Rogue Cosmic Rays From Outer Space Are Causing Havoc With Our Smartphones


And it’s getting worse.

Under Earth’s protective magnetic field, we don’t usually need to worry too much about the health effects of cosmic radiation – although it’s something that’s known to impact astronauts in space, and even passengers travelling in airplanes.

But the same can’t be said for our technological systems – fierce solar storms can wreak havoc on Earth’s communication networks, and new research shows that even ordinary levels of cosmic radiation can have a disruptive effect on our personal devices.

“This is a really big problem, but it is mostly invisible to the public,” says electrical engineer Bharat Bhuva from Vanderbilt University.

To see just how big the problem is, Bhuva and his team took 16-nanometre computer chips – the kind used in many of today’s consumer PCs – and exposed them to a neutron beam, in an attempt to replicate what happens when cosmic radiation penetrates our atmosphere.

When cosmic rays collide with Earth’s magnetic field, they create cascades of secondary particles – including energetic neutrons, muons, and pions.

Millions of these particles strike our bodies every second, and while they aren’t thought to have any effect on our health, they can interfere with the operation of microelectronic circuitry.

In particular, when they interact with integrated circuits, they can actually alter or ‘flip’ individual bits of data stored in memory – a phenomenon that’s called a single-event upset (SEU).

Most of the time, such an event probably wouldn’t create much of a problem. An app running on your smartphone or PC might glitch somehow, making a miscalculation, but it’s probably not something you’ll notice for more than a moment.

But in some cases, SEUs could have drastic and potentially far-reaching consequences.

In 2003, a ‘bit flip’ in a Belgian electronic voting machine gave one candidate in the election an extra 4,096 votes, before the mistake was caught.

Even more worrying – the avionics system of a Qantas passenger jetmalfunctioned due to a suspected SEU in 2008, forcing the aircraft into an abrupt dive that injured about a third of the passengers on board.

Bhuva’s research was sponsored by a number of microelectronics companies, and the results are proprietary – meaning they’re unlikely to be published any time soon.

But in a presentation of key trends in the findings at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston last Friday, he explained that as technology advances and transistors get ever smaller, the likelihood of SEUs due to cosmic rays is increasing.

“[S]emiconductor manufacturers are very concerned about this problem because it is getting more serious as the size of the transistors in computer chips shrink and the power and capacity of our digital systems increase,” says Bhuva.

“In addition, microelectronic circuits are everywhere and our society is becoming increasingly dependent on them.”

Ultimately, smaller transistors are more vulnerable to energetic particles, because they require less electrical charge to represent a logical bit – which means they flip between binary states (from 0 to 1, or vice versa) more easily when they’re struck by cosmic rays.

On the other hand, today’s transistors are smaller than ever, so they’re actually less likely to be hit by flying energy particles. Contemporary transistors are also assembled in 3D designs, that help to make them less individually susceptible to SEUs.

But since today’s computer chips include significantly higher numbers of these smaller transistors overall, at the device level, the risk of an SEU occurring is greater than ever, Bhuva says.

So, what’s the solution? Unfortunately, shielding chips from energy particles isn’t an option, as it would take more than 3 metres (10 feet) of concrete to prevent transistors from being struck. 
According to Bhuva, the answer is for device manufacturers to design systems that include three processors in place of one. In rare cases where two chips tell you one thing, and the third tells you another, majority rules – as the errant third result would likely be due to an SEU.

Plugging that hole will ultimately mean our devices run smoother than ever – but in the meantime, there’s no need to lose any sleep over your smartphone being hit by a rogue particle strike.

“This is a major problem for industry and engineers,” Bhuva says, “but it isn’t something that members of the general public need to worry much about.”

Life Recovered Faster Than We Thought From Earth’s Worst Mass Extinction


Even the Great Dying couldn’t hold life down.

 

Life appears to have recovered faster than we thought after the worst mass extinction event in our planet’s history, nicknamed the Great Dying.

New evidence suggests that once the Permian-Triassic extinction hit Earth 252 million years ago, life rebounded in 1 million years – a far cry from the 10 to 20 million years that previous research has indicated.

The extinction event has been linked to a combination of volcanic activity and a runaway greenhouse effect, and was responsible for obliterating 9 in 10 marine species, and 7 in 10 land species.

What’s prompting the rethink into how life rebounded from all this is a new haul of diverse fossils found in southeastern Idaho, called the Paris Biota, after the nearby city of Paris. The fossils have been dated to 250.6 million years ago – just 1.3 million years after the Great Dying.

A team led by paleontologist Daniel Stephen from Utah Valley University has identified 30 different types of species in the Paris Biota site, including sharks, squid, and starfish, plus some animals that look like nothing we see on Earth today.

Also included in the find are some types of primitive sponges that were thought to have gone extinct hundreds of millions of years before the Great Dying.

While this is only one geographical area, the number of fossils and their diversity suggest life was flourishing as the planet recovered – at least under the sea. The researchers are now assessing other sites to see if more fossils of a similar age can be found.

“To build these diverse ecosystems, you’re almost starting from scratch from the mass extinction event,” Stephen told The New York Times.

“The information that my colleagues and I have gathered tell us that at least in some places the recovery was relatively rapid.”

fossil-parisSome of the fossils in the find. Credit: Brayard et al

Of course, mass extinction is never a good thing, but at least we now know that organisms can bounce

“There’s a handful of places around the world that have this indication of diverse ecosystems,” Stephen told Maddie Stone at Gizmodo. “Right now, we’re not entirely sure if it was just an isolated phenomenon, or more widespread.”

If evidence of the recovery can be found elsewhere too, it’s a promising sign for the world today – with so many animals under threat and our own climate shifting. Ideally, we don’t want any species to disappear, but this new research suggests life could be tougher to kill than we thought.

“For a lot of us palaeontologists, we look at what’s going on in the present day very seriously,” Stephen said.

“We see in the fossil record how large these disruptions are – 1.5 million years [to recover] is pretty fast for the geologic record, so perhaps [this study] does offer hope for the planet. But perhaps not so much for us humans.”

Scientists Are Reversing the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s


IN BRIEF
  • The testing of injecting RNA into Alzheimer’s patients to reduce the levels of tau proteins is a possible new treatment for the more than 5.1 million people living with Alzheimer’s.
  • The treatment has shown some limitation in the testing done on chimps, more testing will be done on primates to discern the safety and efficacy on humans.

THE REALITY OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE

In the U.S. alone, approximately 5.1 million people may have Alzheimer’s disease. Although not associated directly with the aging process, older age groups are at higher risk of developing it. The illness doesn’t seem to be slowing down either. Between 2010 and 2050, the number of Americans age 65 and older will more than double to 88.5 million, the equivalent of 20 percent of the entire population.

Unfortunately, these are the harsh facts behind Alzheimer’s. But with advances in neuroscience and technology, scientists are on the verge of finding more effective treatments, or rather a solution to combatting the iconic symptoms of the disease.

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in Missouri are looking at a particular protein and the gene responsible for its production in the body. It’s called the tau protein, and in a healthy brain, it helps to maintain the functioning of neurons. But in someone living with Alzheimer’s, the tau protein morphs into ‘tangles’ that are toxic to the brain.


To test if these tau protein tangles could be reversed, the researchers took genetically engineered ‘tangled’ mice and injected them with antisense oligonucleotides, or RNA, four times a month. The result – tau levels plummeted, and existing tangles seemed to disappear. The protein even stopped spreading in older mice. Their life expectancy was longer than mice treated without antisense, and they were able to recover some traits lost from the mutation.

WILL IT WORK ON HUMANS?

With monkeys, the test results weren’t as hopeful. They found that tau protein levels only dropped by 20 percent, leading them to believe that future tests on humans could potentially produce adverse effects. Scientists aren’t completely sure where a reduction of tau in the human brain could lead. Normal operation could cease to function, or function abnormally as a result.

Other possible Alzheimer’s treatments were tested in recent years, and many failed to reverse the effects of the disease. It will still be a long way until people are able to experiment with human subjects, and the clock is ticking as the number of Alzheimer’s patients continues to increase each year.

Brain-to-Brain Communication in Humans Could Soon Become a Reality


IN BRIEF
  • Researchers are finding ways for us to communicate using only our minds, going so far as to give people in separate rooms the ability to send answers to each other without speaking.
  • If we can hone this technology, it could help people with paralysis or other physical disorders regain the ability to communicate or perform physical tasks.

SPEAKING WITHOUT A SINGLE WORD

Imagine living in a world in which verbal communication is no longer required, a society in which telepathy is the norm, where people would be able to “speak” to each other using only their thoughts.

Scientists have long been contemplating the possibilities of brain-to-brain communication in humans, and it appears as though their dreams could become a reality within the next year or so. Such a system would be made possible via major advances in the technology that have been achieved via recent trials involving animals.

In one study, three monkeys were connected through individual brain implants, then placed in separate rooms. They were given the task of controlling a virtual arm on screen, a task they could only complete successfully if they worked together. In the end, they did. According to Miguel Nicolelis, the study’s lead author, “They synchronized their brains and they achieved the task by creating a superbrain — a structure that is the combination of three brains.”


Credit: University of Washington

Alternatively, another experiment that tested brain synchronicity in four rats was able to accomplish similar results. After 10 trials, scientists found that the rats were able to think as one 61 percent of the time. They gained higher accuracy in solving simple problems when they combined minds.

More recently, the research has focused on humans. In one study, researchers placed two people in separate rooms and gave them the task of playing a game of 20 questions on a computer using only their minds. They transmitted “yes” or “no” answers with the help of an EEG cap, which tracked the brain activity of one person and triggered an electrical current in the other person’s brain.

THE FUTURE OF BRAIN COMMUNICATION

One day, we could attempt to take it up another notch in order to detect individual thought processes. These thoughts could be transmitted to another person, influencing the decisions they make.

This could be an enormous game changer for people with paralysis and other medical conditions that prevent them from being able to perform physical tasks. For example, assembling a robotic suit equipped with brainet, a synchronization of multiple brains acting as an organic computer, could allow people to receive help from others when learning how to use an exoskeleton to regain movement.

For now, it’s proving quite difficult to create a device that mimics pure telepathy. Our brains are unique, and each of us thinks differently, our thoughts being influenced by our individual memories and experiences. The resulting brain patterns make it hard for neuroscientists to develop brain-to-brain communication, but if they can reveal an individual’s patterns of thought, they could potentially use another person’s brain activity to trigger those thoughts.

Science Confirms Your Older Sibling Is Probably Smarter Than You


You can blame this one on your parents

Ever feel like your parents always favored your older brother? He might have benefited from that more than you realize: First-born children are smarter than their siblings, according to a new University of Edinburgh study.

older sibling is smartest

To further explain the “birth order effect”—a phenomenon that seeks to understand why some children born earlier in a family grow up to receive a higher-level of education and better-paying jobs—researchers followed 5,000 children from pre-birth to the age of 14. The kids were assessed every 2 years with reading, letter-matching, and picture vocabulary tests. They found that first-born children exhibited higher IQ scores than their younger siblings by the age of one.
Blame it on your mom and dad: While parents with multiple children gave all their kids the same amount of emotional support, first-borns received more intellectual support with tasks that improved their thinking skills. What’s more, parents took part in fewer brain-boosting activities with their younger kids, like reading with them, playing instruments, and doing crafts. To make it even worse, mothers were more likely to take health risks after having their first kid, like smoking while pregnant.So yeah, your older brother might have had better grades than you, but he also had unique learning advantages as a kid—up until the age of 3, if you want to get specific. Next time he brags about his fancy job during a holiday dinner, feel free to call your parents out for never reading to you at bedtime.

Majority of parents with children at home don’t lock up prescribed opioids, study finds


Despite rise in opioid dependency in the U.S., a majority of parents who have prescription opioids at home do not report storing them safely, according to a new study published today in the journal Pediatrics.

Just 32 percent of parents of young children under the age 7 reported storing prescription opioids safely — in a latched or locked location — researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said in the study. The percentage was even lower for parents of older children between the ages of 7 and 17 — 11.7 percent. Parents who had children in both age groups leaned closer to those with young children; 29 percent reported storing the medications safely.

“Our work shines a light on the pervasiveness of unsafely stored opioids in American homes with children,” says study lead author Eileen McDonald, MS, faculty with the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, said in a statement today. “Unsafely stored opioids can contribute to accidental ingestions among younger children and pilfering by older children, especially high school students.”

The study included data from 681 adults with children in the home who had been prescribed opioid medications. They were first recruited over the phone and then took a web survey about how they stored the medications.

While illicit opioid drugs like heroin and fenatnyl have grabbed headlines, deaths from prescription opioid drugs have more than quadrupled since 1999, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Most parents indicated that they are aware of the dangers these drugs pose to children, with 70 percent of respondents saying that locking up the opioid drugs “is a good way to keep my child from getting the medication” and “would prevent my child’s friends from getting the medication,” according to the study.

But parents with younger children expressed higher concern about storing their prescription opioids. Almost three-quarters of parents agreed with the statement, “Children can overdose on OPRs more easily than adults,” but those with younger children rated the risk higher on the scale.

Dr. Donna Seger, the executive director of the Tennessee Poison Center and a professor of clinical medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said many parents know they should keep prescription drugs out of reach for very young children, but may not have the same concerns for adolescents.

“It’s not just a risk in toddlers, it’s a huge risk in adolescents,” Seger said, explaining that teens may start to experiment with different drugs at home. “The medicine cabinet is going to be an important place to get them.”

Opioid use among adolescents has continued to be a problem. Prescription opioid drugs are the second most common drugs used by 12- to 17-year-old children, after marijuana, according to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

“We know that teens who use these drugs recreationally frequently get them from homes where they are easily accessible, increasing their risk for addiction and overdose,” McDonald said in the statement.

Seger added that teens’ nervous systems are still developing, making them more “vulnerable” to drug use.

Overdose fatalities among adolescents and young adults doubled between 1999 and 2008, according to study authors.

Parents may be aware of the dangers around opioid drugs, Seger said, but still feel “my kid wouldn’t do it” and therefore don’t take extra steps to lock up medication.

Understanding the many risks associated with opioid medication, even those that are prescribed, is important for parents of both young children and teens, the study authors and Seger said.

“Both adolescents and parents believe they are prescribed drugs, so they must be safe,” Seger said.

The study points to the need for more research on ways to store opioids more safely in homes and promoting those methods, especially in homes with children.

This 3,500-Year-Old Greek Tomb Upended What We Thought We Knew About the Roots of Western Civilization


The recent discovery of the grave of an ancient soldier is challenging accepted wisdom among archaeologists

Griffin warrior resting place
The warrior was buried in an olive grove outside the acropolis of Pylos. Though archaeologist Carl Blegen explored the olive grove in the 1960s, he did not find anything.

They had been digging for days, shaded from the Greek sun by a square of green tarpaulin slung between olive trees. The archaeologists used picks to break the cream-colored clay, baked as hard as rock, until what began as a cluster of stones just visible in the dirt became four walls in a neat rectangle, sinking down into the earth. Little more than the occasional animal bone, however, came from the soil itself. On the morning of May 28, 2015, the sun gave way to an unseasonable drizzle. The pair digging that day, Flint Dibble and Alison Fields, waited for the rain to clear, then stepped down into their meter-deep hole and got to work. Dibble looked at Fields. “It’s got to be soon,” he said.

The season had not started well. The archaeologists were part of a group of close to three dozen researchers digging near the ancient Palace of Nestor, on a hilltop near Pylos on the southwest coast of Greece. The palace was built in the Bronze Age by the Mycenaeans—the heroes described in Homer’s epic poems—and was first excavated in the 1930s. The dig’s leaders, Jack Davis and Sharon Stocker, husband-and-wife archaeologists from the University of Cincinnati, in Ohio, had hoped to excavate in a currant field just downslope from the palace, but Greek bureaucracy and a lawyers’ strike kept them from obtaining the necessary permits. So they settled, disappointed, on a neighboring olive grove. They cleared the land of weeds and snakes and selected a few spots to investigate, including three stones that appeared to form a corner. As the trench around the stones sank deeper, the researchers allowed themselves to grow eager: The shaft’s dimensions, two meters by one meter, suggested a grave, and Mycenaean burials are famous for their breathtakingly rich contents, able to reveal volumes about the culture that produced them. Still, there was no proof that this structure was even ancient, the archaeologists reminded themselves, and it might simply be a small cellar or shed.

Dibble was clearing earth from around a large stone slab when his pick hit something hard and the monotony of the clay was broken by a vivid flash of green: bronze.

The pair immediately put down their picks, and after placing an excited call to Davis and Stocker they began to carefully sweep up the soil and dust. They knew they were standing atop something substantial, but even then they did not imagine just how rich the discovery would turn out to be.“It was amazing,” says Stocker, a small woman in her 50s with dangling earrings and blue-gray eyes. “People had been walking across this field for three-and-a-half-thousand years.”

Over the next six months, the archaeologists uncovered bronze basins, weapons and armor, but also a tumble of even more precious items, including gold and silver cups; hundreds of beads made of carnelian, amethyst, amber and gold; more than 50 stone seals intricately carved with goddesses, lions and bulls; and four stunning gold rings. This was indeed an ancient grave, among the most spectacular archaeological discoveries in Greece in more than half a century—and the researchers were the first to open it since the day it was filled in.

“It’s incredible luck,” says John Bennet, director of the British School at Athens. “The fact that it hadn’t been discovered before now is astonishing.” The spectacular find of priceless treasures made headlines around the globe, but what really intrigues scholars, says Stocker, is the “bigger world picture.” The very first organized Greek society belonged to the Mycenaeans, whose kingdoms exploded out of nowhere on the Greek mainland around 1600 B.C. Although they disappeared equally dramatically a few hundred years later, giving way to several centuries known as the Greek Dark Ages, before the rise of “classical” Greece, the Mycenaeans sowed the seeds of our common traditions, including art and architecture, language, philosophy and literature, even democracy and religion. “This was a crucial time in the development of what would become Western civilization,” Stocker says.

Yet remarkably little is known of the beginnings of Mycenaean culture. The Pylos grave, with its wealth of undisturbed burial objects and, at its bottom, a largely intact skeleton, offers a nearly unprecedented window into this time—and what it reveals is calling into question our most basic ideas about the roots of Western civilization.

Stocker and Davis
Jack Davis and Sharon Stocker, husband-and-wife archaeologists from the University of Cincinnati, discovered the warrior’s grave. 

In The Iliad, Homer tells of how Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, led a fleet of a thousand ships to besiege the city of Troy. Classical Greeks (and Romans, who traced their heritage to the Trojan hero Aeneas) accepted the stories in The Iliad and The Odyssey as a part of their national histories, but in later centuries scholars insisted that the epic battles fought between the Trojan and Mycenaean kingdoms were nothing more than myth and romantic fantasy. Before the eighth century B.C., archaeologists argued, societies on the Greek mainland were scattered and disorganized.

At the end of the 19th century, a German-born businessman named Heinrich Schliemann was determined to prove otherwise. He used clues in Homer’s epic poems to locate the remains of Troy, buried in a hillside at Hissarlik in Turkey. He then turned his attention to the Greek mainland, hoping to find the palace of Agamemnon. Near the ruins of the great walls at Mycenae, in the Argolid Peninsula, Schliemann found a circle of graves containing the remains of 19 men, women and children, all dripping with gold and other riches. He hadn’t found Agamemnon—the graves, nearly 3,500 years old, dated to several centuries before the battles of Troy—but he had unearthed a great, lost civilization, which he called the Mycenaean, after the sovereign city of the powerful mythic king.

Homer describes other palaces, too, notably that of King Nestor, at Pylos. The Iliad says Nestor contributed 90 ships to Agamemnon’s fleet, second only to the great leader himself. Schliemann searched in vain for Nestor’s palace; in modern Pylos, a sleepy coastal town in the southwest Peloponnese, there was no hint of ancient architecture, unlike at Mycenae. But in the 1920s, a landowner noticed old stone blocks near the summit of a hill near Pylos, and Konstantinos Kourouniotis, director of the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, invited his friend and collaborator Carl Blegen, of the University of Cincinnati, to investigate.

Blegen began excavations in April 1939. On his very first day, he uncovered a hoard of clay tablets, filled with an unreadable script known as Linear B, which had also been found on Crete, the largest of the Aegean islands. He had dug straight into the archive room of King Nestor’s palace. After World War II, Blegen went on to discover a grid of rooms and courtyards that rivals Mycenae in size and is now the best-preserved Bronze Age palace on the Greek mainland, not to mention a significant tourist attraction.

Today, Blegen’s work at Pylos is continued by Stocker and Davis (his official title is the Carl W. Blegen professor of Greek archaeology). Davis walks with me to the hilltop, and we pause to enjoy the gorgeous view of olive groves and cypress trees rolling down to a jewel-blue sea. Davis has white-blond hair, freckles and a dry sense of humor, and he is steeped in the history of the place: Alongside Stocker, he has been working in this area for 25 years. As we look out to sea, he points out the island of Sphacteria, where the Athenians beat the Spartans during a fifth-century B.C. battle of the Peloponnesian War.

Behind us, Nestor’s palace is surrounded by flowering oleander trees and is covered with an impressive new metal roof, completed just in time for the site’s reopening to the public in June 2016 after a three-year, multimillion-euro restoration. The roof’s graceful white curves protect the ruins from the elements, while a raised walkway allows visitors to admire the floor plan. The stone walls of the palace now rise just a meter from the ground, but it was originally a vast two-story complex, built around 1450 B.C., that covered more than 15,000 square feet and was visible for miles. Visitors would have passed through an open courtyard into a large throne room, Davis explains, with a central hearth for offerings and decorated with elaborately painted scenes including lions, griffins and a bard playing a lyre.

The Linear B tablets found by Blegen, deciphered in the 1950s, revealed that the palace was an administrative center that supported more than 50,000 people in an area covering all of modern-day Messenia in western Greece. Davis points out storerooms and pantries in which thousands of unused ceramic wine cups were found, as well as workshops for the production of leather and perfumed oils.

Echoes of Homer are everywhere. In The Odyssey, when Odysseus’ son Telemachus visits Pylos, he finds the inhabitants on the shore sacrificing bulls to the god Poseidon, before traveling to the palace to receive a bath from one of Nestor’s daughters. Tablets and animal bones that Blegen found in the archives room recall a feast in which 11 cattle were sacrificed to Poseidon, while on the other side of the building is a perfectly preserved terra-cotta bathtub, its interior painted with a repeating spiral motif.

The palace was destroyed in a fire around 1200 B.C., part of a wave of destruction that brought down the entire Mycenaean society, which in a few hundred years had developed distinctive art and architecture, its own writing system, a powerful military and trading routes that stretched across the known world. Scholars argue about what brought about the culture’s collapse, but drought, famine and invasion may all have played a role.

Davis and Stocker are interested not in the ruination of the palace, however, but in its beginnings. For several hundred years before the palace was built, the region was dominated by the Minoans, whose sophisticated civilization arose on Crete, with skilled artisans and craftsmen who traded widely in the Aegean, Mediterranean and beyond. By contrast, the people of mainland Greece, a few hundred miles to the north across the Kythera Strait, lived simple lives in small settlements of mud-brick houses, quite unlike the impressive administrative centers and well-populated Cretan villages at Phaistos and Knossos, the latter home to a maze-like palace complex of over a thousand interlocking rooms. “With no sign of wealth, art or sophisticated architecture, mainland Greece must have been a pretty depressing place to live,” says Davis. “Then, everything changes.”

Around 1600 B.C., the mainlanders began leaving almost unimaginable treasures in tombs—“a sudden splash of brilliance,” in the words of Louise Schofield, the archaeologist and former British Museum curator, describing the jewelry, weapons and golden death masks discovered by Schliemann in the graves at Mycenae. The mainland population swelled; settlements grew in size, number and apparent wealth, with ruling elites becoming more cosmopolitan, exemplified by the diverse riches they buried with their dead. At Pylos, a huge, beehive-shaped stone tomb known as a tholos was constructed, connected to mansion houses on the hilltop by a ceremonial road that led through a gateway in a surrounding fortification wall. Although thieves looted the tholos long before it was rediscovered in modern times, from what was left behind—seal stones, miniature gold owls, amethyst beads—it appears to have been stuffed with valuables to rival those at Mycenae.

This era, extending until the construction of palaces at Pylos, Mycenae and elsewhere, is known to scholars as the “shaft grave period” (after the graves that Schliemann discovered). Cynthia Shelmerdine, a classicist and renowned scholar of Mycenaean society at the University of Texas at Austin, describes this period as “the moment the door opens.” It is, she says, “the start of elites coming together to form something beyond just a minor chiefdom, the very beginning of what leads to the palatial civilization only a hundred years later.” From this first awakening, “it really takes a very short time for them to leap into full statehood and become great kings on a par with the Hittite emperor. It was a remarkable thing to happen.”

Yet partly as a result of the building of the palaces themselves, atop the razed mansions of early Mycenaeans, very little is known of the people and culture that gave birth to them. You can’t just tear up the plaster floors to see what’s underneath, Davis explains. The tholos itself went out of use around the time the palace was built. Whoever the first leaders here were, Davis and Stocker had assumed, they were buried in this plundered tomb. Until, less than a hundred yards from the tholos, the researchers found the warrior grave.


Davis and Stocker disagree on where they were when they received Dibble’s call from the dig site. Stocker remembers they were at the team’s workshop. Davis thinks they were at the local museum. Dibble recalls that they were in line at the bank. Whichever it was, they rushed to the site and, Stocker says, “basically never left.”

That first splash of green became an ocean, filled with layer after layer of bronze, reminiscent of Schliemann’s magnificent finds. “It was surreal,” says Dibble. “I felt like I was in the 19th century.”

The researchers celebrated the next day with a lunch of gourounopoulo (roast suckling pig) from the local farmer’s market, eaten under the olive trees. For Davis and Stocker, the challenge of the find soon set in. “Everything was interlocked, crushed with everything else,” says Davis. “We never imagined that we might find anything more than a few potsherds that could be put together with glue. Suddenly, we were faced with this huge mess.” The collaborators began working 15-hour shifts, hoping to clear the site as quickly as possible. But after two weeks, everyone was exhausted. “It became clear that we couldn’t continue at that pace, and we weren’t going to finish,” Stocker says. “There was too much stuff.”

About a week in, Davis was excavating behind the stone slab. “I’ve found gold,” he said calmly. Stocker thought he was teasing, but he turned around with a golden bead in his palm. It was the first in a flood of small, precious items: beads; a tiny gold birdcage pendant; intricately carved gold rings; and several gold and silver cups. “Then things changed,” says Stocker. Aware of the high risk of looting, she organized round-the-clock security, and, apart from the Ministry of Culture and the site’s head guard, the archaeologists agreed to tell no one about the more valuable finds. They excavated in pairs, always with one person on watch, ready to cover precious items if someone approached.

Largest ring discovered
The largest ring discovered was made of multiple finely soldered gold sheets.

And yet it was impossible not to feel elated, too. “There were days when 150 beads were coming out—gold, amethyst, carnelian,” says Davis. “There were days when there was one seal stone after another, with beautiful images. It was like, Oh my god, what will come next?!” Beyond the pure thrill of uncovering such exquisite items, the researchers knew that the complex finds represented an unprecedented opportunity to piece together this moment in history, promising insights into everything from religious iconography to local manufacturing techniques. The discovery of a golden cup, as lovely as the day it was made, proved an emotional moment. “How could you not be moved?” says Stocker. “It’s the passion of looking at a beautiful piece of art or listening to a piece of music. There’s a human element. If you forget that, it becomes an exercise in removing things from the ground.”

In late June 2015, the scheduled end to their season came and went, and a skeleton began to emerge—a man in his early 30s, his skull flattened and broken and a silver bowl on his chest. The researchers nicknamed him the “griffin warrior” after a griffin-decorated ivory plaque they found between his legs. Stocker got used to working alongside him in that cramped space, day after day in the blazing summer sun. “I felt really close to this guy, whoever he was,” she says. “This was a person and these were his things. I talked to him: ‘Mr. Griffin, help me to be careful.’”

In August, Stocker ended up in the local medical clinic with heatstroke. In September, she was rewarded with a gold-and-agate necklace that the archaeologists had spent four months trying to liberate from the earth. The warrior’s skull and pelvis were among the last items to be removed, lifted out in large blocks of soil. By November, the grave was finally empty. Every gram of soil had been dissolved in water and passed through a sieve, and the three-dimensional location of every last bead photographed and recorded.

Seven months later, Stocker sails through a low, green metal door into the basement of the archaeological museum in the small town of Chora, a few minutes’ drive from the palace. Inside, the room is packed with white tables, wooden drawers, and countless shelves of skulls and pots: the results of decades of excavations in this region.

Still the organizational force behind the Pylos project, Stocker looks after not just the human members of the team but a troupe of adopted animals, including the mascot, a sleek gray cat named Nestor, which she rescued from the middle of the road when he was 4 weeks old. “He was teeny,” she recalls. “One day he blew off the table.”

She’s also in charge of conservation. Around her, plastic boxes of all sizes are piled high, full of artifacts from the warrior’s grave. She opens box after box to show their contents—one holds hundreds of individually labeled plastic bags, each containing a single bead. Another yields seal stones carved with intricate designs: three reclining bulls; a griffin with outstretched wings. “I still can’t believe I’m actually touching them,” she says. “Most people only see things like this through glass in a museum.”

There are delicate ivory combs, thin bands of bronze (the remains of the warrior’s armor) and boar tusks likely from his helmet. From separate wrappings of acid-free paper she reveals a bronze dagger, a knife with a large, square blade (perhaps used for sacrifices) and a great bronze sword, its hilt decorated with thousands of minute fragments of gold. “It’s truly amazing, and in bad shape,” she says. “It’s one of our highest priorities.”

There are more than 1,500 objects in all, and although the most precious items aren’t here (they are under lock-and-key elsewhere), the scale of the task she faces to preserve and publish these objects is nearly overwhelming. She surveys the room: a life’s work mapped out before her.

“The way they dug this grave is just remarkable,” says Thomas Brogan, the director of the Institute for Aegean Prehistory Study Center for East Crete. “I think the sky’s the limit in terms of what we are going to learn.”

 

Quantum Equation Suggests The Big Bang Never Occurred – The Universe Has No Beginning


When it comes to the science regarding the true nature of our reality, you won’t find a shortage of theories, or a shortage of criticisms of each theory. We are like a race with amnesia, trying to discover and search for an answer that most probably exists, but has yet to be discovered. How did the universe begin?

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According to new research, there might not have been a big bang. Instead, the universe might have existed forever. The theory was derived from the mathematics of general relativity, and compliment Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

“The Big Bang singularity is the most serious problem of general relativity because the laws of physics appear to break down there.”  – Ahmed Farag Ali, Benha University, Co-Author of the study. (source)

The big bang theory postulates that everything in existence resulted from a single event that launched the creation of the entire universe and that everything in existence today was once part of a single infinitely dense point, also known as the “singularity.”

Here is a good picture representing what the big bang theory is referring to.

quantum-equation-suggests-the-big-bang-never-occurred-the-universe-has-no-beginning2

So the big bang, again, postulates that the universe started out as an infinitely small point in space called a singularity, then exploded and created space where there was no space before, and that it is continually expanding. One big question regarding that expansion is; how did it happen? As you can see in the picture, “who is that guy?

According to Nassim Haramein, the Director of Research for the Resonance Project

“For every action there is an equal opposite reaction.” is one of the most foundational and proven concepts in all of physics. Therefore, if the universe is expanding then “the guy” (or whatever “he” is), who is blowing up that balloon, has to have some huge lungs that are contracting to be able to blow it up. This a concept that Nassim Haramein began exploring when creating an alternative unified field theory to explain the universe.” (source)

This is one out of many criticisms regarding the big bang theory. There are many considerations to be pondered. Can something come from nothing? What about quantum mechanics and the possibility that there is no moment of time at which the universe did not exist?

Again, so many considerations to be pondered.

According to Phys.org:

“The scientists propose that this fluid might be composed of gravitons—hypothetical massless particles that mediate the force of gravity. If they exist, gravitons are thought to play a key role in a theory of quantum gravity.In a related paper, Das and another collaborator, Rajat Bhaduri of McMaster University, Canada, have lent further credence to this model. They show that gravitons can form a Bose-Einstein condensate (named after Einstein and another Indian physicist, Satyendranath Bose) at temperatures that were present in the universe at all epochs.” (source)

The theory also suggests (obviously) that there are no singularities or dark matter, and that the universe is filled with a “quantum fluid.” These scientists are suggesting that this quantum fluid is filled with gravitons.

According to Phys.org:

“In a related paper, Das and another collaborator, Rajat Bhaduri of McMaster University, Canada, have lent further credence to this model. They show that gravitons can form a Bose-Einstein condensate (named after Einstein and another Indian physicist, Satyendranath Bose) at temperatures that were present in the universe at all epochs.”

As you can see, when quantum mechanics is thrown into the equation things appear to be far different. Again, this new theory is suggesting that the universe could have always existed, that it never was what we perceive to be as “the  beginning.” Perhaps it was just an event that did occur that we perceive as the beginning, perhaps the event occurred not from nothing, but something. Again, who is that guy blowing on the balloon in the picture? There is something there that has yet to be discovered.

“As far as we can see, since different points in the universe never actually converged in the past, it did not have a beginning. It lasted forever. It will also not have an end, in other words, there is no singularity. The universe could have lasted forever. It could have gone through cycles of being small and big. or it could have been created much earlier.” –  Saurya Das at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, Co-Author of the study. (source)

What We Know Is Often Just Theory

To conclude, it’s clear that we do not yet have a solid explanation regarding what happened during the Big Bang, or if it even happened at all. This new theory is combining general relativity with quantum mechanics, and at the end of the day these are all just theories.

Not to mention the fact that theories regarding multiple dimensions, multiple universes and more have to be considered. When looking for the starting point of creation, our own universe might not even be the place to start. It might be hard given the fact that we cannot yet perceive other factors that have played a part in the make up of what we call reality. What is even harder is the fact that quantum physics is showing that the true nature and make up of the universe is not a physical material thing!

We just don’t know yet, and there are still new findings in modern day physics that delve into non-materialistic science that many mainstream materialistic scientists have yet to grasp and acknowledge.

I’ll leave you with a quote that might give you something to think about:

“A fundamental conclusion of the new physics also acknowledges that the observer creates the reality. As observers, we are personally involved with the creation of our own reality. Physicists are being forced to admit that the universe is a “mental” construction. Pioneering physicist Sir James Jeans wrote: “The stream of knowledge is heading toward a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter, we ought rather hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter.” (R. C. Henry, “The Mental Universe”; Nature 436:29, 2005)

“Despite the unrivaled empirical success of quantum theory, the very suggestion that it may be literally true as a description of nature is still greeted with cynicism, incomprehension and even anger. (T. Folger, “Quantum Shmantum”; Discover 22:37-43, 2001)

 

Physicists Discover ‘Clearest Evidence Yet’ That The Universe Is A Hologram


A team of physicists have provided what has been described by the journal Nature as the “clearest evidence yet” that our universe is a hologram.

The new research could help reconcile one of modern physics’ most enduring problems : the apparent inconsistencies between the different models of the universe as explained by quantum physics and Einstein’s theory of gravity.

physicists-discover-clearest-evidence-yet-that-universe-is-a-hologram

The two new scientific papers are the culmination of years’ work led by Yoshifumi Hyakutake of Ibaraki University in Japan, and deal with hypothetical calculations of the energies of black holes in different universes.

The idea of the universe existing as a ‘hologram’ doesn’t refer to a Matrix-like illusion, but the theory that the three dimensions we perceive are actually just“painted” onto the cosmological horizon – the boundary of the known universe.

If this sounds paradoxical, try to imagine a holographic picture that changes as you move it. Although the picture is two dimensional, observing it from different locations creates the illusion that it is 3D.

This model of the universe helps explain some inconsistencies between general relativity (Einstein’s theory) and quantum physics. Although Einstein’s work underpins much of modern physics, at certain extremes (such as in the middle of a black hole) the principles he outlined break down and the laws of quantum physics take over.

The traditional method of reconciling these two models has come from the 1997 work of theoretical physicist Juan Maldacena, whose ideas built upon string theory.

This is one of the most well respected ‘theories of everything’ (Stephen Hawking is a fan) and it posits that one-dimensional vibrating objects known as ‘strings’ are the elementary particles of the universe.

Maldacena has welcomed the new research by Hyakutake and his team, telling the journal Nature that the findings are “an interesting way to test many ideas in quantum gravity and string theory.”

Leonard Susskind, a theoretical physicist regarded as one of the fathers of string theory, added that the work by the Japanese team “numerically confirmed, perhaps for the first time, something we were fairly sure had to be true, but was still a conjecture.”

Simulation Shows Time Travel Is Possible


Australian scientists created a computer simulation in which quantum particles can move back in time. This might confirm the possibility of time travel on a quantum level, suggested in 1991. At the same time, the study revealed a number of effects which are considered impossible according to the standard quantum mechanics.

Using photons, physicists from the University of Queensland in Australia simulated time-traveling quantum particles. In particular, they studied the behavior of a single photon traveling back in time through a wormhole in space-time and interacting with itself. This time-traveling loop is called a closed timelike curve, i.e. a path followed by a particle which returns to its initial space-time point.

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The physicists studied two possible scenarios for a time-traveling photon. In the first, the particle passes through a wormhole, moving back in time, and interacts with its older self. In the second scenario, the photon passes through normal space-time and interacts with another photon which is stuck in a closed timelike curve.

According to the researchers, their study will help to find a link between two great theories in physics:the Einstein’s general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics.

The question of time travel features at the interface between two of our most successful yet incompatible physical theories – Einstein’s general relativity and quantum mechanics,” said Martin Ringbauer of the University of Queensland who led the study. “Einstein’s theory describes the world at the very large scale of stars and galaxies, while quantum mechanics is an excellent description of the world at the very small scale of atoms and molecules.”

Einstein’s General Relativity suggests the possibility of moving back in time if the time-traveling object is stuck in a closed timelike curve. Yet, this possibility is known to cause a number of paradoxes, such as the famous “grandfather paradox”, in which a time traveler prevents his own existence by preventing his grandparents from meeting each other.

In 1991, the concept of time travel in the quantum world was suggested. It was said that traveling through time on a quantum level can prevent such paradoxes, since the properties of quantum particles are not precisely defined, in accordance with Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.

The properties of quantum particles are “fuzzy” or uncertain to start with, so this gives them enough wiggle room to avoid inconsistent time travel situations,” said professor Timothy Ralph who participated in the study.

Thus, the experiment conducted by the Australian scientists shows that such kind of time travel might be possible.

At the same time, some new bizarre effects were discovered, which are forbidden by standard quantum mechanics. For instance, it appears that it is possible to accurately distinguish various states of a quantum system, despite the fact that it violates Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.