Friday, June 29, 2007

Million-Year-Old Tooth May Have Belonged to Homo Antecessor

This is what a million-year-old tooth looks like. Found in the Atapuerca Sierra in Spain, it is now the oldest human part ever recovered in Western Europe. Researcher Jose Maria Bermudez de Castro says the tooth could be as much as 1.2 million years old. "Now we finally have the anatomical evidence of the hominids that fabricated tools more than one million years ago," said the Atapuerca Foundation. The tooth is thought to have belonged to Homo antecessor, which lived in the area.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Mummy of Queen Hatshepsut Identified

The mummy of ancient Egypt's most powerful female pharaoh, Queen Hatshepsut, has been identified. The mummy has lain in the tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor where it was originally found in 1903. It was on the ground next to the sarcophagus of another female mummy, which later turned out to be that of the queen's wet nurse.

A few months ago, the unidentified mummy was brought to the basement of the Egyptian museum in Cairo for DNA testing. It was then that the mummy's DNA was matched with that of a tooth which was found in a relic box with Queen Hatshepsut's insignia. The tooth also fit perfectly in a gap in the mummy's jaw. The DNA also showed similarities with another mummy's previously identified as Hatshepsut's grandmother.

"How to Enhance Children's Imagination of the Past When Teaching History"

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Tunguska Explosion May Have Left Remnants in Lake Cheko

The powerful explosion, said to be equal to a thousand atomic bombs, that shook a 2,000-square-kilometer of forest in Tunguska, Siberia on the 30th of June, 1908 is still a mystery. It leveled the forest in a radial, circular fashion with the epicenter marked by trees which were the only ones left standing.

Theories abound about the event. The most popular and widely-accepted of these is that of a body from space, like a meteor, comet, or asteroid which exploded no more than ten kilometers above the ground in what is called an aerial burst. Now, researchers Luca Gasparini, Giuseppe Longo and colleagues from the University of Bologna are thinking that a small, shallow body of water, lake Cheko, near the epicenter of the blast could have remains of the body that caused it. At top-left is an exaggerated 3D representation of Lake Cheko and an aerial view of it.

The lake, they say, was created when part of this object hit the ground with a much lessened velocity after the parent body exploded in the air. The picture at left shows toppled trees near the center. Initial analysis of the bottom of the lake reveals a layer of mud underneath of which (10 meters) lies what may be convoluted remains of an extraterrestrial object mixed with terrestrial matter. Lake Cheko strangely does not appear in maps prior to 1928. Photos and references are from BBC news.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Gargantuan Vacuum Chamber to Test Orion Spaceship

This is the world's biggest vacuum camber. This will be used to simulate the conditions in outer space that the Orion spacehip will have to endure as it explores the solar system. The Orion spaceship program is part of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Constellation program to send people on a mission of exploration of the solar system, beginning with the Moon, then Mars and beyond. When fully assembled, Orion would stand seventy five feet. Robert Moorehead, director of Space Flight Systems at Glenn Research Center says the vehicle must first demonstrate that "it is capable of withstanding the harsh environment of space." Pictured at left is Kelvin Manning, manager of the Orion spacecraft for the Kennedy Spaceport.

Would You Like to Skydive from Orbit?

Have you ever dreamed of skydiving from orbit? Yes, this means jumping out of a spaceship in space to return to earth with a parachute! This has been described in one of the Star Trek novels, authored by William Shatner, that chronicles the later adventures of Captain Kirk. But that's fiction. This is real. A company called Orbital Outfitters is designing a suit that will serve the purpose, either for recreation or emergency vehicular escape purposes.

Rick Tumlinson, founder of the Space Frontier Foundation and Jonathan Clark, a former NASA flight surgeon whose wife, astronaut Laurel Clark, died in the space shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003, are behind it all. They are designing a suit that can withstand extreme environments---from the airless chill of space to the burning heat of reentry. Indeed, this daredevil spacesuit might just as well be Iron Man's costume.

A new sport called spacediving is envisioned to become popular once commercial flights into space become commonplace. The developers say it will be the ultimate extreme sport.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

First Telescope on Moon May Have Liquid Mirror

This is a telescope mirror, but it isn't exactly solid. The thin film of silver that creates the reflective surface is really floating over ionic liquid which is unevaporating. Ionic liquid is basically molten salt that doesn't crystallize or dry up. The mirror is spun which evenly, distributes the silver on the parabolic-shaped surface. The liquid surface is perfect for the moon which has little ground disturbance. The lack of air will also make the smooth surface free of pollutants. Changes in temperature will also not affect the quality of the reflected image as the silver would just go back to its original state. The mirror is made by scientists from the University of British Columbia led by Ermanno Borra.

Hole in Inca Skull Caused By Musket Ball

An Inca skull with a round hole was discovered among a pile of oddly-buried skeletons in Lima, Peru. Archaeologist Guillermo Cock says he immediately thought people may have been shooting guns at the site. But careful analysis of the hole showed that it was an old one and it had traces of metal which can only be attributed to a musket ball. The victim died along with others of his people in the 1500s, the time when Spanish conquistadors invaded their civilization and eventually, practically wiped their culture out.

Cock and fellow archaeologist Elena Goycochea have recovered 72 victims of apparent violence during that time. All were in shallow graves with no evidence of any ceremonies given the dead. They could have been buried by the Spanish soldiers themselves after an uprising against them which occurred in 1532.

"How to Enhance Children's Imagination of the Past When Teaching History"

"Thinking Cap" Device Controls Gadgets with Brain Activity

You've seen something like this before in many cartoons where the user puts on some gadget over his head then controls things in the environment. That is fiction. This is not. Hitachi Inc. brings to you the "brain-machine interface" which lets users control electronic objects like a train set by using thoughts and the blood flow to certain regions of the brain. The invention basically analyzes changes in the brains blood flow and translates them into electrical signals that can be used as switches to make gadgets go. In demonstrations, the cap used optical fibers that were connect ed to a mapping device which linked with a train set through a computer and motor. Researcher Kei Utsugi allowed a reporter to put it on and do calculations in his head. The train moved. When the reporter stopped calculating, the train stopped. Pictured above is researcher Akiko Obata. The device is kind of cool if you consider what it can do, but nobody might buy it as a television remote control.

Salted Man From Iran Surfaces after 1,800 Years

This man, a miner from northeastern Iran, was buried in a salt mine 1,800 years ago in a tunnel accident. Buried by rock, soil, and salt, his body was preserved by the antibacterial and drying properties of the salt in the mine. He is the sixth salt man to be unearthed by archaeologists from the Chehr Abad mine in Zanjan province. Hassan Fazeli Nashli, director of Iran's Archaeology Research Center, says that they have always had a problem in maintaining the preservation of the other "salt men."

"How to Enhance Children's Imagination of the Past When Teaching History"

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Whale Sharks Welcome Tourists in the Philippines

Ever had the urge to swim with giant, friendly sharks? Well, you can do that in Donsol, in the central Philippines. The whale shark, which is called butanding by the Donsol natives, used to be hunted down for their meat. But since this activity was outlawed, the fishing community has now turned into a major eco-tourism destination where visitors from all over the world can commune with these gentle giants of the deep as they feed on plankton. Whale sharks are the largest fish in the world.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Bionic Arm Gives Gripping Sense

This is as close to being a cyborg as one can get these days if you happen to be physically-challenged like this man. With the advancement of new technology, it is now possible for such people to live a life somewhat similar to other people with complete appendages. This "bionic" arm system, called Proto 1, gives the sensation of grip to the user, Jesse Sullivan, a lineman who lost both arms in an accident. The sensors on his chest allow him to receive impulses to the nerves that translate as grip. Thus, he can grip hard or soft.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Sex Activity Map of Teens Spells Disaster

This is a map based on the sexual activity of teenagers. It was made by Peter Bearman, director of the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy at Columbia University. The data came from a Midwestern US highschool. The blue dots are males while the pink ones are females. While one doesn't usually see the connections of people in real life regarding this activity, close analysis illustrates how young people choose their sexual partners. This only shows how easy it is to pass certain diseases, not only one way, but back and forth. It also emphasizes the importance of using protection, like condoms.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Hubble Shoots Ceres and Vesta to Prepare for Dawn

There are photographs of asteroids Ceres (left) and Vesta (right), two of the most popular asteriods and much viewed by amateur astronomers in the solar system apart from Eros. The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has taken their photographs to help prepare for the coming mission of the Dawn spacecraft, which will be the first satellite to tour a dwarf planet. To see a movie clip of Vesta rotating, click here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Dwarf Planet Eris Larger Than Pluto

Poor Pluto. It appears that a dwarf planet discovered in the Kuiper belt by Mike Brown of Caltech in 2005 is really larger than Pluto. Still, it has been classified as a dwarf planet, which means it is not quite a planet. It has a satellite called Dysnomia. The picture above is an artist's conception of Eris and Dysnomia relative to the Sun and a field of stars.

Sauron's Eye is Real and It's in Space

The Eye of Sauron from the Lord of the Rings movies is real and it is in space! Just look at the photo taken by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). It's watching us! Seriously, this is the young star Fomalhaut (white dot in the middle) and astronomers have discovered a Neptune-size planet orbiting it within the elliptical dust cloud that's part of its early formation. We can only wonder what's on that planet. What's your guess?

For news on movies, go to Hotsup.

"How to Enhance Children's Imagination of the Past When Teaching History"

Monday, June 18, 2007

Ecstasy Influence Scrutinized

Australian neuropharmacologist Iain McGregor has found evidence that the snuggling behavior that results from the use of the prohibited drug Ecstasy is caused by an increase in the brain hormone oxytocin, the brain's "love potion," which is produced during nursing or orgasm. While earlier research has already shown that Ecstasy use encourages the production of this drug, it wasn't sure if the drug penetrated the blood-brain barrier. McGregor gave rats Ecstasy and saw that oxytocin was released from the hypothalamus and the rats snuggled and became lovey-dovey. Then he gave them an oxytocin blocker, and the amorous behavior all but disappeared. Pictured above are rat brain cells without oxytocin (left), and with it (right).

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Laser Cannon May Be Given the Go-Ahead

The laser cannon of films like Star Wars may soon make it into production. Tests for the prototype had already been conducted at the White Sands missile range in New Mexico. But due to lack of interest in it, funding for the project was halted. The laser cannon has been successfully tested on static targets on the ground years ago. Although it successfully blew up targets like mock rocket fuselages, it took several seconds to have an effect. It also couldn't be fired multiple times. Pictured is the US Army's beam director device. The new weapon can be fired from an aircraft to disable rockets and even targets on the ground.

Bone Marrow Cells Turned Into Sperm

In a development that can change the way people choose to have babies, microbiologist Karim Nayernia has successfully turned bone marrow stem cells into sperm. This could potentially lead to babies that have no father, for the sperm cells can come from the mother's own marrow. Nayernia harvested and immersed bone marrow stem cells in chemicals and an environment that emulated the environment of the testes. It was the first time that nonreproductive human cells have been turned into gametes.

Biologist Renee Reijo Pera of the Stanford’s Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine says that attempts to create offspring using sperm from embryonic stem cells turned up short-lived mice that were either giants of midgets. However, Nayerna believes that if his immature marrow sperm cells are transplanted into testes, they would mature and become functional.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Brain Cells Fused With Silicon Chip

Scientists have created the neuro-chip, a first in history. It is a silicon chip fused with brain cells with ionic currents that interact with the electronic current with the silicon. The scientists used thousands of electronic transistors and hundreds of capacitors on a 1 millimeter chip. Special brain proteins were used to attach the neurons onto the chip. This protein also served as the electrical conduit between the chip and the cells. Researcher Stefano Vassanelli says the chip can be used to test the effect of drugs on neurons. They also want to see if the neurons can be used to control the chip. This new technology conjures images of cyborgs with half their brains made of silicon chips. The neurons used in the experiment were from rats.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Qin Dynasty Tomb Contains Skeletons Believed Buried Alive

Archaeologists have discovered a tomb dating back to the Qin dynasty (221-206 BC) in Fengyang China that contains the remains of nine people believed to have been buried alive in an enclosure that had been filled first with corpses. The location of the tomb was the hometown of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang of the Ming-dynasty. He is famous for driving the Mongols out of China in AD 1368.

Evidence of Child Sacrifice Found in Toltec Tomb

Construction crews have discovered a tomb near the town of Tula in Mexico containing the bones of twenty four children believed sacrificed in the ancient Toltec capital. The remains were estimated to be between AD 950 and 1150. Luis Gamboa of the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History says the children were aged between five and fifteen years, except for one. They are believed to have been taken from a different region and offered to the rain god Tlaloc, a statue of which had been found in the tomb. Read the details here.

"How to Enhance Children's Imagination of the Past When Teaching History"

Deaf "Castaway" Gives Birth to "Chat Line"

A deaf dolphin by the name of Castaway has given birth to a healthy calf named Chat Line. Scientists at the Marine Mammal Conservancy (MMC) in Key Largo, Florida were worried that Castaway wouldn't be able to teach Chat Line the proper survival skills and vocalizations needed to "talk" to the other dolphins. MMC president Robert Lingenfelser said he doubts that Castaway is able to process her calf's sounds. "Castaway's vocalizations are not normal. She speaks in a monotone, similar to the way that people who cannot hear speak."

The MMC set up a "chat line" that allowed dolphin sounds to be heard by the baby dolphin while it was still in the womb in the hope that the baby will learn before entering the real world. So far, mother and son have been sending sounds to one another, although the caretakers doubt the Castaway understands anything Chat Line is saying.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Titan's Tortured Surface Revealed

This is a sampling of Titan's tortured surface. Scientists believe that the state of Saturn's largest moon could represent the future of the Earth as a cracked, oceanless, and sand-dune covered wasteland. The data came from the Hygens probe of the Cassini spacecraft. The picture of Titan below is a composite image.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Solar System Found Perpendicular to Galactic Plane

Scientists have discovered, after a careful analysis of the solar heliosphere, that the solar system is angled perpendicularly to the galactic plane of the Milky Way. The clue is in how the heliosphere, which surrounds the solar system like a cocoon, is deformed by the local galactic magnetic field. Apparently, the northern part of the heliosphere bulges outwards against the inward compression of the southern part. This fact was discovered with the analysis of data from the Voyager 1 and 2 space probes. According to astrophysicist Merav Opher, this situation is best explained if the local galactic magnetic field that lies just outside the solar system, is angled 60 to 90 degrees to the plane of the Milky Way. The origin of the galactic magnetic field is still much of a mystery. It's orientation may have something to do with how the Milky Way galaxy was formed.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Guide to Exploring Ancient Subglacial Antarctic Lakes, Released

The National Research Council of the National Academies of Science has released the report, "Exploration of Antarctic Subglacial Aquatic Environments: Environmental and Scientific Stewardship," in order to help develop a global scientific consensus on minimally disruptive ways to study one of the last unexplored places on Earth, which is underneath two kilometers of Antarctic ice. These are the subglacial lakes, interconnected by a web of waterways, that have intrigued scientists and dreamers alike. There have been stories that Nazis used this netherworld to hide plundered treasures. Others say this is the entrance to the fabled world of Agartha where giant humanoids live. Scientists theorize that these lakes may hold lifeforms never before seen. Many of these may have survived from geological ages past.

The report stresses that before any direct exploration takes place, there needs to be more surveys taken of the network of subglacial lakes. It also said that the unique environment has to be protected by an international treaty before any further incursions are made. Drilling over one of the largest of these lakes, Lake Vostok (left illustration) has so far reached 120 meters above the transition zone where the ice and water underneath it meet. The lake environment itself has not yet been breached. For more information, go to the National Science Foundation website.

Beauty Measured by Lines

Research claims to have shown that beauty is primarily a matter of balance and proper placement of facial elements based on the Golden Rule that nature follows. This was presented quite succinctly by the ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras. He showed how the forms that people found beautiful were those that followed the Golden Ratio.

But what exactly is this golden measurement? Well, it is basically the proportional relationship in which the ratio between the whole and one of its parts is the same as the ratio between its two parts. Still don't get it? Just think of patterns that make up a whole and you will have a visual grasp of the idea. Think of the geometry of a sunflower or a snail's shell.

Shown is a picture of Marylin Monroe overlaid with a mask of lines which show how it fits the Golden Rule. According to the Marquardt Beauty Analysis, this is an exact method of measuring how beautiful a face is. Looking at it, I wonder if Superman's nemesis, Bizarro (left) would pass the test. He already has ready-made lines on his face.

Heaviest Stars Ever Found Presented

Two of the heaviest stars ever found have been identified. They are actually part of the same binary system in star cluster NGC 3603. Both break the previous record of 83 times the mass of the Sun. The heavier of the two is 114 solar masses, while it's partner is at 84 solar masses. The two belong to the southern part of the Milky Way, or the section that's more visible in the southern hemisphere.

Most Distant and Oldest Black Hole Found

Astronomers have found the most distant, and thus, the oldest black hole, to date. The object, with catalogue name CFHQS J2329-0301 (arrow), is actually a quasar. It was discovered by the Canada-France High-z Quasar Survey using the MegaCam of the Canada-France Hawaii Telescope (CFHT). Chris Veillet, director of the facility says he won't be surprised that older objects will be found in the future. The quasar is 13 billion light years away and was born when the universe was very young. Quasars are large and powerful objects that release tremendous amounts of radiation. It is believed that a black hole in their center power this release of energy.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Discovery Channel Offers Ghost Detector for Cellphones

Yes, you read the title right, the Discovery Channel is offering the Most Haunted Mobile ghost detection system with a bonus a ghost detector application for compatible cellphones. It makes use of electromagnetic fields (EMF) to show apparent paranormal activity wherever you are. To learn more, go to the Discovery Channel's Most Haunted website. Ghost fans will find it hard to resist. For more on EMF meters, or if you plan on building one yourself, enter here. The photo of a castle ghost at left is a post from Unexplained-Mysteries. Please do not stare at the picture of the "ghost" above. It may fill you with fear long after you view it.

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Otzi the Italian Iceman Wounded by Arrow

The oldest natural mummy discovered, Otzi, has been determined by researchers to have died of the arrow wound in his back. Scientists have known about the arrow for a long time, but debated on whether he had died of a fall or some other cause. With modern x-ray technology however, it was discovered that he died from bleeding from a break in an artery in his shoulder caused by the arrow, which is still in his back.

Otzi was found in 1991 after ice melted in the Italian Alps. He was determined to be over 5,000 years old and with no living relatives who belong in the same genetic group. He was dressed in leather and grasses which insulated him from the cold. He carried a copper axe, a bow and arrows. His body is considered to be one of the best preserved in the world although it had been damaged during retrieval and some of the items he had carried may have been lost. The photo is courtesy of REUTERS/Werner Nosko.

"How to Enhance Children's Imagination of the Past When Teaching History"

Sargassum Seaweed Seen by Satellite

On top is an image provided by the European Space Agency's (ESA) environmental satellite, Envisat. It shows Sargassum seaweed in the Gulf of Mexico. This is the first time that a satellite has captured images of such life. Scientists hope to use the data to analyze and predict climate change. Jim Gower of the Canadian Institute of Ocean Sciences says that Sargassum is often associated only with a part of the North Atlantic called the Sargasso Sea. Explorers of old during the Age of Discovery have described this area as full of seaweed that can bog ships.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

What Happens When Two Galaxy Clusters Collide?

Astronomers have imaged what may be one of the most powerful events in the universe. It is a two-million-light-year jet of gas that's coming from a massive cluster of galaxies. Research leader Ralph Kraft of the Harvard Smihsonian Center for Astrophysics says that "The huge feature we detected in the cluster combined with its high temperature (170 million degrees Centigrade) points to an exceptionally dramatic event in the nearby Universe." The scientists believe that it's caused by two collossal galaxy clusters colliding. The jet is invisible in the optical range (top left picture) of the spectrum, but it is very clear in the x-ray image (top right picture).