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New insights on an ancient plague could improve modern treatments for infections

New insights on an ancient plague could improve modern treatments for infections | Amazing Science |
While bubonic plague would seem a blight of the past, there have been recent outbreaks in India, Madagascar and the Congo. And it's mode of infection now appears similar to that used by other well-adapted human pathogens, such as the HIV virus.

In their study, the Duke and Duke-NUS researchers set out to determine whether the large swellings that are the signature feature of bubonic plague -- the swollen lymph nodes, or buboes at the neck, underarms and groins of infected patients -- result from the pathogen or as an immune response.

It turns out to be both. "The bacteria actually turn the immune cells against the body," said senior author Soman Abraham, Ph.D. a professor of pathology at Duke and professor of emerging infectious diseases at Duke-NUS. "The bacteria enter the draining lymph node and actually hide undetected in immune cells, notably the dendritic cells and monocytes, where they multiply. Meanwhile, the immune cells send signals to bring in even more recruits, causing the lymph nodes to grow massively and providing a safe haven for microbial multiplication."

The bacteria are then able to travel from lymph node to lymph node within the dendritic cells and monocytes, eventually infiltrating the blood and lungs. From there, the infection can spread through body fluids directly to other people, or via biting insects such as fleas.
Abraham, St. John and colleagues note that there are several potential drug candidates that target the trafficking pathways that the bubonic plague bacteria use. In animal models, the researchers successfully used some of these therapies to prevent the bacteria from reaching systemic infection, markedly improving survival and recovery.

"This work demonstrates that it may be possible to target the trafficking of host immune cells and not the pathogens themselves to effectively treat infection and reduce mortality," St. John said. "In view of the growing emergency of multi-resistant bacteria, this strategy could become very attractive."

Lilia Hernández's curator insight, September 22, 2014 7:06 AM

No lo puedo evitar, la microbiología siempre será mi más grande pasión. Noticias de cazadores de microbios :)

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Archeologists find 'ancient computer' from 200 BC used to track cycles of the solar system

Archeologists find 'ancient computer' from 200 BC used to track cycles of the solar system | Amazing Science |

Archaeologists set out Monday to use a revolutionary new deep sea diving suit to explore the ancient shipwreck where one of the most remarkable scientific objects of antiquity was found. The so-called Antikythera Mechanism, a 2nd-century BC device known as the world's oldest computer, was discovered by sponge divers in 1900 off a remote Greek island in the Aegean.

The highly complex mechanism of up to 40 bronze cogs and gears was used by the ancient Greeks to track the cycles of the solar system. It took another 1,500 years for an astrological clock of similar sophistication to be made in Europe.

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Scientifically charting culture: Humanity's cultural history captured in a 5-minute film

Scientifically charting culture: Humanity's cultural history captured in a 5-minute film | Amazing Science |

Video map of births and deaths shows rise and fall of cultural centers. All roads lead from Rome, according to a visual history of human culture built entirely from the birth and death places of notable people. The 5-minute animation provides a fresh view of the movements of humanity over the last 2,600 years.

Maximilian Schich, an art historian at the University of Texas at Dallas, and his colleagues used the Google-owned knowledge base, Freebase, to find 120,000 individuals who were notable enough in their life-times that the dates and locations of their births and deaths were recorded.

The list includes people ranging from Solon, the Greek lawmaker and poet, who was born in 637bc in Athens, and died in 557 bc in Cyprus, to Jett Travolta — son of the actor John Travolta — who was born in 1992 in Los Angeles, California, and died in 2009 in the Bahamas.

The team used those data to create a movie that starts in 600 bc and ends in 2012. Each person’s birth place appears on a map of the world as a blue dot and their death as a red dot. The result is a way to visualize cultural history — as a city becomes more important, more notable people die there. The work that the animated map is based on was reported on 31 July in Science1.

The animation reflects some of what was known already. Rome gave way to Paris as a cultural centre, which was eventually overtaken by Los Angeles and New York. But it also puts figures and dates on these shifts — and allows for precise comparisons. For example, the data suggest that Paris overtook Rome as a cultural hub in 1789.

Schich’s team also viewed their data in the context of data from the Google Ngram Viewer, which shows how often certain phrases or words were used in the general literature at a given time, an indication of the topics that might have been on people’s minds. The researchers used the Ngram data to identify events that might suggest the waxing or waning in importance of a hub.

They also did a similar experiment using data from various sources on the births and deaths of 150,000 artists. That revealed, for instance, that more architects than artists died in the French revolution.

Historians tend to focus in highly specialized areas, says Schich. “But our data allow them to see unexpected correlations between obscure events never considered historically important and shifts in migration.”

Nikauly Vargas Arias's curator insight, August 15, 2014 1:43 PM

Interesante corto de 5 minutos sobre producto de una novedosa investigación sobre la concentración del conocimiento en ciudades del mundo a lo largo de la historia. 

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Oldest case of Down's syndrome from medieval France

Oldest case of Down's syndrome from medieval France | Amazing Science |

The oldest confirmed case of Down's syndrome has been found: the skeleton of a child who died 1500 years ago in early medieval France. According to the archaeologists, the way the child was buried hints that Down's syndrome was not necessarily stigmatized in the Middle Ages.

Down's syndrome is a genetic disorder that delays a person's growth and causes intellectual disability. People with Down's syndrome have three copies of chromosome 21, rather than the usual two. It was described in the 19th century, but has probably existed throughout human history. However there are few cases of Down's syndrome in the archaeological record.

The new example comes from a 5th- and 6th-century necropolis near a church in Chalon-sur-Saône in eastern France. Excavations there have uncovered the remains of 94 people, including the skeleton of a young child with a short and broad skull, a flattened skull base and thin cranial bones. These features are common in people with Down's syndrome, says Maïté Rivollat at the University of Bordeaux in France, who has studied the skeleton with her colleagues.

"I think the paper makes a convincing case for a diagnosis of Down's syndrome," says John Starbuck at Indiana University in Indianapolis. He has just analyzed a 1500-year-old figurine from the Mexican Tolteca culture that he says depicts someone with Down's syndrome.

A similar argument was put forward in a 2011 study that described the 1500-year-old burial in Israel of a man with dwarfism (International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, DOI: 10.1002/oa.1285). The body was buried in a similar manner to others at the site, and archaeologists took that as indicating that the man was treated as a normal member of society.

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Confirmed: An Asteroid Killed the Dinosaurs –– Date confirmed to accuracy of +/- 11,000 years

Confirmed: An Asteroid Killed the Dinosaurs –– Date confirmed to accuracy of +/- 11,000 years | Amazing Science |

Scientists have unearth credible evidence to confirm a large asteroid was responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs over 66 million years ago, it has been announced. This particular extinction event, which paved the way for the evolution of our species, has been attributed to several different things over the years. From climate change, a nuclear winter caused by basaltic lava eruptions of massive volcanoes in western India, an influx of radiation from a nearby supernova explosion (or perhaps a gamma-ray burst) to finally, an asteroid impact, which has been a favorite of biologist and paleontologist over the course of the past few decades.

According to Paul Renne, the director at Berkeley University’s Geochronology Center in California, the asteroid impact was quite likely one of several contributing factors to the downfall of the prehistoric animals, as many of them were already on their way to extinction; however, Renne claims that this was the main catalyst that “pushed Earth past the tipping point.”

The collision was never in question, but the exact date of it is. Scientists have been trying to determine if the impact took place more than 300,000 years after the last of the dinosaurs had already died off in the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event, which is where Renne and his team comes in: Using high-precision radiometric dating analysis, in this case “argon-argon dating,” the team were able to determine the most precise date yet of the impact: 66,038,000 years ago – give or take 11,000, which coincides with the impact of an asteroid or a comet in the Caribbean off the Yucatan coast of Mexico. “We have shown that these events are synchronous to within a gnat’s eyebrow,” Renne continued. Potassium-argon dating is perhaps, one of the most reliable means of determine how long a sample of materials have been decaying, as it utilizes the fact that potassium, a naturally radioactive element, decays into argon with regularity.

It only takes a relatively small asteroid to cause quite a bit of destruction on our planet, as any object large enough to survive the descent through Earth’s atmosphere would acquire quite a bit of kinetic energy before it hits the surface of the planet, traveling at VERY fast speeds. Just to throw out one example of this, if an object had a diameter of about 10 kilometers and was traveling at speeds between [approximately] 15 to 20 kilometers per second, it would have a kinetic energy equal to 300 million nuclear bombs, going off simultaneously.

Almost instantly after the impact, the Earth would undergo rapid changes, including; “intense blinding light, severe radiation burns, a crushing blast wave, lethal balls of hot glass, winds with speeds of hundreds of kilometers per hour, and flash fires.” The rubble would be forced into the stratosphere, where it would block a majority of the sunlight from the plants and animals on the ground, which becomes problematic for the photosynthesis plants must undergo to derive energy to survive. With no plants converting sunlight into energy, our oxygen levels would decrease dramatically. I don’t have to explain why that is not an ideal situation to find ourselves in.

The asteroid that hit our planet at the end of the Mesozoic Era was almost 6 miles (10 km) across, generating more energy than nearly 100 trillion tons of TNT, which is more than a billion times more energetic than the bombs that destroyed Nagasaki and Hiroshima during WWII — ultimately leaving behind a crater named Chicxulub, which is more than 110 miles (180 kilometers) wide.

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Ancient Nomads Spread Earliest Domestic Grains Along The Silk Road 5,000 Years Ago

Ancient Nomads Spread Earliest Domestic Grains Along The Silk Road 5,000 Years Ago | Amazing Science |

Charred grains of barley, millet and wheat deposited nearly 5,000 years ago at campsites in the high plains of Kazakhstan show that nomadic sheepherders played a surprisingly important role in the early spread of domesticated crops throughout a mountainous east-west corridor along the historic Silk Road, suggests new research from Washington University in St. Louis.

"Our findings indicate that ancient nomadic pastoralists were key players in an east-west network that linked innovations and commodities between present-day China and southwest Asia," said study co-author Michael Frachetti, PhD, an associate professor of archaeology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University and principal investigator on the research project.

"Ancient wheat and broomcorn millet, recovered in nomadic campsites in Kazakhstan, show that prehistoric herders in Central Eurasia had incorporated both regional crops into their economy and rituals nearly 5,000 years ago, pushing back the chronology of interaction along the territory of the 'Silk Road' more than 2,000 years," Frachetti said.

The study, to be published April 2 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, establishes that several strains of ancient grains and peas had made their way across Eurasia thousands of years earlier than previously documented.

While these crops have been known to exist much earlier in ancient China and Southwest Asia, finding them intermingled in the Bronze Age burials and households of nomadic pastoralists provides some of the earliest concrete signs for east-west interaction in the vast expanse of Eurasian mountains and the first botanical evidence for farming among Bronze Age nomads.

Bread wheat, cultivated at least 6,000 years ago in Southwest Asia, was absent in China before 2500 B.C. while broomcorn millet, domesticated 8,000 years ago in China, is missing in southwest Asia before 2000 B.C. This study documents that ancient grains from eastern China and soutwest Asia had made their way to Kazakhstan in the center of the continent by 2700-2500 B.C. (nearly 5,000 years ago).

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Einstein’s lost theory uncovered

Einstein’s lost theory uncovered | Amazing Science |
Physicist explored the idea of a steady-state Universe in 1931.

The Big Bang theory had found observational support in the 1920s, when US astronomer Edwin Hubble and others discovered that distant galaxies are moving away and that space itself is expanding. This seemed to imply that, in the past, the contents of the observable Universe had been a very dense and hot ‘primordial broth’.

But, from the late 1940s, Hoyle argued that space could be expanding eternally and keeping a roughly constant density. It could do this by continually adding new matter, with elementary particles spontaneously popping up from space, Hoyle said. Particles would then coalesce to form galaxies and stars, and these would appear at just the right rate to take up the extra room created by the expansion of space. Hoyle’s Universe was always infinite, so its size did not change as it expanded. It was in a ‘steady state’.

The newly uncovered document shows that Einstein had described essentially the same idea much earlier. “For the density to remain constant new particles of matter must be continually formed,” he writes. The manuscript is thought to have been produced during a trip to California in 1931 — in part because it was written on American note paper.

It had been stored in plain sight at the Albert Einstein Archives in Jerusalem — and is freely available to view on its website — but had been mistakenly classified as a first draft of another Einstein paper. Cormac O’Raifeartaigh, a physicist at the Waterford Institute of Technology in Ireland, says that he “almost fell out of his chair” when he realized what the manuscript was about. He and his collaborators have posted their findings, together with an English translation of Einstein’s original German manuscript, on the arXiv preprint server (C. O’Raifeartaigh et al. Preprint at; 2014) and have submitted their paper to the European Physical Journal.

“This finding confirms that Hoyle was not a crank,” says study co-author Simon Mitton, a science historian at the University of Cambridge, UK, who wrote the 2005 biography Fred Hoyle: A Life in Science. The mere fact that Einstein had toyed with a steady-state model could have lent Hoyle more credibility as he engaged the physics community in a debate on the subject. “If only Hoyle had known, he would certainly have used it to punch his opponents,” O’Raifeartaigh says.

Although Hoyle’s model was eventually ruled out by astronomical observations, it was at least mathematically consistent, tweaking the equations of Einstein’s general theory of relativity to provide a possible mechanism for the spontaneous generation of matter. Einstein’s unpublished manuscript suggests that, at first, he believed that such a mechanism could arise from his original theory without modification. But then he realized that he had made a mistake in his calculations, O’Raifeartaigh and his team suggest. When he corrected it — crossing out a number with a pen of a different colour — he probably decided that the idea would not work and set it aside.

Nacho Vega's curator insight, February 24, 2014 3:02 PM

Helge Kragh: “What the manuscript shows is that although by then he accepted the expansion of space, [Einstein] was unhappy with a Universe changing in time”

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The amazing history of the Nobel Prize, told in maps and charts

The amazing history of the Nobel Prize, told in maps and charts | Amazing Science |

The U.S. has 4 percent of the world's population and 34 percent of its Nobel laureates. That's the most of any country in the world, by far: next-highest ranked is Britain with 120 laureates.

Up top is a heat map showing which countries have had the most Nobel laureates in the prize's history. Most countries have zero Nobel laureates. The faint yellow countries have received exactly one Nobel in the 113 years since the first prize was given. There's a small cluster of orange countries with maybe 10 to 15 Nobel laureates. A very tiny group of dark red countries have taken most of the Nobel prizes.

Just over 1,000 Nobels have been awarded since the prize was first established in 1901. Most of those have been in sciences but there's also the literature prize and, most famously, the peace prize. We've added up every Nobel awarded since 1901 and separated them out by country. The results are fascinating – and revealing.

A stunning 83 percent of all Nobel laureates have come from Western countries (that means Western Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia or New Zealand). We'll dive into some of the statistics of the Nobel below. But first here's a map of the prizes broken down by region.

Thomas Faltin's curator insight, December 31, 2013 6:22 AM

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Transmission of REV viruses from mammals to birds was probably an unexpected consequence of medical research

Transmission of REV viruses from mammals to birds was probably an unexpected consequence of medical research | Amazing Science |

A report published today (August 27) in PLOS Biology tells the surprising story of reticuloendotheliosis virus (REV) evolution and how, in the 1930s, unwitting malaria researchers were most likely responsible for transmitting REV from mammals to birds. The report highlights the importance of modern-day virus monitoring to limit potentially adverse transmission effects.


“It’s a very interesting story. That malarial research could have led to zoonosis from mammal to bird is pretty surprising,” said Eric Delwart, a professor of laboratory medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved in the research. “It’s basically an example of a contamination that went rogue . . . and extraordinary bad luck.”


Retroviruses integrate into genomic DNA of host cells to borrow the cells’ transcription machinery and replicate. On occasion, such integration events happen in germline cells—such as sperm and eggs—and can thus be passed on to offspring, forever changing the host genome. Scientists like Robert Gifford, a professor at the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York City, examine these integrated viral sequences—or viral fossils—in animals’ genomes to investigate the evolutionary history of viruses.


While studying the viral fossils of Madagascan mammals, Gifford made a surprising discovery. “We turned up this sequence in the ring-tailed mongoose genome that was very closely related to REV,” he said.


REV is a retrovirus that infects poultry and wild game birds, causing an array of disease symptoms, including anemia, immunosuppression, and the production of runts. Evidence from genome sequencing studies had suggested that it originated in mammals, but most sequence similarities mapped only to fragments of REV. Because of these fragmented similarities, “I had always assumed, as had probably other virologists, that these viruses had been circulating in birds for a long time,” said John Coffin, a professor of molecular biology and microbiology at Tufts University in Boston, who also was not involved in the work.


The copies of REV fossils Gifford found in two species of mongoose, however, showed full length similarity to bird REVs. “It made us curious because it is very unusual to have an avian retrovirus be so closely related to a mammalian retrovirus,” he said. “It suggested that there had been a transmission quite recently.” Indeed, the exchange turned out to have occurred less than a century ago.


After finding the REV sequences in mongoose, and a paper desribing a full-length REV in the egg-laying mammal echidna, Gifford analyzed the genomes of another 42 mammalian species, again finding nothing but REV fragments. He then analyzed the sequences of all known REVs isolated from birds to determine which were most similar to the mongoose and echidna REVs, and therefore, which species was likely to have been infected first.


The most similar bird REVs were two that had been isolated separately from ducks—one in 1959, the other in 1972.  Importantly, the source of REV infection in these animals was deemed to be contaminated stocks of Plasmodium lophurae—a malarial parasite. In fact, evidence of a then-unknown infectious agent contaminating stocks of P. Iophurae had surfaced as early as 1941.


Continuing the historical detective work, Gifford discovered that P. lophurae had been isolated just once, in 1937, from a Bornean Crested Firebacked pheasant at the New York Zoological Park (now the Bronx Zoo). Researchers planned to use this bird parasite as a model for studying human malaria, and after isolating it from pheasant, they had passaged the parasite in chickens for mass production.

Bernhard H. Schmitz's comment, September 2, 2013 5:15 AM
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Mel Melendrez-Vallard's comment, September 2, 2013 9:06 AM
I liked the article and I agree it did get people of many possible thoughts on the subject.
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History Of Life On Earth Shown As A 24 Hour Clock

History Of Life On Earth Shown As A 24 Hour Clock | Amazing Science |

For decades the origin and evolution of life was restricted to the fossil record that recorded hard-shelled life. We now know, through determination of absolute ages by radioactive decay, that this record only record the last 500 m.y. or so of life. Prior to that, life existed as soft-bodied organisms, or even earlier, as single cell bacteria (prokaryotes) or single-celled organisms with nuclei (eukaryotes). The oldest microfossils, composed of single-celled organisms that probably were similar to cyanobacteria, are 3.5 b.y. old, and are found in Western Australia (not the same locality where the very old zircon mineral grains were found). More convincing evidence for life in the Archean comes from fossil layered microbial communities called stromatolites. Although the 3.5 b.y. old microfossils are still debated, people pretty much agree that the fossil record for life is undisputable by about 3.0 b.y., and stromatolites are part of this evidence. Fossil bacteria are universally accepted for the Proterozoic, where the images (and chemical compositions) are much more clear than the fuzzy images for the 3.5 b.y. old microfossils.


The Proterozoic microfossils are much more similar to the modern cyanobacteria. The occurrence of cyanobacteria early in earth's history is critical, since their metabolic "waste product" is oxygen, and it was essential to produce high levels of oxygen in the earth's atmosphere before more complex life (which requires different means of metabolism and energy storage) could evolve. In the latest part of the Proterozoic (~ 600 m.y. ago), multi-cellular, complex life is recorded in the fossil record.


The figure shown above casts the origin and evolution of life into a 24 hour clock.

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The Great Mass Extinctions - The Time When The Earth Nearly Died

Permian Extinction 250 Millions years ago, which caused extinction of 95% of all living species in both animals & plants life. This extinctions was slow and took nearly 80000 years in 3 stages:


1- Increase in world temperature by 5 degrees Centigrade casued by super lengthy eruptions of Siberian Trapes


2-melting the frozen resoviours of Methan gas in the seabeds and releasing Carbon 12 (C12), which is a green house gas and raised sea temp by anothre 5 degrees, and that casued


3-world temp raised 10 degrees and that caused the mass extinctions


it took Earth millions of years to recover and after 20 millions years from then Dinosaurs first appeared.

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2 million-year-old Australopithecus sediba skeleton found in South Africa

2 million-year-old Australopithecus sediba skeleton found in  South Africa | Amazing Science |

South African scientists claim to have uncovered the most complete skeleton yet of an ancient relative of man, hidden in a rock excavated from an archaeological site three years ago. The remains of a juvenile hominid skeleton, of the newly identified Australopithecus (southern ape) sediba species, are the most complete early human ancestor skeleton ever discovered. The skeleton is thought to be about 2 million years old. The upright-walking tree climber would have been aged between nine and 13 years when he or she died.


It is not certain whether the species, which had long arms, a small brain and a thumb, was a direct ancestor of humans' genus, Homo, or simply a close relative.


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NOVA: Becoming Human [VIDEO]

NOVA: Becoming Human [VIDEO] | Amazing Science |

Broadcast in 2010, NOVA Becoming Human examines the factors that caused us to split from the other great apes. The program explores the fossil of Selam, also known as Lucy's Child. Paleoanthropologist Zeray Alemseged spent five years carefully excavating the sandstone embedded fossil. NOVA's cameras are there to capture the unveiling of the face, spine, and shoulder blades of this 3.3 million year old fossil child. And NOVA takes viewers "inside the skull" to show how our ancestors' brains had begun to change from those of the apes. Why did leaps in human evolution take place? First Steps explores a provocative big idea that swings of climate were a key factor.

Nothing is more fascinating to us than, well, us. Where did we come from? What makes us human? NOVA's groundbreaking investigation explores how new discoveries are transforming views of our earliest ancestors. Featuring interviews with world renowned scientists, footage shot in the trenches as fossils were unearthed, and stunning computer generated animation, Becoming Human brings early hominids to life, examining how they lived and how we became the creative and adaptable modern humans of today. In the first episode, NOVA encounters Selam, the amazingly complete remains of a 3 million year old child, packed with clues to why we split from the apes, came down from the trees, and started walking upright. In gripping forensic detail, the second episode investigates the riddle of Turkana Boy a tantalizing fossil of Homo erectus, the first ancestor to leave Africa and colonize the globe. What led to this first great African exodus?

In the final episode, Becoming Human explores the origins of us where modern humans and our capacities for art, invention, and survival came from, and what happened when we encountered the mysterious Neanderthals. Crucial new evidence comes from the recent decoding of the Neanderthal genome. Did modern humans interbreed with Neanderthals? Exterminate them? Becoming Human examines why we survived while our other ancestral cousins including Indonesia's 3 foot high Hobbit died out and poses the question: are we still evolving today?

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September 18, The Day Leonhard Euler Died

September 18, The Day Leonhard Euler Died | Amazing Science |

Euler is easily the most prolific mathematician of all time. The range and volume of his output is simply staggering. He published over 850 papers, almost all of substantial length, and more than 25 books and treatises. In 1907 the Swiss Academy of Sciences established the Euler Commission with the charge of publishing the complete body of work consisting of all of his papers, manuscripts, and correspondence. This project, known as Opera Omnia, began in 1911 and is still ongoing. His scientific publications, not counting his correspondence, run to over 70 volumes, each between approximately 300 and 600 pages. Thousands of pages of handwritten manuscripts are still not in print. Euler was in constant communication with all the great scientists of his day, and his correspondence covers several thousand pages.

Euler's powers of memory and concentration were legendary. He could recite the entire Aeneid word-for-word. He was not troubled by interruptions or distractions; in fact, he did much of his work with his young children playing at his feet. He was able to do prodigious calculations in his head, a necessity after he went blind. The contemporary French mathematician Condorcet tells the story of two of Euler's students who had independently summed seventeen terms of a complicated infinite series, only to disagree in the fiftieth decimal place; Euler settled the dispute by recomputing the sum in his head.

Further reading:


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Digital mapping uncovers ‘super henge’ that dwarfed Stonehenge

Digital mapping uncovers ‘super henge’ that dwarfed Stonehenge | Amazing Science |

Every summer solstice, tens of thousands of people throng to Stonehenge, creating a festival-like atmosphere at the 4,400-year-old stone monument. For the 2015 solstice, they will have a bit more room to spread out. A just-completed four-year project to map the vicinity of Stonehenge reveals a sprawling complex that includes 17 newly discovered monuments and signs of 1.5 kilometre-round “super henge”.

The digital map — made from high-resolution radar and magnetic and laser scans that accumulated several terabytes of data — shatters the picture of Stonehenge as a desolate and exclusive site that was visited by few, says Vincent Gaffney, an archaeologist at the University of Birmingham, UK, who co-led the effort.

Take the cursus, a 3-kilometer-long, 100-meter-wide ditch north of Stonehenge that was thought to act as barrier. The team’s mapping uncovered gaps in the cursus leading to Stonehenge, as well as several large pits, one of which would have been perfectly aligned with the setting solstice Sun. New magnetic and radar surveys of the Durrington Walls (which had been excavated before) uncovered more than 60 now-buried holes in which stones would have sat, and a few stones still buried.

“They look as they may have been pushed over. That’s a big prehistoric monument which we never knew anything about,” says Gaffney, who calls the structure a ‘super henge.’ His team will discuss the work at the British Science Festival this week, and they plan to present it to the institutions that manage the site. “I’m sure it will guide future excavations,” Gaffney says.

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New geoglyphs found in Nazca desert after sandstorm

New geoglyphs found in Nazca desert after sandstorm | Amazing Science |

While flying over the famous Nazca desert recently, pilot Eduardo Herrán Gómez de la Torre spotted some geoglyphs that had not been seen before. He believes the geoglyphs or Nazca Lines, as others call them, were exposed after recent sand-storms carried away soil that was covering them.

The Nazca Lines have become world famous, showing up in paintings, movies, books and news articles. They exist on the floor of the Nazca desert in a southwestern part of Peru, near the ocean. Scientists believe the figures (approximately 700 in all) were created by the ancient Nazca people over a time period of a thousand years—500BC to 500AD.

The geoglyphs vary in size and have been categorized into two distinct categories: natural objects and geometric figures. The natural objects include animals such as birds, camelids, or snakes. It is believed the lines were created by removing iron-oxide coated pellets to a depth of four to six inches—that left the lighter sand below in stark contrast to the surrounding area. The images vary dramatically in size, with the largest approximately 935 feet long. It is a myth that the figures on the desert floor can only be seen by aircraft (they were first "discovered" by a pilot flying over the desert in 1939). In fact, they can be seen quite easily when standing on nearby mountains or hills.

The newly revealed figures discovered by de la Torre are of a snake (approximately 196 feet in length), a bird, a camelid (perhaps a llama) and some zig-zag lines. They are actually on some hills in the El Ingenio Valley and Pampas de Jumana near the desert floor. Archeologists have been alerted to authenticate the find.

The reason for the creation of the geoglyphs is still uncertain, though a host of possible explanations have been offered, many centered around religion and or water. Interestingly, all of the figures are believed to have been created using a single line that never crosses itself. Similar to how a picture might be drawn with a pencil, never lifting it from the paper. It has also been noted that many of the images depicted by geoglyphs also appear on pottery made by people over the same time period, and, archeologists have found evidence of wooden stakes used to help create the images, suggesting they were made using very simple techniques.

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Who invented pants? First pants worn by horse riders 3,000 years ago

Who invented pants? First pants worn by horse riders 3,000 years ago | Amazing Science |
A new study indicates horse-riding Asians wove and wore wool trousers by around 3,000 years ago.

Two men whose remains were recently excavated from tombs in western China put their pants on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us. But these nomadic herders did so between 3,300 and 3,000 years ago, making their trousers the oldest known examples of this innovative apparel, a new study finds.

With straight-fitting legs and a wide crotch, the ancient wool trousers resemble modern riding pants, says a team led by archaeologists Ulrike Beck and Mayke Wagner of the German Archaeological Institute in Berlin. The discoveries, uncovered in the Yanghai graveyard in China’s Tarim Basin, support previous work suggesting that nomadic herders in Central Asia invented pants to provide bodily protection and freedom of movement for horseback journeys and mounted warfare, the scientists report May 22 in Quaternary International.

“This new paper definitely supports the idea that trousers were invented for horse riding by mobile pastoralists, and that trousers were brought to the Tarim Basin by horse-riding peoples,” remarks linguist and China authority Victor Mair of the University of Pennsylvania.

Previously, Europeans and Asians wore gowns, robes, tunics, togas or — as observed on the 5,300-year-old body of Ötzi the Iceman — a three-piece combination of loincloth and individual leggings.

A dry climate and hot summers helped preserve human corpses, clothing and other organic material in the Tarim Basin. More than 500 tombs have been excavated in a graveyard there since the early 1970s.

Earlier research on mummies from several Tarim Basin sites, led by Mair, identified a 2,600-year-old individual known as Cherchen Man who wore burgundy trousers probably made of wool. Trousers of Scythian nomads from West Asia date to roughly 2,500 years ago.

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Mystery of the origin of the pandemic flu virus of 1918 solved

Mystery of the origin of the pandemic flu virus of 1918 solved | Amazing Science |

A study led by Michael Worobey at the University of Arizona in Tucson provides the most conclusive answers yet to two of the world's foremost biomedical mysteries of the past century: the origin of the 1918 pandemic flu virus and its unusual severity, which resulted in a death toll of approximately 50 million people.

Worobey's paper on the flu, to be published in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on April 28, not only sheds light on the devastating 1918 pandemic, but also suggests that the types of flu viruses to which people were exposed during childhood may predict how susceptible they are to future strains, which could inform vaccination strategies and pandemic prevention and preparedness.

"Ever since the great flu pandemic of 1918, it has been a mystery where that virus came from and why it was so severe, and in particular, why it killed young adults in the prime of life," said Worobey, a professor in the UA Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. "It has been a huge question what the ingredients for that calamity were, and whether we should expect the same thing to happen tomorrow, or whether there was something special about that situation."

The origin of the 1918 pandemic influenza A virus (IAV) and the reasons for its unusual severity are two of the foremost biomedical mysteries of the past century. The researchers now infer that the virus arose via reassortment between a preexisting human H1 IAV lineage and an avian virus. Phylogenetic, sero-archeological, and epidemiological evidence indicates those born earlier or later than ∼1880–1900 would have had some protection against the 1918 H1N1 virus, whereas many young adults born from ∼1880–1900 may have lacked such protection because of childhood exposure to an antigenically distinct H3N8 virus. These findings suggest that better understanding of how initial exposure shapes lifetime immunity may enhance the prediction and control of future IAV pandemics and seasonal epidemics.

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Oral History: Over 150 Interviews with Manhattan Project Veterans

Oral History: Over 150 Interviews with Manhattan Project Veterans | Amazing Science |

Voices of the Manhattan Project is a joint project by the Atomic Heritage Foundation and the Los Alamos Historical Society to create a public archive of our oral history collections of Manhattan Project veterans and their families. The Manhattan Project was a great human collaboration, with 130,000 people around the country working on the top-secret project. We are currently in the process of adding many more oral histories to the website, so check back frequently to view new interviews! 150+ of these interviews are currently online.

The Manhattan Project was a research and development project that produced the first atomic bombs during World War II. It was led by the United States with the support of the United Kingdom and Canada. From 1942 to 1946, the project was under the direction of Major General Leslie Groves of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Army component of the project was designated the Manhattan District; "Manhattan" gradually superseded the official codename, Development of Substitute Materials, for the entire project. Along the way, the project absorbed its earlier British counterpart, Tube Alloys. The Manhattan Project began modestly in 1939, but grew to employ more than 130,000 people and cost nearly US$2 billion (about $26 billion in 2014[1] dollars). Over 90% of the cost was for building factories and producing the fissionable materials, with less than 10% for development and production of the weapons. Research and production took place at more than 30 sites across the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada.

Two types of atomic bomb were developed during the war. A relatively simple gun-type fission weapon was made using uranium-235, an isotope that makes up only 0.7 percent of natural uranium. Since it is chemically identical to the most common isotope, uranium-238, and has almost the same mass, it proved difficult to separate. Three methods were employed for uranium enrichmentelectromagneticgaseous and thermal. Most of this work was performed at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. In parallel with the work on uranium was an effort to produce plutonium. Reactors were constructed at Oak Ridge and Hanford, Washington, in which uranium was irradiated and transmuted into plutonium. The plutonium was then chemically separated from the uranium. The gun-type design proved impractical to use with plutonium so a more complex implosion-type weapon was developed in a concerted design and construction effort at the project's principal research and design laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

The project was also charged with gathering intelligence on the German nuclear energy project. Through Operation Alsos, Manhattan Project personnel served in Europe, sometimes behind enemy lines, where they gathered nuclear materials and documents, and rounded up German scientists.

The first nuclear device ever detonated was an implosion-type bomb at the Trinity test, conducted at New Mexico's Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range on 16 July 1945. Little Boy, a gun-type weapon, and the implosion-type Fat Man were used in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively. In the immediate postwar years, the Manhattan Project conducted weapons testing at Bikini Atoll as part of Operation Crossroads, developed new weapons, promoted the development of the network of national laboratories, supported medical research into radiology and laid the foundations for the nuclear navy. It maintained control over American atomic weapons research and production until the formation of the United States Atomic Energy Commission in January 1947.

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Searching for the Amazon's hidden civilizations before Columbus' arrival

Searching for the Amazon's hidden civilizations before Columbus' arrival | Amazing Science |

Statistical model predicts signs of agriculture in the rainforest. A new model of the Amazon predicts that terra preta is more likely to be found along rivers in the eastern part of the rainforest. The letters indicate known archaeological sites.

Look around the Amazon rainforest today and it’s hard to imagine it filled with people. But in recent decades, archaeologists have started to find evidence that before Columbus’s arrival, the region was dotted with towns and perhaps even cities. The extent of human settlement in the Amazon remains hotly debated, partly because huge swaths of the 6-million-square-kilometer rainforest remain unstudied by archaeologists. Now, researchers have built a model predicting where signs of pre-Columbian agriculture are most likely to be found, a tool they hope will help guide future archaeological work in the region.

In many ways, archaeology in the Amazon is still in its infancy. Not only is it difficult to mount large-scale excavations in the middle of a tropical rainforest, but until recently, archaeologists assumed there wasn’t much to find. Amazonian soil is notoriously poor quality—all the nutrients are immediately sucked up by the rainforest’s astounding biodiversity—so for many years, scientists believed that the kind of large-scale farming needed to support cities was impossible in the region. Discoveries of gigantic earthworks and ancient roads, however, hint that densely populated and long-lasting population hubs once existed in the Amazon. Their agricultural secret? Pre-Columbian Amazonians enriched the soil themselves, creating what archaeologists call terra preta.

Terra preta—literally “black earth”—is soil that humans have enriched to have two to three times the nutrient content of the surrounding, poor-quality soil, explains Crystal McMichael, a paleoecologist at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne. Although there is no standard definition for terra preta, it tends to be darker than other Amazonian soils and to have charcoal and pre-Columbian pottery shards mixed in. Most of it was created 2500 to 500 years ago. Like the earthworks, terra preta is considered a sign that a particular area was occupied by humans in the pre-Columbian past.

By analyzing location and environmental data from nearly 1000 known terra preta sites and comparing it with information from soil surveys that reported no terra preta, McMichael and her team found patterns in the distribution of the enriched soil. The scientists concluded that terra pretais most likely to be found in central and eastern Amazonia on bluffs overlooking rivers nearing the Atlantic Ocean. It’s less common in western Amazonia, where runoff from the Andes tends to add nutrients to the soil naturally, and in highland areas such as Llanos de Moxos in Bolivia, which is home to many impressive pre-Columbian earthworks. By analyzing the environmental conditions most strongly associated with terra preta, the team was able to build a model predicting where undiscovered terra preta sites are most likely to be found. Overall, they suspect that there is probably about 154,063 km2 of terra preta in the Amazon, composing about 3.2% of the basin’s total area, they report online today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

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Polynesian people used binary numbers 600 years ago

Polynesian people used binary numbers 600 years ago | Amazing Science |
Base-2 system helped to simplify calculations centuries before Europeans rediscovered it.

When Leibniz demonstrated the advantages of the binary system for computations as early as 1703, he laid the foundation for computing machines. However, is a binary system also suitable for human cognition? One of two number systems traditionally used on Mangareva, a small island in French Polynesia, had three binary steps superposed onto a decimal structure. A recent study shows how this system functions, how it facilitated arithmetic, and why it is unique. The Mangarevan invention of binary steps, centuries before their formal description by Leibniz, attests to the advancements possible in numeracy even in the absence of notation and thereby highlights the role of culture for the evolution of and diversity in numerical cognition.

Cognitive scientist Rafael Nuñez at the University of California, San Diego, points out that the idea of binary systems is actually older than Mangarevan culture. “It can be traced back to at least ancient China, around the 9th century bc”, he says, and it can be found in the I Ching, a millennia-old Chinese text that inspired Leibniz. Nuñez adds that “other ancient groups, such as the Maya, used sophisticated combinations of binary and decimal systems to keep track of time and astronomical phenomena. Thus, the cognitive advantages underlying the Mangarevan counting system may not be unique.”

All the same, say Bender and Beller, a ‘mixed’ system such as this is not easy, nor an obvious set-up to create. “It’s puzzling that anybody would come up with such a solution, especially on a tiny island with a small population,” Bender and Beller say. But they add: “This very fact also demonstrates just how important culture is for the development of numerical cognition — for example, how in this case dealing with big numbers can motivate inventive solutions.”

Nuñez agrees; he adds that the study shows “the primacy of cultural factors underlying the invention of number systems, and the diversity in human numerical cognition”.

  1. Nature: doi:10.1038/nature.2013.14380

  2. Bender, A. & Beller, S. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA

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Typhoid Mary Mystery May Finally Have Been Solved

Typhoid Mary Mystery May Finally Have Been Solved | Amazing Science |
How exactly was the Irish immigrant known as Typhoid Mary able to infect about 50 people in New York City in the early 1900s without succumbing to the illness herself? Scientists say they are now close to cracking the case.


In a new study, they were able to solve the mystery of how a dangerous bacterial pathogen can, in some people, manage to persist without causing symptoms and find a way to survive for decades.


For the salmonella bacteria that causes typhoid fever, the researchers said it manages to hide in immune cells known as macrophages and "hacks" their metabolism to their own benefit. If the germs are successful in pulling that off, then an infected person can unknowingly spread the pathogen without falling ill themselves -- like in Typhoid Mary, whose real name was Mary Mallon. Just watch the video above.


“To all outward appearances, she was perfectly healthy,” study co-author Dr. Denise Monack, associate professor of immunology and microbiology at Stanford University, said in a written statement.


Monack and her research team infected mice with a strain of salmonella, and found that, the bacteria were able to "wait out" the body's aggressive immune response before they then positioned themselves in the immune cells that became less aggressive at later stages of infection.


“There aren’t a ton of pathogens that hang out in macrophages,” Monack told the Los Angeles Times, adding that the bacterium behind tuberculosis is another.


So if that's where the nasty germ hangs out, how does it survive and go unnoticed? The researchers found that a protein known as PPAR-delta was required for salmonella to replicate inside the macrophages and "hack" them.


“Salmonella is doing something to activate PPAR-delta,” Monack said in the statement. “We suspect it’s releasing some as-yet-unknown PPAR-delta-stimulating virulence factor into the macrophages it infects. If we can figure out what that is, it could lead to some great anti-salmonella therapeutics with relatively fewer side effects.”

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A History of Conflicts

A History of Conflicts | Amazing Science |
Browse the timeline of war and conflict across the globe.


This database of global wars and conflicts is searchable through space and time.  You can drag and click both the map and timeline to locate particular battles and wars, and then read more information about that conflict.  This resource would be a great one to show students and let them explore to find what they see as interesting.  This site is brimming with potential.     

Via Seth Dixon, Martin Daumiller, Sakis Koukouvis
Sakis Koukouvis's comment, August 16, 2012 8:06 AM
Oh... You are lucky ;-)
Paul Rymsza's comment, August 22, 2012 2:15 PM
the potential of this site is amazing between the interactive learning system and the correlation between the timeline and location. If the human geography class is anything like this i can't wait for it!
Seth Dixon's curator insight, September 28, 2013 3:34 PM


This database of global wars and conflicts is searchable through space and time.  You can drag and click both the map and timeline to locate particular battles and wars, and then read more information about that conflict.  This resource would be a great one to show students and let them explore to find what they see as interesting.  This site is brimming with potential.    

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Fossil records show ocean rise risk much higher than previously anticipated

Fossil records show ocean rise risk much higher than previously anticipated | Amazing Science |
Sea levels may rise much higher than previously thought, according to scientists from The Australian National University, who have used fossil corals to understand how warmer temperatures in the past promoted dramatic melting of polar ice sheets.


Dr. Andrea Dutton, formerly of the Research School of Earth Sciences (RSES) in the ANU College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, teamed up with Professor Kurt Lambeck of the RSES to analyse fossil corals around the world from the last interglacial period, 125,000 years ago.


They built an extensive database by compiling age and elevation data of fossil corals that live near the sea surface, and used a model to factor in the physics of how changing masses of ice sheets would affect regional sea level at the various fossil coral sites.


They concluded that sea level during the last interglacial period peaked at 5.5 to 9 metres above present sea level.

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Earliest Americans Arrived in 3 Waves, Not 1, DNA Study Finds

Earliest Americans Arrived in 3 Waves, Not 1, DNA Study Finds | Amazing Science |

North and South America were first populated by three waves of migrants from Siberia rather than just a single migration, say researchers who have studied the whole genomes of Native Americans in South America and Canada.


Some scientists assert that the Americas were peopled in one large migration from Siberia that happened about 15,000 years ago, but the new genetic research shows that this central episode was followed by at least two smaller migrations from Siberia, one by people who became the ancestors of today’s Eskimos and Aleutians and another by people speaking Na-Dene, whose descendants are confined to North America.

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