Oct 15, 2017


Lakes of mercury and human sacrifices – after 1,800 years, Teotihuacan reveals its treasures

In 2003, a tunnel was discovered beneath the Feathered Serpent pyramid in the ruins of Teotihuacan, the ancient city in Mexico. Undisturbed for 1,800 years, the sealed-off passage was found to contain thousands of extraordinary treasures lying exactly where they had first been placed as ritual offerings to the gods. Items unearthed included greenstone crocodile teeth, crystals shaped into eyes, and sculptures of jaguars ready to pounce. Even more remarkable was a miniature mountainous landscape, 17 metres underground, with tiny pools of liquid mercury representing lakes. The walls of the tunnel were found to have been carefully impregnated with powdered pyrite, or fool’s gold, to give the effect in firelight of standing under a galaxy of stars.

The archaeological site, near Mexico City, is one of the largest and most important in the world, with millions of visitors every year. This was its most exciting development for decades – and the significance of these new discoveries is explored in a major exhibition opening this month at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.

Teotihuacan has long been a place of mysteries. It was the most populous city in the Americas nearly 2,000 years ago, but little is known about its language, rulers or the circumstances of its collapse, in around AD550. Its name, which means “birthplace of the gods”, was given much later by the Aztecs, who treated the ruins – including the monumental Pyramids of the Sun and Moon and the majestic Avenue of the Dead – with due reverence.

Many questions remain unanswered, but the newly discovered tunnel has led to a greater understanding of the design and mythology of Teotihuacan, which was a sacred place as well as a bustling metropolis. The de Young exhibition, as well as showcasing artworks from numerous collections, offers the latest theories about the mysteries that still surround it.

Archaeologists in Turkey believe they have discovered Santa Claus's tomb

Archaeologists in Turkey have made a discovery which could settle a century-old debate … and disappoint millions of children around the world.

They have unearthed what they say is likely the tomb of the original Santa Claus, or Saint Nicholas, beneath an ancient church in Demre, southern Turkey.

Demre, previously known as Myra, in Antalya province, is believed to be the birthplace of the 4th century bishop.

Cemil Karabayram, the head of Antalya’s Monument Authority, said the shrine was discovered during electronic surveys that showed gaps beneath the church.

“We believe this shrine has not been damaged at all, but it is quite difficult to get to it as there are mosaics on the floor,” Mr Karabayram told the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News.

Sexual assaults and violent rages... Inside the dark world of Buddhist teacher Sogyal Rinpoche

In August last year, Sogyal Rinpoche, the Tibetan lama whose book The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying has sold more than three million copies around the world, and made him probably the best known Tibetan Buddhist teacher after the Dalai Lama, gave his annual teaching at his French centre Lerab Ling.

Sogyal’s organisation Rigpa - a Tibetan word meaning the essential nature of mind - has more than 100 centres in 40 countries around the world, but Lerab Ling, situated in rolling countryside in L’Hérault is the jewel in the crown. Boasting what is said to be the largest Tibetan Buddhist temple in the West, it was formally opened in 2008 by the Dalai Lama, with Carla Bruni Sarkozy, then France’s first lady, and a host of other dignitaries in attendance.

Sogyal is regarded by his students as a living embodiment of the Buddhist teachings of wisdom and compassion, but a man who teaches in a highly unorthodox way, known as ‘crazy wisdom’.

At Lerab Ling, more than 1000 students were gathered in the temple as he walked on stage, accompanied by his attendant, a Danish nun named Ani Chokyi. Sogyal, who is 70, is a portly, bespectacled man who requires a footstool to mount the throne from which he customarily teaches. Approaching the throne, he paused, then turned suddenly and punched the nun hard in the stomach.

Who you gonna call?: Edison’s science of talking to ghosts

Thomas Edison was a scientific skeptic. Coming of age during the Great Age of Spiritualism and thence into the Age of Science and Industrialism, Edison dismissed what he called “mediumship” as a form of charlatanism. He mocked attempts to communicate with the spirit world through Ouija boards, commenting on the ridiculousness of thinking that a disembodied spirit could manifest its thoughts through a piece of wood. In his diary, he wrote: “The thing which first struck me was the absurdity of expecting ‘spirits’ to waste their time operating such cumbersome unscientific media as tables, chairs, and the Ouija board with its letters.”

Yet, being a scientist, Edison was working in an age when huge discoveries were being made in the sciences of physics, chemistry, spectrographic analysis, his own electricity, and the new disciplines of genetics, epigenetics, and biology. It was an age when Darwin had figured out how biological species evolved, when Einstein hypothesized about the nature of matter and its relationship to energy, when Max Planck was theorizing about the mysteries of quantum physics, when geneticists were formulating the theory that genes or life units imparted traits to the human embryo at fertilization that would define it in life, and when medical doctors like Freud and Jung were explaining how unseen forces operate on the human mind. What an exciting time to be alive. What an exciting time to be a part of the very community that was making these discoveries. Yet Edison felt there was more to be discovered. There was much more to understand not so much about life, but about the essence of reality that comprised life and what happened when life itself seemed to stop after a person passed away. Did that person really pass away, Edison asked, or did that person simply become translated into another form that we couldn’t perceive through our usual five senses? If so, could the great inventor and scientist of his age find a way to enable that form of perception?

Chernobyl’s radioactive boars invade Sweden

Some 31 years after the world’s worst nuclear accident in Chernobyl, a wild boar with more than 10 times the safe limit of radiation has been killed by hunters hundreds of miles away in Sweden.

After the 1986 catastrophe at Chernobyl in Ukraine, a cloud of radioactive particles reached parts of Sweden, leaving a frightening environmental legacy.

Environmental consultancy Calluna is seeing extremely worrying radiation levels in wild boars in Central Sweden. Local hunters are now wary of killing the boars for food.

. . .

Wild boars’ feeding habits make them particularly vulnerable to lingering contamination from the radioactive isotope cesium-137. Frykman explained that, because the boars root in the soil for food, they are more exposed to the isotope. “The cesium stays in the ground,” he said. “It’s not a problem for moose and deer any more who eat higher up, from bushes.”

Of around 400 moose that were tested last year, only one or two were over the 1,500 Bq/kg level, according to Frykman.

Half the universe’s missing matter has just been finally found

The missing links between galaxies have finally been found. This is the first detection of the roughly half of the normal matter in our universe – protons, neutrons and electrons – unaccounted for by previous observations of stars, galaxies and other bright objects in space.

You have probably heard about the hunt for dark matter, a mysterious substance thought to permeate the universe, the effects of which we can see through its gravitational pull. But our models of the universe also say there should be about twice as much ordinary matter out there, compared with what we have observed so far.

Two separate teams found the missing matter – made of particles called baryons rather than dark matter – linking galaxies together through filaments of hot, diffuse gas.

“The missing baryon problem is solved,” says Hideki Tanimura at the Institute of Space Astrophysics in Orsay, France, leader of one of the groups. The other team was led by Anna de Graaff at the University of Edinburgh, UK.

1,000-Year-Old Illustrated Manuscript of Herbal Remedies Available Online

Seeking natural remedies outside of chemical pharmaceuticals isn't just for Eastern medicine. In fact, plant-based health cure also has a long tradition in Western medicine, as evidenced by a beautifully illustrated book in the British Libary's collection. The Cotton MS Vitellius C III is a 1,000-year-old illustrated manual to plant pharmacology, and has now been digitized for online viewing.

The beautifully illustrated 11th-century book is filled with “herbals,” natural plant-based treatments to cure everything from body odor (simmer artichokes in wine) to easing chest pain (licorice root does the trick). Zooming in on the high-resolution scan, it's incredible to see the Old English script and detailed drawings of the plants and animals used for their healing properties.

Though herbals were quite common in Anglo-Saxon medicine, the British Library's manuscript is the only surviving illustrated Old English manual. “No one knows for sure how this manuscript was used or even where or by whom it was made,” project curator Alison Hudson shares. “Its production has been associated with monastic scriptoria at Canterbury and Winchester, due to its style of decoration and script, but this is by no means certain. Monasteries in those areas functioned both as centers of natural and supernatural healing and also as libraries and centers of learning.”

Scientists Somehow Just Discovered a New System of Vessels in Our Brains

Doctors practicing today have been taught that there are no lymphatic vessels inside the skull. Those deep-purple vessels were seen for the first time in images published this week by researchers at the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

In the rest of the body, the lymphatic system collects and drains the fluid that bathes our cells, in the process exporting their waste. It also serves as a conduit for immune cells, which go out into the body looking for adversaries and learning how to distinguish self from other, and then travel back to lymph nodes and organs through lymphatic vessels.

So how was it even conceivable that this process wasn’t happening in our brains?

Senior investigator Daniel Reich trained as both a neurologist and radiologist, and his expertise is in inflammatory brain disease. The connection between the immune system and the brain is at the core of what he says he spends most of his time thinking about: multiple sclerosis. The immune system appears to modulate or even underlie many neurologic diseases, and the cells of the central nervous system produce waste that needs to be washed away just like other metabolically active cells. This discovery should make it possible to study how the brain does that, how it circulates white blood cells, and how these processes may go awry in diseases or play a role in aging.

Placebos still work when you know that they contain no medication

Whether you know you’re taking a placebo pill or not, it will still have a beneficial effect, new research has revealed.

Scientists from Harvard University and the University of Basel prescribed a group of minor burn victims with a "treatment" cream, telling only some of them that it was a placebo.

After the cream was applied, both groups reported benefits, despite the placebo cream containing no medicine.

The study goes against traditional medical thinking surrounding the placebo effect, which has always revolved around the idea that it was necessary to deceive patients in order for “sugar pills” to be clinically effective.

Bible passage used to stop women become ordained 'added later', academic claims

A key Biblical passage which has been used to prevent women from being ordained is not original and was added later, an academic has claimed.

The section of Corinthians which says women must remain silent in church has been used to justify restricting the priesthood to men.

But recent research has suggested that the passage was not written by the Apostle Paul, as is widely believed, but was instead added later.

Now an academic claims to have discovered a key symbol which proves the passage was not original.

Research published in the journal New Testament Studies casts doubt on the section, 1 Corinthians 14:34, which says: "Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says."

Leah Remini Scientology series might tackle Jehovah's Witnesses in season 3

Leah Remini might soon be loosening the leash on her signature bulldog determination to expose alleged abuses inside religious institutions, as the Emmy-winning actress and activist tells EW she is currently in the early “talking stages” of mapping out a third season of her hit A&E series, Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.

“Yes, I’m open to doing a season 3 in a different way. We’ve been getting an overwhelming amount of emails and people contacting us through [social media] about other cults that are similar [to Scientology], so I’m looking into that,” she says, indicating Jehovah’s Witnesses could find themselves under the microscope in future episodes (the network notes a third season has not yet been confirmed).

According to Remini, someone contacted her recently about Jehovah’s Witnesses, comparing the denomination to a “diet Sea Org,” the religious order for Scientology which “is composed of the singularly most dedicated Scientologists — individuals who have committed their lives to the volunteer service of their religion,” according to the Scientology website. The unnamed contact told Remini she should be careful about Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, because “these f—ers are super powerful.”

“Are you ready for my response?” the Kevin Can Wait star says. “‘I don’t give a sh– about powerful. The truth is what I care about.'”

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