Archaeologists Find 13,000-Year-Old Engraved Mammoth Tusk in Siberia (Archeology)

The 13,000-year-old partial tusk of an adult mammoth found in western Siberia has four images of two-humped camels engraved on it.

The 13,000-year-old engraved mammoth tusk from the Tom River, western Siberia. Image credit: Esin et al, doi: 10.1016/j.ara.2020.100180.

The engraved tusk was found in 1988 at a locality known as Parusinka in the lower reaches of the Tom River.

The artifact, which measures about 70 cm (27.6 inches) in length and 10 cm (3.9 inches) in diameter, is a frontal fragment of a 1.5-m- (59-inch-) long tusk from a 35 to 40-year-old male mammoth.

The object was examined by Dr. Yury Esin from the Khakassian Research Institute for Language, Literature and History and colleagues.

The researchers radiocarbon-dated the artifact to about 13,000 years ago and spotted several incisions on it.

The engravings on the tusk from the Tom River have special features, which make them difficult to document. They have very thin and shallow lines, making them barely visible and tedious to trace.

They are on the surface of a round, long, curved and heavy object which does not allow all the imagery to be seen and recognized without rotating the tusk. The poor condition of the tusk does not permit authors to see a complete and coherent composition.

Engravings on the 13,000-year-old mammoth tusk from the Tom River, western Siberia; numbers from (1) to (5) and letters from (a) to (i) mark main images and their details. Image credit: Esin et al, doi: 10.1016/j.ara.2020.100180.

The scientists then made a 2D model of the tusk surface and identified images of two-humped camels arranged in two pairs. All four animals (labeled as #1, 2, 3 and 4 in the image above) were executed in the same style, using similar techniques and tools.

The main stylistic feature of these images is that they combine the figures’ outlines with a series of short transverse cuts on the inner side. In some places, the outline is missing and the short cuts themselves serve as the contour.

All camels are depicted with only two legs. The lower ends of the foot contours, in most cases, are not connected. The camels have patches of thick fur sticking out from the upper parts of their forelegs, bellies, under their necks, at the base of the humps (between the front hump and the neck, the back hump and the croup) and on their foreheads. The heads are all small and angular.

On two figures (#1 and #3), single dots inside the heads probably indicate eyes. The tails are stretched out and down. All in all, the figures of the animals are quite realistic and demonstrated a good knowledge of the subject.

Between the rear legs of camels (#1) and (#3), the authors spotted a complex anthropomorphic figure. It resembles two legs walking to the right (however, without any outlined feet). It is shown under number (#5) and highlighted in yellow

It is possible that what they have seen there is an anthropomorphic figure with its upper part delineated by the legs of the animals.

According to the team, the images on the tusk from the Tom River are the earliest known depictions of camels in Asia. The comparative analysis of the stylistic features of the camel figures shows that they correspond to the age of the tusk itself, making them, at present, the oldest camel images in Asia.

The discovery of the engravings in this region is consistent with the theory of mobile population groups moving to western Siberia from the periglacial steppe to the south in the Late Upper Paleolithic.

References: Yury N. Esin et al. 2020. Images of camels on a mammoth tusk from West Siberia. Archaeological Research in Asia 22: 100180; doi: 10.1016/j.ara.2020.100180 link: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352226719300741

ALMA Detected Salt, Water, Silicon Compounds and Methyl Cyanide around Two Massive Protostars (Astronomy)

Astronomers reported results of 0.”05 -resolution observations toward the O-type proto-binary system IRAS 16547–4247, located 9,500 light-years away in the constellation of Scorpius, with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array. They detected sodium chloride, silicon compounds, and water vapor in the circumstellar disks — as well as methyl cyanide in the circumbinary disk.

An artist’s impression of the massive proto-binary system IRAS 16547-4247. Image credit: ALMA / ESO / NAOJ / NRAO.

Sodium chloride is familiar to us as table salt, but it is not a common molecule in the Universe. This was only the second detection of sodium chloride around massive young stars. The first example was around Orion KL Source I, but that is such a peculiar source that we were not sure whether salt is suitable to see gas disks around massive stars.

Their results confirmed that salt is actually a good marker. Since baby stars gain mass through disks, it is important to study the motion and characteristics of disks to understand how the baby stars grow.

The astronomers also found that the twin circumstellar disks around IRAS 16547-4247 stars are counter-rotating. The counter-rotation of the disks may indicate that these two stars are not actual twins, but a pair of strangers which were formed in separated clouds and paired up later. Yeah, if the stars are born as twins in a large common gaseous disk, then naturally the disks rotate in the same direction.

This ALMA composite image shows the massive proto-binary system IRAS 16547-4247. Different colors show the different distributions of dust particles (yellow), methyl cyanide (red), salt (green), and water vapor (blue). Bottom insets are the close-up views of each component. Dust and methyl cyanide are distributed widely around the binary system, whereas salt and water vapor are concentrated in the disk around each protostar. In the wide-field image, the jets from one of the protostars, seen as several dots in the above image, are shown in light blue. Image credit: ALMA / ESO / NAOJ / NRAO / Tanaka et al.

The team expects that further observations will provide more dependable information on the secrets of massive binary systems’ birth.

The presence of water vapor and sodium chloride, which were released by the destruction of dust particles, suggests the hot and dynamic nature of disks around massive protostars.

Interestingly, investigations of meteorites indicate that the disk of the proto-Solar System also experienced high temperatures in which dust particles were evaporated.

These new results suggested that these “hot-disk” lines may be common in innermost disks around massive protostars, and have great potential for future research of massive star formation. They also tentatively found that the twin disks are counter-rotating, which might give a hint of the origin of the massive proto-binary system IRAS 16547–4247.

References: Kei E.I. Tanaka et al. 2020. Salt, Hot Water, and Silicon Compounds Tracing Massive Twin Disks. ApJL 900 (1), L2; doi: 10.3847/2041-8213/abadfc link: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/2041-8213/abadfc

Paradox-Free Time Travel is Mathematically Possible (Physics)

According to recent study done by Germain Tobar & Fabio Costa, time travel with free will is logically possible in our Universe without any paradox.

Classical dynamics says if you know the state of a system at a particular time, this can tell us the entire history of the system. This has a wide range of applications, from allowing us to send rockets to other planets and modeling how fluids flow.

For example, if I know the current position and velocity of an object falling under the force of gravity, I can calculate where it will be at any time.

However, Einstein’s theory of general relativity predicts the existence of closed time like curves (CTC’s) or time loops or time travel — where an event can be both in the past and future of itself — theoretically turning the study of dynamics on its head.

A unified theory that could reconcile both traditional dynamics and Einstein’s theory of relativity is the holy grail of physics.

But the current science says both theories cannot both be true. As physicists, researchers want to understand the Universe’s most basic, underlying laws and for years they’ve puzzled on how the science of dynamics can square with Einstein’s predictions.

They wondered: Is time travel mathematically possible?

Tobar and his colleague, Dr. Fabio Costa from the Centre for Engineered Quantum Systems in the School of Mathematics and Physics at the University of Queensland, found a way to ‘square the numbers’ and their calculations could have fascinating consequences for science.

According to Dr. Costa, “The maths checks out — and the results are the stuff of science fiction. Say you traveled in time, in an attempt to stop COVID-19’s patient zero from being exposed to the virus.”

“However, if you stopped that individual from becoming infected — that would eliminate the motivation for you to go back and stop the pandemic in the first place.”

“This is a paradox — an inconsistency that often leads people to think that time travel cannot occur in our Universe.”

“Some physicists say it is possible, but logically it’s hard to accept because that would affect our freedom to make any arbitrary action.”

“It would mean you can time travel, but you cannot do anything that would cause a paradox to occur.”

The team’s work shows that neither of these conditions has to be the case, and it is possible for events to adjust themselves to be logically consistent with any action that the time traveler makes.

References: Germain Tobar & Fabio Costa. 2020. Reversible dynamics with closed time-like curves and freedom of choice. Class. Quantum Grav 37 (20): 205011; doi: 10.1088/1361-6382/aba4bc link: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1361-6382/aba4bc

The World’s Largest Hot Spring Is The Aptly Named Frying Pan Lake (Amazing Places)

There are a lot of things a frying pan doesn’t have in common with Frying Pan Lake. Its size, for example: one is the size of baseball glove and the other is the size of seven football fields put together. One thing they share? They’re both too hot to handle.

Frying pan lake

New Zealand’s Frying Pan Lake doesn’t get it name for its ability to whip up over-easy eggs. It’s all about the heat. This lake is the largest natural hot spring in the world. Located in the Echo Crater in the Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley, it’s basically an enormous pool of naturally steaming hot water. Another similar phenomenon sits nearby in the Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland: Champagne Pool, a naturally colorful hot spring. The biggest difference between these two Kiwi sites is their size. Frying Pan Lake stretches a staggering nine acres (38,000 square meters). The humble Champagne Pool is about the length of two basketball courts.

Hot tubs are luxurious meccas of relaxation (Pamukkale, anyone?)—but only if it’s not too hot. Make no mistake, Frying Pan Lake is not for swimming. The average temp of the water sits around 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius). That’s hotter than a cup of coffee.

The origin story of Frying Pan Lake explains how it got to such scorching temps: this hot spring was born of a volcanic eruption. Earthquakes rumbled New Zealand’s Rotorua area in June of 1886, causing Mount Tarawera to explode. The disastrous result became the country’s largest volcanic eruption. In the wake of the destruction, the Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley formed. Another volcanic eruption in Echo Crater in 1917 hammered Frying Pan Lake into its final form.

Like A Glass Of Bubbly, Champagne Pool Is An Ever-Fizzing (Hot) Spring (Amazing Places)

New Zealand’s Champagne Pool is not for drinking — it’s way cooler than that. This natural hot spring is bubbly, colorful, hot, and dangerous. The pool is part of an attraction that was called one of the most surreal places on Earth by TripAdvisor. But be warned: This pool is not for swimming, and definitely not for mimosas.

Champagne Pool is the centerpiece of the even-lovelier-named Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland. This area, located in the north island of New Zealand, was formed over thousands of years of geothermal activity. Within it, you can find other features like the Lady Knox Geyser and the mud pool (erupting mud, anyone?). But the real showstopper is Champagne Pool — a naturally colorful hot spring that bubbles and fizzes just like its namesake.

While it may be tempting to treat Champagne Pool like an open-air jacuzzi, you might want to think again. This ain’t no kiddie pool. Size-wise, the pool measures 213 feet (65 meters) in diameter and 203 feet (62 meters) in depth. The water in this hot spring averages around 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74degrees Celsius), whereas regular hot tubs max out at 104degrees Fahrenheit (40degrees Celsius). The geothermal water below the pool is even steamier at around 500degrees Fahrenheit (260degrees Celsius).

The fizzies come from the constant efflux of carbon dioxide gas from the bottom of the pool, which was formed some 900 years ago by a hydrothermal eruption. The colors around the edge of the pool, however, come from a wide range of rich mineral deposits and microbial life. (Not unlike Yellowstone’s Great Prismatic Spring.) This makes the pool appear to be ringed in brilliantly bright and pulpy orange juice. Is this natural wonderscape trying to make us think of mimosas, or are we just thirsty?

The Yemen Cityscape Is Filled With Ancient Mud Skyscrapers (Amazing Places)

When you hear about a place called “the Manhattan of the desert,” you probably imagine a modern metropolis like Dubai. In fact, the city with this namesake is surprisingly ancient. The Walled City of Shibam in Yemen dates back to the 16th century, yet is made up of a tall cluster of mud-brick skyscrapers. It also holds the distinction of being the oldest metropolis in the world to use vertical construction.

For its time, Shibam’s “Manhattan of the desert” distinction—coined by British explorer Freya Stark in the 1930s—wasn’t that far off. According to National Geographic, the city was once an important stop for caravans traversing the spice and incense route along the southern Arabian plateau. 

Shibam’s city planning was also before its time. The somt seven-story high buildings were built on a rectangular grid plan of streets and squares. They were strategically built on a rocky spur above a giant wadi —a river bed that remains dry except in the rainy season—positioned high enough to see enemies approaching. As UNESCO elaborates, Shibam and its location in the heart of Yemen’s Wadi Hadramaut “constitute an outstanding example of human settlement, land use and city planning.”

As you might imagine, skyscrapers made of soil, hay, and water aren’t the sturdiest. Shibam’s impressive structures are constantly threatened by wind, rain, and heat erosion, as well as by mankind. The city’s citizens work hard to protect their unique dwellings, but the city took great hits during both a tropical cyclone and a violent civil war. As a response to war damage throughout the world, the 1954 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict stated that “damage to cultural property belonging to any people whatsoever means damage to the cultural heritage of all mankind.” Shibam is no exception—just look at it. Wouldn’t you agree?

Jellyfish Lake Is Filled With Millions Of Harmless Jellyfish (Amazing Places)

A lake bursting with jellyfish sounds dangerous. But in Jellyfish Lake on the Pacific island of Palau, you’re at no risk among the millions of golden jellyfish. Yes, millions. Dive right in.

You’ll find Jellyfish Lake on a rocky, uninhabited island off the coast of Koror in Palau. The photos are surreal and a bit terrifying, but there’s surprisingly not much to be afraid of here. There are no threats to the jellyfish in this saltwater lake, which is why there are upwards of 10 million there. And, lucky for them, these jellyfish have had no predators to protect themselves against while gliding through their watery jellyfish kingdom. Because they don’t need to use their stinging cells, those zappers have shrunk so small that they can barely penetrate human skin. Great news for divers.

It kind of seems like someone purposely began breeding jellyfish in this lake to attract tourists, but that’s not the case. This unique destination is all natural, baby. Jellyfish Lake is one of about 70 saltwater lakes on the South Pacific archipelago of Palau that were once connected to the ocean, but have been cut off at some point over the years. Unfortunately, in recent years, the jellyfish population in the famous lake has dwindled. But why? According to Palau Dive Adventures, “The problems seem to be an increase in salinity of the saltwater lake, due to the ocean warming weather pattern what is commonly known as El Niño. Palau locals also attested to the fact, that the drought of 2016 had been the worst of the past 65 years.” But not all hope is lost! Scientists believe that if conditions improve, the jellyfish can certainly bounce back and repopulate their namesake home.

Neon River In Costa Rica Will Make You Ditch Instagram Filters (Amazing Places)

Imagine water so dazzling blue that when people see pictures of it, they usually accuse the photographers of digitally altering them. That’s exactly the case with the waterfall in Rio Celeste, a river in Costa Rica’s Tenorio Volcano National Park. If you’re wondering why this river is so stunningly neon despite having #NoFilter, the answer may surprise you: it’s a combination of volcanic minerals and bacteria.

Situated deep within the Costa Rican wilderness, Rio Celeste’s name translates to “heavenly river.” Local legend says that the river gets its iconic cerulean hue because after the gods supposedly painted the sky, they dipped their paintbrushes in its waters. Of course, we now know the real reason is a mixture of sulfur and calcium carbonate, which is found in the water due to the nearby Tenorio Volcano. Don’t worry, it’s been dormant for years.

To get there, you’ll have to hike about an hour through a tropical rainforest filled with white-faced monkeys, blue butterflies, poison dart frogs, sloths, and wildcats, among other exotic animals. After enjoying the view of the 300-foot waterfall, you can soak in one of the many nearby hot springs as the volcanic heat keeps you all warm and fuzzy. The best part? You’ll probably have this hidden oasis all to yourself! Because it’s located off the beaten path and takes quite a bit of effort to get there, there aren’t exactly crowds of people there at any given moment.

So if you’re a travel junkie with a bucket list that includes “visit a waterfall with water that’s bluer than a Smurf’s butt,” definitely consider paying a visit to Costa Rica’s Rio Celeste. You’ll especially enjoy it if you like hiking, ecotourism, and secluded serenity. Oh, and be sure to take lots of pictures. At the very least, we won’t accuse you of photoshopping them.

This Bracelet Can Jams Microphones (Amazing Products)

Yuxin Chen and colleagues engineered a wearable microphone jammer that is capable of disabling microphones in its user’s surroundings, including hidden microphones. Their device is based on a recent exploit that leverages the fact that when exposed to ultrasonic noise, commodity microphones will leak the noise into the audible range. Moreover, their device exploits a synergy between ultrasonic jamming and the naturally occurring movements that users induce on their wearable devices (e.g., bracelets) as they gesture or walk. They demonstrated that these movements can blur jamming blind spots and increase jamming coverage. Lastly, their wearable bracelet is built in a ring-layout that allows it to jam in multiple directions. This is beneficial in that it allows their jammer to protect against microphones hidden out of sight.

Their prototype is a self-contained wearable comprised of ultrasonic transducers, a signal generator, a microcontroller, a battery, a voltage regulator and a 3W amplifier. © University of Chicago

“Despite the initial excitement around voice-based smart devices,” the authors wrote, “consumers are becoming increasingly nervous with the fact that these interactive devices are, by default, always listening, recording, and possibly saving sensitive personal information. Therefore, it is critical to build tools that protect users against the potential compromise or misuse of microphones in the age of voice-based smart devices.”

Recently, researchers have shown that ultrasonic transducers can prevent commodity microphones from recording human speech. While these ultrasonic signals are imperceptible to human ears, they leak into the audible spectrum after being captured by the microphones, producing a jamming signal inside the microphone circuit that jams (disrupts) voice recordings. The leakage is caused by an inherent, nonlinear property of microphone’s hardware.

However, all these devices exhibit two key limitations: (1) They are heavily directional, thus requiring users to point the jammer precisely at the location where the microphones are. This is not only impractical, as it interferes with the users’ primary task, but is also often impossible when microphones are hidden. (2) They rely on multiple transducers that enlarge their jamming coverage but introduce blind spots locations were the signals from two or more transducers cancel each other out. If a microphone is placed in any of these locations it will not be jammed, rendering the whole jammer obsolete.

To tackle these shortcomings, Yuxin Chen and colleagues engineered a wearable jammer that is worn as a bracelet, which is depicted in Figure below. By turning an ultrasonic jammer into a bracelet, their device leverages natural hand gestures that occur while speaking, gesturing or moving around to blur out the aforementioned blind spots. Furthermore, by arranging the transducers in a ring layout, their wearable jams in multiple directions and protects the privacy of its user’s voice, anywhere and anytime, without requiring its user to manually point the jammer to the eavesdropping microphones.

(a) They engineered a wearable ultrasound jammer that can prevent surrounding microphones from eavesdropping on a conversation. (b) This is the actual speech that their conversation partner hears, since their jammer does not disrupt human hearing. However, (c) is the transcript of what a state-of-the-art speech recognizer makes out of the jammed conversation.

They confirmed that an ultrasonic microphone jammer is superior to state-of-the-art and commercial stationary jammers by conducting a series of technical evaluations and a user study. These demonstrated that: (1) Their wearable jammer outperformed static jammers in jamming coverage; (2) Its jamming is effective even if the microphones are hidden and covered by various materials, such as cloths or paper sheets; and, (3) In a life-like situation their study participants felt that their wearable protected the privacy of their voice.

References: Yuxin Chen, Huiying Li, Shan-Yuan Teng, Steven Nagels, Zhijing Li, Pedro Lopes, Ben Y. Zhao, and Haitao Zheng. 2020. Wearable Microphone Jamming. In Proceedings of CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2020 (CHI’2020). https://doi.org/10.1145/3313831.3376304.