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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.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Daily Drift

The Roman Emperor Hadrian was so fearful of the Plaid he built this wall across northern England to keep the Scots out - didn't work ...
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Today in History

1199 English King Richard I is killed by an arrow at the siege of the castle of Chaluz in France.
1789 The First U.S. Congress begins regular sessions at Federal Hall in New York City.
1814 Granted sovereignty in the island of Elba and a pension from the French government, Napoleon Bonaparte abdicates at Fountainebleau. He is allowed to keep the title of emperor.
1830 Joseph Smith and five others organize the Church of Latter-Day Saints in Seneca, New York.
1862 Confederate forces attack General Ulysses S. Grant at Shiloh, Tennessee.
1865 At the Battle of Sailer's Creek, a third of Lee's army is cut off by Union troops pursuing him to Appomattox.
1896 The Modern Olympics begin in Athens with eight nations participating.
1903 French Army Nationalists are revealed to have forged documents to guarantee a conviction for Alfred Dryfus.
1909 Americans Robert Peary and Matthew Henson become the first men to reach the North Pole.
1917 The United States declares war on Germany and enters World War I on Allied side.
1924 Four planes leave Seattle on the first successful flight around the world.
1938 The United States recognizes Nazi Germany's conquest of Austria.
1941 German forces invade Greece and Yugoslavia.
1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson authorizes the use of ground troops in combat operations.

Non Sequitur


A drop in Federal science and engineering obligations

Federal science and engineering obligations to universities, colleges fell 11% in FY 2011
In fiscal year (FY) 2011, federal agencies obligated $31.4 billion […]

I Came in Like a Wrecking Ball

Miley Cyrus earned a lot of money with her hit song "Wrecking Ball" and a lot of attention with her video for that song, which included nude scenes. David McDonagh, an undergraduate student at the University of Leicester, UK, watched her body intently. What are its physical properties? Would it withstand the forces involved in serving as a wrecking ball?
McDonagh concludes that Miley Cyrus would not live through the process. In an article that he published in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Topics, McDonagh concludes that Cyrus would fail as a wrecking ball:
Based on these findings, it is clear that a human being cannot possess the characteristics of a wrecking ball without sustaining significant injury, and other objects should be sought as an analogy.
Kyle Hill of Discover magazine is a bit more blunt. Miley Cyrus would be dead:
Miley is nowhere near as heavy as an average wrecking ball, so to produce the same momentum, she would have to come in incredibly fast. Assuming she weighed 125 pounds**, she would have to come in like a wrecking ball at over 390 miles per hour to generate the same momentum.
And what happens when this Miley ball hits a wall? Assuming a rapid deceleration, Miley pulls 350 G’s impacting the wall with over 198,000 Newtons—a force equivalent to getting hit with all the force rocketed out of a 747 engine at once.
If Miley really did come in like a wrecking ball, she would never again hit so hard in love, because she’d be dead.

How the West Gets Drier

New studies involving researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at […]

Engineering Bacteria

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Joint […]

Robotics and Mass Spectrometry

When life on Earth was first getting started, simple molecules […]

Altruistic Aggressive Greed

In many group-living species, high-rank individuals bully their group-mates to […]

Creating a suspect's mugshot

A new experimental technique can take the DNA from a single strand of hair and generate a mugshot. Anthony tells you how this technology works and what it could mean for the future of crime fighting.

She Blinded Me With Science

The Big Bang Theory does Thomas Dolby

A 30% jump in Autism diagnoses

As many as 1.5 percent, or 1 in 68 U.S. children on average may have autism, according to new estimates released today by the CDC.

Autism 'Patchwork'

The brains of children with autism contain a built-in patchwork of defects, suggesting that the developmental disorder begins while they are growing in the womb.

Can a Brain Injury Make You a Genius?

Have you ever heard the phrase, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger?" Annie joins DNews today to discuss some interesting cases of people who experienced severe injuries that led them to develop weird new abilities.

Reading Minds

Scientists have used brain scanners to detect and reconstruct the faces that people are thinking of, according to a new study.

Your Brain On Drugs

Findings point to potential biomarkers for early detection of at-risk […]



Dosing cancer patients with psilocybin

NYU is beginning research with using psychedelic drugs to improve the emotional/psychological health of people with cancer. An upcoming study with 32 volunteers will be the largest study of psychedelic medicine in more than 40 years. 

Booster makes immune system better

Researchers at the University of Leicester have produced an artificial […]

How You Can Be Fit But Not Healthy

A controversial body of research suggests that exercise won’t protect your heart if you don’t also eat well and for some people, take drugs.

Black death was not spread by rat fleas, say researchers

Evidence from skulls in east London shows plague had to have been airborne to spread so quickly
Black death
Black death researchers extracted plague DNA from 14th century skulls found in east London.
Archaeologists and forensic scientists who have examined 25 skeletons unearthed in the Clerkenwell area of London a year ago believe they have uncovered the truth about the nature of the Black Death that ravaged Britain and Europe in the mid-14th century.
Analysis of the bodies and of wills registered in London at the time has cast doubt on "facts" that every schoolchild has learned for decades: that the epidemic was caused by a highly contagious strain spread by the fleas on rats.
Now evidence taken from the human remains found in Charterhouse Square, to the north of the City of London, during excavations carried out as part of the construction of the Crossrail train line, have suggested a different cause: only an airborne infection could have spread so fast and killed so quickly.
The Black Death arrived in Britain from central Asia in the autumn of 1348 and by late spring the following year it had killed six out of every 10 people in London. Such a rate of destruction would kill five million now. By extracting the DNA of the disease bacterium, Yersinia pestis, from the largest teeth in some of the skulls retrieved from the square, the scientists were able to compare the strain of bubonic plague preserved there with that which was recently responsible for killing 60 people in Madagascar. To their surprise, the 14th-century strain, the cause of the most lethal catastrophe in recorded history, was no more virulent than today's disease. The DNA codes were an almost perfect match.
According to scientists working at Public Health England in Porton Down, for any plague to spread at such a pace it must have got into the lungs of victims who were malnourished and then been spread by coughs and sneezes. It was therefore a pneumonic plague rather than a bubonic plague. Infection was spread human to human, rather than by rat fleas that bit a sick person and then bit another victim. "As an explanation [rat fleas] for the Black Death in its own right, it simply isn't good enough. It cannot spread fast enough from one household to the next to cause the huge number of cases that we saw during the Black Death epidemics," said Dr Tim Brooks from Porton Down, who will put his theory in a Channel 4 documentary, Secret History: The Return of the Black Death, next Sunday.
To support his argument, Brooks has looked at what happened in Suffolk in 1906 when plague killed a family and then spread to a neighbour who had come to help. The culprit was pneumonic plague, which had settled in the lungs of the victims and was spread through infected breath.
The skeletons at Charterhouse Square reveal that the population of London was also in generally poor health when the disease struck. Crossrail's archaeology contractor, Don Walker, and Jelena Bekvalacs of the Museum of London found evidence of rickets, anaemia, bad teeth and childhood malnutrition.
In support of the case that this was a fast-acting, direct contagion, archaeologist Dr Barney Sloane found that in the medieval City of London all wills had to be registered at the Court of Hustings. These led him to believe that 60% of Londoners were wiped out.
Antibiotics can today prevent the disease from becoming pneumonic. In the spring of 1349, the death rate did not ease until Pentecost on 31 May.

A 3,300-Year-Old Tomb with Pyramid Entrance Discovered in Egypt

A tomb newly excavated at an ancient cemetery in Egypt would have boasted a pyramid 7 meters (23 feet) high at its entrance, archaeologists say.
The tomb, found at the site of Abydos, dates back around 3,300 years. Within one of its vaulted burial chambers, a team of archaeologists found a finely crafted sandstone sarcophagus, painted red, which was created for a scribe named Horemheb. The sarcophagus has images of several Egyptian gods on it and hieroglyphic inscriptions recording spells from the Book of the Dead that helped one enter the afterlife.
There is no mummy in the sarcophagus, and the tomb was ransacked at least twice in antiquity. Human remains survived the ransacking, however. Archaeologists found disarticulated skeletal remains from three to four men, 10 to 12 women and at least two children in the tomb.
Newly discovered pyramid
The chambers that the archaeologists uncovered would have originally resided beneath the surface, leaving only the steep-sided pyramid visible.
"Originally, all you probably would have seen would have been the pyramid and maybe a little wall around the structure just to enclose everything," said Kevin Cahail, a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania, who led excavations at the tomb.
The pyramid itself "probably would have had a small mortuary chapel inside of it that may have held a statue or a stela giving the names and titles of the individuals buried underneath," Cahail told Live Science. Today, all that remains of the pyramid are the thick walls of the tomb entranceway that would have formed the base of the pyramid. The other parts of the pyramid either haven't survived or have not yet been found.
Military ties
It was not uncommon, at this time, for tombs of elite individuals to contain small pyramids, Cahail said. The tomb was excavated in the summer and winter field seasons of 2013 and Cahail will be presenting results at the annual meeting of the American Research Center in Egypt, to be held in Portland, Ore., from April 4-6.
Cahail believes that Horemheb's family had military ties that allowed them to afford such an elaborate tomb. Another burial chamber, this one missing a sarcophagus, contains shabti figurines that were crafted to do the work of the deceased in the afterlife. Writing on the figurines say that they are for the "Overseer of the Stable, Ramesu (also spelled Ramesses)." This appears to be a military title and it’s possible that Ramesu was the father or older brother of Horemheb, Cahail said.
He noted it's interesting that both Horemheb and Ramesu share names with two military leaders, who lived at the same time they did. Both of these leaders would become pharaohs.
 "They could actually be emulating their names on these very powerful individuals that eventually became pharaoh, or they could have just been names that were common at the time," Cahail said.
Multiple wives?
The bones the team discovered in the tomb indicate that considerably more women than men were buried in the tomb. This brings up the question of whether Horemheb and Ramesu had multiple wives at the same time. Cahail said that polygamy was a common practice among the pharaohs, but it's uncertain if it was practiced among non-royalty.
Another possibility is that the tomb was used for multiple generations by the same family and contains the remains of daughters, mothers and other female relatives. Yet another possibility is that the tomb was re-used, without permission, at a later date.
Radiocarbon tests, which can provide a date range for the bones, may be done in the future to help solve the mystery.
"You’re left with the question, who are all these people?" Cahail said.
A Jasper treasure
One of the most interesting artifacts the team found was a heart amulet, made of red and green jasper. The hard stone amulet was broken into three pieces.
"It's a beautiful object and possibly one of the best carved examples of these very rare type of amulets," Cahail said. "It was probably on the chest of one of the deceased individuals and there probably would have been some sort of necklaces and gold and things like that."
The purpose of this heart-shaped amulet was probably related to spells from the Book of the Dead that tell the heart of the deceased not to lie. The ancient Egyptians believed that, after death, their hearts would be put on a scale and weighed against a feather representing ma'at, an Egyptian concept that includes truth and justice. If their heart weighed the same or less they could obtain eternal life, but if it weighed more they were destroyed.
"Essentially, your heart and your good deeds and everything that you've done in your life is weighed against the measure of truth," Cahail said.

Why Astrology Isn't Real Science

Astrology focuses on star charts and zodiac signs to build a foundation to one's life. Astrology is also a bunch of asserted, unproven, untested mumbo jumbo. Laci breaks down how and why astrology shouldn't be considered a real science.

Daily Comic Relief


Scientists solve riddle of celestial archaeology

A decades old space mystery has been solved by an […]

A visit to the Antarctic telescope where scientists study gravitational waves

For the scientists who live and work at BICEP2, McMurdo Sound is just a stopover on the way to the even-more-isolated Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

Mimicking Mars

Mars-mimicking chamber explores habitability of other planets

A research team in Spain has the enviable job of […]

Black Hole Seeds

How do you grow a supermassive black hole that is […]

Astronomical News

The hunt for the hypothetical Planet X has been fruitless so far, but that doesn't mean astronomers are calling it off.

Coming Tomorrow

Coming Tomorrow
  • The Rise and Fall of Professional Bowling
  • What's it like to be a professional line sitter
  • Corner kick delayed by Betty Boop
  • 13 Awesome ways to use hot sauce
And more ...
This yawning white lion is our Animal Picture, for today.