Category Archives: Science

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove and The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

Moving along:  It seems beer has been with us for a lot longer than many folks suspected.  Excerpt:

A new study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports suggests beer brewing practices existed in the Eastern Mediterranean over five millennia before the earliest known evidence, discovered in northern China. In an archaeological collaboration project between Stanford University in the United States, and University of Haifa, Israel, archeologists analyzed three stone mortars from a 13,000-year old Natufian burial cave site in Israel. Their analysis confirmed that these mortars were used for brewing of wheat/barley, as well as for food storage.

“Alcohol making and food storage were among the major technological innovations that eventually led to the development of civilizations in the world, and archaeological science is a powerful means to help reveal their origins and decode their contents,” said Li Liu, PhD, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Stanford University, USA. “We are excited to have the opportunity to present our findings, which shed new light on a deeper history of human society.”

The earliest archaeological evidence for cereal-based beer brewing even before the advent of agriculture comes from the Natufians, semi-sedentary, foraging people, living in the Eastern Mediterranean between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic periods, following the last Ice Age. The Natufians at Raqefet Cave collected locally available plants, stored malted seeds, and made beer as a part of their rituals.

The only ritual I generally use beer for is the normal Friday night beer-and-pizza blowing off steam that is part of the normal routine at the Casa del Animal, wherever that Casa happens to be at the moment.

But it’s interesting to see how far back that highly enjoyable mug o’ suds goes.  One suspects that today’s aficionados would have a hard time recognizing what those long-ago folks called beer, but that doesn’t mean it might not be enjoyable.

And, of course, as with other alcoholic beverages (like wine, another adult beverage with a long history), in those long-ago times many folks quaffed beer because it was safe to drink.  That couldn’t always be said for the water.

Hell, it can’t be said for the water in plenty of places now.  Were I for some unknown reason having a meal today in, say, Flint, Michigan, I think I’d rather have some of Alley-Oop’s beer than the local water.

So, here’s to the suds!  May they long be with us.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

Ever click through on a story because the wording of the link made you curious, then were presented with a photo that made you go NO NO NO NO KILL IT KILL IT WITH FIRE?

Well, have a look here.  Excerpt:

While recovering in hospital after a serious car accident, a 55-year-old woman from Missouri began to complain of nausea and a bad taste in her mouth. A subsequent oral examination revealed an alarming sight—the patient’s tongue had turned black and was covered in hair-like structures. But while this rare condition looks serious, it’s actually harmless.

A new case report published today in the New England Journal of Medicine chronicles a rare case of black hairy tongue, a condition otherwise known as lingua villosa nigra.

After a severe injury in which both of her legs were crushed, an unnamed woman was sent to hospital, according to the case study. While recuperating, an infection developed in one of her injuries. The medical team put her on an antibiotic regimen consisting of meropenem, which she received intravenously, and minocycline, which was administered orally.

A week later, the patient’s tongue began to take on a brownish-black hue. She complained of feeling nauseous, and said she had a bad taste in her mouth. The patient’s medical team diagnosed her as having black hairy tongue, with a reaction to the minocycline being the likely cause.

Yes, there are photos.

Any halfway competent stand-up comic could probably talk for fifteen minutes on this topic, but I confess to being a bit at a loss for words.  I mean – who knew that “black hairy tongue” was even a thing?

Yesterday’s post showed us an article which described how some syndromes can turn folks all kind of interesting hues, and it’s well known that in times past all manners of diseases and maladies could cause many kinds of disfigurements.  Nowadays we don’t see so much of that, so perhaps we aren’t as inured as we once were…

…Because black hairy tongue?  Eww.  Just…  Eww.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

One of the most successful human species to ever walk the planet, longevity-wise, was Homo erectus; they were around for about a million and a half years, with almost no changes in their physical form or toolkit.  And, it may have been that failure to change that resulted in their extinction.  Excerpt:

New archaeological research from The Australian National University (ANU) has found that Homo erectus, an extinct species of primitive humans, went extinct in part because they were ‘lazy’.

An archaeological excavation of ancient human populations in the Arabian Peninsula during the Early Stone Age, found that Homo erectus used ‘least-effort strategies’ for making and collecting resources.

This ‘laziness’ paired with an inability to adapt to a changing climate likely played a role in the species going extinct, according to lead researcher Dr. Ceri Shipton of the ANU School of Culture, History and Language.

“They really don’t seem to have been pushing themselves,” Dr. Shipton said.

“I don’t get the sense they were explorers looking over the horizon. They didn’t have that same sense of wonder that we have.”

Dr. Shipton said this was evident in the way the species made their and collected resources.

“To make their stone tools they would use whatever rocks they could find lying around their camp, which were mostly of comparatively low quality to what later stone tool makers used,” he said.

“At the site we looked at there was a big rocky outcrop of quality stone just a short distance away up a small hill.

“But rather than walk up the hill they would just use whatever bits had rolled down and were lying at the bottom.

“When we looked at the rocky outcrop there were no signs of any activity, no artefacts and no quarrying of the stone.

“They knew it was there, but because they had enough adequate resources they seem to have thought, ‘why bother?'”.

A more adaptable human.

This is in contrast to the stone tool makers of later periods, including early Homo sapiens and Neanderthals, who were climbing mountains to find good quality and transporting it over long distances.

Here’s the catch; it’s not really a good idea to look at primitive humans like H. erectus and evaluate their behavior by our standards.  Most paleoanthropologists agree, due to analysis of skulls and brain cases, that erectus lacked much, if any, capacity for analytical or symbolic reasoning.  As noted, they were around for a million and half years with no real changes to their tool kit; it’s presumed that they made their one real tool, a simple hand-axe, much like a bird builds a nest.  They couldn’t change how they made their basic tool any more than a bird can decide to put a roof on its nest.  Their brains just didn’t work like that.

So, “laziness” isn’t really the term to use here.  H. erectus‘s lack was one of capacity, not motivation.

Rule Five Field-Dressing Whales Friday

On my last foray in Japan, I was able to partake in one of the Sendai area’s culinary specialties – whale.  Now I didn’t have to harvest and process the whale myself, and while eating whale was on my Japan bucket list, I have no interest in obtaining whale meat for myself.

However, I have had occasion over the last forty-odd years to field-dress a bunch of big-game critters, from javelina and antelope to elk.  It’s a messy process.  So, imagine doing the same with a whale.  Ugh.  Excerpt:

“First, we opened the whale to expose the lungs, intestines, and liver,” (marine biologist Aymara) Zegers explains. Fluids gushed from the incisions, forced out by the immense weight of overlying flesh. The team sampled the fluids, as well as tissues and stomach contents. “These can help determine the possible cause of death, for example as a result of heavy metals or microplastics or red tide organisms,” says Zegers.

The team also took skin for DNA testing and examined the whale’s ovaries. Although the ovaries were small, another indication that the whale was not yet fully mature, she was starting to ovulate—a sign that the young whale was moving into her reproductive phase and therefore of generally good health.

Now, with the necropsy complete, the defleshing team can get to work. Whale strandings are unpredictable events that cannot be programmed into schedules or budgets. Most of the workers are friends of the museum crew, volunteering time and muscle to this stinkiest of tasks in exchange for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The museum does not have access to flensing knives, the best tools for the job, so instead the volunteers use cheap kitchen knives that Zegers purchased on her way out of town.

The goal over the coming days is to remove as much of the flesh as possible. Then they will carve the skeleton into parcels of manageable size for transport to the museum. Some bones, such as the jawbones, parts of the skull, and the ribs, will separate from one another naturally. Other sections, such as the vertebrae, will be cut up by hand.

Have a read, examine the photos and video, and imagine that.  Now bear in mind that this is a reasonably fresh carcass; imagine one that has been fermenting a while, which I suppose cetacean biologists probably also have to deal with from time to time.  I imagine “ew” just doesn’t quite cover it.

I sure don’t envy these folks.

Now the whale I ate in Japan (OK, I didn’t eat the whole thing) was caught and processed by a “research” vessel that had, I feel certain, powered hoists, power tools and experienced staff.  Also the whales taken by Japanese fisheries are minkes, which are unlike blue whales in being smaller and much, much more plentiful.  I wouldn’t be have eaten blue whale; my personal preference is to eschew endangered species.  Minkes aren’t.  They are basically the cows of the sea.

But no matter what tools you have to hand, this is a huge, bloody job.  I admire the dedication of these cetacean biologists who undertook this enormous task.  My Stetson’s off to them.

Animal’s Daily Martian News

Mars probably doesn’t really have a Princess.

This is actually kind of a big deal, if it proves true; there may be a lake of liquid water on Mars, under the south polar cap.  Excerpt:

A lake of liquid water has been detected by radar beneath the southern polar ice cap of Mars, according to a new study by Italian researchers from the Italian Space Agency, published Wednesday in the journal Science.

Evidence was gathered by the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding instrument, also known as MARSIS, on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft.

Between May 2012 and December 2015, MARSIS was used to survey the Planum Australe region, which is in the southern ice cap of Mars. It sent radar pulses through the surface and polar ice caps and measured how the radio waves reflected back to Mars Express.

Those pulses reflected 29 sets of radar samples that created a map of drastic change in signal almost a mile below the surface. It stretched about 12.5 miles across and looked very similar to lakes that are found beneath Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets on Earth. The radar reflected the feature’s brightness, signaling that it’s water.

“We interpret this feature as a stable body of liquid water on Mars,” the authors wrote in the study.

The study authors ruled out any other causes for this brightness.

Not that I’d mind if there were gals like this on Mars.

No word on thoats, Tharks, or beautiful Martian princesses clad only in jewels.

So, why is this a big deal?  Two reasons:  The possibility of life, and the possibility of human colonization.

As I’ve said before, the discovery of any life outside of Earth, even microbes, would be the biggest scientific discovery of the modern era.  There are other places where it’s possible; some folks think the Venusian atmosphere could harbor extremophile microbes, as could the oceans of Titan, Enceladus and Europa.  Of course, the amount of evidence for such life remains as it was – zero.  But liquid water is a prerequisite for life as we know it, and there it is.

Of more likely import is the establishment of a human colony on Mars.  Liquid water makes that easier; water can provide fuel and oxygen in addition to its traditional uses.

Of course, there are still massive engineering challenges to overcome before people could live on Mars, and the lighter Martian gravity would result in some pretty odd-looking specimens of humanity after a generation or two.

Still, it’s an interesting find.

Goodbye,Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove and The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!  So, let’s have a few random thoughts and observations this morning.

What with the release of FISA warrant requests and the ongoing drama over the pre-elections actions of Strzok and company, there’s more talk than ever about the Deep State.  Want to do something about it?  How about reining the Imperial government in to what it is constitutionally limited to doing, and thereby removing most of the power from Imperial officials and bureaucrats?

Chicago has been named the rat capital of the United States.  But enough about the Rahm Emmanuel mayoralty; there are a lot of small, pestiferous rodents there too.

The “Democratic Socialist” (a synonym for “Economically Illiterate”) wing of the Democratic Party is doing their best to ensure President Trump coasts to re-election in 2020.  Take a look at the supposedly male person standing speaking in the photo; why are so many lefty males such sad little weeds?

On the Cold War II front, President Trump may have picked up an unlikely ally:  Piers Morgan.  Scanning the sky for flying pigs now.

A new discovery may lead to a revolution in deodorants.  But if the Democratic Socialists like She Guevara and the daffy old socialist from Vermont get there way, you won’t have many choices in deodorants any more.

This story reminds me of the young man who was vacationing in the British Isles.  He was in a charming country pub one afternoon when he encountered two very large women speaking with a thick, distinctive brogue.  “Excuse me,” has asked, “are you two ladies from Scotland?”

“Wales, you idiot,” one of the women snapped back.

“I’m sorry,” the young man replied.  “Are you two whales from Scotland?”

On that note, we return you to your Monday, already in progress.

Rule Five Space Force Friday

Do we need a space force – a space navy, if you will – to protect commerce from Earth orbit to the Moon and beyond?  The serving Top Man at NASA thinks so.  Excerpt:

NASA’s administrator is a strong defender of President Donald Trump’s proposals for space — including an armed force and a permanent presence on the moon — and says he wants Americans to realize how much their well-being depends on what happens far above Earth.

“Every banking transaction requires a GPS signal for timing,” Jim Bridenstine said in an interview. “You lose the GPS signal and guess what you lose? You lose banking.”

“If you look at what space is, it’s not that much different than the ocean,” added Bridenstine, who made 333 aircraft-carrier landings as a Navy pilot. “It’s an international domain that has commerce that needs to be protected.”

Bridenstine was in his third term representing a congressional district in Oklahoma when Trump nominated him to lead the $21 billion space agency. He was confirmed in the spring despite criticism over his lack of scientific or engineering experience and his previous statements questioning climate change science — though he said in hearings that human activity was the chief cause of global warming.

Last summer, when he was still in Congress, Bridenstine supported a measure that would have created a “space corps.” It passed the House but was removed from the final defense spending bill. Then last month, Trump called for the Pentagon to develop a sixth branch of the American armed services that would protect national and commercial interests in space.

I’m of mixed feelings on this one.

Pros:

  1. The kid in me, who loved Star Trek, thinks the very idea is just cool as hell.  Were I younger, I’d join up.
  2. There will eventually be commerce in space; there are just too many riches out there (asteroid belt, for example, a wealth of rare earths and precious metals) and that commerce will need to be protected.
  3. If the United States isn’t the first to do this, someone else will be.

Cons:

  1. We’re broke.  How the hell are we going to pay for it?
  2. We’re broke.  How the hell are we going to pay for it?
  3. We’re broke.  How the hell are we going to pay for it?

I have a novel idea, though; there’s another way to skin this particular cat.  As noted, there are a wealth of resources around the Solar System, much of it inside the orbit of Jupiter, that private enterprise will eventually want to go get.  OK, I’m in favor of private enterprise, and have long held that when practical space travel is developed, it will be private enterprise that does it.  So, OK, let those private organizations develop their own armed ships and security forces, as a cost of doing business in, say, the asteroid belt.

“But Animal,” you might ask, “what happens in the event of a conflict with another nation, a nation that has their own forces in space?”  Simple answer, one that goes back to the 18th century; give the private ships a letter of marque to conduct offensive operations under the U.S. flag.  Resurrect the concept of the privateer.

Seems like the answer to me.  Thoughts?

Animal’s Daily Loony Flat-Earther News

Any of you True Believers from Australia? (We do get a few dozen hits a day, on average, from Down Under.)  If so, you may be surprised to hear that you apparently don’t exist.  Excerpt:

Australia is one of the biggest hoaxes ever created, and you have all been tricked. Join the movement today, and make it known that they have been deceived.

Make it known, that this has all just been a cover-up. The things these “Australian” says to be doing, all these swear words and actions based on alcoholism, MDMA and bad decisions, are all ways to distract you from the ugly truth that is one of the greatest genocides in history.

162,000 people was said to have been transported to this imaginary land during a mere 80 years, and they are all long dead by now. They never reached that promised land.

Tell the truth. Stand up for what is right.Make sure to spread the world – Australia is not real. It’s a codeword for the cold blooded murder of more than a hundred thousand people, and it is not okay. We will not, accept this.

Stand up for the ones who died. Let it be known, that Australia does not exist. [sic]

Uh huh.

Matthew Quigley begs to differ.

Now, to be clear, the article linked isn’t supporting the flat-earth view; it is, like we are doing here, poking fun at it.

What’s really odd is that there are actual organizations out there supporting this horseshit; see here and here for examples.  In this amazing modern era we live in, the idea that anyone could actually believe such an enormous, steaming pile of codswallop is… baffling.  But don’t worry overly much, Aussies; I haven’t been Down Under yet myself (it’s on my bucket list, though) but several people I know and trust have been, and they all tell me that yes, you really do exist.

As for the flat-earthers, well, there are people out there who believe all sorts of weird shit.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

Yes, yes,  President Trump is at the moment either a blatant traitor to Truth, Justice and the American Way, or the best 4D chess player ever, with almost nobody taking anything like a middle ground.  I get that.  I’ll probably have something to say about the Helsinki thing after the overt RHEEEEEEE from, honestly, both sides has stopped, and I’ve done some reading and had some time to think things over.  I’m of a rather deliberate nature concerning these things.

But in other news, it turns out that there may well be something like a quadrillion tons (or tonnes, if you prefer) of diamonds in the ground.  Problem is, we can’t reach them.  Excerpt:

Cratonic roots are the most ancient sections of rock under tectonic states, shaped like upside-down mountains.

The researchers estimate that the roots may have 1-2% diamond, meaning that about a quadrillion tons of diamond are buried there.

Given that a ton of diamond is 50,000,000 carats, worth at least £3,000 each, that comes out at a tasty £150,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 by our relatively unscientific calculations.

‘This shows that diamond is not perhaps this exotic mineral, but on the [geological] scale of things, it’s relatively common,’ says Ulrich Faul, a research scientist in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.

‘We can’t get at them, but still, there is much more diamond there than we have ever thought before.’

The researchers concluded that there were diamonds down there due to an anomaly in seismic data – where sound waves seemed to speed up.

Faul and his colleagues calculated that the anomaly could be caused by 1%-2% of diamonds in the ‘cratonic roots.’

My first thought was, “well, OK then.”  Can’t see how this is much of a concern any way you look at it.

But just imagine someone managed to figure out how to get down that far and found, yes, diamonds by the metric shitload (a metric shitload, in case you were wondering, is 1.14 Imperial shitloads) were down there; postulate a real-life Tony Stark came up with a Reverse-Gungaplexic Force Modulated Hyper-Drill that was able to reach these very roots of the Earth’s crust and bring up tons and tons of diamonds.

What an economic mess that would be.  The DeBeers folks wouldn’t be too happy about it, but the implications would go a lot deeper.  This would throw world markets in a tizzy, when a previously rare, extremely valuable resource suddenly becomes as common as gravel.

Here’s the catch; there are giga-tons of precious metals and other valuable stuff out in the asteroid belt, and that stuff is actually easier to get to.  Now think on that.

Our kids and grandkids may see some interesting times.

Animal’s Daily Tree Chicken News

Thanks once again to The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

Invasive iguanas have been a problem in South Florida for some time, and for some time I’ve been offering a solution to the problem:  Tell the local rednecks that they are good to eat.  Such solution, with a few variations, seems to be in the works.  Excerpt:

While many people view South Florida’s invasive iguana population as an annoyance at best and a pandemic at worst, Ishmeal Asson sees something else: lunch.

The Fort Lauderdale resident and native Trinidadian considers eating iguanas to be a way of life. Growing up, Asson learned to roast the island critters at roadside and backyard gatherings. Iguana is a staple in the Caribbean, where the reptiles are a native species and are known as “pollo de los árboles,” or chicken of the trees. Their meat contains more protein than chicken, and members of some cultures believe it has medicinal properties.

In South Florida, Asson is hardly alone in his taste for cooked iguana. He has more than a dozen friends who eat the animal, and they frequently hunt them using nets, snares and traps. “We are having a cookout this weekend,” he said earlier this week.

Asson said he and his friends use a traditional method of preparing iguana. “First, we cut off the head, then roast [the body] on the fire. You have to roast it with the skin on because it’s easier to take the skin off once it’s roasted,” he said. “Then, we cut it up into pieces and season it with a lot of fresh produce like chives and onions. I love to season it with curry and hot pepper, too. It tastes like chicken.”

As someone who has eaten iguanas his entire life, Asson still finds humor in eating the prehistoric-looking reptiles. “I prefer to eat it with the skin on,” he said, “because then I know what I’m eating. It kind of gives you a sense of humor, like, ‘This is iguana,’ you know?”

I’d try it.  I’ve eaten all sorts of critters in my day, from raccoon to opossum to rattlesnake to javelina, and dozens of others; iguana would just be one more, and there’s no reason to think they wouldn’t be tasty, properly prepared.   Iguanas are plant eaters, the ones I’ve seen in the wild in places like Puerto Rico (where they are also an invasive species) look big, meaty and healthy.

Since these are an invasive species, and since no license is required to hunt or trap them and there are no bag limits, maybe a trip to Florida with a really good .22 rifle is in order.  Any True Believers down that way who might be able to direct me to a good hunting ground?