Archive for 2010

A glowing snail? Now that’s scary!

Publication: Cosmic Log on MSNBC.com   Date: December 15, 2010   View Article

A tiny marine snail that looks as if it could be at home dangling from a Christmas tree emits its green glow to scare off would be predators, according to a new study.

The snail, Hinea brasiliana, is a type of clusterwink snail that is typically found bunched up in groups along rocky shorelines. The green glow results from a phenomenon known as bioluminescence — that is, light made by living animals.

Photos: Mummy Bundles, Child Sacrifices Found on Pyramid

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: October 25, 2010   View Article

A rare undisturbed tomb atop an ancient pyramid in Lima, Peru, has yielded four 1,150-year-old, well-bundled mummies of the Wari culture, archaeologists announced on October 20.

The mummies include what appear to be an elite woman and three children, who may have been sacrificed to accompany her into the afterlife, according to Isabel Flores Espinosa, excavation director at the Huaca Pucllana archaeological site.

The Wari civilization spread along the central coast of Peru beginning around A.D. 700. At Huaca Pucllana, they replaced the Lima culture before being replaced themselves by the ascendant Inca.

Pictures: 12 Ancient Landmarks on Verge of Vanishing

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: October 23, 2010   View Article

Damaged frescoes in the Church of St. Gregory of Tigran Honents tell a story of neglect in the medieval city of Ani, now part of Turkey.

Sitting in a militarized zone near the current Turkish-Armenian border, the city is one of 12 cultural sites on the verge of collapse, according to a report released this week by the San Francisco, California-based Global Heritage Fund.

Odd Pyramid Had Rooftop Homes, Ritual Sacrifices?

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: October 21, 2010   View Article

Yes, it’s yielded human remains—including five females who may have been ritually sacrificed. But it’s the signs of life that make a half-excavated Peruvian pyramid of the Moche culture stand out, archaeologists say.

“Often these pyramidal mounds were built as mortuaries more than anything else,” said excavation co-leader Edward Swenson.

“In most instances [a pyramid] is not where people live, it is not where they were cooking their food,” the University of Toronto archaeologist added.

But the newly exposed 1,400-year-old flat-topped pyramid supported residences for up to a couple dozen elites, who oversaw and perhaps took part in copper production at the site, evidence suggests.

Seven priceless treasures lost to war

Publication: MSNBC.com   Date: October 11, 2010   View Article

During the fall of Baghdad in 2003, thousands of artifacts were taken from the Iraqi capital’s National Museum, whose holdings documented the rise of civilization in ancient Mesopotamia. Scholars called the losses a tragedy for all of humanity.

Since the looting, about 5,000 artifacts have been recovered and returned to Iraq, including the antiquities shown here that were seized by Syrian authorities after they were smuggled across the border. About 600 of the artifacts that had been returned went missing once more – and were found again just this month, misplaced among kitchen supplies at the Iraqi prime minister’s office.

Experts believe more than 15,000 artifacts remain at large.

Check out six more historical and archaeological treasures lost to wars and conflict, from the invasion of Iraq to a 17th century attack on the Parthenon. Some treasures have been restored or replicated; others are gone forever.

The science of horse racing

Publication: MSNBC.com   Date: October 7, 2010   View Article

Secretariat was the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 25 years when he crossed the finish line at the Belmont Stakes in 1973 with a lead of 31 lengths. His time of 2 minutes and 24 seconds remains an unbroken course record. The chestnut colt also set a still-standing record at the Kentucky Derby, the first leg of the crown. A timer malfunction at the Preakness Stakes put his speed on that track in question. His unofficial time of 1:53 2/5 has been tied twice, but never beaten.

“That horse was a phenomenon,” says Kenneth McKeever, associate director of the Equine Science Center at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Now the phenomenon has been immortalized in “Secretariat,” Disney’s feel-good movie about the racehorse and his dynamic owner, Penny Chenery Tweedy.

First Truly Habitable Planet Discovered, Experts Say

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: September 29, 2010   View Article

Astronomers studying a nearby star say they’ve found the first potentially habitable planet—likely a rocky place with an atmosphere, temperate regions, and crucially, liquid water, considered vital for life as we know it.

Other extrasolar planets have been called Earthlike, but, astronomer Paul Butler assured, “this is really the first Goldilocks planet”—not too hot, not too cold.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach