South America

Himalayas: The future of solar?

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: October 12, 2011   View Article

The high peaks of the Himalayas may soon be a beacon for adventurous solar power entrepreneurs, suggests a new study that identified the lofty region as having some of the world’s greatest potential to capture energy from the sun.

Other regions not traditionally considered hotbeds of solar power potential include the Andes of South America and Antarctica, note Takashi Oozeki and Yutaka Genchi with the National Institute of Industrial Science and Technology in Japan.

Beer mystery solved! Yeast ID’d

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: August 22, 2011   View Article

Ice cold beer: In these dog days of summer, few things are better. So, let’s raise a glass and toast Saccharomyces eubayanus, newly discovered yeast that helped make cold-fermented lager a runaway success.

The yeast, in the wild, thrives in ball-shaped lumps of sugar that form on beech trees in Patagonia of South America. Its discovery appears to solve the mystery of how lager yeast formed. Until now, scientists only knew about the origins of ale yeast, which makes up just half of the lager yeast genome.

Yeasts are microscopic fungi that feast on sugar, converting it to carbon dioxide and alcohol via the process of fermentation. Ale yeast, S. cerevisiae, has been doing this throughout the history of beer, which stretches back to at least 6,000 B.C. in Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization.

Captive male frog coughs up babies

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: June 3, 2011   View Article

A captive male Darwin’s frog coughed up ten babies Thursday at a zoo in Santiago, Chile, a milestone in a project to save the amphibians from extinction.

The vulnerable species is one of two members of the only genus on Earth that rears its young inside of its vocal sac, a job taken on by the males.

Inca Empire built on corn … and poop

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: May 23, 2011   View Article

The seeds of the Inca Empire were planted about 2,700 years ago when a warm spell combined with piles of llama excrement allowed maize agriculture to take root high up in the South American Andes, according to a new study.

“They were constructing fields and weeding them. And probably trading took off, made possible by llama caravans transporting goods, such as maize, coca leaves, salt and a ceremonial product called cinnabar,” Alex Chepstow-Lusty of the French Institute of Andean Studies in Lima told me Sunday in an email.

The finding is inferred by a record of pollen and mites in a core of mud taken from a small lake located at about 11,000 feet up in the Andes surrounded by agricultural terraces and next to an ancient trading route that connected tropical forest and mountain communities.

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.

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.

Pictures: Human Sacrifice Chamber Discovered in Peru

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: July 30, 2010   View Article

Found in Peru within a chamber used for an ancient human-sacrifice rite called the presentation, this woman was likely an offering to the site, archaeologists say.

Announced last week, the 197-foot-long (60-meter-long) sacrificial chamber or passageway at the Huaca Bandera archaeological site belonged to the Moche culture, a pre-Columbian agricultural civilization that flourished on the north coast of Peru from about 100 B.C. to AD 800.

The several burials found in the sacrifice chamber “are from a time apparently after the site had been abandoned but nevertheless continued to receive offerings to maintain the status of the elite sanctuary,” archaeologist Carlos Wester La Torre, leader of the excavation, said in an email translated from Spanish.

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