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.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Remembering Ernest L. Schusky

Ernest L Schusky (1931-2019) was born in Portsmouth, Ohio, the only son of Lenora Davis Schusky and Ernest Schusky. His B.A. degree was from Miami University, Ohio; his PhD degree in anthropology from the University of Chicago. 

He was an active member of St. Francis United Methodist Church in Tucson, Arizona, and an associate member of the First United Methodist Church in Collinsville, Illinois.

Schusky began his academic teaching career at South Dakota State University in 1958. In 1960 he joined the new campus of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale and developed the program in anthropology. He retired as emeritus professor in 1993. 

His professional career included a Fulbright in 1977 at Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea, as well as a summer Fulbright in India. He spent a sabbatical year at the London School of Economics.

Lectureships included National Science Foundation invitations at Cornell College, Huron College, St. Xavier and the University Chicago and a semester at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, where the family lived in a historic log cabin on campus. 

Schusky was a fellow of the American Anthropology Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology and served as President of Central States Anthropology Society.

His Manual for Kinship Analysis has been considered by some anthropologists to be one of the most significant books of the 20th century. Originally published in 1964 by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, this volume has been used by students as an introduction to classifying and analyzing the kinship systems of the world. This second edition introduces in a simple, step-by-step style the methods of componential analysis as well as determining the structure of Iroquois, Crow-Omaha, and other kinship systems. A good supplemental text for Introductory Anthropology courses.

Schusky's scholarly research and writing emphasized Sioux Indians (his PhD dissertation studied the Lower Brule Sioux in South Dakota). The Right To Be Indian (1965) is his most reprinted work and Introducing Culture was widely adopted as an introductory text and had four editions. Several of his texts have been published in Korean, Japanese, and Portuguese. Other titles included The Forgotten Sioux and Introduction to Social Science.

In retirement, Schusky began writing fiction based on his lifelong commitment to Native American history and culture. His first novel, Journey to the Sun, described life at Cahokia Mounds ca.1,000 A.D. Other titles include Ride the Whirlwind (Pueblo Indians), Return to Beauty (Navajo) and Too Many Miracles, about the life of a Papago Indian Schusky had interviewed as a graduate student at the University of Arizona. 

Ernest L.Schusky died on December 12, 2019 at age 88.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Ingenuity Makes Flight and Engineering History


NASA's Ingenuity, a small robotic helicopter, made its first flight on Mars on 19 April, 2021. It took off vertically, hovered and landed successfully. Though it was airborne for less than one minute, the drone represents a significant engineering feat.

Getting airborne on the Mars is not easy due to the thin atmosphere. The helicopter was built of extremely light materials and the blades were set to rotate at over 2,500 revolutions per minute.

This flight demonstrated how oxygen (O₂) can be made from Mars' carbon dioxide (CO₂) atmosphere. A device called Moxie was able to generate 5g of O₂ - a sufficient amount of oygen for an astronaut on to breathe for 10 minutes.

Ingenuity has two cameras. A black-and-white camera points down to the ground and is used for navigation. A high-resolution colour camera looks out to the horizon.

The rotorcraft was taken to Mars in Nasa's Perseverance Rover, which touched down in Jezero Crater in February.

Confirmation of the successful first flight came via a Mars satellite which relayed the helicopter's data back to Earth.

Ingenuity made its second flight on Mars 22 April, expanding its flight operations as NASA considers more ambitious tests in the days ahead.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

The Western Amazon Was a Sea?


Image credit: Tacio Cordeiro Bicudo (University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil)

At intervals during the Miocene (23.03 to 5.333 million years ago) the Caribbean ocean surged into the western Amazon, creating a continuous inland sea. Saltwater currents mixed with fresh water from torrential rains. 

Researchers believe that the periods of flooding were relatively brief. For the majority of the epoch, the ocean receded, leaving a freshwater megawetland of interconnected lakes.

Scientists have found sediments as well as a fossilized shark tooth and a marine mantis shrimp, consistent with two separate Caribbean flooding periods in the last 20 million years. The geological and biological evidence suggests that during the Miocene the western Amazon region was a massive wetland, twice the size of Texas.

Read more here.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Transparent Wood


The piece of glass in the photo was made from wood. (Photo: USDA Forest Service)

Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) researcher Junyong Zhu in co-collaboration with colleagues from the University of Maryland and University of Colorado have found a better way to make wood transparent. The conventional method involves a long process using chemicals to remove the lignin. In this new effort, the researchers are able to make wood transparent by changing the lignin rather than removing the lignin.

Wood’s lack of transparency comes from the combination of its two main components, cellulose and lignin. The researchers removed lignin molecules that are involved in producing wood color. First, they applied hydrogen peroxide to the wood surface and then exposed the treated wood to UV light (or natural sunlight). The wood was then soaked in ethanol to further clean it. Next, they filled in the pores with clear epoxy to make the wood smooth.

This method produces transparent wood that is 50 times stronger than the old method. The new method will be used to improve solar technology and window production. 

Transparent wood is one of the most promising new materials. The number of uses and benefits has yet to be fully realized. The production of transparent building materials will have an impact on the architecture of the future. It will be possible to live in a glass house made of wood!

Read more here and here.