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The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Daily Drift

The Daily Drift
Until we throw the invaders out ...!
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Today in History

Today in History
1017 Turks defeat the Byzantine army under Emperor Romanus IV at Manikert, Eastern Turkey.
1429 Joan of Arc makes a triumphant entry into Paris.
1789 The Constituent Assembly in Versailles, France, approves the final version of the Declaration of Human Rights.
1862 Confederate General Thomas 'Stonewall' Jackson encircles the Union Army under General John Pope at the Second Battle of Bull Run.
1883 The Indonesian island of Krakatoa erupts in the largest explosion recorded in history, heard 2,200 miles away in Madagascar. The resulting destruction sends volcanic ash up 50 miles into the atmosphere and kills almost 36,000 people–both on the island itself and from the resulting 131-foot tidal waves that obliterate 163 villages on the shores of nearby Java and Sumatra.
1920 The 19th Amendment to the Constitution is officially ratified, giving women the right to vote.
1943 The United States recognizes the French Committee of National Liberation.
1957 Ford Motor Company reveals the Edsel, its latest luxury car.
1966 South African Defense Force troops attack a People's Liberation Army of Nambia at Omugulugwombashe, the first battle of the 22-year Namibian War of Independence.
1970 A nationwide Women's Strike for Equality, led by Betty Friedan on the 50th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment calls attention to unequal pay and other gender inequalities in America.
1977 The National Assembly of Quebec adopts Bill 101, Charter of the French Language, making French the official language of the Canadian province.
1978 Albino Luciani elected to the Papacy and chooses the name Pope John Paul I ; his 33-day reign is among the shortest in Papal history.
1978 Sigmund Jähn becomes first German to fly in space, on board Soviet Soyuz 31.
1999 Russia begins the Second Chechen War in response to the Invasion of Dagestan by the Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade.

Non Sequitur

Daily Comic Relief
The 'Reality Bites' Edition

Two Moons

Odds and Sods
On August 27th 2013, you will see two moons in the sky, but only one will be the moon. The other will be Mars. It won't happen again until 2287. No one alive today has ever witnessed this happening.

Air: It ain’t what it used to be

It's Only The Environment After All
“Have another hit, of fresh air,” so goes the chorus in the Quicksilver Messenger Service song: “Fresh Air.” This is 1970s-era stuff. Fresh air. What does that mean? Such would seem to be a relative or loosely […]
It's Not Like We Don't Have Another One

Did you know ...

Did You Know ...
That the influence of the christian wingnuts beginning to wane?

That the repugicans have declared war on working people

That veterans call for the firing of VA secretary

That Dr. Who and Craig Ferguson were/are in a punk band!!

Lush Dimbulb Is Too Dumb to Understand That Obama Was Mocking Him and the repugican cabal

Lunatic Fringe
After Obama outted repugicans as being afraid of Lush Dimbulb, the wingnut hate-spewer was too dumb to understand that the president was mocking the repugican cabal’s fear of him.
On CNN, the president let it be known that the repugicans are afraid of a hate speech radio host, “Nobody thinks that’s good for the middle class. So the question is ultimately, if you are putting the American people first, if you are prioritizing them, then this shouldn’t be that difficult. And I’ve made this argument to my repugican friends privately, and, by the way, sometimes they say to me privately, “I agree with you, but I’m worried about a primary from, you know, somebody in the tea party back in my district,” or, “I’m worried about what Lush Dimbulb is going to say about me on the radio. And so you got to understand, I’m — it’s really difficult.”
Dimbulb tried to spin these comments as Obama blaming him for the gridlock in D.C.:
I am the reason he can’t move his agenda forward, which of course is silly because he’s getting everything he wants. He blamed me again. I mean, it’s like a broken record. You know what I think is happening? I think that nobody’s listening to Obama anymore. I don’t think he commands nearly the attention or the interest that he did. So what he’s doing is going back to the greatest hits, kind of like if you’re at a radio station and losing audience, play the hits, you know, stop the New Age stuff and go play the hits. Well, he’s going back and he recycled this idea that the repugicans are not cooperating with him because they’re afraid of what I’m gonna say about them.
The repugicans are not listening to me! The true irony here is the repugicans are not listening to me. I don’t know who the repugicans are listening to outside of their consultants, but they’re not listening to me, but he’s gotta blame somebody.
This is the opposite of what the president was suggesting. Obama wasn’t blaming Dimbulb for gridlock, but simply stating the fact that repugicans are afraid of  a hate speech radio host whose only power is the fear that he creates in them. The president was mocking the sorry state of the repugican cabal.
Dimbulb doesn’t want to admit it, but repugicans are afraid to cross him. They don’t want him trashing them to his listeners. Dimbulb isn’t guiding the agenda of the repugican cabal, you will not hear a single peep of criticism of Lush from any elected repugican.
Lush Dimbulb doesn’t get it. President Obama was saying that the repugican fear of Dimbulb is one of the reasons why the repugican cabal refuses to work with him. Dimbulb’s inflation of himself as blamed for the gridlock was nothing more than a giant ego stroke on his part. It is the repugican fear of the Dimbulb monster under their beds that is the problem. Dimbulb doesn’t have the power to block Obama’s agenda. In fact, what repugicans can’t understand is that he doesn’t have any power at all.
What Obama revealed demonstrated how pathetic the repugican cabal has become, but Lush Dimbulb and the repugican cabal are too dumb to know when they are being mocked.
Lush may be obsessed with the president, but Obama is too busy being the leader of the free world to waste a second of his time thinking about a non-entity like Dimbulb. It’s just too bad that repugicans can’t learn to treat Dimbulb the exact same way.

In North Carolina ‘Eligible Voter’ is Newspeak for Rich White Male repugicans

Lunatic Fringe
In repugican newspeak, eligible voter is code for voters who are rich, white, male and repugican. NC vote suppression
North Carolina is an example of how quickly fascists masquerading as libertarians can turn a once progressive state into a wingnut backwater.  While the State’s lawmakers are enjoying a break, their minions at the local level continue the work of disenfranchising people repugicans don’t consider eligible voters.
It’s time to cut to the chase.  In repugican newspeak, eligible voter is code for voters who are rich, white, male and repugican.  When repugicans speak of “widespread” voter fraud, what they are really saying is votes by African Americans, Hispanics, women and the poor are “fraudulent.”  That’s what happens when you let the crazy tail wag the once moderate dog.
When Colin Powell served as Secretary of State in the shrub junta, he was well respected across party lines. In those days, bi-partisanship was possible, things got done and ideas were discussed. Negotiation meant each side gave a little to reach a compromise in the name of doing what’s best for the country.
The repugicans never “forgave” Americans for electing a black man to lead the country n 2008.  Since then the repugican cabal became more extreme. Preaching ignorance, sexism and racism while claiming to be “good christians” became the new normal.
Colin Powell is one of the few repugicans that you can let out in pubic and he is also one of the few repugicans worth listening to.
Powell was the keynote speaker at the CEO Forum in Raleigh North Carolina on Thursday.  After the state’s governor made his opening remarks, Colin Powell smashed repugican cabal talking points about North Carolina’s vote suppression law. According to the Raleigh News Observer, McCrony left before Colin Powell commented on the state’s vote suppression law.
Considering that Pat McCrony didn’t know what was in the law when he signed it, it’s too bad he didn’t stick around.  He might have learned something about reality.  He might have learned that you need to broaden your appeal beyond ignorant racists to win elections.  Powell’s comments would have explained the law that McCrony signed but knew nothing about.
I want to see policies that encourage every American to vote, not make it more difficult to vote… It immediately turns off a voting block the repugican cabal needs …. These kinds of actions do not build on the base. It just turns people away… You can say what you like, but there is no voter fraud … How can it be widespread and undetected… What it really says to the minority voters is … We really are sort-of punishing you.
The punishment continues as repugicans at county boards of election establish additional obstacles directly aimed at young voters, especially if they are black, attend a public college or both.
The Pasquotank County Board of Elections, like all county boards in North Carolina, is controlled by repugicans. It decided Montravias King, an Elisabeth City State University student, isn’t qualified to run for city council because he lives in a dorm.
Gerry Cohen, Special Counsel to the N.C. General Assembly says the board’s decision violates settled law in North Carolina.
Montravias King filed an appeal with the state board of elections.  This may be a canary in the coal mine case.  If the State Board of Elections strikes down the county board’s decision,  voting will still be hard for eligible voters in college, but at least they won’t be disenfranchised for living in a dorm.
If the State Board of Elections upholds the county board’s decision, the head of the county’s repugican cabal will undoubtedly follow through with his announced intention to use the County Board’s decision to challenge votes by ECSU students. Moreover, other counties will likely follow Pasquotank County’s lead.
As Rachel Maddow reported on her Thursday show, students at ECSU faced challenges to their voting rights even before repugicans in North Carolina passed the most restrictive vote suppression law in the country.  In 2007, a local repugican unsuccessfully challenged 18 students’ votes claiming the students didn’t really live at the college. In April 2013, hearings lasted for several hours to accommodate all the challenges to ECSU student voters.
Elisabeth City is also home to another college.  Mid-Atlantic christian College is a private school with a predominantly white student body. It’s the kind of school and students repugicans love.  The college holds registration drives so that students can register to vote from school and they even shuttle students to their polling places.  Rachel Maddow talked with the school’s vice president.  During his seven years with the school, he doesn’t know of a single time a MAC College student’s right to vote was challenged.
In other words, repugicans in this county found it necessary to challenge votes by students at a predominantly black public college, but not the students at a predominantly white private college.  It’s impossible to overlook the racial double standard.  The repugicans proved once again that they want voting eligibility to be determined by the amount of pigment in one’s skin, their social status and, of course, their political orientation.
Watauga County got innovative in a creepy way.  Rather than risk the bad publicity that comes with making decisions that obviously violate state law, they preferred the bad publicity that comes with establishing physical obstacles to the vote. The manner by which they made this decision is even creepier because the repugican controlled board decided to make a few revisions to the minutes.
The board decided to eliminate the early voting site and Election Day voting site at another of the state’s public colleges, Appalachian State University.  In fact, they decided to consolidate 3 voting precincts into one.  It means that the new location, the Agriculture center, will have to accommodate 9,500 voters.  Just to give you some perspective on the significance of this number, a federal directive recommended that precincts serve 1500 voters.  A super precinct is defined as a precinct serving more than 2,000 voters.
This might not sound like a big deal if the chosen location at least has the resources needed to service this many voters.  The Agriculture Center has 35 parking places – several of which will be used by poll workers. That may leave maybe 20 parking places to accommodate 10,000 voters.  If you think voters can walk or use public transit – think again.
Agriculture Center
Public transit to what will be the third largest voting precinct in the state is non-existent.  There isn’t a sidewalk.   As Ashley Blevins, a student at Appalachian  State University, told the Winston-Salem Journal there isn’t even space to walk next to the road.
“I don’t like this road because, as you can see, there are cars that are just, like, flying by us and there’s no space to walk next to the road,”
You would never know it if you listened to the chairman of the Watauga Elections board.
Our decision to relocate this polling place was not made lightly. In evaluating our alternatives, I considered the ease of access to the polls, the logistics involved with the various possible locations, the demands on elections staff and university staff, the handicapped accessibility of the sites, and other logistical concerns. I am confident that this location will provide an appropriate voting location, and will be an equitable and accessible polling place for all eligible voters.
Fortunately, a reporter from the Winston-Salem-Journal was at the meeting and wrote an article on lengthy and contentious discussion relating to this decision.  In the final revised version of the minutes, the only thing on record about this discussion is “There was discussion by the board.”  Combine that with the Chairman’s statement and you might think the Agriculture Center has more than 35 parking places, public transit can take non-drivers to their precinct, there’s a sidewalk for pedestrians to go to vote or maybe even all of the above.
Suppressing minutes of a public meeting in the name of suppressing the vote is the new reality in North Carolina. Numerous challenges to votes by students who reside in dorms at a predominantly black pubic college contrasted with no challenges of votes by students who reside in dorms at a predominantly white private college makes it abundantly clear that race is very much a part of the Republican vote suppression calculus.  ”Eligible voter” is repugican newspeak for restricting the vote to rich white male repugicans. The repugicans are so determined to suppress the vote one former pre-clearance county in North Carolina, they consolidated nearly 10,000 voters to vote at an out of the way, inaccessible location with 35 parking places.
It’s more than obvious that repugicans in North Carolina need the same sort of attention the DOJ is giving to repugicans in Texas.

‘Sovereign Citizen’ Extremists Arrested in Las Vegas for Plotting to Execute Cops

Lunatic Fringe
Two members of the "sovereign citizen's" movement were arrested in Las Vegas Tuesday night following an investigation that revealed they planned to execute cops.…
Las Vegas Metro Police Department
Two members of the “sovereign citizen’s” movement were arrested in Las Vegas Tuesday night following a four month investigation that revealed the couple planned to kidnap and execute law enforcement officials. David Brutsche, 42, and Devon Newman, 67, were taken into custody without incident after undercover police officers exposed an elaborate plot to kidnap and extra-judicially execute a police officer.  Both individuals were charged with conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and attempted first-degree kidnapping with use of a deadly weapon.
Brutsche is a six-time convicted felon and a registered sex offender for crimes committed against a child. yes, the sovereign citizen’s movement may fancy themselves modern day Patrick Henry patriots, but in reality they are real life versions of Mickey and Mallory from the movie Natural Born Killers minus the charisma. Their concept of liberty is so jaundiced that they feel they are entitled to molest children or to murder police officers as a matter of course, all in the name of liberty and less government. This is Libertarian philosophy run amok. In the ideological universe where Glenn Beck and Alex Jones are seen as legitimate voices of dissent, the Sovereign citizen’s movement is nurtured and watered, as they seek out their bloody crusade against government authority. The only problem is that these people are deadly serious.
The sovereign citizen movement is populated with domestic terrorists who do not respect the law and are willing to kill for their beliefs. Terry Nichols, Timothy McVeigh’s co conspirator in the Oklahoma City Bombing, was a sovereign citizen, so it is not exaggeration or hyperbole to refer to sovereign citizens as domestic terrorists. In addition, members of the movement have assassinated at least half a dozen police officers since the year 2000 and many other plots to kill cops or judges have been thwarted by undercover investigations like the one in Las Vegas that resulted in the arrest of Brutshce and Newman. Joe Stack, the man who flew an airplane into the IRS building in Austin Texas in February of 2010 was also a sovereign citizen.
Perhaps the most famous police killing by sovereign citizens was the execution of two police officers by the father and son team of Jerry and Joseph Kane, who during a routine traffic stop in Arkansas, ambushed and killed two police officers with 16-year old Joseph firing the fatal gun shots from an AK-47. The two men then fled the scene but later initiated a shootout with police in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Both men were killed in the shootout with police. Fortunately, the Las Vegas plot was unearthed before anybody got killed.
Sadly, we can probably expect more sovereign citizen plots as the extremist right continues to lose its grip on power and as immigration reform, the Affordable Care Act and other reasonable legislation continue to threaten the world view of white supremacist anarchists’ steeped in the philosophy of Ayn Rand and armed to the teeth. While they speak in platitudes about liberty, they plot war on police officers and judges behind closed doors. It is a war they cannot and should not win.

The Duplex

Daily Comic Relief
Traffic Cop

Reality and Mental Illness are Starting to Converge

In The News
Through most of human history, the mentally ill spoke of seeing demons, spirits, and ghosts. Those delusions are different now. The Truman Show delusion is one in which the subject is convinced that the world they perceive is not real, but is being manipulated by others for the entertainment of the masses. Just like in the movie. The argument can be made that the Truman Show delusion is not really new, but an update of classic paranoid schizophrenic delusions of the past, reflecting our technological world.
Persecutory delusions, for example, can be found throughout history and across cultures; but within this category a desert nomad is more likely to believe that he is being buried alive in sand by a djinn, and an urban American that he has been implanted with a microchip and is being monitored by the CIA. ‘For an illness that is often characterized as a break with reality,’ they observe, ‘psychosis keeps remarkably up to date.’ Rather than being estranged from the culture around them, psychotic subjects can be seen as consumed by it: unable to establish the boundaries of the self, they are at the mercy of their often heightened sensitivity to social threats.

In this interpretation, the Truman Show delusion is a contemporary expression of a common form of delusion: the grandiose. Those experiencing the onset of psychosis often become convinced that the world has undergone a subtle shift, placing them at center-stage in a drama of universal proportions. Everything is suddenly pregnant with meaning, every tiny detail charged with personal significance. The people around you are often complicit: playing pre-assigned roles, testing you or preparing you for an imminent moment of revelation. Such experiences have typically been interpreted as a divine visitation, a magical transformation or an initiation into a higher level of reality. It is easy to imagine how, if they descended on us without warning today, we might jump to the conclusion that the explanation was some contrivance of TV or social media: that, for some deliberately concealed reason, the attention of the world had suddenly focused on us, and an invisible public was watching with fascination to see how we would respond. The Truman Show delusion, then, needn’t imply that reality TV is either a cause or a symptom of mental illness; it might simply be that the pervasive presence of reality TV in our culture offers a plausible explanation for otherwise inexplicable sensations and events.
Paranoid delusions have been turned into almost believable fiction, in movie such as The Matrix, Total Recall, and, yes, The Truman Show. And some "reality" shows do manipulate everyday people with pranks and covert surveillance for our entertainment. But "real" reality is catching up fast. In the past, people who spoke of magnetic waves in the air and secret government surveillance were considered crazy. Now those things are part of everyday life. Read more about the evolution of paranoid delusions at aeon.

Man blew doors and windows out of house while trying to repair inflatable mattress

Odds and Sods
A German man caused €150,000 of damage to his rented house while trying to repair an inflatable mattress. Being new in town, he had no furniture – and now he has no windows or doors.
The 41-year-old, who has not been named, had moved to the town of Diepholz in Lower Saxony and bought the self-inflatable air mattress as he had nothing to sleep on in his new home.

But the mattress was leaky, so he used an industrial strength puncture repair spray to try and fix it. This reacted with the inbuilt electric pump, causing a violent explosion which threw him across the room, ripped doors off their hinges and smashed windows.
Experts believe that heat from the electric motor ignited the gas in the tyre sealant. He had to be taken to hospital, where he was treated for minor cuts. A police spokesman said the man was lucky to escape with minor cuts and an injured wrist. Prosecutors are now deciding whether to take action against him for causing the explosion.

Man with only map of Scotland rescued from Welsh mountain

Odds and Sods
A man became stuck on a Welsh mountain because his electronic mapping device broke and he only had a map of Scotland with him.

He was on a night reconnaissance on the 3,262ft (994m) Glyder Fach in Snowdonia in preparation for a challenge walk. Members of the Ogwen Valley mountain rescue team helped him to safety. A spokesman warned against depending on electronic applications in the mountains.
"Basically he was depending on an electronic tracking system which he then dropped and the screen broke," said Chris Lloyd. "He never had a paper map of Wales with him, only a map of Scotland, and he was totally dependent on using the electronic device to find his way, so when it broke he was stuck."

The man called rescuers and four members of the Ogwen Valley team walked up the mountain to find him. "People should have a paper map of the correct area, and by all means use the electronic equipment to check your co-ordinates, but don't depend on it because if you are out on the mountain for hours at a time batteries go flat," Mr Lloyd added.

Your Ancestors Didn’t Sleep Like You

Did You Know ...
Your ancestors didn't sleep like you
OK, maybe your grandparents probably slept like you. And your great, great-grandparents. But once you go back before the 1800s, sleep starts to look a lot different. Your ancestors slept in a way that modern sleepers would find bizarre – they slept twice. And so can you.

The History

The existence of our sleeping twice per night was first uncovered by Roger Ekirch, professor of History at Virginia Tech.
His research found that we didn’t always sleep in one eight hour chunk. We used to sleep in two shorter periods, over a longer range of night. This range was about 12 hours long, and began with a sleep of three to four hours, wakefulness of two to three hours, then sleep again until morning.
References are scattered throughout literature, court documents, personal papers, and the ephemera of the past. What is surprising is not that people slept in two sessions, but that the concept was so incredibly common. Two-piece sleeping was the standard, accepted way to sleep.
“It’s not just the number of references – it is the way they refer to it, as if it was common knowledge,” Ekirch says.
An English doctor wrote, for example, that the ideal time for study and contemplation was between “first sleep” and “second sleep.” Chaucer tells of a character in the Canterbury Tales that goes to bed following her “firste sleep.” And, explaining the reason why working class conceived more children, a doctor from the 1500s reported that they typically had sex after their first sleep.
Ekirch’s book At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past is replete with such examples.
But just what did people do with these extra twilight hours? Pretty much what you might expect.
Most stayed in their beds and bedrooms, sometimes reading, and often they would use the time to pray. Religious manuals included special prayers to be said in the mid-sleep hours.
Others might smoke, talk with co-sleepers, or have sex. Some were more active and would leave to visit with neighbours.
As we know, this practice eventually died out. Ekirch attributes the change to the advent of street lighting and eventually electric indoor light, as well as the popularity of coffee houses. Author Craig Koslofsky offers a further theory in his book Evening’s Empire. With the rise of more street lighting, night stopped being the domain of criminals and sub-classes and became a time for work or socializing. Two sleeps were eventually considered a wasteful way to spend these hours.
No matter why the change happened, shortly after the turn of the 20th century the concept of two sleeps had vanished form common knowledge.
Until about 1990.

The Science

Two sleeps per night may have been the method of antiquity, but tendencies towards it still linger in modern man. There could be an innate biological preference for two sleeps, given the right circumstances.
In the early ‘90s, psychiatrist Thomas Wehr of National Institutes of Mental Health conducted a study on photoperiodicity (exposure to light), and its effect on sleep patterns.
In his study, fifteen men spent four weeks with their daylight artificially restricted. Rather than staying up and active the usual sixteen hours per day, they would stay up only ten. The other fourteen hours they would be in a closed, dark room, where they would rest or sleep as much as possible. This mimics the days in mid-winter, with short daylight and long nights.
At first, the participants would sleep huge stretches of time, likely making up for sleep debt that’s common among modern people. Once they had caught up on their sleep though, a strange thing started to happen.
They began to have two sleeps.
Over a twelve hour period, the participants would typically sleep for about four or five hours initially, then wake for several hours, then sleep again until morning. They slept not more than eight hours total.
The middle hours of the night, between two sleeps, was characterized by unusual calmness, likened to meditation. This was not the middle-of-the-night toss-and-turn that many of us experienced. The individuals did not stress about falling back asleep, but used the time to relax.
Russell Foster, professor of circadian neuroscience at Oxford, points out that even with standard sleep patterns, this night waking isn’t always cause for concern. “Many people wake up at night and panic,” he says. “I tell them that what they are experiencing is a throwback to the bi-modal sleep pattern.”
Outside of a scientific setting, this kind of sleep pattern is still attainable, but it does require changing our modern, electric lifestyle. Very cool person J. D. Moyer did just that. He and his family intentionally went an entire month with no electric light.
In the winter months, this meant a lot of darkness and a lot of sleep. Moyer writes “…I would go to bed really early, like 8:30, and then get up around 2:30am.  This was alarming at first, but then I remembered that this sleep pattern was quite common in pre-electric light days.  When this happened I would end up reading or writing by candlelight for an hour or two, then going back to bed.”
Moyer didn’t set out to reproduce our ancestors sleep pattern, it just happened as a byproduct of a lot of dark hours.

Should We Revive Two Sleeps?

Although history shows that two sleeping was common, and science indicates that it is (in some conditions) natural, there is no indication that it is better. Two sleeps may leave you feeling more rested, but this could simply be because you are intentionally giving yourself more time to rest, relax, and sleep. Giving the same respect to the single, eight-hour sleep should be just as effective.
Note too that two sleeping needs a lot of darkness – darkness that is only possible naturally during the winter months. The greater levels of daylight during summer and other seasons would make two sleeping difficult, or even impossible.
Perhaps two sleeping is merely a coping mechanism to get through the long, cold, boring nights of the winter. Today, we don’t need to cope. So long as we give our sleep the time and respect it needs, getting the “standard” eight hours of sleep should be fine.
But next time you wake up at 2 AM and can’t sleep, just remember your great, great, great, great, great grandfather. He did the same thing every night.

The Science Behind Honey’s Eternal Shelf Life

Scientific Minds Want To Know
Raw honey doesn't spoil. As long as its sealed away from moisture, you can eat honey that is years, or even thousands of years old in its raw state. Why is this? It has to do with sugar, water content, and bee bellies. Amina Harris of UC Davis explains.
“Bees are magical,” Harris jokes. But there is certainly a special alchemy that goes into honey. Nectar, the first material collected by bees to make honey, is naturally very high in water–anywhere from 60-80 percent, by Harris’ estimate. But through the process of making honey, the bees play a large part in removing much of this moisture by flapping their wings to literally dry out the nectar. On top of behavior, the chemical makeup of a bees stomach also plays a large part in honey’s resilience. Bees have an enzyme in their stomachs called glucose oxidase (PDF). When the bees regurgitate the nectar from their mouths into the combs to make honey, this enzyme mixes with the nectar, breaking it down into two by-products: gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide. “Then,” Harris explains, “hydrogen peroxide is the next thing that goes into work against all these other bad things that could possibly grow.”
It's the hydrogen peroxide that makes honey last longer than molasses or corn syrup, and also what gives honey its medicinal properties. Read more about the magic of honey at Smithsonian.

Newly unearthed ruins change views of Romans

Scientific Minds Want To Know - Roman Edition
In a long-buried Italian city, archaeologists have found a massive monument that dates back 300 years before the Colosseum and 100 years before the invention of mortar, revealing that the Romans had grand architectural ambitions much earlier than previously thought.
Newly unearthed ruins challenge views of early Romans
University of Michigan archaeologists digging in Italy have unearthed a grand structure unlike anything the Romans were known to be building at the time. Dating back 300 years before the Coliseum, the football-field-sized monument contains two terraces connected by a grand staircase, a massive stone retaining wall and geometrically patterned floors [Credit: Marcello Mogetta/University of Michigan]
The structure, unearthed at the site known as Gabii, just east of Rome, is built with giant stone blocks in a Lego-like fashion. It's about half the size of a football field and dates back 350-250 years BCE. It's possibly the earliest public building ever found, said Nicola Terrenato, a University of Michigan classics professor who leads the project—the largest American dig in Italy in the past 50 years.

The huge complex, which might also have been an exceptionally lavish private residence, holds a stone retaining wall, geometrically patterned floors and two terraces connected by a grand staircase. It's unlike anything the Romans were thought to be building at the time, Terrenato said, and it challenges the ancient stereotype that they were at that point a modest and conservative people.

"There are a lot of constructive details that are beautiful to look at and they tell us more about how the Romans were building at that stage," Terrenato said."This shows us they were beginning to experiment with modifying their natural environments—cutting back the natural slope and creating a retaining wall, for example— about a quarter of a millennium earlier than we thought.

"This is at least 300 years before the Colosseum, and it represents a crucial, formative step in the process that leads to it."

Newly unearthed ruins challenge views of early Romans
A team of 60 researchers including undergraduates and graduate students from several universities took part this summer in a major archaeological dig at the site of Gabii, just outside Rome. The project, which began in 2009, is the largest American dig in Italy in the past 50 years [Credit: Marcello Mogetta/University of Michigan]
Terrenato was struck by the size of the blocks in the retaining wall. Each weighed thousands of pounds, unusual for the period. Block size was the only way the residents could keep such a structure stable because mortar hadn't been invented yet.

"This is like Lego construction," Terrenato said. "They stacked them one on top of each other without any glue binding them together. This is the only technique they had access to and it must have been the desire for this kind of grand construction that drove them to the invention of mortar about 125 years later."

The find may out the Romans for centuries of false finger-pointing. As historians like Cicero told the story, the Romans were conservative and sober and only became lavish after the soldiers who conquered Greece returned home with a taste for extravagance. But the new monument predates that by one or two centuries.

"Rome conquered Greece in the 140s BCE. Roman historians said the soldiers came back and wanted Greek luxury, which is way of trying to shift blame," Terrenato said. "We now know that long before they conquered Greece, the Romans were already thinking big. This tears apart the view of Romans in this period as being very modest and inconspicuous."

Newly unearthed ruins challenge views of early Romans
The massive monument recently discovered outside Rome shows an important step in the development of the impressive architectural style the Romans became known for [Credit: Marcello Mogetta/University of Michigan]
The site of Gabii, situated on undeveloped land in modern-day Lazio, was once a major city, but appears to have waned by the third century as the Roman Empire grew. The goal of the Gabii Project is to show what a city in the region looked like before Rome's great development. Because the site is outside Rome, archaeologists are able to explore its deepest levels—something that's impossible to do within city limits because of later construction piled on top.

This summer, 60 researchers worked there, including 35 undergraduates and 15 graduate students. The $2 million dig, sponsored by the U-M Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, is slated to end in 2014, but largely because of this find, the team is hoping to be able to extend the project. The researchers have uncovered about 60 percent of the building.

"Even though we could not observe the complex in its entire extent, we know we are dealing with a monument without parallels in the region, including Rome," said Marcello Mogetta, project managing director and a U-M doctoral student in classical art and archaeology. "My bet is that this will become a benchmark in future surveys of Roman architecture."

Andrew Johnston, assistant professor of classics at Yale University, directs the program's field school, and he points to the find's educational impacts.

"In the longer term, this is a discovery that we expect will radically change our understanding of Roman Republican history and archaeology," he said. "But more immediately, our students are returning from the field to the classrooms of their home institutions—Michigan, Yale and over a dozen others—with a new set of skills, methodologies, approaches and questions that we hope will enrich and inform their studies in various academic disciplines in manifold ways."

Lost Roman outpost found in southern Jordan

Scientific Minds Want To Know - Roman Edition
Rare new details about an ancient Roman fort in southern Jordan have been uncovered by two UT professors.
Lost Roman outpost found in southern Jordan
The ‘Ayn Gharandal inscription above the collapsed arch of the gate
[Credit: University of Tennessee at Knoxville]
Robert Darby, a lecturer in art history in the School of Art, and Erin Darby, an assistant professor in the Department of Religious Studies, direct the ‘Ayn Gharandal archaeological project that has uncovered details about the fort, including the previously unknown location of an ancient infantry unit.

“This is the type of find archaeologists dream of making—a monumental inscription,” Erin Darby said. “This inscription allows us to fill in some gaps in Roman history. Findings like this don’t happen often, and I’m glad our students could be part of this great discovery.”

Over the past four years the Darbys and their team have been excavating the ruins of ‘Ayn Gharandal. This past June the team uncovered the collapsed gate of the fort, including a large Latin inscription with traces of red paint. The inscribed block was decorated with laurel branches and a wreath, common symbols of victory in Roman art.

The inscription says the fort was dedicated to four co-ruling Roman emperors: Diocletian, Maximian, Galerius, and Constantius I, a group otherwise known as the Tetrarchs, who ruled between 293 and 305 A.D.

The inscription also reveals the infantry unit stationed at the fort was the Cohors II Galatarum, or the Second Cohort of Galatians. Ancient sources place the unit at a site called Arieldela, whose location was previously unknown until this discovery.

“Roman military documents from this region suggest that the Cohors II Galatarum was originally brought to Israel to help suppress the Jewish uprising of the second century known as the Bar Kokhba Revolt,” said Robert Darby. “The inscription indicates that this garrison remained in the area and was subsequently transferred to the outer frontier of the empire, located in what is now modern Jordan.”

Very few Late Roman building inscriptions have been found at forts in the region, and this particular inscription is the only one uncovered through archaeological excavation.

The inscription has been removed from the site for conservation at the American Center of Oriental Research in Amman, Jordan, and the excavated areas have been backfilled.

The 2013 field season was supported by UT, the University of Missouri-Columbia, the American Schools of Oriental Research, and the Department of Antiquities of Jordan.

The ‘Ayn Gharandal archaeological project will conduct its next major field season in the summer of 2015.

Hidden slave tunnel found beneath Hadrian’s Villa

Scientific Minds Want To Know - Roman Edition
Italian archaeologists have discovered a hidden tunnel beneath Hadrian’s Villa near Rome, part of a network of galleries and passageways that would have been used by slaves to discreetly service the sprawling imperial palace. 
Hidden slave tunnel found beneath Hadrian’s Villa
One of the 'service' tunnels beneath Hadrian's Villa, built in the 2nd century as an imperial escape from Rome [Credit: Marco Placidi]
The newly-found tunnel was large enough to have taken carts and wagons, which would have ferried food, fire wood and other goods from one part of the sprawling palace to another.

The villa, at Tivoli, about 20 miles east of Rome, was built by Hadrian in the 2nd century AD and was the largest ever constructed in the Roman period.

It covered around 250 acres and consisted of more than 30 major buildings.

Although known as a villa, it was in fact a vast country estate which consisted of palaces, libraries, heated baths, theatres, courtyards and landscaped gardens.

There were outdoor ornamental pools adorned with green marble crocodiles, as well as a perfectly round, artificial island in the middle of a pond. 

Beneath the complex were more than two miles of tunnels which would have enabled slaves to move from the basement of one building to another without being seen by the emperor, his family and imperial dignitaries.

Hidden slave tunnel found beneath Hadrian’s Villa
Statues along a pool at Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli [Credit: Getty Images]
The newly-discovered underground passageway has been dubbed by archaeologists the Great Underground Road — in Italian the Strada Carrabile.

Many of the tunnels have been known about for decades but this one is far larger than the rest.

It was discovered after archaeologists working at the site stumbled upon a small hole in the ground, hidden by bushes and brambles, which led to the main gallery.

Around 10ft wide, it runs in a north-easterly direction and then switches towards the south.

“All the majesty of the villa is reflected underground,” Vittoria Fresi, the archaeologist leading the research project, told Il Messagero newspaper.

“The underground network helps us to understand the structures that are above ground.” In contrast to the palace, which fell into disrepair after the fall of the Roman Empire and was plundered for its stone, the underground network remains “almost intact”.

Hidden slave tunnel found beneath Hadrian’s Villa
The first tunnels to be discovered at the start of this century are marked in blue and travel from the Piazza to the Grand Trapeze. The second, red tunnels travel away from the Grand Trapeze. The green roads travel underground from the entrance hall to the piazza. The yellow line is the newly-discovered tunnel that is 2.4-metres wide and dubbed The Great Underground Road [Credit: Marco Placidi]
The tunnel has been explored by a society of amateur archaeologists with caving and abseiling skills, as well as by wire-controlled robots equipped with cameras.

Much of it is blocked by debris that has accumulated over the centuries.

Heritage officials are hoping to organise the first public tours of the tunnels in the autumn.

“After a lot of work, we are preparing to open several areas to guided visits,” said Benedetta Adembri, the director of Hadrian’s Villa.

Hadrian, who built the eponymous defensive wall in northern England, was a keen amateur architect who incorporated into the design of his villa architectural styles that he had seen during his travels in Egypt and Greece.

He started building the palace shortly after he became emperor in 117AD and continued adding to it until his death in 138AD.

It included dining halls, fountains, and quarters for courtiers, slaves and the Praetorian Guard.

Ancient shipwrecks found off Turkish coast

Scientific Minds Want To Know - Turkish Edition
Work has begun to unearth and exhibit ship remains from different eras that were discovered during an underwater excavation in the ancient town of Limantepe (Greek Klazomenai) on Turkey’s western coast.
Ancient shipwrecks found off Turkish coast
Remains of a vessel dating from the seventh-century B.C.
[Credit: AA]
It has been 13 years since the underwater excavations started in Limantepe, a site that attracted the interest of researchers when they could not initially identify areas in the sea on aerial photographs of the İskele neighborhood in the district of Urla.

Ancient shipwrecks found off Turkish coast
Twenty underwater archaeologists are taking part in the
excavations in Limantepe [Credit: AA]
Twenty underwater archaeologists, under the direction of Professor Hayat Erkanal, are taking part in the excavations in Limantepe, the site of a prehistoric settlement which witnessed humanity’s passage from being hunter-gatherers to farmers. 

Ancient shipwrecks found off Turkish coast
The team has discovered many ship remains from different eras and items
that came out of these ships, which have been desalinated in a 
laboratory in preparation for exhibition [Credit: AA]
Klazomenai or Clazomenae was an ancient Greek city on the coast of Ionia and a member of the Ionian League. It is thought that an earthquake or other cataclysmic event that took place in the sixth-century B.C. submerged the port.

Ancient shipwrecks found off Turkish coast
The unearthed items have to be desalinated before they could be exhibited, 
otherwise items could break to pieces [Credit: AA]
The excavations, coordinated by the Ankara University Underwater Research and Application Center (ANKÜSAM), are continuing on the base of the port that dates back to the seventh-century B.C. Erkanal has reported that they discovered many ship remains from different eras and items that came out of these ships, which have been desalinated in a laboratory in preparation for exhibition. 

Ancient shipwrecks found off Turkish coast
Greek perfume vase in the form of a head of a helmeted
warrior [Credit: AA]
The harbour of ancient Klazomenai encompasses a vast region underwater, meaning excavations are likely to continue in the upcoming years, said Erkanal.

Of the many ship remains found, a vessel from the seventh-century B.C. and an 18th-century Ottoman warship were taken into complete preservation underwater, according to Erkanal. Another ship was also discovered by fishermen 400 meters from the excavation site at a depth of 17 meters

Ancient skeleton mask discovered in Turkey

Scientific Minds Want To Know - Turkish Edition
A 2,000-year-old skeleton with a mask on its face has been found in the Aizanoi ancient city in Kütahya (Greek Kotyaion), during excavations in the area which have been continuing for two years now with new findings emerging.
Ancient skeleton mask discovered in Turkey
The mask of the skeleton was found along with the face and the body [Credit: Hurriyet]
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, excavation group president Pamukkale University Archeology academic Elif Özer said the excavations had been ongoing since 2011, and many findings had been excavated from the area. The skeleton was excavated from the northern part of the necropolis area.

The mask of the skeleton was found along with the face and the body. This mask is thought to have been used in the burial ceremonies in Aizonoi, said Özer. The mask was put on the face of the dead and this might signify the relation of the dead with the ceremony of Dionysos.

At the same time, excavations in Rome, Italy also uncovered masks. These masks have been related to ancestor cult, according to Özer. “We are doing research on this issue,” she added.

Özer said the information about the findings was yet to be determined, and the masks that had been excavated from the theater area and necropolis area were different. The theater area excavations also revealed Eros masks and Eros sculptures.

Ancient mound in Greece fuels heady speculation

Scientific Minds Want To Know - Greek Edition
Greece's Culture Ministry has warned against "overbold" speculation that an ancient artificial mound being excavated could contain a royal Macedonian grave or even Alexander the Great.
Ancient mound in Greece fuels heady speculation
Aerial view of the burial mound [Credit: Αλέκος Παπαδόπουλος]
Site archaeologist Aikaterini Peristeri has voiced hopes of finding "a significant individual or individuals" within.

Ancient mound in Greece fuels heady speculation
Section of the 500n. retainer wall surrounding
the mound [Credit:To Vima]
Greek websites enthused that it could hold the long-sought grave of 4th-century B.C. warrior-king Alexander the Great - thought to lie in Egypt.

Ancient mound in Greece fuels heady speculation
Detail of the 500n. retainer wall surrounding
the mound [Credit: To Vima]
A Culture Ministry statement Thursday said the partly-excavated mound has yielded a "very remarkable" marble-faced wall from the late 4th century B.C. It is an impressive 500 meters (yards) long and three meters high.

Ancient mound in Greece fuels heady speculation
The Lion of Amphipolis is thought to have once stood on top
of the mound [Credit: WikiCommons]
But the ministry warned it would be "overbold" to link the site near ancient Amphipolis, 370 miles (600 kilometers) north of Athens, with "historic personages" before the excavation is completed.

Fossil insects tweak date of deadly “Atlantis” eruption

Scientific Minds Want To Know - Greek Edition
A new study of insect pests found in an ancient storage jar on the Greek island of Santorini suggests the major volcanic eruption that took place there around 1600 B.C.—and which may have inspired the legend of Atlantis—happened in early summer.
Fossil insects tweak date of deadly “Atlantis” eruption
The volcanic crater on Nea Kameni in Santorini, Greece [Credit: Celyn, Alamy]
The "Atlantis" eruption was one of the most significant volcanic eruptions in human history. The blast is credited for not only ending the Minoan civilization, but also for affecting ancient Egypt and other communities around the eastern Mediterranean, explained Eva Panagiotakopulu, a palaeoecologist and fossil-insect expert at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Based on previous evidence, scientists had concluded that the eruption happened sometime between 1627 to 1600 B.C. But there has been one important and unresolved question about the event: What season did it take place in?

In a new study, published in a recent issue of the journal Naturwissenschaften, Panagiotakopulu and her team now say that based on insect remains found in a jar containing seeds of sweet peas discovered at the Bronze Age settlement of Akrotiri, they think the eruption occurred sometime between June to early July.

It was only during these months, the scientists say, that the insect, a species of bean weevil, would have had an opportunity to infest the crops and end up in the storage area.

"There is a short window from early to mid summer just after threshing which could justify the assemblage [of insects] recovered," Panagiotakopulu explained in an email.

What's New?

Often called the "Pompei of the Aegean world," Akrotiri was buried in a layer of ash and pumice during the eruption that helped preserve the site for thousands of years.

"The infested [peas] were found in one of the ground-floor rooms of the West house"—a multistory building in the northwest section of the city—"which was used for storage," Panagiotakopulu said.

Even though the seed jar and its cache of insects was found about 50 years ago, it wasn't until recently, following the development of better techniques to date fossil insect material, that scientists realized they could be used to help date the eruption that buried the city.

"The idea came much later," Panagiotakopulu said, and was "the outcome of long-term study on fossil insect on this and other sites."

Using a new pretreatment method to radiocarbon date a protein called chitin that makes up the insects' shells, the researchers obtained a date range (1744 to 1538 B.C.) for the fossils that agreed with the findings from other studies.

More importantly, though, the scientists realized the insects were their best clue yet about what season the eruption took place in.

Why Is It Important?

Determining the year that a prehistoric volcanic eruption took place is notoriously difficult, Panagiotakopulu explained, and trying to assign a season to one is even harder.

Other researchers have tried to figure out the season of the Santorini eruption by analyzing the distribution of its ash and debris.

"But in our case, we are speaking from the site data," Panagiotakopulu said. "How often can one go back to a prehistoric event and say that it happened during summer?"

What Does This Mean?

The bean weevils found in the jar of sweet peas at Akrotiri were at different stages of their life cycles. The fossil assemblage included larvae, pupae, and adults or "imagines."

This is important, the scientists say, because it suggests the insects were killed as a result of a single event, probably shortly after the seeds were stored away.

"The [beetles] found can only infest [peas] in the field and they have one annual life cycle," Panagiotakopulu said.

Knowing the season of the Santorini eruption could allow scientists to create more accurate models of the event and lead to a better understanding of how the ash and debris was scattered around the globe, she added.

What's Next?

Panagiotakopulu said there are other seed assemblages at Akrotiri that warrant further study.

"More work on relevant deposits," she said, "closely dated by historical or archaeological context on other sites will enable the refinement of the methodology for dating insect chitin and allow its wider application."

Neolithic settlement in Poland reconstructed

Scientific Minds Want To Know
The project is being carried out as an extension of the Open Air Archaeological Museum at the site.
Neolithic settlement in Poland reconstructed
A neolithic settlement in Biskupin, north central Poland, is being reconstructed
with the aid of EU funding [Credit: PAP/Tytus Zmijewski]
“Biskupin's archaeological reserve is not only one of the most famous museums of its kind in Poland, but also in Central Europe,” said Piotr Calbecki, the Kuyavian-Pomeranian province's elected assembly leader (marshal), in an interview with the Polish Press Agency (PAP).

“This place has gained a well-deserved reputation, thanks to consistent development... and we are now using the opportunity to enrich the site,” he said.

The remains of a neolithic settlement were first discovered in 1934 by local teacher Walenty Szwajcer. Archaeological work began the following year, led by Professor Jozef Kostrzewski (1885-1969).

The mock settlement currently being constructed includes long-houses of the kind that existed 6000 years ago. Furthermore, plants that were typical of the time will be grown on plots near the houses.

The entire investment, including a new tourist centre, will cost 4.3 million zloty (1 million euros), over a quarter of which came from EU funds.

The opening of the new sections of the museum is scheduled for 2014.

Lowest temperature for life discovered

Scientific Minds Want To Know
Scientists have pinpointed the lowest temperature at which simple life can live and grow  The study, published in PLoS One, reveals that below -20 °C, single-celled organisms dehydrate, sending them into a vitrified – glass-like – state during which they are unable to complete their life cycle.
Lowest temperature for life discovered
Algae and bacteria in Scanning Electron Microscope [Credit: WikiCommons]
The researchers propose that, since the organisms cannot reproduce below this temperature, -20 °C is the lowest temperature limit for life on Earth.

Scientists placed single-celled organisms in a watery medium, and lowered the temperature. As the temperature fell, the medium started to turn into ice and as the ice crystals grew, the water inside the organisms seeped out to form more ice. This left the cells first dehydrated, and then vitrified. Once a cell has vitrified, scientists no longer consider it living as it cannot reproduce, but cells can be brought back to life when temperatures rise again. This vitrification phase is similar to the state plant seeds enter when they dry out.

'The interesting thing about vitrification is that in general a cell will survive, where it wouldn't survive freezing, if you freeze internally you die. But if you can do a controlled vitrification you can survive,' says Professor Andrew Clarke of NERC's British Antarctic Survey , lead author of the study. 'Once a cell is vitrified it can continue to survive right down to incredibly low temperatures. It just can't do much until it warms up.'

More complex organisms are able to survive at lower temperatures because they are able to control the medium the cells sit in to some extent.

Bacteria, unicellular algae and unicellular fungi – of which there are a huge amount in the world-are free-living because they don't rely on other organisms ,' Clarke explains.

'Everything else, like trees and animals and insects, has the ability to control the fluid that surrounds their internal cells. In our case it's blood and lymph. In a complicated organism the cells sit in an environment that the organism can control. Free-living organisms don't have this; if ice forms in the environment they are subject to all the stresses that implies.'

If a free-living cell cools too quickly it would be unable to dehydrate and vitrify; instead it would freeze and wouldn't survive.

This goes some way towards explaining why preserving food using deep freezing works. Most fridge freezers operate at a temperature of nearly -20 °C . This study shows that this temperature works because moulds and bacteria are unable to multiply and spoil food.

'We were really pleased that we had a result which had a wider relevance, as it provided a mechanism for why domestic freezers are as successful as they are,' Clarke says.

The scientists believe that the temperature limit they have discovered is universal, and below -20°C simple forms of unicellular life can grow on Earth. During the study they looked at a wide range of single-celled organismsthat use a variety of different energy sources, from light to minerals, to metabolise. Every single type vitrified below this temperature.

'When you have a single-celled organism and cool it until ice forms in the external medium, in every case we looked at the cells dehydrated and then vitrified between -10°C and -25 °C. There were no exceptions,' explains Clarke.