Sep 27, 2021


Ancient Footprints Suggest Humans Lived In The Americas Earlier Than Once Thought

The question of when humans first migrated to North America has long been a matter of hot debate among researchers who have continually uncovered evidence of ever-earlier dates. Now, analysis of ancient fossilized human footprints in New Mexico has pushed the date back once again — to at least 21,000 years ago.

Writing in the journal Science, a team of researchers led by Matthew Bennett of Bournemouth University in England examined a set of human footprints preserved on an ancient lakeshore in New Mexico's White Sands National Park, a location now known for its expansive — and dry — chalk-colored dunes.

They concluded that the footprints were made between 21,000 and 23,000 years old. The date would place human habitation in the Americas during the Last Glacial Maximum and at least 5,000 years earlier than widely accepted evidence has yet suggested.

7,200-Year-Old Human DNA With Unique Denisovan Ancestry Has Been Found in Indonesia

The skeleton of an ancient woman, discovered in an Indonesian cave in 2015, appears to have ancestry unlike any other human found to date. Her remains have now provided archaeologists with a rare glimpse of the earliest settlers to leave mainland Asia and begin the journey to New Guinea and Australia.

The roughly 7,200-year-old human, nicknamed Bessé', belonged to a culture of hunter-gatherers known as Toaleans, thought to have been related to the earliest settlers of Indonesia. Up to 65,000 years ago, during the last ice age, the ancestors of Toaleans probably arrived via sea from mainland Asia.

While the Toalean culture never seemed to make it past the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, it seems their relatives continued to push onward.

At least, that's what the inner ear bone of this Toalean woman suggests. Her ancient skull has now provided the first human DNA ever discovered in Wallacea - the ancient island region that once provided a gateway to New Guinea and Australia.

Archaeologists search for 'enormous' ancient ritual site on Scottish island

An excavation is now underway at Drumadoon on the Isle of Arran after the site of a possible Neolithic cursus monument was earlier detected by an aerial laser scan.

Cursus monuments were typically formed of a long avenue, formed by two parallel mounds of earth – or wooden posts in the earliest cases – which stretch for some 800 metres at Drumadoon.

The monuments are believed to have been used for processions, possibly linked to the honouring of the dead, with the possible Drumadoon cursus reaching a vantage point over the Machrie Moor stone circle.

Dr Brophy said confirmation of a cursus monument at the site would add to “one of the most significant sacred landscapes of the Neolithic people”.

Scientists discover Stonehenge is constructed from a nearly indestructible material

New research is shedding light on how the Stonehenge monument in southern England has remained standing since it was erected roughly 5,000 years ago.

Researchers from the University of Brighton conducted the first comprehensive analysis of samples taken directly from one of Stonehenge’s megaliths to reveal the geological and chemical structure of the stone.

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Researchers used CT-scanning, X-rays, microscopic analysis and other techniques and discovered that the sarsens, the massive boulders that make up the monument, are composed of sand-sized quartz grains that are cemented tightly together by an interlocking “mosaic” of quartz crystals.

Researchers said that’s what makes the stones so “impervious to crumbling or erosion.”

An Ancient Tablet, Stolen Then Acquired By Hobby Lobby, Will Be Returned To Iraq

A 3,500-year-old clay tablet that was looted from an Iraqi museum 30 years ago is headed back to Iraq.

Known as the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, it was acquired by the company Hobby Lobby in 2014 for display in the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. U.S. authorities seized it in 2019, saying it was stolen and needed to be returned.

That return is happening Thursday at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. It is part of a group of about 17,000 looted antiquities that the U.S. agreed to return to Iraq. Some of them went back in July.

"By returning these illegally acquired objects, the authorities here in the United States and in Iraq are allowing the Iraqi people to reconnect with a page in their history," UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said in a statement.

Evangelical pastor claims that the reason Jesus hasn’t returned is because people aren’t donating enough money

If we want Jesus to come back, then apparently we’ll have to dig deep into our pockets, according to right-wing evangelical pastor Jesse Duplantis.

During a recent four-day, live TV event Victorython on the Victory channel, Duplantis made the bizarre claim that people aren’t donating to their churches generously enough, and this is the reason why Jesus has not yet made a reappearance.

“I honestly believe this — the reason why Jesus hasn’t come is because people are not giving the way God told them to give,” he said, “when you understand this, you can speed up the time.”

Who knew, the son of God was so money motivated?

Later on in the show, Duplantis further explained why if everyone called the number listed at the bottom of the screen to donate, “God the Father would say ‘Jesus, go get ‘em.’”

Survey Finds ‘Remarkable and Devastating’ Drop in Biblical Beliefs of Born-Again Christians

The survey, which included more than 3,000 Americans between age 18 and 55, reveals that born-again Protestants experienced the greatest level of decline in Bible-based beliefs from 2010 to 2020. During that decade, the percentage of people who agreed with core Christian doctrines fell from 47% to 25%. Although people may label themselves as born-again Christians, says Anderson, they still “can have a false view of Jesus Christ and embrace a pluralistic worldview.”

The drop in Bible-based beliefs among young adults—from 15% to 5%—was “remarkable and devastating,” Probe Ministries notes in a summary. Among U.S. born-again Christians between age 18 and 39, more than 60% say there’s more than one way to salvation, including Jesus, Buddha, and Muhammad. More than 30% say Jesus sinned while living on earth or they’re not sure whether he did.

In addition to exploring “basic” biblical worldviews, the survey also asked participants about “expanded” biblical worldviews, including whether the devil is real or symbolic. The drop-off in both categories “is more than dramatic and extremely discouraging,” Probe Ministries notes. “However, we cannot forget that the percent of biblical worldview Christians in the Roman Empire in AD 60 was much less than 1% of the population. Three hundred years later, virtually the entire empire was at least nominally Christian. If we will commit ourselves to ‘proclaiming the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light,’ God will bring revival to our land” (see 1 Peter 2:9).

Transgender Bishop Steps Into Historic Role In The Evangelical Lutheran Church

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America installed its first openly transgender bishop in a service held in San Francisco's Grace Cathedral on Saturday.

The Rev. Megan Rohrer will lead one of the church's 65 synods, overseeing nearly 200 congregations in Northern California and northern Nevada.

"My call is ... to be up to the same messy, loving things I was up to before," Rohrer told worshippers. "But mostly, if you'll let me, and I think you will, my hope is to love you and beyond that, to love what you love."

Rohrer was elected in May to serve a six-year term as bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod after its current bishop announced his retirement.

"I step into this role because a diverse community of Lutherans in Northern California and Nevada prayerfully and thoughtfully voted to do a historic thing," Rohrer said in a statement. "My installation will celebrate all that is possible when we trust God to shepherd us forward."

Harvard elects atheist as new chief chaplain, defying school's origins

The new chief chaplain at Harvard University, which was founded to instruct clergymen early in the colonial period, is an atheist — and that’s fine by those who unanimously selected him for the role.

Greg Epstein, the 44-year-old author of “Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe,” assumes his new position this week, The New York Times reported. He formerly served as the university’s humanist chaplain since 2005.

“There is a rising group of people who no longer identify with any religious tradition but still experience a real need for conversation and support around what it means to be a good human and live an ethical life,” Epstein told the paper.

Epstein’s colleagues and students alike told the paper the unanimous choice is not as odd as it may seem as there have been fundamental changes in the religiosity of young people at universities across the country.

Psychologists Are Learning What Religion Has Known for Years

Science and religion have often been at odds. But if we remove the theology—views about the nature of God, the creation of the universe, and the like—from the day-to-day practice of religious faith, the animosity in the debate evaporates. What we’re left with is a series of rituals, customs, and sentiments that are themselves the results of experiments of sorts. Over thousands of years, these experiments, carried out in the messy thick of life as opposed to sterile labs, have led to the design of what we might call spiritual technologies—tools and processes meant to sooth, move, convince, or otherwise tweak the mind. And studying these technologies has revealed that certain parts of religious practices, even when removed from a spiritual context, are able to influence people’s minds in the measurable ways psychologists often seek.

My lab has found, for example, that having people practice Buddhist meditation for a short time makes them kinder. After only eight weeks of study with a Buddhist lama, 50 percent of those who we randomly assigned to meditate daily spontaneously helped a stranger in pain. Only 16 percent of those who didn’t meditate did the same. (In reality, the stranger was an actor we hired to use crutches and wear a removable foot cast while trying to find a seat in a crowded room.) Compassion wasn’t limited to strangers, though; it also applied to enemies. Another study showed that after three weeks of meditation, most people refrained from seeking revenge on someone who insulted them, unlike most of those who did not meditate. Once my team observed these profound impacts, we began looking for other linkages between our previous research and existing religious rituals.

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The combined effects of simple elements like these—ones that change how we feel, what we believe, and who we can depend on—accumulate over time. And when they’re embedded in religious practices, research has shown they can have protective properties of sorts. Regularly taking part in religious practices lessens anxiety and depression, increases physical health, and even reduces the risk of early death. These benefits don’t come simply from general social contact. There’s something specific to spiritual practices themselves.

Scientists Find Evidence The Human Brain Can Create Structures in Up to 11 Dimensions

Back in 2017, neuroscientists used a classic branch of maths in a totally new way to peer into the structure of our brains.

What they discovered is that the brain is full of multi-dimensional geometrical structures operating in as many as 11 dimensions.

We're used to thinking of the world from a 3-D perspective, so this may sound a bit tricky, but the results of this study could be the next major step in understanding the fabric of the human brain - the most complex structure we know of.

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"We found a world that we had never imagined," said lead researcher,neuroscientist Henry Markram from the EPFL institute in Switzerland, at the time.

"There are tens of millions of these objects even in a small speck of the brain, up through seven dimensions. In some networks, we even found structures with up to 11 dimensions."

Tesla is actually going to make a ‘Tesla Bot’ humanoid robot for general purpose use

CEO Elon Musk announced that Tesla plans to build a humanoid robot called Tesla Bot.

Musk described Tesla as already being the biggest robotic company in the world, considering the capabilities of its vehicles to see and understand the world around them and act on that information.

The CEO believes that it makes sense for Tesla to use their significant advancements in computer vision, but instead of deploying in a robot on four wheels, the company will do it in a humanoid robot.

Musk said that Tesla Bot will be geared toward doing “repetitive and boring tasks.”

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The long-term vision is to replace most labor, and Musk reiterated his support for universal income, which would be required if the Tesla Bot has the impact that Musk is expecting.

The CEO says that the company plans to have a prototype ready for “sometime next year.”

A national lab achieved a ‘Wright Brothers moment’ in nuclear fusion

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory announced a key achievement in fusion research Tuesday. Fusion, the lesser-known opposite reaction to nuclear fission, is when two atoms slam together to form a heavier atom and release energy. It is the way the sun makes energy.

“Our result is a significant step forward in understanding what is required for it to work. To me, this is a Wright Brothers moment,” Omar A. Hurricane, chief scientist for the Inertial Confinement Fusion Program at the laboratory in Livermore, California, told CNBC.

“It’s not practical, but we got off the ground for a moment,” Hurricane said.

The lab announced Tuesday that on Aug. 8, it produced 1.3 megajoules of energy at its National Ignition Facility, albeit very briefly.

The once-sedate astronomy world is quarreling over whether 'Oumuamua was an alien craft

Published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, the researchers stated in a pair of papers that 'Oumuamua was likely a nitrogen ice ball, perhaps from a planet like Pluto yet in another solar system — not an artificially made light-sail spacecraft, comet, or interstellar ball of dust, as some researchers have previously suggested. Nitrogen, the primary component of Earth's atmosphere, occurs primarily as a gas on our home planet; yet in very cold conditions, it can freeze and become solid or liquid. The frigid surface of Pluto, for instance, contains a substantial amount of nitrogen ice.

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But if you thought the scientific world was closing the book on 'Oumuamua — or at the very least coming to peace with the idea that the interstellar object was of natural origin (and not alien made) — not everyone agrees with the Arizona State researchers. Multiple papers co-authored by Harvard physicist Avi Loeb have argued that it is unlikely that 'Oumuamua was a hydrogen iceberg, or a nitrogen one for that matter.

In a series of co-authored papers and a book, Loeb believes the most likely explanation is that Oumuamua was artificially made — perhaps some sort of light sail made by an alien civilization.

Underwater volcano erupts, creates new island

An underwater volcanic eruption last week created a new crescent-shaped island in Japan about 750 miles south of Tokyo.

The Japanese Coast Guard discovered the new land mass while viewing an eruption from the air, the Mainichi Shimbun reported. The Japan Meteorological Agency issued warnings about smoke ash deposits, as the eruptions are expected to continue, according to the outlet.

The mass that formed at the southernmost island of the Ogasawara Islands is reportedly less than two-thirds of a mile in diameter.

New islands were previously confirmed in the area in 1904, 1914 and 1986, but each sank due to erosion from ocean waters — with the one discovered in 1986 sinking within about two months, according to the outlet.

First Came A Quake In Mexico, Then Strange Blue Lights. People Feared The Apocalypse

Mexicans are sharing spectacular videos of bursts of blue lights seen streaking across the skies as a strong earthquake rocked the country's Pacific coast city of Acapulco on Wednesday.

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Rutgers University physicist Troy Shinbrot says not to worry — the blue lights are not a sign of the world coming to an end.

"If it did, the apocalypse would have happened a thousand years ago when this was first discovered," said Shinbrot. In an interview with NPR, he said the phenomenon of so-called earthquake lights has been recorded historically and occurs fairly regularly.

Some scientists believe the eruption of light, or luminosity, is caused by the friction of rock near Earth's crust, which releases energy into the atmosphere. The flash of light is produced near the planet's surface.

Nxivm co-founder Nancy Salzman sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison

Nancy Salzman, who created Nxivm alongside Keith Raniere, was sentenced Wednesday to 3 1/2 years in prison.

Prosecutors said Salzman was an enabler who helped Raniere remain the leader of a criminal enterprise and gain access to victims, but Salzman's attorneys say she was a victim herself -- and possibly one of Raniere's first.

Salzman, 66, once the president of Nxivm, spoke at her sentencing in federal court in Brooklyn, more than two years after she pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge.

"I know, your honor, that I put myself here," Salzman said.

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Prosecutors have said Salzman played a role in attempting to intimidate and investigate perceived critics of Raniere, which helped create a climate of fear within the organization. Her attorneys point out that she was the first of Raniere's co-defendants to plead guilty and helped facilitate others' guilty pleas.

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