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Monday, December 30, 2019

Christina Koch on Her Record




NASA astronaut Christina Koch made history Saturday, December 28 by breaking the record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman. 

Koch, a North Carolina State University graduate, has been on the International Space Station for 289 days, beating the previous 288-day record held by Peggy Whitson. She says that she hopes to see her record beaten by another woman soon.

Speaking of her time in space, Koch told CNN's Christi Paul, "It’s a wonderful thing for science... We see another aspect of how the human body is affected by microgravity for the long term, and that’s really important for our future spaceflight plan going forward to the moon and to Mars.”

According to NASA’s schedule, Koch will remain on the station until February 2020, falling just shy of the longest single spaceflight by a NASA astronaut: 340 days, set by Scott Kelly. Astronauts normally stay on the station for six months.


Sunday, December 15, 2019

Gender Parity in Biblical Archaeology?



Robert Cargill
Editor of Biblical Archaeology Review


The field of biblical archaeology, and biblical studies in general, has always had a “woman problem.” Women have long been a minority. To be sure, there have always been notable exceptions—such as Gertrude Bell, Kathleen Kenyon, Martha Joukowsky, Susan Alcock, Jodi Magness, Ann Killebrew—but for the most part the field has been dominated by men—often charismatic, loud, entertaining, obnoxious, and mostly white men.

And this is just the way it has always been.

However, over the past decades many scholars and administrators have decided to address this issue and have begun making concerted efforts to increase the number of women in field archaeology and biblical studies. Because of these efforts, we have seen an increase in the number of women enrolled in archaeology and biblical studies programs, presenting papers at professional conferences, publishing cutting-edge research, and receiving academic positions. The American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) even named Susan Ackerman its first female president in 2014.

Progress is being made with regard to gender parity in archaeology and the academy. Therefore, you can understand why I am continually baffled—and women all the more so—when all-male conference panels (“manels”) are assembled, all-male edited volumes (“manthologies”) are published, and all-male festschrifts (“festicles”) are printed. It is 2019, and women are still being regularly excluded!

I hear many excuses when these all-male offerings appear, one of the most frequent being: “I invited several women, but none of them accepted my invitation, so I filled those spots with men.” There are several problems with this excuse.

First, if women repeatedly turn down invitations to work with a particular man or organization en masse, it may indicate a serious problem with the individual or organization. Is there some more disquieting reason why many women don’t want to work with certain male scholars beyond the courteous excuse of being overcommitted?

Second, many women scholars are overcommitted because the few of them working in our field are asked to contribute to so many committees and volumes. Women reserve the right to decline invitations. Women are not obligated to compensate for centuries of marginalization by committing to every invitation.

Third, when women decline invitations to present or write for a project, they don’t owe an explanation. Scholars don’t have to give a reason why they do not wish to participate in a project; they can simply decline.

Finally, men should not publicly name any woman who turned down an invitation, especially to cover for the fact that they were unable to achieve gender parity in a publication, panel, or event. I am outraged when male scholars blame women by name for the lack of women contributors in their professional panels or volumes by saying, “Well I invited Scholar X, Scholar Y, and Scholar Z, but they declined …” Publicly shaming women scholars by name does nothing to assuage the fact that only men were included in a volume or conference.

Even if a dozen women decline an invitation, a male editor is still responsible for the lack of gender parity in his volume—not those women who declined. The editor or organizer must simply work harder to achieve his goal and do a better job of encouraging women to participate.

As Editor of BAR, I believe it is my responsibility to support the amplification of women’s scholarly voices through publication, not simply through invitation. Scholarship is not stunt riding, and editors are not Evel Knievel; we shouldn’t be credited simply for the attempt even if we fail. We cannot define “due diligence” as inviting an acceptable quota of women to participate. The bar must be higher than that.

My work and my organization should be judged by the number of women actually appearing in the published product, not simply the number of women originally invited.

Gender parity is still a problem in the academy. To change this, we must promote programs that cultivate women scholars from a young age, establishing gender parity as a priority from the outset of any project, be it a conference, edited volume, or magazine issue.

From here.


Related reading:  Introducing the New BAR


Friday, December 13, 2019

Assessing the Health of Bee Colonies




Honey is full of proteins, but sugars in the sticky substance make those proteins hard to study. Now, one scientist has figured out a way to pull proteins from the honey, revealing the world bees encounter.

The biochemistry researcher Rocío Cornero of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., is examining proteins in honey. Cornero described her unpublished work December 9 at the annual joint meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology and the European Molecular Biology Organization.

Amateur beekeepers often don’t understand what is stressing bees in their hives, whether lack of water, starvation or infection with pathogens, says Cornero, whose father kept bees before his death earlier this year. 

Cornero says, “What we see in the honey can tell us a story about the health of that colony.”

Bees are like miniature scientists that fly and sample a wide variety of environmental conditions, says cell biologist Lance Liotta, Cornero’s mentor at George Mason. As bees digest pollen, soil and water, bits of proteins from other organisms, including fungi, bacteria and viruses also end up in the insects’ stomachs. Honey, in turn, is basically bee vomit, Liotta says, and contains a record of virtually everything the bee came in contact with, as well as proteins from the bees themselves.

Read more here.


Thursday, December 12, 2019

Floating Stones




A large accumulation of pumice has been drifting in the Southwest Pacific towards Australia. The point of origin of this pumice raft is a submarine volcano in Tongan waters. The highly porous pumice is of such low density that it floats.

Since August, this raft of pumice has been moving closer to Australia. Researchers were eager to identify the source and an image of the ESA satellite Copernicus Sentinel-2 taken on 6 August 2019, showed clear traces of an active underwater eruption. The volcano has been named Volcano F.

The debris from the eruption is expected to reach the Great Barrier Reef in late January and early February.

Read more here and here.


Sunday, December 8, 2019

Brilliant Use of Legos to Teach Math




This third grade teacher, Alycia Zimmerman, uses Legos to teach math. She says, "In the classroom, the tiny bricks are now my favorite possibility-packed math manipulative.”

Read more here.


Friday, December 6, 2019

The Periodic Table at 150 Years



The "twin tower" periodic table.
Dmitri Mendeleev (MEN-duh-LAY-ev), a Russian scientist working in St. Petersburg, came up with an early version of the Periodic Table 150 years ago. Now the ‘table’ can take many forms, from block charts to spiral trees.

Elements are the building blocks of all matter. Their atoms knit together to form literally everything — us, the air we breathe, the organisms that share our world and every other molecule of gas or bit of mass found throughout our universe.

The rows and columns on the periodic table map the so-called periodic law. It holds that shared traits among chemical elements repeat in regular patterns as elements get larger. These patterns link elements with similar chemical behaviors and help to tell chemists how atoms react to form molecules. How the rows and columns on this table line up points to shared traits between groups of related elements. Understanding those relationships helps chemists create new compounds. It also helps them understand how life works. It even helps them predict how new materials will behave.

Read it all here.


Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Danger of Weaponized Robots




Robotics is a quickly expanding field. Robots are being built and used in the classroom, in medical labs, in security innovations, and in manufacturing plants. Unfortunately, they are also used to commit crimes, launch lethal attacks, and to impede airport operations.

Rapid advances have posed ethical dilemmas. Robots that can act autonomously could potentially inflict damage never intended by their designers. They can be weaponized by terrorists and political extremists.

In January 2017, the U.S. Department of Defense released a video showing an autonomous drone swarm of 103 individual robots successfully flying over California. Nobody was in control of the drones; their flight paths were choreographed in real-time by an advanced algorithm. The drones “are a collective organism, sharing one distributed brain for decision-making and adapting to each other like swarms in nature,” a spokesman said. The drones in the video were not weaponized — but the technology to do so is rapidly evolving.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Mammoth Traps in Mexico




Humans trapped mammoths 15,000 years ago near Mexico City. The National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) announced the discovery of at least 14 woolly mammoth skeletons on Wednesday, November 6.

To date, 824 bones have been found in traps 5.5 feet deep and 82 feet long in the city of Tultepec, home of a Mammoth Museum that houses an almost complete mammoth skeleton discovered in 2016.

The traps also contained remains of camels and a horse.

Source: BBC News


Thursday, November 7, 2019

Adam Named the Animals




Alice C. Linsley

Genesis 2:18-23 is a delightful folk narrative about God bringing animals to Adam to name. The story does not receive much attention from Bible scholars because they are at a loss to explain the origin of this narrative.

Genesis 2 is recognized as the older of the creation stories. The context of Genesis 1 is Babylonian and much later. The context of Genesis 2 is African, and it is in African tales that we discover the purpose of this account of Adam naming the animals. African animal tales highlight social relationships and hierarchies. By giving Adam the ruler's role in naming the creatures over which he is to have dominion, God establishes a hierarchy in the order of creation.

The Man and the animals are created from the same substance. They are formed from the earth and are earth creatures. As the story continues Adam discovers that he is unique. There is no other creature like him. He is alone until God fashions a companion for him, the woman.

The woman is also unique. She is made from the man, not the soil. In a sense, the woman is the crown of creation and as such she is vulnerable. The spirit of rebellion against God's order in creation makes her his first victim. By obeying the serpent instead of God, Eve became subjected to a creature of low estate. She exchanged her crown for an abased state. The first trespass was against God's order of creation.

St. John Chrysostom wrote, "Do you see how the devil led her captive, handicapped her reasoning, and caused her to set her thoughts on goals beyond her real capabilities, in order that she might be puffed up with empty hopes and lose her hold on the advantages already accorded her?" (From here.)

The social relationships are changed. The animals under Adam's rule are part of a fallen realm. Now the whole of the creation yearns for the day of redemption. In the grand scheme of God's providence, it would be a woman's obedience that would begin the restoration of paradise. Her name is Mary and she is the Mother of Christ our God.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Incentives for Production Line Science?




Current research trends in science resemble the early 21st century’s financial bubble.


What would happen if scientists weren’t rewarded for the long-term reproducibility and rigor of their findings, but rather became a factory that produced and published highly exciting and innovative new discoveries, and then other scientists and companies spent resources on the follow up studies and took all the risk?

Just as banks in 2008 made money from selling the loans, not holding the loans, the quality of the loan ceased to be meaningful to them. Likewise, once published, the innovators of novel science often move onto the next new innovation, and because of publication bias and the “file drawer effect,” we never hear about it if their findings fail in the hands of others. Of course, reputations for good work affect scientists as much as anyone else, but one or two “real” advances by a researcher will erase any downside to even a litany of other findings that disappeared into the trash pile of time since no one else can reproduce them. Indeed, in a now famous report from Bayer Pharmaceuticals, 65 percent of published scientific findings were not reproducible by Bayer scientists when they tried to use them for drug development.

Read it all here.


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Twin Prime Conjecture



Mathematicians have uncovered a big new piece of evidence for one of the most famous unproven ideas in mathematics, known as the twin prime conjecture. But the route they took to finding that evidence probably won't help prove the twin prime conjecture itself.

The twin prime conjecture is all about how and when prime numbersnumbers that are divisible only by themselves and 1 — appear on the number line. "Twin primes" are primes that are two steps apart from each other on that line: 3 and 5, 5 and 7, 29 and 31, 137 and 139, and so on. The twin prime conjecture states that there are infinitely many twin primes, and that you'll keep encountering them no matter how far down the number line you go. It also states that there are infinitely many prime pairs with every other possible gap between them (prime pairs that are four steps apart, eight steps apart, 200,000 steps apart, etc.). Mathematicians are pretty sure this is true. It sure seems like it's true. And if it weren't true, it would mean that prime numbers aren't as random as everyone thought, which would mess up lots of ideas about how numbers work in general. But no one's ever been able to prove it.

It's all about the polynomials...

Read more here.


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Archaic Humans Stored Marrow-rich Deer Bones


Qesem Cave

Tel Aviv University researchers, in collaboration with scholars from Spain, have uncovered evidence of the storage and delayed consumption of animal bone marrow at Qesem Cave near Tel Aviv, the site of many major discoveries from the late Lower Paleolithic period some 400,000 years ago.

The research provides direct evidence that early Paleolithic people saved animal bones for up to nine weeks before feasting on them inside Qesem Cave.

The study, which was published in the October 9 issue of Science Advances, was led by Dr. Ruth Blasco of TAU's Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations and Centro Nacional de Investigación Sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH) and her TAU colleagues Prof. Ran Barkai and Prof. Avi Gopher. It was conducted in collaboration with Profs. Jordi Rosell and Maite Arilla of Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV) and Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES); Prof. Antoni Margalida of University of Lleida, University of Bern, and the Institute for Game and Wildlife Research (IREC); and Prof. Daniel Villalba of University of Lleida.

Read more here and here.




Friday, October 11, 2019

Goodenough Wins Another Prize!


John B. Goodenough


Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s Science, Technology and Space Minister Yaakov Peri have selected John B. Goodenough, professor at The University of Texas at Austin and inventor of the lithium-ion battery, to share The Eric and Sheila Samson Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation in Alternative Fuels for Transportation.

The Samson Prize, totaling $1 million, is the world’s largest monetary prize awarded in the field of alternative fuels and is granted to scientists who have made critical advancements. Goodenough plans to donate his prize money to UT Austin to thank the university for helping to support his research lab.

Goodenough, who serves as the Virginia H. Cockrell Centennial Chair of Engineering in the Cockrell School of Engineering at UT Austin, will share the prize with Jay Keasling, professor in the College of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. Netanyahu announced the winners Oct. 7.

John Goodenough was one of three recipients of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.


Source: University of Texas at Austin Press Release


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry


Three scientists (from left) John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham, and Akira Yoshino have won the 2019 Nobel Prize in chemistry for their work on lithium-ion batteries.

John B. Goodenough
The University of Texas at Austin, USA


M. Stanley Whittingham
Binghamton University, State University of New York, USA

Akira Yoshino
Asahi Kasei Corporation, Tokyo, Japan
Meijo University, Nagoya, Japan

Lithium-ion batteries have revolutionised our lives since they first entered the market in 1991. They have laid the foundation of a wireless, fossil fuel-free society, and are of the greatest benefit to humankind.

The foundation of the lithium-ion battery was laid during the oil crisis in the 1970s. Stanley Whittingham worked on developing methods that could lead to fossil fuel-free energy technologies. He started to research superconductors and discovered an extremely energy-rich material, which he used to create an innovative cathode in a lithium battery. This was made from titanium disulphide which, at a molecular level, has spaces that can house – intercalate – lithium ions.

The battery’s anode was partially made from metallic lithium, which has a strong drive to release electrons. This resulted in a battery that literally had great potential, just over two volts. However, metallic lithium is reactive and the battery was too explosive to be viable.

John Goodenough predicted that the cathode would have even greater potential if it was made using a metal oxide instead of a metal sulphide. After a systematic search, in 1980 he demonstrated that cobalt oxide with intercalated lithium ions can produce as much as four volts. This was an important breakthrough and would lead to much more powerful batteries.

With Goodenough’s cathode as a basis, Akira Yoshino created the first commercially viable lithium-ion battery in 1985. Rather than using reactive lithium in the anode, he used petroleum coke, a carbon material that, like the cathode’s cobalt oxide, can intercalate lithium ions.

The result was a lightweight battery that could be charged hundreds of times before its performance deteriorated. The advantage of lithium-ion batteries is that they are not based upon chemical reactions that break down the electrodes, but upon lithium ions flowing back and forth between the anode and cathode.


Monday, October 7, 2019

Incas Built on Intersecting Fault Lines




Machu Picchu and other Inca sacred sites were intentionally built on intersecting fault lines. That is the conclusion reported by Rualdo Menegat, a geologist at Brazil's Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, on 23 Sept. 2019 at the Geological Society of America (GSA) Annual meeting in Phoenix.

According to Menegat, the fault network at Machu Picchu offered the Incas the advantages of rocks that could be shaped more easily, and the faults channeled snow melt and rainwater straight to the site.

Menegat presented the results of a detailed geoarchaeological analysis that suggests the Incas intentionally built Machu Picchu -- as well as some of their cities -- in locations where tectonic faults meet. "Machu Pichu's location is not a coincidence," says Menegat. "It would be impossible to build such a site in the high mountains if the substrate was not fractured."

Using a combination of satellite imagery and field measurements, Menegat mapped a dense web of intersecting fractures and faults beneath the UNESCO World Heritage Site. His analysis indicates these features vary widely in scale, from tiny fractures visible in individual stones to major, 175-kilometer-long lineaments that control the orientation of some of the region's river valleys.

Menegat found that these faults and fractures occur in several sets, some of which correspond to the major fault zones responsible for uplifting the Central Andes Mountains during the past eight million years. Because some of these faults are oriented northeast-southwest and others trend northwest-southeast, they collectively create an "X" shape where they intersect beneath Machu Picchu.

Menegat's mapping suggests that the sanctuary's urban sectors and the surrounding agricultural fields, as well as individual buildings and stairs, are all oriented along the trends of these major faults. "The layout clearly reflects the fracture matrix underlying the site," says Menegat. Other ancient Incan cities, including Ollantaytambo, Pisac, and Cusco, are also located at the intersection of faults, says Menegat. "Each is precisely the expression of the main directions of the site's geological faults."

Read more here.



Thursday, October 3, 2019

Ancient Tree Reveals Geomagnetic Changes


(Photo credit: A. J. Timothy Jull)


Scientists are trying to gain a better understanding of the global geomagnetic field during extreme changes in the field such as reversals and shorter term excursions. To understand shifts in the geomagnetic field, a huge amount of data has to be gathered and compared. The data is gathered from lava flows, old ice masses, and magnetized minerals inside solidified igneous rock.

Another source of data comes from very old tree rings. Tree rings reveal climate changes due to excursions.

Research suggests that Earth was blasted with a period of intense solar activity about 7000 years ago. Traces of the event can be seen in the carbon signature of some very old tree rings.

Evidence of the solar event was found while looking at the amount of the carbon-14 isotope in the rings of an ancient bristlecone pine tree from California, pictured above.


Kauri tree unearthed during the expansion of the Ngāwhā geothermal power plant.
 (Photo credit: Nelson Parker)


Recently, an ancient tree was discovered in New Zealand that contains a record of a reversal of Earth's magnetic field. The tree species is called Agathis australis, known by its Māori name Kauri. It was discovered buried under 26 feet of soil during excavation work for the expansion of a geothermal power plant.

The tree measures eight feet in diameter and 65 feet in length. Carbon dating revealed it lived for 1,500 years, between 41,000 and 42,500 years ago. Read more about this fascinating discovery here.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The Ancient Kingdom of Edom




Edom is an ancient kingdom of the Bible that rarely gets attention. It plays a significant role in the development of the Messianic Faith that is fulfilled in Jesus Messiah. This article highlights the kingdom's prestige and antiquity.

Genesis 36 lists some of the chiefs of Edom. The patriarch of the Edomites is called Seir the Horite. Edom and Seir are linked in the Song of Deborah and Barak in Judges 5:3-4:
"Listen, O kings! Give ear, O princes! I will sing to the LORD; I will sing praise to the LORD, the God of Israel. O LORD, when You went out from Seir, when You marched from the land of Edom, the earth trembled, the heavens poured out rain, and the clouds poured down water."
As is seen in the diagram above, Moses and Aaron were descendants of Seir, the Horite Hebrew king of Edom.

Deuteronomy 68:8 declares, "The LORD came from Sinai and dawned upon us from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran and came with myriads of holy ones, with flaming fire at His right hand."

The antiquity and prestige of the Edomite rulers and Teman of Edom is expressed in Jeremiah's reference to these as ancient seats of wisdom (Jeremiah 49:7). Genesis 36 explains, "These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom, before any king reigned over the children of Israel."

Edom was a copper-rich region with industrial scale copper production. Radiocarbon analysis of charred wood, grain and fruit in several sediment layers revealed two major phases of copper processing, first in the 12th and 11th centuries, and later in the 10th and 9th BC.

Dr. Thomas E. Levy stated, "Only a complex society such as a paramount chiefdom or primitive kingdom would have the organizational know-how to produce copper metal on such an industrial scale."


Related reading: The Horite Hebrew Wisdom of Elihu; Nilotes in the Sinai; Aaron Was Buried in Edom; The Edomites and the Color Red; Amram's Children


Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Geologists Solving the Greater Adria Puzzle



About 140 million years ago, Greater Adria was a Greenland-size landmass (submerged portions in gray-green). VAN HINSBERGEN ET AL., GONDWANA RESEARCH (2019)


About 100 million years ago, a Greenland-size landmass called Greater Adria collided with southern Europe and shattered into pieces as it was shoved beneath that continent. Only a fraction of Greater Adria’s rocks, scraped off in the collision, remained on Earth’s surface for geologists to discover.

In the new study, van Hinsbergen and his colleagues spent more than 10 years collecting information about the ages of rock samples thought to be from Greater Adria, as well as the direction of any magnetic fields trapped in them. That let the researchers identify not just when, but where, the rocks were formed.

Rather than simply moving north with no change in its orientation, Greater Adria spun counterclockwise as it jostled and scraped past other tectonic plates, Although the tectonic collision happened at speeds of no more than 3 to 4 centimeters per year, the inexorable smash-up shattered the 100-kilometer-thick bit of crust and sent most of it deep within Earth’s mantle.

Read the full report here.


Friday, September 6, 2019

Harvesting Water From the Air


A solar panel powers a device that harvests water from the air in California’s Mojave Desert. Photo (Credit: MATHIEU PRÉVOT)


Omar Yaghi and his colleagues have created a solar-powered device that could provide water in desert regions. This device has a porous crystalline material, known as a metal-organic framework (MOF), that sucks water vapor out of air and then releases it as liquid water. It is far superior to the early MOFs which were expensive to make and degraded quickly.

“This is fantastic work that addresses a real problem,” says Jorge Andrés Rodríguez Navarro, a MOF chemist at the University of Granada in Spain. It’s also just one example of how MOFs may finally be entering their prime. 

“We can play games with modifying these and know exactly where every atom is,” says Amanda Morris, a MOF researcher at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg.

Yaghi and his colleagues synthesized the first MOF in 1995, and chemists have created tens of thousands of the structures since. Each is made up of metal atoms that act like hubs in a Tinkertoy set, connected into a porous network by organic linkers designed to hold fast to the hubs and create openings to house molecular guests. By mixing and matching the metals and linkers, researchers found they could tailor the pores to capture gas molecules, such as water vapor and carbon dioxide (CO2).

Omar Yaghi is a Jordanian-American chemist, currently the James and Neeltje Tretter Chair Professor of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, and an elected member of the US National Academy of Sciences.

World Aridity Map

His childhood experiences in arid Amman, Jordan motivated him to think about solutions to water deprivation in arid regions. He realized that there is a great deal of water in the air and wondered how this could be captured.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Coming Soon: Smart Textiles




Laser printed wearable smart fabrics have a range of potential applications from monitoring vital signs of patients, to tracking the location and health status of soldiers, and monitoring pilots or drivers for fatigue.

Dr. Litty Thekkakara, a researcher in RMIT's School of Science in Melbourne, Australia, said smart textiles with built-in sensing, wireless communication or health monitoring technology called for robust and reliable energy solutions.

"Current approaches to smart textile energy storage, like stitching batteries into garments or using e-fibres, can be cumbersome and heavy, and can also have capacity issues," Thekkakara said.

Thekkakara and a team from RMIT University have developed a cost-efficient and scaleable method for rapidly fabricating textiles that are embedded with energy storage devices.

In just three minutes, the method can produce a 10x10cm smart textile patch that's waterproof, stretchable and readily integrated with energy harvesting technologies.

The technology enables graphene supercapacitors -- powerful and long-lasting energy storage devices that are easily combined with solar or other sources of power -- to be laser printed directly onto textiles.

Read more here.


Friday, August 23, 2019

Egyptian Glass in Ancient Nordic Graves



A glass bead found in a 3400-year old Nordic grave came from ancient Egypt.
Credit: Roberto Fortuna and Kira Ursem


Around the time that Moses lived, Egyptians and Mesopotamians were engaged in trade with Scandinavian peoples. Discovery of glass beads found in Nordic Bronze Age tombs proves that there were established trade routes between the far north and Levant as early as the 13th century BC.

Twenty-three of the glass beads found in Danish Bronze Age burials by the team of Danish and French archaeologists were blue, a rare color in ancient times.

One of the blue glass beads was found with a Bronze Age woman buried in Olby, Denmark, in a hollowed oak coffin wearing a sun disc. Among the R1b populations, the sun was the symbol of the High God and royal persons.

The analysis showed that the blue beads buried with the women originated from the same glass workshop in Amarna that adorned King Tutankhamun at his funeral in 1323 BC.

This map shows the dispersion of Haplogroup R1b populations. King Tut's Y-DNA has been identified as R1b.



Of special interest is an elaborate glass bead with amber embedding. It
appears to be from the royal workshop that made the blue beads buried with Tutankhamun.

Read more here.




Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Fresh Water Aquifers in the Atlantic




Fresh water was discovered at 800 meters below the surface in two small canyons on the continental slope outside Lofoten, Norway.

"When we the found fresh water leaking from the seabed, we were very surprised," explains marine geologist Wei-Li Hong at the Geological Survey of Norway (NGU).

The leakage likely originated from a large pocket of fresh water, otherwise known as an aquifer, hidden beneath the sediment of the seabed, a remnant of the last Ice Age. The thick ice caps that enveloped Norway pushed down on the crust of the Earth with tremendous force, squeezing large amounts of melt water down through cracks in the seabed.

Scientists from Columbia University and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts recently found fresh water in the Atlantic Ocean along the east coast of the United States. The large aquifer extends along the eastern coast of the US from the southern tip of New Jersey to the northern end of Massachusetts.

Marine geologist Jochen Knies reports, "It’s the exact same phenomenon that we have here in Norway."  Knies is the NGU project manager.

Read more here.


Monday, August 19, 2019

France's Wattway is a Design Failure


Getty Images


France's Wattway is a solar roadway that was built outside Tourouvre-au-Perch in Normandy in 2016. It has proven to be an expensive failure. The 1 kilometer (less than 1 mile) road in Normandy cost 5 million Euros to build, which is around 5.5 million US dollars for a single lane of a two-lane highway!

The solar roadway has a photovoltaic surface constructed from panels with a silicon resin used to protect the driving surface. The designer, a company called Colas, claimed it would stand up to a heavy trucks and tractors, but farm trucks and tractors have caused the silicon layer to flake and crack, damaging the delicate solar panels underneath.

There is also the problem of noise pollution when traffic passes on the road. The noise is so loud that the local government has limited traffic to just 70 kilometers per hour (around 43 miles per hour) to cut down on the sound.

The Wattway also is a failure at generating solar energy. According to the designers of the system, it was meant to capture 790 kilowatt-hours per day. That sounds good, but that part of Normandy averages only around 44 days of strong sunlight per year; too little to reach the designer's anticipated levels of energy.


Thursday, August 15, 2019

Francis Collins Marks Ten Years as NIH Director




In June 2017, the White House announced that Francis Sellers Collins would remain NIH director. This month Collins completes a decade as director at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

Collins, 69, is one of a few top-level holdovers from the Obama's administration, and he has served longer than any other NIH head in 50 years. Collins has been influential in shaping NIH, with a budget of $39 billion this year, making it the world's largest biomedical research agency.

Francis Collins is an American physician-geneticist noted for his discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the Human Genome Project. Under his direction the the Human Genome Project (HGP) was completed in April 2003.This was an international research effort to sequence and map all of the genes of members of Homo sapiens. With this data, scientists are now able to read the complete genetic blueprint for humans.



Saturday, August 10, 2019

Censorship of Unpopular Scientific Theories




This week Forbes removed an article about the climate theory of the Israeli-American astrophysicist Nir Shaviv, stating "After review, this post has been removed for failing to meet our editorial standards."

Professor Shaviv commented on this, saying:
"A few days ago I was interviewed by Doron Levin, for an article to appear online on forbes.com. After having seen a draft (to make sure that I am quoted correctly), I told him good luck with getting it published, as I doubted it will. Why? Because a year ago I was interviewed by a reporter working for Bloomberg, while the cities of San Francisco and Oakland were deliberating a climate change lawsuit against Exxon-Mobil (which the latter won!), only to find out that their editorial board decided that it is inappropriate to publish an interview with a heretic like me. Doron’s reply was to assure me that Forbes’ current model of the publication online allows relative freedom with 'relatively little interference from editors'. Yeah Sure."
When pressed about this, Dr. Shaviv added, "Well, the official reason is that it 'fails to meet our editorial standards'. Do you really expect them to admit 'because we were pressured by alarmists'?"

Clearly, censorship happens, and it appears that global warming alarmists are blocking solid science and even solid legislation. Consider what happened when the Kansas legislature attempted to pass a bill calling for objectivity in Science education in the Kansas public schools.

House Bill 2306 said teachers will “provide information to students of scientific evidence which both supports and counters a scientific theory or hypothesis” and encourages the “teaching of such scientific controversies to be made in an objective manner.”

The bill failed. Jane Orient, M.D., president of Physicians for Civil Defense, noted that the Kansas public schools generally do not teach climate science, but she fears that the theory of catastrophic global warming due to human activity has become the ideological king of the mountain. Dr. Orient said, "This alarmism resembles religious dogma."

There are good reasons to push for objectivity in climate science. It is complex and scientists do not agree on all the factors and mechanisms affecting climate. Climate science, as with all science, requires objectivity.

Here we will give Dr. Nir Shaviv a fair hearing. Listen to this 22-minute summary of his theory on global warming.


Friday, August 9, 2019

Hubble Catches Jupiter's Vibrant Colors



New Hubble Space Telescope view of Jupiter, taken on June 27, 2019.
Credit: NASA, ESA, A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center) and M.H. Wong (University of California, Berkeley)


A new Hubble Space Telescope view of Jupiter, taken on June 27, 2019, reveals the giant planet's trademark Great Red Spot, and a more intense color palette in the clouds swirling in Jupiter's turbulent atmosphere than seen in previous years. The colors, and their changes, provide important clues to ongoing processes in Jupiter's atmosphere.

The colorful bands of ammonia clouds, which flow in opposite directions at various latitudes, result from different atmospheric pressures. Lighter bands rise higher and have thicker clouds than the darker bands.

The Great Red Spot is a towering structure, whose upper haze layer extends more than 3 miles (5 kilometers) higher than clouds in other areas. The gigantic ovoid structure, with a diameter slightly larger than Earth's, is a high-pressure wind system called an anticyclone that has been slowly downsizing since the 1800s. The reason for this change in size is still unknown.

In recent months observers have seen some changes in the Red Spot, described as "flaking." However, the data indicates that the Spot is not going to disappear any time soon. Its position has never shifted. Twin jet streams that circle the planet in opposite directions lock the storm in place.

Observations of Jupiter have come a long way from the early days of the planet's exploration. On October 18, 1989 the space probe Galileo, named after Galileo Galilei, was launched to study the planet Jupiter. The space probe orbited Jupiter 35 times then in 2003 was terminated by sending it into Jupiter's atmosphere at a speed of over 48 kilometers per second (30 mi/s), eliminating the possibility of contaminating local moons with Earth bacteria.

The Galileo probe took close-ups on Jupiter’s rings and found evidence that its icy moons might hold atmosphere.


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Liquid Magnets?



Three permanently magnetized liquid droplets floating in oil. As they spin in response to a rotating magnetic field, their activity wraps orange dye around themselves. (X. LIU ET AL/SCIENCE 2019)

Some liquids contain particles that can become magnetized when placed in a magnetic field. However, the orientation of their magnetic poles tends to get jumbled as soon as the magnetic field goes away. At this point, the liquid no longer is magnetic.

Thomas Russell, a polymer scientist, and his colleagues added certain polymers to the droplets’ recipe which allowed them to make permanently magnetized droplets. Such magnetic drops could be used to build soft robots. They might also be used in ingested capsules that doctors could use to direct the medicine to targeted cells.

Read more about liquid reconfigurable ferromagnetic materials here.


Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Fascinating Discoveries in Vilnius




Religious artifacts have been found buried under a primary school in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius. These were found in the ruins of a 400-year synagogue. Archaeologists knew where the synagogue was located, but the site was not examined until 2015 when ground-penetrating radar was used to pinpoint the building's underground ruins.

Vilnius became a major Jewish city in the 14th century when the Lithuanian king gave Jews permission to settle there.The original synagogue was built of wood, but later the entire city was rebuilt in brick, including the famed Great Synagogue. The prestige of this synagogue was such that Vilnius was called the "Jerusalem of Lithuania."

After a 1748 fire, the synagogue was rebuilt, but city authorities did not want the synagogue to tower over the churches, so parts of the synagogue were built below street level. This is why it is preserved today.  Read more here and here.

The first Lithuanians were called "Balts" after the Baltic Sea. The oldest settlements were near the Sea. Early humans were moving through the Baltic region as evidenced by the discovery of Stone Age grave goods found in Gyvakarai (Kupiškis district) and Biržai, Lithuania.

Hundreds of mummified human remains have been found buried in a crypt of the Dominican Church of the Holy Spirit in Vilnius. For most of their history, the corpses were preserved intact by the cool temperatures and ventilation in the underground chamber. These mummies have been studied by medical researchers to gain a better understanding of the health of the residents during the Middle Ages. Read more here.



Saturday, July 20, 2019

Links for ASA and ASA 2019 Conference




Learn more about the American Scientific Affiliation here:
https://network.asa3.org/


Catch the livestream of plenary talks and the State of the ASA here:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2QNJOvMjFVWaDFtT9VJG4w


View the schedule for ASA 2019 Conference at Wheaton College here:


Friday, July 19, 2019

Stop the Grumpy Head



Last month Facebook blocked sharing anything from this blog because an anonymous grumpy head reported it as abusive. The original message I received was that content at the blog is abusive and violates community standards. Now I'm told that the complaint involves spamming. It appears that someone or some group does not like what we are doing here.

I manage the blog for Christian Women in Science (CWIS) and am careful about moderating comments and content. We have never spammed our posts. This is an educational blog with balanced content representing good science.

I am glad that Facebook is going to review the claim. However, one month later, we are still blocked from posting our URL on Facebook. Try posting a link to this at your Facebook page. When Facebook blocks it, ask for a review. Perhaps if more people ask, we might have this matter resolved.

The CWIS blog was set up six years ago as a resource for Christian School teachers and home school parents seeking solid resources to teach STEM and the history of science and technology. It is entirely informational and represents a range of scientific positions. That is evident from a quick review of the INDEX.

CWIS is an organization I helped to found and this blog was set up with the permission of the CWIS Board. CWIS is an affiliate of the American Scientific Affiliation.

Please share this post with teachers and home school parents in any way that you can: email, Twitter, etc. It also would help if you would become a "Follower" of the blog. Stay informed about STEM and Technology through the monthly posts.

Thanks for helping!

Alice C. Linsley
CWIS Blog Manager


Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Old World Migrations to the Americas


Migrations out of the Upper Nile Valley


It has been suspected that native populations of the Americas arrived from different points of origin. Some came via a land bridge from Siberia. Some may have come to South America from Africa, and some came from Northern Europe via Greenland and Labrador.

Paleoanthropologists have established a clearer picture of the connection between the ancestors of modern Siberians and some Native Americans using DNA.

Linguists have verified a connection between the Siberian language Ket and the language of the Navajo.

According to the oral tradition of the Miqmac of Eastern Canada, they came in two waves from the Middle East to Scandinavia, then to Greenland and to the Hudson Bay area. They are in Haplogroup X2b5, which traces the maternal line (Mitochondrial DNA).

This is a different route of migration than that taken by other Old World peoples coming to North America across Eurasia and the Bering Strait. When it comes to mtDNA haplogroup X, there is no genetic trail across Eurasia. The dispersion of Haplogroup X is shown below. The greatest concentrations are indicated by the darker shade. MtDNA traces lineage by the mitochondria, received from mothers.


Only 7% of the Dene (Navajo) are in Haplogroup X, yet their language is related to Ket, a Yeniseic language spoken by a small Siberian population. This suggests that point of origin, genetic inheritance, and the language spoken must be analysed as separate features when studying a population.

To gain a better understanding of old world migrations into the Americas, scientists must draw on several disciplines, including DNA analysis, archaeology, linguistics, and anthropology.



Friday, June 21, 2019

Theories About the Cambrian Explosion



Cambrian-Ordovician rock succession at Shingle Pass in the Egan Range of Nevada. The SPICE carbon isotope event is in Late Cambrian strata at the far left, and the succession becomes younger into the Middle Ordovician toward the right. Plankton and animal biodiversity increases from the Cambrian to the Ordovician (left to right). Image Credit: Dr. Matthew R. Saltzman, Ohio State University


The Cambrian period, from 542 to 488 million years ago, is the subject of great interest to earth scientists, botanists, and biologists. The Cambrian explosion saw a relatively sudden increase in organic diversity. Different theories exist as to what triggered the change. 

One explanation involves the increase in atmospheric oxygen about 500 million years. According to this theory, photosynthetic plankton pulled carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and released large amounts of oxygen, creating an atmosphere that we would consider breathable.

The evidence is found in rock fossils called acritarchs. Rock samples containing these fossils preserve an indirect record of oxygen amounts in the form of carbon isotopes. Isotopes of an element have the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons. There are two stable carbon isotopes in nature: the most common, C-12, has 6 protons and 6 neutrons; but about 1.1 percent is C-13, with 6 protons and 7 neutrons. In an atmosphere with high levels of oxygen, photosynthesis within plankton favored carbon-12 over the heavier carbon-13, a signature that was preserved in the fossil record.

The Cambrian period also was marked by extinction events. One explanation for the extinction involves a condition called anoxia where the ocean's oxygen levels drop dramatically, causing many organisms to die. This event, known as the Steptoean Positive Carbon Isotope Excursion (SPICE), was characterized by the burial of large amounts of organic matter on the ocean floor.



Recently, a team from the University of Exeter's Global Systems Institute proposed a theory involving plate tectonics. According to this theory during the formation of the supercontinent there was an increase in continental arc volcanism. Long chains of volcanoes formed where continental and oceanic tectonic plates collided. This led to the increased release of CO2 from ancient, subducted sedimentary rocks. The Exeter team calculated an increase in atmospheric CO2 and warming of the planet, which in turn amplified the weathering of continental rocks. This process supplied phosphorus to the ocean to drive photosynthesis and oxygen production.

Clearly, the factors that led to a habitable Earth and organic diversity are complex. Many questions remain to be answered. One wonders how an increase in oxygen levels explains the emergence of bilateral symmetry in those early living organisms? Why that characteristic and not some other?

In the Precambrian organisms we find neither bilateral symmetry nor any bivalves. The potential for greater diversity and complexity seems to coincide with the appearance of binary features. Too little attention is given to such signals or triggers in the fossil record.

The unity of organic life can be explained by several paradigms. Evolutionary processes, divine supervision and intervention, Earth's physical forces, etc. In science we must go with the paradigm or hypothesis that best aligns with the physical evidence. The appearance of bilaterally symmetric invertebrates in the latest Precambrian Ediacaran suggest that bilateralism was a precursor to greater complexity and hierarchies. Consider how binary language used in computer science has led to great complexity. Random sequences degrade. Binary features and binary sets increase complexity. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

New Earth-Like Planets Studied




An international research team led by the University of Göttingen has discovered two new Earth-like planets near one of our closest neighboring stars. "Teegarden's star" is only about 12.5 light years away from Earth and is one of the smallest known stars. It is only about 2,700 °C warm and about ten times lighter than the Sun. Although it is so close to us, the star wasn't discovered until 2003. The scientists observed the star for about three years. The results were published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Their data clearly show the existence of two planets. "The two planets resemble the inner planets of our solar system," explains lead author Mathias Zechmeister of the Institute for Astrophysics at the University of Göttingen. "They are only slightly heavier than Earth and are located in the so-called habitable zone, where water can be present in liquid form."

Read the Science Daily report here.


CARMENES Telescope Used

Despite its proximity, this nearby Teegarden's star was only discovered back in 2003. About ten times lighter than our own Sun and one of the smallest stars we know of, the old red dwarf, which is roughly 8 billion years old, has proved a challenge to research.

According to the team, other planetary systems around similar stars have always been detected using the transit method, when an orbiting planet passes in front of a star, blocking Earth's view and causing the bright celestial object to darken for a brief moment.

The alignment and dimness of Teegarden wouldn't lend itself to this method however, so astronomers instead used the CARMENES next-generation telescope designed specifically for such situations. Located at Spain's Calar Alto Observatory, the instrument allowed the researchers to look for any changes in the mini-star's radial velocity.

Read the Science Alert report here.