June 29, 2007
The mummy of Egypt’s most famous—and most provocative—female pharaoh was identified this week. Queen Hatshepsut, who ruled Egypt for two decades in the 15th century B.C., was most likely obese and diabetic judging from her mummy, scientists said.
Her mummy had actually been discovered in 1903, but was deemed unimportant and laid in storage until the Discovery Channel funded a $5 million DNA lab at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Hatshepsut is probably best known for her habit of wearing men’s clothes, sometimes with a ceremonial beard (to emphasize her authority, some Egyptologists say), but she was also a skillful ruler under whom the Egyptian empire expanded and erected numerous monuments. (More…)
June 28, 2007
Like many of us, NASA’s Mars rovers are working overtime for no pay. But at least our employers don’t add “works diligently through life-threatening peril” to our exhaustive job descriptions (we hope).
Not so the case with the rover Opportunity. The rover touched down on the Red Planet in early 2004, quickly finding signs of water–and potentially life–at Meridiani Planum, as I wrote recently. Its three-month stay was extended indefinitely, however, and today NASA said it will send the robot into massive Victoria Crater. (More…)
June 26, 2007
Park rangers for Chile’s National Forestry Corporation (which sounds like a logging firm, but is actually a park ministry) were surprised when, as part of a routine check-up of their land, they discovered that a five-acre lake was missing, leaving only a few ice floes orphaned on a dry crater.
June 25, 2007
Could the “Mr. Fusion” device that turned garbage into fuel in Back to the Future be turning into reality? Well, yes, British scientists reported yesterday. The scientists said that “human waste” products like plastic bags, straw, wood and even sewage, can indeed be turned into biofuels.
“This could offer enormous carbon savings and all we need is a source of renewable carbon,” Jeremy Tomkinson, head of the Non-Food Crops Centre, told the Guardian. “We put it in a box and fuel comes out of the other end.”
Unlike in the movie, though, waste would be processed at central plants (which would cost about $600 million to set up) and then sold to consumers. The fuel itself would be cheap, and would have the added benefit of being made from materials that—prior to being burnt—had actually absorbed carbon from the atmosphere, reducing their overall environmental impact. (More…)
June 21, 2007
For the first time, this summer British scientists are trotting out their own estimates about the Atlantic tropical storm season, to rival the perennially quasi-apocalyptic (and often-wrong) antics from their American cousins. Wouldn’t you know it? The Brits are a bit more calm about these matters.
They predict between 7 and 13 tropical storms, whereas the U.S. ups the ante to somewhere between 13 and 17. The Brits steer clear of all-out hurricane predictions, but, if you’re curious, the Americans guess around seven to ten hurricanes, with about half of them being strong. (More…)