Archive for the The Ancient World Category

The Mayans may have built musical pyramids

Posted in The Ancient World on September 23, 2009 by Gustav

El CastilloThe ancient Mayans may have used their pyramids as as a great musical instrument to play for the gods.

If you were to sit on the steps of Mexico’s El Castillo in Chichen Itza, you would notice a sound like raindrops hitting water when other visitors climbed the pyramid’s stairs.

The same phenomenon can be found at the Moon Pyramid at Teotihuacan in central Mexico, suggesting that at least some of the Mayan pyramids were expressly built to be an instrument.

El Castillo is widely believed to have been devoted to the feathered serpent god Kukulcan, but Cruz thinks it may also have been a temple to the rain god Chaac. Indeed, a mask of Chaac is found at the top of El Castillo and also in the Moon Pyramid.

“The Mexican pyramids, with some imagination, can be considered musical instruments dating back to the Mayan civilisation,” says [Jorge Cruz of the Professional School of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering in Mexico City], although he adds that there is no direct evidence that the Mayans actually played them. [New Scientist]

It’s an interesting idea, but as of yet it’s still a largely unsubstantiated one. And as Francisco Estrada-Belli, an archaeologist at Boston University, Massachusetts, points out, the supposed musical pyramids goes unmentioned in Mayan texts.


Meet Raptorex, the amazing miniature T. rex

Posted in Nature Attacks!, The Ancient World on September 18, 2009 by Gustav

Raptorex and T-rex

In northeastern China, the fossil of a new dinosaur, named Raptorex kriegsteini that lived 125 million years ago has been uncovered.

The Raptorex had an oversized head with powerful jaws for biting, long legs for running and tiny arms that did nothing – it was basically an earlier version of Tyrannosaurus rex, who lived 35 million years later.

The Raptorex, however, was about the size of a human.

The scientists are sure that the new mini tyrant is not just a juvenile. Bones in animals tend to fuse in sequence, providing a key to an animal’s maturity level.

Raptorex’s pelvic girdle was completely fused and its scapula and shoulder blade were nearly so, indicating that it was an adolescent at the end of its growth. [Wired]

The stunted arms of T. rex has previously been thought by many to have evolved has a consequence of T. rex being so big. But the Raptorex shows that the basic body plan of T. rex was already present in its earlier ancestors – it just got bigger.

But why the big head and small arms? Paleontologist Paul C. Serano tells the New York Times:

Raptorex, like T. rex, would have killed animals with its teeth and jaws. The forelimbs would not have been the primary means for attacking prey.

In fact, Dr. Sereno said, the forelimbs would have gotten smaller as the head got larger. “This is an agile, fast-running animal,” he said.

“By adding a lot of weight at the top, something has to give way. What gave way was the forelimb.”

Via 80beats.

A bunch of things: music, evolution, space-travel, astronomy and astronomy

Posted in Images & Videos, Outer Space, The Ancient World on September 10, 2009 by Gustav

Music: They Might Be Giants have released a new album, Here Comes Science. Here’s a taste:

Evolution: “Ancient skeletons discovered in Georgia Threaten to overturn the theory of human evolution“, according to the headline-writers of the Daily Mail. While the headline is atrocious, the article itself isn’t half bad, it’s about a recent archeological discovery that suggests our ancestors left Africa much earlier than previously thought.

Space-travel: Lawrence Krauss over at The X-change Files argues that any human sent to Mars should be on a one-way trip. It would be much easier to do it that way and apparently there’s a lot of astronauts who would go for it.

Astronomy: Martin Pugh’s image of the Horsehead Nebula won the grand prize of the 2009 Royal Observatory Greenwich’s Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition. Here it is:

Horsehead Nebula

io9 has a gallery of all the winners.

More astronomy: Hubble is up-and-running again after some downtime for repairs and the images it’s returning are simply gorgeous:

Celestial Butterfly

The picture above is of Nebula NGC 6302, a dying star ejecting vast clouds of gas light.years across. 80beats have a gallery of some of the returned photos.

Scientist want to grow dinosaurs from chicken embryos

Posted in Nature Attacks!, The Ancient World on August 26, 2009 by Gustav
Will it cluck or will it roar?

Will it cluck or will it roar?

Hans Larsson, the Canada Research Chair in Macro Evolution at Montreal’s McGill University wants to make a dinosaur. From a chicken. Awesome.

Larsson believes by flipping certain genetic levers during a chicken embryo’s development, he can reproduce the dinosaur anatomy, he told AFP in an interview.

Though still in its infancy, the research could eventually lead to hatching live prehistoric animals, but Larsson said there are no plans for that now, for ethical and practical reasons — a dinosaur hatchery is “too large an enterprise.”

The idea for the project, Larsson said, came about during discussions with renowned American paleontologist Jack Horner, who served as technical advisor for the Jurassic Park films.

Horner recently wrote a book entitled “How to Build A Dinosaur,” in which he refers to the embryo experiment as part of a quest to create a “chickenosaurus.” []

If he ever get around to create a dinosaur, I hope he do a T. rex. They are, after all, really chickens.

Via io9.

T. rex was a coward and liked eating baby dinosaurs

Posted in Nature Attacks!, The Ancient World on August 10, 2009 by Gustav

It seems The King of the Terror-Lizards, was nothing but a bully, preferring not to pick on prey their own size. Writes The Independent:

A study into the predatory habits and diet of the biggest and most ferocious of the dinosaurs has concluded that T.rex and the other members of its carnivorous theropod family preferred to dine on juvenile prey, preferably small enough to eat whole.


“Modern predators mainly attack vulnerable, young animals as they are inexperienced in evading predators, and this was probably the same in dinosaurs,” said Dr Hone, who works at the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology in Beijing.

“Young prey are easier to bring down and the risk of injury to the predator is much lower,” he said.

Rampant baby-eating could explain why there are so few young dinosaurs, compared to adults, in the fossil record. And if you look in the stomachs of carnivorous theropods, the preserved bones of prey, rare as that is, are juveniles. That they were eaten whole could explains why the bones show so few bite marks.

Of course, T. rex is an iconic dinosaur, with a vast propaganda machine, and I think this news will hardly put a dent in the King’s reputation.

Photographic evidence Star Wars happened for real!

Posted in Humour, Images & Videos, Science Fiction, The Ancient World on August 8, 2009 by Gustav

TIE-fighter in WW2

If Star Wars Was Real” is a Star Wars homage of alternate history providing photoshopped pictures as “evidence” that Star Wars is real. From the site:

Our mission is to compile any evidence we can find to prove that Star Wars is real. So far, we have several contacts around the globe studying photographs and artifacts for any shred of evidence they can find. However, since most of the evidence seems to be hidden away by some sort of worldwide government consipracy, we need your help to find the truth!

Via io9.

Pixar and the science of sex, modeling robot, “high-tech” crap and steampunk postcards

Posted in Humour, Images & Videos, Love & Sex, Robots & Cyborgs, Science Fiction, The Ancient World on July 28, 2009 by Gustav

From the makers of beloved children’s movies Toy Story and Up comes: The Ancient Book of Sex and Science. NSFW. Via Nerve.

She can change him!

She can change him!

Robot Miim model wedding dress at Japanese fashion show, The Sun reports. High fashion, high geekness.   

Comedy website Cracked lists, “7 High Tech Products And Their Cheap Ass Ingredients” (e.g. audio cables that cost thousands of dollars but are indsistinguishable from any old cheap cable).

From io9: Postcards of Edwardian ladies and gentlemen walking on moving sidewalks and flying in personal airships. 1900 AD steampunk.