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Sun

Solar storm almost started WWIII in 1967

© NSO
A view of the Sun on May 23, 1967, in a narrow visible wavelength of light called Hydrogen-alpha. The bright region in the top center region of brightness shows the area where the large flare occurred.
The Cold War was filled with nuclear annihilation close-calls: There was the '62 Cuban Missile Crisis, the NORAD Computer Glitch in '70, the Nuclear False Alarm of 1983, and likely many we'll never know about. But there's one incident that has gone under the radar for decades. A new paper to be published in the journal Space Weather finally paints a detailed portrait of a 1967 solar storm that almost spurred the U.S. Air Force to attack the Soviet Union and potential ignite World War III.

Here's the deal: On May 23, 1967, the United States noticed its surveillance radars the near poles were jamming up. Naturally, defense officials assumed it was the Soviet Union preparing to attack American soil — so the Air Force began to make its own preparations to strike the Russians.

Problem was, the Russians were not to blame. The culpable party was the sun, which was in the midst of a particularly nasty solar storm. When the sun is producing major flares, the resulting energy can charge up nearby particles and cause electromagnetic disturbances that affect the ionosphere — the part of the Earth's atmosphere that helps propagate radio wave emissions over large distances.

Although solar activity was still not widely understood, by the 1950s the U.S. military knew how eruptions on the surface the sun could hamper communications on Earth. By the following decade, the Air Force established the Air Weather Service to regularly monitor the sun for solar flares.

Comment: Think it couldn't happen today? Think again! Out of any of the 'nuclear war' scenarios currently being thrown around, this reminder from 1967 may very well be repeated sans 'cooler heads prevailing'. This story provides a glimpse into the paranoid hubris of our leaders and touches on their blind reaction to a 'cosmic threat'. In today's atmosphere of US-driven rabid fear and paranoia towards Russia, how do you think our fearful leaders would respond when something wicked this way comes.


Colosseum

Archaeologists discover ancient magic spells on site of Roman city

Inscriptions etched on tiny rolls of gold and silver found alongside skeletons of people buried almost 2,000 years ago
© Djordje Kojadinovic/Reuters
Chief archaeologist Miomir Korać displays one of the gold rolls covered in symbols and writing.
Archaeologists in Serbia are trying to decipher magic spells etched on to tiny rolls of gold and silver that have been found alongside skeletons of humans buried almost 2,000 years ago.

"The alphabet is Greek, that much we know. The language is Aramaic - it's a Middle Eastern mystery to us," said Miomir Korać, the chief archaeologist at the site.

The skeletons were discovered at the foot of a massive coal-fired power station in Kostolac, north-eastern Serbia, where searches are being carried out before another unit of the electricity plant is built on the site of an ancient Roman city, Viminacium.

Magnify

3,000 year old thread and bobbin found at Bronze Age village excavation

© Cambridge Archaeological Unit
Thread wrapped around a bobbin was exceptionally well preserved; the archaeologists described it as looking "almost new."
An unusually delicate pair of artifacts recently emerged from a dig site in the United Kingdom: a tiny ball of thread and another length of thread wound around a bobbin. Both are estimated to be approximately 3,000 years old.

The fragile fiber objects appeared during the excavation of a Bronze Age village near what is now Petersborough, in eastern England. The location, known as Must Farm, is thought to have been abandoned suddenly after a fire decimated the settlement thousands of years ago. Many everyday objects were left behind, and are now being discovered and brought to light for the first time.

Archaeologists working on the project shared images of the thread ball and bobbin on the project's Facebook page. That generated a discussion thread (naturally) that drew dozens of questions and comments from curious readers, though in-depth analysis of the finds is yet to come.

The photo of the first fiber object, a miniscule thread ball that still appears to be neatly wound, was posted on July 21, and the archaeologists described its condition as "amazing." They explained that the thread was probably so well preserved because it was made of plant fiber, "likely flax or nettle," that carbonized in the fire and then became waterlogged — a process that helped protect it.

Comment: Bronze Age discovery: A 3000-year-old community has been unearthed


Info

Maya site uncovered in Belize, yields "snake dynasty" hieroglyphic panels

© Jaime Awe
Xunantunich, in western Belize, where archaeologists found a tomb and hieroglyphic panels depicting the history of the ‘snake dynasty’.
Archaeologists have uncovered what may be the largest royal tomb found in more than a century of work on Maya ruins in Belize, along with a puzzling set of hieroglyphic panels that provide clues to a "snake dynasty" that conquered many of its neighbors some 1,300 years ago.

The tomb was unearthed at the ruins of Xunantunich, a city on the Mopan river in western Belize that served as a ceremonial center in the final centuries of Maya dominance around 600 to 800AD. Archaeologists found the chamber 16ft to 26ft below ground, where it had been hidden under more than a millennium of dirt and debris.

Researchers found the tomb as they excavated a central stairway of a large structure: within were the remains of a male adult, somewhere between 20 and 30 years old, lying supine with his head to the south.

The archaeologist Jaime Awe said preliminary analysis by osteologists found the man was athletic and "quite muscular" at his death, and that more analysis should provide clues about his identity, health and cause of death.

In the grave, archaeologists also found jaguar and deer bones, six jade beads, possibly from a necklace, 13 obsidian blades and 36 ceramic vessels. At the base of the stairway, they found two offering caches that had nine obsidian and 28 chert flints and eccentrics - chipped artefacts that are carved into the shapes of animals, leaves or other symbols.

"It certainly has been a great field season for us," said Awe, who led a team from his own school, Northern Arizona University, and the Belize Institute of Archaeology.

Cloud Lightning

The history of the park ranger hit by lightning 7 — or was it 8 — times?


Sullivan Roy Cleveland Sullivan
In 1977 there was a mobile home off Route 340 near Dooms strangely covered with 12 lightning rods, affixed to all four corners of the trailer, on the TV antenna, the electric meter and in six of the taller nearby trees. Each was heavy gauge no. 6 copper wire, grounded on spikes sunk seven feet in the ground.

There was good reason for this eccentric arrangement; the trailer owner, retired Shenandoah Park Ranger Roy C. Sullivan, had already been struck by lightning seven times, and still had one more to go, earning a dubious world record that stands today.

"Some people are allergic to flowers," Sullivan told a Waynesboro News-Virginian reporter in June, 1977, "but I'm allergic to lightning."

Born February, 1912 in Greene County, Sullivan's legacy began in the 1920s. As he helped his father cut wheat, lightning struck his scythe, knocking him to the ground and setting the field on fire.

He had no idea what was still to come.

© Findagrave.com
Roy Sullivan’s grave in Augusta County.

Bad Guys

The hidden history of Congo's uranium: Stolen by the Americans to destroy Hiroshima

Since the first use of a nuclear weapon in Hiroshima 71 years ago today, on Aug. 6, 1945, the story of where the uranium for the bomb came from and the covert operation the U.S. employed to secure it has been little known.

That is until the publication next week in the United States of a new book, Spies in the Congo, by British researcher Susan Williams (Public Affairs Books, New York), which unveils for the first time the detailed story of the deep cover race between the Americans and the Nazis to get their hands on the deadliest metal on earth.

At the outset of World War II, when the U.S. launched the extraordinarily secret Manhattan Project, uranium from North America and most of the rest of the world was less than one percent enriched and considered inadequate to build the first atom bombs. But there was one mine in the world where, through a freak of nature, the ore contained up to an unheard of 75% enriched uranium: Shinkolobwe mine in the present-day Democratic Republic of Congo.

Stormtrooper

Reality check: The police were created to control people, not protect them

In most of the liberal discussions of the recent police killings of unarmed black men, there is an underlying assumption that the police are supposed to protect and serve the population. That is, after all, what they were created to do. If only the normal, decent relations between the police and the community could be re-established, this problem could be resolved. Poor people in general are more likely to be the victims of crime than anyone else, this reasoning goes, and in that way, they are in more need than anyone else of police protection. Maybe there are a few bad apples, but if only the police weren't so racist, or didn't carry out policies like stop-and-frisk, or weren't so afraid of black people, or shot fewer unarmed men, they could function as a useful service that we all need.

This liberal way of viewing the problem rests on a misunderstanding of the origins of the police and what they were created to do. The police were not created to protect and serve the population. They were not created to stop crime, at least not as most people understand it. And they were certainly not created to promote justice. They were created to protect the new form of wage-labor capitalism that emerged in the mid to late nineteenth century from the threat posed by that system's offspring, the working class.

This is a blunt way of stating a nuanced truth, but sometimes nuance just serves to obfuscate.

Info

Evidence found for a great flood that marks the beginning of China's civilization

New geological findings suggest that an ancient flood in a popular legend about the birth of China's civilization might have actually occurred, but some 150 years later than historians thought.
© Wu Qinglong
This photo shows Jishi Gorge upstream from the landslide dam. Gray silt deposits reveal an ancient, massive lake held by the dam.
In Chinese mythology, the tale of a great flood marks the beginning of the ancient civilization and the debut of China's first-ever, but possibly fictional, dynasty—the Xia Dynasty. Today, researchers published a paper in Science laying out geological evidence for a huge flood on the Yellow River almost 4000 years ago that may have inspired the origin story.

"The scientific evidence of this flood would lend support to parts of the legendary history," said Li Liu, an archaeologist at Stanford University in California and coauthor on the new paper. Specifically, the findings could lend credibility to arguments that the Xia Dynasty actually existed.

Yu the Great

The story of the Xia Dynasty starts with a flood that supposedly lasted 20 years. In ancient times, a man called Yu recruited villagers in the Yellow River valley to divert the waters that had been raging untamed for almost a decade. Over another decade, Yu and the villagers dug channels and tributaries that led the water to the sea.

Grateful countrymen crowned Yu the Great as their ruler. He started the dynastic tradition when he eventually passed his throne to his son. Modern scholars suggest that Yu's reign started in 2070 B.C.E.—if it existed at all.

Because Chinese texts made no mention of this story for the next millennium, some scholars reject the existence of the dynasty itself, said Wu Qinglong, a geologist at Peking University in Beijing and lead author of the paper.

Magnify

Rare pottery workshop discovered in Galilee

© Royee Liran, Israel Antiquities Authority
A kiln discovered in northern Israel was cut out of the chalky bedrock at the site, which is located in the modern-day town of Shlomi.
An ancient potters' workshop dating back to Roman times has been discovered in Galilee, in northern Israel.

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced that excavations in Shlomi, a town near the Lebanon border, have revealed a ceramic factory where storage jars and vessels for wine and oil would have been made 1,600 years ago. Archaeologists working at the site said this workshop is notable for its carefully constructed rock-cut kiln.

"What makes the pottery works so special is its unique kiln, which was hewn in bedrock and is unlike most of the kilns known to us that were built of stone, earth and mud," Joppe Gosker, the excavation director, said in a statement.

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Question

The mystery of the 6-toed and 6-fingered people of Chaco Canyon

Ancient people of the Pueblo culture of Chaco Canyon, in what is now New Mexico, decorated their houses with six-digit handprints and footprints.

Although it is not really known why these images were depicted in homes, researchers suggest that having an extra finger or toe made the person more important and respected in this society.

According to National Geographic, researchers were aware of the examples of polydactyly ('many fingers') among the Pueblo culture for many years.

Several skeletal remains showing extremities with extra toes and fingers have also been found. One of the discovered remains had an ornate anklet around its six-toed foot but carried no such offering on its five-toed foot.