Sep 9, 2017


Viking skeleton’s DNA test proves historians wrong

The remains of a powerful viking — long thought to be a man — was in fact a real-life Xena Warrior Princess, a study released Friday reveals.

The lady war boss was buried in the mid-10th century along with deadly weapons and two horses, leading archaeologists and historians to assume she was a man, according to the findings, published in in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.


“It’s actually a woman, somewhere over the age of 30 and fairly tall, too, measuring around [5’6″] tall ,” archaeologist Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson of Uppsala University, who conducted the study, told The Local.

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“Aside from the complete warrior equipment buried along with her – a sword, an axe, a spear, armor-piercing arrows, a battle knife, shields, and two horses – she had a board game in her lap, or more of a war-planning game used to try out battle tactics and strategies, which indicates she was a powerful military leader,” Hedenstierna-Jonson said.”She’s most likely planned, led and taken part in battles.”

Fossil footprints challenge established theories of human evolution

Newly discovered human-like footprints from Crete may put the established narrative of early human evolution to the test. The footprints are approximately 5.7 million years old and were made at a time when previous research puts our ancestors in Africa - with ape-like feet.

Ever since the discovery of fossils of Australopithecus in South and East Africa during the middle years of the 20th century, the origin of the human lineage has been thought to lie in Africa. More recent fossil discoveries in the same region, including the iconic 3.7 million year old Laetoli footprints from Tanzania which show human-like feet and upright locomotion, have cemented the idea that hominins (early members of the human lineage) not only originated in Africa but remained isolated there for several million years before dispersing to Europe and Asia. The discovery of approximately 5.7 million year old human-like footprints from Crete, published online this week by an international team of researchers, overthrows this simple picture and suggests a more complex reality.

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The new footprints, from Trachilos in western Crete, have an unmistakably human-like form. This is especially true of the toes. The big toe is similar to our own in shape, size and position; it is also associated with a distinct 'ball' on the sole, which is never present in apes. The sole of the foot is proportionately shorter than in the Laetoli prints, but it has the same general form. In short, the shape of the Trachilos prints indicates unambiguously that they belong to an early hominin, somewhat more primitive than the Laetoli trackmaker. They were made on a sandy seashore, possibly a small river delta, whereas the Laetoli tracks were made in volcanic ash.

Lost Languages Discovered in One of the World’s Oldest Continuously Run Libraries

Saint Catherine’s Monastery, a sacred Christian site nestled in the shadow of Mount Sinai, is home to one of the world’s oldest continuously used libraries. Thousands of manuscripts and books are kept there—some of which contain hidden treasures.

Now, as Jeff Farrell reports for the Independent, a team of researchers is using new technology to uncover texts that were erased and written over by the monks who lived and worked at the monastery. Many of these original texts were written in languages well known to researchers—Latin, Greek, Arabic—but others were inscribed in long-lost languages that are rarely seen in the historical record.

Manuscripts with multiple layers of writing are known as palimpsests, and there are about 130 of them at St. Catherine’s Monastery, according to the website of the Early Manuscript Electronic Library, which has been leading the initiative to uncover the original texts. As Richard Gray explains in the Atlantic, with the rise of Islam in the 7th century, Christian sites in the Sinai Desert began to disappear, and Saint Catherine’s found itself in relative isolation. Monks turned to reusing older parchments when supplies at the monastery ran scarce.

Physicists Want to Rebuild Quantum Theory from Scratch

Scientists have been using quantum theory for almost a century now, but embarrassingly they still don’t know what it means. An informal poll taken at a 2011 conference on Quantum Physics and the Nature of Reality showed that there’s still no consensus on what quantum theory says about reality—the participants remained deeply divided about how the theory should be interpreted.

Some physicists just shrug and say we have to live with the fact that quantum mechanics is weird. So particles can be in two places at once, or communicate instantaneously over vast distances? Get over it. After all, the theory works fine. If you want to calculate what experiments will reveal about subatomic particles, atoms, molecules and light, then quantum mechanics succeeds brilliantly.

But some researchers want to dig deeper. They want to know why quantum mechanics has the form it does, and they are engaged in an ambitious program to find out. It is called quantum reconstruction, and it amounts to trying to rebuild the theory from scratch based on a few simple principles.

If these efforts succeed, it’s possible that all the apparent oddness and confusion of quantum mechanics will melt away, and we will finally grasp what the theory has been trying to tell us. “For me, the ultimate goal is to prove that quantum theory is the only theory where our imperfect experiences allow us to build an ideal picture of the world,” said Giulio Chiribella, a theoretical physicist at the University of Hong Kong.

Massive black hole discovered near heart of the Milky Way

An enormous black hole one hundred thousand times more massive than the sun has been found hiding in a toxic gas cloud wafting around near the heart of the Milky Way.

If the discovery is confirmed, the invisible behemoth will rank as the second largest black hole ever seen in the Milky Way after the supermassive black hole known as Sagittarius A* that is anchored at the very centre of the galaxy.

Astronomers in Japan found evidence for the new object when they turned a powerful telescope in the Atacama desert in Chile towards the gas cloud in the hope of understanding the strange movement of its gases. Unlike those that make up other interstellar clouds, the gases in this cloud – including hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide – move at wildly different speeds.

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The scientists’ suspicion that a black hole lay in the midst of the gas cloud received a boost when further observations picked up radio waves indicative of a black hole coming from the centre of the cloud, said Tomoharu Oka, an astronomer at Keio University in Tokyo. “This is the first detection of an intermediate-mass black hole candidate in the Milky Way galaxy,” he said.

Biggest asteroid ever detected by Nasa flies past Earth

The largest asteroid ever recorded has passed Earth at a distance of 145 million miles, giving scientists the opportunity to learn more about its physical characteristics.

The 2.7-mile wide astral body, called Florence, will not approach the planet this close again until 2500.

It is classified as a “potentially hazardous” asteroid by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Centre, although orbital calculations have found there is no risk of the asteroid colliding with the Earth.

. . .

The relatively close proximity of Florence provides astronomers with a rare chance to take measurements. Radar scientists will capture high-resolution images that could show its surface features. Little is currently known about Florence's properties.

Underwater ruins of lost Roman city discovered in Tunisia

A vast 1,700 year old Roman settlement has been discovered off the coast of Tunisia after several years of archaeological exploration in search of the ancient city of Neapolis.

Neapolis is believed to have been submerged after a tsunami in the 4th century AD destroyed most of it, as recorded by Roman soldier and historian  Ammien Marcellin. The natural disaster also badly damaged Alexandria in modern Egypt and the Greek island of Crete.

Very little has been recorded about the city because the citizens of Neapolis sided with Carthage rather than Rome during the Third Punic War in 149–146 BC, which ultimately destroyed the rival civilisation and brought its territory under Roman control.

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A joint Tunisian-Italian archaeological mission has been looking for evidence of Neapolis since 2010. Their work was finally rewarded after good weather conditions this summer allowed divers in Nabeul to glimpse the more than 20 hectares site for the first time in centuries.

How 12,000 Tonnes of Dumped Orange Peel Grew Into a Landscape Nobody Expected to Find

An experimental conservation project that was abandoned and almost forgotten about, has ended up producing an amazing ecological win nearly two decades after it was dreamt up.

The plan, which saw a juice company dump 1,000 truckloads of waste orange peel in a barren pasture in Costa Rica back in the mid 1990s, has eventually revitalised the desolate site into a thriving, lush forest.

That's one heck of a turnaround, especially since the project was forced to close in only its second year – but despite the early cancellation, the peel already deposited on the 3-hectare (7-acre) site led to a 176 percent increase in above-ground biomass.

"This is one of the only instances I've ever heard of where you can have cost-negative carbon sequestration," says ecologist Timothy Treuer from Princeton University.

In Omaha, Three Faiths Share One Big Idea

A new kind of “neighborhood” is nearing completion in West Omaha, Nebraska—a place where Jews, Muslims, and Christians will share spaces, food, ideas, joy, and pain.

Over 10 years ago, a group of Omaha’s religious and lay leaders hatched an idea: Build three, brand-new houses of worship—a temple, a mosque, and a church—located close together on the same plot of land; ensure that the design scheme feels borderless, flowing, and inviting of interaction; encourage communication between communities—promoting, among other things, cross-religious education and, well, understanding; put into place the right leaders to foster these activities; have plentiful parking; coexist; shock the world.

If all goes according to plan, all the elements of the Tri-Faith Initiative should be in place by 2019. A new, 58,500 square-foot building on 14 acres for Temple Israel, a Reform congregation and the oldest in Omaha, was completed in 2013; a new 16,000 square-foot masjid, run by the American Muslim Institute, held an opening celebration service in its new $6.5 home last month, at the end of Ramadan, that was so packed they had to clear out furniture in the lobby to create enough prayer space; and a new house of worship for Countryside Community Church broke ground this summer. There will also be a Tri-Faith “commons” building, a fourth edifice still in the planning phase that will function as a central meeting place of sorts and ideally house an executive director and a small staff, according to organizers.

The “fifth element” of the project is an open landscape that, when completed, will have fruit trees and manicured brush and flowers and water and meditative spaces that will function as an environmental glue of sorts for the entire campus. “Basically it will become Spain—the good days of Spain,” said Aryeh Azriel, a Tri-Faith co-founder who served as Temple Israel’s rabbi for 28 years before retiring last year. Bifurcating the land is Hell Creek, which people will soon be able to traverse via “Heaven’s Bridge.”

Low-fat diet could kill you, major study shows

Low-fat diets could raise the risk of early death by almost one quarter, a major study has found.

The Lancet study of 135,000 adults found those who cut back on fats had far shorter lives than those enjoying plenty of butter, cheese and meats.

Researchers said the study was at odds with repeated health advice to cut down on fats.

Those doing so tended to eat far too much stodgy food like bread, pasta and rice, the experts said, while missing out on vital nutrients.

. . .

But the latest research, presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress, in Barcelona found those with low intake of saturated fat raised chances of early death by 13 per cent compared to those eating plenty.

And consuming high levels of all fats cut mortality by up to 23 per cent.

How Canada tricked the world into believing murderous Satanists were everywhere

Published in 1980 and written by Smith’s psychiatrist, Lawrence Pazder, it is the purported “true story” of Smith’s childhood as the prisoner of a Satanic cult in Victoria in the mid-1950s.

The entire book comes from 600 hours of Smith’s testimony in Pazder’s office, delivered in the voice of a child while she was in a trance-like state.

In halting half-sentences, Smith told Pazder of being driven into a Satanic cult by her mother at five years old.

. . .

Victoria is a city of retirees; spotting suspicious behavior is one of its strong suits. And yet, Pazder never questions how crowds of cloaked figures ripping kittens apart in an urban graveyard didn’t attract a single call to the police.

Even as his book brutally defamed Smith’s dead mother, Pazder never appears to have contacted Smith’s surviving family, even though the family home was a short walk from his office.

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