Monday, October 4, 2021

Vaccination Lowers Risk of Death


Since January 2021, weekly COVID-19 hospitalization rates have fluctuated in unvaccinated people but have been consistently higher than in vaccinated people. For instance, as the delta variant became the dominant variant in June, hospitalizations of unvaccinated adults 18 years and older spiked while rates for vaccinated remained steady and low. The data were adjusted for age and come from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee and Utah.

Read more here.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

400,000-Year Tool Production Site Near Rome


A lissoir found at the site. (Villa et al., 2021, PLOS One)

The discovery of 98 elephant-bone tools at a site dating back 400,000 years is causing great excitement among paleoanthropologists. The bones are evidence of butchering by humans and the now-extinct animal was the straight-tusked elephant (Palaeoloxodon antiquus). 

The bones were collected from Castel di Guido, located close modern-day Rome. The site indicates that archaic humans did not waste the resources at their disposal. They had a tool-production line using methods not known this far back in time. They used percussion flaking, a technique in which bits of bone are chipped off using a separate implement to make specific tools.

"We see other sites with bone tools at this time," says archaeologist Paola Villa (University of Colorado Boulder). "But there isn't this variety of well-defined shapes."

"At Castel di Guido, humans were breaking the long bones of the elephants in a standardized manner and producing standardized blanks to make bone tools."

Villa adds, "This kind of aptitude didn't become common until much later."

One of the most interesting tools discovered is a lissoir: a bone that's long and smooth at one end, and would have been used to treat leather. These kinds of tools didn't become common until about 300,000 years ago.

Read more here.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Sea Floor Expansion Pushes Continents Apart


Ridge zone where sea floor spreads.

Only a small portion of the oceanic crust produced in the Atlantic is subducted. Most is rising and the rising rock appears to be slowly pushing the continents of North and South America further apart from Europe and Africa. The spreading distance between North America and Europe is caused by mantle convection. The Atlantic is expanding by a couple of inches a year. 

The North American and Eurasian Plates are moving away from each other along the line of the Mid- Atlantic Ridge. The Ridge extends into the South Atlantic Ocean between the South American and African Plates. The ocean ridge rises to between 1.24 and 1.86 miles above the ocean floor, and a rift valley at its crest marks the location where the two plates are moving apart.

The Mid Atlantic Ridge has developed as a consequence of the divergent motion between the Eurasian and North American, and African and South American Plates. As the mantle rises towards the surface below the ridge the pressure is lowered (decompression) and the hot rock starts to partially melt. This produces basaltic volcanoes when an eruption occurs above the surface. An example is Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland

As the plates move further apart new ocean lithosphere is formed at the ridge and the ocean basin gets wider. This process is known as “sea floor spreading” and results in a symmetrical alignment of the rocks of the ocean floor which get older with distance from the ridge crest.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Stone 58 Sediments Date to 1.6 Billion years


A 3-inch-long sample of the core from Stone 58 was used for detailed analyses. (Image credit: British Geological Survey)

A long-lost piece of Stonehenge that was taken by a man performing restoration work on the monument has been returned after 60 years, giving scientists a chance to peer inside a pillar of the iconic monument for the first time.

In 1958, Robert Phillips, a representative of the drilling company helping to restore Stonehenge, took the cylindrical core after it was drilled from one of Stonehenge's pillars — Stone 58. Later, when he emigrated to the United States, Phillips took the core with him. Because of Stonehenge's protected status, it's no longer possible to extract samples from the stones. But with the core's return in 2018, researchers had the opportunity to perform unprecedented geochemical analyses of a Stonehenge pillar, which they described in a new study.

They found that Stonehenge's towering standing stones, or sarsens, were made of rock containing sediments that formed when dinosaurs walked the Earth. Other grains in the rock date as far back as 1.6 billion years.

Read more here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

A New Ocean Forming in the Afar Region


A 35-mile-long rift opened up in the Ethiopian desert in 2005, the result of tectonic plates slowly spreading the continent apart. (Photo credit: University of Rochester)

The Afar region of East Africa is experiencing dramatic changes due to rifting. Over time, these rifting events will reshape the African continent.

Each of the three plates in the Afar region is spreading at different speeds. The Arabian plate is moving away from Africa at a rate of about 1 inch per year, while the two African plates are separating between half an inch to 0.2 inches per year. The separation of these plates is creating a mid-ocean ridge system, where a new ocean will form.

Eventually, the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea will flood in over the Afar region and into the East African Rift Valley and become a new ocean in a bout 5 million years. When that happens that part of East Africa will become a separate continent. 

Read more here: African Continent Slowly Peeling Apart 

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Bees and Honey in Antiquity


Among the Nilotic peoples honeybees were kept as early as 3500 BC. Egyptians made hives out of pipes of clay and stacked one on top of another (as shown in the image above). The hives were moved up and down the Nile on rafts, allowing the bees to pollinate flowers that were in season. A marriage contract has been found which states, "I take thee to wife... and promise to deliver to thee yearly twelve jars of honey."

The bee became the symbol of royalty in Lower Egypt where a temple known as “the House of the Bee” was visited by women seeking counsel. King Tut was buried with a jar of honey. When his tomb was opened, the jar of honey was found and the honey was unspoiled.

Many examples of bee and honey hieroglyphs have been found in ancient Egyptian records.

Indo-European languages have words for honey which are based on the two phonetically very similar proposed Proto-Indo European (PIE) roots: medu and melid. The name Melissa is related to the word for honey. The root is found in the Anglo-Saxon word "mead," an alcoholic beverage made with honey, water, and a fermenting agent. In Spanish, the word for honey is miel.

The biblical name Deborah is a reference to bees. Rebecca's nurse, Deborah, was buried near Bethel beneath the “tree of weeping” or the “Oak of Weeping" (Gen. 35:8). The Hebrew word allon can refer to a large tree species, but here probably refers to either an oak, a terebinth, or sycamore fig. There is evidence that graves were sometimes placed beneath fig trees which attracted bees. The wasp lays its eggs inside the ripening figs. The ancients would have observed this as an example of new life. 

Surgical procedures are described in the Edwin Smith papyrus, the world's oldest known surgical document (c. 1600 BC). It describes closing wounds with sutures, application of raw meat to stop bleeding, treatment of head and spinal cord injuries, and preventing and curing infection with honey. Honey draws the moisture out of wounds. It has antimicrobial and antibiotic properties, and can kill Staphylococcus and E. coli.

It was not easy to acquire honey because the bees often built their hives in the crevices of high rocks. This late prehistoric drawing from Spain shows a woman on a rope ladder collecting honey while the bees swarm around her.

Related reading: Assessing the Health of Bee ColoniesOldest Bee Hives Discovered in Israel; The Buzz About Bees; Bees in Religion; Asian Hornets Kill Honeybees; Ancient Mythology About Bees; Deborah's Tree of Weeping; The Sacred Bee in Ancient Egypt; The Fig Tree in Biblical Symbolism

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Kudos to Emmanuel Alie Mansaray


Meet Emmanuel Alie Mansaray, the 27-year-old, self-taught inventor of a trash-to-treasure solar car. He calls it his "Imagination car".

He began innovating in 2018 when he built the first solar-powered tricycle in Sierra Leone. 

Mansaray explains,“During my primary school days, I used to pick up trash cans (example: milk tin, tomato tin, etc.) which I used to make different types of cars. I also used to collect trash batteries from the dust bin and convert them to supply electricity.” 

The solar car will even help the disabled. Mansaray said in an interview with Face2Face:

“Some disabled people have cars that they can’t drive unless they paid individuals to drive them because their feet can’t reach down the clutch, brake, and accelerator, which is challenging. But for my ‘Imagination solar-powered car’, all the features are installed in the steering; including the clutch, brake and accelerator, and all other necessary features. With all this, every disabled person can drive with less to worry about.” 

Ultimately, Mansaray hopes that his solar car will not only provide hope to others and boost the economy of his homeland, Sierra Leone.

Mansaray has set up a fund to start an energy project that will help at the regional level and later the whole of Africa. He said, "I practically survived my high school studies studying under street lights at night by the high way and just too many teenagers have fallen victims of early pregnancy from the quest of looking for electricity to sustain their night studies so together with your fund we will be solving more than just energy problems."

Follow this aspiring student and offer him encouragement and support at his Facebook page.