Monday, July 20, 2015

Mysterious Viking Sword Made With Technology From the Future?


By Tara MacIsaac, Epoch Times


The Viking sword Ulfberht was made of metal so pure it baffled archaeologists. It was thought the technology to forge such metal was not invented for another 800 or more years, during the Industrial Revolution.

About 170 Ulfberhts have been found, dating from 800 to 1,000 A.D. A NOVA, National Geographic documentary titled “Secrets of the Viking Sword”, first aired in 2012, took a look at the enigmatic sword’s metallurgic composition.

In the process of forging iron, the ore must be heated to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit to liquify, allowing the blacksmith to remove the impurities (called “slag”). Carbon is also mixed in to make the brittle iron stronger. Medieval technology did not allow iron to be heated to such a high temperature, thus the slag was removed by pounding it out, a far less effective method.

The Ulfberht, however, has almost no slag, and it has a carbon content three times that of other metals from the time. It was made of a metal called “crucible steel.”

It was thought that the furnaces invented during the industrial revolution were the first tools for heating iron to this extent.

Modern blacksmith Richard Furrer of Wisconsin spoke to NOVA about the difficulties of making such a sword. Furrer is described in the documentary as one of the few people on the planet who has the skills needed to try to reproduce the Ulfberht.

“To do it right, it is the most complicated thing I know how to make,” he said.

He commented on how the Ulfberht maker would have been regarded as possessing magical powers. “To be able to make a weapon from dirt is a pretty powerful thing,” he said. But, to make a weapon that could bend without breaking, stay so sharp, and weigh so little would be regarded as supernatural.

Furrer spent days of continuous, painstaking work forging a similar sword. He used medieval technology, though he used it in a way never before suspected. The tiniest flaw or mistake could have turned the sword into a piece of scrap metal. He seemed to declare his success at the end with more relief than joy.

It is possible that the material and the know-how came from the Middle East. The Volga trade route between the Viking settlements and the Middle East opened at the same time the first Ulfberhts appeared and closed when the last Ulfberhts were produced.

The article, ‘Mysterious Viking Sword Made with Technology from the Future’ was originally published on The Epoch Times,

Researchers confirm: The Largest Pyramid in Mexico has been found


Aingi Oranais
Zon Staff

Researchers discover immense pyramid in Mexico, larger than Teotihuacan’s Pyramid of the Sun. Researchers in Mexico have discovered a Pyramid that, according to initial measurements, is larger than the Great Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan. Initial excavations were done in 2010.

The Pyramid, 75 meters in height, was explored by specialists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) on the acropolis of Tonina, Chiapas, estimated to be around 1700 years old.

Emiliano Gallaga, director of the archaeological zone, explained that work has been done in the last two years, and by means of a “three-dimensional, researchers verified that in the northeastern part of the site, stands one of the largest construction in Mesoamerica, comparable in size only to great Mayan cities like Tikal and El Mirador in Guatemala.

Another features which makes this “unique” pre-hispanic structure stand out are the seven platforms which integrate it and were specific spaces intended to serve as palaces, temples, housing and administrative units. It is a unique structure for various specific functions within the social, political, economic and religious structure, which is not repeated in any other archaeological site of the Mayan world stated researchers from INAH.

“It’s a big surprise to see that the pyramid was done almost entirely by pre-Hispanic architects and therefore is more artificial than natural. “This is because it was believed that the entire structure was a natural hill, but recent evidence has revealed that the structure was almost entirely built by ancient inhabitants.

Archaeologists added that the pyramid is bigger than we had anticipated. The structure is connected by roads located on top of surrounding elevations.

Gallaga added that, after all of the information, we can confirm that this pyramid exceeds in height the pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan which measures 65 meters. INAH researchers have determined that the city center had an architectural continuity between 10 and 12 hectares, which is the double of what was previously thought and mainly corresponds to the south facade of the Acropolis, one of the most important Mayan areas known to researchers.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Madaba Map

Discovered in a church in Madaba, Jordan, in 1884, the Madaba Map is the oldest surviving cartographic depiction of the Holy Land. Created in the form of a mosaic it dates to somewhere between A.D. 560-565 and originally showed an area that stretched from southern Syria to central Egypt. By the time it was discovered much of the map was already gone, however its remains include a detailed depiction of Jerusalem. "The bird's-eye view shows an oval-shaped walled city in the very center of the map with six gates and twenty-one towers, the colonnaded main thoroughfare … and thirty-six other identifiable public buildings, churches and monasteries," writes Jerome Mandel in an article published in the book "Trade, Travel and Exploration in the Middle Ages: An Encyclopedia" (Routledge, 2000). At the time it was created the Byzantine Empire ruled the Holy Land. 

On the sixth-century mosaic map of Palestine that paved the floor of a church in Madaba in Transjordan, Jerusalem holds a dominant position (Avi-Yonah 1954: 50-60, plate 7, nos 52-3). The colonnaded main street of Hadrian's Aelia Capitolina, the cardo maximus, is clearly visible, running southwards from what is now the Damascus Gate in the direction of Mount Zion, which lay outside the southern city wall until changes brought to the line of the city wall at the time of the Empress Eudocia in the middle of the fifth century. In a distinguished central position on the west side of this street, breaking the colonnade, are the steps leading to the propylea of Constantine's basilica; its three doorways are clearly visible. The complex of buildings on Golgotha is the largest edifice depicted, and is clearly meant to be seen as the focal point of the city, culminating in the domed rotunda which by that date covered the Holy Sepulchre. The steps leading directly to the main entrance of the basilica off the street recall Eusebius' description of its fronting onto the main thoroughfare. 

The deliberate emphasis on the central position of the Constantinian buildings at Jerusalem on the Madaba map reflects the importance of the Constantinian foundations. If Jerusalem was for the Christians the centre of the world, then the centre of Jerusalem itself could only be the place of Christ's death and resurrection. By contrast with the church of the `Upper Room' where the Jerusalem community had worshipped down the ages, tucked away outside the city on Mount Zion, Constantine's Holy Sepulchre was on the site of the Hadrianic temenos, alongside the forum and near the central crossroads, approached by an impressive flight of steps from the main thoroughfare; the new Christian monuments, and no longer the pagan temples, were the highlights of the city. 

Thus fourth-century Jerusalem saw Christianity symbolically transported from its place outside the walls to the very heart of the city. Roman Aelia was now the Christian Jerusalem. It was Constantine's creation of the `new Jerusalem' of Rev 21:2 - `And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband' - which lay at the heart of the Holy Land's emergence as a goal of pilgrimage in the fourth century (Hunt 1982).

NOAA's Weather in Focus Photo Contest-Some Photos...

Freezing rain attempts to halt spring in this image captured by Mike Shelby, from Elkridge, Maryland, taking home second place in the "smartphone images" category. (Credit: Mike Shelby.)


With a Bang by Bob Larson, Prescott, AZ
NOAA describes this category: "Remember safety first, but sometimes weather can develop in the blink of an eye supplying amazing photographic opportunities. Images depict both the subtle and extreme power of weather and climate, including images of extreme drought, floods, thunderstorms, tornadoes as well as snowscapes and landscapes."

Proton arc over Lake Superior by Ken William, Clio, MI

 Stars behind the storm by Brad Goddard, Orion, IL

Spruce Gran Picea

 
Spruce Gran Picea #0909 – 11A07 (9,550 years old; Fulufjället, Sweden)

This 9,950-year-old tree is like a portrait of climate change. The mass of branches near the ground grew the same way for roughly 9,500 years, but the new, spindly trunk in the center is only 50 or so years old, caused by warming at the top of this mountain plateau in Western Sweden.

Rachel Sussman's work is equal parts art, science and philosophy, and with her images of 3,000-year-old lichen and 7,000-year-old trees, she draws poignant perspectives on the nature of time, life and humanity's place in it.

Sussman's work provides audiences with a way to understand ideas around deep time, and has served as a portal for connecting scientists from disparate disciplines, providing them with a platform to consider the intersections between their various specialties.

The artist has exhibited widely in solo and group shows at venues including the Berlin Botanical Museum, the Montalvo Arts Center, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, and the American Museum of Natural History. And this past April, University of Chicago Press published the monograph “The Oldest Living Things in the World“ You can read more about Sussman's work in her interview, view her work live at Pioneer Works Center for Art and Innovation in Brooklyn on September 13th, 2014, and see several of her images from her Oldest Living Things project in this gallery.

How Human Beings Almost Vanished From Earth In 70,000 B.C.




Add all of us up, all 7 billion human beings on earth, and clumped together we weigh roughly 750 billion pounds. That, says Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson, is more than 100 times the biomass of any large animal that's ever walked the Earth. And we're still multiplying. Most demographers say we will hit 9 billion before we peak, and what happens then?

Well, we've waxed. So we can wane. Let's just hope we wane gently. Because once in our history, the world-wide population of human beings skidded so sharply we were down to roughly a thousand reproductive adults. One study says we hit as low as 40.

Forty? Come on, that can't be right. Well, the technical term is 40 "breeding pairs" (children not included). More likely there was a drastic dip and then 5,000 to 10,000 bedraggled Homo sapiens struggled together in pitiful little clumps hunting and gathering for thousands of years until, in the late Stone Age, we humans began to recover. But for a time there, says science writer Sam Kean, "We damn near went extinct."

I'd never heard of this almost-blinking-out. That's because I'd never heard of Toba, the "supervolcano." It's not a myth. While details may vary, Toba happened.

Toba, The Supervolcano
Once upon a time, says Sam, around 70,000 B.C., a volcano called Toba, on Sumatra, in Indonesia went off, blowing roughly 650 miles of vaporized rock into the air. It is the largest volcanic eruption we know of, dwarfing everything else..

That eruption dropped roughly six centimeters of ash — the layer can still be seen on land — over all of South Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Arabian and South China Sea. According to the Volcanic Explosivity Index, the Toba eruption scored an "8", which translates to "mega-colossal" — that's two orders of magnitude greater than the largest volcanic eruption in historic times at Mount Tambora in Indonesia, which caused the 1816 "Year Without a Summer" in the northern hemisphere.


With so much ash, dust and vapor in the air, Sam Kean says it's a safe guess that Toba "dimmed the sun for six years, disrupted seasonal rains, choked off streams and scattered whole cubic miles of hot ash (imagine wading through a giant ashtray) across acres and acres of plants." Berries, fruits, trees, African game became scarce; early humans, living in East Africa just across the Indian Ocean from Mount Toba, probably starved, or at least, he says, "It's not hard to imagine the population plummeting."

Then — and this is more a conjectural, based on arguable evidence — an already cool Earth got colder. The world was having an ice age 70,000 years ago, and all that dust hanging in the atmosphere may have bounced warming sunshine back into space. Sam Kean writes "There's in fact evidence that the average temperature dropped 20-plus degrees in some spots," after which the great grassy plains of Africa may have shrunk way back, keeping the small bands of humans small and hungry for hundreds, if not thousands of more years.

So we almost vanished.

But now we're back.

It didn't happen right away. It took almost 200,000 years to reach our first billion (that was in 1804), but now we're on a fantastic growth spurt, to 3 billion by 1960, another billion almost every 13 years since then, till by October, 2011, we zipped past the 7 billion marker, says writer David Quammen, "like it was a "Welcome to Kansas" sign on the highway."
In his new book Spillover, Quamman writes:
We're unique in the history of mammals. We're unique in this history of vertebrates. The fossil record shows that no other species of large-bodied beast — above the size of an ant, say or an Antarctic krill — has ever achieved anything like such abundance as the abundance of humans on Earth right now.
But our looming weight makes us vulnerable, vulnerable to viruses that were once isolated deep in forests and mountains, but are now bumping into humans, vulnerable to climate change, vulnerable to armies fighting over scarce resources. The lesson of Toba the Supervolcano is that there is nothing inevitable about our domination of the world. With a little bad luck, we can go too.
We once almost did.

Radiolab regular Sam Kean's new book on genetics, The Violinist's Thumb, tells the story of Toba, the supervolcano, to explore how human genes record a "bottleneck" or a drastic narrowing of genetic diversity 70,000 years ago. David Quammen's new book Spillover is about people pushing into forests, swamps and places where viruses have been hiding. Those viruses are now beginning to cross over into horses, pigs, bats, birds and, inevitably, they threaten to "spillover" into us. For a virus, or bacteria, 7 billion potential hosts look like a fantastic opportunity.





Monday, June 8, 2015

Nepenthes attenboroughii digesting shrew on Mount Victoria, Palawan, Philippines



Nepenthes attenboroughii, or Attenborough's pitcher plant, is a montane species of carnivorous pitcher plant of the genus Nepenthes. It is named after the celebrated broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough, who is a keen enthusiast of the genus. The species is characterised by its large and distinctive bell-shaped lower and upper pitchers and narrow, upright lid. The type specimen of N. attenboroughii was collected on the summit of Mount Victoria, an ultramafic mountain in central Palawan, the Philippines.


 
Mount Victoria (1726 or 1709 m ), or Victoria Peaks, is a mountain in central Palawan, Philippines, that lies within the administrative Municipality of Narra. The mountain, which includes the twin peaks known as "The Teeth", as well as the single prominence known as "Sagpaw", form the largest contiguous land area and second highest portion of the Mount Beaufort Ultramafics geological region, a series of ultramafic outcrops of Eocene origin, that includes Palawan's highest peak, Mount Mantalingahan (2085 m).


The summit flora of Mount Victoria includes Leptospermum sp., Medinilla spp., Pleomele sp., Vaccinium sp., various grasses, as well as the sundew Drosera ultramafica, which grows at similar elevations to N. attenboroughii.

The pitcher plant is among the largest of all pitchers and is so big that it can catch rats as well as insects in its leafy trap.

During the same expedition, botanists also came across strange pink ferns and blue mushrooms they could not identify.

The botanists have named the pitcher plant after British natural history broadcaster David Attenborough.

They published details of the discovery in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society earlier this year.

Word that this new species of pitcher plant existed initially came from two Christian missionaries who in 2000 attempted to scale Mount Victoria, a rarely visited peak in central Palawan in the Philippines.

With little preparation, the missionaries attempted to climb the mountain but became lost for 13 days before being rescued from the slopes.

On their return, they described seeing a large carnivorous pitcher plant.

That pricked the interest of natural history explorer Stewart McPherson of Red Fern Natural History Productions based in Poole, Dorset, UK and independent botanist Alastair Robinson, formerly of the University of Cambridge, UK and Volker Heinrich, of Bukidnon Province, the Philippines.

All three are pitcher plant experts, having travelled to remote locations in the search for new species.
So in 2007, they set off on a two-month expedition to the Philippines, which included an attempt at scaling Mount Victoria to find this exotic new plant.

Accompanied by three guides, the team hiked through lowland forest, finding large stands of a pitcher plant known to science called Nepenthes philippinensis , as well as strange pink ferns and blue mushrooms which they could not identify.

As they closed in on the summit, the forest thinned until eventually they were walking among scrub and large boulders.

"At around 1,600 metres above sea level, we suddenly saw one great pitcher plant, then a second, then many more," McPherson recounts.

"It was immediately apparent that the plant we had found was not a known species."

Pitcher plants are carnivorous. Carnivorous plants come in many forms, and are known to have independently evolved at least six separate times. While some have sticky surfaces that act like flypaper, others like the Venus fly trap are snap traps, closing their leaves around their prey.
Pitchers create tube-like leaf structures into which insects and other small animals tumble and become trapped.

The team has placed type specimens of the new species in the herbarium of the Palawan State University, and have named the plant Nepenthes attenboroughii after broadcaster and natural historian David Attenborough.

"The plant is among the largest of all carnivorous plant species and produces spectacular traps as large as other species which catch not only insects, but also rodents as large as rats," says McPherson.
The pitcher plant does not appear to grow in large numbers, but McPherson hopes the remote, inaccessible mountain-top location, which has only been climbed a handful of times, will help prevent poachers from reaching it.

During the expedition, the team also encountered another pitcher, Nepenthes deaniana , which had not been seen in the wild for 100 years. The only known existing specimens of the species were lost in a herbarium fire in 1945.

On the way down the mountain, the team also came across a striking new species of sundew, a type of sticky trap plant, which they are in the process of formally describing.

Thought to be a member of the genus Drosera , the sundew produces striking large, semi-erect leaves which form a globe of blood red foliage.