Alchemical symbol for arsenic

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After a 24-hour-long media hype, the official anonuncement came at NASA press conference. No, it’s not about “alien life” evidences recently found. At least, *not yet*. But the results of a recent research are really stunning: Life may exist elsewhere in the universe, under the circumstances we couldn’t even dream of. “Arsenic, in place of phosporus” ? Ground-breaking for sure.

Amplify’d from www.nytimes.com

Scientists said Thursday that they had trained a bacterium to eat and grow on a diet of arsenic, in place of phosphorus — one of six elements considered essential for life — opening up the possibility that organisms could exist elsewhere in the universe or even here on Earth using biochemical powers we have not yet dared to dream about.

The bacterium, scraped from the bottom of Mono Lake in California and grown for months in a lab mixture containing arsenic, gradually swapped out atoms of phosphorus in its little body for atoms of arsenic.

Scientists said the results, if confirmed, would expand the notion of what life could be and where it could be. “There is basic mystery, when you look at life,” said Dimitar Sasselov, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and director of an institute on the origins of life there, who was not involved in the work. “Nature only uses a restrictive set of molecules and chemical reactions out of many thousands available. This is our first glimmer that maybe there are other options.”

Felisa Wolfe-Simon, a NASA astrobiology fellow at the United States Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., who led the experiment, said, “This is a microbe that has solved the problem of how to live in a different way.”

Read more at www.nytimes.com

Maxwell_Neanderthal

Image by hairymuseummatt via Flickr

This appears to be a very interesting new theory that comes with a bold (and controversial) study: 40,000 years ago the volcanoes in Europe blew the final whistle for our close relatives, the Neanderthals. The picture provided by the researchers seem consistent with the chronology, though some scholars remain unconvinced. Other theories suggest that modern humans played an important role in the demise of the Neanderthals in a variety of ways including warfare. This is, as far as I know, the first plausible theory on a “catastrophic explanation”. The study is published in the October issue of the journal “Current Anthropology”. Probably a wave of controversy will follow soon by the “orthodox academicians”.

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Amazon Rainforest, the largest tropical forest...

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Zahra Hirji of Discovery News, presents a brief analysis on the hot subject which has been discussed for some time. Is the “ancient civilization in Amazonian forests” story, an “incredible cover-up of Mother Nature” as Hirji herself stated on the title of the article, or rather an exaggerated speculation that grew in some archaeologists’ minds? Augusto Oyuela Caycedo from University of Florida believes a past existence of a complex society in the depths of the rain forests. Many anthropologists support this view after researching the environment and examining the evidence. On the other hand, conservatives seem reluctant to be convinced. As Hirji stated, it appears as a controversy between the “old way of thinking” and the “new wave of thought”. A good read.

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Nasca (Peru), Condor, August 2007

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American researcher David Johnson, comes up with a new and intriguing explanation on one of the most enigmatic sites in world. The mysterious lines, figures and signs on Nazca Plain have been researched and examined for decades since last century and there are almost a dozen theories about their “purpose” and function. Among them were, Swiss writer Erich von Daeniken’s “ancient airport” theory which made the headlines in 1970s. Now, Johnson suggests an interesting explanation for these enigmatic lines, which connects them to the underground water sources.

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Sol Invictus at Archaeology Museum of Yalvac, ...

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If the Roman Emperor Constantine had not taken that critical decision in the first half of the 4th century, the picture of the world we live in would have been probably very different than today. As some historians speculate, we would have seen “Mithraeums” instead of churches (and probably mosques) throughout the western world (and the Middle East), decorated with iconographies of a sun cult, along with the mysterious “Tauroctony” reliefs on the innermost walls of the temples.

When the “brain team” of the emperor came with a suggestion to establish a “one strong official religion” in order to reinforce the central authority throughout the Empire, the strongest candidate was “Mithraism” (or as it was called after a metamorphosis on Roman lands, “Sol Invictus Mithra”) which was very popular among soldiers, officers and most intellectuals.

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Sternstunden - Wunder des Sonnensystems, Ausst...

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The Bronze Age relic known as “The Nebra Disk” was one of the most significant archaeological discoveries just before the end of millenium, in 1999. Believed to be made around 17th century BCE, the disk is thought to be designed as a kind of “astronomical clock” by the priests of a Bronze Age central European sun-cult. Now some archaeologists suggest another point, not contradicting this generally accepted view but questioning the “function” of the disk after a very serious natural catastrophe changed the circumstances of the Ancient World.

The mega eruption of the Thera volcano in Santorini island around 3600 years ago, not only shook most of the Bronze Age civilizations and cause some of them to collapse (Minos and Harappa) or fall into a serious crisis (Egypt and Babylonia), but also changed the climate conditions harshly all over the world. A “volcanic winter” caused by the ash clouds that covered the sky, deeply affected the lives of millions of people: Contaminated waters caused by the acid rains and sulphur (remember the Exodus story, which said “there were blood on rivers in all Egypt”); crop failures which resulted famines on many agricultural lands; unusually cool summers and deadly cold winters.

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Illustration of Mitochondrial Eve

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Mitochondria, the fundamental part of a cell which supplies the most of the chemical energy by generating ATP, also gives extremely valuable clues about the human genome. Since it is inherited maternally, all human beings on the earth could be traced back to an individual female lived in Africa who is called “Mitochondrial Eve” and  by the scientists. A recent study of scientists from Rice University suggests that our common “grandma” lived 200,000 years ago. Fascinating story.

Amplify’d from www.archaeologydaily.com

The most robust statistical examination to date of our species’ genetic links to “mitochondrial Eve” the maternal ancestor of all living humans confirms that she lived about 200,000 years ago.

Artist's cross section of a mitochondrion
The Rice University study was based on a side by side comparison of 10 human genetic models that each aim to determine when Eve lived using a very different set of assumptions about the way humans migrated, expanded and spread across Earth. (more…)
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