“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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Ancient fruit and modern tastebuds

I note that date palms with Biblical-era genetics have been grown from ancient seeds. Scientists have cultivated plants from date palm seeds that languished in ancient ruins and caves for 2,000 years. This remarkable feat confirms the long-term viability of the kernels once ensconced in succulent Judean dates, a fruit cultivar lost for centuries. The results make it an excellent candidate for studying the longevity of plant seeds. From those date palm saplings, the researchers have begun to unlock the secrets of the highly sophisticated cultivation practices that produced the dates praised by Herodotus, Galen, and Pliny the Elder. “The current

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Is there a risk from radiation in the oil industry?

EDITED TO ADD:  The article discussed below appears to be extremely misleading, to judge by comments left by well-informed readers (see below).  In particular, my thanks to commenter Henry for this link to an analysis debunking Rolling Stone’s claims.  It’s a bit technical, but does a pretty good job, IMHO. Rolling Stone has published an extended article alleging that the brine discharged from many oil drilling operations is highly radioactive, and poses a severe health hazard. Oil fields across the country — from the Bakken in North Dakota to the Permian in Texas — have been found to produce brine that is highly radioactive.

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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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The epithet “soy boy” may have some basis in reality

I’ve often heard metrosexual males referred to disparagingly as “soy boys“.  I’ve heard the same epithet applied to those who regularly consume “gourmet” coffees from places like Starbucks and the like.  Now we learn that soy may, in fact, have some relevance to that. The use of soybean oil has increased dramatically over the last few decades, to the extent that is has become the most widely consumed edible oil in the US and other Western nations. However, its rise has coincided with an alarming escalation in metabolic conditions like diabetes, insulin resistance, and obesity, and a new study indicates that this may be down

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Saturday Snippet: Debugging the Oak Ridge nuclear plant

During World War II, Richard Feynman, then a very newly-graduated physicist, was sent from Los Alamos, New Mexico (the heart of the Manhattan Project to build the first atomic bomb) to Oak Ridge in Tennessee, where the nuclear material for the bomb was to be enriched.  He was tasked with making sure that the factory there would actually work, and that its design was technically and scientifically acceptable.  Needless to say, as a relative novice, he was more than a little unsure of his ground. In his book “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” he describes what happened.        I sat down

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The IG report’s whitewashing of the FBI is statistically unbelievable

Karl Denninger points out that a statistical analysis of the Inspector General’s report on the FBI investigation into President Trump reveals that it’s fundamentally impossible. The IG report, after reading through a good part of it, states that seventeen “errors” were made by the FBI. May I remind you of an indisputable fact: Errors are randomly distributed. That is, let’s assume you intend to drive at 40mph.  If you make an error you will operate your car some of the time at 38mph, and some of the time at 42mph.  The errors, if they are actual errors, will be randomly distributed around the correct action.  Some of the errors will

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How false ideas become fake science

This is how falsehoods sneak into the allegedly “scientific” arena, and become standards against which reality is measured. You’ve almost certainly heard some of the following terms: cisgender, fat-shaming, heteronormativity, intersectionality, patriarchy, rape culture and whiteness. The reason you’ve heard them is that politically engaged academicians have been developing concepts like these for more than 30 years, and all that time they’ve been percolating. Only recently have they begun to emerge in mainstream culture. These academicians accomplish this by passing off their ideas as knowledge; that is, as if these terms describe facts about the world and social reality. And while

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Fake science, sexual reality, and gender identity

Last week I noted that the ACLU’s claim, that one can be a man and still have periods, get pregnant, etc., was scientifically false;  that sex was determined by the chromosomes, and they are definitive.  Since then, I’ve received a certain amount of pushback from transgender individuals and/or lobbyists, trying to persuade me (or browbeat me into accepting) that the science is rather more involved than that, and that gender fluidity and/or identification is not a matter of the chromosomes alone. I accept that psychological or psychiatric problems can lead some people to adopt a different mental outlook on their gender and

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Fish plastic and canal clearing

Two unrelated sources this morning turn into a single blog article.  Ah, the wonders of imagination . . . First, Old Salt Blog brings us the news that an engineering graduate in England has won the James Dyson Award for inventing a biodegradable plastic made from fish waste.  You can read more about it at the link. This is some very useful research.  I don’t know how many of my readers have walked past a fish processing plant, and been assailed by the stench of rotting fish waste products.  It’s . . . impressive . . . not to mention probably reportable as a

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