A recently recovered civil war era bottle may have been used as a "witch bottle"; Research team says Mt. Vesuvius eruption may have melted Roman brains into glass; NASA astronauts preparing for SpaceX crewed mission, maybe as soon as April; A physician says he's skeptical of recent study finding that human body temperatures are getting lower; and a Steem essay argues that decentralization brings true ownership and reduces opportunities for planned obsolescence
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- Civil War-era bottle found on highway median may be rare ‘witch bottle - A bottle was found during an archaeological dig at the Redoubt 9 Civil War site, located near exits 238 to 242 of I-64 in York County, Virginia. After examining the contents, which consisted of broken nails, researchers thought it might have served an unusual purpose, with Oliver Mueller-Heubach concluding by its context and content that it may have been a "witch bottle". The use of witch bottles was a tradition that started in East Anglia, England in the late middle ages as an attempt to ward off evil spirits and was later introduced to the Americas by European settlers. The bottles would be filled with nails and buried near the hearth of a building. The idea was that the earth would energize the nails into breaking a witch's spell. Redoubt 9 was built by the Confederacy, but occupied by the Union's 5th Pennsylvania Cavalry from May of 1862 until August of 1863. The bottle was made by a Pennsylvania bottler, suggesting that it may have been placed there by the Union troops. The article notes, however, that hundreds of years later it is impossible to know for sure if the bottle was really a witch bottle, or just a place where workers stored their nails, especially because the top of the bottle had been broken off. -h/t archaeology.org
- Mt. Vesuvius May Have Turned Ancient Roman Brains Into Glass - Researchers have long studied the Roman cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Oplontis, all of which were destroyed in the 79 AD eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine is the first to report finding preserved brain matter. The work was done by Pier Paolo Petrone and colleagues. When Petrone was conducting research at the site, he noticed a red glassy material fixed to the inside of a subject's skull, and hypothesized that the intense heat from the eruption may have triggered "heat-induced 'vitrification' of the brain". The research team subjected the material to proteomic analysis and found five different proteins. Two of the proteins were associated with human hair, and the others are commonly found in animal and vegetable fat, as well as the human brain. Other researchers, including Tim Thompson express skepticism, saying that people at the site may have died from more mundane conditions like collapsing roofs and walls and that more work needs to be done to provide experimental support that demonstrates the supposed physical mechanism. -h/t RealClear Science
- NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will be the first to fly SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship. Here's how they're preparing. - As noted in Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for January 20, 2020, SpaceX recently completed its last test before crewed flight when it successfully tested its automated abort system. This spring, possibly as soon as April, the Crew Dragon capsule will make its first manned flight with Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley crewing the ship. This will mark the first crewed American flight since 2011, when the Space Shuttle fleet was retired, and it is most likely the first commercial crewed space flight anywhere. Both astronauts began as military pilots and the pair developed a close relationship when both were involved in the Space Shuttle program in the early part of this century. In preparation for the flight, they have been working closely with SpaceX. Throughout the process, they have received extensive training on the Crew Dragon's mechanisms, practiced emergency procedures, completed dress rehearsals in their new space suits, and even met with SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk. They have also practiced being retrieved from the ocean after the Crew Dragon splashes down. NASA spent $1.2 billion on development of the Crew Dragon, and missions to the International Space Station (ISS) are expected to cost $65 million per seat. In contrast, seats on Russia's Soyuz capsule have quadrupled in the last decade, and now cost about $85 million per seat. Behnken is quoted as saying that, "I firmly believe that the more people we can get to go into space, the better off the planet's going to be." (Reference: SpaceX’s Crew Dragon abort system works—now it’s ready to send astronauts into space.)
- Are Humans Cooling? Probably Not. - As covered in Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for January 13, 2020, a study recently reported that the average human body temperature has been dropping by about 1/20 of a degree per decade. In response, Clay Jones says he's skeptical. Jones' criticisms include the claim that the original authors didn't seem to understand biological evolution and the observation that taking an accurate core body temperature is very difficult and intrusive, so the measurements that doctors take are merely estimates that are taken from peripheral locations like the mouth, ear, or under the armpit. In summation, Jones says that he's skeptical but willing to keep an open mind, but he also doesn't see any practical application for the knowledge, even if it's true. (Reference: Americans' Body Temperature Has Been Dropping Since the 19th Century, Study Finds)
- STEEM Do you own what you bought? - In this essay, @tarazkp discusses the concept of ownership in the context of technology. The discussion ranges through technologies like stereo speakers, smart lighting systems, televisions and cell phones that are all vulnerable to planned obsolescence from their manufacturers, and then it moves on to the stickiness of social media, where successful platforms like Facebook and Twitter rely on the "network effect" as a barrier to entry that gives them a virtual lock on their users. Finally, the essay argues that Steem's decentralized communities, SMTs and applications all give the users here a more powerful claim of ownership than comparable centralized platforms. As regular readers will know, I generally avoid inclusion of articles about Steem, but I made an exception for this one since Steem was just one facet among several in this article. (A 10% beneficiary setting has been assigned to this post for @tarazkp.)
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