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Mon, 27 Mar 2017
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Meteor

Prehistoric Native American culture may have been wiped out by an asteroid

© NASA
The Clovis people were a prehistoric Native American culture that existed roughly 13,200 to 12,900 years ago who suddenly died out at the end of the last Ice Age, along with 35 iconic species of animals with little or no explanation as to why - until now.

A team of three archaeologists at the University of South Carolina recently published a study which looked at 11 dig sites across North America and found elevated levels of platinum in very specific soil layers.

"The presence of elevated platinum in archaeological sites is a confirmation of data previously reported for the Younger-Dryas onset several years ago in a Greenland ice-core," Christopher Moore, the lead author of the study, told the Archaeology News Network.

This 'Younger-Dryas' period is best known as one of extreme cooling that began around 12,800 years ago and lasted for roughly 1,400 years. This period coincided with the end of the Clovis culture and the extinction of over 35 species of Ice Age animals, including woolly mammoths, mastodons and saber-tooth tigers. But why would they die out if they had already managed to survive through an ice age.

"Platinum is very rare in Earth's crust, but it is common in asteroids and comets," Moore said. In other words, North America may well have witnessed an extinction-level event similar to the one that killed the dinosaurs, but one third of its size.

Info

Albert Einstein's thoughts on the meaning of life

© AFP/Getty Images
Portrait taken 06 February 1938 at Princeton University of physicist Albert Einstein, author of theory of relativity.
Albert Einstein was one of the world's most brilliant thinkers, influencing scientific thought immeasurably. He was also not shy about sharing his wisdom about other topics, writing essays, articles, letters, giving interviews and speeches. His opinions on social and intellectual issues that do not come from the world of physics give an insight into the spiritual and moral vision of the scientist, offering much to take to heart.

The collection of essays and ideas The World As I See It gathers Einstein's thoughts from before 1935, when he was as the preface says "at the height of his scientific powers but not yet known as the sage of the atomic age".

In the book, Einstein comes back to the question of the purpose of life on several occasions. In one passage, he links it to a sense of religiosity.
"What is the meaning of human life, or, for that matter, of the life of any creature? To know an answer to this question means to be religious. You ask: Does it make any sense, then, to pose this question? I answer: The man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unhappy but hardly fit for life," wrote Einstein.
Was Einstein himself religious? Raised by secular Jewish parents, he had complex and evolving spiritual thoughts. He generally seemed to be open to the possibility of the scientific impulse and religious thoughts coexisting.
"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind," said Einstein in his 1954 essay on science and religion.
Some (including the scientist himself) have called Einstein's spiritual views as pantheism, largely influenced by the philosophy of Baruch Spinoza. Pantheists see God as existing but abstract, equating all of reality with divinity. They also reject a specific personal God or a god that is somehow endowed with human attributes.

Fish

420 million-year-old 'armored' fish fossil found in SW China

© journals.plos.org
Life restoration of Sparalepis tingi (foreground) and other fauna from the Kuanti Formation.
Scientists in China have discovered a rare fossil fragment of an "armored" fish, which may prove that the so-called Fish Age happened much earlier in Earth's evolutionary history than previously thought.

A partial fossil of the Sparalepis tingi, a 20cm-long fish, found in China's Yunnan province could turn the paleontological world on its head. Named after the Sparabara infantry of the Persian Empire, the fish's scales resemble the wicker shields the warriors carried into battle.

For decades, the fossil evidence has led the scientific community to believe the surge in global vertebrate, jawed fish populations began during the Devonian Period (419.2 million to 358.9 million years ago).

Info

5066 yo tree is considered the oldest known living organism on Earth

Hidden in the mountains of California, Nevada, and Utah, lurk some of the oldest known long-living species of the Great Basin bristlecone pine, or Pinus longaeva. One member of this species, noted to be 5066 years old, is considered the oldest known living organism on Earth. The ancient tree can be found in the White Mountains in California, but its exact location is kept secret. The tree was cored by specialist Edmund Shulman, dedicated researcher and explorer of long-lived trees, and its age was determined by Tom Harlan.

The age of the tree means that it was alive while Stonehenge was under construction and around the time when the first writing system was invented in Sumeria.

Dating from the Bronze Age, the Great Basin bristlecone pine belongs to a species that does not grow taller than 15 meters, and its trunk does not extend in diameter more than 3.6 meters. These ancient trees have knotted and gnarled appearance, especially those growing at higher altitudes. They also have reddish-brown bark with deep fissures.

The Great Basin bristlecone pine differentiates from the Rocky Mountain bristlecone pine in its needles; the first always have a pair of unceasing resin canals, and so lack the emblematic small white resin flecks of the second. Unique too are its cones that are more rounded compared to the more pointed ones of the other species.

Book 2

Margaret Atwood: What 'The Handmaid's Tale' means in today's world

In the spring of 1984 I began to write a novel that was not initially called The Handmaid's Tale. I wrote in longhand, mostly on yellow legal notepads, then transcribed my almost illegible scrawlings using a huge German-keyboard manual typewriter I'd rented.

The keyboard was German because I was living in West Berlin, which was still encircled by the Berlin Wall: The Soviet empire was still strongly in place, and was not to crumble for another five years. Every Sunday the East German Air Force made sonic booms to remind us of how close they were. During my visits to several countries behind the Iron Curtain — Czechoslovakia, East Germany — I experienced the wariness, the feeling of being spied on, the silences, the changes of subject, the oblique ways in which people might convey information, and these had an influence on what I was writing. So did the repurposed buildings. "This used to belong to . . . but then they disappeared." I heard such stories many times.

Having been born in 1939 and come to consciousness during World War II, I knew that established orders could vanish overnight. Change could also be as fast as lightning. "It can't happen here" could not be depended on: Anything could happen anywhere, given the circumstances.

Video

Unique, uncensored color footage of Stalin's funeral shot by US diplomat unearthed

© Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty / YouTube
The death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin was one of the most momentous occasions in Russia's history, but previously only official reels had been available. Now, 64 years later, a new film captured by a US diplomat later expelled for spying, has been published.

Army Major Martin Manhoff was assigned to the USSR in 1952, with the Cold War in the ascendant, and over the next two years took hundreds of pictures, and filmed hours of 16 mm color footage, for reasons that may have been personal, professional or both.

On March 5, 1953, it was announced that 73-year-old Josef Stalin had died of a cerebral hemorrhage. The exact details of his last days as he lay paralyzed and helpless, while none of his subordinates intervened, remain a source of historical controversy.

Comment: See also: Previously unseen photographs of Stalin's Russia revealed by US historian


Pyramid

Ancient Egyptian statue believed to depict Pharaoh Ramses II discovered in Cairo wasteland

© Khaled Desouki / AFP
Remains of an ancient Egyptian statue believed to depict Pharaoh Ramses II have been found hidden in an area of flooded wasteland in Cairo.

The statue's head and broken torso were recovered from a pit of earth and water by a team of German and Egyptian archaeologists in Cairo's Matareya district on Thursday, reports Almasry Alyoum.

Modern day Matareya is where the ancient Egyptian city of Heliopolis once stood and archaeologists suspect the newly discovered eight-meter-tall effigy could be a tribute to a pharaoh who ruled Egypt between 1279-1213 BCE.

Archaeology

Massive eight-meter Colossus statue depicting Ramses II found in Egypt

© REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Matariya residents rest against what appears to be the head of an unearthed statue that workers say depicts Pharaoh Ramses II, in Cairo, Egypt, March 9, 2017.
Archaeologists from Egypt and Germany have found a massive eight-meter statue submerged in ground water in a Cairo slum that they say probably depicts revered Pharaoh Ramses II, who ruled Egypt more than 3,000 years ago.

The discovery, hailed by the Antiquities Ministry as one of the most important ever, was made near the ruins of Ramses II's temple in the ancient city of Heliopolis, located in the eastern part of modern-day Cairo.

"Last Tuesday they called me to announce the big discovery of a colossus of a king, most probably Ramses II, made out of quartzite," Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani told Reuters on Thursday at the site of the statue's unveiling.

Archaeology

Ancient dental plaque DNA shows Neandertals used 'aspirin' and 'penicillium'

© Paleoanthropology Group MNCN-CSIC
El Sidron upper jaw: a dental calculus deposit is visible on the rear molar (right) of this Neandertal. This individual was eating poplar, a source of aspirin, and had also consumed moulded vegetation including Penicillium fungus, source of a natural antibiotic.
Ancient DNA found in the dental plaque of Neandertals - our nearest extinct relative - has provided remarkable new insights into their behaviour, diet and evolutionary history, including their use of plant-based medicine to treat pain and illness.

Published today in the journal Nature, an international team led by the University of Adelaide's Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) and Dental School, with the University of Liverpool in the UK, revealed the complexity of Neandertal behaviour, including dietary differences between Neandertal groups and knowledge of medication.

"Dental plaque traps microorganisms that lived in the mouth and pathogens found in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract, as well as bits of food stuck in the teeth - preserving the DNA for thousands of years," says lead author Dr Laura Weyrich, ARC Discovery Early Career Research Fellow with ACAD.

"Genetic analysis of that DNA 'locked-up' in plaque, represents a unique window into Neandertal lifestyle - revealing new details of what they ate, what their health was like and how the environment impacted their behaviour."

Quenelle - Golden

A Secret World War: How the Haitian Revolution Crushed Slavery Worldwide

The Haitian Revolution, which ran from 1791-1804, was one of the most important events in modern history. It was the first successful anti-slavery revolution. Not only did Haiti's slaves manage to liberate themselves, they also inflicted crushing defeats on three empires - the Spanish, French, and British. Each suffered catastrophic losses trying, and failing, to take back the island from its heroic defenders.

I dealt with this glorious moment in human history in my "Revolution in Haiti" based on C.L.R James classic "The Black Jacobins." I also dealt with the enormous importance that slavery held in the global economy and its role in fueling the industrial revolution in "Capitalism and Slavery" based on the classic book of the same title by Eric Williams. Next I tackled the role of slavery as the prime motive behind the launching of the so called "American War for Independence" in the "Counter Revolution of 1776," based on Gerald Horne's instant classic of the same title.

Now I will deal with the part the Haitian revolution played in not only ending slavery on the island but throughout the Americas. I will rely on yet another masterpiece from Gerald Horne, "Confronting Black Jacobins: The United States, The Haitian Revolution, and The Origins of the Dominican Republic," which is both a sequel to "The Counter-Revolution of 1776" and a companion to his excellent "Negro Comrades of the Crown" which covers the same time period. Negro Comrades of the Crown is about the alliance between American blacks and the British empire, which hoped to use the issue of slavery to destabilize it's former colony - turned imperial rival - the United States.