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Comet

Two of history's deadliest plagues were linked, with implications for another outbreak: Scientists discover link between Justinian plague and Black Death

© Bettmann/Corbis
An illustration of a physician wearing specialized clothing to protect against the plague.
Two of history's deadliest plagues, which swept across Europe hundreds of years apart, were caused by different strains of the same deadly microbe, scientists say.

The finding raises the possibility that a new strain of plague could infect humanity again in the future.

The Justinian plague struck in the sixth century and is estimated to have killed between 30 and 50 million people - about half the world's population at that time - as it spread across Asia, North Africa, Arabia, and Europe.

The Black Death struck some 800 years later, killing 50 million Europeans between 1347 and 1351 alone.

Comment: Famous last words, especially since according to the research, both plagues were caused by a virus and not bacteria. More so, unjustified overuse of antibiotics during the last century led to an antibiotic tolerance, and as a result we hear more and more about cases of 'super-infection'. The odds are, unfortunately, against us, especially when our immune systems are being gravely compromised by the consumption of grains.

Ice Cube

When winter really was winter: the last of the London Frost Fairs

Cold? Fed up with the weather? It could be worse. Cahal Milmo looks back to the day, exactly 200 years ago, when the river Thames froze solid

"Father Frost and Sister Snow have boneyed my borders, formed an idol of ice upon my bosom, and all the lads of London come to make merry."

"Father Frost and Sister Snow have boneyed my borders, formed an idol of ice upon my bosom, and all the lads of London come to make merry."

Two centuries ago today, this was how one poetic soul announced for the last time an event unlikely to be seen again - the freezing of the Thames.

On 1 February 1814, Londoners awoke to find that after weeks of bitter chill, drifting snow and a fog which resembled "darkness that might be felt", the Thames had ground to an icy halt over a 1,000m stretch between Blackfriars and London Bridge.

The capital's inhabitants responded by settling down to a raucous and bibulous mid-winter party in the shape of a five-day Frost Fair.

In a meteorological event which seems unthinkable from the vantage point of the relentlessly soggy winter of 2014, London and much of England was gripped by temperatures which fell to -13C, bringing chaos as roads became blocked with snow to depths of 6ft. Tales were legion of mail coaches becoming trapped in drifts and the poor, unable to afford coal, freezing in their homes.

But in the midst of wintry misery, a brief respite was afforded as the flow of the Thames in central London slowed, ice floes formed and finally on the morning of 1 February the principal means of transportation for the wealth of the emerging British Empire became a frozen pleasure gardens. Within hours, boatmen deprived of their normal living derived from ferrying passengers across the river had set up signs declaring it was safe to walk across the ice.

Comment: On the contrary, all the real world, empirical evidence points to fact that it's very likely to happen once more.

Magic Wand

Magic mirrors in ancient Japanese rituals

© Noboru Tomura
When sunlight reflects off the surface of the replica of a Sankakubuchi Shinjukyo mirror, patterns engraved on the back are projected on a wall at the Kyoto National Museum on Jan. 29.
Rulers of ancient Japan may have used a "magic mirror" to conjure up images of mountain wizards and divine beasts for sun-worshipping rituals.

The Kyoto National Museum said Jan. 29 patterns engraved on the back of a type of bronze mirror associated with ancient queen Himiko are projected on a wall when sunlight reflects off the front.

Ryu Murakami, head of the museum's curatorial board, said the discovery could provide valuable clues in studying how bronze mirrors were used in ancient Japan.

"Someone apparently noticed the phenomenon and intentionally shaped mirrors in this way," he said. "I believe they have something to do with sun worship."

Using a 3-D printer, Murakami, an expert in historical materials science, produced replicas of two Sankakubuchi Shinjukyo mirrors from materials used in the originals, such as copper and tin powder.
Hardhat

Oldest Roman temple unearthed

© Sant'Omobono Project
The foundation of the temple of Fortuna, visible for only three days during excavations.
Archaeologists digging in the heart of Rome unearthed what may be the oldest temple to be built in the Eternal City, but don't get your hopes up about visiting the ancient structure. Its foundation sits well below the water line and was only visible for three days. Archaeologists from the University of Michigan teamed up with local archaeology officials to excavate the site, near the Sant'Omobono church, which is close to where the Tiber River once created a natural harbor for merchant ships. The temple, likely dedicated to the goddess Fortuna and constructed sometime in or after the 7th century BC, would have acted as "a free trade zone and the goddess is supposed to guarantee the fairness of the trade," the co-director of the project told NPR.

It would have been one of the first things traders from Cyprus, Lebanon, and Egypt saw when they pulled into Rome's harbor, but getting to it in the present day wasn't so easy - in fact, it was "mission impossible," according to one archaeologist. The team had to drill a hole 15 feet deep and hold back the wet soil with sheets of metal. "You're in a very deep hole, and although you know in theory that the sheeting is going to hold everything up, there is a primal part of your brain that tells you to get out of there, if the walls come closing in there's not going to be any way out for you," the co-director said. Though the foundation-revealing hole had to be closed up for security reasons after 3 days, archaeologists say the find helps unwrap Rome's many layers of history.
Hourglass

The Mohenjo Daro "massacre"


... (it was) a single projectile
Charged with all the power of the Universe.
An incandescent column of smoke and flame
As bright as the thousand suns
Rose in all its splendor...

...it was an unknown weapon,
An iron thunderbolt,
A gigantic messenger of death,
Which reduced to ashes
The entire race of the Vrishnis and the Andhakas.
-Mahabharata, Indian Epic
In the 1920s, the discovery of ancient cities at Mohenjo Daro and Harappa in Pakistan gave the first clue to the existence more than 4,000 years ago of a civilization in the Indus Valley to rival those known in Egypt and Mesopotamia. These cities demonstrated an exceptional level of civic planning and amenities. The houses were furnished with brick-built bathrooms and many had toilets. Wastewater from these was led into well-built brick sewers that ran along the centre of the streets, covered with bricks or stone slabs. Cisterns and wells finely constructed of wedge-shaped bricks held public supplies of drinking water. Mohenjo Daro also boasted a Great Bath on the high mound (citadel) overlooking the residential area of the city. Built of layers of carefully fitted bricks, gypsum mortar and waterproof bitumen, this basin is generally thought to have been used for ritual purification.

However, in contrast to the well-appointed houses and clean streets, the uppermost levels at Mohenjo Daro contained squalid makeshift dwellings, a careless intermingling of residential and industrial activity and, most significantly, a series of more than 40 sprawled skeletons lying scattered in streets and houses. Paul Bahn (2002) describes the scene:
In a room with a public well in one area of the city were found the skeletons of two individuals who appeared desperately to have been using their last scraps of energy to crawl up the stair leading from the room to the street; the tumbled remains of two others lay nearby. Elsewhere in the area the 'strangely contorted' and incomplete remains of nine individuals were found, possibly thrown into a rough pit. In a lane between two houses in another area, another six skeletons were loosely covered with earth.
Numerous other skeletons were found within layers of rubble, ash and debris, or lying in streets in contorted positions that suggested the agonies of violent death.

Comment: For more clues see Electric Universe: Mohenjo Daro and Laura Knight-Jadczy's Comets and the Horns of Moses (The Secret History of the World)

2 + 2 = 4

The Untold History of Modern U.S. Education

desks
© unknown
"Education must also train one for quick, resolute and effective thinking. To think incisively and to think for one's self is very difficult. We are prone to let our mental life become invaded by legions of half-truths, prejudices, and propaganda. At this point, I often wonder whether education is fulfilling its purpose.

A great majority of the so called educated people do not think logically or scientifically. Even the press, the classroom, the platform, and the pulpit in many instances do not give us the objective and unbiased truths. To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education.

Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction. The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society.
Blue Planet

'Sweden's Atlantis' at bottom of Baltic Sea: 11,000-year-old settlement uncovered

A team of divers led by Södertörn University archaeology professor Björn Nilsson has uncovered artifacts from what could be the oldest known settlement in the region, dubbed by local publications last week as "Sweden's Atlantis."

The 11,000-year-old objects at the bottom of the Baltic Sea have been preserved exceptionally well because of the gyttja sediment and lack of oxygen. Organic objects, not only stone objects, have been preserved at this rare site near Hanö, off the southern coast of Sweden.

The Stone Age artifacts were left by nomads, and they could be the earliest evidence of a temporary settlement before the more permanent Nordic settlements were established. Nilsson described the artifacts as "world-class" and "one-of-a-kind," in an interview with The Local. One of the most impressive finds, said Nilsson, was a harpoon carved of animal bone. At the site were also the bones of auroch, a cattle-like animal that became extinct in the 17th century.
Info

Evidence shows prehistoric humans used fire 300,000 years ago

Fire
© Dimos/Shutterstock
New findings reported in the Journal of Archaeological Science suggest that prehistoric humans were able to control and use fire at their will.

A team of Israeli scientists discovered the earliest evidence of unequivocal repeated fire building over a continuous period in the Qesem Cave. This evidence, found at an archaeological site near present-day Rosh Ha'ayin, dates back to around 300,000 years ago.

The researchers identified thick deposits of wood ash in the center of the cave, and infrared spectroscopy helped determine that there were bits of bone and soil that had been heated to very high temperatures mixed in with the ash. This evidence provides conclusive proof that this had been the site of a large hearth.

Dr. Ruth Shahack-Gross of the Kimmel Center for Archeological Science at the Weizmann Institute tested the micromorphology of the ash by using a microscope, helping her and her colleagues see the composition of the materials in the deposit and reveal how they were formed. This method helped the team find the evidence for a hearth that was used repeatedly over time.
Blackbox

300,000-year-old caveman 'campfire' found in Israel


An arrow points to the Qesem Cave hearth, where hominins may have tended to fires as early as 300,000 years ago.
A newly discovered hearth full of ash and charred bone in a cave in modern-day Israel hints that early humans sat around fires as early as 300,000 years ago - before Homo sapiens arose in Africa. In and around the hearth, archaeologists say they also found bits of stone tools that were likely used for butchering and cutting animals.

The finds could shed light on a turning point in the development of culture "in which humans first began to regularly use fire both for cooking meat and as a focal point - a sort of campfire - for social gatherings," said archaeologist Ruth Shahack-Gross of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. "They also tell us something about the impressive levels of social and cognitive development of humans living some 300,000 years ago," Shahack-Gross added in a statement.

The centrally located fire pit is about 6.5 feet (2 meters) in diameter at its widest point, and its ash layers suggest the hearth was used repeatedly over time, according to the study, which was detailed in the Journal of Archaeological Science on Jan. 25. Shahack-Gross and colleagues think these features indicate the hearth may have been used by large groups of cave dwellers. What's more, its position implies some planning went into deciding where to put the fire pit, suggesting whoever built it must have had a certain level of intelligence.
Book 2

Risible 'Hitler fled to Brazil' book makes headlines

Hitler
© Screen Capture/YouTube
Adolf Hitler in the 1930s, as seen in 'Hitler's Reign of Terror.'
Adolf Hitler didn't commit suicide in a Berlin bunker in 1945. He escaped to South America, where he lived with his black lover to the age of 95 as a treasure hunter. That's the risible claim in a new book by a Brazilian Jewish journalism student.

The conspiracy theory premise of Simoni Renee Guerreiro Dias's book Hitler in Brazil - His Life and His Death has grabbed international headlines in recent days, and never mind the fact that it's ridiculous.

Hitler shot himself in his Berlin bunker on April 30, 1945, as the Red Army was advancing into the German capital. His body and that of his mistress, Eva Braun, were placed in a bomb crater outside the Reich Chancellory and doused with petrol.

The way Dias tells it, however, Hitler fled to Brazil and lived under the name Adolf Leipzig until he died in 1984. She claims Hitler lived in the small town of Nossa Senhora do Livramento, 30 miles from the Brazilian state capital Cuiaba, and hunted for buried Jesuit gold.

Her "proof"? A blurry photograph of the man she claims is Hitler with his black girlfriend - with whom he shacked up to allay suspicions that he might be the propagator of a racist ideology.
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