Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bigfoot of Bemidji

Photo: Grand Forks Herald via Minneapolis Star Tribune
I can't say I've ever been a huge Bigfoot believer, but then again there are odd cryptozoological finds every now and again. An ancient species thought to be extinct is found somewhere or something thought to be mythological is found to actually be real.

It appears that someone's motion-sensor camera captured what appears to be a seven-foot primate walking in the woods behind their house. I'm not saying it's Bigfoot. But the Minneapolis Star Tribune (Minneapolis is my neighbor, I'm in glorious St. Paul, Minn.) seems to think it is--though local authorities and the DNR remain skeptical.

From the article:
On the rainy night of Oct. 24, at 7:20 p.m., the camera captured a blurry image of a black creature, about seven feet tall, striding through a stand of trees.
...and...
He said two elderly men who live closest to the site told him that late that night they had gone outside to use their outhouse and had heard strange squealing noises.

When asked to show him the direction of the sounds, they pointed to the area where the camera had been.

...and also...

They compared the image to one of an alleged Bigfoot photo taken years ago in California "and the features were identical," Kedrowski said.

Sherman said the Northern Minnesota Bigfoot Research Team has been receiving reports of Bigfoot sightings in 2006 and has had reports every year since, including four reports this year.

So, it looks like Sasquatch Season has begun!

Read on...

Best Archeological Finds of 09

National Geographic has listed their Top 10 Archeology Finds for the past year, which includes some really great discoveries. My personal favorites:
Who wouldn't want to get their hands on some genuine pirate booty? (Okay, let me rephrase). Who wouldn't want to get their hands on a real-life pirate chest? (Oh, nevermind!) Read the article you scallywags:
Some of the newfound relics add to evidence that the ship belonged to the pirate. ""We feel pretty comfortable that that's what this is," said Marke Wilde-Ramsing, director of the Queen Anne's Revenge project for the North Carolina Office of State Archaeology.
...and...
Navigational instruments were favorite targets of looting pirates, because the tools could easily be sold or traded, said archaeologist David Moore of the North Carolina Maritime Museum, who is working on the wreck site.
These WWII era submarines discovered off the coast of Hawaii were at the peak of naval stealth technology for the age and even carried folding-wing planes for sneak attacks. Maybe they should be called Ninja Subs? From the article:
Specifically designed for a stealth attack on the U.S. East Coast--perhaps targeting Washington D.C., and New York City--the "samurai subs" were fast, far-ranging, and in some cases carried folding-wing aircraft, according to Dik Daso, curator of modern military aircraft at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum, speaking in the new National Geographic documentary Hunt for the Samurai Subs.
No word on whether the Samurai Sub commanders understood that DC and NYC are clear on the other side of North America....

Pre-Stonehenge Structure Found....Surrounded by Crop Circles!
Cue the sci-fi music, this one is just plain eerie. Archeologists found this site spanning nearly 500 acres when they examined aerial photos of crop circles. What they found were the remains of an undiscovered 6,000 year-old temple complex complete with tombs and burial mounds. From the article:
During the late Stone Age, it's believed, people in the region left their dead in the open to be picked clean by birds and other animals.

Skulls and other bones of people who were for some reason deemed significant were later placed inside the burial mounds, Wickstead explained.

"These are bone houses, in a way," she said. "Instead of whole bodies, [the tombs contain] parts of ancestors."

This one is among my favorites because there are so many unanswered questions. Were the crop circles just coincidence? Or do they exist to draw attention to the site? Be sure to check out both pages of this article on Nat Geo's site.

Read the complete list--it's chock full of fodder for pulp adventure, including the largest Anglo-Saxon treasure every discovered (pictured up top). Wait, let's try that again. I also take no small pride in that I covered one of the discoveries about the "Vampire crypt" on this blog, back in August. Score!

So there's like, 10 new ideas for you--now go have fun!

All photos: National Geographic


Monday, November 23, 2009

Good News: They Found Galileo's Fingers, Tooth!

Photo: Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza di Firenze via MSNBC
Just the news you were waiting to hear, right? What's that? You didn't know they were even missing? You're in for a treat that's been pickling for close to 300 years! It's true, three of Galileo's fingers and a tooth from his jaw were removed after his death and kept in a jar. Turns out two of the fingers and the tooth ran off together around 1905.

Oh sure, it sounds kind of sick now, but back then this was standard practice for preserving saints. That's right--this heretic of the church was believed by his, er, mutilators, to be a saint of science!

From CNN:

They were purchased recently at an auction by a person who brought them to the Museum of the History of Science in Florence, suspecting what they were, museum director Paolo Galluzzi said.

Three fingers were cut from Galileo's hand in March 1737, when his body was moved from a temporary monument to its final resting place in Florence, Italy.

Seems like an odd way to honor the dead, "HEY! Let's take a PIECE OF HIM!". Poor G.

The museum has had the other finger since the 1920s and is hoping to set up a reunion (of sorts). Interesting tid-bit, the fingers that were removed were the same ones he'd have used to hold a pen. Must have been some magic in those crusty old fingers!

Read more about the gruesome find. MSNBC has an article as well.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Witch Bottle Wards Off Evil, Hygiene

Photo: National Geographic
File this one under: strange and slightly gross. How do witches and warlocks fight evil spirits? By concocting their own magic talismans in form of enchanted bottles of course! The practice was bigger in the 16th century, but fell out of favor sometime during the Age of Reason. Why? Because it was the Age of Reason. It's rare for a witch bottle to be found intact, but that's exactly what's happened. From Nat Geo:
In the 17th and 18th centuries in Britain, the supposedly cursed often put their toenails and fingernails, urine, and hair into the witch bottles.

These jugs, usually buried near a house or building, were meant to keep evildoers at bay.
Can you imagine finding 300-year-old pee and fingernails? “magic” wouldn't exactly be the first word that comes to my mind. An X-ray confirms nothing nasty in this bottle. (Thankfully!) But that didn’t keep it from being charged with powerful magic:
Despite their name, witch bottles were more often intended as all-purpose lucky charms against bad luck, Norton said—"a modern equivalent of hanging a horseshoe on your door."

The superstitious also stuck children's shoes inside walls or buried horse skulls by doors—animals were believed to be able to see spirits, he said.
Ah, so it imbues one with the power to see plot points in M. Night Shyamalan films? Now that IS magical!

Read more...

Friday, November 13, 2009

NASA: WATER ON THE MOON!

Photo: NASA!
That's right junior moon explorers! There's water in them thar craters! LOTS OF IT! From MSNBC:
NASA's LCROSS probe discovered beds of water ice at the lunar south pole when it impacted the moon last month, mission scientists announced Friday. The findings confirm suspicions reported previously, and in a big way.

"Indeed, yes, we found water. And we didn't find just a little bit, we found a significant amount," said Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS project scientist and principal investigator from NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif.

Water could of course be converted into fuel for rockets, making it the perfect spot for a pit stop between here and the other planetary bodies of our solar system. Water, I'm also told, can be used to make your favorite astro-beverage.

Read up on all the liquid lunar goodness...

The BBC also has more...

Or get the full story from NASA...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

FOUND: Persian Army Lost in Sandstorm 2,500 Years Ago

Photo credit: Alfredo and Angelo Castiglioni via Discovery Networks

Italian researches claim to have found the remains of an ancient Persian army that disappeared in the sands of Egypt some 2,500 years ago.

From MSNBC:

Bronze weapons, a silver bracelet, an earring and hundreds of human bones found in the vast desolate wilderness of the Sahara desert have raised hopes of finally finding the lost army of Persian King Cambyses II. The 50,000 warriors were said to be buried by a cataclysmic sandstorm in 525 B.C.

"We have found the first archaeological evidence of a story reported by the Greek historian Herodotus," Dario Del Bufalo, a member of the expedition from the University of Lecce, told Discovery News.

Herodotus' tale recounts how the Persian army of more than 50,000 became lost on the way to siege Siwa Oasis. The army at the time was commanded by Cambyses II, son of Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian Empire. The army was ordered to destroy the oracle at the Temple of Amun but never arrived. They were swallowed by the sands and the temple stood to eventually proclaim Alexander of Macedonia "Master of the Universe" (I'm not making this up) much to the chagrin of ol' Camby. Alex went on to become "the Great" and Camby, uh, died mysteriously in what was thought to be a coup d'├ętat. Bummer!

By this time the legend of the army's disappearance passed into myth until it was recently discovered only to be recounted in the great historian's telling:

"A wind arose from the south, strong and deadly, bringing with it vast columns of whirling sand, which entirely covered up the troops and caused them wholly to disappear."

The story is utterly fascinating, you should check out the full article...

Or you could just watch the YouTube version from Discovery Networks.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Glow in the Dark Mushrooms!

Image: Cassius V. Stevani / Chemistry Institute, University of Sao Paulo via MSNBC
I guess I thought these were based more in science fiction and fantasy than fact (what do I know?!), but they're REAL! Researchers have found them in regions spanning the globe:
The freaky findings, reported today in the journal Mycologia, increases the number of aglow mushroom species from 64 to 71, shedding light on the evolution of luminescence in nature.

The newly identified mushrooms, which emit a bright, yellowish-green light 24 hours a day, were found in Belize, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Japan, Malaysia and Puerto Rico. They include four species new to science and three new reports of luminescence in known species.

Even more interesting is a now emerging theory that many more types of mushrooms once had the glow, but lost their magical powers--er, their characteristic bioluminescence.

"What interests us is that within Mycena, the luminescent species come from 16 different lineages, which suggests that luminescence evolved at a single point and some species later lost the ability to glow," Desjardin said.
Read more on MSNBC and LiveScience...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Giant Jellyfish Grow in Numbers, Plot Conquest

Photo: Discovery News and ABC Science Online
Well, we've done it. Thanks to overfishing and global warming, giant jellyfish have begun to increase in number. Overfishing has eliminated their natural predators and the rise in ocean temperature has given them an abundance of food. How long before they can do calculus and acquire mental telepathy. And apparently, their growth means even more bad news for seafood fans. From the Discovery Channel:
Jellyfish are normally kept in check by fish, which eat small jellyfish and compete for jellyfish food such as zooplankton, researchers said. But, with overfishing, jellyfish numbers are increasing.

These huge creatures can burst through fishing nets, as well as destroy local fisheries with their taste for fish eggs and larvae.

So not only are they chowing down like never before on a fat food supply, but they're cutting into ours. That's so evil! They're already human-sized. How long before they can pilot space ships?!

"(There is) a jellyfish called Nomura, which is the biggest jellyfish in the world. It can weigh 200 kilograms (440 pounds), as big as a sumo wrestler and is 2 meters (6.5 feet) in diameter," Richardson said.

Richardson said jellyfish numbers are increasing in Southeast Asia, the Black Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea.

Read more about our soon-to-be invertebrate overlords. Click on that photo to scare yourself silly!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Carnivorous Plant Dines on Jungle Rats

Photo: Redfern Natural History via CNN
There's an old saying that if you build a better mousetrap the world will beat a path to your door. Well it looks like mother nature has already made one. Meet Nepenthes attenboroughii the a species of Pitcher Plant, a carnivorous plant. This one eats rodents, namely jungle rats. As you can see in the photo below, they're called pitcher plants because of the vase-shaped vessel that makes up the bulk of the plant. This acts as mouth and stomach all-in-one.

Photo: Crytpomundo.com
Now, I'm sure all of you have at least seen a Venus Fly Trap at one point. Maybe at a conservatory or zoo, or even on TV. And we've all seen carnivorous plants in science fiction. Heck even Roadblock from G.I. Joe has had one run in too many with voracious flora.

But this isn't sci-fi, it's a real meat-eating plant! CNN takes us to the Philippines to where the plant was discovered:McPherson told CNN:
"Around the mouth of the pitcher are secretions of nectar which attracts insects and small animals. The rim has lots of waxy downward-pointing ridges which help prey fall directly into the pitcher.

"The pitchers are half full of a liquid consisting of acids and enzymes which help break down its prey."

The insectivorous, sometimes carnivorous diet is crucial for the plants' survival says McPherson.

"These plants grow in really harsh areas where soil quality is very poor -- often pure gravel or sand. Catching insects allows the plant to augment nutrients that it otherwise wouldn't have access to."

Still not grossed out? Here's a video of the plant feasting on a rat. And a slightly longer clip with narration explaining the deviousness of said plant. Enjoy!

The plant is named for famed broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough who although had nothing to do with it's discovery, was deemed an all-around, nice enough guy to name a deadly flesh eating plant after. Although he did do a segment on Venus Fly Traps, so that would seem to make sense.

Read more...

Venician Vampire Grave Unveiled ...MUHAHAHAHA!

Photo: Matteo Borrini / AP via MSNBC
I need to do a little catching up on some older stories. This first one is about a suspected "vampire" grave discovered at a dig site outside of Venice, Italy. A woman's well-preserved skeleton was found with a brick in her mouth--which apparently is how you keep vampires from waking up and biting you (how come we never saw THAT in a movie?).

In addition to being a decidely old-school method of beating the devil, it was also decidely dumb because--anyone, anyone? That's right! There's no such thing as vampires!

But that doesn't mean there wasn't good reason to believe that the dead might raise. After all, there was this (very circumstantial) eye-witness evidence. MSNBC drives a stake through it:
During epidemics, mass graves were often reopened to bury fresh corpses and diggers would chance upon older bodies that were bloated, with blood seeping out of their mouth and with an inexplicable hole in the shroud used to cover their face.

"These characteristics are all tied to the decomposition of bodies," Borrini said. "But they saw a fat, dead person, full of blood and with a hole in the shroud, so they would say: 'This guy is alive, he's drinking blood and eating his shroud.'"

Thanks to modern science we know that the bloating occurs from gas building up in corpses (yuck!). In any case, why let science ruin it--she was obviously a bloodsucker who deserved a brick sandwich, right?

Anyone?

Read more...


Friday, August 14, 2009

Zombie Ants Controlled by Fungal Overlord!

Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Huh? This story is too weird for me to even attempt to summarize, so I'll just go straight to the MSNBC highlight:
In a bizarre parasitic death sentence, a fungus turns carpenter ants into the walking dead and gets them to die in a spot that's perfect for the fungus to grow and reproduce.
...and...
Once infected by the fungus, an ant is compelled to climb down from the canopy to the low leaves, where it clamps down with its mandibles just before it dies.

"The fungus accurately manipulates the infected ants into dying where the parasite prefers to be, by making the ants travel a long way during the last hours of their lives," said study leader David P. Hughes of Harvard University.

Yeah, just plain weird, right? Anyway, to learn more about the evil fungus and it's insectoid automatons, read on...

Now if only we could get the fungus to get rid of these bugs, I'd feel safer!

Cave Complex Discovered Under Giza Pyramids!

Image copyright Andrew Collins, 2009 via Discovery News
This is REALLY cool news--a British expolorer claims to have discovered a series of caves and tunnels under the pyramids at Giza! The place is crawling with venomous spiders and bats! It's like real-life dungeon crawl!

From Discovery News:
"There is untouched archaeology down there, as well as a delicate ecosystem that includes colonies of bats and a species of spider which we have tentatively identified as the white widow," British explorer Andrew Collins said.

Collins, who will detail his findings in the book "Beneath the Pyramids" to be published in September, tracked down the entrance to the mysterious underworld after reading the forgotten memoirs of a 19th century diplomat and explorer.

"In his memoirs, British consul general Henry Salt recounts how he investigated an underground system of 'catacombs' at Giza in 1817 in the company of Italian explorer Giovanni Caviglia," Collins said.

If true, this is seriously one of the more exciting archeological finds I've heard of--like a real life Indiana Jones adventure!

Image courtesy Wikipedia

More from Discovery News...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Giant Black "Blob" Attacks Alaska!

I guess there's more than one blob out there! This one is "definately organic" according to one official. And it likes cold water. Seriously creepy! From the Anchorage Daily News:
Hunters from Wainwright first started noticing the stuff sometime probably early last week. It's thick and dark and "gooey" and is drifting for miles in the cold Arctic waters, according to Gordon Brower with the North Slope Borough's Planning and Community Services Department.
Brower and other borough officials, joined by the U.S. Coast Guard, flew out to Wainwright to investigate. The agencies found "globs" of the stuff floating miles offshore Friday and collected samples for testing.
Here's some choice quotes about it's physical description:
It's certainly biological," Hasenauer said. "It's definitely not an oil product of any kind. It has no characteristics of an oil, or a hazardous substance, for that matter.
"It's definitely, by the smell and the makeup of it, it's some sort of naturally occurring organic or otherwise marine organism."
and...
"It's pitch black when it hits ice and it kind of discolors the ice and hangs off of it," Brower said. He saw some jellyfish tangled up in the stuff, and someone turned in what was left of a dead goose -- just bones and feathers -- to the borough's wildlife department.
Yuck!
Read more...

Photos courtesy of the North Slope Borough via Anchorage Daily News.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mason-Dixon Meteorite Tracked on Video

Looks like I'm a few days behind on this--the Mason-Dixon Meteorite was tracked on a surveillance camera! The Baltimore Sun has more:
The big fireball meteor that startled residents in Central Maryland and southern Pennsylvania early Monday morning was captured on a security camera video in York Pa. It's about 18 seconds into the 70-second video. Meteorite hunters hope this will be a first clue to guide them to the spot where surviving bits of the meteor - if there are any - may have landed.
Video isn't super great quality, but definitely worth checking out.

And it looks like a local astronomy buff has created a simulation (click the pick for the video):
Read more about the hunt for the meteorite and the latest details so far...

Props to www.mikesastrophotos.com and the Baltimore Sun.

Mason-Dixon Meteorite Blasts Through Sky, Crashes to Earth

The Baltimore Sun reports on a meteor dubbed the Mason-Dixon Meteor that apparently crashed to Earth near Lancaster County, July 6. An excerpt of some of the reports:
The York Dispatch: In York County, Pa., police officers from Penn Township, Southwestern Regional and Newberry Township reported seeing a flash and hearing a boom around 1:15 a.m. Monday, July 6, according to local 911 centers. Officials in Harford County, Md. also reported seeing a flash and hearing a boom near the Mason-Dixon Line.

Capital Gazette: An Annapolis city police officer reported that she and her partner both saw what she described as a "bright blue light in the sky" just after midnight. It was followed by "a light with a tail, falling from the sky," according to our informant. Annapolis police reported hearing a similar report on Baltimore County police radio.

Gary Moon, reporting to The Sun's News Tips: "I heard and felt a deep earth blast similar to an earthquake, which shook my home in Glen Rock, Pa., early Monday morning. I thought I would hear MUCH more about this one ... nothing."

Deborah Markow, Havre de Grace: "Last night, couldn't sleep, went out on back deck, laid on lounge, eyes closed and then it was like someone pointed a flash light in my eyes it was so bright. I saw another one streak through the sky ... It was one of the most thrilling sights to behold a ball of fire flying through the sky."

Read more...

Ancient Egyptian Stronghold Discovered

A newly discovered Egyptian fortress was discovered near the Suez Canal and El-Manzala Lake, just northeast of the town of Qantara. The outpost dates back 12 centuries before Christ and was constructed out of mud bricks. From MSNBC:
The discovery shouldn't come as a surprise; Tell Dafna was long known to be a strategic outpost against Egypt's enemies. King Ramses II of the 19th Dynasty (1279-1212 B.C.) chose the site to erect a fortress. King Psammetichus I, the first ruler of the 26th Dynasty (664-625 B.C.), later established a garrison of foreign mercenaries to defend the eastern borders of Egypt from invaders.

Dating to the 7th century B.C., the foundations unearthed by the archaeologists most likely belonged to Psammetichus I's fortified garrison town.

Read more...

Photo credit: Supreme Council of Antiquities via MSNBC

Friday, June 26, 2009

Newly Discovered "Megapiranha" May Be Evolutionary Step Between Nice Fish, Evil-er Ones

A newly discovered fossil of a previously unknown species of piranha, dubbed "megapiranha" (scary!) is being examined as the step between modern piranhas and a related, much larger species called pacu. The megapiranha is 3-foot in length (again, scary!) and holds clues in the formation of its teeth. From MSNBC:
Present-day piranhas have a single row of triangular teeth, like the blade on a saw, explained the researchers. Pacu have two rows of square teeth, presumably for crushing fruits and seeds.

"In modern piranhas, the teeth are arranged in a single file," said Wasila Dahdul, a visiting scientist at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in North Carolina. "But in the relatives of piranhas — which tend to be herbivorous fishes — the teeth are in two rows."

The new fossil shows an intermediate pattern: teeth in a zig-zag row. This suggests that the two rows in pacu were compressed to form a single row in piranhas. "It almost looks like the teeth are migrating from the second row into the first row," said John Lundberg, curator at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia and a co-author of a study of the jawbone.

Read more...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Roman Imperial Treasure Found!

Archeologists in Naples, Italy have uncovered a treasure trove of Roman antiquity, including a marble bust of Emperor Titus. From MSNBC:
The long-term digging effort in Rione Terra, a cliff in the port town of Pozzuoli, has yielded remains of 12 ancient statues, columns, and fragments bearing inscriptions from what appear to be monuments from the Republican and Imperial periods of ancient Roman history.

Among the most striking finds was the marble head of Emperor Titus, who ruled at the time of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. and who was celebrated throughout antiquity for providing generous financial assistance to survivors of the eruption. Bearing a crown of laurel leaves, the emperor's head was found in an ancient water tunnel.

Read more....

Props to MSNBC for the photo via Soprintendenza speciale per i beni archeologici di Napoli e Pompe

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Chinese Cat Grows Wings!

This would definitely fall under an X-File type of story--a cat in China has apparently grown "wing-like" appendages due to a genetic malformation. From MSNBC:
While some think the bony limbs may be a mutation of some kind — or even a Siamese twin growing inside the cat — others speculate it's a genetic change perhaps caused by chemicals ingested by the kitty's mother while she was pregnant.
Did the mention of a twin inside the cat make you gag a little bit? You're not alone. Even more disturbing is the fact that this is nothing new. Click this pic from Sodahead for more weirdness:

No word on how much Red Bull these cats may have ingested.

Read more...

Props: Photos borrowed from MSNBC and Sodahead.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Missing Link (to Lemurs?) Found!

Well, it appears the true missing link has been discovered--in Germany of all places. This is a surprise to be sure since most pre-homosapien fossils are found in North or East Africa. No matter, the real surprise is perhaps that we're more related to lemurs than we thought, which if you weren't aware, only hail from one place on Earth--Madagascar.

From National Geographic

The fossil, he says, bridges the evolutionary split between higher primates such as monkeys, apes, and humans and their more distant relatives such as lemurs.

"This is the first link to all humans," Hurum, of the Natural History Museum in Oslo, Norway, said in a statement. Ida represents "the closest thing we can get to a direct ancestor."

Ida, properly known as Darwinius masillae, has a unique anatomy. The lemur-like skeleton features primate-like characteristics, including grasping hands, opposable thumbs, clawless digits with nails, and relatively short limbs.

"This specimen looks like a really early fossil monkey that belongs to the group that includes us," said Brian Richmond, a biological anthropologist at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., who was not involved in the study.

Read more...

Ida has her own website too.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Galactus, is that you?

More on the giant space blob that seems to be a supernova from the early days of the universe.

From CNN:

The star which exploded was 30 to 100 times larger than our own sun, and when it died, it gave off "about million times the amount of energy the sun will release in its entire lifetime," Berger told CNN by phone from Harvard University, where he is an assistant professor of astronomy.

Its death throes produced so much energy that "momentarily, we can essentially see it anywhere in the universe," Berger said. The object, known as GRB 090423, is about 200 million years older than the previous record-holder for oldest object ever seen.
Full story...
Reports have indicated a tiny silver man on a surfboard may have preceded the explosion. Looks like Big G may have had himself a buffet!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Indeciperable, Ancient Language Cracked by Artificial Intelligence

It seems that Hal and Skynet have teamed up to unlock a 4,000-year-old mystery by deciphering symbols long thought to be just "decorative". As it turns out, the elaborate pictograms from the Indus Valley were actually an ancient language.

Wired has the story:
An ancient script that's defied generations of archaeologists has yielded some of its secrets to artificially intelligent computers. Computational analysis of symbols used 4,000 years ago by a long-lost Indus Valley civilization suggests they represent a spoken language. Some frustrated linguists thought the symbols were merely pretty pictures.

"The underlying grammatical structure seems similar to what's found in many languages," said University of Washington computer scientist Rajesh Rao.

The Indus script, used between 2,600 and 1,900 B.C. in what is now eastern Pakistan and northwest India, belonged to a civilization as sophisticated as its Mesopotamian and Egyptian contemporaries. However, it left fewer linguistic remains. Archaeologists have uncovered about 1,500 unique inscriptions from fragments of pottery, tablets and seals. The longest inscription is just 27 signs long.
Fascinating! No word on when the supercomputers will turn against us. Read more...

Props: Pic borrowed from Wired.com

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mysterious Blob Found in Universe's Past!

I'm not sure what to make of this article, since most of the scientists seem to be unable to make anything of it either. So here's MSNBC's best shot at explaining:
A strange giant space “blob” spotted when the universe was relatively young has got astronomers puzzled.Using space and ground telescopes, astronomers looked back to when the universe was only 800 million years old and found something that was out of proportion and out of time. It was gaseous, big, and emitted a certain type of radiation, said study lead author Masami Ouchi, an astronomer at the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, Calif.

Scientists don’t even know what to call it. So they just called it a radiation-emitting “blob.” They used that horror-film staple 34 times in their peer-reviewed study, which will be published in next month’s edition of the Astrophysical Journal. More formally, they named it Himiko, after a legendary ancient Japanese queen.

Read me...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Four New Egyptian Temples Discovered!

Looks like four new temples have been uncovered near the Sinai region that may have been used to impress foreign dignitaries in ancient Egypt.

From the Star Tribune:
Archaeologists exploring an old military road in the Sinai have unearthed four new temples amidst the 3,000-year-old remains of an ancient fortified city that could have been used to impress foreign delegations visiting Egypt, antiquities authorities announced Tuesday.

Among the discoveries was the largest mud brick temple found in the Sinai with an area of 70 by 80 meters (77 by 87 yards) and fortified with mud walls 3 meters (10 feet) thick, said Zahi Hawass, chief of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Read more...

Astronaut Confesses: We're Not Alone

Well duh! No really, c'mon, does anyone think we're really the only ones in the universe? Likely not, but just in case you were a UFO conspiracy nut, now you've got reason tell everyone you were right.

Former Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell has gone on the record (again, technically this is his second admission) about the actual existence of extra-terrestrials and their vacation plans here on Earth. He says he has said he's witnessed UFOs.

From CNN:
Mitchell, who was part of the 1971 Apollo 14 moon mission, asserted Monday that extraterrestrial life exists, and that the truth is being concealed by the U.S. and other governments.

He delivered his remarks during an appearance at the National Press Club following the conclusion of the fifth annual X-Conference, a meeting of UFO activists and researchers studying the possibility of alien life forms.

Mankind has long wondered if we're "alone in the universe. [But] only in our period do we really have evidence. No, we're not alone," Mitchell said.

"Our destiny, in my opinion, and we might as well get started with it, is [to] become a part of the planetary community. ... We should be ready to reach out beyond our planet and beyond our solar system to find out what is really going on out there."

For the full article....

Now, whether you believe him or not, is entirely up to you. As for myself? Well, let me just tell you a brief story. When I was in college I worked for the student organization that put on campus events. I did the A/V set up (yes, I'm an audio/video geek) anytime we had a speaker come to give a presentation in the student union. One of my close friends was the president of the student org that brought presenters, talent, etc. to the school to speak--so I often met the "celebrities" before or after the events.

One of these speakers happened to be Ken Mattingly, another Apollo mission astronaut. You might remember in the film Apollo 13, Gary Sinise's character--the guy who was grounded and had to help get them home by training in the simulator. Yeah, he had a cool car too. That's who Sinise was playing.

Anyway, he came to talk about the Apollo mission and his experiences aboard the Space Shuttle. Afterwards he answered audience questions. Now, this was sort of sad because there wasn't a huge turn out, maybe 50 people or so. Inevitably, someone asked him about "aliens" and "have you ever seen a UFO". My buddy, the organizer guy, froze with fear. He was a NASA freak himself, he went to space camp, he knew all sorts of Apollo lore. He respected the astronauts like they were gods. I could see that he was mortified by someone asking this question.

To his credit, Admiral Mattingly didn't flinch, perspire, or even wiggle an eyebrow. He answered straight out. "Yes." He proceeded to explain that in various missions he spent in space he--as well as other astronauts--witnessed strange objects. Objects that moved in deliberate trajectories. He also specifically denied that it could have been space junk or some other phenomenon. The admiral was convinced it was something intelligent and non-man made.

Afterwards, my buddy and I joked around with Mattingly. He graciously signed my copy of the Apollo 13 soundtrack on CD (the liner notes). He was able to switch gears for a moment and even made a joke about being a fan of Gary Sinise. But if we were waiting for the punchline it never came. In truth, we were still stunned by his comments. As much as I thought this guy was the real deal--I began to think he'd spent too much time in space. It wasn't until about 3 years later that I began to doubt that assertion.

After college, I managed, of all things, a cable access station. We didn't have much programming and I was sick of putting crappy imported (i.e., tapes mailed to the station) shows on the air. Somehow I manage to get on a mailing list for a couple of PR agencies that sent out screener tapes for movies. Previews really. I'd get free passes and swag. I attempted to turn this material into a film review show. (That's another story for another time.)

The important part of this story is that I was invited to come to an HBO screening of "From the Earth to the Moon" a mini-series produced by Tom Hanks and based on the book "A Man on the Moon" by Andrew Chaikin. I was all excited, being a NASA nut and brought our craptastic video camera and mic set up to seek an interview with the author. Thinking it would be impossible to get a one-on-one, I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself the only one with a video camera. Mr. Chaikin agreed to an interview and was very genuine and pleasant. He was also extremely good at his job.

See, in order to research his book he slogged through mountains of archives, film footage, and historical records. He also went astronaut hunting. If you read his book--and what he told me then--was that astronauts by nature are loners and several of those from the Apollo era aren't keen to do interviews anymore. So he had his work cut out for him. Some of them were near impossible to speak to. Which is where Admiral Mattingly comes back into our story, because he was notorious for avoiding interviews.

Chaikin on the other hand was very personable and easy to interview and happy to talk about his research and tracking down Apollo personnel. Afterward, while I was putting the equipment away, I decided to tell him my little ghost story from my college days--about how a retired astronaut had us all spooked about aliens.

Mr. Chaikin got a look of surprise across his face. He said, that it was amazing that Mattingly was doing appearances and even more amazing that he was so open about his supposed experiences. Chaikin told me that Mattingly must have been serious about what he was saying--because the Admiral doesn't kid.

Since that conversation, some 11 years ago, I have thought long and hard about what I learned from these two men. One was/is literally one the most highly trained individuals on the planet. A military man, a pilot with reserves of patience and exceptional powers of lucidity that he's tempered through years of endurance training in extreme conditions.

The other was a meticulous researcher and observer. The descriptions of the men and women he interviewed in his book are surprisingly crisp in detail and revealing in character. To date, no other book has emerged as well-researched in due diligence and balanced with candor and astute recognition of the psychology of its subjects.

When I think of these two individuals that I met and shook their hands, I see no intent to mislead. I can't think of any reason why a principled man such as Mattingly would blurt out something so controversial without he, himself believing it. And I can't think of a reason to doubt Chaikin on his professional assessment of Mattingly's personal nature and character. So here, in my brain, are these experiences. And late last fall Mitchell comes into the picture with his story about seeing non-terrestrial craft while he's in space.

Now that you've heard my story, what would your take be were you in my positioin? I think you can already guess mine.



P.S. For the record, the Admiral said he never had a cool car like Sinise did in the movie...but he wished he did!

New Antarctic Creatures Discovered

Sea monsters, sea "squirts," and translucent octopi oh my! Yes, Antarctica truly is the final frontier on this small blue-green world. I've long wondered what lies beneath the ice that covers the forgotten continent. Well below the waves, an iridescent octopus flutters in the frigid depths:


Live Science has a nice in-depth article....

Captains Cousteau and Nemo would be proud!

Another City of the Dead

This one lies in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. Complete with mummies (of course!). It's not a new discovery--this is a travel article. What better way to spend your next holiday or vacation by digging up old friends! CNN's Paul Sussman gives a great first-person account of his own expedition.

FTA:

A few years back, when I was working as part of an archaeological mission in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, I unearthed a slab of white limestone covered in ancient paint smears. More of that later. First, however, I should tell you about the 3,000 year-old gold jewelry.

I found the jewelry in a tomb known as KV56 (all burials in the Valley of the Kings are designated with a KV number, the most famous being KV62 -- Tutankhamun).

...and...
Among other objects, we pulled out a series of lotus-shaped gold necklace pendants, a miniature beaten-gold head of the goddess Hathor and a rectangular gold pectoral (chest-plate) link stamped with the cartouche, or royal name, of the pharaoh Seti ll (Davis had found 13 similar links which can now be viewed in the Cairo Museum). Exquisitely worked and perfectly preserved, these objects were the first, and to date only items of jewelry to have been found in the Valley since Howard Carter unearthed Tutankhamun in 1922.
Read more...

Necropolis Unearthed!

This is a page right out of the Mummy. A veritable "city of the dead" was discovered recently. From the Boston Globe:

ROME - Workers renovating a rugby stadium have uncovered a vast complex of tombs beneath Rome that mimic the houses, blocks and streets of a real city, officials said yesterday as they unveiled a series of new finds here.

Culture Ministry officials said that medieval pottery shards in the city of the dead, or necropolis, show the area may have been inhabited by the living during the Dark Ages after being used for centuries for burials during the Roman period.

and...

Archeologists restoring the imperial residences on the Palatine Hill, the heart of ancient Rome, believe they have discovered the underground passageway in which the despotic Emperor Caligula was murdered by his own guards.

The hill, which is honeycombed with ruins of palaces and villas, has also yielded frescoes and black-and-white mosaics in the first century BC home of a patrician, the ministry said in a statement.

Read more...

BBC has their take...

"Dragons" Munch on Indonesian Fisherman

This story actually terrifies me. Lizards are weird and repulsive right? Well imagine a big one-- longer than you are tall--chasing you down and munching on you until you bleed to death. Oh, and it carries deadly venom [not bacteria]* in it's saliva...

So at the very least, you'll be hurting big time, for a long time to come....if you survive. That poor guy ended up bleeding to death when Komodo Dragons tried to make a meal of him.

Yikes.

/props to CNN.


*Updated on 5-20-09, per new findings that indicate komodo's use venom not bacteria in their saliva as previously thought.

Hobbits Discovered!

No, not the cute, cuddly, furry-footed, Elijah Wood variety. This kind:

...and that's supposedly a female. Well an artist's conception anyway. Scary, huh? I'm not sure that's even the "hobbit" they found, but it's definitely post-worthy material. It's those eyes (shudders).

Anyway, you've probably heard about this already from a few years back. But that one wasn't the real deal. This time, scientists are confident about their findings of a race of 'little people'.

FTA on MSNBC:
In an astonishing discovery that could rewrite the history of human evolution, scientists say they have found the skeleton of a new human species, a dwarf, marooned for eons in a tropical Lost World while modern humans rapidly colonized the rest of the planet.

The finding on a remote Indonesian island has stunned anthropologists like no other in recent memory. It is a fundamentally new creature that bears more of a resemblance to fictional, barefooted hobbits than modern humans.

Yet biologically speaking, it may have been closely related to us and perhaps even shared its caves with our ancestors.

Read more...

Nat Geo has more as well...

Discover Magazine has even more...

4,000 Year-old Temple Discovered....

Perhaps one of the oldest known religious sites was discovered recently--a temple dating back to antiquity.

From the MSNBC article:
NICOSIA, Cyprus - An Italian archaeologist claimed Friday to have discovered Cyprus' oldest religious site, which she said echoes descriptions in the Bible of temples in ancient Palestine.

Maria Rosaria Belgiorno said the 4,000-year-old triangular temple predates any other found on the east Mediterranean island by a millennium.

Read more...




Playing catch up....

Well I've had this idea to do this blog for a while. And while I'm sure it's not a new or even original thought, I have always considered it to be a nice way to catalog great source material for stories, scripts, etc. I think I held off because I couldn't really picture how it would flow. But tonight I finally decided to just start--and sometimes that's what's needed. That and a good name for the blog, which I'm still not sure about, but at least I finally picked one. Some of the stories for a while here will seem old, and that's because I haven't jumped on this when I started seeing stories. So for a while at least, you'll see some older articles. If I get the opportunity, I'll try to sprinkle in some newer finds.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Crossing the Threshold...

Ever read a news story and thought that it sounded like a plot from a movie? Or seen a story on a newly discovered creature or scientific discovery and imagined what it would be like in a story or game? Well this blog is all about those "truth is stranger than fiction" aspects of our world that could actually become seeds in a growing imaginary saga. Think of this as part X-files, part Indiana Jones, part DaVinci Code. Or just think of it as a place to get new ideas for that project your working on.

So where does this goofy title come from? In Greek mythology, the hero Theseus was cast into a mysterious underground labyrinth and stalked by the half man-half bull minotaur. He used his wits to surprise and slay the beast, but he still had to escape the treacherous maze. He took with him no torch or lantern to light the way in the darkness below. He had only a spool of thread, which he unfurled as he entered the maze so he could find his way back out by touch alone. The thread was his anchor to the outside world and his way home. Without it, his adventure would have come to an untimely end forever trapped in the twists and turn of the labyrinth. And without the notion of it in his story, his his quest might not have had captivated generations of adventure seekers since.

So take note: this is your gate to a world of adventure that lies around every corner of the globe. Like the thread in the maze, you can pick up clues that might serve to inspire you as you weave your own weird, mystifying, and fantastic tales. Get ready to follow the THREADS OF ADVENTURE!