Archive for the 'Science' Category

The prophet H.P. Lovecraft

H.P. Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness, set in Antarctica:

“It is absolutely necessary, for the peace and safety of mankind, that some of earth’s dark, dead corners and unplumbed depths be left alone; lest sleeping abnormalities wake to resurgent life, and blasphemously surviving nightmares squirm and splash out of their black lairs to newer and wider conquests.”

Scientific American, Antarctic Neutrino Observatory Detects Unexplained High-Energy Particles:

Hot on the heels of detecting the two highest-energy neutrinos ever observed, scientists working with a mammoth particle detector buried in ice near the South Pole unveiled preliminary data showing that they also registered the signal of 26 additional high-energy neutrinos. The newfound neutrinos are somewhat less energetic than the two record-setters but nonetheless appear to carry more energy than would be expected if created by cosmic rays hitting the atmosphere—a prodigious source of neutrinos raining down on Earth. The particles thus may point to unknown energetic astrophysical processes deeper in the cosmos.

At the lakeshore in the shadows of the mountains of madness

As I warned before, this Antarctic scientific expedition is not going to end well for humanity:

The more than 300 lakes discovered in the last couple of decades beneath the mighty Antarctic ice sheet have been sealed from the outside world for probably several million years. Today, a team of US Antarctic researchers proudly announced they have accessed one of the last unexplored frontiers on Earth.

At 05.00 a.m. local time, the WISSARD (Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling) field team hit the shallow waters of Lake Whillans, a small subglacial lake beneath 800 metre-thick ice at the margin of the West Antarctica’s Ice Sheet.

The historic breakthrough has been long in the making. The WISSARD project has been planned for more than a decade and required three and a half years of intense preparation.

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It shouldn’t take very long to find out. The water and sediment samples are now being processed and analysed for any form of organic carbon they may host.

Shoggoth or some long sleeping Elder Things that had retreated under the water? Let’s just be prepared to welcome our new (old?) alien overlords.

3,000-year-old Frankenstein monsters discovered

Our ancestors lived lives straight out of nightmares:

In a “eureka” moment worthy of Dr. Frankenstein, scientists have discovered that two 3,000-year-old Scottish “bog bodies” are actually made from the remains of six people.

According to new isotopic dating and DNA experiments, the mummies—a male and a female—were assembled from various body parts, although the purpose of the gruesome composites is likely lost to history.

World not ending 2012?

Stupid archaeologists ruin my lack of retirement planning plan.

“The paintings we have here—we’ve never found them anyplace else,” excavation leader William Saturno told National Geographic News.

And in today’s Xultún—to the untrained eye, just 12 square miles (31 square kilometers) of jungle floor—it’s a wonder Saturno’s team found the artwork at all.

At the Guatemalan site in 2010 the Boston University archaeologist and Ph.D. student Franco Rossi were inspecting a looters’ tunnel, where an undergraduate student had noticed the faintest traces of paint on a thin stucco wall.

The pair began cleaning off 1,200-year-old mud and suddenly a little more red paint appeared.

“Suddenly Bill was like, ‘Oh my God, we have a glyph!'” Rossi said.

In all seriousness, I love stories where the exclamation comes from a glyph’s discovery.

Sherlock the Otter?

I liked the British TV series Sherlock! with its updating of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in modern London. I thought it was faithful to the characters and excellent in showing how eccentric Holmes could be and why Watson put up with him.

Also I like otters.

So this is brilliant.

Scientists to unleash something lurking 20 million years in Antarctica

Perhaps someone should send them a copy of At The Mountains of Madness. Washington Post:

After drilling for two decades through more than two miles of antarctic ice, Russian scientists are on the verge of entering a vast, dark lake that hasn’t been touched by light for more than 20 million years.

Scientists are enormously excited about what life-forms might be found there but are equally worried about contaminating the lake with drilling fluids and bacteria, and the potentially explosive “de-gassing” of a body of water that has especially high concentrations of oxygen and nitrogen.

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“If it goes well, a breakthrough opens up a whole new chapter in our understanding of our planet and possibly moons in our solar system and planets far beyond,” he said. “If it doesn’t go well, it casts a pall over the whole effort to explore this wet underside of Antarctica.”

If all goes as I suspect and we awaken a slumbering Cthulhu, I just want to take this opportunity now to thank you all. We had a good run. If we survive, I’ll be back with my regular schedule of irregular posting.

‘Worms from hell’ discovered

Washington Post:

“This is telling us something brand new,” said Onstott, whose pioneering work in South Africa over the past decade has revolutionized the understanding of microbial life known generally as extremophiles, which live in places long believed to be uninhabitable.

“For a relatively complex creature like a nematode to penetrate that deep is simply remarkable,” he said.

An article introducing the subterranean nematodes, one of which was formally named Halicephalobus mephisto after the “Lord of the Underworld,” appears in Wednesday’s edition of the journal Nature. H. mephisto was found in water flowing from a borehole about one mile below the surface in the Beatrix gold mine.

What other monstrosities will we unearth that were meant to remain locked underground?

Mind-controlling fungi create zombie ants

National Geographic:

The fungus species can infect an ant, take over its brain, and then kill the insect once it moves to a location ideal for the fungi to grow and spread their spores.

All four known fungi species live in Brazil’s Atlantic rain forest, which is rapidly changing due to climate change and deforestation, said study leader David Hughes, an entomologist at Penn State University.

We’re so doomed. You know those changes are never good. Soon the fungi aren’t going to use ants, they’re coming for people!

Hawass out

There’s very few Egyptian posts on this site that also didn’t have his name tied to them because of his penchant for publicity. New York Times:

Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s powerful and controversial antiquities chief, resigned on Thursday along with the prime minister, after posting on his Web site for the first time a list of dozens of sites that have been looted since the beginning of the uprising that led to the fall of President Hosni Mubarak.

Reached by telephone, Mr. Hawass said he was happy that he had made the “right decision” in resigning and lashed out at colleagues who have criticized him, including one who has accused him of smuggling antiquities.

Murder and the secrets of the universe

From The New York Times:

It’s “Amadeus” meets “Da Vinci Code” meets “Hamlet,” featuring a deadly struggle for the secret of the universe between Tycho, the swashbuckling Danish nobleman with a gold-and-silver prosthetic nose, and the not-yet-famous Johannes Kepler, his frail, jealous German assistant. The story also includes an international hit man, hired after a Danish prince becomes king and suspects Brahe of sleeping with his mother (and maybe being his father!).

For comic relief, there’s a beer-drinking pet elk wandering around Tycho’s castle, as well as a jester named Jepp, a dwarf who sits under Tycho’s table and is believed to be clairvoyant.

Naturally, the scientists analyzing Brahe’s remains are steering clear of all this gossip, including the claim that Brahe had an affair with the Danish queen that helped inspire “Hamlet.” The archaeologist leading the team cautions that even if they confirm suspicions that Brahe was poisoned by mercury, that wouldn’t necessarily prove he was murdered, much less identify the killer.

Who knew astronomy could be so exciting?

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