In 1991, German hikers found a surprise on an Alpine trail: a dead body. It turned out the man had died some time ago–around 5,000 years earlier. Researchers guessed from his scattered belongings that the iceman had died a lonely death from the cold and an arrow wound in his shoulder. But now, based on the way his belongings were scattered and the timing of his last meal, some archaeologists think the iceman named Ötzi may have had a proper funeral.
Though many previous studies have looked at the body itself, ScienceNOW reports that archaeologist Alessandro Vanzetti and his team looked at all of the iceman’s gear. They used a modeling technique called spatial point pattern analysis to make a map of how Ötzi’s goods–including axe, dagger, quiver, backpack, and unfinished bow–got to their final resting places. Specifically, the analysis determines how Ötzi’s surroundings froze and thawed over time. The researchers say the scattering is consistent with a ceremonial burial and that Ötzi’s tribe may have placed his possessions around him on a nearby stone platform. The study, which ScienceNOW calls “provocative,” appears in Antiquity Journal.
Arthroscopic removal of a plastic soft drink bottle cap in the knee: a case report.
“We report a rare case of late knee locking after an open knee injury in a polytrauma patient with a pelvic fracture and a contralateral femoral artery injury. Once the life and limb threatening injuries were addressed, debridement and washout of the knee wound was performed. X-rays and subsequent CT revealed only an undisplaced patella fracture. The patient presented 6 months later to a knee surgeon with recurrent locking. An arthroscopy was performed and a 10 mm plastic soft drink bottle cap was retrieved leading to the immediate resolution of symptoms without complications. Read More
Robots tend to do things a little differently. Though folding rectangular towels was a breeze for the Willow Garage’s PR2 programmable robot, UC Berkeley researchers had a bit more trouble coaxing it to match socks. A video (below) of their unconventional technique won a $10,000 prize from Willow Garage.
The trickiness comes from getting the sock right side out. The researchers decided to use a dowel, making otherwise clean laundry seem, well, a little dirty.
Instead of going to the doctor’s office for simple health tests, some Japanese can now go to the bathroom. The “Intelligence Toilet” can measure blood pressure, body temperature, weight, and urine sugar levels, all while you… well.
The toilet is the latest in a family of smart loos called “washlets.” Other toilets in manufacturer Toto‘s fleet feature water jets for cleaning, warmers for comfort, driers for after the water jet, and “otohime” or “princess of sound” speakers for drowning out any unpleasant user noises.
The toilets also have automatically opening and closing lids, resetting after every use to keep his and her bathrooms in bliss and to help young children or elderly people who may have trouble reaching or bending down. In Japan, the toilets run for around 400,000 yen, about $5,000.
The ideal subject distance for passport pictures.
“In an age of global combat against terrorism, the recognition and identification of people on document images is of increasing significance. Experiments and calculations have shown that the camera-to-subject distance – not the focal length of the lens – can have a significant effect on facial proportions. Modern passport pictures should be able to function as a reference image for automatic and manual picture comparisons. This requires a defined subject distance. It is completely unclear which subject distance, in the taking of passport photographs, is ideal for the recognition of the actual person. Read More
Tired of gum-plastered streets, Anna Bullus decided to design and install chewing gum receptacles made, naturally, from recycled chewing gum. Her pink “Gumdrops” now appear in five UK locations and Six Flags Theme Park in New Jersey.
Though she won’t reveal the gum rubber’s exact contents, Bullus told The Guardian that eight months in a lab allowed her to perfect her technique, making gum first into a foam and then a used-gum pellet, before extracting a polymer modestly called BRGP (Bullus Recycled Gum Polymer). Perhaps it’s not surprising that you could turn gum into plastic, since the “nonnutritive masticatory substance” that gives gum its chewiness can include butyl rubber, used in inner tubes.
If her Gumdrops can keep gum off the streets, such bins might save British taxpayers an estimated £150 ($300) million per year–that’s what the government spends now on steam hoses, freezing machines, and corrosive chemical street cleanings. Plus Bullus says the Gumdrops, once full, can provide fodder for more Gumdrops and other plastic products. She told The Guardian:
“The amazing thing is you can use it for any plastic product…. I’d love to do some Wellington boots, for example. Gum boots, in fact.”
Discoblog: Britain’s War On Chewing Gum Terror
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: A moment on your lips, forever in your intestine.
Discoblog: Can the Texas BoE walk and deny evolution at the same time? (when chewing gum meets evolution)
DISCOVER: Oh, Rubbish (archaeologists dig up some old trash, including gum)
Mutant turtles, we might have guessed, but Canadian drainage crews have found something else in Edmonton sewers: dinosaur bones. Experts from the Royal Tyrrell Museum are now working to confirm the bones’ donors but suspect that the uncovered limb and tooth bones once belonged to T. rex cousin Albertosaurus (pictured below) and duck-faced Edmontosaurus.
Andy Neuman, executive director of the museum, told the BBC he was impressed that the crews acted as “good stewards” and reported the bones found while digging a new tunnel. Workers will now try to uncover other bones from the sewer tunnel walls.
As the dinosaurs’ names suggest, finding such fossils in the province of Alberta and its capital city, Edmonton, isn’t all that rare–but Neuman says this is the first time the city itself has found the bones. Leanna Mohan, the museum’s marketing coordinator, told the BBC that when it comes to finding dinosaur bones, not every find is significant:
“I can go out on a hike on a Sunday and find a dinosaur bone.”
Discoblog: Trade Center Construction Workers Stumble on a 1700s Sailing Ship
Discoblog: Archaeological Surprise: Grave Site Full of Phallic Figurines
Discoblog: What You Get When You Name a New Dinosaur Over Beers: Mojoceratops
Discoblog: Squirrel vs Dinosaur: Researchers Find Oldest Known Mammalian Bite Marks
Discoblog: Will Jurassic Park Ever Really Come True?
Image: Wikimedia / Matt Martyniuk
A message from the Victorians: “I 1 der if you got that 1 I wrote 2U B4.” Helz ya, 1800s Brit10! We got it. Though they didn’t have cellphones or their 160-character limits, phrases like this one show nineteenth century English writers weren’t above an occasional stylistic shortcut.
The line comes from the poem “Essay to Miss Catharine Jay,” part of Charles Carroll Bombaugh’s 1867 Gleanings From the Harvest-Fields of Literature. The poem will appear in a forthcoming exhibit at The British Library as an example of “emblematic poetry.”
As Discovery News reports, such shortcuts appeared even before the Victorians; for example, the phrase IOU (for I owe you) originated in 1618. Txtese abbreviations appeared in literature from both sides of the Atlantic, with Americans also writing to Miss Catharine Jay, or Miss K T J.
Perhaps the proto-texts teach an important lesson: Lopping off word parts doesn’t mean you don’t have class. Another excerpt meant for Miss Catharine Jay:
But friends and foes alike D K,
As U may plainly C,
In every funeral R A,
Or Uncle’s L E G.
Discoblog: Texting-While-Driving Coach Slightly Delays Appalling Crashes
Discoblog: Texting While Diving? Buoy Allows Text Messages From Submarines
Discoblog: Woman Receives First Ever PhD in Texting
Discoblog: Watch Those Thumbs Go! Champion Texter Wins $50,000
Discoblog: The New Defense Against Despotism: Text Messaging
Motion sickness caused by rotations about Earth-horizontal and Earth-vertical axes.
“Rotation at constant angular velocity about the head’s Z-axis, with the rotational axis horizontal (barbecue-spit rotation), causes motion sickness and illusory perceptions of bodily movement. To determine whether such rotations about the head’s X- and Y-axes cause similar effects, and to test the validity of the mismatch theory of motion sickness, more than 200 tests (using vertical axes as well as horizontal axes) were administered to 14 subjects. Read More
How do we say goodbye? As the Space Shuttle program comes to a 2011 close, NASA has announced two shuttle-related music competitions. Also museums are already lining up like Black Friday shoppers to get their hands on one of those soon-to-be retired vehicles.
In a contest dubbed the “American Idol for space,” NASA invites musicians to create an original song to compliment the STS-134 mission, and asks them to submit their musical stylings online by January 10, 2011. After a NASA panel picks a set of finalists, website visitors can vote for the winner. The top two songs will play during the final shuttle flight in February 2011.
Another ongoing competition asks the public to choose from a top 40 list of previous “wake-up songs”–music used to help astronauts rise from their orbiting slumbers. Selections include the theme from Star Trek (old school version), Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again,” Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’,” and U2’s “Beautiful Day.” The top two will play during the STS-133 mission scheduled for this November.