Category Archives: Blog

5,000-Year-Old Crystal Dagger Found Buried in Spain

No, this has nothing to do with the next Indiana Jones movie

Archeologists in southwestern Spain have discovered a cache of incredible weapons made of rock crystal. Dating back to at least 3000 BCE, these weapons include 25 arrowheads and a stunning crystal dagger that would have taken enormous skill to carve.

Found as part of grave good in the megalithic tomb site of Montelirio tholos, the dagger was found with an ivory hilt and sheath. Measuring nearly 8.5 inches long, it’s similar in shape to other flint daggers of the period.

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Pleistocene Park: How Grazing Animals Can Help Save the Permafrost

Sergey Zimov, a Russian geophysicist, is a genuine eccentric but he might just be on to something.

Over the last several decades, Zimov and his son Nikita have been building what they’ve dubbed ‘Pleistocene Park’ in far northeastern Siberia. By populating the 160 square km (62 square miles) park with yaks, horses, sheep, oxen, and other grazing animals, Zimov and his son hope to reshape the land to more closely resemble the northern grasslands of the kind that spread during the Pleistocene epoch, the glacial geological period that began 2.6m years ago and ended 12,000 years ago.

Having the grazing animals–with their stamping hooves that disperse snow and compress the ground–uproot and trample the shrubs, moss, and larch trees that cover the area and return it to grassland will, they argue, slow the thawing of permafrost, a process that leads to the release of greenhouse gases that could accelerate climate change.

Early results from 100 resettled animals across a one-square-kilometer area cut the average snow cover height in half, dramatically reducing the insulating effect, exposing the soil to the overlying colder air, and intensifying the freezing of permafrost.

The results of a computer model also support their ideas. Repopulating the tundra with grazing animals would reduce ground warming to just 4 degrees Fahrenheit (versus 7 degrees Fahrenheit if we do nothing), which would preserve 80% of the current permafrost through the end of this century. If we do nothing, we will lose 50% of all permafrost by 2100, dumping gigatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

“This type of natural manipulation in ecosystems that are especially relevant for the climate system has barely been researched to date, but holds tremendous potential,” says Professor Christian Beer of the University of Hamburg, who conducted the computer simulation.

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Tunguska Explosion of 1908 Caused by Asteroid Grazing the Earth?

A new theory by Russian scientists argues that the Tunguska explosion of 1908 was caused not by a disintegrating comet or by the explosion of a small black hole (as has been traditionally theorized), but by an iron asteroid passing into and then out of the Earth’s atmosphere–like a through-and-through gunshot wound.

This theory fits many of the characteristic facts of the Tunguska explosion: eyewitness accounts of the sky “split in two,” a huge explosion, widespread fire, millions of trees flattened but no visible crater, and reports of dust in the upper atmosphere over Europe after the event.

If true, it would mean that an iron asteroid the size of a football stadium narrowly missed striking the Earth…and ending civilization.

Better to be lucky than good, I suppose?

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The Guitar Pedal 5G Chip COVID-19 Vaccine Conspiracy

Few would accuse rabid conspiracy theorists of suffering from an excess of intelligence, but this latest “theory” really takes the cake.

Conspiracy theorists in Italy have warned about a ‘5G Chip’ they claim has been planted in COVID-19 vaccines. However, the widely circulated image of the chip in question turns out to be…a reworked schematic for the Boss Metal Zone guitar pedal.

Conspiracists say the imaginary chip might track citizen movements…while offering a flexible EQ section.

While this is patently false nonsense–a ‘5G chip’ isn’t a thing anyway and all the COVID-19 vaccine will do is protect you and your loved ones against the virus–even if it were true given that the Metal Zone pedal is widely regarded as one of the worst pedals for metal players I’d suggest that, either way, we don’t have anything to worry about.

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028 – War of the Currents: Part 8 – Victory Niagara (1893-1897)

It’s the endgame of the War of the Currents! After their betrayal by the Cataract Construction Company, Tesla and Westinghouse finally secure the contract to harness Niagara Falls. They won the war and changed the world.

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How AI Tractors Could Transform Farming

Fully electric, driver-optional, AI-powered, smart tractors could be coming to a farmer’s field near you.

With the challenges that modern farmers face–including climate change, consumer demands for sustainability, and labour shortages–AI-enabled tractors have the potential to cut overhead costs and emissions thanks to electrification (traditional diesel tractors produce roughly 14 times the emissions as the average car), automation, machine learning, and deep data analysis of farmers’ existing field and operations.

Autonomous AI tractors can analyze hundreds of gigabytes of data a day about the fields they work. Sensors and imaging capabilities provide critical data about crop type and health, current growth stages, long-term yield estimates, and other crop health metrics to provide long-term forecasts of field health.

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Ancient Snack Stall Uncovered in Pompeii

Archaeologists in Pompeii, which was buried in 79 AD by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, have discovered a frescoed hot food and drinks shop that served ancient street food to Roman passersby.

Known as a termopolium, Latin for hot drinks counter, the shop was discovered in the archaeological park’s Regio V site, which is not yet open to the public.

Complete with a frescoed image of a Nereid riding a sea-horse, the termopolium includes other decorative still lifes, food residues, animal bones, and even victims of the eruption.

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Love in the Time of Coronavirus: Thank You for Your Sacrifice

I think this infographic gives some perspective on the current crisis and illustrates the choice before us: we get to choose how bad this pandemic becomes.

Infographic depicting the deadliest pandemics in human history in comparison to COVID-19

I did a history of epidemiology course as part of my history of science MA–it was the history of how medicine has learned to track, control, and prevent the spread of disease. We talked about some of these earlier epidemics and it was scary stuff. The best that medicine had to offer in each era was essentially useless in the face of these diseases. People dropping dead in the millions and no one could explain how or why, or what to do about it.

But, unlike them, this COVID-19 outbreak is the first pandemic that we as a species have the power to control and minimize.

Think of that! No generation of humans has ever been able to say the same thing. No generation before us has had the technical and scientific knowledge to identify and combat a plague in such swift fashion, nor the instantaneous communication and coordination abilities that we have to institute meaningful quarantine and isolation on a global scale.

We were alerted to this plague early. Our experience fighting SARS, that could-have-been-pandemic, helped us. We know what it is that we’re up against. We know how it spreads and how we can avoid it. We’re already trialling vaccines and antiviral drug therapies within THREE MONTHS of this thing first appearing. No other generation before us could say any of that about the pestilences that from time to time appeared, like a rider on a pale horse, and cut down great swaths of people.

I know that being cooped up for weeks or months sucks (I’m here with three little kids, believe me, I GET IT). But you’ll notice that right now COVID-19 is a little speck on that graphic, less than a pinhead in comparison to past pandemics. The sacrifices you make now by isolating and social distancing, by working from home and following the advice of medical experts–all those little things are what will help keep that tiny speck from becoming one of those giant, catastrophic blobs we see depicted in other eras for other pandemics.

Thank you for your sacrifice.

Now, go wash your hands

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Show Notes for Episode 20 – A Most Painful Ordeal (1892)

My Son, and Stanley, and Me (c. 2013):

Helen Mirren Reads ‘Ulysses’ by Alfred, Lord Tennyson:

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Show Notes for Episode 19 – Order of the Flaming Sword (1891-1892)

Here’s the neon sign that Tesla had designed in honour of Lord Kelvin (whose real name was William Thomson). Imagine it…in colour 🙂

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