Wednesday, December 30, 2020

DNA Study of Caribbean Islanders Yields Surprises


These pieces reveal a range of styles and date to around 1200 A.D. 
(Corinne Hofman and Menno Hoogland / Florida Museum of Natural History)

New DNA studies have clarified migrations to islands of the Caribbean, but also raise additional questions. One question is why the European explorers of those island believed the native population to be much higher than the studies indicate?

This report on a technique developed by Harald Ringbauer, a postdoctoral fellow in the Reich Lab, explains that shared segments of DNA were used to estimate past population size, and showed that only about 10,000 to 50,000 people were living on two of the largest islands, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico, shortly before European arrival.

"While the heat and humidity of the tropics can quickly break down organic matter, the human body contains a lockbox of genetic material: a small, unusually dense part of the bone protecting the inner ear. Primarily using this structure, researchers extracted and analyzed DNA from 174 people who lived in the Caribbean and Venezuela between 400 and 3,100 years ago, combining the data with 89 previously sequenced individuals.

The team, which includes Caribbean-based scholars, received permission to carry out the genetic analysis from local governments and cultural institutions that acted as caretakers for the human remains. The authors also engaged representatives of Caribbean Indigenous communities in a discussion of their findings.

The genetic evidence offers new insights into the peopling of the Caribbean. The islands' first inhabitants, a group of stone tool-users, boated to Cuba about 6,000 years ago, gradually expanding eastward to other islands during the region's Archaic Age. Where they came from remains unclear -- while they are more closely related to Central and South Americans than to North Americans, their genetics do not match any particular Indigenous group."
The new study suggests the Caribeean islands were first populations by two waves. A group of migrants almost totally replaced the islands’ original population. Only 3 of the individuals sampled showed ancestry of two distinct populations.

Dr. William F. Keegan, whose work in the Caribbean spans more than 40 years, contributed to the study. He is curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History and co-senior author of the study. "The methods David's team developed helped address questions I didn't even know we could address."

The Arawak-speakers who arrived on these islands from northeast South America introduced ceramics about 2500 years ago. 
"During the Ceramic Age, Caribbean pottery underwent at least five marked shifts in style over 2,000 years. Ornate red pottery decorated with white painted designs gave way to simple, buff-colored vessels, while other pots were punctuated with tiny dots and incisions or bore sculpted animal faces that likely doubled as handles. Some archaeologists pointed to these transitions as evidence for new migrations to the islands. But DNA tells a different story, suggesting all of the styles were developed by descendants of the people who arrived in the Caribbean 2,500-3,000 years ago, though they may have interacted with and took inspiration from outsiders.

"That was a question we might not have known to ask had we not had an archaeological expert on our team," said co-first author Kendra Sirak, a postdoctoral fellow in the Reich Lab. "We document this remarkable genetic continuity across changes in ceramic style. We talk about 'pots vs. people,' and to our knowledge, it's just pots."

Read the full report here: Ancient DNA retells the story of Caribbean's first people, with a few plot twists; Pre-Columbian Pottery in the West Indies; Old World Migrations to the Americas

Thursday, December 17, 2020

The Crazy Colorado River

Recent geological research indicates that the Colorado river's route from the Colorado Plateau was influenced by tectonic deformation and vaciliating sea levels that caused a series of stops and starts between 6.3 and 4.8 million years ago. A team led by geologist Rebecca Dorsey of the University of Oregon has made a case for a complex history of the river, showing that, contrary to conventional thinking, a river's connection to the ocean is not a once-and-done deal.

"The birth of the Colorado River was more punctuated and filled with more uneven behavior than we expected," Dorsey said. "We've been trying to figure this out for years. This study is a major synthesis of regional stratigraphy, sedimentology and micropaleontology. By integrating these different datasets we are able to identify the different processes that controlled the birth and early evolution of this iconic river system."

Dorsey said that no single process controlled the Colorado River's initial route to the sea. "Different processes interacted in a surprisingly complicated sequence of events that led to the final integration of that river out to the ocean," she said.

The region covered in the research stretches from the southern Bouse Formation, near present-day Blythe, California, to the western Salton Trough north of where the river now trickles into the Gulf of California. The Bouse Formation and deposits in the Salton Trough have similar ages and span both sides of the San Andreas Fault, providing important clues to the river's origins.

The Colorado River starts in the peaks of the Rocky Mountain in the United States and flows into Mexico, where it empties into the Upper Sea of Cortez. Its natural course has varied over thousands of years, and the demand for water to serve an estimated 40 million people now exceeds the river’s supply, resulting in the desiccation of the Colorado’s last hundred miles.

The Colorado River's seven basin states are managing water under the Drought Contingency Plan, an agreement to safeguard water levels at the river's two main reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell. The two lakes are critical to providing water in times of drought. The Colorado River Basin states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Don't Forget the Cranberries!

An old-fashioned cranberry scoop. Today machines pump the berries from the bogs.

What is Thanksgiving dinner without cranberries? Some prefer the jellied form and others want the sauce made with whole berries. This traditional holiday condiment goes perfectly with the heavier foods enjoyed at the holidays. It is sweet and tart and sometimes a little spicey.

There are 100 varieties of cranberries, some of them heirloom varieties dating to the 1840's. The Ojibwa cultivated high-bush cranberries since the mid-17th century.

The red color of cranberries comes from pigments called anthocyanins.The range of red hues is due to the differing porportions of anthocyanins.

Cranberries have a high nutrient and antioxidant content. Research has linked the nutrients in cranberries to a lower risk of urinary tract infection, the prevention of some cancers, improved immune function, and decreased blood pressure.

It takes about 16 months for the cranberry to mature from a bud to a fruit ready to harvest. Most cranberries sold in the United States are grown in Wisconsin. Other states known for cranberry production include Massachusetts, New Jersey, and coastal areas of the Pacific Northwest.

Cranberries are grown in bogs which the growers sometimes flood to keep the leaves from drying out in the winter, and to make it easier to harvest. Once a bog is flooded, machines knock the berries into the water, and then harvesters don waders and corral the berries into an area where they can be pumped through a suction line and loaded on a truck.

Read more here

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Ice Age Plant Resurrected from Frozen Seeds

The oldest plant ever to be “resurrected” has been grown from 32,000-year-old seeds, beating the previous record holder of the Judean Palm by 30,000 years.

The narrow leafed perennial campion called Silene stenophylla is a small plant whose modern relatives are found in eastern Russia and northern Japan. This species that grows on stony cliffs or sandy shores. Once a year, it produces five-petalled flowers that range in color from white to pink to lilac.

A team of scientists from Russia, Hungary, and the United States recovered frozen Silene stenophylla seeds in 2007 while investigating about 70 ancient ground squirrel burrows or caches, hidden in permanently frozen deposits in northeastern Siberia.

The age of the seeds was estimated at between 20,000 and 40,000 years, dating the seeds to the Pleistocene epoch. More than 600,000 fruits and seeds thus preserved were located at the site.

Normally, the rodents would have eaten the food in their larders, but in this case a flood or some other weather event buried the area. The larders were at the level of the permafrost which resulted in the material freezing almost immediately. More than 600,000 fruits and seeds thus preserved were located at the site.

Years later, a team of scientists at the Russian Academy of Sciences successfully revived one of the plants: a flowering plant from a 32,000-year-old fruit!

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Witch's Hat or Priest's Hat?


Alice C. Linsley

Halloween may bring a few witches and wizards to your door and provide an opportunity to explain that the pointy hat originated among Hittite priests and kings. The children won't be that interested, but their parents might be!

The oldest known pointy hats were worn by ancient Hittite rulers and priests (1600-1180 BC). Today pointed black hats are associated with witches and wizards, but that is due mainly to popular movies. 

Below is a 3400-year gold pendant with a pointed hat found at Hattusa, the capital of the Hittite empire in ancient Anatolia (in modern Turkey).

This stone relief from Hattusa shows the Hittite King Suppiluliuma II who reigned from 1207-1178 BC). He wears a pointed crown.

This is a Hittite ruler-priest. The artifact dates to about 1600 BC. Note the ram horns on the hat, a symbol of divine appointment.

This stone relief was found at Yazilikaya, a Hittite shrine in modern Turkey in Chamber B. It shows King Tudhaliya IV wearing a pointed crown. It dates to between 1250 and 1220 BC.

This is a reproduction of reliefs that appear at Yazilikaya. The queen wears the solar crown (similar to that worn by Hathor, shown below).

Here again the king is seen wearing a pointed hat with horns. The ram's horns were sacred to the Hittites (People of Heth). Today the ram's horn, called shofar, is still blown as a horn at special ceremonies in Israel. God provided a ram for Abraham to sacrifice in place of his son. Abraham learned an important lesson there on Mount Moriah.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Asian Hornets Kill Honeybees

The Pacific Northwest of the United States has seen an increase in the number of “murder hornets” or Asian giant hornets (Vespa mandarinia). This hornet is a threat to honeybees and is potentially dangerous to humans.

A party of several dozen Asian giant hornets can kill a whole bee hive and can kill thousands of bees in just a few hours.

This species feed their young the bodies of bees. They can sting over and over, in contrast to honeybees that die after its single-use stinger rips out of its body.

Another difference: Honeybees collect plant pollen as protein whereas the giant hornets slaughter the adult bees, then carry back the brood as food for their larvae.

Watch for the Latin terms vespa (hornet) and apis (bee). These terms distinguish between hornets and bees.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Andrea Ghez Nobel Prize Winner


UCLA astrophysics professor Andrea Ghez is honored for her pioneering research on the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole.

Ghez shares half of the prize with Reinhard Genzel of UC Berkeley and the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics. The Nobel committee praised them for “the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the centre of our galaxy.” The other half of the prize was awarded to Roger Penrose of the University of Oxford “for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity.”

In July 2019, the journal Science published a study by Ghez and her research group that is the most comprehensive test of Albert Einstein’s iconic general theory of relativity near the monstrous black hole at the center of our galaxy. Although she concluded that “Einstein’s right, at least for now,” the research group is continuing to test Einstein’s theory, which she says cannot fully explain gravity inside a black hole.

Ghez studies more than 3,000 stars that orbit the supermassive black hole. Black holes have such high density that nothing can escape their gravitational pull, not even light. The center of the vast majority of galaxies appears to have a supermassive black hole, she said.

“I’m thrilled and incredibly honored to receive a Nobel Prize in physics,” said Ghez, who is director of the UCLA Galactic Center Group. “The research the Nobel committee is honoring today is the product of a wonderful collaboration among the scientists in the UCLA Galactic Center Orbits Initiative and the University of California’s wise investment in the W.M. Keck Observatory.

“We have cutting-edge tools and a world-class research team, and that combination makes discovery tremendous fun. Our understanding of how the universe works is still so incomplete. The Nobel Prize is fabulous, but we still have a lot to learn.”

Monday, October 5, 2020

Spinach Power!


"Eat your spinach," is a common refrain from many people's childhoods. Spinach, the hearty, green vegetable chock full of nutrients, doesn't just provide energy in humans. It also has potential to help power fuel cells, according to a new paper by researchers in AU's Department of Chemistry. Spinach, when converted from its leafy, edible form into carbon nanosheets, acts as a catalyst for an oxygen reduction reaction in fuel cells and metal-air batteries.

An oxygen reduction reaction is one of two reactions in fuel cells and metal-air batteries and is usually the slower one that limits the energy output of these devices. Researchers have long known that certain carbon materials can catalyze the reaction. But those carbon-based catalysts don't always perform as good or better than the traditional platinum-based catalysts. The AU researchers wanted to find an inexpensive and less toxic preparation method for an efficient catalyst by using readily available natural resources. They tackled this challenge by using spinach.

Read it all here.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Failure to Preserve Science Journals


Today online research can supplement field and lab research in multiple sciences, but a study suggests that some potentially important findings are no longer available because they have not been preserved.

The work of archiving and preserving science journals is time consuming and there is no uniformly applied process to preserve free downloadable journal articles. If the publisher ceases to exist, the journals may vanish. 

Eighty-four online-only, open-access (OA) journals in the sciences, and nearly 100 more in the social sciences and humanities, have disappeared from the internet over the past 20 years as publishers stopped maintaining them. The average duration of online access appears to have been about 10 years.

“The analysis demonstrates that research integrity and the scholarly record preservation … are at risk across all academic disciplines and geographical regions," says Andrea Marchitelli, managing editor of, the Italian Journal of Library, Archives, and Information Science.

The authors of the study are Mikael Laakso (Hanken School of Economics), Lisa Matthias (Free University of Berlin), and Najko Jahn (University of Göttingen). To determine the list of the 176 vanished journals, they did some digital detective work because clues about them are fragmentary. After the journals go dark their names no longer appear in bibliometric databases.

The authors defined a vanished journal as one that published at least one complete volume as immediate OA, and less than 50% of its content is now available for free online. Some of the content may be accessible as printed copies or in paywalled commercial services.

They used a historical archive of internet content, the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, to determine when production ceased and when content disappeared from the internet (within 5 years for three-quarters of the journals). The journals had been based in 50 different countries. Most of the now dark journals published articles only in English.

The study found that only about one-third of the 14,068 journals indexed in the Directory of Open Access Journals in 2019 ensure the long-term preservation of their content. Some commercial services offer it, and the Public Knowledge Project Preservation Network, does so for free.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

The Moon is Rusting


Map of hematite on the moon—redder color means more hematite. 
(Photo credit: Shuai Li)

Planetary scientists are amazed to find the oxidized iron mineral hematite at high latitudes on the Moon. That’s according to a study published in Science Advances led by Shuai Li, an assistant researcher at the Hawaiʻi Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) in the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST).

When iron reacts with oxygen it forms reddish rust. However, the Moon's surface is virtually devoid of oxygen, which accounts for he pristine metallic iron that is prevalent on the Moon. Also highly oxidized iron has not been confirmed in samples acquired from the Apollo missions. 

In addition, solar wind blasts the lunar surface with hydrogen, which acts in opposition to oxidation. Thus, the presence of highly oxidized iron-bearing minerals, such as hematite, on the Moon was an unexpected discovery.

“Our hypothesis is that lunar hematite is formed through oxidation of lunar surface iron by the oxygen from the Earth’s upper atmosphere that has been continuously blown to the lunar surface by solar wind when the Moon is in Earth’s magnetotail during the past several billion years,” said Shuai Li.

This new research was inspired by Li’s previous discovery of water ice in the Moon’s polar regions in 2018.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Corn Moon Rising


On Wednesday, September 2 the full moon, called the Corn Moon - will reach peak fullness at 1:22 a.m. EDT (5:22 UTC). The Moon will appear full for about three days, from Monday evening through Thursday morning. The Corn Moon occurs every 3 years.

In Europe, the Corn Moon is called the Fruit Moon, as fruits ripen around this time, and the Barley Moon, from the barley harvest.

Coming so early in the month, this sets the stage for two full moons in October. The second full moon - called the Harvest Moon - will shine on Oct. 31.

The Algonquin tribes called this the Corn Moon, as this was the time for gathering their main staple crops of corn, pumpkins, squash, beans, and wild rice.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Kilauea's Bubbling Lake


According to the U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory the newly-formed lake inside Kilauea volcano is almost 130 feet deep, 880 feet long and 430 feet wide. The temperature of the water at the surface is now between 160 and 180 F, with temperatures beneath potentially higher. This makes the lake one of the world's hottest bodies of water. Scientists are using thermal cameras to monitor temperatures.

The water in the volcano's belly began to form a lake after the volcano erupted in 2018. In July 2019, helicopter pilots began to notice water pooling in the lowest part of the crater. Since then, water levels have risen steadily. Today, the lake has an area larger than five combined football fields. The water color is rust brown due to chemical reactions.

In May 2018, lava poured from fissures to the east, the lake swiftly drained and part of the caldera floor collapsed. This lowered the base of the volcano to the level of the water table. Don Swanson, at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory explains, “We know that the crater floor dropped a little more than 70 meters below the water table in 2018. Any time that you punch a hole below the level of the water table, water is eventually going to come in and fill that hole.”

Kilauea has an explosive history. Now scientists are concerned about the possible effects of the water coming into contact with the magma. The magma could rise up the conduit and intersect with the lake, causing a steam explosion. Or the crater floor could collapse and the water drop to a zone where it would become steam. Either scenario is likely to produce a steam explosion.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

A Late Neolithic Structure at Durrington Walls


How Durrington Walls might have looked with this structure at the exact center. 

Durrington Walls in the parish of Durrington, England is the site of a large Neolithic settlement and later henge enclosure located in the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. It lies 2 miles north-east of Stonehenge. Researchers have been studying ancient shafts there.

There are at least 20 shafts or pits that formed a circuit exceeding 1 mile (over 2 kilometers) in circumference. There is evidence that an inner post may have existed within the circuit of pits. 

The circle of pits is much larger than any comparable prehistoric monument in the UK. The team of archaeologists estimates there may have been more than 30 post holes originally.

The researchers believe that one of the pits (5A) was recut during the Middle Bronze Age, suggesting that the site continued to be important long after the major period of development and modification of the henge at Durrington Walls.

Testing of the shafts indicates that they were dug more than 4500 years ago, around the time Durrington Walls and Stonehenge were built. The Late Neolithic was a period when ritual structures of an enormous scale were built in various parts of he world.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

The Brain's Drainpipes

The human body is an extraordinary thing! It has intrigued scientists and fascinated painters and sculptors for thousand of years. As early as 3100 BC the ancient Nilotic priests were studying human anatomy in their efforts to heal the sick and injured. The Edwin Smith Papyrus is an example.

Today scientists have been talking about parts of the human anatomy that have become more evident through the use of advanced microscopy and imaging techniques.

The discoveries include the 2017 MRI evidence for lymphatic vessels in the human meninge, the membrane that covers the brain. These vessels drain fluids and removes waste from brain tissues.

Early reports of lymphatic vessels in the meninges appeared in the 18th century but were met with skepticism. However, lymphatic vessels in mouse meninges were reported in 2015.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Amazing Human Eye!

The human eye is an extraordinary member of the body. The human retina contains 125 million rods and about 6 million cones. This is 70 percent of all the human sensory receptors for touch, taste smell, hearing and sight all put together. That’s how important vision is to our survival. But how does the eye actually see?

Light bouncing off an object goes into the eye, through the cornea and the oval-white lens, which focuses that light on the retina. That’s a thin layer of tissue covering the eye’s back wall (inside the sclera). The retina hosts the eyes’ rods and cones. At the center back is the fovea. Most color-sensing cone cells are here. These cells relay signals that move through the optic nerve to the brain.

Read it all here.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Nile Crocodile and American Crocodile Linked

The 7 million year skull of Crocodylus checchiai from As Sahabi, Libya 
was found in the 1930s.

This C. checchiai specimen predates the earliest known crocodile in the Americas by about 2 million years. Genetic research indicates that the animal also was a close relative of the Nile crocodile. 

According to Massimo Delfino, the extinct Crocodylus checchiai “fills a gap between the Nile crocodile in Africa and the four extant American species.” 

It is interesting that the oldest known American fossils of Crocodylus are older than the oldest known fossils of the Nilotic crocodile (C. niloticus). This fossil is older than both. Apparently, these ancient beasts were swimming between continents.

“It’s not so surprising,” Delfino says, "given today’s crocodilians’ ability to survive saltwater and travel hundreds of kilometers when helped by ocean currents."

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Saving the Largest Online Linguistics Database

In 2015, spare funds started to dry up at the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), a Bible translation group that revolutionized the documentation of endangered languages in the mid–20th century. SIL’s budget had long supported a massive online database considered by many to be the definitive source for information on the world’s languages.

The SIL Ethnologue has served anthropological and linguistic research for decades, but it has become to expense for many researchers.

Simon Greenhill, a linguist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, said, “In the last few years, [Ethnologue has] gotten increasingly expensive and locked down."

Since 2013, SIL Chief Innovation Development Officer Stephen Moitozo has been trying to grow Ethnologue and make it self-sustaining. After the first paywall went up, interactive maps and customer service chatbots were added. Ongoing costs include website maintenance, security, and paying researchers to update the databases whenever new information comes in from independent researchers or SIL’s 5000 field linguists.

To pay for its valuable data, SIL is counting on institutions and corporations, as well as individual subscribers. SIL is planning to sell tailored access to corporations, including business intelligence firms, and Fortune 500 companies.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Gene Edited for Sickle Cell Disease

Victoria Gray is the first person with a genetic disorder to be treated in the United States with the revolutionary gene-editing technique called CRISPR.

As the one-year anniversary of her landmark treatment approaches, Gray has received good news: She is functionally cured. The billions of genetically modified cells infused into her body are alleviating virtually all the complications of her sickle cell disease.

Gray hasn’t had any severe pain attacks since the treatment one year ago. Nor has she had to receive any emergency room treatments, hospitalizations, or blood transfusions.

In each of the previous two years, Gray required an average of seven hospitalizations and emergency room visits due to severe pain episodes as well as requiring regular blood transfusions. She has been able to significantly reduce her need for narcotics to relieve her pain.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Mapping the Earth's Interior

Using a new technique originally designed to explore the cosmos, scientists have unveiled structures deep inside the Earth, paving the way for a new map revealing what Earth's interior looks like.

Brice Ménard, an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University, reports, "We were finally able to identify the seismic echoes and use them to create a map."

Doyeon Kim, a seismologist at the University of Maryland and co-author on the paper, explains: "Imagine you're outside in the dark. If you clap your hands and then hear an echo, you know that a wall or vertical structure is in front of you. This is how bats echolocate their surroundings."

Using this principle, the team used the Sequencer algorithm to parse through thousands of seismograms for echoes to create a new map showing details of the Earth's mantle, just above the liquid iron core.

Read more here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

CWiS Live in June

Loryn Phillips
CWiS Coordinator
The American Scientific Affiliation
218 Boston Street, Suite 208
Topsfield, MA 01983
O: 978.887.8833 

The June CWiS LIVE online meetings are coming up! Please join us and invite a friend. Here are links for the online meetings. These are also on our website.

Join the women of CWiS for a time of fellowship and discussion about being a "good and faithful servant" in the current socio-political environment. Some questions to consider for discussion include:

+ Are the words we use and the actions we take reflecting our own selfish desires or God's plan and heart?

+ Do you believe defending yourself is important?

+ What does science say about group thinking and systemic thinking?

+ What guidance does the bible provide?

Sunday, June 14 at 5:00 pm EDT
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 861 3543 3330
Password: 138240

Tuesday, June 23 at 7:30 pm EDT
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 865 0565 6903
Password: 779945

We invite you to join us at one or both of the June meetings.



Friday, June 5, 2020

Moving Toward Artificial Photosynthetic Energy

Credit: Jan Kern and Isabel Bogacz/Berkeley Lab

Using a unique combination of nanoscale imaging and chemical analysis, an international team of researchers has revealed a key step in the molecular mechanism behind the water splitting reaction of photosynthesis, a finding that could help inform the design of renewable energy technology.

Vittal K. Yachandra, senior scientist at the Department of Energy's Berkeley Laboratory believes this is a step toward building artificial photosynthetic systems that can produce clean, renewable energy from sunlight.

Researchers from around the world have contributed to this potentially ground-breaking technology. The chemical process of Photosynthesis is now being captured in a “molecular movie” that shows the S2 to S3 transition step, where the first water (as shown in Ox) comes into the catalytic center after the photochemical reaction at the reaction center. 

Related Reading:  Showtime for Photosynthesis

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Don't Give Up on Science!

In an article entitled "Stop Believing in Science" journalist Daniel Greenfield states, "Science is not a religion. It doesn’t offer virtue or certainty."

The sciences are not the problem. They seek confirmed data and often that takes many years to establish. The trouble comes when the authority of "science" is claimed by ideologues and politicians.

This journalist's facts are wrong from the first paragraph. The forebears of the sciences were rulers and their royal priests, not alchemists and astrologers. Among the royal priests were pioneers of physics, geometry, medicine, and animal husbandry. By 4245 BC, the priests of the Upper Nile had established a calendar based on the appearance of Sirius. Apparently, they had been tracking this star and connecting it to seasonal impacts on agriculture for thousands of years. The priest Manetho reported in his history (c. 241 BC) that Nilotic Africans had been “star-gazing” as early as 40,000 years ago.

Greenfield writes, "Politicized science does not seek to learn, but to affirm the cultural convictions of its class. It is not searching for the truth, because it already knows it. Its only purpose is to uphold the ruling class."

Clearly, Daniel Greenfield is not describing science, an empirical approach based on observations that can present reliable data. He is describing scientism. His vitriol equals that of those who arrogantly claim science as their highest authority. The sciences have brought advances to the benefit of humans throughout history. Don't give up on science.

Related reading: Ancient Wisdom, Science and TechnologyThe Arrogance of Scientism; Pursuing Truth as Persons of Faith; Science and Miracles; The Bible and Science; The Relation of Faith and Science; Reading the Bible as a ChristianScience and Religion in a Time of Plague

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

COVID-19 Confinements Clear the Air

Satellite images have shown a dramatic decline in pollution levels over China, which is "at least partly" due to an economic slowdown prompted by the Coronavirus, according to Nasa.

Daily global carbon dioxide emissions dropped 17 percent, from about 100 million metric tons to about 83 million metric tons, in early April compared with average daily emissions in 2019, researchers report May 19 in Nature Climate Change.

During the most stringent confinement periods, when only essential workers were permitted to commute, daily aviation activity shrank by 75 percent, the team reports. Surface transportation was reduced by about 50 percent, while power use shrank by about 15 percent.

Read more here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

CWIS Live Tonight

Hello ladies,

Our next CWiS LIVE events are on Tuesday May 12 at 7:30 pm EDT and Sunday May 17 at 5:00 pm EDT.

We hope to see you at one of these online webinars. As our country comes to grips with a new normal and slowly reopens, the professional environment is going to change.

We invite you to join us for the topic of “How to Navigate Your Career When Your Life is on Hold.” Janel Curry and Dorothy Chappell will lead a discussion with participants on principles and strategies that are informed by Christian paradigms for personal empowerment – common grace in Christ’s space: called by Christ to make a difference in family, work, and play. We will have time for discussion and an opportunity for you to ask questions.

For links to join the webinars, please click here.

May God guide you and hold you close. We hope that you find comfort and peace in Christ through this time. Please feel free to reach out by email to: with any prayers, questions or concerns.

We hope you can join us and as always, feel free to invite a friend!

Sincerely in Christ,


----Loryn Phillips
CWiS Coordinator
The American Scientific Affiliation
218 Boston Street, Suite 208
Topsfield, MA 01983 |
O: 978.887.8833

Thursday, May 7, 2020

The Earliest Symbols for Zero

The Bakhshali manuscript is an ancient Indian mathematical manuscript written on more than 70 leaves of birch bark. It was found in 1881. It is notable for having a dot representing zero. This symbol then grew into something that today captures the concept of nothing.

A team of researchers at the University of Oxford and the Bodleian Libraries carbon dated the manuscript and found that it dates from between 200 and 400 AD. This use of a symbol of zero is older than the zero symbol found on the ninth century Gwailor temple manuscript found in India.


By 1740 BC, the Egyptians used the Nefer symbol (shown above) for zero. It resembles an inverted ankh. When this glyph appears with two horizontal lines at the top and a flag to its left it represents "The Good God."

The symbol is related to the hieroglyph for beauty (neferu).The symbol appears in the name of the famous queen Neferitti and in the title Nefer-neferu-aten (cartouche shown below). It usually appears in a set of three or four and with an empty oval.

Birth name of Neferneferuaten: Nefer neferu Aten, akhet en hyes

The ancient Egyptians used the nefer symbol to indicate the base level in drawings of tombs and pyramids, and distances were measured relative to the base line. In building construction, horizontal leveling lines were used to guide the construction of pyramids and other large monuments. One of these leveling lines was labeled "nfr," or "zero." Other horizontal leveling lines were spaced 1 cubit apart and labeled as "1 cubit above nfr," "2 cubits above nfr," or 1 cubit, 2 cubits, etc. below nefer.  Thus, zero was used as a reference for a system of numbers and measurements in ancient architecture.

Related reading: The Origin of the Zero

Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Ring of Fire

"The Ring of Fire" is an apt name for the belt around the Pacific Ocean’s edge where movement of the Earth's plates causes frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The zone is also called the "Circum-Pacific Belt."

The majority of Earth’s volcanoes and earthquakes take place along the Ring of Fire. The region is prone to the destructive force of tsunamis.

The Ring of Fire stretches about 24,900 miles (40,000 kilometers) and approximately 90% of earthquakes occur in this zone.

In most places the seismic activity is due to subduction. As rock is subducted, it melts and becomes magma. So much magma near Earth’s surface creates the perfect conditions for volcanic activity. 

An exception is the border between the Pacific and North American Plates. In this stretch of the Ring of Fire the plates move sideways past one another. This "transform boundary" generates a large number of earthquakes as tension in Earth’s crust builds up and is released.

Related reading: Volcanic Eruptions and Climate; Plate Tectonics

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Francis Collins on the Coronavirus

The Atlantic interviewed Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health. This interview is informative. Please read to the end.

NIH Director: ‘We’re on an Exponential Curve’
Francis Collins speaks about the Coronavirus, his faith, and an unusual friendship.

If you are seeking a prayer during this time, you might use this (adapted from the Book of Common Prayer).

O Lord, save thy servants;
Who put their trust in thee.
Send them help from thy holy place;
And mightily defend them.
Let the plague pass by them and have no advantage of them;
Nor the wicked approach to hurt them.
Be unto us, O Lord, a strong tower;
Shelter us in thy wings.
O Lord, hear our prayer.
And let our cry come unto thee.

O Lord, Almighty God, look down from heaven and behold, visit, and relieve thy sick servants. Look upon them with mercy, give them comfort and sure confidence in thee, defend them from all dangers, and keep them in perpetual peace and safety; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Earliest Female Saint in England?

Human remains kept in a Kent church are those of England's earliest known female saint, St Eanswythe. She was a member of the Kent royal family and is believed to have founded monastic communities in England in AD 660. These are the earliest verified remains of an English saint, and of a relative of the British monarch.

She is the patron saint of St Mary and St Eanswythe’s Church in Folkestone, Kent, situated near cliffs overlooking the English Channel.

Eanswythe was a devout Christian who refused to marry the pagan king of northeast England. Instead, she became a nun. This was a common practice among royal maidens who were denied marriage or refused to marry.

One of the earliest known male English saints is St. Alban who died in 305 AD. He was beheaded when he refused to renounce his Christian faith. Alban is honored as Britain’s first saint, and his hillside grave became a place of pilgrimage. St Albans Cathedral stands near the site of his execution.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Dark Algae Increases Ice Melt

The healthy ecosystem of algae is turning parts of the Greenland ice sheet pink.

The dark pigments in algae increases sunlight absorption, leading to an increase in the rate of  ice melting. Algae blooms appear on glaciers and ice sheets once the snow begins to melt.

New research led by scientists from the University of Bristol has revealed how the microscopic algae that thrives along the edge of the Greenland Ice Sheet causes widespread darkening.

Darkened pigmentation in the algae protects cells from excessive sunlight, but also harnesses the energy for melt generation proximal to the cell, providing access to liquid water and dissolved nutrients critical for life.

Unfortunately, this heavy production of darker pigment also contributes to the Greenland Ice Sheet melting during summer when glacier algae reach bloom abundances.

A study found that algal blooms can contribute as much as 13 percent more ice melt over a season.

Related reading: Pink Polar Ice

Monday, February 24, 2020

Fossilized Wing Found in Labrador Mine

Maculaferrum blaisi wing. Credit: Alexandre V. Demers-Potvin

A fossilized insect wing discovered in an abandoned mine in Labrador has led paleontologists to identify a new hairy cicada species that lived around 100 million years ago.

Maculaferrum blaisi, described in a study published in Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, is the first hemipteran insect (true bug) to be discovered at the Redmond Formation, a fossil site from the Cretaceous period near Schefferville, Labrador.

The genus name (Maculaferrum) is derived from the Latin words macula—spot—because of the spotted pattern found on parts of the wing and ferrum—iron—due to the high iron content of the red rocks found at the Redmond site. The species name—blaisi—is in honour of Roger A. Blais, who conducted the first survey of the Redmond Formation and of its fossils in 1957 while working for the Iron Ore Company of Canada.

"This gives us a better understanding of the site's insect biodiversity during the Cretaceous, a time before the dinosaurs were wiped out," Demers-Potvin added. "The finding also illustrates that rare species can be found at the Redmond mine and that it deserves the attention from the palaeontological community."

"The find is exciting because it represents the oldest, diverse insect locality in Canada. It's also from an exciting time during an evolutionary explosion of flowering plants and pollinating insects, that evolved into the terrestrial ecosystems of today," said Larsson.

Read more here.

Related reading: Giant Bugs Ruled the Skies

Monday, February 10, 2020

Yarn Grown From Human Skin Cells

You have heard of smart textiles. Now we can talk about human textiles woven of yarn grown from human skin cells. These implantable “human textiles” can be used for tissue grafts and/or organ repair.

Synthetic materials used for stitches and scaffolds for growing tissue grafts can trigger an immune response, causing inflammation, but the use of human textiles promises to reduce that risk.

“We can sew pouches, create tubes, valves and perforated membranes,” says Nicholas L’Heureux, who led the work at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Bordeaux. “With the yarn, any textile approach is feasible: knitting, braiding, weaving, even crocheting.”

Read more here and here.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Chemistry Crayons

There’s more than one way to memorize the elements on the Periodic table. You can turn them into a rousing game of Battleship or brighten up the pages of your favorite coloring book with Calcium, Potassium, and Titanium. Etsy shop Que Interesante adds some educational fun to art supplies by selling labels that match a chemical element with a wax crayon, turning your coloring tools into a labeled periodic table.

The pairing of chemical and color is done in a thoughtful and clever way–Que Interesante uses the “flame test” to determine group elements by hue. This scientific procedure detects the presence of certain elements based on the color of flame produced. When put under this test, Lithium, has a red flame, so it’s coupled with a crayon of the same color. Likewise, Barium emits a green blaze and is matched accordingly. The goal is to help expose children to names of the elements so that they passively learn about them as they color.

Read all about it here.

Monday, January 27, 2020

The Antiquity of Bethlehem

Alice C. Linsley

Archaeologists have made discoveries in the area of Bethlehem that indicate that humans have lived there for at least 100,000 years. Evidence of human habitation in the area of Bethlehem is well-attested along the north side of Wadi Khareitun where there are three rock shelters: Iraq al-Ahmar, Umm Qal’a, and Umm Qatafa. These caves were homes in a wooded landscape overlooking a river. At Umm Qatafa archaeologists have found the earliest evidence of the domestic use of fire in Palestine.

An unscathed 4,000-year-old tomb was accidently discovered in the city of Bethlehem during renovation being carried out on a local house. Construction workers were led to the tomb, which dates between 1,900 B.C. and 2,200 B.C., through a hole found near the Church of the Nativity.

The tomb and its contents were located about a meter below the surface. Burial items such as pottery, plates, and beads were retrieved from the tomb, along with the remains of two individuals.

Bethlehem and the Horite Hebrew  

The book of Ruth identifies the royal House of David with the Horite Hebrew settlement of Bethlehem. The name has two meanings. The Hebrew Beth Lehem means “House of Bread” and the Arabic Bēt Lahm means “House of Meat.” Both are accurate descriptions of the ancient Hebrew settlement of Bethlehem. The priests of Bethlehem offered grain offerings daily, and less often, they sacrificed lambs. The meat was distributed to the needy. The place of Jesus’ birth speaks of his identity as the "Lamb of God" and the "Bread of Life."

Bethlehem was a Horite Hebrew (Abru/Habiru) settlement according to I Chronicles 2:54 and I Chronicles 4:4. The Horite Hebrew were a caste of priests who believed in and served God Father and God Son. They are the oldest known caste of priests with a history that extends back long before the emergence of Judaism. The oldest known site of Horite Hebrew worship is at Nekhen on the Nile and dates to 3800 BC.

The Horite Hebrew priests served rulers at royal temples and shrines, circumcised, performed purification rituals, and were responsible for oversight of royal burials. They made grain and oil offerings to God and sometimes sacrificed calves and lambs. By David’s time they had dispersed throughout the ancient world. They carried their religious beliefs and practices wherever they went.

Horite Hebrew priests were found among the Arameans of Mesopotamia, the Edomites of the hill country south of Judah, among the Moabites (Ruth’s people), among the Nilotic peoples, the Afro-Arabian clans known as Dedanites and Midianites, and among the people of Judah.

They married within their clans (endogamy) and the priestly office was hereditary. This explains why 2 Samuel 8:18 states that David’s sons were priests.

I Chronicles 4:4 gives the name Hur (HR) as the founding patriarch of Bethlehem. Hur is a Horus name. Rahab of Jericho was the wife of Salmon, the son of Hur. Salmon (or Salma) is a Horite Hebrew name associated with Bethlehem in 1 Chronicles 2. In 1 Chronicles 2:54, Salmon is called the "father” of Bethlehem. Rahab was the grandmother of Boaz who married Ruth. Ruth was the great grandmother of King David of Bethlehem.

After David became king, he brought the Ark "from the house of Abinadab, that was in Gibeah” (Saul’s hometown) to Jerusalem (II Sam. 6:1-12). However, for three months the ark rested in David’s hometown of Bethlehem in the house of Obed-Edom. This indicates a direct connection between the priest of Bethlehem and the Horite Hebrew ruler-priests of Edom listed in Genesis 36.

The Obed-Edom connection also testifies to the great antiquity of David’s royal lineage. Genesis 36:31 lists the descendants of Seir the Horite Hebrew, and notes: “These were the kings who reigned in Edom before any Israelite king reigned.”

The book of Micah also refers to the long-held expectation of Messiah’s coming from Bethlehem. "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." (Micah 5:2)

This verse designates Bethlehem of Judah as the setting for the story of Ruth. Bethlehem of Judah is an agricultural zone in the West Bank fed by rain and water runoff from the Judean Hills. This identification is important because there is another Bethlehem in Galilee, near Nazareth. Both were agricultural areas with Hebrew settlements. The Israeli archaeologist, Aviram Oshri, spent nearly eleven years excavating artifacts in Bethlehem of the Galilee. He has suggested that Jesus was born in that Bethlehem, not in Bethlehem of Judea.

Israel has many micro-climates and the Book of Ruth says that Elimelech and Naomi left Bethlehem because of a famine. The main cause of famines was drought. The Bethlehem of Judah is much more prone to drought than the Bethlehem of Galilee because of its hilly terrain and climate. The crops in Judah’s hill country were planted in the valleys and were entirely dependent on rainfall and runoff from the hills.

This 2700-year royal seal (bulla) was found during archaeological excavations in Jerusalem. The coin-size seal bears the name “Bethlehem” in ancient Hebrew. The seal indicates that a shipment was sent from Bethlehem to Jerusalem in the seventh year of a king's reign. The king was either Hezekiah or Josiah.

Three lines of ancient Hebrew script appear on the bulla:

בשבעת Bishivʽat
בת לים Bat Lechem
למלך [Lemel]ekh

The bulla makes it clear that a town called Bethlehem was inhabited by Hebrews in the time of the Temple built by Solomon. Eli Shukron, of the Israel Antiquities Authority explained, "This is the first time the name Bethlehem appears outside the Bible, in an inscription from the First Temple period (1006-586 B.C.), which proves that Bethlehem was indeed a city in the Kingdom of Judah, and possibly also in earlier periods."

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Giant Bugs Ruled the Skies

Fossil of a Meganeuridae

The largest known insect resembled a dragonfly and fed off of other insects. The name "Meganeura" means large-nerved, which refers to the network of veins on the insect's wings.

Meganeura fossils were first discovered in France in 1880. The fossil was described and assigned its name by the French Paleontologist, Charles Brongniart in 1885. In 1979, another fine specimen was discovered at Bolsover in Derbyshire, England.

There were two species of this now extinct flying insect. The largest was Meganeuropsis permiana from the Early Permian, as indicated by the name.

The ‘griffinflies’ or Meganisopterans lived from the Late Carboniferous to the Late Permian, roughly 317 to 247 million years ago.

Read more here.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Trilobite Migration or Conga Line?

Ampyx priscus in linear formation (Moroccan Lower Ordovician Fezouata Shale). Credit: Jean Vannier, Laboratoire de Geologie de Lyon: Terre, Planètes, Environnement (CNRS / ENS de Lyon / Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1)

Arthropod fossils dating back 500 million years show the creatures died in an orderly line 'while migrating'

Fossils of ancient arthropods discovered in linear formation may indicate a collective behavior either in response to environmental cues or as part of seasonal reproductive migration. The findings, which are being published in Scientific Reports this week, suggest that group behaviors comparable to those of modern animals existed as early as 480 million years ago.

Read more here.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Two New Species of Cyanobacteria

In the past, microorganisms called "cyanobacteria" were grouped by looking at their shape under a microscope. Now researchers also use DNA to classify them.

Researchers collected 26 samples of water, soil, and bone for analysis, from varied cold-weather locations around the globe (Antarctica, the Arctic, Greenland, Sweden, and Germany), each suspected to contain different types of cyanobacteria in the genus Phormidesmis. Phormidesmis priestleyi is a cyanobacterium found throughout the cold regions.

They grew Phormidesmis from each sample in the laboratory, and then analyzed each using a heavy-duty microscope to characterize their shapes and compare them to known cyanobacterial cells.

DNA is a very long molecule made of four “bases” and the order of those bases is unique for each living thing. The cyanobacteria’s DNA was then extracted and isolated from each sample and the base order for each DNA strand was determined. This is referred to as genome sequencing. The authors sequenced a gene known as the “16S rRNA gene” that is commonly used for classification of bacteria. Those gene sequences were compared to other gene sequences in large public databases of already-identified sequences to see if there was a match.

Based on these DNA results, the researchers were able to provide better classification of cyanobacteria. They also unexpectedly discovered two new species of cyanobacteria based on visual observations and DNA testing. These new organisms were named Phormidesmis arctica and Phormidesmis communis, and the scientists reclassified one species that was previously in the genus Leptolyngbya to Phormidesmis. This species is now Phormidesmis nigrescens.

A new genus was also suggested, Leptodesmis, as the genome is not easily recognizable by its shape and appears to belong to more than one taxonomic group. The importance of properly classifying all life forms gives scientists a better understanding of the interrelationships of these organisms and is the necessary basis for other studies. Humankind must understand the smallest living organisms in order to fully understand all living things.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

42,000 Year Blood Found in Frozen Siberian Foal

Researchers who found the frozen body of a 42,000-year-old foal in the Siberian permafrost have retrieved liquid blood from the animal.

In August 2018, the perfectly preserved remains of the young male foal were discovered in the Batagaika crater in Yakutia, northern Russia.

The fossilized specimen is believed to be a foal of the extinct Lenskaya horses that roamed Yakutia in the Upper Paleolithic (Late Stone Age). It was only one or two weeks old when it died, and even its hair was preserved.

Researchers at the Mammoth Museum, part of the North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk, discovered much of its insides were also kept in incredible condition due to favorable burial conditions.

Dr Semyon Grigoryev, head of the Mammoth Museum, told The Siberian Times,"The autopsy shows beautifully preserved internal organs. Samples of liquid blood were taken from heart vessels… The muscle tissues preserved their natural reddish color."

Read more here and here.