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Sun, 28 May 2017
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Scientists: Rare mother-of-pearl clouds may have inspired Munch's 'The Scream'

© www.edvardmunch.org
Edvard Munch's "The Scream"
The psychedelic clouds in Edvard Munch's iconic "The Scream" have alternatively been interpreted as a metaphor for mental anguish or a literal depiction of volcanic fallout.

On Monday, scientists hypothesised that the Norwegian painter's inspiration may in fact have been rare clouds which form in cold places at high altitude.

The first version of "The Scream" was released in 1893. It depicts a dark humanlike figure clutching its head in apparent horror against the backdrop of a swirling, red-orange sky.

In 2004, American astronomers theorised that Munch had painted a sky brightly coloured by particle pollution from the 1883 Krakatoa volcanic eruption.

But the new paper, presented at a meeting of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna, said he more likely depicted a rare sighting of "mother-of-pearl" clouds over Oslo.

A volcanic outburst does not account for the "waviness" of Munch's clouds, Helene Muri, a researcher at the University of Oslo, told journalists in Vienna. Furthermore, volcano-tinted sunsets tend to be common for several years after an outburst, "whereas Munch's scary vision was seemingly a one-time experience, the way he described it in his journal," she said.

In his diary, Munch wrote of the sky turning suddenly blood red.


Rare parchment of US Declaration discovered in England

© West Sussex Record Office
US historians have found a rare parchment of the US Declaration of Independence hidden away in a small records office in Sussex, England.

Harvard researchers discovered the 'Sussex Declaration', believed to be only the second such parchment known in existence, in the Chichester archives of the small town of West Sussex, England. The other parchment is housed in the National Archives in Washington DC.

Researchers Emily Sneff and Danielle Allen announced their discovery at a Yale conference on Friday. They published their initial research online.

The newly discovered parchment of America's formative text is believed to date back to the 1780s, which they say sheds light on the tumultuous years the US experienced after the Revolutionary War.

Fireball 3

Stone carvings at Gobekli Tepe in Turkey confirm how comet struck Earth in 10,950BC

© Alistair Coombs
The Vulture Stone from Gobekli Tepe (left) which recorded a devastating comet strike (right).
Ancient stone carvings confirm that a comet struck the Earth around 11,000BC, a devastating event which wiped out woolly mammoths and sparked the rise of civilisations.

Experts at the University of Edinburgh analysed mysterious symbols carved onto stone pillars at Gobekli Tepe in southern Turkey, to find out if they could be linked to constellations.

The markings suggest that a swarm of comet fragments hit Earth at the exact same time that a mini-ice age struck, changing the entire course of human history.

Scientists have speculated for decades that a comet could be behind the sudden fall in temperature during a period known as the Younger Dryas. But recently the theory appeared to have been debunked by new dating of meteor craters in North America where the comet is thought to have struck.

However, when engineers studied animal carvings made on a pillar - known as the vulture stone - at Gobekli Tepe they discovered that the creatures were actually astronomical symbols which represented constellations and the comet.

Comment: See also: Forget About Global Warming: We're One Step From Extinction!


Scientists confirm Flores Man 'hobbits' found in Indonesia not direct relatives of modern humans

The most comprehensive study on the bones of Homo floresiensis, a species of tiny human discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003, has found that they most likely evolved from an ancestor in Africa and not from Homo erectus as has been widely believed.

The study by The Australian National University (ANU) found Homo floresiensis, dubbed "the hobbits" due to their small stature, were most likely a sister species of Homo habilis -- one of the earliest known species of human found in Africa 1.75 million years ago.

Data from the study concluded there was no evidence for the popular theory that Homo floresiensis evolved from the much larger Homo erectus, the only other early hominid known to have lived in the region with fossils discovered on the Indonesian mainland of Java.

Study leader Dr Debbie Argue of the ANU School of Archaeology & Anthropology, said the results should help put to rest a debate that has been hotly contested ever since Homo floresiensis was discovered.

"The analyses show that on the family tree, Homo floresiensis was likely a sister species of Homo habilis. It means these two shared a common ancestor," Dr Argue said.


Ancient reptile tracks in the Pyrenees may point to a new type of footprint

© All figures and photographic images will be published under a Creative Commons Attribution License
A large set of tracks made by archosauromorphs in the Pyrenees mountain range may include a new type of footprint made by reptiles that lived 247 million years ago, according to a study published April 19, 2017 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Eudald Mujal from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain, and colleagues.
A large set of tracks made by archosauromorphs in the Pyrenees mountain range may include a new type of footprint made by reptiles that lived 247 million years ago, according to a study published April 19, 2017 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Eudald Mujal from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain, and colleagues.

The Permian mass extinction resulted in the loss of 90 percent of species. The environmental and climactic conditions hindered the recovery of vertebrate species following this devastating event.

To investigate which vertebrates lived during beginning of the Mesozoic Era, which followed the Permian extinction, Mujal and colleagues examined trace fossils of vertebrates in the Pyrenees mountains in Catalonia from approximately 247 to 248 million years ago. The researchers made 3D models and created silicone molds of these ephemeral fossils, enabling them to preserve the fossils in scientific collections.

The researchers identified that most tracks were made by archosauromorphs, the ancestors of crocodiles and dinosaurs. The majority were small, about half a meter in length, although a few specimens were longer than three meters. The researchers also identified a new footprint, Prorotodactylus mesaxonichnus, and the new fossil evidence from the Pyrenean tracks suggests that at least the Pyrenean Prorotodactylus genus is related to archosauromorphs, rather than being a dinosauromorph as previously thought from other records.


Brilliant Russian scholars unlock secret of mysterious Voynich manuscript - CIA, NSA, others tried and failed

© Global Look Press
The manuscript is an illustrated medieval codex written by an unknown author between 1404 and 1438.
Experts previously thought it impossible to decipher the medieval text

Mathematicians at the RAS Institute of Applied Mathematics concluded that the Voynich manuscript was written in two languages, except for the vowels, reported RIA Novosti.

The manuscript, which is kept at Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, is an illustrated medieval codex written by an unknown author possibly in northern Italy between 1404 and 1438.

Researchers have been trying to decipher its bizarre script for 600 years, but the text has beguiled even the brightest minds. The manuscript bears the name of the antiquarian book dealer and former anti-Tsarist Polish revolutionary, Wilfrid Voynich (1865-1930), who rediscovered the artifact in 1912 in Villa Mondragone outside of Rome, which was then used as a Jesuit college.


24 years Ago Today: Chemical Weapons Used by US Government to Kill Women and Children in Waco, Texas

Americans are up in arms over the alleged gas attack in Syria. Although there was no investigation, and many high-profile individuals have called it a sham, the US has pinned the blame on Syrian president Bashar Al Assad. So, we thought it would be a good idea to remind our fellow Americans of an occasion where the federal government got away with gassing its own people, an action which, consequently, led to the deaths of 86 men, women, and children. It all came to a violent end 24 years ago today, in Texas.

Our source material comes from the FBI's own vault, which contains two files on the case against Vernon Howell, also known as David Koresh. Koresh was the leader of the "Branch Davidians Seventh Day Adventists." According to the FBI case file, Koresh was believed to have been holding people against their will at his compound in Waco, Texas, potentially guilty of "involuntary servitude and slavery" charges.

In 1992, Child Protective Services (CPS) was called in to investigate the accusations. After a thorough investigation, CPS concluded no one was being held at the compound against their will, nor any child abuse, and the federal prosecutor, who reviewed the report, saw no reason to prosecute Koresh. On October 16th, 1992, the FBI closed the case against Koresh and the allegations he was abusing children and holding his followers against their will.

Comment: The high crimes, hypocrisy and rank lies of the U.S. government are stomach churning: and what about the other horrific weapons of death the US has unleashed on innocents - are they any less despicable than chemical weapons?


Dragons of Siberia: Scientists reveal mythical creature also had a place in Russian folklore

© Andrey Borodovsky / sbras.info
The legendary dragon was long thought to be mostly a feature Chinese and other Asian countries' folklore, but Russian scientists have found pictures of these mythical creatures on the ancient belt-plaques found in South Siberia, suggesting that dragons once inhabited Russia (or at least Russia's imagination).

Detailed research of bronze belt-plaques, which were found back in 1970 in South Siberia as part of the so-called 'Lyus Cache', have given researchers reason to believe that dragons had a unique role to play in Russia's own myths and legends, the Science of Siberia magazine of the Siberian department of Russia's Academy of Sciences reports on Tuesday.

Dragons depicted on the belt-plaques are shown in motion, as if curling spirally, as opposed to the traditional Chinese dragon which is often shown moving in a zigzag fashion.


Egyptian archaeologists make major discovery in a centuries-old tomb near Luxor

The tomb was discovered in the Draa Abul Nagaa necropolis
More than 1,000 statues were found by Egyptian archaeologists in a 3,500-year-old tomb near Luxor, along with colorful wooden coffins and several mummies.

In a Tuesday statement the country's Antiquities Ministry reported that the treasures were found in the Draa Abul Nagaa necropolis near the Valley of the Kings, where royalty like Tutankhamun and Hathshepsut are buried, and that they belonged to a judge named Userhat.

During the 21st Dynasty about 3,000 years ago, the tomb was reopened so that small carved figurines called ushabti could be put in place to assist the nobleman in the afterlife, as was the custom, and to protect him against tomb robbers.


Dental fillings discovered in 13,000-year-old skeleton

© Stefano Benazzi
Archaeologists discovered a 13,000-year-old skeleton with two front teeth that have big holes in the surface that reach down to the tooth's pulp chamber.
You might wince at the sight of your dentist holding an electric drill over your mouth. But, you can be thankful she's not using a stone tool instead.

That is what the most advanced dental care looked like thousands of years ago. By studying teeth at archaeological sites, scientists think that prehistoric humans came up with a variety of resourceful solutions to dental problems: people drilled out cavities, sealed crown fractures with beeswax, used toothpicks to relieve inflamed gums and extracted rotten teeth.

Now, researchers report that they've discovered what is perhaps the oldest known example of tooth-filling at an ice age site in Italy.

Archaeologists unearthed the skeletal remains of a person who lived about 13,000 years ago at Riparo Fredian, near Lucca in northern Italy. The person's two front teeth (or upper central incisors) both had big holes in the surface that reach down to the tooth's pulp chamber.

Researchers recently analyzed horizontal striations inside the tooth holes, and concluded that these scratch marks were most likely produced by the scraping and twisting of a hand-held tool. This ice age person was probably in pain from necrotic or infected tooth pulp inside the teeth; seeking relief, they might have intentionally scooped out the decayed tissue, enlarging their cavities in the process, according to the study published online March 27 in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.