General

VIDEO: 'Bubbly' Santa drives festive cheer

BBC test - Wed, 2014-12-17 14:46
A retired telephone engineer says he has given some festive cheer to shoppers in Norfolk after adding a giant Santa hat to his bright red vintage bubble car.
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VIDEO: Festive park shuts permanently

BBC test - Wed, 2014-12-17 11:32
A much-criticised Christmas attraction near Sutton Coldfield has closed down permanently.
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VIDEO: Emergency over plane engine fire

BBC test - Wed, 2014-12-17 10:58
A plane makes an emergency landing at Belfast International Airport after one of its engines caught fire.
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VIDEO: Female bishop on 'unexpected joy'

BBC test - Wed, 2014-12-17 10:29
The Church of England's first female bishop says she is "honoured and thankful" to be given the role.
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VIDEO: Inside the 'Harry Potter' church

BBC test - Wed, 2014-12-17 09:53
A church in Hackney is using technology to help explore "digital empathy".
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VIDEO: New fishing quotas for UK

BBC test - Wed, 2014-12-17 09:52
The BBC's Claire Marshall looks at the affect new fishing quotas, agreed by ministers in Brussels, will have on the UK fishing industry and the environment.
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VIDEO: Welby 'overwhelmed' by Ebola survivors

BBC test - Wed, 2014-12-17 09:48
The Archbishop of Canterbury says he is "overwhelmed" by the people he has met who have suffered from Ebola.
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Training for the Future

Wessex Archaeology - Wed, 2014-12-17 09:23

With the blustery winter season bringing sites to a close and archaeologists indoors, Wessex Archaeology is investing their time in the office to train their field staff, adding yet more strings to our bows. My day has been filled with courses including photography, CAD and even metal detection! Being given the chance to better myself and establish a clear understanding of the professional standard expected of us is not only crucial, but also inspiring. The metal detection course, run by Mike Dinwiddy, has given me practical skills that are rarely used with other professional archaeological companies, and has moved me to question well-established conceptions of metal detection. We learnt that in the correct professional hands, it could be a useful addition to our archaeological tool kit.  The CAD training for me was also particularly useful. Ruth Panes and Benjamin Cullen kindly took the time to teach the basics of how to correct and map out data collected in the field. Establishing skills like this not only creates a better appreciation of the process and painstaking significance of surveying mistakes, but it has also armed me with skills for my future progression within Wessex Archaeology.   By Bianca San Martin   
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Submerged Neolithic village found in the Mediterranean

Stonepages - Wed, 2014-12-17 09:21
Sea levels have been rising for tens of thousands of years. Today we have technology to help us combat the effects, but even so, a small increase can have a...
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Dolmens under threat in India

Stonepages - Wed, 2014-12-17 09:20
Thrissur is currently the third largest populated city in Kerala (India) and is known as the Cultural Capital of the region. Megalithic dolmens were quite prevalent in the area, dating...
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More ancient rock art found in Southeast Asia

Stonepages - Wed, 2014-12-17 09:19
Back in October 2015 research results were published by Griffith University (Australia) documenting the discovery of rock art in Sulawesi (Indonesia), dated at approximately 35,000 to 40,000 years old. At...
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VIDEO: New rules on 'three person babies'

BBC test - Wed, 2014-12-17 08:14
The UK could be the first country to allow a technique which helps prevent genetic disease and produces so-called "three parent babies".
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VIDEO: NHS 'over-reliant on foreign nurses'

BBC test - Wed, 2014-12-17 08:09
Figures from an investigation by the Health Service Journal suggest four out of five nurses hired by NHS hospitals in England last year were from overseas.
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Study identifies prevalence of rickets among 16th century sailors

Heritage Daily - Wed, 2014-12-17 02:35
The bones of sailors who sailed on Henry VIII’s Mary Rose ship have been analysed with the help of new laser technology to identify evidence of bone disease.

The famous vessel sank in battle on the 19 July 1545, resulting in over 400 men losing their lives. The environment of the Solent meant that the ship and the sailors were preserved in silt, which helped to keep them in remarkably good condition.

They were analysed with Raman spectroscopy – a pioneering, non-destructive laser technology, to identify evidence of bone disease. The application of Raman spectroscopy to the study of bone diseases in historical populations was novel and the work has been published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Two sets of tibia bones – bones that appeared anatomically healthy and bones that were abnormal in shape – were obtained from The Mary Rose Trust, and compared to a ‘normal’ bone from someone who had recently died, which was supplied by the Vesalius Clinical Training Centre at the University of Bristol.

The deformations in the abnormal bones were suspected to be due to a metabolic bone disease such as rickets (the poor diet of the average person in the 1500s would have increased the prevalence of rickets). The results of the Raman study confirmed that the abnormally shaped bones did in fact have chemical abnormalities.

The bones were analysed at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH) in Stanmore, North London, as part of a study by University College London (UCL), the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and The Mary Rose Trust.

The RAMAN study, funded as part of a £1.7 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, was led by Professor Allen Goodship at UCL.

Professor Goodship, who is also Director and Head of the Centre for Comparative and Clinical Anatomy at the University of Bristol, said: “There was an amazing similarity in the chemical composition of the normal bones from the Vesalius Centre donors and those that had been on the sea bed for over 400 years. The use of the Raman technique allow us to analyse these unique specimens without causing any damage.”

The Raman technique shows potential as a tool for understanding the presence and prevalence of metabolic bone disease in historical populations and may have a place in modern-day detection of the condition, with reports earlier this year warning that Britain is seeing a return of Tudor-era diseases.

Dr Jemma Kerns, RAMAN Clinical Study Manager at UCL and RNOH, one of the scientists who conducted the study, commented: “This is the first time that this laser technology has been used to study bone disease in archaeological human bone. We have identified chemical changes in the bones, without damaging them. There is strong evidence to suggest that many of the sailors had suffered from childhood rickets and we hope to apply the Raman technique to the study of modern day rickets.”

Alex Hildred, Curator of Human Remains at the Mary Rose Trust, added: “The Mary Rose Trust has the responsibility for the remains of over 179 individuals who perished with the ship. Their provenance is absolute; they represent the crew of an English warship in July 1545. The human remains have potential to make a contribution to the public through research, education, display and interpretation. Their use to confirm the presence and prevalence of metabolic bone disease in the 16th century is one of these contributions.”

Bristol University – Image Credit – Mary Rose : WikiPedia

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Virtual view for some of Scotland’s most iconic heritage sites

Heritage Daily - Wed, 2014-12-17 02:10
Some of Scotland’s most iconic heritage sites are now available to view virtually.

Google Street View has launched a new collection of historic Scottish sites, allowing people to now explore a number of the nation’s picturesque castles, forts and abbeys from their phone, tablet or computer.

Partnering with Historic Scotland, the project captured sixteen landmarks in total, covering the length and breadth of Scotland.

Image Credit : Google

Sites featured range from Stirling Castle, with its magnificent renaissance palace, to Dunfermline Abbey and Palace, the final resting place of many Scots Kings and Queens. Other participating sites include Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness and Caerlaverock Castle in Dumfries and Galloway.

With 360-degree interactive imagery, people all over the world can see and explore the iconic places before they go, including some remote and hard-to-reach places they may never have discovered on their own.

Commenting on the launch, Stephen Duncan, Director of Commercial and Tourism at Historic Scotland, said:

“We are pleased to have partnered with Google Street View to work on this new collection which showcases online a number of our properties from across Scotland.

“This technology will allow visitors, no matter where they are in the world, to get a taste of several of our properties in a new way. We hope that it will encourage them to visit and further their discovery of these magnificent historic sites and properties in person.”

The sites were captured in July this year using the Google Street View Trekker, in partnership with Historic Scotland. The Trekker – a four-foot, 40lbs backpack, fitted with a 15-angle lens camera, taking 360 degree pictures every 2.5 seconds – is designed to capture imagery in locations that the Street View car can’t typically reach.

Scottish sites already live on Street View like:  Edinburgh Castle

The full list of sites in this collection are:

  • Dunfermline Abbey and Palace
  • Dumbarton Castle
  • Tantallon Castle
  • Linlithgow Palace
  • Lochleven Castle
  • Arbroath Abbey
  • Stirling Castle
  • Fort George
  • Urquhart Castle
  • Arthur’s Seat
  • Blackness Castle
  • Dirleton Castle
  • Craigmillar Castle
  • Glasgow Cathedral
  • Dunstaffnage Castle and Chapel

Historic Scotland

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Research shows Jaws didn’t kill his cousin

Heritage Daily - Wed, 2014-12-17 01:34
New research suggests our jawed ancestors weren’t responsible for the demise of their jawless cousins as had been assumed.

Instead Dr Robert Sansom from The University of Manchester believes rising sea levels are more likely to blame. His research has been published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

He says: “When our jawed vertebrate ancestors overtook their jawless relatives 400 million years ago, it seems that it might not have been through direct competition but instead the inability of our jawless cousins to adapt to changing environmental conditions.”

In this research, Dr Sansom, PhD student Emma Randle and Phil Donoghue from the University of Bristol studied the patterns of diversity of fossil jawless fish. These boney fish with a tank like construction (ostracoderms) were dominant and diverse in ancient seas. The team found that patterns of ostracoderm diversity were correlated with changing environmental and geological conditions; the fish were strongly reliant on the availability of shallow water seas and ecosystems.

Dr Sansom says: “Our research suggests the dependence of these armoured fish on shallow environments is likely to be a factor behind their demise and eventual extinction in the Devonian period when sea levels rose.”

The findings also suggest the jawless fish could have existed earlier than previously thought.
Dr Sansom explains: “Understanding the relationship between biodiversity and changing conditions at this time reveals a long missing fossil record for our jawless cousins. It is possible that they could have radiated and evolved up to 20 million years before their first known occurrences as fossils.”

He continues: “As such, using biological and geological data helps us understand an important evolutionary event and reconstruct our own origins as jawed vertebrates.”

Manchester University

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Past global warming period echoes today’s

Heritage Daily - Wed, 2014-12-17 01:29
The rate at which carbon emissions warmed Earth’s climate almost 56 million years ago resembles modern, human-caused global warming much more than previously believed, but involved two pulses of carbon to the atmosphere, researchers have found.

The findings mean that the so-called Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum, or PETM, can provide clues to the future of modern climate change.

The good news: Earth and most species survived.

The bad news: It took millennia to recover from the episode, when temperatures rose by 5 to 8 degrees Celsius (9 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit).

“There is a positive note in that the world persisted, it did not go down in flames, it has a way of self-correcting and righting itself,” says University of Utah geochemist Gabe Bowen, lead author of a paper published today in the journal Nature Geoscience.

“However, in this event it took almost 200,000 years before things got back to normal.”

Using continental drilling boreholes from the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming, “these researchers have revealed for the first time that two rapid carbon release events occurred in the beginning of the PETM about 55.5 million years ago, the warmest period for the past 65 million years on Earth,” says Yusheng (Chris) Liu, program director in the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Division of Earth Sciences, which funded the research.

Bowen and colleagues report that carbonate or limestone nodules in Wyoming sediment cores show that the global warming episode 55.5 million to 55.3 million years ago involved the average annual release of a minimum of 0.9 petagrams (1.98 trillion pounds) of carbon to the atmosphere, and probably much more over shorter periods.

That’s “within an order of magnitude of, and may have approached, the 9.5 petagrams (20.9 trillion pounds) per year associated with modern anthropogenic carbon emissions,” the researchers write in their paper.

Since 1900, human burning of fossil fuels has emitted an average of 3 petagrams per year–even closer to the rate 55.5 million years ago.

Each past pulse of carbon emissions lasted no more than 1,500 years. Previous conflicting evidence indicated that the carbon release lasted anywhere from less than a year to tens of thousands of years.

The new research shows that atmospheric carbon levels returned to normal within a few thousand years after the first pulse, probably as carbon dissolved in the ocean.

200,000 years for conditions to normalize

After the second pulse, it took up to 200,000 years for conditions to normalize.

The research also ruled as unlikely some theorized causes of the warming episode, including an asteroid impact, slow melting of permafrost, burning of organic-rich soil or drying out of a major seaway.

Instead, the findings suggest that more likely causes included melting of seafloor methane ices known as clathrates, or volcanism that heated organic-rich rocks and released methane.

“The Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum has stood out as a striking, but contested, example of how 21st-century-style atmospheric carbon dioxide buildup can affect climate, environments and ecosystems worldwide,” says Bowen.

“This new study tightens the link. Carbon release back then looked a lot like human fossil-fuel emissions today, so we might learn a lot about the future from changes in climate, plants and animal communities 55.5 million years ago.”

Bowen cautioned, however, that global climate already was much warmer than today’s when the Paleocene-Eocene warming began, and there were no icecaps, “so this happened out on a different playing field than what we have today.”

Paper co-author Scott Wing, a paleobiologist at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., adds, “This study gives us the best idea yet of how quickly this vast amount of carbon was released at the beginning of the global warming event we call the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum.

“The answer is just a few thousands of years or less. That’s important because it means the ancient event happened at a rate more like human-caused global warming than we ever realized.”

Bowen and Wing conducted the study with University of Utah geologists Bianca Maibauer and Amy Steimke; Mary Kraus of the University of Colorado, Boulder; Ursula Rohl and Thomas Westerhold of the University of Bremen, Germany; Philip Gingerich of the University of Michigan; and William Clyde of the University of New Hampshire.

Effects of the Paleocene-Eocene warming

Bowen says that previous research has shown that during the Paleocene-Eocene warming period, there was “enhanced storminess in some areas and increased aridity in other places. We see continent-scale migration of animals and plants, and ranges shifting.”

First, “we see only a little bit of extinction–some groups of deep-sea foraminifera, one-celled organisms, that go extinct at the start of this event. Not much else went extinct.”

Then “we see the first wave of modern mammals showing up, including ancestral primates and hoofed animals,” he adds. Oceans became more acidic, as they are now.

“We look through time recorded in those rocks, and this warming event stands out, and everything happens together,” Bowen says.

“We can look back in Earth’s history and say this is how this world works, and it’s totally consistent with the expectation that carbon dioxide change today will be associated with these other sorts of change.”

The Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum also points to the possibility of runaway climate change enhanced by feedbacks.

“The fact we have two releases may suggest that the second one was driven by the first,” perhaps, for example, if the first warming raised ocean temperatures enough to melt massive amounts of frozen methane, Bowen says.

Drilling into Earth’s past

The study is part of a major drilling project aimed at understanding the 56-million-year-old warming episode.

The researchers drilled long, core-shaped, sediment samples from two boreholes at Polecat Bench in northern Wyoming’s Bighorn Basin, east of Cody and just north of Powell.

“This site has been excavated for more than 100 years by paleontologists studying fossil mammals,” Bowen says.

The Paleocene-Eocene warming is recorded in the banded, tan and red rock and soil layers of the Willwood formation, in round, gray to brown-gray carbonate nodules in those rocks.

By measuring carbon isotope ratios in the nodules, the researchers found that during each 1,500-year carbon release, the ratio of carbon-13 to carbon-12 in the atmosphere declined, indicating two large releases of carbon dioxide or methane, both greenhouse gases from plant material.

The decline was three parts per thousand for the first pulse and 5.7 parts per thousand for the second.

Previous evidence from seafloor sediments elsewhere is consistent with two Paleocene-Eocene carbon pulses, which “means we don’t think this is something unique to northern Wyoming,” Bowen says. “We think it reflects a global signal.”

What caused the prehistoric warming?

The double-barreled carbon release at the Paleocene-Eocene time boundary pretty much rules out an asteroid or comet impact because such a catastrophe would have been “too quick” to explain the 1,500-year duration of each carbon pulse, Bowen says.

Another theory: oxidation of organic matter–as permafrost thawed, as peaty soils burned, or as a seaway dried up–may have caused the Paleocene-Eocene warming. But that would have taken tens of thousands of years, far slower than what the study found. Volcanoes releasing carbon gases also would have been too slow.

Bowen says the two relatively rapid carbon releases–about 1,500 years each–are more consistent with warming oceans or an undersea landslide triggering the melting of frozen methane on the seafloor and large emissions to the atmosphere, where it became carbon dioxide within decades.

Another possibility is a massive intrusion of molten rock that heated overlying organic-rich rocks and released a lot of methane.

The research was also funded by the German Research Foundation.

National Science Foundation – Header Image Credit : Credit: Scott Wing

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Categories: General

Personal hygiene goods and clothes causing "alarming" sea contamination, say scientists

24 Hour Museum - Wed, 2014-12-17 00:00
A Natural History Museum project suggests that around four billion microscopic plastic fibres litter each square kilometre of the global deep sea environment.
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Decapitated head of Emperor which amazed archaeologists in Sudan in 1910 goes on display

24 Hour Museum - Wed, 2014-12-17 00:00
The remainder of Emperor Augustus' statue known as the Merӧe Head, trampled upon by visitors to a victory building after a Roman reverse, has gone on show at the British Museum.
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Tombs in Neolithic Orkney reveal ancient beliefs, taboos and superstitions of mourners and dead

24 Hour Museum - Wed, 2014-12-17 00:00
Beverley Ballin Smith, an archaeologist working on three tombs and cists on Orkney, says the evidence of changing belief systems have provided the most "exciting and varied" discoveries of her life.
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