliff faces and boulders.

But this desert is in the heart of the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station, and it is where the Navy and Marines develop and test advanced bomb and missile systems.

Safeguarding the canyon and other troves of rock art from stray bombs and vandalism has been a priority since the Mojave Desert base was established in 1943. Now, the Navy is gearing up for a daunting new mission: creation of the first comprehensive inventory of the largest concentration of petroglyphs in the Western Hemisphere.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Science Education

Clemson University: Math camp for girls aims to narrow the gender gap
June 17, 2014

CLEMSON — A group of high school girls are at Clemson University this week to attend a new summer camp that aims to boost their math skills and give them a better shot at landing some of the nation’s fastest-growing jobs.

The inaugural offering of  “We Do Math!” targets girls who will be in ninth and 10th grades when fall semester starts.

Organizers hope to lay the foundation that females will need to close the gender gap in jobs that involve STEM– science, technology, engineering and math.

Science Writing and Reporting

Indo-Asian News via Yahoo! News: 3D technology to revolutionise archaeology, palaeontology
By Indo Asian News

London, June 20 (IANS) Are we heading towards a time when it will be common for an archaeologist sitting at one corner of the world studying ancient artefacts discovered and stored in a distant land without even visiting that place?

Yes, said researchers who believe that technology has the potential to break the "interpretative monopoly" of scholars whose theories prevail particularly because others lack access to certain artefacts or remains.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

University of Central Oklahoma: UCO Psychology Professor Examines History of Scientific Sexism and Racism in New Book
June 18, 2014

How can skewed psychological research impact society? Profoundly, according to Caleb Lack, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at the University of Central Oklahoma. He addresses the history of such scientific research and how it contributed to sexism and racism, and offers guides on how to conduct and evaluate comparative research, in his recently published book, “Psychology Gone Astray.”          

Lack, along with co-author Charles Abramson, Ph.D., dedicated 10 years of work to the text. It includes 22 articles dating from 1895-1930 that illustrate how scientific research helped further the ideas of racism, sexism and eugenics.          

“The book addresses an often-ignored issue in psychology: how the results of numerous poorly conducted psychological studies were used to support and justify both scientific and institutionalized sexism and racism,” said Lack.

Science is Cool

Bloomberg: Mick Jagger Gets Antiquities Protection for Old Stones in Rome
By Vernon Silver
Jun 20, 2014 10:57 AM CT

When the Rolling Stones announced in March they’d be playing a concert in Rome’s ancient chariot stadium, tickets sold out within hours. Just as quickly, archaeologists expressed alarm at the possibility that tens of thousands of fans flocking to the Circus Maximus would finish off what the sacks of Rome hadn’t.

The oval-shaped park is flanked on one side by the Palatine Hill, whose fragile, red-brick ruins make perfect viewing perches for freeloaders. A fenced-off excavation site occupies the back of the venue itself -- opposite the stage that’s been erected for the June 22 concert by the legendary rock group led by 70-year-old Mick Jagger.

Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey): ‘Dracula’s tomb’ discovered in Italy
Esma ÇAKIR – ROME / Dogan News Agency

Estonian researchers believe they may have finally discovered the whereabouts of “Dracula’s” grave, which is in Italy and not the Romanian Transylvanian Alps as first thought.

The inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s 1897 gothic novel “Dracula” is thought to be Vlad III, the 15th century Prince of Wallachia in Eastern Europe. Known posthumously as Vlad the Impaler, the ruler was known for his brand of cruelty across Europe, which included impaling his enemies.

BBC: Don Quixote: Hunt for author Cervantes' remains narrows

Forensic scientists looking for the body of Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes say they have found five possible sites at a Madrid church.

The author of Don Quixote died in 1616 and is considered one of Spain's most important literary figures.

His burial was recorded at the Convent of Trinitarians in Spain's capital but the exact location is unknown.

DNA Info: 'Elixir of Long Life' Recreated From 1800s Bottle Unearthed on Bowery
By Irene Plagianos
June 16, 2014 6:39am

LOWER EAST SIDE — Archaeologists have dug up a 19th-century recipe for fending off death.

During a recent excavation beneath a hotel site at 50 Bowery, Chrysalis Archaeology discovered a tiny, greenish glass bottle that once contained the "Elixir of Long Life."

The bottle found amid a cache of 150-year-old liquor bottles beneath what was once a German beer garden sparked the archaeologists' curiosity, and they decided to hunt down the original recipe so they could try the elixir themselves.

LiveScience: Picasso's Ghost: Mysterious Man Found Hidden in Famous Painting
By Tanya Lewis, Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Pablo Picasso's famous painting of a bathing woman in a blue room carries a secret: High-tech scans have revealed that the well-known scene was painted on top of a portrait of an unidentified man.

Conservators here at the Phillips Collection used infrared imaging to virtually peel back the paint of the artist's famous 1901 painting "The Blue Room"; underneath, they discovered a portrait of a man in a bow tie, resting his head on his arm. Live Science visited the collection for a behind-the-scenes look at how the discovery was made.

Western Digs: Vinyl Records Excavated at Famous ’60s Commune Challenge ‘Hippie’ Stereotype, Study Says
Posted by Blake de Pastino on June 5, 2014  

The Grateful Dead once lived there, apparently taken with the acoustics of the living room.

Its bucolic grounds were featured on the back cover of the Dead’s 1969 album Aoxomoxoa.

And the crush of musical luminaries who passed through it include Grace Slick, Janis Joplin, Nina Simone, and a 5-year-old girl named Courtney Love.

But the country estate known as Rancho Olompali in Marin County, California was best known as the site of a social experiment that lasted all of 600 days: a commune called The Chosen Family, where at one point nearly 90 people sought refuge from the tumult of San Francisco street life in the late 1960s.

LiveScience: Animals 'Predict' 2014 World Cup Winning Teams
By Tanya Lewis, Staff Writer
June 13, 2014 11:48am ET

They're baaack — in zoos around the world, animals are taking to the field — or at least, the tank or the food bin — to predict the results of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

LiveScience: Obama Gets First 3D-Printed Presidential Portrait
By Tanya Lewis, Staff Writer
Date: 19 June 2014 Time: 06:13 PM ET

To his list of firsts, Barack Obama can add that he was the first U.S. President to have himself scanned and 3D printed.

Obama's 3D-printed bust and mold of his face were on display Wednesday (June 18) at the first-ever White House Maker Faire, a celebration of students and entrepreneurs who are using technology to create new products and businesses, according to the Smithsonian Institution.

A team of Smithsonian 3D digital-imaging specialists scanned the president earlier this year. They used the University of Southern California's Light Stage face scanner to capture Obama's face in high resolution, and handheld 3D scanners and SLR cameras to create a reconstruction of his bust.

Originally posted to Overnight News Digest on Sat Jun 21, 2014 at 09:02 PM PDT.

Also republished by Astro Kos and SciTech.

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