Jan 22, 2011

Cold Fusion Claims Resurface

Hopes about cold fusion have been raised once again by two Italian researcher who claim to have fused atomic nuclei at room temperature.

Cold fusion has been a holy grail of physics for decades. If it could be achieved, it would be a cheap, clean, and limitless energy source.

According to a column at Physorg.com:
Italian scientists Andrea Rossi and Sergio Focardi of the University of Bologna announced that they developed a cold fusion device capable of producing 12,400 W of heat power with an input of just 400 W. Last Friday, the scientists held a private invitation press conference in Bologna, attended by about 50 people, where they demonstrated what they claim is a nickel-hydrogen fusion reactor. Further, the scientists say that the reactor is well beyond the research phase; they plan to start shipping commercial devices within the next three months and start mass production by the end of 2011.
If this all sounds fishy to you, it should.

This is of course not the first time that scientists have made such a claim. On March 23, 1989, two chemists at the University of Utah, Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann, announced that they had discovered a technique for creating cold fusion using deuterium.

That was surprising enough, but they also claimed to have done it with inexpensive equipment that could be found in most high school chemistry classes. It caused a big stir in the media and in science circles, but months and years passed without the promised cold fusion.

Physics professor Robert Park, in his book Voodoo Science (Oxford University Press, 2000), notes: “One reason Pons and Fleischmann had to be wrong was because the number of neutrinos they claimed to see was at least a million times too small to account for the energy they reported.”

Furthermore, there were early indications that something wasn’t right about the researchers' experiments. For one thing, the byproducts of deuterium fusion include neutron, tritium and gamma rays. In fact, their experiment would have produced lethal doses of nuclear radiation on a scale that approached Russia’s Chernobyl reactor. It didn’t.

Read more at Discovery News

Expert Chess Players Win by Tapping Into Intuitive Brain Circuits

Getting better at chess, it turns out, isn’t merely a matter of thinking harder—it has more to do with what parts of the brain you use to think in the first place. Neuroscientists from Japan studied the brainy blood-flows of both professional and amateur shogi players (a chess-like game from Japan) and found that professionals are more apt to put on their intuitive thinking caps.

The study, published inScience, used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine which brain areas showed the most blood flow as professional and amateur shogi players tested their mettle during a match.

[The scientists] studied 11 professional players and 17 amateurs, and identified two brain activations that were specific to the pros. First, both groups of players were shown different shogi board patterns as well as other scenes, but only the experts showed activation in a portion of the parietal lobe known as the precuneus. The other brain difference occurred when the players were forced to quickly pick their next best move. The professionals’ brain scans revealed activity in a portion of the basal ganglion known as the caudate nucleus, while the amateurs’ scans did not.

Full story at Discover Blogs

Alien Hand Syndrome sees woman attacked by her own hand

“Imagine being attacked by one of your own hands, which repeatedly tries to slap and punch you. Or you go into a shop and when you try to turn right, one of your legs decides it wants to go left, leaving you walking round in circles.

Last summer I met 55-year-old Karen Byrne in New Jersey, who suffers from Alien Hand Syndrome. Her left hand, and occasionally her left leg, behaves as if it were under the control of an alien intelligence. Karen’s condition is fascinating, not just because it is so strange but because it tells us something surprising about how our own brains work. It started after Karen had surgery at 27 to control her epilepsy, which had dominated her life since she was 10. Surgery to cure epilepsy usually involves identifying and then cutting out a small section of the brain, where the abnormal electrical signals originate.

When this does not work, or when the damaged area cannot be identified, patients may be offered something more radical. In Karen’s case her surgeon cut her corpus callosum, a band of nervous fibres which keeps the two halves of the brain in constant contact. Cutting the corpus callosum cured Karen’s epilepsy, but left her with a completely different problem. Karen told me that initially everything seemed to be fine. Then her doctors noticed some extremely odd behaviour.

“Dr O’Connor said ‘Karen what are you doing? Your hand’s undressing you’. Until he said that I had no idea that my left hand was opening up the buttons of my shirt. “So I start rebuttoning with the right hand and, as soon as I stopped, the left hand started unbuttoning them. So he put an emergency call through to one of the other doctors and said, ‘Mike you’ve got to get here right away, we’ve got a problem’.”"

Read more at BBC News and watch the video

Jan 21, 2011

King Tut's Tomb to Remain Open

King Tutankhamun’s tomb will not be closed in the near future, Zahi Hawass, chief of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, told Discovery News.

Many reports in the past two weeks announced the closure of this tourist magnet by the end of this year.

Although suffering from the wear and tear caused by hordes of sweaty visitors drawn in by the elaborate murals and the boy king’s mummy, which is kept in a climate-controlled glass case, the burial won’t close its doors so soon.

“Tutankhamun’s tomb will not be closed in the near future. It is a long-term plan that has not been decided upon yet,” Hawass told Discovery News.

The long term plan involves a $10 million project called the “Valley of the Replicas.”

Visitors will be directed to exact reproductions of the original tombs. The first three replicas will be the tombs of Tutankhamun, and the already closed burials of Seti I and Queen Nefertari in the Valley of the Queens.

The three original tombs will remain open to tourists willing to pay very hefty fee, perhaps as high as $8,500 per visit.

One of the world’s most visited tombs, King Tut’s tomb, also known as KV62, is also one of the smaller of the 63 burials in the Valley of the Kings.

The desolate rocky place on the western bank of the Nile River near Luxor was supposed to be the ultimate hidden burial.

Indeed, for a period of nearly 500 years from the 16th to 11th century B.C., mummies of kings and nobles were buried there in tombs cut from limestone.

Ironically, the sacred burial site has become one of the world most popular tourist attractions, visited by some 9,000 people a day.

The number of visitors to King Tut's tomb itself, which once saw an average of 6,000 tourists a day, is now limited to 1,000.

Restrictions have been made necessary as the burial’s popularity increased with the public display of the glass-encased mummy in 2007.

Indeed, exactly 85 years after Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon discovered the pharaoh's treasure-packed tomb, King Tut’s mummy left forever his original ornate sarcophagus and moved to a new coffin in the antechamber of his small underground tomb.

Read more at Discovery News

Are We Running Out of Internet Addresses?

The world will run out of Internet addresses "within weeks", according to one of the founding fathers of the web, a report said Friday.

Vint Cerf, who helped create the web by connecting computers using Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, said it was his "fault" that the 4.3 billion addresses created were running out, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

"I thought it was an experiment and I thought that 4.3 billion would be enough to do an experiment," Cerf, who is Google's vice president and "Chief Internet Evangelist", was quoted as saying in an interview. "Who the hell knew how much address space we needed?"

In 1977, Cerf created the web protocol IPv4, which connects computers globally, as part of an experiment while working with the U.S. Department of Defense. He said he never expected his experiment "wouldn't end".

"It doesn't mean the network stops, it just means you can't build it very well," Cerf said.

IP addresses are the unique sequence of numbers assigned to each computer, website or other internet-connected devices. They are not the same as website domain names.

The overwhelming number of devices now accessing the internet means the addresses are running out fast.

To resolve the crisis, an updated protocol for the Internet, IPv6, currently being planned by the industry, will create trillions of addresses.

As Google vice president Cerf, who was in Australia to address a conference, said he thought the new chief executive of the California-based giant, Larry Page, was ready to lead the company into the future.

In a surprise move, Google announced on Thursday that co-founder Page would replace Eric Schmidt as chief executive in April.

Schmidt, 55, a former chief executive of Novell, will remain with Google as executive chairman, focusing on deals, partnerships, customers and government outreach, Google said.

He will also act as an adviser to Page, 37, who served as CEO previously, from 1998 to 2001.

Cerf said Schmidt had been chief executive for 10 years -- "a nice round number" -- and Page was ready to lead the company into the future.

"Larry and Sergey are 10 years older than they were when they thoughtfully hired Eric to be the CEO... so everybody's growing up," Cerf said.

Read more at Discovery News

Jan 20, 2011

Bizarre claims of “quantum imprinting” causes a scientific stir

A STORM of scepticism has greeted experimental results emerging from the lab of a Nobel laureate which, if confirmed, would shake the foundations of several fields of science. “If the results are correct,” says theoretical chemist Jeff Reimers of the University of Sydney, Australia, “these would be the most significant experiments performed in the past 90 years, demanding re-evaluation of the whole conceptual framework of modern chemistry.”

Luc Montagnier, who shared the Nobel prize for medicine in 2008 for his part in establishing that HIV causes AIDS, says he has evidence that DNA can send spooky electromagnetic imprints of itself into distant cells and fluids. If that wasn’t heretical enough, he also suggests that enzymes can mistake the ghostly imprints for real DNA, and faithfully copy them to produce the real thing. In effect this would amount to a kind of quantum teleportationMovie Camera of the DNA.

Many researchers contacted for comment by New Scientist reacted with disbelief. Gary Schuster, who studies DNA conductance effects at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, compared it to “pathological science”. Jacqueline Barton, who does similar work at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, was equally sceptical. “There aren’t a lot of data given, and I don’t buy the explanation,” she says. One blogger has suggested Montagnier should be awarded an IgNobel prize.

Yet the results can’t be dismissed out of hand. “The experimental methods used appear comprehensive,” says Reimers. So what have Montagnier and his team actually found?

Full details of the experiments are not yet available, but the basic set-up is as follows. Two adjacent but physically separate test tubes were placed within a copper coil and subjected to a very weak extremely low frequency electromagnetic field of 7 hertz. The apparatus was isolated from Earth’s natural magnetic field to stop it interfering with the experiment. One tube contained a fragment of DNA around 100 bases long; the second tube contained pure water.

After 16 to 18 hours, both samples were independently subjected to the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a method routinely used to amplify traces of DNA by using enzymes to make many copies of the original material. The gene fragment was apparently recovered from both tubes, even though one should have contained just water.

We’re waiting for some proper peer review before we make our minds up.

Full article at New Scientist – requires log in.

Bank left unlocked as it leaves security to God

MUMBAI: The United Commercial (UCO) Bank has opened the country’s first lockless branch at Shani Shinganapur in Maharashtra, even as the Centre has made hi-tech security mandatory for all nationalized and private sector banks. Shani Shinganapur is a small village in Ahmednagar district whose presiding deity is Lord Shani. More than 5,000 devotees visit the temple every day, while on weekends the number crosses the 1 lakh mark.

“We took note of the general belief and faith of the people. Ever since the most revered temple came into existence several years ago, the village has not witnessed a single crime. In fact, all houses in the entire village have no doors. We took the risk and started the lockless bank a week ago,” a senior bank official said.

Read the full at India Times

Jan 19, 2011

Change Awareness

“First, watch the video. Then come back and read the rest of this description. J.W. Suchow and G.A. Alvarez studied how motion affected awareness of color change in their research on change blindness. Try it yourself! Keep your eyes fixed on the small white mark in the center.”

“At first, the ring is stationary and it’s easy to tell that the dots are changing. A few seconds later, the ring begins to rotate and the dots suddenly appear to stop changing.

But play the movie again, this time looking directly at one of the dots and following it as the ring rotates. You will see that, in fact, the dots had been changing the whole time, even during the rotation—you just didn’t notice it. This failure to detect that moving objects are changing is silencing.

The findings were published in the journal Current Biology”

Via Neatorama

You Might Already Know This …

“They should have seen it coming.

In recent weeks, editors at a respected psychology journal have been taking heat from fellow scientists for deciding to accept a research report that claims to show the existence of extrasensory perception.

The report, to be published this year in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, is not likely to change many minds. And the scientific critiques of the research methods and data analysis of its author, Daryl J. Bem (and the peer reviewers who urged that his paper be accepted), are not winning over many hearts.

Yet the episode has inflamed one of the longest-running debates in science. For decades, some statisticians have argued that the standard technique used to analyze data in much of social science and medicine overstates many study findings — often by a lot. As a result, these experts say, the literature is littered with positive findings that do not pan out: “effective” therapies that are no better than a placebo; slight biases that do not affect behavior; brain-imaging correlations that are meaningless.

By incorporating statistical techniques that are now widely used in other sciences — genetics, economic modeling, even wildlife monitoring — social scientists can correct for such problems, saving themselves (and, ahem, science reporters) time, effort and embarrassment.

“I was delighted that this ESP paper was accepted in a mainstream science journal, because it brought this whole subject up again,” said James Berger, a statistician at Duke University. “I was on a mini-crusade about this 20 years ago and realized that I could devote my entire life to it and never make a dent in the problem.””

Read more at NYTimes

Further links:
The Paper in Question (PDF)

Thought controlled computers – now available

Apparently the revolution that was touch screens on mobile phones was not enough for some hardware developers. The device maker PLX Devices is now offering a headset called XWave that “can sense and detect human brainwaves, interpret them and connect it to everyday technology,” according to promotional material on their website.

“The human brain is the most powerful, complex thing in the universe, and for the first time, we’re able to harness its amazing power and connect it to everyday technology,” Lowchareonkul said. “With the development of 3rd party apps, the potential for innovation is limitless.”

Thus far, PLX is only offering apps that interact with the XWave for Apple mobile devices like the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. The device itself looks like an ordinary headset for telephone operators, and its website claims that XWave is perfectly safe because it only “listens” to brainwaves and “does not transmit or send any signals.”

Full story at Tech Talk

Jan 18, 2011

What Did Iron-Age Beer Taste Like?

Early Celtic rulers of a community in what’s now southwestern Germany liked to party, staging elaborate feasts in a ceremonial center. The business side of their revelries was located in a nearby brewery capable of turning out large quantities of a beer with a dark, smoky, slightly sour taste, new evidence suggests.

Six specially constructed ditches previously excavated at Eberdingen-Hochdorf a 2,550-year-old Celtic settlement, were used to make high-quality barley malt, a key beer ingredient, says archaeobotanist Hans-Peter Stika of the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart. Thousands of charred barley grains unearthed in the ditches about a decade ago came from a large malt-making enterprise, Stika reports in a paper published online January 4 in Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences.

Stika bases that conclusion on a close resemblance of the ancient grains to barley malt that he made by reproducing several methods that Iron Age folk might have used. He also compared the ancient grains to malt produced in modern facilities. Upon confirming the presence of malt at the Celtic site, Stika reconstructed malt-making techniques there to determine how they must have affected beer taste.

The oldest known beer residue and brewing facilities date to 5,500 years ago in the Middle East, but archaeological clues to beer’s history are rare.

At the Celtic site, barley was soaked in the specially constructed ditches until it sprouted, Stika proposes. Grains were then dried by lighting fires at the ends of the ditches, giving the malt a smoky taste and a darkened color. Lactic acid bacteria stimulated by slow drying of soaked grains, a well-known phenomenon, added sourness to the brew.

Unlike modern beers that are flavored with flowers of the hop plant, the Eberdingen-Hochdorf brew probably contained spices such as mugwort, carrot seeds or henbane, in Stika’s opinion. Beer makers are known to have used these additives by medieval times. Excavations at the Celtic site have yielded a few seeds of henbane, a plant that also makes beer more intoxicating.

“These additives gave Celtic beer a completely different taste than what we’re used to today,” Stika says.

Heated stones placed in liquefied malt during the brewing process -- a common practice later in Europe -- would have added a caramelized flavor to this fermented Celtic drink, he adds. So far, no fire-cracked stones have been found at Eberdingen-Hochdorf but they may have been used to heat pulpy malt slowly, a practice documented at later brewing sites, Stika says. He suspects that fermentation was triggered by using yeast-coated brewing equipment or by adding honey or fruit, which both contain wild yeasts.

Read more at Discovery News

How Astrology Is Like Racism

Astronomer Parke Kunkle caused quite a stir recently among believers in astrology when he pointed out that a wobble in Earth’s rotation meant that the stars were in a different position above us two millennia ago, when the Zodiac was created.

Astronomers have long dismissed astrology as unproven pseudoscience, and Kunkle’s observation -- though quite correct -- has been known for many centuries (the phenomenon is called "precession of the equinoxes").

The fact that many sun sign horoscopes are based on badly outdated information is troubling to many people, but what may be even more disturbing is astrology’s close similarity to racism.

The basic premise of astrology is that people who were born at certain times and places share specific, distinguishing personality characteristics. Libras like myself, for example, are said to be diplomatic, refined, idealistic, and sociable. Cancers are emotional, sensitive, and domestic. Those born under the Taurus sign are stubborn, analytical and methodical -- and so on.

Hundreds of millions of people read their daily horoscopes, or at least know something about their sun signs.

Astrology and racism share many of the same ideas. For one thing, in both cases a person is being judged by factors beyond their control. Just as people have no control over their skin color, they also have no ability to determine when and where they were born.

Both astrology and racial stereotypes are based on a framework of belief that basically says: "Without even meeting you, I believe something about you. I can expect this particular sort of behavior or trait (stubbornness, laziness, arrogance, etc.) from members of this particular group of people (Jews, blacks, Aries, Pisces, etc.)."

When an astrologer finds out a person’s astrological sign, he or she will bring to that experience a pre-existing list of assumptions (prejudices) about that person’s behavior, personality and character. In both cases, the prejudices will cause people to seek out and confirm their expectations.

Racists will look for examples of characteristics and behaviors in the groups they dislike, and astrologers will look for the personality traits that they believe the person will exhibit. Since people have complex personalities (all of us are lazy some of the time, caring at other times, etc.), both racists and astrologers will find evidence confirming their beliefs.

Read more at Discovery News

Sharks Are Color-Blind

Sharks may be unable to distinguish between colors, according to a laboratory study published on Tuesday that could benefit swimmers, surfers and sharks themselves.

Researchers in Australia, using a technique called micro-spectrophotometry, looked at the retinal cells of 17 species of shark caught off Queensland and Western Australia.

In all 17 species, the commonest kind of light receptors were "rod" cells, which are highly sensitive to light and allow night vision but cannot tell colors apart, they found.

Yet the sharks lacked cone cells, which respond individually to light at specific wavelengths. In human eyes, a variety of cone cells helps us to distinguish between colors.

In 10 of the 17 shark species, no cone cells were found at all. Cone cells were found in the other seven species, but they were all of a single type, sensitive to wavelengths of around 530 nanometres, which is green.

This retinal system means sharks are able to tell between shades of grey but, most probably, not between colors, say the investigators.

Monochromatic vision is very rare among land species, because color vision is a tool for survival in terrestrial habitats.

But it is less important in the marine environment, where colors are progressively filtered out at depth and survival depends on distinguishing contrasts, to determine whether a shape in the gloom is prey or predator.

Previous research has found that whales, dolphins and seals also possess green-sensitive cone cells, which suggests that these marine mammals and sharks arrived at the same visual design in parallel, says the paper.

Read more at Discovery News

Jan 17, 2011

Coriolis-like effect found 184 years before Coriolis

The cosmos loves irony. While trying to prove that the Earth is fixed in space, an Italian priest described something similar to the Coriolis effect – the slight deflection experienced by objects moving in a rotating frame of reference – nearly 200 years before mathematician Gustave Coriolis worked it out in 1835.

In 1651, Giovanni Riccioli published 77 arguments against the idea that the apparent motions of the heavens were due to the Earth's rotation and orbit around the sun. These included claims that Hell would be in the wrong place, aesthetic concerns over proportion and harmony, and more scientific approaches.

Now, Christopher Graney at Jefferson Community and Technical College in Louisville, Kentucky, has translated them from Latin, and discovered that Riccioli conjectured phenomena resembling the Coriolis effect.

Riccioli argued that if the Earth were rotating, the speed of the ground at different latitudes would be different, so cannon shots fired due north or south from near the equator would show a slight deflection east or west as the ground moved beneath them during flight. No such effect was known at the time, so he wrongly concluded that the Earth must be stationary.

In reality, the Coriolis effect is subtle, noticeable mainly in large-scale systems such as weather patterns and ocean currents.

Read more at New Scientist

Cat ordered to do jury service

Anna Esposito, wrote to Suffolk Superior Crown Court in Boston, US, to explain that a mistake had been made, but a jury commissioner replied saying the cat, named Tabby Sal, "must attend" on March 23.

Mrs Esposito had included a letter from her vet confirming that the cat was "a domestic short-haired neutered feline".

Tabby Sal had been entered by Mrs Esposito under the 'pets' section of the last census. "When they ask him guilty or not guilty? What's he supposed to say - miaow?" She said.

"Sal is a member of the family so I listed him on the last Census form under pets but there has clearly been a mix-up."

Read more at The Telegraph

Argentina to create official UFO commission!

“Inexplicata has reported that the Argentinian government has made the decision to Create an Official UFO Commission.

According to multiple news agencies, a spokesperson for the Argentinean Air Force (AAF) confirmed on December 29th, 2010, that the decision to create a commission to record and investigate claims of unidentified flying objects in that country’s air space will be created. The AAF’s media consultant, Captain Mariano Mohaupt — who confirmed that the Air Force has already recorded the unexplained experiences of some of its pilots with what may allege to be visitors from OUT OF THIS WORLD — commented on the matter:

“The Commission for the Research of Aerospatial Phenomena is in the process of being formed… and now things will be perceived from the formal, professional standpoint, contributing toward our mission, which is to control our air space.”

The team would be multidisciplinary in nature, including meteorologists, flight controllers, pilots and radar specialists, and shall receive reports made by citizens regarding phenomena seen in space. ”

Read more at American Monsters

Jan 16, 2011

Magician Paul Daniels sells thousands of pounds worth of props on eBay

For more than half a century he has amazed audiences with his mysterious magic tricks.

Paul Daniels left television viewers baffled as he transformed girls into tigers, identified playing cards while blindfolded or pulled a wooden broom through his wriggling body.

But now the secrets behind his elaborate illusions are finally being revealed.

Daniels, 72, has put dozens of his stage props up for sale on eBay, the online auction site. He describes the objects in detail and promises that aspiring magicians who buy them will be able to carry out the tricks themselves.

The entertainer, who presented The Paul Daniels Magic Show on the BBC from 1979 to 1994, said people could purchase "a part of magic history" and added that many of the props had been used before him by other famous magicians, including David Copperfield.

Daniels is passing on his techniques despite remaining a member of the Magic Circle, the magicians' society which has the motto "Indocilis Privata Loqui" - "not apt to disclose secrets".

Under its rules, members who disclose magic secrets to non-magicians can be expelled.

The Magic Circle holds annual members-only auctions at its London headquarters for magicians to sell their old props. Last night a spokesman for the society said it was "a bit of a grey area" whether Daniels was flouting the secrecy code by selling to the general public.

The items for sale, with starting bid prices of up to £600, include:

"Doll to girl" cage: A toy tiger is put into the cage and a cloth pulled over it, when the cloth is whipped away there is a girl dressed in a tiger leotard inside the cage. A "girl to tiger" cage performs a similar trick but the other way around, starting with a girl and ending with a real tiger.

"Through the eye of the needle" equipment: A girl gets into a box and the entrance is sealed with a large Chinese coin with a small hole in the middle. Another box is put on the other side of the coin. "After waving a flag through a window in one box, the girl emerges in the other, having seemingly passed through the tiny hole.

"Magic assistant's revenge": A magician's assistant is strapped to a wooden frame, the magician grabs a curtain and begins to walk around the frame, but it is the assistant who brings the curtain back, and once the curtain has been removed it is the magician who is strapped up.

"Absolutely impossible playing card locator": A blindfolded magician stands behind a box, which has a see through front and holes for his hands in the back. A pack of cards is put in the box and an audience member names any card. Apparently without being able to see, the magician finds that card.

"Spirit painting" prop: A blank canvas is shown and signed, then a famous painting or picture is shown. By using the prop, made of solid oak, the picture appears on the original white, signed canvas.

"Broom through the body": A magician appears to pull the broom through their body, with both ends visible at all times.

Daniels, who has just finished performing in pantomime in Redhill, Surrey - playing King Crumble in Jack and the Beanstalk alongside his wife, Debbie McGee - said his decision to sell the old equipment was because it is "cheaper to remake stuff for shows than to store it" at his £2 million home by the River Thames in Berkshire.

Read moer at The Telegraph

Neanderthals were not ugly because of the cold, new research finds

Their prominent facial features have caused them to be cast as one of nature's less attractive creatures, but now one of the main scientific explanations for Neanderthals' large noses and jutting foreheads has been disproved.
For more than 150 years scientists have explained the reason for these facial differences to modern humans as an adaptation that allowed Neanderthals to live in the freezing conditions that gripped Europe during the last Ice Age.
They believed prehistoric human relatives had enlarged sinuses which helped to warm the air as it was inhaled.
New research that used three dimensional scans and X-ray images of Neanderthal skulls has revealed that their sinuses were no bigger than modern humans, Homo sapiens, who evolved in more temperate climates, and so played no role in increasing the size of their facial features.
The researchers behind the study claim the findings suggest Neanderthals, which died out around 30,000 years ago after surviving for more than 400,000 years, did not evolve to survive in the harsh frozen tundra of Europe but instead were better suited for living in warmer climates.

Dr Todd Rae, an evolutionary anthropologist at Roehampton University in London, said it was more than likely that Neanderthals lived in temperate refuges where they could forage for fruit and berries as well as hunting for meat.

He said: "The view that Neanderthals were knuckle-dragging cave men who scraped a living by hunting large mammals on the frozen wastes of the tundra has been around since they were first discovered because they were known to live at a time when Europe was in the grip of the last Glacial Age.

"As a result a lot of their physical traits have been attributed as adaptations that helped them live in the cold, even when it doesn't make any sense.

"Our findings show that their sinuses were no larger, relative to the skull size, than in Homo sapiens who lived in temperate climates. It suggests that Neanderthals evolved in much warmer temperatures before moving into Europe and then they moved south to avoid the glaciers.

"The picture of them as more of a temperate climate creature than one that lived in the cold fits the data much better."

The remains of Neanderthals are found across Europe and in western and central Asia. Recent research has started to dispel theories that they were a primitive form of prehistoric human and is instead revealed that they used sophisticated tool kits, cooked their food and may even have been able to speak.

Recent research examining the remains of plant matter in the teeth of a Neanderthal skull has also helped to dismiss the earlier beliefs that Neanderthals were predominantly meat eaters that hunted large Ice Age mammals. Instead they were revealed to have foraged for berries, grain and vegetables, which they often cooked.

There are a number of theories for what caused Neanderthals to eventually die out, including competition with our own direct ancestors Homo sapiens, climate change caused their food supplies to disappear, or even interbreeding between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens. 

Read more at The Telegraph

God was behind Big Bang, pope says

“God’s mind was behind complex scientific theories such as the Big Bang, and Christians should reject the idea that the universe came into being by accident, Pope Benedict said Thursday.

“The universe is not the result of chance, as some would want to make us believe,” Benedict said on the day Christians mark the Epiphany, the day the Bible says the three kings reached the site where Jesus was born by following a star.

“Contemplating it (the universe) we are invited to read something profound into it: the wisdom of the creator, the inexhaustible creativity of God,” he said in a sermon to some 10,000 people in St. Peter’s Basilica on the feast day.

While the pope has spoken before about evolution, he has rarely delved back in time to discuss specific concepts such as the Big Bang, which scientists believe led to the formation of the universe some 13.7 billion years ago.

Researchers at CERN, the nuclear research center in Geneva, have been smashing protons together at near the speed of light to simulate conditions that they believe brought into existence the primordial universe from which stars, planets and life on earth — and perhaps elsewhere — eventually emerged.”

Read more at MSNBC