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Wicked Blue

Wicked Blue's Journal
Wicked Blue's Journal
July 26, 2023

Seven generations of a prehistoric family mapped with ancient DNA

Ewen Callaway

In the mid-2000s, archaeologists excavating a burial site in France uncovered a 6,500-year-old mystery. Among the remains of more than 120 individuals, one grave stood out. It contained a nearly complete female skeleton alongside a few assorted bones that looked like they had been dug up and moved from another grave.

Ancient DNA from the enigmatic relocated remains now shows that they belonged to the male ancestor of dozens of the other people buried nearby. This insight comes from a study that used ancient genomics to build the largest-ever genealogy of a prehistoric family, providing a snapshot of life in an early farming community. The study was published on 26 July in Nature.

Western Europe is littered with monuments that served as burying grounds for high-status individuals from a period, roughly 7,000 to 4,000 years ago, called the Neolithic. The dozens of burials at Gurgy ‘Les Noisats’, located about 150 kilometres southeast of Paris, lack any signs of such monuments or rich grave goods, indicating that they might have belonged to commoners, says study co-author Wolfgang Haak, an archaeogeneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

His team analysed the genomes of 94 of the 128 individuals recovered from the site, and used the data to determine how they were related to one another. The researchers expected some individuals to be related, based on the composition of other Neolithic sites.


July 26, 2023

Quartz countertops linked to deadly lung disease in workers who fabricate the material

NBC News
July 25, 2023, 1:23 PM EDT
By Aria Bendix

Quartz countertops have skyrocketed in popularity over the last decade, but new research suggests the material poses a deadly health risk to the workers who make it.

A study published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine identified 52 cases of an irreversible, potentially life-threatening lung disease among workers in California who fabricate quartz slabs. Ten of those workers died, and three received lung transplants.

Although quartz is a naturally occurring mineral, the version found in homes is an artificial mixture of silica — a chemical compound — and other materials including resins and dyes. Breathing in large amounts of silica dust can cause inflammation or scarring, also called fibrosis, in the lungs.

This can lead to silicosis, a disease that results in permanent lung damage and sometimes death due to respiratory failure. Patients may start off with a cough or shortness of breath, then eventually require oxygen therapy or a lung transplant.


July 22, 2023

2,000-year-old curry: scientists discover evidence of ancient recipe in south-east Asia

Curry may have been introduced to south-east Asia 2,000 years ago, suggest scientists who have unearthed the earliest known evidence of the dish’s preparation in the region.

Analysing plant remains from 12 ancient stone grinding tools found in Óc Eo, southern Vietnam, researchers discovered traces of rice and turmeric, ginger, fingerroot, sand ginger, galangal, clove, nutmeg and cinnamon.

“We discovered a wide variety of spices that had travelled from different locations to Óc Eo,” said Dr Hsiao-chun Hung of the Australian National University, who led the excavation and research. “All of these spices reached Vietnam 2,000 years ago, contributing to the creation of delightful dishes that must have been enjoyed by the people of that time.”

The researchers were “rather surprised” to discover that nutmeg seeds they had excavated at the site were still aromatic two millennia later.


July 20, 2023

your weirdness refill

July 20, 2023

Influential activist Leonard Leo helped fund media campaign lionizing Clarence Thomas

Source: Washington Post

The 25th anniversary of Clarence Thomas’s confirmation to the Supreme Court was approaching — a moment that would draw attention to his accomplishments on the bench but also to the misconduct claims that had nearly derailed his rise. Among the wave of retrospective accounts set to come out that year, 2016, was a star-studded HBO film dramatically recounting Anita Hill’s sexual harassment allegations.

That spring, a flurry of opinion articles defending Thomas and railing against the film appeared in news outlets, penned by a D.C. lawyer who had worked in the George H.W. Bush White House during the confirmation. Websites celebrating Thomas’s career — and attacking his onetime accuser — popped up. And on Twitter, a new account using the name “Justice Thomas Fan Account” began serving up flattering commentary.

“Justice Thomas: The most open & personable of Justices, intimate in sharing his feelings, easily moved to laughter,” read one early tweet on the account.

It was not apparent at the time, but the rush of favorable content was part of a coordinated and sophisticated public relations campaign to defend and celebrate Thomas, according to a Washington Post examination of public and internal records and interviews with people familiar with the effort. The campaign would stretch on for years and include the creation and promotion of a laudatory film about Thomas, advertising to boost positive content about him during internet searches and publication of a book about his life. It was financed with at least $1.8 million from conservative nonprofit groups steered by the judicial activist Leonard Leo, the examination found.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/2023/07/20/leonard-leo-clarence-thomas-paoletta/

The article continues to say Leo is an executive with the Federalist Society.
July 13, 2023

How ancient 'skywells' are keeping Chinese homes cool

Ru Ling loves spending time in skywells. To her, these courtyards of old Chinese houses are the perfect place to be in on a hot and humid day.

"They are airy, cool and well-shaded," says 40-year-old Ru.

From 2014 to 2021, Ru lived in a century-old timber-framed home in the village of Guanglu in eastern China's Anhui province. She moved there for a change of life after living and working in air-conditioned buildings for many years.


Ru says that the house's skywell helped create this cooling effect. And she's not alone in extolling the benefits of skywells in hot weather. Studies have found that the temperatures inside some of the skywells in southern China are significantly lower than the outside – by up to 4.3C.


July 13, 2023

Coronal rain has been seen splashing on the sun

By Lisa Grossman
July 12, 2023 at 9:00 am

Plasma rain in the sun’s atmosphere makes a splash when it lands. New observations from the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter have revealed previously unseen details of how this coronal rain falls, including bright fireball effects and sudden upward surges in plasma.

“These are the highest resolution images we have ever obtained from the solar corona,” says solar physicist Patrick Antolin of Northumbria University in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. He presented the results at the National Astronomy Meeting in Cardiff, Wales, the week of July 3 and in a paper to be published in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

The corona is the sun’s wispy upper atmosphere, the sizzling tangle of plasma and magnetism that is visible during a total eclipse (SN: 6/30/19). When clumps of scorching-hot plasma in the corona suddenly cool, they condense and fall toward the solar surface, just like water droplets in Earth’s atmosphere. This coronal rain has been observed before, but details of its formation and falling were fuzzy (SN: 5/24/18).

The 2020 launch of Solar Orbiter promised to change that (SN: 2/9/20). The probe is making passes over the sun’s unexplored polar regions, carrying high resolution cameras and other instruments to investigate solar mysteries. In late March 2022, Solar Orbiter made its closest approach to the sun to date, swooping within 49 million kilometers of our star — about a third of the distance between the sun and Earth.


July 12, 2023

Wednesday weirdness

You deserve a laugh break today

July 12, 2023

Giant sloth pendants suggest people arrived in the Americas thousands of years earlier than thought

July 12, 2023, 6:38 AM EDT / Source: Associated Press
By Associated Press

New research suggests humans lived in South America at the same time as now extinct giant sloths, bolstering evidence that people arrived in the Americas earlier than once thought.

Scientists analyzed triangular and teardrop-shaped pendants made of bony material from the sloths. They concluded that the carved and polished shapes and drilled holes were the work of deliberate craftsmanship.Dating of the ornaments and sediment at the Brazil site where they were found point to an age of 25,000 to 27,000 years ago, the researchers reported. That’s several thousand years before some earlier theories had suggested the first people arrived in the Americas, after migrating out from Africa and then Eurasia.

“We now have good evidence — together with other sites from South and North America — that we have to rethink our ideas about the migration of humans to the Americas,” said Mirian Liza Alves Forancelli Pacheco, a study co-author and archaeologist at the Federal University of Sao Carlos in Brazil.


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