“Such high temperatures would completely melt an automobile in less than a minute”

That statement is from a report analyzing the destruction of Abu Hureyra, an early agricultural settlement in Syria, some 12,800 years ago. Abu Hureyra, it turns out, has another story to tell. Found among the cereals and grains and splashed on early building material and animal bones was meltglass, some features of which suggest it was formed at extremely high temperatures—far higher than what humans could achieve at the time—or that could be attributed to fire, lighting or volcanism. “To help with perspective, such high temperatures would completely melt an automobile in less than a minute,” said James Kennett, a UC Santa Barbara

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Sunday morning music

One of the advantages of the so-called “digital age” is that it allows us to recreate sounds and sound effects that had long been lost to history.  One can electronically alter what one hears so that it resembles sounds that were made long ago, but which can’t be accurately reproduced today for any number of reasons. One of those sounds is the Orthodox liturgical chant used in the Hagia Sophia cathedral in Constantinople, later a Moslem mosque following the fall of that city in 1453, and today a museum.  The acoustics of the Hagia Sophia were legendary, and added greatly to the impact of the liturgical

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OK, warbird fans, you can geek out now

A treasure trove of World War II-era aviation blueprints have been saved for posterity.  Warbird Digest reports: AirCorps Aviation of Bemidji, Minnesota has just announced that they have acquired a massive trove of original manufacturing drawings for North American Aviation (NAA) covering types such as the P-51, T-6, B-25 and P-82. Ken Jungeberg was the head of the Master Dimensions department at Columbus in 1988 when the factory closed its doors. When he heard that North American was planning to burn all the WWII era drawings in their archive, he knew he had to do something. He began writing letters and making calls to his superiors, advocating to save

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Amazing critters

Earlier this month I posted a photograph of octopus eggs that fascinated me.  In response, a reader sent me the link to this video report on the critters, which is even more interesting. I’ve seen many octopii in the wild, during my youth in South Africa, but I never knew all that about them.  I’ll try not to think about it next time I’m eating calamari! Peter

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Fascinating!

A friend sent me this photograph of octopus eggs, with the baby octopii clearly visible inside the egg sac.  I don’t know where it first appeared.  Click the image for a larger view. I’ve never seen so clear a view of those baby critters, although I’ve run (or swum) into them on the coast of South Africa many times.  One variety used to inhabit tidal rock pools, and if you stuck your foot in the water, clad in a tennis shoe, they’d zoom out from their hiding-places in crevices in the rocks and try to tackle your foot, thinking it

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You think you’re tough? Try removing your own appendix!

I recently came across a fascinating article about a Russian doctor who cut out his own appendix, after being left with no alternative. During an expedition to the Antarctic, Russian surgeon Leonid Rogozov became seriously ill. He needed an operation – and as the only doctor on the team, he realised he would have to do it himself. . . . Rogozov was part of the sixth Soviet Antarctic expedition – a team of 12 had been sent to build a new base at the Schirmacher Oasis. The Novolazarevskaya Station was up and running by the middle of February 1961, and with their mission complete the group

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Sunset over the Northern plains

Courtesy of Daily Timewaster, here’s a beautiful time-lapse video of sunset over Bowdon, North Dakota, in 2017.  The videographer, Mike Olbinski, writes: We were chasing northeast of Bismarck, North Dakota and as storms were dying out, we decided to go for a lone cell on the backside of a line of storms. We knew it had a hail core on it and we were hoping that we might get some nice sunset color at least on the storm as it moved past us, and hopefully some lightning bolts. But we had no idea what we were about to encounter. The clouds

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I’d like to try cooking them

I was amused to read that clay tablets, many thousands of years old, containing ancient Babylonian recipes have been decoded, and researchers are trying to prepare the dishes they describe. The instructions for lamb stew read more like a list of ingredients than a bona fide recipe: “Meat is used. You prepare water. You add fine-grained salt, dried barley cakes, onion, Persian shallot, and milk. You crush and add leek and garlic.” But it’s impossible to ask the chef to reveal the missing pieces: This recipe’s writer has been dead for some 4,000 years. Instead, a team of international scholars versed in

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Saturday snippet: the opening battle of the Red River War in 1874

Today’s snippet is taken from the autobiography of legendary Western scout and Indian fighter Billy Dixon, as recorded by his wife during the last year of his life, and completed by her after his death in 1913.  It’s titled “Life of Billy Dixon, Plainsman, Scout and Pioneer“. Dixon (shown below) was one of the great figures of the Indian Wars and the Old West. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his role in the Buffalo Wallow fight of 1874, shortly after the events narrated here (one of only eight ever awarded to civilians).  Due to his status as a civilian scout,

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An amazing find in naval and military history

I was amazed to read about a recent discovery in England. A sketch hand-drawn by Admiral Lord Nelson showing his plan for victory at Trafalgar has been discovered tucked inside the pages of a scrapbook after nearly 200 years. The map was found by Martyn Downer, a historian who is an expert on Nelson, in a book dating from the 1830s which was recently sold at auction. It shows his plan for splitting the Royal Navy fleet into three divisions to break and destroy the enemy French and Spanish lines coming out of Cadiz harbour. Lines representing wind direction also appear on

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