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Found 24 results

  1. Each year, we become aware of more of the species that share our planet. Read any estimate of the number of species present on Earth, and you'll notice two things: the numbers vary wildly, and they're always well above the number of species we actually know about. It's tempting to think we've exhausted the exploration of the Earth, that there's nothing new to see. But one area that we've barely scratched the surface of is the biological diversity that we're a part of. There are several reasons for this. One is that some habitats, like the deep ocean, are both vast and hard to get to. Others, like caves and islands, isolate populations and generate species at a phenomenal rate. Finally, there's just a tendency to view, say, all ants as being roughly the same. That can allow species to hide in plain sight, with nobody taking the time to look for the details that distinguish them from their close relatives. DNA sequencing is also telling us that some populations that we see as identical haven't actually interbred in a very long time and may be separate species. As researchers gradually look more closely, the result is a steady stream of new discoveries. We thought we'd share some with you. We set a few simple guidelines for inclusion. The first is that the species had to be discovered this year. The second is that it has to be still living—paleontologists find new species almost as often as biologists do. The final thing is that we had to be able to come up with a decent photo of it. A member of the genus commonly known as "big headed ants," Pheidole cervicornis is adorned with impressive spines. It lives in New Guinea. Part of a group called "polyester bees" for the plastic-like lining of their nests, this new species was named Chilicola charizard. This species hails from Chile. Caecieleotris morris is one of the few new species that already has a common name: the Oaxaca Cave Sleeper. Like most fish that live in total darkness, the sleeper no longer develops eyes or pigment. It's Godzilla! Or at least the godzilla goby. Varicus lacerate doesn't call Japan its home, though; it lives in the Caribbean. This may look like the stuff of nightmares, but Charinus brescoviti is a member of the whip spiders, a group of arachnids that make neither silk nor venom. It's found in Brazil. The flowers of the Australian bloodbone tomato, Solanum ossicruentum. School kids named it after seeing the cut fruit quickly turn a dark crimson color. This may look a bit like a plant, but it's actually a member of the Cnidarians, a group that includes jellyfish. Rather than building this entire structure, Epizoanthus inazuma forms colonies on the exterior of tube worms. More new species here.
  2. William Gadoury, a 15-year-old school student from Quebec, Canada, has found something that’s been hidden from archaeologists for centuries - a lost city of the Maya civilisation, buried deep in the Yucatan jungle of southeastern Mexico. He didn’t do it by hiring a bunch of expensive equipment, hopping on a plane, and slaving away on an excavation site - he discovered the incredible ruins from the comfort of his own home, by figuring out that the ancient cities were built in alignment with the stars above. "I did not understand why the Maya built their cities away from rivers, on marginal lands and in the mountains," Gadoury told French-Canadian magazine, Journal de Montréal. "They had to have another reason, and as they worshiped the stars, the idea came to me to verify my hypothesis. I was really surprised and excited when I realised that the most brilliant stars of the constellations matched the largest Maya cities." Gadoury had been studying 22 Maya constellations for years before releasing that he could line up the positions of 117 Maya cities on the ground with maps of stars and constellations above - something that no one had pieced together before. With this in mind, he located a 23rd constellation, which included just three stars. According to his sky map, he could only link up two cities with the three stars, so suspected that a third city remained undetected in that spot. Unfortunately, the location on the ground that matched up with the third star wasn’t exactly somewhere that Gadoury could just go visit - it’s right in the heart of the jungle, in the inaccessible and remote region of Mexico’s southern Yucatán Peninsula. Not that that stopped Gadoury - he knew that a fire had stripped much of the forest in the area back in 2005, which meant that from above, you might have an easier time spotting ancient ruins than if the canopy had been thriving for the past couple of thousand years. All he needed to do was access satellite imagery of the area from the Canadian Space Agency, which he mapped onto Google Earth images to see if there were any signs of his lost city. Further analyses from satellites belonging to NASA and the Japanese Space Agency revealed what looks like a pyramid and 30 buildings at the location mapped by the star, Yucatan Expat Life reports. "Not only has he discovered a new Maya city, but it is one of the five largest on record." As Daniel De Lisle from the Canadian Space Agency told Samuel Osborne at The Independent, the satellite images revealed certain linear features on the forest floor that looked anything but natural. "There are enough items to suggest it could be a man-made structure," he said. Gadoury has tentatively named the lost city K’àak’ Chi’, meaning "fire mouth", and will be working with researchers from the Canadian Space Agency to get his discovery published in a peer-reviewed journal. He’ll also be presenting his findings at Brazil's International Science fair in 2017. Now, we don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble here, but while things look incredibly promising from those satellite images, including the shapes of buildings that archaeologists were able to make out, nothing can be confirmed until experts can access the site and see the remains up close. A team of archaeologists is now figuring out how to make that happen, and one of the researchers involved in the project, Armand LaRocque from the University of New Brunswick, told the Journal de Montréal that if they can get the funds to organise an excavation, they’ll be taking Gadoury along for sure. "It would be the culmination of my three years of work and the dream of my life," said Gadoury, and suddenly we feel incredibly inadequate that the best thing we did at 15 was hand in most of our assignments on time. source
  3. Maybe taking that personal USB into work wasn't such a good idea… The potential dangers of USB sticks when it comes to transporting computer viruses are well known, but even workers in highly sensitive environments like nuclear facilities can't always seem to prevent themselves from exposing their PCs to malware. The operators of the Gundremmingen nuclear power plant in Germany announced this week that the station has been infected with numerous computer viruses during a routine inspection on the weekend. Malware was detected on a computer installed with data visualisation software used in conjunction with the plant's fuel assembly loading machine. Viruses were also found on 18 removable drives in use in the facility, such as USB keys and external hard drives. But the company maintains that there is no risk to the public or staff, as the operating software running on the infected system doesn't give it any actual controls over the fuel assembly loader, and the system is cut off from the internet – meaning that any viruses infecting the computer can't report back to base or attempt to download any additional malware. The plant's representatives said all sensitive areas in the facility are isolated from the web to help protect against any kind of malware manipulation, and that IT staff had terminated the viruses after finding them in a check on Sunday. The company says it's stepping up security after the incident. Among the viruses detected were "W32.Ramnit" and "Conficker" - two worms that target Microsoft Windows systems. W32.Ramnit was first discovered on PCs in 2010, and is spread through removable drives, designed to enable remote attackers to access compromised PCs. Conficker is a more versatile threat that can propagate through networks, and is estimated by security software firm Symantec to have infected upwards of 3 million computers. While both these viruses are considered relatively low-risk malware – and the incident at Gundremmingen has itself been graded as the least dangerous level on the International Nuclear Event Scale – it's nonetheless a disturbing occurrence. And it serves as a reminder of how easily even locked-down, critical infrastructure like nuclear power plants – where security is of the upmost importance – can't seem to keep technological threats out entirely. Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer for Finland's F-Secure, told Christoph Steitz and Eric Auchard at Reuters that these kinds of breaches were surprisingly common, where general malware finds its way into systems in specialised environments. But Hypponen says the risk is generally low unless critical infrastructure has been specifically targeted, as the malware that targets popular systems like Windows and Android hasn't been designed to find its way around systems used in nuclear power plants and plane cockpits, for example, so poses little threat. That said, the fact that workers are clearly still unintentionally compromising their own systems with malware on removable drives is something we need to be aware of. Germany's Federal Office for Information Security warned of the likelihood of such an event in a report issued just last year, and until staff in places like nuclear power plants take these warnings more seriously, more breaches like this will occur. We can only hope the next incident is as consequence-free as it was this time around… source
  4. A new titanosaur dig includes one of the best dinosaur skulls ever discovered, allowing researchers to reconstruct everything from the dino’s intellect -- or lack thereof -- to its senses and head posture. Named Sarmientosaurus musacchioi, the new, small-brained dino had good eyesight, hearing tuned to low frequencies, and habitually held its head with its snout facing downward, according to a paper published in the journal PLOS ONE. The head was at the end of a long neck and featured a mouth full of sharp teeth. The researchers believe that the plant-eating dinosaur lived life basically like a giant weed whacker, sweeping its neck over the ground to find plants that it would grab, but not chew. “Sarmientosaurus had powerful teeth … but those teeth did not chew,” lead author Rubén Martínez of the Laboratorio de Paleovertebrados of the Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia San Juan Bosco told Discovery News. “(The teeth) would only cut the leaves and the dinosaur would eat them with almost no chewing.” Co-author Lawrence Witmer of the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine added that the dinosaur “had a large feeding envelope. When you’re as large as these sauropods were, being able to scarf down a lot of food without having to move saves a lot of energy.” Witmer estimates that the dinosaur, which lived roughly 95 million years ago, was about 40–50 feet long and weighed 8–12 tons. He and his colleagues consider it to have been a modest-sized titanosaur, given that others could grow to 90 feet in length and weigh as much as 50 tons. They were the largest animals ever to walk the earth. The new species was excavated in southern Chubut Province, Argentina, near the town of Sarmiento, for which the dino was named. The species name also honors the late paleontologist Eduardo Musacchio, who was a friend of Martínez and other members of the team. Of the 60 plus species of titanosaur that have been discovered so far, only four are represented by nearly or even reasonably complete skulls. They include Nemegtosaurus, Rapetosaurus, Tapuiasaurus, and now, possibly with the best preserved skull of all, Sarmientosaurus. The dino certainly did not have a lot of brain matter to weigh down its head. The researchers estimate that the creature's brain was the size of a lime. Witmer said that “Sarmientosaurus certainly was no Einstein and was governed mostly by instinct. It probably had enough intelligence to have some fairly complicated behaviors, but this was not a clever animal by any means.” source
  5. A stone block found on Egypt's Elephantine Island shows Queen Hatshepsut as a female (highlighted by red lines). Later images of the pharaoh portrayed her as a male king. Ancient stone blocks depicting Queen Hatshepsut have been discovered on Egypt's Elephantine Island, providing insights into the early years of her reign, Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities announced this week. The blocks may have been part of a building that served as a way station for an ancient Egyptian deity. On several of the blocks, Queen Hatshepsut was represented as a woman, according to the Ministry, suggesting that the blocks and building it came from were erected during the early part of the first female pharaoh's reign, which lasted from 1473 B.C. to 1458 B.C. Later in her reign, the queen was depicted as a male. Mentions of Queen Hatshepsut were erased and monuments bearing her image were defaced after her death, and her female figure was replaced with images of a male king: her deceased husband Thutmose II. It is believed that her co-ruler and stepson/nephew Thutmose III ordered the change. It was unusual for a woman to become pharaoh of Egypt. As Egyptologist Ian Shaw noted in his book "Exploring Ancient Egypt" (Oxford University Press, 2003), "In the history of Egypt during the dynastic period (3000 to 332 B.C.) there were only two or three women who managed to rule as pharaohs, rather than wielding power as the 'great wife' of a male king." And she was a builder: In his National Geographic feature on Hatshepsut "The King Herself," Chip Brown wrote about her legacy, and said she was "one of the greatest builders in one of the greatest Egyptian dynasties." During her reign, Hatshepsut erected and renovated many temples and shrines to the gods. In fact, the newfound blocks likely were part of a previously unknown building of Queen Hatshepsut that was discovered this year by the German Archaeological Institute, said Mahmoud Afify, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector, in the Ministry of Antiquities' statement on Facebook. In previous excavation seasons at the same site, members of the Swiss Institute also discovered some blocks that may have come from the same building. The building would have served as a way station for the festival barque of the god Khnum, said Felix Arnold, field director of the Elephantine Island mission. In ancient Egypt, "barques," or sacred boats, were used to help carry the dead to the afterlife. Based on the discoveries thus far, in the same statement, the Ministry of Antiquities described the building's construction as a chamber for the barque of the god Khnum, which is surrounded by pillars on all four sides. "On the pillars are representations of several versions of the god Khnum, as well as other gods, such as Imi-peref 'He-who-is-in-his-house,' Nebet-menit 'Lady-of-the-mooring-post' and Min-Amun of Nubia," according to the Ministry statement on Facebook. "The building thus not only adds to our knowledge of the history of Queen Hatshepsut, but also to our understanding of the religious beliefs current on the Island of Elephantine during her reign." source
  6. Discovering Astronomical History Carnegie Observatories’ Director, John Mulchaey is the first to admit that “we have a ton of history sitting in our basement.” He isn’t exaggerating. Recently, researchers discovered a rare image hiding within this collection— an astronomical plate from 1917 showing the first-ever evidence of a planetary system beyond our own Sun. The alien world (formally called an “exoplanet,” which is simply a planet that orbits a star outside our solar system) can be seen in the image below. This find was unearthed thanks to Jay Farihi, who asked Mulchaey for a plate that contained a spectrum of van Maanen’s star, a white dwarf. The spectrum revealed the presence of heavier elements, which should have long since disappeared into the star’s interior. These white dwarfs with heavy elements in their spectra represent a type of planetary system featuring vast rings of rocky planetary remnants that deposit debris into the atmosphere. These “polluted white dwarfs” surprised astronomers— it was not expected that they would have leftover planetary material around them at that stage of their lives. With more than 250,000 astronomical plates in Carnegie’s collection, who knows what other surprises might be in store. source
  7. 29 years is a long time for a video game Easter egg to remain hidden, but that's exactly what's happened with one of the titles almost every Nintendo NES owner spent time playing at some point: Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! It's been known that there's a point when players can strike to knock out the opponents Piston Honda and Bald Bull with one hit, but the exacting timing has always been a guess. As Reddit user "midwesternhousewives" has discovered, the tell comes from a bearded guy in the crowd. The video below explains the secret in detail, but basically when players are facing Piston Honda or Bald Bull for the second time, there is a moment when the opponents are charging their special attack that they can be KO'd with one punch. That moment is when the bearded man in the front row, about a quarter over from the left, ducks his head. If you don't have time to watch, here's where your tipster is found in the crowd: As other commenters in the Reddit thread pointed out, the bearded spectator doesn't move until the second time players fight Piston Honda or Bald Bull. During the first match ups, it's a camera flash that players are looking for to signal when to throw their punch. This part of the secret was revealed back in 2009 during a Nintendo roundtable interview that included Punch-Out!!'s creators. So after 29 years, there it is, the secrets needed to easily defeat opponents in of the most classic NES games of all time. Makes you wonder what other Easter eggs Nintendo has hidden in their games that have yet to be discovered. SourcE
  8. While we wait to discover what and how the Trump Hotel Collection was breached, a new version of the TinyPOS point-of-sale (PoS) malware has been discovered by Foregenix. This malware functions as a typical memory scraper. It gathers input card data before the system can encrypt it, but is written in "'hand rolled' assembly language and comes in at only 5120 bytes." "The malware contains an old school exclusion list that performs extremely rapid double word comparisons rather than the slower but far more common string comparisons to identify which process to ignore, and internally validates the identified account data through an implementation of the Luhn algorithm," states the alert. The Luhn algorithm uses the last four digits of a card number against the preceding numbers – it simply checks the number is a valid card number. Data collected by the malware is sent directly to C&C servers in Eastern Europe, and communications are encoded using a dword XOR routine, to hide the card data format and evade detection by intrusion detection systems. TinyPOS was discovered in Europe, Foregenix said, and the company issued it's first comment as a brief malware alert on April 1. Headquartered in the UK, Foregenix commented, "we don’t often come across brand new POS malware, presumably as we are in a Chip & PIN market, so the “return” for attackers on deploying such technology is limited." There is currently no indication of any successful breach via TinyPOS – it seems to have been discovered and contained by Foregenix before any harm could be done. However, it is possible that it is being tested in Europe before being deployed to geographic regions that don't employ chip and pin technology. Meanwhile, Foregenix says it "is working with financial and law enforcement agencies to provide further information on TinyPOS, as well as rapid response services to businesses in the retail and hospitality sectors suspected of having been breached." Contacted by SecurityWeek, a Foregenix spokesperson said that the company doesn't yet have any further information it can disclose. Late last month, it was revealed that a group of cybercriminals was using a custom-build PoS malware family to steal payment card data, which it sells on underground forums. More than a dozen new PoS malware families were discovered by researchers last year, including NitlovePoS, PoSeidon, MWZLesson, MalumPOS, Cherry Picker and AbaddonPOS. http://www.securityweek.com/new-variant-tinypos-discovered
  9. The interior of a two-roomed tomb (Tomb 14), one of three cleared of silt at Gebel el Silsila in Upper Egypt. Forty-two rock-cut tombs and a shrine decorated with a winged sun disc have been found along the banks of the Nile River in Egypt. The discovery of this necropolis, the burial ground of men, women and children, proves that Gebel el-Silsila in Upper Egypt was not just a quarry site for the kingdom's temples and tombs; it was also a bustling population center, according to the archaeological team that discovered the structures. "This is actually a major hub of commerce, worship and possibly political [activity]," said John Ward, assistant director of the Gebel el Silsila Survey Project. A big mystery surrounds the new tombs, however. Where is the lost city of Silsila? So far, archaeologists have discovered tombs, the quarry, a temple and slab monuments called stelae. But they haven't found a town or village where the people who used these structures would have lived. [See photos of the new tomb discoveries in Upper Egypt] Flooded graves Silsila was originally believed to be a sort of work camp, where the predominant activity was quarrying for sandstone. Survey project mission director Maria Nilsson, Ward and their colleagues have been discovering much more than that at the site, however. Earlier this year, for example, they announced the discovery of six statues dating back 3,500 years that depicted elite families. Yesterday (March 30), Ward, Nilsson and the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector announced the spring archaeological season discovery of the new tombs. They date back to the 18th and 19th dynasty, a period of time that runs from about 1543 B.C. to about 1189 B.C., which includes famous pharaohs like Hapshetsut. Archaeologists had known that rock-cut openings were present on the site's Nile bluffs, Ward told Live Science. But the river has been eating away at the sandstone exteriors, damaging the structures. The group of archaeologists launched a project to clean out three of the openings, both to find out what was inside them and to see if they could slow down the erosion. They found that the tombs were filled with Nile silt, indicating that they'd been flooding before the first dams in the river were constructed in the 1800s. This silt was acting as a "sponge" to draw in river water, worsening the erosional damage, Ward said. "Once we started to clear this Nile silt, we could see that the actual sandstone surface itself was starting to dry out," he said. "Tomb" 1, which was already clear of silt, turned out not to be a tomb, but a two-room shrine. While the outer room overlooks the Nile to the west, the inner room, which once had a slightly elevated floor, is damaged by water, Ward said. Despite the water damage, a carved stone solar disc with wings — a symbol of power and protection — is still visible, he said. Tomb 2 is an actual tomb, with stairs leading down into a rough-cut chamber without paintwork or any interior design. The space is so small that workers have to kneel to fit inside rather than stand up, Ward said. Many human bones were found in a jumble inside, which was probably caused by the Nile waters, he said. The tombs were also looted at some time in antiquity. Still, they contained many pieces of pottery such as beer jugs, offering plates, and bowls and storage jars — all funerary wares that were used in ancient Egyptian tombs, Ward said. People of status The other two tombs that have been cleaned out, Tombs 14 and 15, were also looted, but both contained crypts carved into the floor. The crypt in Tomb 15 even retains half its lid, Ward said. The excavation also turned up "lots and lots of beads," Ward said. And most intriguingly, the archaeologists found a scarab amulet bearing the name of the 18th-dynasty Pharaoh Thutmose III and a seal right along with his cartouche (an oval symbol surrounding a royal name), reinforcing the theory that Silsila was more than just a work camp for quarry diggers. These artifacts suggest that the people buried in the tombs were of higher standing than quarry workers, Ward said. A scarab bearing the cartouche of the pharaoh Thutmose III from Egypt's 18th Dynasty, discovered at Gebel el Silsila in Upper Egypt. Each of the documented tombs has a door with notches carved in the door jambs that could have held a stone portcullis, which could have been raised or lowered for new burials. "These are family tombs," Ward said. The portcullis closures would have kept out floodwaters and wildlife, though maybe not permanently. In Tomb 14, the archaeologists found crocodile scutes — the triangular, bumpy protrusions seen on crocs' backs. It's not certain whether a crocodile made it into the tomb, Ward said, or whether the scutes flowed in with the Nile floodwaters. The team members plan to excavate more tombs in the next field season, and hope to find remains or names of the tomb occupants. They're also continuing the survey in hopes of solving the biggest mystery surrounding Silsila: Where was the town, or village, that this necropolis served? "We're pretty excited, to say the least," Ward said. "It's kind of nice to be able to say, 'Silsila, we've got a necropolis now.'" SourcE
  10. The existence of hidden chambers in King Tutankhamun's burial chamber may be more likely, as new radar scans have found empty cavities behind the tomb's north and west walls, Egypt's antiquities ministry announced this morning (March 17). Some archaeologists even think Queen Nefertiti, King Tut's stepmom, could be lurking in one of those spaces. Scans carried out by Japanese radar technologist Hirokatsu Watanabe "suggest the presence of two empty spaces or cavities beyond the decorated North and West walls of the Burial Chamber," officials at Egypt's antiquities ministry said in a statement released to media. The scans also suggest the "presence of metallic and organic substances," and show what could be door lintels that indicate the presence of doorways, they said. [See Photos of King Tut's Burial and Radar Scans] Archaeologists will conduct the next series of radar scans at the end of March to try to confirm the existence of the chambers and get a better idea of their dimensions. Last year, Nicholas Reeves, a professor at the University of Arizona, published findings that suggested the existence of these mysterious chambers. In that research, he said the chambers could hold the burial of Queen Nefertiti, the wife of the pharaoh Akhenaten (King Tut's father). Reeves said he found evidence that Nefertiti's name had been carefully erased in some cases and replaced with that of the boy king, suggesting that some of Tutankhamun's burial equipment was originally made for Nefertiti. Radar scans The radar images showed anomalies that the scientists interpreted as artifacts within two chambers. However, it can be a challenging task to distinguish a human-made chamber or artifact from a natural feature. The Valley of the Kings, where the tomb resides, has a variety of geological features that often pop up on radar. Researchers have noted in the past that it is difficult to avoid false positives in the Valley of the Kings. There are "many faults and natural features that can look like walls and tombs," Afifi Ghonim, the field director of one of the most extensive explorations of the Valley, told Live Science in 2013. "There are a lot of things, like chert nodules, that populate the bedrock of the Valley," Glen Dash, who conducted radar work on an expedition in the Valley by former Antiquities Minister Zahi Hawass, wrote in a working paper he published online last year, before the radar results came out. "There are fissures, seams of chert and gypsum, and voids in the bedrock known as karsts. They are so common that there was really no place in the Valley that we did not encounter them." Because the radar images have just been released, it will take time for radar experts not involved with the project to analyze the results. Dash has not commented publicly on these new results. SourcE
  11. Illustration of binary star system which produces the longest lasting eclipses known. Imagine living on a world where, every 69 years, the sun disappears in a near-total eclipse that lasts for three and a half years. That is just what happens in an unnamed binary star system nearly 10,000 light years from Earth. The newly discovered system, known only by its astronomical catalog number TYC 2505-672-1, sets a new record for both the longest duration stellar eclipse and the longest period between eclipses in a binary system. Discovery of the system's extraordinary properties was made by a team of astronomers from Vanderbilt and Harvard with the assistance of colleagues at Lehigh, Ohio State and Pennsylvania State universities, Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network and the American Association of Variable Star Observers and is described in a paper accepted for publication in the Astronomical Journal. "It's the longest duration stellar eclipse and the longest orbit for an eclipsing binary ever found…by far," said the paper's first author Vanderbilt doctoral student Joey Rodriguez. The previous record holder is Epsilon Aurigae, a giant star that is eclipsed by its companion every 27 years for periods ranging from 640 to 730 days. Comparison of the light curves of the newly discovered system and the previous record holder, Epsilon Aurigae, shows how much longer one of its eclipses lasts. "Epsilon Aurigae is much closer – about 2,200 light years from Earth – and brighter, which has allowed astronomers to study it extensively," said Rodriguez. The leading explanation is that Epsilon Aurigae consists of a yellow giant star orbited by a normal star slightly bigger than the sun embedded in a thick disk of dust and gas oriented nearly edge on when viewed from Earth. "One of the great challenges in astronomy is that some of the most important phenomena occur on astronomical timescales, yet astronomers are generally limited to much shorter human timescales," said co-author Keivan Stassun, professor of physics and astronomy at Vanderbilt. "Here we have a rare opportunity to study a phenomenon that plays out over many decades and provides a window into the types of environments around stars that could represent planetary building blocks at the very end of a star system's life." Two unique astronomical resources made the discovery possible: observations by the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) network and the Digital Access to a Sky Century @ Harvard (DASCH) program. AAVSO is a non-profit organization of professional and amateur astronomers dedicated to understanding variable stars. It provided a few hundred observations of TYC 2505-672-1's most recent eclipse. The DASCH survey is based on thousands of photographic plates taken by Harvard astronomers between 1890 and 1989 as part of a regular survey of the northern sky. In recent years the university has begun digitizing these plates. In the process TYC 2505-672-1 caught the eye of Sumin Tang at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Rodriguez attended a conference where Tang presented her results on TYC 2505-672-1 and the system piqued his interest as well. He is a member of the survey team for the low-cost Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope (KELT) system that consists of a pair of robotic telescopes designed to find exoplanets around bright stars operated by astronomers at Ohio State University, Vanderbilt University, Lehigh University and the South African Astronomical Observatory. KELT has an extremely wide field of view (26 degrees by 26 degrees) and he thought it was likely that the KELT database contained a number of recent images of the distant binary system. After the lecture Rodriguez contacted Tang and they agreed to collaborate. When he searched the KELT database, Rodriguez found about 9,000 images of the obscure system taken in the last eight years that they could combine with the 1,432 images taken over the last century at Harvard. Rodriquez also contacted the AAVSO network and obtained several hundred more observations of the system's most recent eclipse to help fill in the picture. When she became busy with some other projects, Tang agreed to let Rodriguez take the lead. The resulting analysis revealed a system similar to the one at Epsilon Aurigae, with some important differences. It appears to consist of a pair of red giant stars, one of which has been stripped down to a relatively small core and surrounded by an extremely large disk of material that produces the extended eclipse. "About the only way to get these really long eclipse times is with an extended disk of opaque material. Nothing else is big enough to block out a star for months at a time," Rodriguez said. TYC-2505-672-1 is so distant that the amount of data the astronomers could extract from the images was limited. However, they were able to estimate the surface temperature of the companion star and found that it is about 2,000 degrees Celsius hotter than the surface of the sun. Combined with the observation that it appears to be less than half the diameter of the sun has led them to propose that it is a red giant that has had its outer layers stripped away and that this stripped material may account for the obscuring disk. However, they don't know that for certain. In order to produce the 69-year interval between eclipses, the astronomers calculate that they must be orbiting at an extremely large distance, about 20 astronomical units, which is approximately the distance between the Sun and Uranus. "Right now even our most powerful telescopes can't independently resolve the two objects," said Rodriguez. "Hopefully, technological advances will make that possible by 2080 when the next eclipse occurs." http://phys.org/news/2016-02-longest-lasting-stellar-eclipse.html#nRlv
  12. Archaeologists in Germany have uncovered the bodies of children and of one adult man who was buried, strangely, standing upright. This six-month-old baby is one of the oldest infant skeletons found in Europe. It was buried 8,400 years ago by hunter-gatherers near Berlin. One of the oldest cemeteries in Europe has recently been discovered, with graves dating back almost 8,500 years. Two of the most intriguing finds are the skeleton of a six-month-old child and a mysterious upright burial of a man in his early 20s. The German cemetery, called Gross Fredenwalde after a nearby village, belongs to a time known as the Mesolithic, when Europe was populated by hunter-gatherers. At a press conference Thursday morning in Berlin, excavators announced that nine skeletons have been uncovered on the hilltop burial site so far, five of them children younger than 6 years old. And the researchers found ample evidence that more graves remain unexcavated. “It’s rare for the Mesolithic to find multiple graves in one place,” says forensic anthropologist Bettina Jungklaus, who excavated one of the bodies. “They were mobile people, ranging over the landscape.” Excavations in 2013 and 2014 uncovered evidence of the prehistoric graveyard, found 50 miles north of Berlin on a hill 300 feet above the plains below. The hilltop’s hard, rocky soil would have been a tough place to dig graves. With no water sources nearby, it would have been a bad place for a settlement, too. In a paper published in the journal Quartär, Thomas Terberger, the archaeologist who led the recent dig, says the burials are evidence of careful planning. “It’s not an accumulation of burials by accident, but a place where they decided to put their dead,” says Terberger, of the Lower Saxony Department of Historic Preservation. “It’s the first evidence of a true cemetery in northern Europe or Scandinavia.” That, colleagues say, makes the spot special. “It’s a big surprise,” says Erik Brinch Petersen, an archaeologist at the University of Copenhagen. “Hunter-gatherer people typically buried their dead right next to their houses. Here in northern Europe, a site like this is unique.” The infant skeleton is rare, too. Researchers say it’s the earliest infant skeleton ever found in Germany, and one of the oldest in Europe. Excavators removed the fragile remains from the cemetery in a single, 660-pound (300 kilogram) block of earth, making it possible to carefully expose the 8,400-year-old skeleton in the controlled setting of a lab. “It’s really rare to find an intact burial like this, because an infant’s bones are so small and fragile,” says Jungklaus. Laid to rest not long after it turned six months old, the baby is almost perfectly preserved, its arms folded across its tiny chest. The bones and nearby soil are stained red from ochre pigment used to decorate the body for burial. The excellent preservation offers researchers a wealth of information. Chemical signatures in the bones, for example, could show whether the infant was breast-fed; DNA could establish links to other skeletons in the cemetery and determine the infant’s gender. Learning more about its short life and how it died could tell archaeologists more about what conditions were like for Europe’s early inhabitants. “We can look at possible illnesses, and perhaps determine the cause of death,” Jungklaus says. “Children are always the weakest link–they’re the first victims when the environment or living situation changes.” While the infant burial is remarkable, the body of a young man found nearby has excavators puzzled–and excited. Buried more than 1,000 years after the infant, the man was entombed standing up, together with bone tools and flint knives. The man’s skeleton suggests he lived a pretty easy life. It doesn’t show signs that he did a lot of physically taxing labor. “He looks like a flint knapper or experienced craftsman, rather than the strongest boy of the group,” Terberger says. Stranger still, the vertical grave was filled in just as far as the man’s knees at first. His upper body was allowed to partially decay and fall apart before the grave was filled in. At some point, a fire was built on top of the tomb. One possible explanation comes from hundreds of miles to the northeast. Standing burials similar to the one at Gross Fredenwalde have been found in a cemetery called Olenij Ostrov in modern-day Russia, from about the same time. Researchers have long assumed culture flowed into ancient Europe from the south, but these odd burials suggest that there was active migration or communication across northern Europe as well. “This man is an indication of such eastern influences,” Terberger says; DNA results from his bones might be able to tease out the connections. From early analyses of his DNA and the grave goods he was buried with, it’s clear the young man buried standing up was a hunter-gatherer, like the infant he shared the cemetery with. But he died about 7,000 years ago, meaning the hilltop cemetery was in use for more than a millennium. His death occurred about the same time the first farmers arrived in this part of Europe, part of a process that changed the face of the continent. The overlap might help researchers understand what happened when hunter-gatherers first encountered immigrants bringing new technologies and lifestyles from far to the south. “Late hunter-gatherers and early farmers lived side-by-side,” Terberger says. But the evidence from the graveyard suggests that relations were chilly. Archaeologists have found farmer settlements from the same time period just 7 miles (10 kilometers) away from the hunter-gatherer cemetery–but no signs that the people buried there had any meaningful contact with their neighbors. “They must have looked in each other’s eyes, but not exchanged anything–neither goods nor genes,” says Petersen. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/02/160211-oldest-cemetery-burial-europe-baby-upright-germany-hunter-gatherer/
  13. 2015 was an exceptionally productive year for paleontology. Brontosaurus made a comeback. Paleontologists further decoded the coloration patterns of long extinct animals. Jurassic World brought dinosaurs back to the big screen. And most importantly, scientists around the world made thousands of new discoveries, both in the field and in the lab, which have further reconstructed our understanding of Earth’s murky ecological past. So without further ado, I present to you the 2015 Best in Show winners for extinct animals that were either discovered, named, or properly classified within the 12 months. From its Cambrian weirdos to its gigantic raptors, this will be a hard year to beat. Bring it, 2016. Best Mammal: Kimbetopsalis simmonsae This diminutive creature lived in the apocalyptic aftermath of the asteroid impact that killed off half of all life on Earth, including the dinosaurs. Kimbetopsalis simmonsae roamed what is now New Mexico, casually surviving during a full-scale ecological collapse. So what was this little cutie’s secret? In a nutshell: it fed on exactly the kinds of flowering plants that thrived in the wake of the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event. “There weren't any mammals like [Kimbetopsalis] that lived with the dinosaurs—maybe a handful of species that were beaver-sized and few, if any, that exclusively ate plants,” co-author Steve Brusatte told me when the discovery was announced in October. “So it looks like mammals rapidly began to get bigger, evolve new diets, and colonize new environments very soon after the dinosaurs bit the dust,” he said. “That's a neat story because that is the story of how we got here. That explosive diversification of mammals led to primates, which led to us.” Runner-up: These gnarly 10,000-year-old cave lion cubs that were found frozen with their fur, skin, and tissue intact. Best Bird: Llallawavis scagliai This formidable predator roamed the grasslands of Argentina some 3.5 million years ago, and was classified as the new species Llallawavis scagliai—”the Magnificent Bird of Scaglia—in April. Its remains represent the most intact example from the group of so-called “terror birds” that dominated many South American ecosystems during the Pliocene epoch. Ninety percent of the animal was recovered, including crucial parts of its vocal anatomy that suggest the bird sung in low, deep pitches. Runner-up: Archaeornithura meemannae, the oldest common ancestor of all birds, found in China. Best Sea Monster: Aegirocassis benmoulae Measuring almost seven feet in length, this filter-feeding arthropod was an absolute giant of the seas, some 480 million years ago. “They were the largest animals during the Cambrian and Ordovician [periods],” Yale paleontologist Peter Van Roy told me when this discovery was announced in March. “In fact, Aegirocassis benmoulae is one of the largest arthropods—[the kingdom that includes modern crustaceans, insects, and arachnids]—to have ever lived, reaching a length of at least 2.1 meters.” Runner-up: Pentecopterus decorahensis, a giant sea scorpion that lived 467 million years ago. Best Raptor: Dakotaraptor Thanks to the Jurassic Park franchise, Velociraptors have become the most well-known and feared of the hook-toed dromaeosaurid clan (“dromaeosaurid” being the scientific term for raptors). But as has been pointed out ad nauseum, Velociraptors were only about the size of turkeys, far smaller than the intimidating monsters we’ve become accustomed to on screen. That said, dromaeosaurids like Dakotaraptor, a new genus announced in November, genuinely were the size of the animals depicted in the films—bigger even. Based on its remains, Dakotaraptor appears to have been among the largest raptors that ever lived, measuring 17 feet from head to tail, and brandishing a massive 9.5-inch-long claw on each foot. “It really was the Ferrari of competitors,“ paleontologist Robert DePalma, who led the new research into the animal, told the BBC. “It could run very fast, it could jump incredibly well, it was agile and it had essentially grappling hooks on the front and rear limbs.” “These claws could grab on to anything and just slice them to bits,” he added. “It was utterly lethal.” Sounds like Dakotaraptor would make for a much more intimidating companion for Chris Pratt in any future Jurassic World movies, especially since the animal’s remains show plenty of evidence of some truly dope feathers. Velociraptors have had a great run, but it’s time to step aside for the real terrors of the late Cretaceous. Runner-up: Zhenyuanlong suni, an incredibly well-preserved raptor specimen discovered in China, featuring the largest wingspan of any dinosaur ever recovered. Best Head Swag: Regaliceratops peterhewsi Ceratopsids, the group of dinosaurs that includes Triceratops, are known for their ostentatious head frills and crests. But even amongst its peers, Regaliceratops peterhewsi, or “Hellboy” as it has been nicknamed, stands out with its striking crown of horns and large nasal shiv. The unique look is thought to have been used mostly as a display to attract mates, which is especially delightful considering that paleontologist Caleb Brown, who led the team that discovered the new species, proposed to his girlfriend in the acknowledgements of his paper (she said yes). When it comes to courtship, some things never change, regardless of whether you are looking to woo your honey with sweet gestures in academic papers, or with funky head spikes. Runner-up: Probrachylophosaurus bergei, aka “Super-Duck,” a five-tonne dinosaur that sheds the light on the evolution of forehead crests in hadrosaurs. Best Total Freakin’ Weirdo: Collinsium ciliosum Good God: What even is this thing? Collinsium ciliosum looks like something evolution would sneeze out during a fever dream. Measuring about four inches long from whatever the hell is its front to whatever rounds out its rear, this sea worm lived 518 million years ago during the Cambrian period. It had 12 feather-like legs for filtering food and another 18 clawed legs for clinging to its hosts, and was topped off with a bunch of armored spikes along its spine. Up until this year, the Hallucigenia worm was assumed to be the weirdest thing the Cambrian ever cooked up, but this “Hallucigenia on steroids,” as paleontologist Javier Ortega-Hernández described the new species, has undoubtedly upped the stakes. Runner-up: Carnufex carolinensis, a bipedal crocodile of the late Triassic. Best Hominid: Homo Naledi Homo nadeli nabs this illustrious title for its origin story alone. Locked away in the chambers of the labyrinthine Rising Star Cave system in South Africa, the remains had to be carefully removed by professional spelunkers. The expedition was a classic Indiana-Jones-style mix of adventure and academic reward, resulting in the recovery of thousands of fossil specimens from this bygone hominid community. It’s thought that Homo nadeli lived around two million years ago, though there is still a lot of controversy over the age and interpretation of the fossils, given that they are so new. Runner-up: An innovative “virtual fossil” of the last common ancestor between humans and Neanderthals. Best in Show: Isle of Skye Dinosaur Footprints By far the most astonishing paleontological story of 2015, in my opinion, was the discovery of hundreds of dinosaur footprints on the coast of Scotland’s Isle of Skye. These tracks were left by large, long-necked sauropods 170 million years ago, and were described as a makeshift “dinosaur dance floor” by paleontologist Steve Brusatte, who was one of the researchers that discovered and categorized them. As Brusatte explained to me a few weeks ago, part of the magic of these footprints is their physical immediacy. “Tracks are really important because they record real animals interacting with their environment,” he said. “Bones and teeth are great—they can tell us a lot about ancient animals. But bones and teeth can be transported. They can be scooped up by rivers and deposited almost anywhere. Not tracks. Tracks are made in a particular place and can't be moved.” “So we know these sauropods were actually moving around in these lagoons,” he added. “The real animals were physically there. And many of them, and over multiple generations. That really blows my mind.” https://motherboard.vice.com/read/the-eight-best-extinct-species-discovered-in-2015
  14. A Florida State University and University of Alaska Fairbanks research team has uncovered a new species of duck-billed dinosaur, a 30-footlong herbivore that endured months of winter darkness and probably experienced snow. The skeletal remains of the dinosaurs were found in a remote part of Alaska. These dinosaurs were the northernmost dinosaurs known to have ever lived. "The finding of dinosaurs this far north challenges everything we thought about a dinosaur's physiology," said FSU Professor of Biological Science Greg Erickson. "It creates this natural question. How did they survive up here?" The dinosaur is named Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis, which means ancient grazer of the Colville River. The remains were found along the Colville River in a geological formation in northern Alaska known as the Prince Creek Formation. The discovery is detailed in the Tuesday issue of the paleontology journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica. "This new study names and brings to life what is now the most completely known species of dinosaur from the Polar Regions," said Patrick Druckenmiller, earth sciences curator of the University of Alaska Museum of the North and associate professor of geology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The dig site -- the Prince Creek Formation -- is a unit of rock that was deposited on an arctic, coastal flood plain about 69 million years ago. At the time the Prince Creek Formation was deposited, it was located well above the paleo-arctic circle, about 80 degrees north latitude. So, the dinosaurs found there lived as far north as land is known to have existed during this time period. At the time they lived, Arctic Alaska was covered in trees because Earth's climate was much warmer as a whole. But, because it was so far north, the dinosaurs likely contended with months of winter darkness, even if it wasn't as cold as a modern-day winter. They lived in a world where the average temperature was about 43 degrees Fahrenheit, and they probably saw snow. "What we're finding is basically this lost world of dinosaurs with many new forms completely new to science," Erickson said. Since the 1980s scientists from the University of Alaska Museum of the North, and other collaborative institutions, including Florida State University, have collected more than 9,000 bones from various animals as part of the excavation of the Prince Creek Formation. The majority of the bones of the Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis were collected from a single layer of rock called the Liscomb Bonebed. The layer, about 2 to 3 feet thick, contains thousands of bones of primarily this one species of dinosaur. In this particular area, most of the skeletons were from younger or juvenile dinosaurs, about 9 feet long and three feet tall at the hip. Researchers believe a herd of juveniles was killed suddenly to create this deposit of remains. Hirotsugu Mori, a former graduate student at UAF, completed a detailed analysis of the bone structure as part of his doctoral dissertation alongside Druckenmiller and Erickson. Their work revealed that the Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis is most closely related to Edmontosaurus, another type of duck-billed dinosaur that lived roughly 70 million years ago in Alberta, Montana and South Dakota. But, the combination of features found in these skeletons were not present in Edmontosaurus or in any other species of duck-billed dinosaurs. In particular, researchers observed that the Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis had very unique skeletal structures in the area of the skull, especially around the mouth. "Because many of the bones from our Alaskan species were from younger individuals, a challenge of this study was figuring out if the differences with other hadrosaurs was just because they were young, or if they were really a different species," Druckenmiller said. "Fortunately, we also had bones from older animals that helped us realize Ugrunaaluk was a totally new animal." Druckenmiller worked with an instructor of the Iñupiaq language at the Alaska Native Language Center at University of Alaska Fairbanks to develop a name for the new species that was culturally, anatomically and geographically correct. They wanted to pay tribute to the local tribes who live near the research site. Erickson and Druckenmiller will continue to mine the Prince Creek Formation for additional skeletons. However, accessing the field site is extremely difficult. Besides the frigid weather, they have to use bush planes that are capable of landing on gravel bars and inflatable boats to access the sites, and often have to repel down the side of a cliff to do the digging. The area is rich with animal skeletons, and they estimate there are at least 13 different species of dinosaur present based on teeth and other remains, plus birds, small mammals and some fish. They will also delve deeper into how these animals lived and functioned in conditions not typically thought to be amenable to occupation by reptilian dinosaurs. "Alaska is basically the last frontier," said Erickson, who is originally from Alaska. "It's virtually unexplored in terms of vertebrate paleontology. So, we think we're going to find a lot of new species." Three full skeletons of Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis will be on display at the University of Alaska Museum of the North as well as a new painting of the species by Alaskan artist James Havens. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management. The research is also the primary subject of the doctoral thesis completed by Druckenmiller's former graduate student Hirotsugu Mori, who is now a curator for the Saikai City Board of Education in Japan. sciencedaily.com
  15. Scientists have discovered a new human-like species in a burial chamber deep in a cave system in South Africa. The discovery of 15 partial skeletons is the largest single discovery of its type in Africa. The researchers claim that the discovery will change ideas about our human ancestors. The studies which have been published in the journal Elife also indicate that these individuals were capable of ritual behaviour. The species, which has been named naledi, has been classified in the grouping, or genus, Homo, to which modern humans belong. The researchers who made the find have not been able to find out how long ago these creatures lived - but the scientist who led the team, Prof Lee Berger, told BBC News that he believed they could be among the first of our kind (genus Homo) and could have lived in Africa up to three million years ago. Like all those working in the field, he is at pains to avoid the term "missing link". Prof Berger says naledi could be thought of as a "bridge" between more primitive bipedal primates and humans. "We'd gone in with the idea of recovering one fossil. That turned into multiple fossils. That turned into the discovery of multiple skeletons and multiple individuals. "And so by the end of that remarkable 21-day experience, we had discovered the largest assemblage of fossil human relatives ever discovered in the history of the continent of Africa. That was an extraordinary experience." Prof Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum said naledi was "a very important discovery". Professor Lee Berger of Wits University explains what his team found "What we are seeing is more and more species of creatures that suggests that nature was experimenting with how to evolve humans, thus giving rise to several different types of human-like creatures originating in parallel in different parts of Africa. Only one line eventually survived to give rise to us," he told BBC News. I went to see the bones which are kept in a secure room at Witwatersrand University. The door to the room looks like one that would seal a bank vault. As Prof Berger turned the large lever on the door, he told me that our knowledge of very early humans is based on partial skeletons and the occasional skull. The haul of 15 partial skeletons includes both males and females of varying ages - from infants to elderly. The discovery is unprecedented in Africa and will shed more light on how the first humans evolved. "We are going to know everything about this species," Prof Berger told me as we walked over to the remains of H. naledi. "We are going to know when its children were weaned, when they were born, how they developed, the speed at which they developed, the difference between males and females at every developmental stage from infancy, to childhood to teens to how they aged and how they died." I was astonished to see how well preserved the bones were. The skull, teeth and feet looked as if they belonged to a human child - even though the skeleton was that of an elderly female. Its hand looked human-like too, up to its fingers which curl around a bit like those of an ape. Homo naledi is unlike any primitive human found in Africa. It has a tiny brain - about the size of a gorilla's and a primitive pelvis and shoulders. But it is put into the same genus as humans because of the more progressive shape of its skull, relatively small teeth, characteristic long legs and modern-looking feet. "I saw something I thought I would never see in my career," Prof Berger told me. "It was a moment that 25 years as a paleoanthropologist had not prepared me for." One of the most intriguing questions raised by the find is how the remains got there. I visited the site of the find, the Rising Star cave, an hour's drive from the university in an area known as the Cradle of Humankind. The cave leads to a narrow underground tunnel through which some of Prof Berger's team crawled in an expedition funded by the National Geographic Society. Small women were chosen because the tunnel was so narrow. They crawled through darkness lit only by their head torches on a precarious 20 minute-long journey to find a chamber containing hundreds of bones. Among them was Marina Elliott. She showed me the narrow entrance to the cave and then described how she felt when she first saw the chamber. "The first time I went to the excavation site I likened it to the feeling that Howard Carter must have had when he opened Tutankhamen's tomb - that you are in a very confined space and then it opens up and all of a sudden all you can see are all these wonderful things - it was incredible," she said. Ms Elliott and her colleagues believe that they have found a burial chamber. The Homo naledi people appear to have carried individuals deep into the cave system and deposited them in the chamber - possibly over generations. If that is correct, it suggests naledi was capable of ritual behaviour and possibly symbolic thought - something that until now had only been associated with much later humans within the last 200,000 years. Prof Berger said: "We are going to have to contemplate some very deep things about what it is to be human. Have we been wrong all along about this kind of behaviour that we thought was unique to modern humans? "Did we inherit that behaviour from deep time and is it something that (the earliest humans) have always been able to do?" Prof Berger believes that the discovery of a creature that has such a mix of modern and primitive features should make scientists rethink the definition of what it is to be human - so much so that he himself is reluctant to describe naledi as human. Other researchers working in the field, such as Prof Stringer, believe that naledi should be described as a primitive human. But he agrees that current theories need to be re-evaluated and that we have only just scratched the surface of the rich and complex story of human evolution. bbc.com
  16. A 1,500-year-old book that contains a previously unknown gospel has been deciphered. The ancient manuscript may have been used to provide guidance or encouragement to people seeking help for their problems, according to a researcher who has studied the text. Written in Coptic, an Egyptian language, the opening reads (in translation): "The Gospel of the lots of Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ, she to whom Gabriel the Archangel brought the good news. He who will go forward with his whole heart will obtain what he seeks. Only do not be of two minds." Anne Marie Luijendijk, a professor of religion at Princeton University, discovered that this newfound gospel is like no other. "When I began deciphering the manuscript and encountered the word 'gospel' in the opening line, I expected to read a narrative about the life and death of Jesus as the canonical gospels present, or a collection of sayings similar to the Gospel of Thomas (a non-canonical text)," she wrote in her book "Forbidden Oracles? The Gospel of the Lots of Mary" (Mohr Siebeck, 2014). What she found instead was a series of 37 oracles, written vaguely, and with only a few that mention Jesus. The text would have been used for divination, Luijendijk said. A person seeking an answer to a question could have sought out the owner of this book, asked a question, and gone through a process that would randomly select one of the 37 oracles to help find a solution to the person's problem. The owner of the book could have acted as a diviner, helping to interpret the written oracles, she said. Alternatively, the text could have been owned by someone who, when confronted with a question, simply opened an oracle at random to seek an answer. The 37 oracles are all written vaguely; for instance, oracle seven says, "You know, o human, that you did your utmost again. You did not gain anything but loss, dispute, and war. But if you are patient a little, the matter will prosper through the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." Another example is oracle 34, which reads, "Go forward immediately. This is a thing from God. You know that, behold, for many days you are suffering greatly. But it is of no concern to you, because you have come to the haven of victory." Throughout the book "the text refers to hardships, suffering and violence, and occasionally one finds a threat. On the whole, however, a positive outlet prevails," Luijendijk wrote in her book. Another interesting example, that illustrates the ancient book's positive outlook, is oracle 24, which reads, "Stop being of two minds, o human, whether this thing will happen or not. Yes, it will happen! Be brave and do not be of two minds. Because it will remain with you a long time and you will receive joy and happiness." A 'gospel' like no other In the ancient world, a special type of book, sometimes called a "lot book," was used to try to predict a person's future. Luijendijk says that this is the only lot book found so far that calls itself a "gospel" — a word that literally means "good news." "The fact that this book is called that way is very significant," Luijendijk told Live Science in an interview. "To me, it also really indicated that it had something to do [with] how people would consult it and also about being [seen] as good news," she said. "Nobody who wants to know the future wants to hear bad news in a sense." Although people today associate the word "gospel" as being a text that talks about the life of Jesus, people in ancient times may have had a different perspective. "The fact that this is not a gospel in the traditional sense gives ample reason to inquire about the reception and use of the term 'gospel' in Late Antiquity," Luijendijk wrote. Where did it come from? The text is now owned by Harvard University's Sackler Museum. It was given to Harvard in 1984 by Beatrice Kelekian, who donated it in memory of her husband, Charles Dikran Kelekian. Charles' father, Dikran Kelekian (1868-1951), was "an influential trader of Coptic antiquaries, deemed the 'dean of antiquities' among New York art dealers," Luijendijk wrote in her book. It is not known where the Kelekians got the gospel. Luijendijk searched the Kelekian family archive but found no information about where the text came from or when it was acquired. It's possible that, in ancient times, the book was used by a diviner at the Shrine of Saint Colluthus in Egypt, a "Christian site of pilgrimage and healing," Luijendijk wrote. At this shrine, archaeologists have found texts with written questions, indicating that the site was used for various forms of divination. "Among the services offered to visitors of the shrine were dream incubation, ritual bathing, and both book and ticket divination," Luijendijk wrote. Miniature text One interesting feature of the book is its small size. The pages measure less than 3 inches in height and 2.7 inches in width. The codex is "only as large as my palm," Luijendijk wrote. "Given the book's small size, the handwriting is surprisingly legible and quite elegant," she wrote. The book's small size made it portable and, if necessary, easy to conceal. Luijendijk notes that some early church leaders had a negative view of divination and put in place rules discouraging the practice. Regardless of why its makers made the text so small, the book was heavily used, with ancient thumbprints still visible in the margins. "The manuscript clearly has been used a lot," Luijendijk said. latestsense
  17. The first new antibiotic to be discovered in nearly 30 years has been hailed as a ‘paradigm shift’ in the fight against the growing resistance to drugs. Teixobactin has been found to treat many common bacterial infections such as tuberculosis, septicaemia and C. diff, and could be available within five years. But more importantly it could pave the way for a new generation of antibiotics because of the way it was discovered. Scientists have always believed that the soil was teeming with new and potent antibiotics because bacteria have developed novel ways to fight off other microbes. But 99 per cent of microbes will not grow in laboratory conditions leaving researchers frustrated that they could not get to the life-saving natural drugs. Now a team from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, have discovered a way of using an electronic chip to grow the microbes in the soil and then isolate their antibiotic chemical compounds. They discovered that one compound, Teixobactin, is highly effective against common bacterial infections Clostridium difficile, Mycobacterium tuberculous and Staphylococcus aureus. Professor Kim Lewis, Director of the Antimicrobial Discovery Centre said: “Apart from the immediate implementation, there is also I think a paradigm shift in our minds because we have been operating on the basis that resistance development is inevitable and that we have to focus on introducing drugs faster than resistance “Teixobactin shows how we can adopt an alternative strategy and develop compounds to which bacteria are not resistant.” The first antibiotic Penicillin, was discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928 and more than 100 compounds have been found since, but no new class has been found since 1987. The lack of new drugs coupled with over-prescribing has led to bacteria becoming increasingly resistant to modern medicines. Dame Sally Davies, the government’s Chief Medical Officer, said antibiotic resistant was ‘as big a risk of terrorism; and warned that Britain faced returning to a 19th century world where the smallest infection or operation could kill. The World Health Oganisation has also classified antimicrobial resistance as a "serious threat’ to every region of the world which ‘has the potential to affect anyone, of any age, in any country" However the new discovery offers hope that many new antibiotics could be found to fight bacterial infections. Crucially, the scientists believe that bacteria will not become resistant to Teixobactin for at least 30 years because of its multiple methods of attack. Testing on mice has already shown that the antibiotic works well at clearing infections, without side-effects. The team is now concentrating on upscaling production so that it could be tested in humans. “Right now we can deliver a dose that cures mice and a variety of models of infection and we can deliver 10 mg per kg so it correlates well with human usage,” added Professor Lewis. The breakthrough was heralded by scientists who said it could prove a ‘game-changer’ in the struggle against antimicrobial resistance. Prof Laura Piddock, Professor of Microbiology at the University of Birmingham, said: “The screening tool developed by these researchers could be a ‘game changer’ for discovering new antibiotics as it allows compounds to be isolated from soil producing micro-organisms that do not grow under normal laboratory conditions.” Prof Mark Woolhouse, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, from the University of Edinburgh added: “Any report of a new antibiotic is auspicious, but what most excites me about the paper is the tantalising prospect that this discovery is just the tip of the iceberg. “Most antibiotics are natural products derived from microbes in the soil. The ones we have discovered so far come from a tiny subset of the rich diversity of microbes that live there. “Lewis et al. have found a way to look for antibiotics in other kinds of microbe, part of the so-called microbial “dark matter” that is very difficult to study.” Dr Angelika Gründling, Reader in Molecular Microbiology, Imperial College London said the discovery , ‘raises our hopes that new antibiotics can be brought to the clinics in the not too distant future.’ “The great hope is now that many more new antibiotics can be uncovered in a similar manner.” Public Health England also welcomed the breakthrough. “The rise in antibiotic resistance is a threat to modern healthcare as we know it so this discovery could potentially help to bridge the ever increasing gap between infections and the medicines we have available to treat them,” said Prof Neil Woodford, Head of Public Health England’s Antimicrobial Resistance and Healthcare Associated Infections Reference Unit. The research was published in the journal Nature. Source
  18. Researchers have identified a weakness believed to exist in Android, Windows, and iOS mobile operating systems that could be used to obtain personal information from unsuspecting users. They demonstrated the hack in an Android phone. The researchers tested the method and found it was successful between 82 percent and 92 percent of the time on six of the seven popular apps they tested. Researchers, including an assistant professor at the University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering, have identified a weakness believed to exist in Android, Windows, and iOS mobile operating systems that could be used to obtain personal information from unsuspecting users. They demonstrated the hack in an Android phone. The researchers tested the method and found it was successful between 82 percent and 92 percent of the time on six of the seven popular apps they tested. Among the apps they easily hacked were Gmail, CHASE Bank, and H&R Block. Amazon, with a 48 percent success rate, was the only app they tested A UCR release reports that the paper was presented Friday, 22 August, at the 23rd USENIX Security Symposium in San Diego. Authors of the paper are Zhiyun Qian, of the Computer Science and Engineering Department atUC Riverside; Z. Morley Mao, an associate professor at the University of Michigan; and Qi Alfred Chen, a Ph.D. student working with Mao. The researchers believe their method will work on other operating systems because they share a key feature researchers exploited in the Android system. However, they haven’t tested the program using the other systems. The researchers started working on the method because they believed there was a security risk with so many apps being created by some many developers. Once a user downloads a bunch of apps to his or her smart phone they are all running on the same shared infrastructure, or operating system. “The assumption has always been that these apps can’t interfere with each other easily,” Qian said. “We show that assumption is not correct and one app can in fact significantly impact another and result in harmful consequences for the user.” The attack works by getting a user to download a seemingly benign, but actually malicious, app, such as one for background wallpaper on a phone. Once that app is installed, the researchers are able to exploit a newly discovered public side channel — the shared memory statistics of a process, which can be accessed without any privileges (shared memory is a common operating system feature to efficiently allow processes share data). The researchers monitor changes in shared memory and are able to correlate changes to what they call an “activity transition event,” which includes such things as a user logging into Gmail or H&R Block or a user taking a picture of a check so it can be deposited online, without going to a physical CHASE Bank. Augmented with a few other side channels, the authors show that it is possible to fairly accurately track in real time which activity a victim app is in. There are two keys to the attack. One, the attack needs to take place at the exact moment the user is logging into the app or taking the picture. Two, the attack needs to be done in an inconspicuous way. The researchers did this by carefully calculating the attack timing. “By design, Android allows apps to be preempted or hijacked,” Qian said. “But the thing is you have to do it at the right time so the user doesn’t notice. We do that and that’s what makes our attack unique.” The researchers created three short videos that show how the attacks work. Here is a list of the seven apps the researchers attempted to attack and their success rates: Gmail (92 percent), H&R Block (92 percent), Newegg (86 percent), WebMD (85 percent), CHASE Bank (83 percent), Hotels.com (83 percent), and Amazon (48 percent). Amazon was more difficult to attack because its app allows one activity to transition to almost any other activity, increasing the difficulty of guessing which activity it is currently in. Asked what a smart phone user can do about this situation, Qian said, “Don’t install untrusted apps.” On the operating system design, a more careful tradeoff between security and functionality needs to be made in the future, he said. For example, side channels need to be eliminated or more explicitly regulated. — Read more in “Peeking into Your App without Actually Seeing It: UIState Inference and Novel Android Attacks” (the paper will appear inProceedings of the 23rd USENIX Security Symposium, San Diego, California, August 2014) Source
  19. In the dinosaur kingdom, the raptor reigns as a pop-culture bogeyman. While not as big as the T. Rex, the feathered creature had a mean set of teeth and claws. But there was at least one refuge from its tyranny: the air. Now, however, scientists have discovered a new fossil that lays waste to that pleasant fiction. This new raptorial dinosaur named Changyuraptor yangi not only flew — it had four wings. And those wings were studded with the longest feathers any dinosaur has ever worn, said lead researcher Luis Chiappe of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” he told The Washington Post. “It is a stunning specimen and it was stunning to see the size of the feathers. This is the dinosaur with the longest known feathers — by far. There is nothing like this by a very good distance. The feathers were one-fourth the size of the animal.” Chiappe paused for a moment. “It’s just wonderful,” he said. In the pantheon of hulking dinos, this one wasn’t on the larger side. Published in the scientific journal Nature Communications on Tuesday, the article by Chiappe and colleagues reported it was only about four feet long and weighed about nine pounds — approximately three times the weight of your everyday seagull. But what it lacked in size, it made up for in importance, researchers said. Classed as a “microraptorine,” its fossils “are essential for testing hypotheses explaining the origin and early evolution of avian flight,” the paper stated. “The lengthy feathered tail of the new fossil provides insight into the flight performance of microraptorines and how they may have maintained aerial competency at larger body sizes.” Changyuraptor fossil, left, with details of plumage, right. (Luis Chiappe/ Courtesy of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County) This dinosaur’s flight and landings hinged on its tail. Animals of more substantial size fly faster, making landing a treacherous business. The Changyu — which means “long-feathered” in Chinese — handled this problem with a feathered tail “instrumental for decreasing descent speed and assuring a safe landing,” the study explained. As Chiappe, who first glimpsed the bones in 2012 in Beijing, told Slate, such landings were similar to the “way you land in a plane.” Changyuraptors “needed to slow down and pitch their nose up. Otherwise, they would crash.” It’s a matter of debate whether the creature glided or flapped. Chiappe’s money is on the latter. “Everyone agrees they were capable of becoming airborne somehow — and I think they took off from the ground flapping,” he said. “They couldn’t have been able to climb trees like that.” The northeast Chinese region of Liaoning where the fossils were found is a region renowned for its exceptionally well-preserved fossils, the study said. Numerous feathered — but non-avian — dinos were found there, which “cemented the notion that birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs.” “This was an unexpected discovery,” Chiappe told The Post. “But it plays a role in the early junction in the evolution of flight.” Source
  20. A team of astronomers led by Dr Robert Wittenmyer of the University of New South Wales has discovered a super-Earth orbiting near the inner edge of the habitable zone of Gliese 832 (GJ 832), a red-dwarf star previously known to host a cold Jupiter-like exoplanet. Gliese 832, also known as HD 204961 or LHS 3685, is a M1.5 dwarf located in the constellation Grus, about 16 light-years from Earth. It has about half the mass and radius of the Sun. This star is already known to harbor Gliese 832b, a cold Jupiter-like planet discovered in 2009. “With an outer giant planet and an interior potentially rocky planet, this planetary system can be thought of as a miniature version of our Solar System,” said Prof Chris Tinney, an astronomer with the University of New South Wales and a co-author of the discovery paper accepted for publication in theAstrophysical Journal (arXiv.org pre-print). The newly discovered exoplanet, labeled Gliese 832c, has an orbital period of 35.68 days, a mass 5.4 times that of Earth’s and receives about the same average energy as Earth does from the Sun. Gliese 832c might have Earth-like temperatures, albeit with large seasonal shifts, given a similar terrestrial atmosphere. “If the planet has a similar atmosphere to Earth it may be possible for life to survive, although seasonal shifts would be extreme,” Prof Tinney said. A denser atmosphere, something expected for Super-Earths, could easily make this planet too hot for life and a Super-Venus instead. The Earth Similarity Index of Gliese 832c (0.81) is comparable to exoplanetsGliese 667Cc (0.84) and Kepler-62e (0.83). This makes it one of the top three most Earth-like planets according to the ESI and the closest one to Earth of all three, a prime object for follow-up observations. Gliese 832c was discovered from its gravitational pull on its star, which causes the star to wobble slightly. Dr Wittenmyer, Prof Tinney and their colleagues used the Anglo-Australian Telescope, the 6.5-m Magellan Telescope and the European Southern Observatory 3.6-m telescope to make this new discovery. Gliese 832b and c are a scaled-down version of our own Solar System, with an inner potentially Earth-like planet and an outer Jupiter-like giant planet. Gliese 832b may well played a similar dynamical role in the system to that played by Jupiter in our Solar System. “It will be interesting to know if any additional objects in the Gliese 832 system follow this familiar Solar System configuration, but this architecture remains rare among the known exoplanet systems,” the scientists said. Source
  21. New Unique Mineral Discovered In Australia Meet putnisite, a new mineral discovered in Western Australia that is unlike any previously known minerals. It contains strontium, calcium, chromium, sulphur, carbon, oxygen and hydrogen. When reached for comment, Superman had this to say, "Whaaaa, get it away from me! I can't take any chances." "While dozens of new minerals are discovered each year, it is rare to find one that is unrelated to already-known substances. "Most minerals belong to a family or small group of related minerals, or if they aren't related to other minerals they often are to a synthetic compound--but putnisite is completely unique and unrelated to anything," said Peter Elliott, co-author of a study describing the new substance and a researcher at the South Australian Museum and the University of Adelaide, in a statement. "Nature seems to be far cleverer at dreaming up new chemicals than any researcher in a laboratory." It's crazy we're still discovering all new things on earth. Like, maybe this planet isn't so beat after all. I mean, you probably wouldn't be able to tell that from the way we treat it, but sometimes you're hard on the things you love. Source