Thursday, March 7, 2019

In 1930s Tunisia, French Doctors Feared a ‘Tea Craze’ Would Destroy Society

Library of Congress/LC-DIG-ppmsc-06041
Via by Nina Studer

In 1927, at a meeting of the Academy of Medicine in Paris, a French-trained Tunisian doctor, Béchir Dinguizli, sounded the alarm about a “new social scourge” spreading like an “oil stain” across Tunisia. It had “entered our morals with lightning speed,” he warned, and if not stopped by French authorities, it had the power to paralyze Tunisian society.

The alarming threat? Drinking tea.

Tea had been introduced to Tunisia, a French colony since 1881, relatively recently. Although practically unknown before World War I, tea imports nevertheless shot up from 100,000 kilos in 1917 to 1,100,000 in 1926. The catalyst appears to have been the Italo-Turkish War of 1911-1912, which sent an influx of tea-drinking refugees from Tripolitania (modern-day Libya) into Tunisia.

The rapid spread of tea became a topic of discussion during several meetings of the Great Council of Tunisia in 1925 and 1926. Among these French administrators, there was real fear that the colonized population was turning into tea addicts, with medical, social, and economic consequences for France’s mission civilisatrice.

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, numerous French authors (and one Tunisian) urged the French government to take action against tea, claiming that Tunisian men, women, and children were drinking it all day without moderation or restraint. The journal Colonial Annals summarized these fears in 1930, asserting, “The harm that [tea] causes is especially visible in the [Tunisian] countryside, where it weakens the race, which is literally intoxicated and morally and physically diminished.”

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Shattering an in-bound asteroid may be tougher than thought

Charles El Mir/Johns Hopkins University

In the movies “Deep Impact” and “Armageddon,” heroic astronauts plant nuclear bombs to blow up giant asteroids heading toward Earth. Based on new computer modelling, that may be tougher than originally thought.

“We used to believe that the larger the object, the more easily it would break, because bigger objects are more likely to have flaws,” said Charles El Mir, a recent Ph.D graduate from the Johns Hopkins University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. “Our findings, however, show that asteroids are stronger than we used to think and require more energy to be completely shattered.”

In the early 2000s, a different team of researchers modelled what would happen if an asteroid 1 kilometre (0.62 miles) in diameter crashed head on into a 25-kilometre-wide (15.5-mile) asteroid at a velocity of five kilometres per second (11,000 mph). The results indicated the larger asteroid would be completely shattered and blown apart.

Company Logos, Mascots, and the Mandela Effect

Via by Brent Swancer

How well do you really know the world you see? Is reality as you think it to be, or is there something a bit off to what you see when you look around you? For many people there have been odd anomalies of things appearing different than they remember, some deep sense that something is not right, and that details and facts they thought they knew before are just plain wrong. This can be extremely unnerving to those who experience it, and it is a phenomenon that has come to be known as the Mandela Effect, a sort of mass misremembering of facts that people thought they knew, but which have turned out to be wrong or completely nonexistent. It extends to all facets of the world from movies, to history, to even geography, and here we will take a look at logos and mascots for companies that seem to be shockingly out of place and alien-looking to those who remember differently.

One example of the Mandela Effect materializing in company brands and logos is spellings or punctuation that seem very off, bizarre, or just downright wrong for those who remember them much differently than they are. This can be seen in a wide range of products across the board. A popular one is the beloved children’s cereal Froot Loops. What, do you think I misspelled that? That’s the point. What many, many people remember as being spelled “Fruit Loops” has never been spelled that way, but rather with “Froot.” It is especially jarring as it doesn’t even seem to make sense, as it is fruit flavored cereal so should be “fruit,” right? Wrong, apparently. At least in this reality.

Also a very out of place and off spelling for many people is that of the logo for the popular cartoons “Looney Tunes,” which a lot of people remember as “Looney Toons.” Again, this seems to make more sense because they are cartoons. What are Looney “Tunes” anyway? Why would it be spelled that way? The same can be said about the air freshener brand “Febreze,” which many will insist should be spelled “Febreeze,” which makes more sense for an air freshening product but is wrong, and it has never been spelled that way. The correction fluid “White-Out” is also not spelled that way, as many believe it should be, but is rather “Wite- Out,” which looks very out of place for these individuals.

Archaeologists Find Mysterious 'Elixir of Immortality' in Ancient Chinese Tomb

Via by Peter Dockrill

Researchers in China have identified a mysterious liquid contained in an ancient bronze pot from thousands of years ago, and it turns out to be a famous potion fabled in Chinese legend.

According to the archaeologists, the strange yellowish liquid uncovered during excavations in central China's Henan Province late last year is an ancient 'elixir of immortality', once thought in centuries past to bestow immortal life upon those who drank it.

"It is the first time that mythical 'immortality medicines' have been found in China," Shi Jiazhen, the head of the Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, told Xinhua this week.

"The liquid is of significant value for the study of ancient Chinese thoughts on achieving immortality and the evolution of Chinese civilisation."

Where Did All the Refugees From Vesuvius End Up?

Flickr/Carole Raddato/CC-BY-SA-2.0
Via by Noor Al-Samarrai

Over the course of three days in A.D. 79, the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were covered by hot ash, pumice, and molten rock from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Archaeologists have accounted for some 2,000 inhabitants of those cities from voids in the ash, but their combined population at the time was around 15,000 people. So where did everyone else go?

That question has been on the mind of Steven Tuck, a classicist at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, since it was posed by a teacher in his undergraduate days around three decades ago. After years of sleuthing, he thinks he has an answer, which will be published in the journal Analecta Romana Instituti Danici this spring. Tuck asserts that refugees two millennia ago made decisions very similar to ones people make today regarding where to go after a disaster strikes, and that modern governments could stand to learn a thing or two from how the Romans dealt with the Vesuvius crisis.

“In the lives of these people, the Roman government seems to have mattered,” he says. The government played a major role in expanding and supporting the communities of Cumae, Naples, Ostia, and Puteoli on the northern peripheries of the eruption—cities that took in volcano refugees.

10 Answers To Strange Questions About Life And Death

Via by Brian Molinari

Whether we refer to the act of living or to all sentient beings in this world, life has always been a difficult concept for humans to understand. Even when life has preceded us on this planet for 3.5 billion years—and we ourselves have roamed Earth for plenty of millennia—there are many questions about it that we still cannot answer. What is the meaning of life? Is there life after death? These, among many others, are typical questions of any philosophical debate, questions as old as humankind itself.[1]

But then we have strange questions, unconventional doubts about life that do not usually come to our minds on a normal day. Have you ever wondered what Earth would be like if it were devoid of all life? Then this article is for you. If not, keep reading anyway; some of the answers, or the questions themselves, exposed here will certainly not leave you indifferent.

10. How Much Life Has Ever Existed?
Currently, the human population is slowly approaching eight billion people. That is certainly quite a number, but it does not even compare with the 100 trillion ants under our feet. And it is estimated that, at any given time, there are five nonillion bacteria in the world—that’s a “5” followed by 30 zeros. There is no doubt that there are so many living organisms on Earth that trying to count them all would be an unachievable task. And again, all this is just about the currently existing life-forms. But what about all the life that has existed in the past?

Determining how many creatures could have inhabited Earth throughout the history of the planet is extremely difficult. It is believed that complex life has been around in this world for at least 570 million years. And the fossils we have managed to recover are a minimum percentage compared to the prehistoric remains that are either out of our reach or have been destroyed by geological processes. But using their ingenuity, scientists have come up with a correlation between the number of fossils and the currently known species to estimate the total of life that has ever existed. Today, the experts are pretty convinced that 99.9 percent of all species on Earth are extinct.

This number is understandable, considering that the Earth’s biosphere has suffered five mass extinctions during the last 400 million years. On average, more than 80 percent of all living beings were erased from the face of the Earth in each of these five events. And a significant part of the scientific community believes that today, we are facing a sixth mass extinction. Estimates say that species disappear 100 times faster today than before our existence, and in the last 50 years, humans have eliminated 60 percent of animal life. So, unfortunately for us, death is much more common than life in this world.[2]

9. Is Life On Earth Of Alien Origin?

Today, most scientists are sure that all life on Earth comes from a common ancestor. This primal being would have been nothing more than a unicellular organism, created by random chemical reactions in the early Earth. However, what scientists do not yet understand is exactly how these processes took place. And all their attempts to replicate the origin of life have failed so far. Perhaps the answer to this mystery could be found in a theory called lithopanspermia.

The theory of panspermia suggests that early life-forms were brought to Earth from somewhere else in the universe, such as nearby planets. Within the same idea, lithopanspermia states that rocky fragments of another world containing microbial life were ejected into space after some kind of planetary impact. Millions of years later, those rocks reached Earth, and the life they carried inside began its evolutionary cycle here. The concept behind panspermia appeared several centuries ago in France, and since then, it has been an object of scientific study, although other theories generate more interest nowadays.

Nevertheless, there are several indications supporting the possibility that lithopanspermia really occurred. Using collision simulations, researchers at Pennsylvania State University have concluded that it is statistically possible that a space rock containing microbes can travel from one planet to another by ejection.[3] Of course, there is the problem that space is too hostile to allow the survival of life, due to factors such as radiation and extreme temperatures. But we know that there are multiple bacterial species capable of resisting the harshest environments, from the hottest places on Earth to the nothingness of outer space.

In addition, a recent study shows that the main elements that make up life on Earth are common in stars, existing more abundantly toward the center of our galaxy than in our planetary region. In short, the matter we are formed from literally comes from another region of the universe. So life may not be so special across the cosmos after all.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Lightsaber Dueling Recognized as Official Sport in France

Via by Brett Tingley

Pop culture and science fiction have a strange way of working their way into the “real” world sometimes (although isn’t art ‘real’ in its own sense?). One of the weirdest instances in recent memory was the recent discovery of a real-life planet Vulcan exactly where Star Trek writer James Blish said it would be. Did he have insider information from the pointy-eared, bushy-browed logicians themselves?

That’s not the only Star Trek element to worm its way into our reality, though. Scientists inspired by the classic series are working on many different examples of technology from the franchise including tractor beams, matter replicators, photon torpedos, and tricorders. Life truly does imitate art sometimes.

Star Trek’s not alone in this sense. Many technological elements from Star Wars, the lesser of the two major sci-fi canons (bring it on, nerds), have likewise influenced scientists to attempt to make these gadgets a reality. It’s not just the technology of these franchises that are being developed; a real-life Temple of the Jedi Order religion has even sprung up worldwide in the last few decades. Now, one of the most iconic elements of the Star Wars franchise has been approved as an official sport by the French Fencing Federation. That’s right: get ready for real-world lightsaber dueling.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Scientists Discover Mysterious New Form of “Wireless” Communication in the Brain

Via by Sequoyah Kennedy

It’s pretty absurd that we can sent robots to other planets yet our own brains still remain one of the great mysteries. We’re getting closer to understanding what consciousness is (in the same way that throwing a stone off a pier in New York brings it closer to London), but scientists are still finding surprising and mysterious aspects of how the brain functions and communicates. Recently scientists discovered a “jaw-dropping” way that the regions of the brain communicate with each other without touching.

According to a study published in the Journal of Physiology by Case Western University, the mysterious new form of communication is due to electric coupling. If you’ve ever used a wireless charging pad for your phone, it’s sort of like that. Our brains create low-level electrical fields called “brain waves,” that can be measured and recorded, but were thought to be too weak to actually do anything. The new research found that brain waves can excite, or “turn on,” other brain cells, which then generate an electric field of their own. This turns the brain wave into a self-propagating wave that can jump across gaps. Researchers discovered this after they observed a brain wave jumping across a cut they had made in brain tissue. This was demonstrated multiple times, the brain wave jumping across a small gap where there is no brain tissue.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Mysterious Case of the Flatwoods Monster

Via by Brent Swancer

Some cases within the world of cryptozoology, UFOlogy, and the paranormal have managed to become almost legendary in their fields. These are the rockstar cases that seem to have defied all attempts to dispute or debunk them, refusing to die and managing to live on and even transcend mere eyewitness reports to become legendary. One such case that is as well known and persistent as it is mysterious is that of a very strange creature that appeared one evening in a small U.S. town amid stories of a UFO landing, and would go on to catapult itself into the annals of great cases of the paranormal.

The setting for this very bizarre tale is the small rural town of Flatwoods in Braxton County, West Virginia. It is a quiet town pretty much in the middle of nowhere, where everyone knows each other and not much typically happens, but on September 12, 1952, all that would change, and the peace would be disrupted by a world changing event for them. On this evening, at around 7:15 PM, brothers Edward and Fred May were outside playing a friendly game of football when they were surprised to see what looked like a pulsating, blazing ball of fire go streaking across the sky to come down and seemingly crash in some hilly woods at a nearby farm owned by a G. Bailey Fisher.

Not quite believing what they had just witnessed, the excited boys ran to the house of a neighbor named Kathleen May, to whom they breathlessly told of what they had seen. May gathered up a flashlight and called together a group of people composed of local children Neil Nunley and Ronnie Shaver, as well as 17-year-old West Virginia National Guardsman Eugene Lemon, to go investigate the area where the strange ball of fire had gone down, along with Lemon’s dog. As they followed the beam of the flashlight out into the night past the dancing, flickering trees they still had no idea what they were dealing with or what to expect out there, and there was a sense of apprehension and even fear as they stumbled along up a hill on the farm. Little did they know that things were about to get very bizarre indeed.

When they reached the top of the wooded hill they could see through the trees what seemed to be a pulsating red light, and they were overcome by a sudden, nauseating metallic stench that they would later describe as a “pungent mist.” In the meantime, the dog snarled and barked before retreating with its tail between its legs, leaving them stabbing about in the darkness with the flashlight beam, searching for whatever it was that had chased the animal away. As they peered through the darkness trying to make out just what the light ahead was and what lie out there in the gloom, they could see glinting in the light of the flashlight what looked like the shining eyes of some nocturnal animal, but it soon became apparent that this was no animal any of them had ever seen before.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

How Humans Create Their Own Evolution

Source: CC/Pixel
Via by Steven C. Hayes Ph.D.

One of the biggest challenges in evolutionary science is to explain the evolution of consciousness. While that is widely recognized, most evolutionists also take the stand that evolution itself is not, has not been, and cannot be conscious.

Taken together, this leads to an anomaly:

On the one hand, evolutionists recognize the importance of the evolution of consciousness, and on the other hand, most evolutionists deny its importance to the understanding of their own field.

For evolutionary science to play a bigger role in society that takes full advantage of its scientific scope and depth, this anomaly has to end. Evolution can be, has been, and is consciousness.
Part 1: The Evolution of Consciousness
Consciousness can be thought of as the ability to respond to oneself and the environment and the pattern they contain.

When humans and nonhuman animals dramatically decrease their ability to respond (for example during sleep or coma), they are said to be "semi-conscious" or even "unconscious." In a similar way, as life forms develop more complex ways of responding (for example through heightened senses or increased intelligence), they are said to become more conscious of their surroundings.

Defined in this way, it is difficult to imagine a world in which consciousness didn’t evolve.

This is so because no evolved trait is successful in all environments - it all depends on the context. The particular ways creatures gain resources, reproduce, protect offspring, or avoid predators can only be understood (and are only beneficial) within a particular environment. In a different context, these same traits can be fatal.

The Dodo bird never shied away from bigger animals, because it didn’t have a natural predator. However, once Dutch sailors arrived on the island’s shore, the fearless bird became an easy catch, and quickly went extinct in the 17th century. In other words, an inconspicuous trait became fatal once the environment changed.

Consciousness means being more sensitive to changes in the environment and its impact. This is such a great advantage, that it’s virtually guaranteed to be a core product of evolution. Consciousness, as I’ve defined it, will not only evolve; it’s a key characteristic of complex animals.

Legendary Footbridge to King Arthur’s Tintagel Castle to be Rebuilt

Via by Paul Seaburn

Arthurian legend fans know that there would be no King Arthur without the footbridge connecting the two parts of the rock that Tintagle Castle was built on. With a drawbridge in the middle, it was the way Uther Pendragon reached Queen Igerna and conceived Arthur … or so the version of the legend as written by Geoffrey of Monmouth (“The History of The King’s of Britain”) goes. That part may be myth, but the castle is real as is the gorge between the two parts. What’s missing is the bridge, which collapsed about 500 years ago and has never been replaced … until now. A wealthy couple has donated £2.5 million ($3,261,000) to English Heritage to help build a new footbridge, allowing tourists to make the crossing without a dangerous climb down and up the gorge. Will some of the money be used for a B&B where couples can recreate the creation of Arthur? That alone could pay for the bridge entirely.

“Thanks to Julia and Hans Rausing’s generosity, people will be better able to understand and enjoy Tintagel Castle. It is an inspiring gift for an inspiring site and we are extremely grateful to them.”

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Ancient Earth’s Weakened Magnetic Field May Have Driven Mass Extinction

Credit: Ryan Somma Flickr
Via by Jim Daley

Some 565 million years ago, life on Earth dodged a bullet. The magnetosphere—the magnetic field that surrounds our planet like a protective shield—had degraded to its lowest intensity ever, according to a study published January 28 in Nature Geoscience. Stripped of this shielding, Earth could have been blasted by atmosphere-eroding outbursts from the sun, gradually losing most of its air and water until it became as dry and desolate as present-day Mars.

Instead, deep in the planet’s interior an event was taking place that would help the magnetosphere rebound, according to the study’s authors. Earth’s liquid-iron inner core crystallized, a process geophysicists call “nucleation.” Once solid, the rotating core acted as a whirling dynamo, strengthening the protective electromagnetic bubble that wrapped around Earth, staving off planet-wide devastation. That, in turn, could have set the stage for the Cambrian explosion, an event approximately 541 million years ago in which the biosphere suddenly experienced the greatest evolutionary expansion in the planet’s history.

To measure Earth’s magnetic field as it was more than a half billion years ago, University of Rochester geophysicist John Tarduno and colleagues looked at magnetic particles from ancient silicate crystals within a band of igneous rocks called the Sept-Îles Intrusive Suite in Quebec. The igneous band formed from upwelling magma that cooled before reaching the surface. As the magma cooled, evidence of the paleointensity, or strength of the Earth’s magnetic field at the time, was locked into the crystals.

The geophysicists were able to determine what that paleointensity was by heating single crystals to demagnetize them, and then reheating the samples in the presence of a magnetic field to impart magnetization. Averaging the results over the estimated 75,000-year period in which the crystals cooled, the researchers determined the paleointensity circa 565 million years ago was about 10 times weaker than Earth’s modern magnetosphere—a finding that comports with independent studies charting the magnetosphere’s slow, steady strengthening over geologic time. Tarduno and his colleagues surmise Earth’s growing core caused this upswing: iron and other heavy elements fell toward its center as the inner core crystallized, leaving a liquid layer of lighter elements in the core’s outer regions, sparking the long-lived convection that drives Earth’s dynamo.

According to scientists outside of the study, insights about Earth’s ancient magnetic field are as uncertain as they are rare. “Getting any paleomagnetic samples from earlier time periods is so important because we have so little data,” says Sabine Stanley, a geophysicist at Johns Hopkins University. “At the moment it’s one data point at a particular time interval.” More data points are needed, she says, although she also notes the magnetosphere’s apparent increase in strength across a half billion years does support the researchers’ analysis. Elisa Piispa, a geophysicist at Yachay Tech University in Ecuador, cautions the single-crystal method Tarduno’s group used is not yet universally accepted. “Some of the leading researchers in the paleomagnetic community are very skeptical on it,” she says. Then again, the team’s results are consistent with several other models of the core’s thermal evolution and a wealth of other paleomagnetic observations, says Krista Soderlund, a researcher at The University of Texas at Austin.