Monday, June 28, 2010

Egyptian gods ever present in 40+ tombs with mummies

 Image: Supreme Council of Antiquities / Associated Press via MSNBC

Scenes of Horus, Hathor, Khnum and Amun, decorated as many as 57 ornately carved sarcophagi found, recently unearthed in Egypt. The tombs date back as far as 2750 B.C. and give researchers a glimpse into the religious rites of ancient Egyptians. From MSNBC:
Egypt's archaeology chief, Zahi Hawass, said the mummies dating to the 18th Dynasty are covered in linen decorated with religious texts from the Book of the Dead and scenes featuring ancient Egyptian deities. Abdel Rahman El-Aydi, head of the archaeological mission that made the discovery, said some of the tombs are decorated with religious texts that ancient Egyptians believed would help the deceased to cross through the underworld. El-Aydi said one of the oldest tombs is almost completely intact, with all of its funerary equipment and a wooden sarcophagus containing a mummy wrapped in linen.
...a little more detail from ABC News, plus a gallery of photos from, like the one below. Each article had the total number of tombs between 43 and 57, it wasn't exactly clear why there was a discrepancy (just FYI).

 Image: Supreme Council of Antiquities via Heritage-Key

MSNBC's story...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Massive flash floods in Canada made for Dinopocalypse

Swim little dinos! Swim for your lives! Image: Michael Skrepnick / Royal Tyrrell Museum via MSNBC.

Fact: The Canadian province of Alberta is lousy with dinosaur fossils. Like, so many dino bones that it's embarrassing. This perplexes paleontologists.

At least it did until now. Looks like researchers have found the reason for the massive centrasaur graveyard in Western Canadia--a mega storm comparable to our hurricanes wiped them out in one fell swoop. They lived in what was once a large coastal area, which are now fossil beds. The beasts were roughly cattle-sized and when the storm came in, it brought massive flooding and the poor guys couldn't treat water. As if taking an asteroid the bread basket wasn't bad enough! From MSNBC:

Coastal floodplains such as those seen in modern Bangladesh can cover vast areas, with flooding killing hundreds of thousands of livestock, not to mention the human tragedies that occur. "Because of their size and the scale of the flooding, dinosaurs could not escape the coastal floodwaters and would have been killed in large numbers," Eberth explained. "In contrast, fish, small reptiles, mammals, and birds may have been able to escape such seasonal catastrophes by retreating to quiet water areas, the safety of trees and burrows, or simply by flying away."

So what can we take away from this? Take swimming lessons? Not sure. But the picture is a heartbreaker, isn't it?

The full story...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Damn Dirty Murdering Apes!

"We'll use banana peels. Make it look like an accident."

Looks like we've been living on the Planet of the Apes all along--chimpanzees are no better than their human cousins when it comes to whacking a competitor for more territory. Actual killing are rare, as researchers counted 21 in decade, but their studies in Ngogo, Kibale National Park in Uganda yielded some fascinating resutls. From MSNBC:
After some of these neighboring competitors were dispatched with, the researchers observed the Ngogo chimpanzees beginning to use a large portion of new territory to the northeast of their previous range. That piece of evidence allowed the researchers to link the murders with a motive – that of gaining new ground. 
Though well-organized, chimps aren't know for their individual bravery...
"Patrollers are quiet and move with stealth," Mitani said. "They pause frequently to scan the environment as they search for other chimpanzees. Attacks are typically made only when patrolling chimpanzees have overwhelming numerical superiority over their adversaries."
If they re-boot PotA they should consider casting James Gandolfini as Cornelius. Just sayin'.

Full story.

Another little known primate fact:
Orangutans are the escape artists of the primate family. Seriously.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Funky fungus puts hair on your chest

Don't blame me--blame the Associated Press for this awful pic, via IO9
Or at least that's what grown ups used to say to me to get me eat things that looked repulsive. I'm not sure why they thought that would work. All I know is there's nothing anyone could say to get me to eat this stuff. It's just about exactly what zombie brains would look like if I had to imagine them without the benefit of this horrifying photo.

According to a new study (or a really disgusting practical joke) the stuff is called "corn smut" (classy!) and contains lots of nutrients for making your bones healthy and your skin young and fresh. Sounds like a pact with the devil you say? Irony is way ahead of you my friends--it's also known as (gulp!) DEVIL'S CORN!

IO9 has the dirt on the fungi. Or something.
In Mexico, the fungus is called huitlacoche, and it's already considered a delicacy. But U.S. farmers, and the U.S. government, have spent millions of dollars to eradicate the blight and develop "smut-resistant strains" of corn.
It also has...
....beta-glucens, a soluble fiber that helps you cut your cholesterol. So it's actually better for you, and could turn out to be more valuable on the market, than the corn it "ruins."
Yeah, don't be surprised if it takes a while to catch on. Like never!
A choice quote from the Steve Don't Eat It! series of posts on The Sneeze:
Don't worry, I checked the ingredients before I tasted it. "Smoker's lung" was not on there. Before I even got the whole can open, I detected a vague aroma of sweet corn, along with what I can only describe as a deep musky funk. Put 'em together and it smells like corn that forgot to wipe.
Wow. Be sure to check out his site for even more repugnant photos and all the gory details. Bon Appetite!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Space Junk Threatens to Smash Us to Bits!

Image: space junk that fell to Earth on a farm in Australia in 2008. Ouch! Via: Sydney Morning Herald
Well judging by what the news has to say, there's plenty of actual space junk to keep me inspired for many more Random Space Finds posts. NASA even set up an office and full-time junk tracker to keep an eye on all that detrius. Wired has an excellent feature story on the pollution of space--at least that space immediately around our planet and the man charged with tracking it all, Donald Kessler. He wrote a paper clinching the argument for keeping one eye on the sky that painted a "nightmare scenario". Here's some choice quotes:
Spent satellites and other space trash would accumulate until crashes became inevitable. Colliding objects would shatter into countless equally dangerous fragments, setting off a chain reaction of additional crashes. “The result would be an exponential increase in the number of objects with time,” he wrote, “creating a belt of debris around the Earth.”

At age 38, Kessler had found his calling. Not that his bosses had encouraged him to look into the issue—”they didn’t like what I was finding,” he recalls. But after the paper came out, NASA set up the Orbital Debris Program Office to study the problem and put Kessler in charge. He spent the rest of his career tracking cosmic crap and forming alliances with counterparts in other nations in an effort to slow its proliferation. His description of a runaway cascade of collisions—which he predicted would happen in 30 to 40 years—became known as the Kessler syndrome.

Image: actual map of space junk orbiting our Pig Pen-like planet, via 

Kessler is now in his 70s and he was of course proven frighteningly correct. And just in case you were skeptical about how much space crap is floating around up there:
The operations center moved quickly to double its computer capacity. By early 2010, it was keeping a close eye on 1,000 active satellites, 3,700 inactive satellites and rocket pieces, and another 15,300 objects the size of a fist or larger—a level of awareness that revealed a much higher daily average of 75 possible collisions. And that’s ignoring the danger posed by the estimated half-million smaller pieces of debris the size of a marble or larger. Too small to track from the ground, each of those tiny projectiles is capable of severely damaging a satellite.
There's even a testing range in White Sands, NM that tests how dangerous our leftovers in the black can be:
...technicians operate a cannon that uses gunpowder and pressurized hydrogen to fire plastic slugs at shields and panels. Just like real space junk, the projectiles can approach speeds of 5 miles per second. [Emphasis mine, as if it need it!]
Duck and cover folks!