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Three stunning ancient Greek mosaics unearthed on the Syrian border

Archaeologists have unearthed three stunning mosaics in southern Turkey. The beautifully preserved works have been dated to the ancient Greek city of Zeugma, founded more than 2,000 years ago by one of Alexander the Great’s generals.

Three new mosaics have been excavated by archaeologists in Turkey’s southern province of Gaziantep, as part of a seven-year expedition to discover the secrets of Zeugma – an ancient Greek city founded in 300 BC.

The excavation of Zeugma, being carried out by 25 students led by archaeologist Kutalmış Görkay from Ankara University in Turkey, begin in 2007 in an effort to rescue the ancient treasures from the waters of a flooded dam built on the Euphrates River about a kilometre away. “Of particular concern was the removal of Zeugma’s mosaics, some of the most extraordinary examples to survive from the ancient world,” Matthew Brunwasser writes at

Around 80 percent of the city has been underwater for over a decade, but the team is continuing to unearth some incredible artefacts to help them piece together what life was like in one of the most important trade centres of the Eastern Roman Empire. According to Jenny Zhang at My Modern Met, “Zeugma” means “bridge” or “crossing” in ancient Greek.

Founded by Seleucus I Nicator (“the Victor”), one of Alexander the Great’s generals, the city of Zeugma was home to 80,000 citizens at its peak. With the fall of the Roman Empire, so too did Zeugma fade into obscurity, after being destroyed by Persian forces in AD 253. Via Three stunning ancient Greek mosaics unearthed on the Syrian border

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How far from the equator is Australia compared to countries in the Northern Hemisphere?

Australia in Northern Hemisphere

We thought it might be interesting to see how far Australia is below the equator compared to the countries above the equator. It fits nicely in the North Atlantic in this image we knocked up. You can also see why it is quite so hot down under! What it doesn’t show is how close to the Antarctic it is, which makes it quite cool in the southern territories in the winter. – Deskarati

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Great picture of the Antarctic

NASA antartic

This great image from NASA is not a single picture but a composite of many. More here NASA

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What is a Billabong?

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What Does Sound Look Like?

You can actually see sound waves as they travel through the air thanks to a clever photographic trick.

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Brian Cox creates pioneering 3D show for Manchester festival

TV physicist Brian Cox and the visual effects team behind the film Gravity will tell the story of the universe using cutting-edge augmented reality technology in a live show next year. Prof Cox, effects wizards Framestore and film director Kevin Macdonald are using a system called Magic Leap.

Magic Leap has not been seen in public, but reports suggest that its headgear projects images onto users’ eyes. The show will be part of the Manchester International Festival next July. Titled The Age of Starlight, it is one of the first three productions to be announced for the 18-day event. Also on the line-up are a ballet created by choreographer Wayne McGregor, musician Jamie xx and artist Olafur Eliasson, and a family show telling the life story of children’s TV favourite Mr Tumble. Via Brian Cox creates pioneering 3D show for Manchester festival.

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A 2,000-year-old, hidden goldmine has been discovered in Spain

Airborne lasers have uncovered a 1st century BC Roman goldmine hidden beneath crops and vegetation in northern Spain. Scientists have found a 2,000-year-old network of channels and reservoirs in the Eria river valley of Leon, Spain, that would have been used by the Romans to extract gold. The largest opencast gold mine of the Roman Empire, Las Médulas is also located nearby in León, but until now scientists had no idea that they had also been searching for the precious metal further to the south-east.

The mine, which is hidden beneath heavy vegetation, was discovered by researchers from the University of Salamanca using a Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) laser system that was attached to an aircraft. These lasers were beamed at the ground, and the pattern they reflected back was then measured and compared to geographical information to create a visualisation of hidden features on the Earth’s surface.The discovery will help us understand more about how the Romans lived and mined back in the 1st century BC, and has been published in the Journal of Archaeological Science. Via A 2,000-year-old, hidden goldmine has been discovered in Spain

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Mini museum


In this day and age, it is increasingly difficult to buy people cool and thoughtful gifts, mainly because everyone already has everything! But, you can be pretty sure that your loved one doesn’t have this. Their very own mini museum!

Created by Hans Fex, as a result of a kickstarter campaign, it is a pocket-sized collection of rare specimens that are labelled and embedded into an acrylic block. Some of the 33 specimens include: lunar rock, dinosaur egg, coal from the Titanic, a piece of the Berlin Wall and the ‘oldest matter ever collected’ at over 4.5 billion years old!

The museums are available in three size which contain a varying amount of specimens and thus vary in price (ranging from $99-299). But beware, there is a waiting list and obviously due to the rarity of the artefacts, there is limited availability. Via earthstory

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3 strange facts about Tudor king Henry VIII


1) Henry VIII was slim and athletic for most of his life – At six feet two inches tall, Henry VIII stood head and shoulders above most of his court. He had an athletic physique and excelled at sports, regularly showing off his prowess in the jousting arena. Having inherited the good looks of his grandfather, Edward IV, in 1515 Henry was described as “the handsomest potentate I have ever set eyes on…” and later an “Adonis”, “with an extremely fine calf to his leg, his complexion very fair…and a round face so very beautiful, that it would become a pretty woman”. All this changed in 1536 when the king – then in his mid-forties – suffered a serious wound to his leg while jousting. This never properly healed, and instead turned ulcerous, which left Henry increasingly incapacitated. Four years later, the king’s waist had grown from a trim 32 inches to an enormous 52 inches. By the time of his death, he had to be winched onto his horse. It is this image of the corpulent Henry VIII that has obscured the impressive figure that he cut for most of his life.

2) Henry VIII was a tidy eater – Despite the popular image of Henry VIII throwing a chicken leg over his shoulder as he devoured one of his many feasts, he was in fact a fastidious eater. Only on special occasions, such as a visit from a foreign dignitary, did he stage banquets. Most of the time, Henry preferred to dine in his private apartments. He would take care to wash his hands before, during and after each meal, and would follow a strict order of ceremony. Seated beneath a canopy and surrounded by senior court officers, he was served on bended knee and presented with several different dishes to choose from at each course.

3) Henry was a bit of a prude – England’s most-married monarch has a reputation as a ladies’ man – for obvious reasons. As well as his six wives, he kept several mistresses and fathered at least one child by them. But the evidence suggests that, behind closed doors, he was no lothario. When he finally persuaded Anne Boleyn to become his mistress in body as well as in name, he was shocked by the sexual knowledge that she seemed to possess, and later confided that he believed she had been no virgin. When she failed to give him a son, he plumped for the innocent and unsullied Jane Seymour instead. More strange facts about Tudor king Henry VIII

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Sun’s rotating ‘magnet’ pulls lightning towards UK

The Sun may be playing a part in the generation of lightning strikes on Earth by temporarily ‘bending’ the Earth’s magnetic field and allowing a shower of energetic particles to enter the upper atmosphere. This is according to researchers at the University of Reading who have found that over a five year period the UK experienced around 50% more lightning strikes when the Earth’s magnetic field was skewed by the Sun’s own magnetic field.

The Earth’s magnetic field usually functions as an in-built force-field to shield against a bombardment of particles from space, known as galactic cosmic rays, which have previously been found to prompt a chain-reaction of events in thunderclouds that trigger lightning bolts. It is hoped these new insights, which have been published today, 19 November, in IOP Publishing’s journal Environmental Research Letters, could lead to a reliable lightning forecast system that could provide warnings of hazardous events many weeks in advance. Via Sun’s rotating ‘magnet’ pulls lightning towards UK.

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Asteroid Bennu’s Journey

Bennu’s Journey is a 6-minute animated movie about NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, Asteroid Bennu, and the formation of our solar system. Born from the rubble of a violent collision, hurled through space for millions of years, Asteroid Bennu has had a tough life in a rough neighborhood – the early solar system. Bennu’s Journey shows what is known and what remains mysterious about the evolution of Bennu and the planets. By retrieving a sample of Bennu, OSIRIS-REx will teach us more about the raw ingredients of the solar system and our own origins.

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What kills us – Now and then

killing-deaths_1024Researchers have reviewed all the causes of death recorded in the US in 1900 and 2010 to find out just how much society has changed over the past century. The results are fascinating. A team of researchers from the New England Journal of Medicine have done some investigating to discover how much things can change in 100 years. While the year 1900 brought with it many different causes of death, from bacterial infections to severe problems with the gut, now most of us pretty much just have heart disease and cancer to fear.

The authors note that in many respects, the medical systems of today are best suited to the killer diseases of the past, which is kind of a worry. “Disease is a complex domain of human experience, involving explanation, expectation, and meaning,” they write. “Doctors must acknowledge this complexity and formulate theories, practices, and systems that fully address the breadth and subtlety of disease.” “There’s reason to temper optimism,” Julia Belluz adds at Vox. “What kills us will continue to change – and medical advancements may not keep up.” Via Here’s everything that kills us in one morbid chart

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Is dark energy eating dark matter?

A tantalizing hint that dark matter could be slowly changing into dark energy has been uncovered by a team of cosmologists in the UK and Italy. While the specific nature of the interaction driving the conversion is not known, the process could be responsible for slowing the growth of galaxies and other large-scale structure in the universe across the past eight billion years. If the conversion continues at the current rate, the universe’s ultimate fate as a cold, dark and empty place could come sooner than expected.

Since the accelerating expansion of the universe was discovered in 1998, the best model of the evolution of the universe involves a cosmological constant (Λ) – which describes the accelerating expansion – along with cold dark matter (CDM). CDM comprises slow-moving particles that do not interact with electromagnetic radiation and are extremely long-lived. The particles account for about 85% of the matter in the universe and therefore their gravitational forces dominate the formation of large-scale structure.

While the ΛCDM model is supported by many different observations, several inconsistencies have come to light recently. Using data on cosmic-microwave-background radiation acquired in 2013 by the Planck space telescope, the ΛCDM model has been used to predict the rate at which large-scale structure should grow across the history of the universe. However, several different studies suggest that the rate at which structure is forming is slower than predicted by Planck/ΛCDM, which could mean that CDM is disappearing from the universe. More here Is dark energy eating dark matter?

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European space plane set for February launch

EUROPE’S first-ever ‘space plane’ will be launched on February 11 next year, rocket firm Arianespace says after a three-month delay to finetune the flight plan. The unmanned, car-sized vessel will be sent into low orbit by Europe’s Vega light rocket, on a 100-minute fact-finding flight to inform plans to build a shuttle-like, reusable space vehicle. Dubbed IXV, for Intermediate experimental Vehicle, the plane will be boosted from Europe’s space pad in Kourou, French Guiana, and separate from its launcher at an altitude of 320km.

The European Space Agency website says it will attain an altitude of around 450km before re-entering the atmosphere at an altitude of 120km — representative of a return mission from low orbit. Via European space plane set for February launch

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The Kilogram will be redefined in 2018

NIST3-WB-300_2If all the criteria specified by the international metrology community for measurement uncertainties and agreement among different laboratories are met, the kilogram — along with three other SI units — will be redefined in 2018. The kilogram will thereafter be defined in terms of a quantum-mechanical quantity known as the Planck constant (h) which will be assigned an exact fixed value based on the best measurements obtained worldwide.

Getting there, however, will require a great deal of work in only a few years. Measurements of h will have to be made with uncertainties in the neighborhood of 20 parts per billion. The watt balance values will have to be in good agreement with those obtained by an alternative method: defining the kilogram by counting atoms in a silicon sphere. Researchers will have to demonstrate that measurements of h, as well as the realization of the kilogram, can be made reliably and repeatably over time.

But even that is not enough. Scientists will also need to develop a dependable method of transferring watt-balance measurements made in vacuum (to eliminate buoyancy effects from the air displaced by the test mass) to standards that will be used in air. Although some organizations may construct watt balances of their own, the vast preponderance of calibrations made in government, commerce, and academe — as well as the broad nationwide dissemination of the new kilogram — will be conducted using physical standards. Via Redefining the Kilogram: the Future.

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This mini engine has only two primary moving parts

mini engineLiquidPiston is currently developing and testing the X Mini, a power-dense, low-vibration, quiet,70 cubic centimeter gasoline powered rotary four-stroke engine prototype. The compact engine (4-pound core) has only two primary moving parts. The X Mini is based on LiquidPiston’s patented thermodynamic cycle and engine architecture. To date, the X Mini prototype has demonstrated 3.5 horsepower (net indicated) at 10,000 RPM and the ability to run steady state with air-cooling. When mature, the engine is expected to weigh 3 pounds, produce over 5 horsepower at up to 15,000 RPM, and be over 30 percent smaller and lighter than comparable four-stroke piston engines.

The X Mini prototype demonstrates that LiquidPiston’s innovative engine technology can scale down in size – prior prototypes focused on 40 and 70 HP designs – and is multi-fuel capable – able to run on gasoline (spark ignition), in addition to previously demonstrated diesel and JP-8 (compression ignition). The X Mini will enable many small engine applications to be smaller, lighter, and quieter, including hand-held power equipment, lawn and garden equipment, portable generators, mopeds, unmanned aerial vehicles, robotics, marine power, range extenders, and auxiliary power units for boats, aviation and other vehicles. The engine’s improved noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) characteristics will also increase product performance, enhance operator comfort and prolong application life.

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You wont believe this Optical Illusion!

rubicks cube optical illusion

This optical illusion by is of the famous Rubics Cube. Can you spot the illusion? Well it is difficult to notice, but the middle squares on each side are actually all the same color. Wow! If you don’t believe it, click on the picture and you will see.

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Meet the band-aid of the future

Produced by a small US biotech company called Suneris, VetiGel is a new medical adhesive made from plant-based polymers. Developed by New York University student Joe Landolina over the past four years, the gel works by causing blood platelets to stick together and clot as soon as they come into contact with it.

The Suneris lab explains how the gel works at their website:

The gel activates blood’s natural clotting process and is made with biocompatible components that can be absorbed directly into the body. By reassembling onto a wound site, VETIGEL mimics the body’s extracellular matrix and accelerates the production of fibrin, which enables the body to clot rapidly.

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Are there any mitochondria in our red blood cells?

Are there any mitochondria in our red blood cells? | Pimm - Partial immortalization

One thing people usually know is that human red blood cells do not have cell nuclei, so they are lacking chromosomal DNA. But far less people have a guess about mitochondria’s presence in the erythrocytes. So are there any mitochondria in our red blood cells?. The answer is NO, mammalian red blood cells also lose their mitochondria during erythropoiesis at phase 3, when normoblasts eject organelles. Functional red blood cells produce energy by fermentation, via anaerobic glycolysis of glucose followed by lactic acid production. As the cells do not own any protein coding DNA they cannot produce new structural or repair proteins or enzymes and their lifespan is limited. via Are there any mitochondria in our red blood cells?

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The Large Hadron Collider has observed two brand new particles

Two never-before-seen “heavy-weight” baryon particles have been detected by the world’s favourite particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider. The discovery could help scientists understand more about the interactions of elementary particles.

Physicists from CERN in Geneva have discovered two new types of baryon particles named Xi_b’- and Xi_b*- (before you ask, no, we’re not sure how to pronounce them).

Baryon particles are subatomic particles such as hyperons that are made up of three strongly-bonded tiny elementary particles called quarks – which are generally thought to be some of the smallest units of matter.

Xi_b’- and Xi_b*- were both predicted to already exist by the quantum physics models, but they’d never been seen before this and scientists weren’t sure of their exact mass – something they’ve now managed to calculate. And the heavy-weight subatomic particles impressively big – both are more than six times as massive as protons. Via The Large Hadron Collider has observed two brand new particles – ScienceAlert.

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