Archive for March 12, 2013

The Earth’s most powerful telescope goes online next week

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, with tags on March 12, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

Post 1765

The Earth’s most powerful telescope goes online next week

SPACE

We are about to see what happens when stars come to life. On March 13, the Atacama Large Millimeter/Sub Millimeter Array (ALMA) goes online. It’s the most powerful such telescope ever built, and is part of a class of “very large telescopes” that combine the power of several massive antennae to gather information about distant regions in the universe. ALMA is in northern Chile’s high desert, 16,500 feet above sea level. And it will show us things about the universe we’ve never seen before.

EarthSky’s Emily Howard has the story:

According to the scientists, one nation alone couldn’t build ALMA. Working with the host country Chile, some of the largest observatories in the world joined together for ALMA. These include the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in North America, the European Southern Observatory, and observatories in Japan, Brazil and throughout Latin America.

Sixty-six large radio dishes connect together to form ALMA. These dishes are located 30 minutes by car from the town of San Pedro de Atacama in Chile – at the top of the world – at an altitude of 16,500 feet, or 5,000 meters.

At that height and in the desert, there is little water vapor in the air. Those conditions are perfect for ALMA because water in the air blocks starlight in the portion of the “electromagnetic spectrum” that scientists want to study.

ALMA will observe starlight at wavelengths invisible to your eye – the long infrared wavelengths of starlight. Space observatories, like the Hubble Space Telescope, orbit high above the blanket of Earth’s atmosphere to see the universe at these wavelengths. Astronomers hope that ALMA will be even better than space telescopes at exploring the infrared universe – because they can build it much larger on land than they can in space today.

SEXPAND

Because ALMA can pick up these long wavelengths of light, it will help astronomers explore the cool, chemically complex dust that surrounds newborn stars and planets. One goal of the project is to understand star formation — and, hopefully, a phase in our early universe when galaxies went through what you might call a “star boom.” Basically, many stars were spawned at once. ALMA may help astronomers understand what catalyzed this boom.

SEXPAND

Before all of ALMA’s telescopes had been constructed, the array had already provided data to scientists that allowed them to discover how galaxies make new stars when they collide. The image above is of the Antennae Galaxies, which are in the middle of a smashup. Below, you can see ALMA’s millimeter and submillimeter light view, which reveals areas of intense star formation in the dust. Remember, this was an image created when ALMA wasn’t complete — images from the fully functioning array will be much sharper.

SEXPAND

ALMA isn’t the only giant telescope that’s coming online in the highlands of Chile. Over at the Simons Foundation, Natalie Wolchover has a great overview of the next generation of extremely large telescopes. She writes:

The huge telescopes will look back in time at some of the earliest light ever emitted by objects. The universe inflated like the surface of a balloon shortly after the Big Bang, and some places stretched so far from here that their first bursts of light are only now arriving. Resolving this light would reveal the structure and chemical makeup of the universe’s first objects, which, as faint images from the Hubble Space Telescope suggest, developed much earlier than current theories would predict. Better observations are likely to lead to new theories of the birth and evolution of space and time, Gilmore said.

At projected costs ranging from $900 million to $1.6 billion each, the Giant Magellan Telescope, the Thirty Meter Telescope and the European Extremely Large Telescope – which will have segmented mirrors measuring 24.5 meters, 30 meters and 39.3 meters across, respectively – will dwarf existing optical telescopes (the current largest is 10.4 meters). They will be between 5 and 200 times more powerful, depending on the telescope and the task.

These telescopes will be able to explore everything from galaxy formation to weather on planets in other solar systems. They’ll also be able to peek into the history of our universe, plumbing the mysteries of the origins of space and time as we know them.

Learn more on the ALMA website.

Images via ESO

(Thanks for the tip, Jesse Burns!)

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Best Science Photos of the Week

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, with tags on March 12, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

Post 1764

Best Science Photos of the Week

LiveScience Staff
Date: 09 March 2013 Time: 02:43 PM ET
Antarctica before ice
Antarctica before ice
Credit: Stuart N. Thomson/UA department of geosciences
Like Alaska’s mighty Yukon, a broad river once flowed across Antarctica, following a gentle valley shaped by tectonic forces at a time before the continent became encased in ice. Understanding what happened when rivers of ice later filled the valley could solve certain climate and geologic puzzles about the southernmost continent. 

The valley is Lambert Graben in East Antarctica, now home to the world’s largest glacier. Trapped beneath the ice, the graben (which is German for ditch or trench) is a stunning, deep gorge. But before Antarctica’s deep freeze 34 million years ago, the valley was relatively flat and filled by a lazy river, leaving a riddle for geologists to decode: How did Lambert Graben get so steep, and when was it carved?

Yosemite firefall
Yosemite firefall
Credit: Bethany Gediman, NPS
Last year, Yosemite National Park’s famed “firefall” was more of a “firedrizzle” due to lack of snow. But this year, the “firefall” is burning bright. 

Yosemite’s Horsetail Fall flows like lava under a clear sky and favorable lighting. It’s a small waterfall that makes big news whenever it glows orange during sunset in mid- to late February. This time of year, the sun is setting at just the right angle and the western sky is just clear enough to create the “firefall” effect. When that happens, the waterfall will glow orange for about 10 minutes.

Locusts swarm
Locusts swarm
Credit: Amir Ayali.
A menacing swarm of locusts that entered southern Israel earlier this week has been largely smitten, according to the Israeli government and local reports. But some of the insects’ ilk may be back later this week. 

Officials sprayed the flying insects with pesticide early this morning (March 6), greatly reducing the number of living, flying insects, according to a statement from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

[Full Story: Israel Escapes Locust Plague — For Now]

Swirly image of Earth
Swirly image of Earth
Credit: NASA image by Burgess Howell
A new photo taken from the International Space Station shows an ecologically diverse area of Panama in a new light. 

The picture is the first taken by a new Earth-observing tool recently installed on the orbiting science laboratory, and shows the San Pablo River emptying into the Gulf of Montijo, reported NASA’s Earth Observatory.

[Full Story: New Space Station Camera Snaps First Image of Earth ]

Penguin shield
Penguin shield
Credit: British Antarctic Survey
Emperor penguins “wear” an invisible shield of cold air that helps to prevent body heat loss, allowing the flightless birds to survive the sub-zero temps of Antarctica, a new study finds. 

The report, published in the journal Biology Letters, demonstrates just how hardy the birds are.

[Full Story: Penguins Wear a Shield of Cold Air in Winter ]

Kissing octopus
Kissing octopus
Credit: Richard Ross
Scientists are unveiling a rare octopus that has never been on public display before. 

And unlike other octopuses, where females have a nasty habit of eating their partners during sex, Larger Pacific Striped Octopuses mate by pressing their beaks and suckers against each other in an intimate embrace.

[Full Story: Rare Kissing Octopus Unveiled For the First Time ]

Europa ocean
Europa ocean
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
The huge ocean sloshing beneath the icy shell of Jupiter’s moon Europa likely makes its way to the surface in some places, suggesting astronomers may not need to drill down deep to investigate it, a new study reports. 

Scientists have detected chemicals on Europa’s frozen surface that could only come from the global liquid-water ocean beneath, implying the two are in contact and potentially opening a window into an environment that may be capable of supporting life as we know it.

[Full Story: On Jupiter’s Moon Europa, Underground Ocean Bubbles Up to Surface ]

Snowstorm from space
Snowstorm from space
Credit: NASA/NOAA
The latest in a series of late-season snowstorms is barreling toward the East Coast, dumping nearly a foot of snow on some locales as it passes. 

The National Weather Service predicts 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 centimeters) of snow could fall in the Mid-Atlantic states tonight (March 5), with up to 18 inches (45 cm) in West Virginia. Tomorrow (March 6), traffic snarls are expected along Interstate 95 as the system collides with warm air over the East Coast, pummeling northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland, N.Y.’s Long Island and southern Connecticut with heavy, wet snow.

[Full Story: Snowstorm Threatening East Coast Seen from Space ]

Ancient giant camels
Ancient giant camels
Credit: Julius Csotonyi
Camels are the poster animals for the desert, but researchers now have evidence that these shaggy beasts once lived in the Canadian High Arctic. 

The fossil remains of a 3.5-million-year-old camel were found on Ellesmere Island in Canada’s northernmost territory, Nunavut. The camel was about 30 percent bigger than modern camels and was identified using a technique called collagen fingerprinting. The finding, detailed today (March 5) in the journal Nature Communications, suggests that modern camels stemmed from giant relatives that lived in a forested Arctic that was somewhat warmer than today.

[Full Story: Giant Camels Roamed the Arctic 3.5 Million Years Ago ]

Grotesque mummy head
Grotesque mummy head
Credit: photo courtesy Archives of Medical Science
In the second century, an ethnically Greek Roman named Galen became doctor to the gladiators. His glimpses into the human body via these warriors’ wounds, combined with much more systematic dissections of animals, became the basis of Islamic and European medicine for centuries.
Galen’s texts wouldn’t be challenged for anatomical supremacy until the Renaissance, when human dissections — often in public — surged in popularity. But doctors in medieval Europe weren’t as idle as it may seem, as a new analysis of the oldest-known preserved human dissection in Europe reveals. 

[Full Story: Grotesque Mummy Head Reveals Advanced Medieval Science ]

Space junk menace
Space junk menace
Credit: NASA/Orbital Debris Program Office.
The European Union has launched a new program to tackle the threat of space junk, which litters the corridors of Earth orbit. 

Space junk is man-made debris — spent rocket stages, dead satellites and even lost spacewalker tools — orbiting Earth. These bits of detritus pose a risk to orbiting satellites, which even a small piece of space trash could damage or destroy.

[Full Story: Europe Takes Aim at Space Junk Menace ]

Israel’s Mission to the Moon: Can a Small Country Win a Big Prize?

Posted in THE UNIVERSE & SPACE SCIENCE with tags on March 12, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

Post 1763

Israel’s Mission to the Moon: Can a Small Country Win a Big Prize?

By March 08, 2013

Read more: http://world.time.com/2013/03/08/israels-mission-to-the-moon-can-a-small-country-win-a-big-prize/#ixzz2NC9DntUn

moon

Yariv Bash, Yonatan Winetraub, and Kfir Damari, three of SpaceIL’s founders, with a model of the unmanned spacecraft they aim to land on the surface of the moon (ALON HADAR)

Confronted with the notion of Israel sending a spacecraft to the moon, as Yanki Margalit was one day two years ago, the hi-tech millionaire recalled his options as one or the other: He could laugh, which he acknowledged was a reasonable temptation. Or he could do what he went ahead and did, putting up the $50,000 required to enter Google’s Lunar X Prize international space race. The entry fee was pocket change beside the $30 million it will take to put together the first soft lunar landing since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 returned with some soil samples in 1976.

“We were naïve,” says Margalit, of the initial estimates developed by Team SpaceIL.

“In the beginning we thought it would cost $8 million and the spaceship would be the size of a Coke bottle.” The reality turned out to be larger in every way: The unmanned craft Margalit’s team aims to land on the lunar surface before the end of 2015 looks more like a credenza.

(MORESpace Exploration)

It’s still a relatively miniature spacecraft, but then Israel is a relatively small country. It’s also one used to punching above its weight, especially in the applied sciences and hi-tech, where miniaturization is a given. As the so-called Start-Up Nation, Israel ranks behind only the U.S. and China in companies listed on Nasdaq; it also ranks high in time its citizens spend online, which is where the lunar effort started. In November 2010 an engineer named Yariv Bash went on Facebook to ask if anyone was interested in being part of the Google contest. Another engineer, Kfir Damari saw the post and said he would. A third, Yonataon Winetraub, got wind of the idea, and the three got together in a pub in Holon, a suburb of Tel Aviv. “We sat down and on a napkin wrote the problems were are facing till today – launching the spaceship, the journey, and then landing safely on the moon,” says Winetraub, 26. Someone thought to keep the napkin.

Much has changed since the original Space Race, a clean-room version of the Cold War. But the basic challenges remain: Clear the earth’s atmosphere, break free of its orbit, and find the trajectory that will snag the moon’s gravitational pull – a task the engineers liken to threading a needle from five stories up. Part one turned out to be the easiest: Rather than build their version of a Saturn V rocket to escape the earth’s atmosphere, the Israelis plan to pay to hitch a ride on a rocket launching a commercial satellite.  Once in earth’s orbit, their 300-pound craft will fire its own jets to escape earth’s orbit, and make the 384,000 kilometer journey to the moon. They expect the trip will take about a month. Once it’s slipped into lunar orbit, the craft might circle the moon for as long as two weeks, waiting for the most propitious moment to descend to the lunar surface – the most perilous 15 minutes of the enterprise. On Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong maneuvered the Eagle to avoid boulders in the Sea of Tranquility too small to show up on reconnaissance photos but big enough to upend the lunar lander. The Israeli spacecraft will not have that luxury, following a descent programmed before lift-off. To increase the odds of landing upright, some 200 high school students have been scouting landing spots; they’ve narrowed it down to a few dozen sites so far.

(MOREChina Sets 5th Manned Space Mission for Summer)

Involving students is a major justification for the effort, a nonprofit enterprise that, if it wins, will recover at most its costs – the total prize could reach $30 million. The effort is sponsored, in part, by the Israel Aerospace Industries, a military enterprise specializing in ballistic missiles. But as its chief pointed out on Israeli television last month, the project makes no particular sense in business or security terms – the main drivers for Israel’s hi-tech sector. “It’s only prestige,” the executive said. “It’s about innovating and thinking long term.” To draw attention, Team SpaceIL has been inviting ordinary people to send their names and digital photos for a thumb drive that will be carried along; judging by the rate at which the late Neil Armstrong’s footprints are degrading on the lunar surface, they’re offering a 10,000 year guarantee.

Thirty-three contestants paid to compete for the Lunar X Prize. Of the 23 considered still active, the Israelis see five as serious threats, which include a number of American companies. The contest requires a “soft landing” – some moon shots were literally that, spacecraft launched at the moon and impact the surface at 3,000 miles an hour. Not only must the Lunar X entrant broadcast eight minutes of video after landing, the craft must then take off again – or, rather,  “leap,” some 500 meters, then transmit video for another eight minutes. The Israelis plan to launch in 2015, provided they can raise the $30 million. They’re two-thirds of the way there, Margalit says.

“Think about it,” Margalit tells TIME. “Three countries will have landed on the moon: The United States, Russia and Israel. What fun to be able to say that.”

MOREPrivate SpaceX Rocket Launched to Space Station 

Read more: http://world.time.com/2013/03/08/israels-mission-to-the-moon-can-a-small-country-win-a-big-prize/#ixzz2NC9oQsCs

Earth Was Blasted With A Gamma Ray Burst During The Eighth Century

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, with tags on March 12, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

Post 1762

Earth Was Blasted With A Gamma Ray Burst During The Eighth Century

January 21, 2013
http://www.redorbit.com/news/space/1112767522/black-hole-gamma-ray-burst-8th-century-012113/
Image Caption: An artist’s impression of the merger of two neutron stars. Short duration gamma-ray bursts are thought to be caused by the merger of some combination of white dwarfs, neutron stars or black holes. Theory suggests that they are short lived as there is little dust and gas to fuel an ‘afterglow’. Credit: NASA/Dana Berry

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

According to a new study, black hole cosmic radiation blasted into the Earth back in the 8th century.

Japanese astrophysicist Fusa Miyake discovered last year clues for the strange event located in the rings of ancient cedar trees that dated back to either 774 or 775 AD.

Researchers teamed together to determine what had caused the surge in carbon-14 in the rings and found no evidence of a supernova, as they had expected.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle references the appearance of a “red crucifix” seen in the skies after sunset, but that took place in 776 AD, which was too late for when the tree rings show the event took place.

Scientists were also able to rule out a CME burst from the Sun, during which solar flares shoot out cosmic rays, sometimes towards Earth.

They wrote in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, instead, black holes may be the culprit behind the carbon-14 isotope surge in the rings. These isotopes are created when intense radiation hits the atoms in the upper atmosphere, which suggests a blast of energy had once hit Earth.

German-based scientists Valeri Hambaryan and Ralph Neuhauser say two black holes collided and then merged, releasing an intense, but extremely brief, burst of gamma rays during the time period. The same kind of bursts could have also taken place if two neutron stars, or white dwarf stars, collided.

“Gamma-ray bursts are very, very explosive and energetic events, and so we considered from the energy what would be the distance given the energy observed,” Neuhauser wrote in the journal.

They said the event could only have taken place at least 3,000 light years away from here, otherwise the planet would have been fried.

Also, if their theory is right, then it would help explain why there is no record of some brilliant event taking place in the sky, or evidence of any extinction event in Earth’s biodiversity during the time.

The authors suggest astronomers should look up to the sky for any evidence that may still exist today from the astronomical event in 774 or 775 AD.

Neuhauser said if a gamma-ray burst had been much closer to earth, then it would have caused significant harm to the biosphere.

“But even thousands of light years away, a similar event today could cause havoc with the sensitive electronic systems that advanced societies have come to depend on,” he wrote in the journal. “The challenge now is to establish how rare such carbon-14 spikes are, i.e. how often such radiation bursts hit the Earth.”

He said in the last 3,000 years, the maximum age of trees alive today, only one of these events has taken place. He added it was unlikely Earth would be seeing another one of these cosmic events soon.

Source: Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

Princess whose forbidden love gripped Sweden dies

Posted in WORLD'S HISTORY with tags on March 12, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

Post 1761

Princess whose forbidden love gripped Sweden dies

By KARL RITTER | Associated Press – 12 hrs ago

http://news.yahoo.com/princess-whose-forbidden-love-gripped-sweden-dies-204740420.html

FILE - In this Sept. 15, 2005 file photo, Princess Lilian during a lunch at the city hall in Stockholm. Welsh-born Princess Lilian of Sweden, whose decades-long love story with the king's uncle was one of the better kept secrets of the royal household, has died. She was 97. The Royal Palace says Lilian died Sunday March 10, 2013 in her home in Stockholm. (AP Photo/Erhan Gzner, Scanpix, File) SWEDEN OUT

Associated Press/Erhan Gzner, Scanpix, File – FILE – In this Sept. 15, 2005 file photo, Princess Lilian during a lunch at the city hall in Stockholm. Welsh-born Princess Lilian of Sweden,

TOCKHOLM (AP) — She was one of the better kept secrets of Sweden’s royal household: a commoner and divorcee whose relationship with Prince Bertil was seen as a threat to the Bernadotte dynasty.

In a touching royal romance, Welsh-born Princess Lilian and her Bertil kept their love unofficial for decades and were both in their 60s when they finally received the king’s blessing to get married.

Lilian died in her Stockholm home on Sunday at age 97. The Royal Palace didn’t give a cause of death, but Lilian suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and had been in poor health for several years.

She met Sweden’s Prince Bertil in 1943, but his obligations to the throne and Lilian’s status as a divorced commoner prevented them from making their love public. The couple’s sacrifices and lifelong dedication to one another gripped the hearts of Swedes.

FILE – In this Dec. 10, 2005 file photo Princess Lilian of Sweden is seen in Stockholm. Welsh-born Princess Lilian of Sweden, whose decades-long love story with the king’s uncle was one of the better kept secrets of the royal household, has died. She was 97. The Royal Palace says Lilian died Sunday March 10, 2013 in her home in Stockholm. (AP Photo/Henrik Montgomery, File) SWEDEN OUT

“If I were to sum up my life, everything has been about my love,” the witty, petite princess said of her husband when she turned 80 in 1995. “He’s a great man, and I love him.”

Born Lilian Davies in Swansea, Wales, on Aug. 30, 1915, she moved to London at 16 to embark on a career as a model and an actress, showcasing hats and gloves in commercials and taking on small roles in movies. She met British actor Ivan Craig, whom she married in 1940.

After World War II broke out, Craig was drafted into the British army while Lilian stayed behind in London, working at a factory making radio sets for the British merchant fleet and serving at a hospital for wounded soldiers.

At the time, Prince Bertil was stationed at the Swedish Embassy in the British capital as a naval attache. The couple first laid eyes on each other in the fancy nightclub Les Ambassadeurs shortly before Lilian’s 28th birthday in 1943. Lilian then invited him to a cocktail party in her London apartment. But it wasn’t until he fetched her with his car following an air raid in her neighborhood that the romance blossomed, Lilian recalled in her 2000 memoirs, “My Life with Prince Bertil.”

Prince Bertil
Duke of Halland
Spouse Lillian May Davies
Full name
Bertil Gustaf Oskar Carl Eugén
House House of Bernadotte
Father Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden
Mother Princess Margaret of Connaught
Born 28 February 1912
Stockholm PalaceStockholmSweden
Died 5 January 1997 (aged 84)
Villa Solbacken, DjurgårdenSweden

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_Bertil,_Duke_of_Halland

 

“He was so handsome my prince. Especially in uniform. So charming and thoughtful. And so funny. Oh how we laughed together,” Lilian wrote.

Lilian was still married at the time, but the situation resolved itself since Craig, too, had met someone else during his years abroad in the army, and the couple divorced on amicable terms.

Upon Bertil’s return to Sweden, however, his relationship with a commoner became a delicate issue.

Bertil became a possible heir to the throne when his eldest brother died in a plane crash, leaving behind an infant son — the current King Carl XVI Gustaf. Two other brothers had dropped out of the line of succession by marrying commoners.

Bertil’s father, King Gustaf VI Adolf, ordered him to abstain from marrying Lilian, since that would jeopardize the survival of the Bernadotte dynasty.

File:Gustav V, crown prince Gustav Adolf and prince Bertil.jpg

Prince Bertil (right), with his grandfather, KingGustaf V (left), and his father, then Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf (center).http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_Bertil,_Duke_of_Halland

Instead, the couple let their romance flourish in an unofficial manner, living together in a common-law marriage for decades.

They first lived in their house in Sainte-Maxime in France, but later shared their time between the French village and Stockholm, where Lilian discreetly stayed in the background for years.

Despite the royal reluctance to recognize her officially, Lilian’s charm and warm personality soon won the Swedes over, and magazines depicted the happy couple playing golf and riding around on the prince’s motorbike. When Prince Bertil had to use a walking frame after an operation, she cheerfully nicknamed it his “Bugatti.”

In 1976, some 33 years after they first met, the new king finally gave them the approval they had been waiting for.

On a cold December day the same year, Lilian, or “Lily” as the prince used to call her, became princess of Sweden and duchess of the southern province of Halland in a ceremony at the Drottningholm Palace Chapel just outside Stockholm. The bride had by then turned 61 and the groom was 64.

The couple never had any children.

File:Villa Solbacken 2009.jpg

Villa Solbacken in Stockholm was Princess Lilian’s residence from 1947 until her death in 2013.

Prince Bertil died in the couple’s residence Villa Solbacken in Stockholm in 1997 after unspecified lung problems.

Lilian took over some of her husband’s duties, especially as an award presenter for various sports associations.

Health problems forced her to cut back on some of her royal duties. In 2006 she stopped attending the annual Nobel Prize banquet, and the next year she also stopped taking part in the award ceremony.

In 2010, the palace said Lilian suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, preventing her from attending the wedding that summer of Crown Princess Victoria and Daniel Westling.

Study: Even ancient mummies had clogged arteries

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, with tags on March 12, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

Post 1760

Study: Even ancient mummies had clogged arteries

By MARIA CHENG | Associated Press – 2 hrs 55 mins ago

http://news.yahoo.com/study-even-ancient-mummies-had-clogged-arteries-001655831.html

In this undated photo released Sunday March 10, 2013, by a group of cardiologists lead by Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, USA, showing The mummy Hatiay (New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, 1550 to 1295 BCE) being scanned in CAiro, Egypt, where it was found to have evidence of extensive vascular disease by CT scanning. This scanning is part of a major survey to investigate some 137 mummies which has revealed that people probably had clogged arteries and heart disease some 4,000 years ago. CT scans of 137 mummies showed evidence of atherosclerosis, or hardened arteries, in one third of those examined, including those from ancient people believed to have healthy lifestyles. (AP Photo/Dr. Michael Miyamoto)

Associated Press/Dr. Michael Miyamoto – In this undated photo released Sunday March 10, 2013, by a group of cardiologists lead by Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, USA, showing The mummy Hatiay (New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, 1550 to 1295 BCE) being scanned in CAiro, Egypt, where it was found to have evidence of extensive vascular disease by CT scanning. This scanning is part of a major survey to investigate some 137 mummies which has revealed that people probably had clogged arteries and heart disease some 4,000 years ago. CT scans of 137 mummies showed evidence of atherosclerosis, or hardened arteries, in one third of those examined, including those from ancient people believed to have healthy lifestyles. (AP Photo/Dr. Michael Miyamoto) 

LONDON (AP) — Even without modern-day temptations like fast food or cigarettes, people had clogged arteries some 4,000 years ago, according to the biggest-ever hunt for the condition in mummies.

Researchers say that suggests heart disease may be more a natural part of human aging rather than being directly tied to contemporary risk factors like smoking, eating fatty foods and not exercising.

CT scans of 137 mummies showed evidence of atherosclerosis, orhardened arteries, in one third of those examined, including those from ancient people believed to have healthy lifestyles. Atherosclerosis causes heart attacks and strokes. More than half of the mummies were from Egypt while the rest were from Peru, southwest America and the Aleutian islands in Alaska. The mummies were from about 3800 B.C. to 1900 A.D.

“Heart disease has been stalking mankind for over 4,000 years all over the globe,” said Dr. Randall Thompson, a cardiologist at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City and the paper’s lead author.

The mummies with clogged arteries were older at the time of their death, around 43 versus 32 for those without the condition. In most cases, scientists couldn’t say whether the heart disease killed them.

In this undated photo released Sunday March 10, 2013, by a group of cardiologists lead by Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, USA, showing the sarcophagus of the mummy Hatiay (New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, 1550 to 1295 BCE) as it is closed after the mummy underwent a CT scanning, in Cairo, Egypt. This scanning is part of a major survey to investigate some 137 mummies which has revealed that people probably had clogged arteries and heart disease some 4,000 years ago. CT scans of 137 mummies showed evidence of atherosclerosis, or hardened arteries, in one third of those examined, including those from ancient people believed to have healthy lifestyles. (AP Photo/Dr. Michael Miyamoto)

The study results were announced Sunday at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology in San Francisco and simultaneously published online in the journal Lancet.

Thompson said he was surprised to see hardened arteries even in people like the ancient Aleutians who were presumed to have a healthy lifestyle as hunter-gatherers.

“I think it’s fair to say people should feel less guilty about getting heart disease in modern times,” he said. “We may have oversold the idea that a healthy lifestyle can completely eliminate your risk.”

In this photo released Sunday March 10, 2013, by by a group of cardiologists lead by Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, USA, showing Egyptologists as they prepare the mummy Hatiay (New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, 1550 to 1295 BCE) for CT scanning in Cairo, Egypt, which later demonstrated evidence of extensive vascular disease. This scanning is part of a major survey to investigate some 137 mummies which has revealed that people probably had clogged arteries and heart disease some 4,000 years ago. CT scans of 137 mummies showed evidence of atherosclerosis, or hardened arteries, in one third of those examined, including those from ancient people believed to have healthy lifestyles. (AP Photo/Dr. Michael Miyamoto)

Thompson said there could be unknown factors that contributed to the mummies’ narrowed arteries. He said the Ancestral Puebloans who lived in underground caves in modern-day Colorado and Utah, used fire for heat and cooking, producing a lot of smoke.

“They were breathing in a lot of smoke and that could have had the same effect as cigarettes,” he said.

Previous studies have found evidence of heart disease in Egyptian mummies, but the Lancet paper is the largest survey so far and the first to include mummies elsewhere in the world.

Dr. Frank Ruehli of the University of Zurich, who runs the Swiss Mummy Project, said it was clear atherosclerosis was notably present in antiquity and agreed there might be a genetic predisposition to the disease.

“Humans seem to have a particular vulnerability (to heart disease) and it will be interesting to see what genes are involved,” he said. Ruehli was not connected to the study. “This is a piece in the puzzle that may tell us something important about the evolution of disease.”

Other experts warned against reading too much into the mummy data.

In this undated photo released Sunday March 10, 2013, by a group of cardiologists lead by Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, USA, showing the mummy Hatiay (New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, 1550 to 1295 BCE) as it is returned to its display back in the Antiquities Museaum in Cairo after it underwent a CT scanning. This scanning is part of a major survey to investigate some 137 mummies which has revealed that people probably had clogged arteries and heart disease some 4,000 years ago. CT scans of 137 mummies showed evidence of atherosclerosis, or hardened arteries, in one third of those examined, including those from ancient people believed to have healthy lifestyles. (AP Photo/Dr. Michael Miyamoto)

Dr. Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said calcified arteries could also be caused by other ailments including endocrine disorders and that it was impossible to tell from the CT scans if the types of calcium deposits in the mummies were the kind that would have sparked a heart attack or stroke.

“It’s a fascinating study but I’m not sure we can say atherosclerosis is an inevitable part of aging,” he said, citing the numerous studies that have showed strong links between lifestyle factors and heart disease.

Researcher Thompson advised people to live as healthy a lifestyle as possible, noting that the risk of heart disease could be reduced with good eating habits, not smoking and exercising. “We don’t have to end up like the mummies,” he said.

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Bronze-Age Donkey Sacrifice Found in Israel

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, with tags on March 12, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

Post 1759

Bronze-Age Donkey Sacrifice Found in Israel

By Megan Gannon, News Editor | LiveScience.com – 21 hrs ago

 

This image shows the donkey burial found at Tel Haror. Note the 1992 find of the donkey’s skull and bit in situ in the box at right

Archaeologists in southern Israel say they’ve uncovered a young donkey that was carefully laid to rest on its side more than 3,500 years ago, complete with a copper bridle bit in its mouth and saddle bags on its back.

Its accessories — and the lack of butchery marks on its bones — lead researchers to believe the venerated pack animal was sacrificed and buried as part of a Bronze Age ritual.

Donkeys were valuable beasts of burden in the ancient Near East. Donkey caravans helped open up vast trade networks across the Levant and Anatolia in the 18th and 17th centuries B.C., according to archives from Amorite settlements like Mari in modern-day Syria. Ancient Egyptian inscriptions from around the same time show that hundreds of pack donkeys were used in large-scale expeditions to mining sites in the eastern desert and southern Sinai, researchers say.

The animals have even been associated with royalty. In 2003, paleoscientists discovered the skeletons of 10 donkeys nestled in three mud graves dating back 5,000 years ago when Egypt was just forming a state. The donkey skeletons were lying on their sides in graves at a burial complex of one of the first pharaohs at Abydos, Egypt.

Bronze Age burial

Bronze Age burial

Credit: Guy Bar-Oz et. al, PLOS ONE

The skeleton was interred at what is now Tel Haror, located about 12 miles (20 kilometers) east of the Mediterranean Sea, is one of the largest Bronze Age sites in southern Israel.

The donkey found in Israel seems to have been symbolically important, too, though this particular animal likely was never made to do hard labor before its death, said a team headed by archaeologist Guy Bar-Oz, of Israel’s University of Haifa.

The grave was found in a temple courtyard, in the heart of the sacred precinct of Tel Haror, a Middle Bronze Age city near Gaza that was fortified by massive ramparts and a deep moat and dates back from around 1700 B.C. to 1550 B.C.

Ritual burial

Ritual burial

Credit: Guy Bar-Oz et. al, PLOS ONE

The donkey had been interred next to an offering chamber with two narrow benches for offerings and recessed niches in its walls. The installation where the donkey was buried is roughly circular, its walls coated with mud plaster and filled with ash, hearths and animal bones — “testifying to continuous ritual activity involving the burning and deposition of sacrificial animal remains,” the PLOS ONE authors write.

Here, a plan of the offering installation and donkey interment with close-up of groups of saddlebag fasteners.

The donkey, estimated to be about 4 years old, was laid on its left side with its limbs neatly bent, the researchers say, and a copper bridle bit, a mouthpiece used to help steer animals, was found in its mouth. Some parts of the bit were extensively worn and it likely wasn’t functional at the time of the burial. But an examination of the donkey’s teeth suggests it was never meant to be practical.

“The absence of any sign of bit wear on the lower premolars indicates that the animal was not ridden or driven with a bit for prolonged periods of time,” the researchers write in a paper published online this week in the journal PLOS ONE. “Moreover, the young donkey was still in the process of shedding its teeth and permanent teeth were just erupting. Based on its age, the Haror donkey would probably have been too young to be a trained draught animal.”

Bridle bit

Bridle bit

Credit: Guy Bar-Oz et. al, PLOS ONE

The most outstanding feature of the donkey burial was the bridled metal bit in its mouth and the metal fasteners of saddlebags on its back. Shown here, the bridle bit at The Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

The researchers say this is the only known Bronze Age bridle bit to be found in the mouth of an equid and that it likely served as a symbol of status, evoking the chariots that pulled soldiers, people of high-rank, and in a ritual context, images or statues of deities.

There were no butchery marks or burning traces on the donkey’s bones, suggesting the animal was not killed to be eaten. In contrast, a pile of scratched-up bones from sheep and goat were discovered just above the donkey’s carcass, which the researchers believe could be evidence of a feast after the ritual slaughter.

Metal fasteners

Metal fasteners

Credit: Guy Bar-Oz et. al, PLOS ONE

Here, the buried metal fasteners of the saddlebags found on the donkey’s back

Donkey depiction

Donkey depiction

Credit: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058648.g006

A reconstruction of the saddlebags on a donkey (from a depiction in a tomb painting at Beni Hasan, Egypt).

With a donkey

With a donkey

Credit: Guy Bar-Oz et. al, PLOS ONE

The donkey mandible and ceramic vessels found above the main donkey burial.

Saddlebag fastener

Saddlebag fastener

Credit: Guy Bar-Oz et. al, PLOS ONE

One of the metal fasteners for the donkey’s saddlebag