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Mon, 26 Sep 2016
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Pharoah

Mummy Of Female Pharaoh Uncovered

© BBC News
The discovery of such an old mummy is extremely rare, Egyptologists say.
Egyptologists have discovered the remains of a mummy thought to belong to a queen who ruled 4,300 years ago, Egypt's antiquities chief has said.

The body of Queen Seshestet was found in a recently-discovered pyramid in Saqqara, Zahi Hawass announced.

She was mother of King Teti, founder of the Sixth Dynasty of pharaonic Egypt. Her name was not found but "all the signs indicate that she is Seshestet".

Info

Inside the mind of an autistic savant

© Toby Madden/Eyevine
Daniel Tammet

Autistic savant Daniel Tammet shot to fame when he set a European record for the number of digits of pi he recited from memory (22,514). For afters, he learned Icelandic in a week. But unlike many savants, he's able to tell us how he does it. We could all unleash extraordinary mental abilities by getting inside the savant mind, he tells Celeste Biever:

Do you think savants have been misunderstood - and perhaps dehumanised - in the past?

Very often the analogy has been that a savant is like a computer, but what I do is about as far from what a computer does as you can imagine. This distinction hasn't been made before, because savants haven't been able to articulate how their minds work. I am lucky that the autism I have is mild, and that I was born into a large family and had to learn social skills, so I am able to speak up.

Wine

A good night out began at home in ancient Greece

© The Bridgeman Art Library / Getty
This red-figure ceramic dish depicts an old man and a young man drinking. It can be seen in the Museum Schloss Hohentubingen, Tubingen, Germany.

It's a wonder the Greeks accomplished as much as they did, as many of their homes seem to have doubled as pubs and brothels. This finding, from new analyses of archaeological remains, could explain why previous hunts for evidence of ancient Greek taverns have been fruitless.

Plays from classical Greece describe lively taverns, but no one has ever unearthed their real-life versions. Clare Kelly Blazeby at the University of Leeds, UK, suspected that archaeologists were missing something, so she took a new look at artefacts from several houses dotted around ancient Greece, dating from 475 to 323 BC.

These had all yielded the remains of numerous drinking cups, and so had been assumed to be wealthy residences. Kelly Blazeby now believes a more likely explanation is that the residents regularly sold wine. Her analysis suggests that many of the houses had hundreds of cups - far too many for a building used only as a residence, she says. Other archaeological artefacts suggest the houses were used for other functions too.

"This blows apart everything that people think about drinking in classical Greece," says Kelly Blazeby, who is presenting her findings on 10 January at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is not alone. Allison Glazebrook of Brock University in St Catharines, Ontario, Canada, will tell the same conference that some of the houses doubled as brothels. Telltale signs that Glazebrook found include erotic graffiti and objects, and clusters of clay drinking cups.

Info

Ten extinct beasts that could walk the Earth again

© Photo Researchers / SPL
The Dodo, Raphus cucullatus, is one of the most well-known extinct animals.

The recipe for making any creature is written in its DNA. So last November, when geneticists published the near-complete DNA sequence of the long-extinct woolly mammoth, there was much speculation about whether we could bring this behemoth back to life.

Creating a living, breathing creature from a genome sequence that exists only in a computer's memory is not possible right now. But someone someday is sure to try it, predicts Stephan Schuster, a molecular biologist at Pennsylvania State University, University Park, and a driving force behind the mammoth genome project.

So besides the mammoth, what other extinct beasts might we coax back to life? Well, it is only going to be possible with creatures for which we can retrieve a complete genome sequence. Without one, there is no chance. And usually when a creature dies, the DNA in any flesh left untouched is soon destroyed as it is attacked by sunshine and bacteria.

There are, however, some circumstances in which DNA can be preserved. If your specimen froze to death in an icy wasteland such as Siberia, or snuffed it in a dark cave or a really dry region, for instance, then the probability of finding some intact stretches of DNA is much higher.

Sun

Danger ahead as the Sun goes quiet

© SOHO / ESA / NASA / SPL
A huge, twisted solar prominence (lower left) in the corona of the Sun. The prominence is a massive cloud of plasma confined by powerful magnetic fields. If it breaks free of the Sun's atmosphere, such an event can cause electrical blackouts and auroral storms, if directed towards Earth. This image was taken in the light of ionised helium (30.4 nanometres), which corresponds to a temperature of around 60,000 Kelvin. It was taken on 18th January 2000 by the Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (EIT) on board the SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) spacecraft.

The sun's ability to shield the solar system from harmful cosmic rays could falter in the early 2020s, just in time to threaten the health of NASA astronauts as they return to the moon.

As well as the 11-year cycle of sunspots and solar flares, the sun's activity experiences longer-term shifts lasting several decades. The sun is currently in a long-term high, having been relatively active for nearly a century, but it is not known when this will end.

To find out, a team led by Jose Abreu of the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Duebendorf analysed 66 long-term highs from the past 10,000 years, as recorded in fluctuating levels of rare isotopes such as beryllium-10 in ice cores from Greenland. These are produced when cosmic rays break down the nuclei of oxygen and nitrogen atoms in the Earth's atmosphere. Production of these isotopes peaks when the sun is inactive, as the weaker solar wind lets more cosmic rays enter the solar system, which hit the Earth.

Based on the duration of past highs, and the fact that the current one has already lasted 80 years, the team has calculated that its most likely total lifetime is between 95 and 116 years, and they suspect the high will probably end at the shorter end of this range (Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: link).

Magnify

Hubble Finds Stars That Go 'Ballistic'

© NASA, ESA, and R. Sahai (NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
Resembling comets streaking across the sky, these four speedy stars are plowing through regions of dense interstellar gas and creating brilliant arrowhead structures and trailing tails of glowing gas.
Even some stars go ballistic, racing through interstellar space like bullets and tearing through clouds of gas.

Images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope reveal 14 young, runaway stars plowing through regions of dense interstellar gas, creating brilliant arrowhead structures and trailing tails of glowing gas. These arrowheads, or bow shocks, form when the stars' powerful stellar winds, streams of matter flowing from the stars, slam into surrounding dense gas. The phenomenon is similar to that seen when a speeding boat pushes through water on a lake.

Evil Rays

Effect of subliminal marketing greater than thought

Marketing statements influence us subliminally more than was ever assumed. Even when you are not aware of being exposed to advertising material, it can still affect your actions. This emerged from research by Marieke Fransen of the University of Twente, Netherlands, who obtained her doctorate from the Faculty of Behavioural Sciences on 19 December.

Evil Rays

NASA Balloon Mission Tunes in to a Cosmic Radio Mystery

© NASA/ARCADE/Roen Kelly
A mysterious screen of extra-loud radio noise permeates the cosmos, preventing astronomers from observing heat from the first stars. The balloon-borne ARCADE instrument discovered this cosmic static (white band, top) on its July 2006 flight.

Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., today announced the discovery of cosmic radio noise that booms six times louder than expected.

The finding comes from a balloon-borne instrument named ARCADE, which stands for the Absolute Radiometer for Cosmology, Astrophysics, and Diffuse Emission. In July 2006, the instrument launched from NASA's Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Palestine, Texas, and flew to an altitude of 120,000 feet, where the atmosphere thins into the vacuum of space.

ARCADE's mission was to search the sky for heat from the first generation of stars. Instead, it found a cosmic puzzle.

"The universe really threw us a curve," Kogut says. "Instead of the faint signal we hoped to find, here was this booming noise six times louder than anyone had predicted." Detailed analysis ruled out an origin from primordial stars or from known radio sources, including gas in the outermost halo of our own galaxy. The source of this cosmic radio background remains a mystery.

Meteor

Comet smashes triggered ancient famine

Multiple comet impacts around 1500 years ago triggered a "dry fog" that plunged half the world into famine.

Historical records tell us that from the beginning of March 536 AD, a fog of dust blanketed the atmosphere for 18 months. During this time, "the sun gave no more light than the moon", global temperatures plummeted and crops failed, says Dallas Abbott of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York. The cause has long been unknown, but theories have included a vast volcanic eruption or an impact from space.

Telescope

Catch Winter's Comet Lulin

© Michael Jaeger
Comet Lulin was still only about 11th or 12th magnitude when Michael Jaeger took this image on Sept. 2, 2008. He used an 8-inch f/2.8 ASA Astrograph with a SXV H9 CCD camera for this stacked pair of 4-minute exposures. Click image for wider view.
Comet C/2007 N3 (Lulin), discovered in July 2007, should be the highlight comet of this season. It's predicted to reach about 5th magnitude in late February, so it should be easily seen in binoculars. It may even become detectable with the unaided eye in a dark, moonless sky.