When archaeologists discovered thousands of medieval skeletons in a mass burial pit in east London in the 1990s, they assumed they were 14th-century victims of the Black Death or the Great Famine of 1315-17. Now they have been astonished by a more explosive explanation – a cataclysmic volcano that had erupted a century earlier, thousands of miles away in the tropics, and wrought havoc on medieval Britons.
Scientific evidence – including radiocarbon dating of the bones and geological data from across the globe – shows for the first time that mass fatalities in the 13th century were caused by one of the largest volcanic eruptions of the past 10,000 years.
Such was the size of the eruption that its sulphurous gases would have released a stratospheric aerosol veil or dry fog that blocked out sunlight, altered atmospheric circulation patterns and cooled the Earth's surface. It caused crops to wither, bringing famine, pestilence and death.
Surprisingly, perhaps, the volcano's exact location has yet to be established. Mexico, Ecuador and Indonesia are the most likely areas, according to vulcanologists, who found evidence in ice cores from the northern hemisphere and Antarctic and within a thick layer of ash from Lake Malawi sediments. The ice core sulphate concentration shows that it was up to eight times higher than Indonesia's Krakatoa eruption of 1883, one of the most catastrophic in history.
This was the biggest eruption in historic times. It may have brought the temperatures down by 4C, a huge amount.
British engineers from University College London have developed a passive radar system that can see through walls using the WiFi signals generated by wireless routers and access points.
The system, devised by Karl Woodbridge and Kevin Chetty, requires two antennae and a signal processing unit (i.e. computer), and is no larger than a suitcase. Unlike normal radar, which emits radio waves and then measures any reflected signals, this new system operates in complete stealth.
The passive radar process is actually quite simple. In any space that has WiFi, you are constantly being bombarded by 2.4GHz and 5GHz radio waves. When these waves hit a moving object, their frequency is altered (the Doppler effect). By carefully “sniffing” the WiFi signals, Woodbridge and Chetty are able to reconstruct an image any objects or humans that are moving on the other side of the wall.
Electrical engineers at The University of Texas at Arlington and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have devised a new laser for on-chip optical connections that could give computers a huge boost in speed and energy efficiency.
At just 2 micrometers in height — smaller than the width of a human hair — the surface-emitting laser's vastly lower profile could make it cheaper and easier for manufacturers to integrate high-speed optical data connections into the microprocessors powering the next generation of computers.
Scientists identified seven new species of bamboo coral in the deep waters of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. Six of these species may represent entirely new genera, a remarkable feat given the broad classification a genus represents.
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Electronic books for preschoolers jazz up their stories with videos, animations and games that make Goodnight Moon look like something chiseled in the Stone Age. Such books can help children learn the early skills they need for reading, but not if the special features distract them from the story on the page.
That’s what University of Akron researchers discovered during a three-year, federally funded project at four local Head Start sites that ended this spring. The project, called Akron Ready Steps, tested whether focusing on early literacy skills throughout the preschool day would improve children’s readiness for kindergarten. Researchers also explored the learning potential of e-books, which can be read on mobile touchscreen devices such as iPads ...
Walk Appeal promises to be a major new tool for understanding and building walkable places, and it explains several things that were heretofore either contradictory or mysterious.
What is a reasonable distance to walk around town? Research shows that cities with improved sidewalks, less parking lots, attractive storefronts and other amenities that encourage walking. If walking the urban environment is and of itself an experience worth having and makes the person feel like a flâneur, experiencing the city on a deeper level, automotive transport goes down and walking goes up. Urban infrastructure is more important for most people than distance in deciding whether to get in the car or walk down the street (for distances under 2 miles). Bottom line: neighborhoods that have an attractive sense of place are more walkable.
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