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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.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Daily Drift

Just so you know ....

Carolina Naturally is read in 194 countries around the world daily.
Well ... !
Today is - Stay Home Because You Are Well Day

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Today in History

1782 The British sign a preliminary agreement in Paris, recognizing American independence.
1838 Mexico declares war on France.
1861 The British Parliament sends to Queen Victoria an ultimatum for the United States, demanding the release of two Confederate diplomats who were seized on the British ship Trent.
1864 The Union wins the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee.
1900 The French government denounces British actions in South Africa, declaring sympathy for the Boers.
1900 Oscar Wilde dies in a Paris hotel room after saying of the room's wallpaper: "One of us had to go."
1906 President Theodore Roosevelt publicly denounces segregation of Japanese schoolchildren in San Francisco.
1919 Women cast votes for the first time in French legislative elections.
1935 Non-belief in Nazism is proclaimed grounds for divorce in Germany.
1945 Russian forces take Danzig in Poland and invade Austria.
1948 The Soviet Union complete the division of Berlin, installing the government in the Soviet sector.
1950 President Truman declares that the United States will use the A-bomb to get peace in Korea.
1956 The United States offers emergency oil to Europe to counter the Arab ban.
1961 The Soviet Union vetoes a UN seat for Kuwait, pleasing Iraq.
1974 India and Pakistan decide to end a 10-year trade ban.
1974 Pioneer II sends photos back to NASA as it nears Jupiter.
1981 Representatives of the US and USSR meet in Geneva, Switzerland, to begin negotiations on reducing the number of intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe.
1993 US President Bill Clinton signs the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (better known as the Brady Bill) into law.
1994 MS Achille Lauro, a ship with long history of problems including a 1985 terrorist hijacking, catches fire off the coast of Somalia.
1995 Operation Desert Storm officially comes to an end.
1998 Exxon and Mobil oil companies agree to a $73.7 billion merge, creating the world's largest company, Exxon-Mobil.
2004 On the game show Jeopardy! contestant Ken Jennings loses after 74 consecutive victories. It is the longest winning streak in game-show history, earning him a total of over $3 million.

Non Sequitur


How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football

After 18 players died on the field, the president decided it was time to change the game.
During the late 1870s, American “foot ball” resembled a combination of soccer and rugby with a riot mob mentality. Almost anything went: Players could carry the ball, kick it, or pass it backward. Starting in 1880, Walter Camp, a Yale player now known as the father of American football, introduced a series of changes to make the game more strategic. Unfortunately, some ended up making the game more dangerous. The most infamous example was Harvard’s “Flying Wedge,” inspired by Napoleonic war tactics: Offensive players assumed a V-shaped formation behind the line of scrimmage, then converged en masse on a single defensive lineman. “Think of it—half a ton of bone and muscle coming into collision with a man weighing 160 or 170 pounds,” wrote The New York Times in 1892.

Within a few years, the Wedge was abolished, but the introduction of nose guards and flimsy leather helmets—both of which were optional—created illusions of safety that encouraged even more violent plays. The crowds ate it up—by the early 1890s, 40,000 fans attended the biggest games. But criticism, too, was growing. Charles Eliot, president of Harvard, became the unofficial leader of the anti-football movement. By 1895, he was calling for an outright ban.
Football did have one towering supporter on its side, though: Teddy Roosevelt, a Harvard grad whom Eliot had once called “feeble.” Roosevelt espoused “muscular Christianity,” a belief that the path to a stronger spirit was a stronger body. Though he never played the game, partially due to his reliance on glasses, Roosevelt was a devoted fan.

In 1905, before the season began, McClure’s Magazine published a scathing, scandal-packed exposé: allegations of paid recruits, players who weren’t students lining up on the field, and the organized takeout of a black player during a game. One university official called it a “boy-killing, man-mutilating, money-making, education-prostituting, gladiatorial sport.” And he was right: The 1905 season turned into what the Chicago Tribune labeled a “death harvest.” Eighteen players died. Another 137 were seriously injured. Roosevelt’s son, Teddy Roosevelt Jr., broke his nose in the Harvard-Yale junior varsity game. Universities across the country, from Columbia to Stanford, started banning the sport. It looked as though football was doomed.

New Rules

Then Roosevelt stepped in. On October 9, the president summoned some of the game’s most powerful figures, including Walter Camp and John E. Owsley of Yale, Princeton’s Arthur Hillebrand, and Harvard’s William T. Reid for a closed-door meeting at the White House. “Football is on trial,” he declared. Then he tasked the decision makers with changing the sport to keep it alive. After several heated rounds of meetings, in early 1906 the committee announced new rules: First downs now required 10 yards instead of five, what ultimately became a one-yard neutral zone between teams was mandated at the line of scrimmage, and yardage penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct were instituted. But the most impactful change—ironically, one that Camp himself vehemently opposed—was the introduction of the forward pass, a mainstay of modern football.

Fans embraced the changes, if mainly because they stopped the game from getting banned. And though football remained dangerous, the group succeeded in creating a version that drastically reduced fatalities and serious injuries for the 1906 season. In the end, Roosevelt’s play turned football into the most popular sport in the United States. And the men who met in the White House? They became the NCAA.

Real Santa Claus Banknotes

For much of American history, banks issued paper currency that customers could redeem for gold. This is why paper money is often referred to as banknotes. Some banks issued notes with inventive graphics in the hope of making them collectible. Thus, customers may be inclined to keep them instead of turning them in for gold.
The Saint Nicholas National Bank was perhaps named to inspire confidence in its trustworthiness. After all, Santa Claus wouldn’t take your money and run, would he?
Maybe the bank owners hoped that customers would think so, but that didn’t stop one from suing the bank in a case that reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

It's A Fact

The first anti-Hitler Hollywood film featured the Three Stooges.

You Natzy Spy! was an 18-minute film released in 1940 by the Three Stooges that ridiculed Hitler and Goering at a time when American public opinion was largely neutral toward the Nazis and most people favored isolationism. The film also came out nine months before Charlie Chaplin's much more famous anti-Hitler film, The Great Dictator, and even caught the attention of a disapproving Senate committee investigating anti-Nazi propaganda.

Living Large on a Little

Campgrounds Go Residential in Germany

by Philipp Alvares de Souza Soares
Living Large on a Little: Campgrounds Go Residential in Germany
An increasing number of people are moving to German campgrounds permanently to save money. The little communities of motorhomes and trailers offer a comfortable yet affordable lifestyle that residents say they couldn't find elsewhere. More

Did you know ...

About the retail industry's war on thanksgiving

And here's a handy guide on how to to handle Healthcare debates around the family table

And the CEOs against grandmas

The Supreme Court Could Rule that Hobby Lobby is More of a Person than You Are

Hobby Lobby 
Americans are facing the prospect of their First Amendment rights to freedom of religion being overturned by the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Hobby Lobby, which has challenged the Affordable Healthcare Act’s contraception mandate, Americans could find themselves forced to abide by the religion of their employer, which is not at all what the Founding Fathers had in mind. We already know that corporations have First Amendment free speech rights thanks to the Citizens United ruling, but do they also have rights to free exercise of religion? The problem is that if corporations have that right, its employers lose that right: Employees – that is, actual people – you know, the folks referred to in the “We the people” of the Constitution’s preamble, will have their First Amendment rights curtailed by their employers, who, for example, might or might not object to contraception or to some medical procedure or another, like in vitro fertilization, to say nothing of abortion.
Hobby Lobby, a christian craft chain, objects to the so-called “morning after pill”; they assert that their religious beliefs as a corporation trump those of their employees. On Tuesday the 26th, the Supreme Court announced it would examine their case.
They are not alone. Religion News Service reports that,
More than 80 lawsuits have been filed against the mandate by christian groups and christian-owned businesses — many of them catholic — that object to providing birth control coverage or the coverage of sterilization procedures and what some believe are abortion-inducing drugs. Others object to the way the government decided which entities qualify for religious exemptions.
The religio-wingnuts want to put a stranglehold on America’s religious freedoms, making religious freedom a monopoly held by wingnuts. The First Amendment was written to protect the religious beliefs of all Americans (not corporations), but increasingly, wingnuts have argued that only their religious beliefs are legitimate, just as only their political ideology is legitimate. Though the majority of Americans reject these views – most catholic women use birth control, for example, and most Americans want access to contraceptives – authoritarian, patriarchal religious demagogues – like Ted Cruz, who tweeted “Illegal mandate tramples religious freedom, should be struck down” – want to determine what is right for everyone and the First Amendment (with pretty much every part of the Constitution save the Second Amendment) be damned.
The old adage once used of the Soviet Union in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, that everyone is equal except those who are more equal than others, is becoming more true than ever, and could be enshrined into law by the Supreme Court if it agrees with Hobby Lobby.
Americans need to worry about what is in store for them. The threat of the Religious Right comes not only from local, state, and federal elections. Americans need to be concerned about what the Supreme Court might do next to make corporations more legally people than genuine people, and what that will mean for our prospects as citizens of a nation that enshrines the ideal that political power derives from the will of the people.
America could become an oxymoron, which, when you think about it, is a rather fitting epitaph for repugican government.

Public Citizen threatens legal action against Kleargear on behalf of customers

We posted about Kleargear, the company that ruined a dissatisfied customer's credit rating and fined her $3500 for posting a negative review when she didn't receive her goods. The company went into "social media hiding" after the story hit the net, but that didn't help the customers whose lives they'd ruined.
Now, Public Citizen has threatened legal action against Kleargear on behalf of Jen and John Palmer, demanding that the company clear the couples' credit, pay $75,000 in restitution; and agree to refrain from similar future shenanigans. Go Public Citizen!
Public Citizen is representing Jen and John Palmer in seeking redress from KlearGear. Today, we sent this demand letter seeking three actions from KlearGear: first, clearing up John's credit; second, paying $75,000 in compensation for the Palmers' ordeal, which has lasted more than a year; and third, agreeing to stop using this non-disparagement clause to extort money from their customers.
KlearGear's conduct is part of a troubling trend of businesses trying to deter negative reviews by muzzling their customers. Another example is Public Citizen's case against a New York dentist who tried to make her patients agree, as a condition of treatment, that they would not criticize her. And TechDirt has reported about the use of such a clause in vacation rental agreements.
As our letter explains, KlearGear's actions violate state tort law and the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act. If KlearGear refuses to comply, we'll file suit to enforce the Palmers' rights and send a message to unscrupulous corporations that they cannot muzzle their customers, extort money from them when they post critical reviews, or ruin their credit when they refuse outragous demands for payment.

Russia Wants to Censor Antique ‘Erotica’

Venus de Milo
Russia banned access for children to erotic and pornographic content last year, though the country's legislation does not provide a clear legal definition of either.
So far, content deemed as “having significant historical, artistic or otherwise cultural value” has been exempt from the ban.
The rule has spared Russian museums, parks and websites from the need to censor works of antique, Renaissance and modern art that depict nude breasts or bottoms. Moscow’s Pushkin Museum – which proudly displays a replica of Michelangelo’s David with uncovered genitalia, unlike some other replicas – held an exhibition of nude art just earlier this year.
But a new draft law on information safety for minors, published by the state media and telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor, proposes removing the exemption for works of art.
The watchdog did not return a request for comment in time for publication. Two experts involved in drafting the law could not be reached by telephone Tuesday.
The draft law was put up Monday for public discussion, for which no timeframe was given.
Russia already blacklists without a court order websites deemed to be promoting extremism, illegal drugs or suicide, or disseminating child porn. Access to allegedly pirated film content can also be temporarily blocked without a court ruling.

Florida sheriff arrests mayor on drug charges: "This isn't Toronto"

Barry Layne Moore, erstwhile mayor of Hampton, Florida, has been arrested for possessing and selling Oxycodone. Upon arresting him, Bradford County Sheriff Gordon Smith quipped:
This isn’t Toronto. We will not tolerate illegal drug activity in my jurisdiction by anyone to include our elected officials.
Florida mayor arrested on drug charges

Does $36,000 Buy Happiness?

People living in the wealthiest countries aren't happiest, a new study finds.

Caffeine Compared

From Coke And Coffee To Aspirin And Chocolate

There's a drug whose appeal shows no sign of slowing. It's a stimulant for the central nervous system and it was an ingredient in 136 million bags exported around the world in 2012.

Those bags were coffee and the drug was caffeine - but there's a lot more to it than just the one beverage. Tea, energy drinks, chocolates, chewing gum, sweets and even weight-loss tablets have all got a caffeine content. A comparison.

Real-Life Nutty Professors

College professors come in many different varieties. There are the sober, stern individuals who take their subjects exceedingly seriously and insist that you do too. There are also the self-styled 'hip' professors who see themselves as being as much friends as teachers.

Some, however, are in a league of their own when it comes to standing out from the crowd, whether it's through their weird research, odd stunts or wacky inventions. Here are ten cool professors who've done zany things.

You can'l drink and drive, but your car can ... maybe

New startup wants to create a biofuel from, basically, whiskey
by James Joiner
You may not be able to drink and drive, but pretty soon your car will be able to. That's the goal of a new project based—where else—in Scotland that is using some next-level alchemy for a new take on the lead-into-gold cliché: turning golden whiskey into unleaded fuel.

Biofuel, that is.

Don't worry, they're not going to be taking your precious Scottish nectar itself to the pumps, it's actually way better than that. The folks at Celtic Renewables Inc. want to synthesize the waste left behind when the whiskey is finished, which accounts for as much as 90% of the raw materials, into something called biobutanol; basically ethanol with a Lance Armstrong complex.  You see, ethanol, whose production is subsidized in the U.S. and is made primarily from government-subsidized corn, can only be used as a 10% additive to standard fermented dinosaur origin gas. But biobutanol is so damn potent, only ten or twenty percent less than gasoline's, it can be mixed at a much higher level.

Biobutanol has been around for a while. Almost a hundred years, in fact. And energy giants such as BP and DuPont have been sniffing around at ways to cash in on it, especially since the production method is similar to ethanol, and existing infrastructure can be converted for use. You can even pump it through pipelines, which is difficult at best with its weak little brother. So why isn't everyone already doing it?

Money, of course.

It cost almost twice as much to make, until recently, which naturally made it a less economically viable option. But recent advances in the manufacturing process are leveling the playing field, and, since biobutanol can be extracted from anything from corn and sugar beets to wood chips and grass, it's being heralded as the fuel of the future. These guys are even making it through a carbon-negative process out of cellulose.

When you figure that the whiskey industry churns out a combined 551 thousand tons and 422 million gallons of leftover material annually, that's a lot of driving to and from the pub that could be enabled with Celtic Renewable's vision, not to mention the fact it could ultimately inject $90 million annually into the troubled Scottish economy. It's also a start-up model that could eventually be saying, "go home, Big Oil, you're drunk."

The other way to look at it is, pretty soon the more Scotch you drink, the better it will be for our world at large. How's that for an environmental initiative?

Valley Of The Mills In Sorrento, Italy

What was once a busy flour mill in the province of Naples, Italy is now an abandoned yet iconic monument overrun by wild verdant overgrowth. The Valley of the Mills or 'Valle dei Mulini' is a group of abandoned brick buildings nestled in the deep valley floor of Sorrento, Italy.

For more than 600 years, these mills supplied flour for Naples and the surrounding regions, producing over a million bushels of wheat every year. Its location along the river Vernotico also gave it a role in storing water during periods of drought, making it an important source of sustenance in the region.

Neolithic sink hole uncovered near Stonehenge

An archaeology team led by an academic from London's Kingston University has delved back into a Neolithic site at Damerham, Hampshire, and uncovered a sink hole of material that may hold vital information about the plant species that thrived there 6,000 years ago.
Neolithic sink hole uncovered near Stonehenge
An archaeology team led by a Kingston University academic has delved back into a Neolithic site at Damerham, Hampshire, and uncovered a sink hole of material that may hold vital information about the plant species thriving there 6,000 years ago [Credit: Kingston University]
Dr Helen Wickstead said the find was completely unexpected and had initially confused the team digging on the farmland. This is the sixth year of the project at Damerham, located about 15 miles from the iconic British monument Stonehenge, with four areas of a temple complex excavated during the summer. The surprise came in the largest of the openings, approximately 40 meters long, where careful extractions revealed a layer of uncharacteristic orange sand and clay. Typically the archaeological survey would involve mapping and cataloguing such finds as bone, pottery and tool-making waste fragments.

"The site at Damerham is on chalk land, so we don't often find materials like this that capture and preserve the plant remains -- pollen or phytoliths -- from a specific time period," Dr Wickstead explained. "The sink hole contained orange sand with a yellow and grey clay and we are very hopeful that, within this material, there will be evidence of plant life that will help us continue to piece together the puzzle of human habitation on this significant site."

It was evident that prehistoric people living in the area had also come across the sink hole and excavated the material during their own construction work, Dr Wickstead said. A pile of matching waste material was also seen at one of the other mounds. "We didn't expect to find this and suspect it would have surprised the original architects of the site too," she said. "Moments of unexpected discovery could have had cultural significance for prehistoric people. The henge itself was a focus for rituals, life and death, so questions about the impact such a discovery would have had on their activity will be interesting to consider."

The prehistoric temple complex at Damerham is unusual because of the number of structures that are focused in one area, Dr Wickstead added. "The diversity of burial architecture here is intriguing," she said. "What is special about this place that meant generation after generation returned to the site to live, hunt, build and commemorate life?"

Various scientific techniques, including geophysical imaging which uses electrical currents to test the density of materials below the surface, were employed during the project. Kingston University MA Heritage student Jack Bartley joined Dr Wickstead on site to take part in the field walking survey.

"Once the field was clear of crops, we were able to walk across sections in search of items that will have been turned over by the plow," Jack explained. "This is important because it helps researchers understand how people used the land by examining what they left behind. We've been using GPS satellite technology to measure the search zones systematically. It's been great to be out in the field experiencing a real archaeological dig, especially since my dissertation is examining communities of interest, such as those involved in archaeology," the 24 year old from Surbiton added.

Evidence of archaeological remains at Damerham was first detected in 2003 when English Heritage's senior aerial survey investigator Martyn Barber spotted crop marks in a photograph. The different colors visible in the crops indicated that there were historical earthworks just beneath the soil and Dr Wickstead teamed up with Mr Barber to begin the long process of trying to find out more about the site.

"During the six years since we first opened the site, we've not only involved the local community but also brought together expertise from a range of specialists from geochemical analysts to artists, to make sure we make the most of the opportunity while we can," Dr Wickstead explained. "Doing the dig is only a tiny portion of the work required to document these important sites, but it is the more urgent part because erosion by farming and other environmental factors will gradually diminish what's there."

Dr Wickstead, who is based in Kingston University's Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, suspects the Damerham site holds many more secrets about human life in the Neolithic period. Although excavations are expensive and rely on funding from a variety of organizations, she hopes her team has demonstrated how important it is to stage similar projects in the future.

"The clues to earlier human life are all around us in the landscape and I would love to return and undertake a larger-scale dig at Damerham," Dr Wickstead said. "For now, the team will be examining and compiling the data already gathered and, as well as analyzing the soil samples, plotting the artifacts and mapping the earthworks, we may also be able to undertake some gene sequencing on the bone fragments we found. All of this will help tell us more about how the people of this period lived and died in Damerham more than 6,000 years ago."

Daily Comic Relief


Boy injured after probably being hit on head by meteorite fragments

7-year-old Steven Lippard from Loxahatchee, Florida had to have three staples in his head after his dad says he was hit with meteorite fragments while playing in his driveway.
Initial testing at Florida Atlantic University indicates the little stones - pea sized and smaller - are metallic, a good sign they came from space.

His dad Wayne initially thought it might be from a golf ball or maybe a bird swooping down.

Moments later they found the little rocks. Scientists are now doing further chemical testing to confirm that they are meteorites.

Comet Ison destroyed in Sun passage

Comet Ison destroyed in Sun passageSoho image

Comet Ison is severely disrupted in its encounter with the Sun, with only a ghostly trace of the object's tail emerging into the view of telescopes.

How Stars Move at the Center of the Galaxy

Two months ago astronomers created a new 3D map of stars at the center of our Galaxy (the Milky Way), showing more clearly than ever the bulge at its core. Previous explanations suggested that the […]



Viruses are as simple as they are 'smart'

Viruses are as simple as they are "smart": too elementary to be able to reproduce by themselves, they exploit the reproductive "machinery" of cells, by inserting pieces of their own DNA so that it is transcribed by the host cell. To do this, they first have to inject their own genetic material into the cells they infect. An international team of researchers, including Cristian Micheletti from SISSA (the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste), has studied how this occurs and how long it takes for this process to be completed.
Viruses are as simple as they are 'smart'
Ordered arrangement of the model DNA packaged in
the viral capsid [Credit: SISSA]
Micheletti and colleagues constructed a computer model of viral DNA and then simulated the release of genetic material from the viral capsid into the host cell nucleus. Far from being a fluid process, this ejection is subject to frictional forces that depend on the conformation of the DNA strand. "Fluidity of the process depends on how and how tightly the viral DNA is entangled," explains Micheletti. "The more topologically ordered is the double strand of the genome, the faster it is ejected from the virus. The situation is somewhat similar to the behavior of an anchor line that has been correctly coiled: when the anchor is thrown overboard, the line uncoils neatly without stops or jerks due to tangles."

DNA has an intrinsic characteristic that makes its pattern of spontaneous arrangement very singular. Because it has two strands, DNA has a tendency to form highly ordered coils, just like anchor lines or thread spools. This isn't the case with generic polymers, which form complex and chaotic tangles. The simulations by Micheletti and colleagues compared the behavior of a model strand of DNA and a simple strand of generic polymer. "In 95% of cases the model DNA slid through the exit pore of the virus much faster than the simple polymer, as a result of the greater spontaneous order of its conformation," comments Micheletti. "The simple strands may be even ten times slower than the DNA strands. Another interesting thing is that, although much more slowly, the simple strands in our observations always succeeded in leaving the virus completely. By contrast, in a small minority of cases, the DNA remained totally blocked, and this too is related to its tendency to form a spool that may sometimes present such complex torus knots -- i.e., doughnut-like -- to completely block ejection from the virus."

The process timescales observed by Micheletti and colleagues are perfectly consistent with empirical observations, "including all cases of complete DNA stalling that have been reported, though not explained, in some experiments," concludes Micheletti. "Our study, which estimated the time it takes viral DNA to leave the capsid in relation to its length and degree of packing could provide the starting point for designing artificial viral vectors."

The study has just been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

First deepwater fossil study reveals Great Barrier reef's past and future

Many people look back at their time on the Great Barrier Reef by viewing holiday snaps. Scientists have taken an even longer look back at the Great Barrier Reef via another image caught in time - deepwater fossils - which reveal the important role the deep-water reef plays in the health of the whole reef.
First deepwater fossil study reveals Great Barrier reef's past and future
Satellite image of part of the Great Barrier Reef adjacent to the Queensland coastal
areas of Airlie Beach and Mackay [Credit: NASA]
The research led by University of Sydney scientists Dr Liz Abbey and Dr Jody Webster, from the School of Geosciences in the Geocoastal Research Group, has recently been published in the journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.

As the first comprehensive study of its kind on the deep-water fossil reef system in the Great Barrier Reef, the results are an analysis of the environments and time-frame the reefs developed in. These deep-water reefs are called mesophotic reefs and extend from 30 meters to 100 meters underwater.

The scientists collaborated with colleagues from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Universidad de Granada, University of Oxford, University of Edinburgh, Aix-Marseille Université, Queen's University and the University of California.

The team are the first in the world to document and analyze the response of a mesophotic reef community to environmental disturbances over thousands of years, and to see how the reef responds to global sea-level rise and environmental changes.

"Nothing was previously known about the long-term record of mesophotic reefs on the Great Barrier Reef, and in fact, mesophotic reefs have been rarely, if ever, analysed using their fossil records, so this study is a real first," said Dr Webster.

"Significantly, our findings suggest that while these mesophotic reef systems have been an important part of the Great Barrier Reef's geologic past over the last 20000 years, they have actually been very sensitive to past environmental changes, such as sea level rises and increased sediment flux. This, of course, has relevance to how the modern Great Barrier Reef deep-water reef systems might behave in the future."

Dr Webster, together with his recently finished PhD student Liz Abbey looked at the mesophotic fossils. These are too deep to access via scuba-diving, so very little research has been carried out on this type of reef around the world, especially in comparison with their more accessible shallow water counterparts.

"Even in low light, the modern mesophotic reefs support corals, sponges and algae as the dominant structural components," said Dr Webster.

"We focused on three fossil mesophotic reefs in the Great Barrier Reef and examined the timing of their development, analyzed the species and uncovered the historical environmental settings for the reefs."

Using radiometric dating - carbon-14 and uranium-thorium dating - as well as analyzing the sedimentary layers and paleoecology of the fossil reefs, the team discovered that the mesophotic reefs in the Great Barrier Reef had two specific periods of growth.

"We found that there were two distinct generations of fossil mesophotic coral community in the Great Barrier Reef - the first period was from 13000 until 10200 years ago, with a roughly two thousand year break, then the second period from 7800 years ago until now," said Dr Webster.

"This period of over two thousand years when mesophotic coral growth was interrupted happened when there was a massive sediment flux, with sediment moving from the reef shelf to the basin. It appears that this huge movement of sediment happened as sea levels rose - flooding a huge area of the shelf during this time."

"It's very important to see how the mesophotic reef has responded to these challenges in the past, as we may be facing some of the same environmental changes in the near future, especially with global sea levels rising."

Giant prehistoric toilet unearthed

Coprolites exposed at latrine  
Each poo is a time capsule to the dawn of the dinosaurs
A gigantic "communal latrine" created at the dawn of the dinosaurs has been unearthed in Argentina.
Thousands of fossilized poos left by rhino-like megaherbivores were found clustered together, scientists say.
The 240-million-year-old site is the "world's oldest public toilet" and the first evidence that ancient reptiles shared collective dumping grounds.
The dung contains clues to prehistoric diet, disease and vegetation says a study in Scientific Reports.
"It's a warning to predators. If you leave a huge pile you are saying: 'Hey! Watch out!'”
Dr Lucas Fiorelli Crilar-Conicet
Elephants, antelopes and horses are among modern animals who defecate in socially agreed hotspots - to mark territory and reduce the spread of parasites.
But their best efforts are dwarfed by the enormous scale of this latrine - which breaks the previous record "oldest toilet" by 220 million years.
Fossil "coprolites" as wide as 40cm and weighing several kilograms were found in seven massive patches across the Chanares Formation in La Rioja province.
Some were sausage-like, others pristine ovals, in colors ranging from whitish grey to dark brown-violet.
"There is no doubt who the culprit was," said Dr Lucas Fiorelli, of Crilar-Conicet, who discovered the dung heaps.
"Only one species could produce such big lumps - and we found their bones littered everywhere at the site."
The culprits were dicynodonts - ancient megaherbivores
The perpetrator was Dinodontosaurus, an eight-foot-long megaherbivore similar to modern rhinos.
These animals were dicynodonts - large, mammal-like reptiles common in the Triassic period when the first dinosaurs began to emerge.
The fact they shared latrines suggests they were gregarious, herd animals, who had good reasons to poo strategically, said Dr Fiorelli.
"Firstly, it was important to avoid parasites - 'you don't poo where you eat', as the saying goes.
"But it's also a warning to predators. If you leave a huge pile, you are saying: 'Hey! We are a big herd. Watch out!"
The predator in this case was the formidable Luperosuchus, a crocodile-like carnivore up to 8m in length.
But the dung patches were equally intimidating.
Diversity of coprolite shapes and sizes from several communal latrines 
 A museum of poos has been created by the researchers
A density of 94 poos per square meter was recorded by the researchers. And the excrement was spread across patches 900 square meters in size.
Prehistoric coprolites are nothing new, but it is extremely rare to find an accumulation as old and substantial as this one - because feces degrade so easily.
A sheet of volcanic ash has preserved the ancient dung piles "like Pompeii", said Dr Fiorelli.
The coprolites are like time capsules.
"When cracked open they reveal fragments of extinct plants, fungi, and gut parasites," said Martin Hechenleitner, a fellow author on the study.
"Each poo is a snapshot of an ancient ecosystem - the vegetation and the food chain.
"This was a crucial time in evolutionary history. The first mammals were there, living alongside the grandfather of dinosaurs.
"Maybe with these fossils we can glimpse into the lost environment which gave rise to the dinosaurs."
Artist's impression of the latrine  
The world's oldest toilet - an artist's impression

Spiders In Your Fruit

A Good Thing

Last month, at a grocery store, a TV reporter bought a container of red grapes that also held a black widow spider. The Aldi supermarket issued a refund and pulled the grapes from the shelves. Then a month later, the same thing happened at Aldi and Kroger stores in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania.

And then a British family was told to evacuate their house after a Brazilian wandering spider, the most toxic arachnid out there, stowed away with its hatchlings on a bunch of bananas. What's going on? What are all these spiders doing in our breakfast fruit?

Drug smuggling fish given fresh start at aquarium

Four fish used in a drug smuggling operation have been re-homed at the Blue Planet Aquarium, near Ellesmere Port in Cheshire.
The freshwater arowanas were used in an attempt to smuggle 17kg of cocaine, with a street value of £1.6m, from Colombia to the UK in 2011. The drugs were hidden in sealed bags containing more than 16,000 tropical fish, most of which died in transit, with only 34 surviving.
Aquarium curator David Wolfenden said: "Clearly the smugglers did not care at all about the fishes' welfare and the fact that nearly all of them perished during the smuggling operation is extremely sad.

"It's something of a miracle that any managed to survive the ordeal and we're glad they can now live out their time here with us in a large, purpose-built display."

Are Cats And Dogs Right Or Left Handed, Too?

According to two studies, the answer is yes: Just like humans are usually right- or left-handed, cats and dogs are typically right pawed or left pawed.

A study, performed by researchers at Turkey's Ataturk University in 1991, showed 50% of domestic cats are right pawed, 10% are ambidextrous, and the remaining 40% favor their left paw. But dogs, according to a 2006 study by the University of Manchester, tend to be more evenly split - around 50% of dogs are left pawed and 50% are right pawed.

Animal Pictures