Friday, May 3, 2024

Conch Trumpet Used to Gather the People

Indigenous Americans apparently used sound to organize local communities similar to the way that the Israelites used the shofar.

Conch-shell trumpets have been found in burial contexts at Chaco Canyon, despite the nearest source of the shells being some 1,000km away. Today, these shells are used in contemporary Pueblo ritual practices, suggesting that they were also significant in ancient Chacoan society.

Previous studies indicate that sound was integral to ritual pageantry in Chaco Canyon. However, it was unknown whether communities beyond the canyon also placed significance on auditory experience.

Researchers found that "if somebody blew a conch-shell trumpet from the great house at the center of all five Chacoan communities, the sound would have reached almost all of the surrounding settlements."

Chaco Canyon was a major center of ancestral Pueblo culture between 850 and 1250 B.C. It was a place of ceremonies, trade, and political activity for the prehistoric Four Corners area. Chaco is remarkable for its monumental public and ceremonial buildings and its distinctive architecture. It has an ancient urban ceremonial center.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Stone Age Humans Used Wood


Humans of the Stone Age were extremely resourceful. They used organic materials close at hand to fabricate tools and useful implements. Gesher Benot Ya'aqov in Israel, is an ancient site on the bank of the Jordan River south of the historic Lake Hula. Excavations exposed the remains of fires from 780,000 years ago. There is evidence of cooked plant foods, nuts, and fish. Some wood is also preserved in the sediments, including a wooden plank with intentional shaping. This currently is the oldest modified wooden artifact in the archaeological record.

Dr. John Hawks, a world renown paleoanthropologist, recently wrote a fascinating article about the prehistoric use of organic materials. The article focuses mainly on the use of wood. Hawks wrote: 

"The most well-known archaeological site with ancient wood is Schöningen, in central Germany. At the edge of a lake 300,000 years ago, people hunted horses and left behind the butchered horse bones, stone tools, and many wooden spears, throwing sticks, and other artifacts."


Another site where Stone Age wooden artifacts have been found is in Italy. Hawks explains:

"Poggetti Vecchi, Italy, is a site with thermal pools that preserve evidence of straight-tusked elephants and other animals from around 170,000 years ago. Archaeologists have uncovered least 39 wooden tools, many of them interpreted as digging sticks. Many of them were described in 2018 in an article led by Biancamaria Aranguren.

All the artifacts identified at Poggetti Vecchi were made from boxwood, Buxus sempervirens."


Another discovery too place at Kalambo Falls. The Kalambo Falls is just upstream of where it enters Lake Tanganyika. Hawks reports:

"Last year, Lawrence Barham and collaborators reported an unexpected discovery from their recent work at Kalambo Falls. Opening new excavations into the riverbank deposits, they uncovered many wood artifacts. These include an apparent digging stick, logs that were cut by stone blades, and a remarkable pair of logs that had been notched to fit one over the other. Barham and coworkers are not sure what the function of the notched log structure may have been, but they speculate that it may have served as the foundation of a hut or shelter, or it may have served as a platform or part of a walkway, or even as a workbench. What is clear is that ancient hominins applied patterned effort to shape the logs and build with them. This structure is around 476,000 years old."


Also in Africa, Hawks notes:

"one of the earliest wooden artifacts from Africa is from Florisbad, South Africa. That site is a natural spring with peat deposits that can preserve organic materials for a very long time. A number of wooden artifacts were identified during excavation of the springs in the 1930s and thereafter, but these tended to disintegrate quickly after excavation. The anthropologist Kenneth Oakley visited Florisbad and took one wooden artifact to London, where the wood was treated with chemicals similar to those used to preserve artifacts from later waterlogged sites. The artifact was later examined by Desmond Clark, who interpreted it as the broken point of a larger throwing stick. In 2003, Marion Bamford and Zoë Henderson carried out a re-examination of this artifact to provide some modern detail. One of the most interesting aspects was the wood that it is made from: kundanyoka knobwood (Zanthoxylum chalybeum), which today occurs no further south than Zimbabwe. The implication is that a very much warmer climate occurred around Florisbad at the time this tool was made, although the dating and context of the artifact are still uncertain."

Hawks points out that wooden artifacts also have been found in southwestern China. Xing Gao and collaborators excavated a large area south of the city of Kunming and exposed levels of ancient lakeshore between 361,000 and 250,000 years old. The excavations revealed stone artifacts, remains of varied plants and pollen, and 35 wooden tools.

Additionally, Hawks notes that "Aranbaltza is a floodplain site in northern Spain, with several archaeological localities dating back to between 140,000 and 50,000 years ago. One of these localities is Aranbaltza III, where in 2015 Joseba Rios-Garaizar and coworkers recovered a pointed wooden tool, around 20 cm in length. The evidence of crushing and wear at the pointed end suggested that this stick had been used for digging."

Read more about Stone Age wooden artifacts here: "Four amazing Stone Age sites with ancient wooden artifacts"

Related reading: Materials Science (Part 1 - Metals); Materials Science (Part 2 - Ores); Materials Science (Part 3 - Resins and Oils); Materials Science (Part 4 - Conglomerates); Archaic Shell Technology

Friday, March 15, 2024

This Microfluidic Chip Can Remove Risky Cells.


Advances in medical science are happening so quickly that it is almost impossible to keep up with the latest developments. Some new treatments are helping patients with spinal cord injuries. Now a small plastic device may be added to a variety of treatments.

A tiny device built by scientists at MIT and the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology might be used to improve therapy treatments for patients suffering from spinal cord injuries.

In cell therapy, clinicians create induced pluripotent stem cells by reprogramming some skin or blood cells taken from a patient. To treat a spinal cord injury, these pluripotent stem cells can become progenitor cells, which differentiate into spinal cord cells. These progenitors are then transplanted back into the patient.

These new cells can regenerate part of the injured spinal cord. However, pluripotent stem cells that don’t fully change into progenitors can form tumors. These are the risky cells that need to be removed.

This research team developed a microfluidic cell sorter that can remove about half of the cells that can potentially become tumors without causing any damage to the fully formed progenitor cells.

Read more here.

Friday, February 2, 2024

African American Contributions to Science and Technology


Madam C. J. Walker

This short video presents 10 exceptional individuals. They are:

Gerald "Jerry" A. Lawson (1940-2011) is known for his work in designing the Fairchild Channel F video game console as well as leading the team that pioneered the commercial video game cartridge.

Lewis Latimar (1848-1928) invented a method for producing a more durable carbon filament, making incandescent lighting practical and affordable for consumers.

Otis Boykin (1920-1982) invented electrical resistors used in computing, missile guidance, and artificial pacemakers.

Marc Hannah (1956-) developed the 3-D special effects systems used widely in movies.

Patricia Bath (1942-2019) invented laserphaco, a new device and technique to remove cataracts.

Alexander Miles (1838-1918) was awarded a patent for automatically opening and closing elevator doors.

Madam C. J. Walker (1867-1919) invented the world's first hair-straightening formula.

Garret Morgan (1877-1963) invented a three-way traffic light, and a protective 'smoke hood' notably used in a 1916 tunnel construction disaster rescue.

G. R. Carruthers (1939-2020) invented the first Moon-based astronomy observatory, which was placed by Apollo 16 astronauts on the lunar surface during his career at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.

Charles Richard Drew (1904-1950) developed improved techniques for blood storage and applied his knowledge to developing large-scale blood banks early in World War II.

Related reading: The Life and Faith of George Washington CarverHenrietta Lacks' Cells Advance Medicine

Friday, January 26, 2024

Science and the Bible: A Relationship Revisited

Bruse Atkinson, PhD

January 20, 2024

This essay is an extended and updated version of an article I wrote for VirtueOnline in 2012, entitled "On the Bible and Science: Preliminary Principles Associated with God's Revelatory Purposes."

It is a horrendously false idea that the Christian faith and empirical science are enemies, that these fields can never come to agreement. While God has directly inspired and authorized the scriptures according to His divine purposes (Isaiah 55:8-11, 2 Timothy 3:14-17), we have to admit that He is also on the side of science. He supports (and has actually established) the real purpose of science among humans, that is, the search for truth. However, we can be sure that God is not for that 'science' which is done without integrity. He is not for research done for political purposes and which bends both the methods of fact-finding and the interpretation of the results so that that they support whatever the researcher wants to publicly promote. As an individual who had my dissertation research published in a scientific journal, I know how easy it is to falsify data. I could have easily done so and no one would have known the difference.

Fortunately, both deliberate manipulation of data and ignorant errors must eventually fall to the wayside, for all misinformation is short term. The truth will show itself again and again, and ultimately it cannot be covered up. This is why I believe that the evidence revealed from our scientific study of nature and scriptural truth (special revelation more directly from God) will eventually come together and be of one piece, a wonderful tapestry without contradiction or interpretive conflict. But yes, we still have a long way to go.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Medical Breakthroughs in 2023


Medical science is currently being transformed by scientific discoveries that will dramatically advance the way we diagnose and treat diseases and genetic disorders.


The Alzheimer’s drug lecanemab (Leqembi) won FDA approval in July. Lecanemab removes the beta amyloid plaques in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. Beta amyloids are the hallmark of Alzheimer’s. These proteins clump together to form plaques that destroy neurons, which are the cells that form the brain’s communication system. 

The drug does not stop the disease, but in a clinical trial, lecanemab slowed cognitive decline by about 30 percent over 18 months compared with a placebo. 

Medicare will provide coverage under certain conditions.

Muscular Dystrophy

In June 2023, the FDA approved the first gene therapy for children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. People with this muscle-wasting disease don’t make the protein dystrophin, which helps keep muscle cells intact. The therapy helps the body produce a version of the missing protein.

The disease is progressive and most affected individuals require a wheelchair by the teenage years. Serious life-threatening complications may ultimately develop including disease of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy) and respiratory difficulties.

Postpartum Depression (PPD)

Until August, the only medication in the United States specifically targeting postpartum depression required a 60-hour intravenous infusion in a hospital. With FDA approval of zuranolone (Zurzuvae), women suffering postpartum depression can take an oral medication at home and experience improvement in as little as three days. Zurzuvae is a medication belonging to the neuroactive steroid class. It acts on GABA receptors, providing rapid relief for postpartum depression.

Zurzuvae may cause side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness, and nausea. It may also cause headaches or sleep disturbances.

Sickle Cell Disease

On December 8, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Casgevy, the world’s first CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing therapy. The treatment helps patients produce healthy hemoglobin. In people with the disease, hemoglobin is abnormal, causing red blood cells to become hard and crescent shaped, which can block blood flow. By March 2024, the FDA will decide whether the same therapy can be used to treat beta-thalassemia, a disorder that reduces hemoglobin production.

Monday, December 11, 2023

The Vinča Culture


The Balkan Peninsula

The Vinča culture is named for the Serbian site southeast of Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. The site was initially excavated by the Lithuanian archaeologist Marija Gimbutas.

There are hundreds of Vinča sites scattered around the Balkans. One of the largest sites was Vinča-Belo Brdo. It covered 72 acres (29 hectares) and had up to 2,500 people.

The Vinča culture occupied a region of Southeastern Europe corresponding mainly to modern-day Serbia and Kosovo, but parts of Southernmost Hungary, Western-Central Romania, Western Bulgaria, Eastern Croatia, Eastern Bosnia, Northern Montenegro and North Macedonia.

Vinča Symbols

The oldest scribed symbols found in Central Europe have been found on Neolithic artifacts (7th to 5th millennia BC) of the Vinča culture. Scholars believe that the Vinča signs represent the earliest form of writing, predating ancient Egyptian and Sumerian writing by thousands of years. 

What is known of these signs is limited since all the inscriptions are short and found on burial objects. Ritual burial accompanied by written signs among these Neolithic peoples suggests a priest-scribe caste.

According to an analysis by Shan Winn in 1973 and 1981, there are 210 signs. of that number, 30 are "core signs", with the remainder being variants and combinations.

Here are some of the Vinča signs:

Vinča artifacts include these figurines. Figurines such as these were most commonly buried under houses.

Perhaps the oldest known Vinča figurine (c. 6000 B.C.)

c. 5000 B.C.

c. 3000 B.C.