A Fascinating Newly Discovered Stonehenge Property

Over the centuries, little has fascinated the public more than the mysterious Stonehenge. Why was it built?  What happened there? Who built it? An entire series of Nova is devoted to these questions and more.

 

Researchers have spent enormous amounts of time for over a century sifting through clues about its origin. Early on, it became clear it was a burial site, but questions of whose cremated bodies rested there aren’t completely settled. Were they sacrifices, the religious, the elite, warriorsmaking Stonehenge an ancient day Arlington National Cemetary? Charred wood, animal bones, pottery, and other evidence of feasts have been also uncovered.

Archeologists determined the exact original locations of each rock and fallen rocks have been returned to their places. Some have been given names corresponding to certain legends: Heel Stone, Slaughter Stone, and Fairy Stone to name a few. Sunrise at the summer solstice shines through Stonehenge adjacent to the Heel Stone and directed toward the exact center. Similarly the winter solstice can be detected.

It took several stages and centuries to complete Stonehenge. Deer antlers were used as tools in the first, obviously primitive, stage. Some of the rocks dubbed bluestones make ringing sounds when struck, and churches made bells from them into the 18th century. People attributed healing powers to these mystical sounds, suggesting the reason they moved the huge stones over a 100miles.  The most common theory of how they were moved is that they were rolled along on logs.

This blog is intended to highlight a most recent discovery related to the bluestones. A large-scale replica — 1/12 of the original — provided a means of further testing of its properties as a whole.  The worthwhile experiment determined that the arrangement of the stones amplify and enrich musical tones for those inside the circle only. Further, the positioning of the stones actually contains the sound to the surrounded area. I envision the Whos down in Whoville  containing their Christmas singing from the Grinch.

Was this property intentional? If so, why? Courtesy or privacy? Another mystery! My own suspicion is that the use of Stonehendge evolved over the centuries, making it difficult to make single conclusions about its purpose.

Other sources: http://abyss.uoregon.edu/~js/glossary/stonehenge.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonehenge

Nova Series on PBS

Our Mysterious Active Oceans

 

Hurricane Laura

While we have hurricanes, tornadoes, thunderstorms, earthquakes, drought, floods, wind gusts, and sudden changes of temperature on Earth’s surface, we may think of our oceans as giant aquariums with tides the mere sloshing caused by Earth’s rotations and the pull of the moon. Nothing could be further from the truth. In particular volcanoes erupt, and earthquakes quake in our oceans.

 

Oceanic Volcano Eruption

Recently, a volcanic eruption in the Pacific Ocean near Tonga spewed so much pumice-like volcanic rock, it created a floating raft six inches deep and over 20,000 football fields in surface area. It is floating towards Australia, and may pass coral reef areas during the time of main coral spawning. If so, the pumice rocks should gather marine organisms and become a moving ecosystem, one potentially helping regenerate the Great Barrier Reef. It would be delightful if a natural explosion could for once be a benefit. Scientists struggling to save it and other reefs need a boost of good news.

Mayotte Island

On November 11th, a puzzling rumble rolled around the world. Seismic waves appeared to emanate from an island between Africa and northern Madagascar, then grumbled across Africa, traversed oceans, and were detected in New Zealand, Chile, and even Hawaii. Seismographs zig-zagged for 20 minutes recording low frequency waves. Since earthquakes are normally of short duration with high frequency waves, scientists suspected other causes, volcanic eruptions, and even joked about wakened sea serpents.

The island, Mayotte, is of volcanic origin, but there’s been no such activity in over 4,000 years. On the other hand, GPS stations there have detected that Mayotte has shifted location 2.4 inches to the east and 1.2 inches to the south since mid-July. The French Geological Survey (BRGM) is closely monitoring the recent shaking, spotting  faint pings commonly associated with magma moving and fracturing rock as it squirts through the crust.

A recent theory is that it was a “slow” earthquake, i.e. one whose release of stress is gradual. Such quakes are associated with volcanic activity, making it difficult to categorize. Further, Mayotte sits in a region crisscrossed by ancient faults—including fracture zones from the final breakup of Gondwana, the ancient super continent.

Approaching a year since the event, scientists are still seeking a definitive answer about this strange oceanic event.

 

 

The Science Wars: Corporate vs Independent Research

Iindustries, whose sales were hurt by scientific evidence, discovered the advantage of supporting their own  research. This blog is not about the honest-broker philanthropic corporations who promote advancement in science.

Scientists, who perform  research supported by government grants— such as National Science Foundation grants — own the rights to their own discoveries and publication. Corporations, on the other hand, own the results of scientists they support. If the results help their bottom line, they advertise. If not, they may lie about or bury them.

When it was scientifically established that even second hand smoke contributes to lung cancer, the tobacco industry launched their own scientific inquiries. UC Davis researchers determined that these inquires were designed to support claims that second-hand smoke poses little or no harm. Passive smokers in the inquiries were misclassified, creating a bias against finding differences between those exposed to second hand smoke and those who weren’t. The results were used to also question evidence linking secondhand smoke to increased risks of cardiovascular disease.

CO2 & Methane capture heat

Corporate supported studies have been often published in scientific journals that had industry representatives on their editorial boards. In fact, obtaining industry representation on the boards of scientific journals and organizations is a favorite means of infiltrating legitimate science.  For example, an organization called Friends of Science, substantially funded by the fossil fuel industry has corporate members on its board. When these board members author articles and books, their positions make them sound like credible scientists. They make claims such as: global warming is real but due to natural causes — no correlation between temperature rises and increased CO2.

Oklahoma

 

Likewise, the increase in the number of Oklahoma earthquakes close to fracking sites was once claimed by the oil & gas industry to be due to natural depletion of ground water. (Fracking involves inserting slick water into the ground.)

 

Let’s hope the quality of research for a Covid-19 cure and vaccine is not contaminated by the profit motive.

Recently, I came across two examples unrelated to science, but related to putting profit over the common good. The first is the confession of Wendell Potter, a health insurance executive, sho admitted to selling us a lie about Canada’s universal health coverage during the time that Obamacare was being considered.

 

The second happened long ago, but came up during a two-part series,The Vote, on American Experience on the struggle of women to get The Vote. Opponents claimed and advertised that voting women would continue Prohibition. Hmm, in that case, they may have been right.

 

 

Scattered News Items That Impressed Me in Multiple Ways

 

A major scientific achievement: The Perseverance Rover is on its way to Mars. NASA successfully launched on July 30th, 2020. It’s searching for signs of life.

 

50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday

 

An excellent proposal: Renaming the Edmund Pettus—Bloody Sunday—Bridge after John Lewis. There’s an online petition rapidly gaining signatures. The goal is 1,000,000.

 

Caution Sign and Plaque Today

 

Eye blinker about my ignorance of past news: I recently learned of the first attempt at fracking involved exploding a 40 kiloton  bomb to obtain natural gas near Rulison, Colorado in 1969. The experiment failed due to inability to measure the radiation in the released gas and cost of continuing. It was part of the Plowshares Project, an effort by the federal government to make peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Oddity : Hospital workers are helping patients register to vote according to the NY Times.

Advice for your mental health: Research says volunteering perks one’s spirits according to an article in the Washington Post. Not new, but reconfirms past research.

 

Warning: According to Now This News, Americans are receiving mysterious packages of seeds mostly from China. Their advice is to not plant them nor even touch them. Seems obvious, but …

 

Headscratcher: Only 39% of adults in the US can name the three branches of government according to a poll by Annenberg Public Policy Center. I had to read this twice, as I would find discovering that 1/3 cannot name the branches already shocking. One in five cannot name a single branch. Hmm, I wonder how was the question phrased?

 

Hyades — 150 light years from Earth

 

Amusement: A Science News article titled: The star cluster closest to Earth is in its death throes. The article goes on to say that stars in the Hyades are moving so fast they will disintegrate soon — in 30 million years! Cosmologists have a different sense of time and space.

 

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Bad News, Good News on Climate Change

 

Let’s get the bad news over with first. If we stopped carbon emissions today, it would be decades before Earth stopped warming. In particular the ocean’s water has slowly been overheating, and will only slowly drop to an acceptable temperature if carbon disappears. However, carbon won’t disappear,  at best, levels will be lowered. In the mean time, glaciers will coninue to melt and sea levels rise. Fortunately, climate scientists have been well aware and have been working on carbon removal They’ve done so quietly for fear people will take their success for granted and no longer worry about carbon emission.

Now some potentially good news. While there are many ideas for removing carbon, a recent one shows the most promise in my opinion.

Spreading rock dust on farmland could pull a substantial amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This is according to a major study published  in the journal Nature.

If China, the US, and India — the three countries emitting the most CO2 — adopted the practice on a large scale, they could collectively clean 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from the air., according to new research.

Quoting from the article: “Known as enhanced rock weathering, the process involves layering crushed rock onto soil. When silicate or carbonate minerals in the dust dissolve in rain water, carbon dioxide is drawn from the atmosphere into the solution to form bicarbonate ions. The bicarbonate ions are eventually washed by runoff into the ocean, where they form carbonate minerals, permanently storing  carbon safely.” I don’t really understand how this works, but …

A bonus is the fact that the process enriches soil, and increases crop yields. In fact crushed limestone has long been applied to soil by farmers for that purpose, but replacing limestone wtih crushed calcium and magnesium-rich rock is a double win.

Five Things That Fascinated Me This Week

  • The Siberian town of Verkhoyansk hit a record high temperature of 100 degrees this June!!
  • I’d heard of flying fish, but not flying snakes. Actually, Paradise tree snakes glide rather than fly. By spreading their rib cages and undulating they can soar from treetops to the ground. I used to think that I might be able to fly for a few seconds by running across the top of a reservoir on our farm and flapping my arms as I jumped three or four feet to the ground. I should have undulated.
  • People with a gene mutation have lower levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Now researchers have studied them to both develop a new cholesterol medication and have been able to with a single shot genetically change monkeys for an apparent lifetime free of heart disease. All is too early to ask your doctor for treatment.
  • We all know that the Mediterranean diet is heart healthy, but now there’s scientific evidence people on the diet of fruits, vegetables, and nuts are more verbally fluent. Lack of verbal fluency is a measure of cognition decline. People who consume six servings a day fare best in the studies.
  • Water pollution is not a new phenomenon. Archeologists now believe they abandoned the beautiful 1000-year-old, pre-Columbian Mayan city of Tikal city due to toxins in their water supply. Analysis including DNA discovered traces of a variety of substances that would have turned the water undrinkable.

 

And here’s something interesting  that I’ve known for some time.  Thomas Edison may have invented the first light bulb, but a black inventor, Lewis Howard Latimer invented the filament that made it practical for everyday use. The original filament only lasted 12 hours.  He sold his patent to GE. I learned that in a charming children’s book: What if there were no black people in the world? by Tamara Shiloh. There are many other inventions mentioned such as the elevator, but you won’t find them in science education texts.

Stay safe on this strange 4th of July!

Racism Has Inhabited Our Institutional DNA

A few things I didn’t learn in History class about social justice

  • Compromise of 1877: A controversial  election was resolved by an agreement that Union soldiers protecting blacks and their rights in the South would be removed and resulted in ending Reconstruction. 
  • The above resulted in the Jim Crow Laws including laws jailing the unemployed, which provided slave-like labor to former slave owners.
  • President Wilson purged the Federal government of black workers upon taking office.
  • The Chinese who built our railroads were barred from citizenship between 1882 and 1943.
  • Japanese families in internment camps during WWII were separated from each other.
  • In 1939, Hattie McDaniel won an Oscar for her supporting role as Mammy in Gone With the Wind. She wasn’t allowed to sit with the white cast at the Awards.
  • In the 1950s, the neighborhood around McClaren Park in San Francisco was built with federal loans, which didn’t allow Black owners nor new owners to sell to Blacks. (Think about how many people have been able to build equity  in a home that they can pass on to their children and in turn the grandchildren. No such ability for blacks with the same income. These same people think they’ve pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, but the system gave them boots denied to others.)

I understand I have white privilege, but OTOH I take for granted when I walk into a store I won’t be followed by a security guard, that when I go into a bank to cash an outside check its authenticity won’t be questioned, that when my husband and I apply for a mortgage, I don’t worry about whether the loan officer wears a pointy white head cover outside of work, when I encounter a jerk I don’t have to worry whether my treatment is because of my skin color, if I’m stopped for going over the speed limit I don’t fear the police officer, when I apply for a driver’s license, college, job, grant, whatever, I assume the decision depends on my merit.

Read more here about institutional racism.

And here’s the Science: The DNA within a given race varies more than averages between races. Further, the number of genes that determine our external features is .01 % of our total number of genes. That’s one out of ten thousand, a miniscule amount on which to base judgment.

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Let Our Tools Become Our Enemies

Any tool can be used for good or harm. I claim fingernails are great tools for getting at an itch, or removing gunk from a surface but of course they can also be weapons.

Scientific discoveries have made our lives easier, but have caused damage to our planet’s ability to maintain our health and very survival.

Technology has enabled us to answer questions by tapping into a search engine.  The price for this convenience is that companies, charities, and political campaigns pester us — a mere nuisance compared to the harm  hackers do, namely hijack computers for ransoms, steal your financial information, and even your identity.

Even worse, imagine the shutdown of our energy sources and ability to communicate, both of which are dependent on computers and software.  It is unclear we are doing enough to prepare for preventing a strike that could destroy our quality of life.

One potential disaster threatens our very democracy via hacking our elections.  Evidence exists that touchscreen voting technology have allowed the votes of an entire county to be dumped in Tennessee.  Rumors about Ohio’s election results being hacked have existed for years. The expert, Jennifer Cohn (@jennycohn1), has convincing evidence we need hand-marked paper ballots for secure elections. Given the Corona virus, Americans need to be able to vote by mail, and not be standing in line nor touching screens others have touched. John Oliver argues  how  difficult it is to turn in a wrong vote by mail.

An excellent eye-opening book, Red Notice, which through the life of an American investor in Russia, portrays life in Russia, a country where ordinary citizens have no power. If our elections are not determined by ordinary citizens, we couldl become such a country. Mail-in ballots take time to prepare. If you agree, please advocate for secure elections to save your ability to have a say-so.

Don’t Spray Away the Human Race

No one wants ants in their kitchens, their underwear drawer or any place else in the house, but we don’t need to keep our yards as pristine as our homes. More and more people are spraying or murdering by hiring  sprayers to do the dirty job outside: around their house and their yards.

 

Unfortunately, the killer spray doesn’t distinguish between insects. Earthworms, bees, butterflies, and other insects are being killed in the process. These are vital allies for us humans. Earthworms build soil, enrich it with nutrients, make it more porous, better suited to drainage, and overall improves our soil for growing food. They directly if not willingly provide food for songbirds. Everyone knows that bees pollinate flowering plants including those that supply one-third of our food supply.

According to Margaret Renkl’s articlein the NYTimes, which inspired this blog, homeowners use up 10 times more pesticide per acre than farmers do. If we continue to deplete the insect population, in 100 years they will be gone. Humans are then unlikely to survive.

Unfortunately, poisoned insects go on to poison the songbirds and other species whose diets include bugs and worms. Further, herbicides make plants poisonous to insects, further contributing to the problem.

I hope this article inspires you to think twice about spraying outside of your homes.

OTOH, I have an inside spraying tip for those, who like me can never swat fast enough or stealthily enough to kill a fly on the inside of my window. Spray it generously with a window cleaner. It will be stunned enough for you to easily whap it and wipe the window afterward.

Stay safe!

 

Don’t Take Our Water Supply for Granted

PBS’s three part series on the water molecule is a call for a long-term plan to preserve and protect water, making it abundantly clear how human life depends in so many ways on H2O. A major flaw of democracy is that it seems to invest in cleaning up preventable negative consequences rather than investing in our future even when small investments reap large rewards. Costly prisons and homeless programs but too little for growing and educating healthy adults who will pay taxes. Costly fires in terms of human lives and homes but too little for adequate maintenance of power lines. Costly emergency care but too little for preventive care. Our shortsightedness on water is even worse. We can’t make more water if we consume it all.

In only three episodes, the series covers the history of water’s role on Earth from how life developed and Earth became  the only known fertile planet, how dependent humans are on water for life, and how it is begin consumed faster than it is being replenished. Even I, as an avid environmentalist worried about draining aquifers and taking seriously the idea that WWIII will be about water, was aghast that the global battle has already begun. Land with water beneath is being purchased by countries and corporations outside of their own countries. Dams are interfering with access to water.

While matter cannot be created out of nothing nor be destroyed, the distribution of water has become highly uneven. We suffer both droughts and floods.

Many of the facts in the series, which inspired me to dig up even more were surprising.

* 92% of the water humans consume goes into the food we eat. Makes the enormous of food waste even more concerning.

* It takes 26 gallons of water to produce a tomato

* Water is used in the manufacture of many, many products

 

Car 13,737 – 21,926 gallons
Leather Shoes 3,626 gallons
Smart phone (mobile) 3,190 gallons
Bed Sheet (cotton) 2,839 gallons
Jeans (cotton) 2,108 gallons
T-shirt (cotton) 659 gallons

The series raises the interesting question about who owns the water in the deep underground. Is it like the air above the ground, which everyone has the right to breathe or is it like a pig trough that whoever dips in a straw and drinks the fastest gets the most. Currently in this country, it is like the latter where anyone who can reach it on land they own can send down pipes and pump away.

There are populated parts of the world such as the Gaza Strip that are becoming unlivable because of lack of water. The series suggests water shortages have contributed to migration and political unrest. I know that farmers are leaving South America because drought has destroyed their income.

I liked to listen to the Dr. Dean Edell radio program and not just because my daughter, Heather produced it. I loved his idea that all candidates for a major public office ought to pass a science test. We are going to have to consider desalinating our oceans.

Stay safe, everyone, and cherish and save water.