Mayan Calendar & Cancer Research | SciByte 46

Mayan Calendar & Cancer Research | SciByte 46

We take a look at a new archeological site concerning the Mayan calendar, a new use for breathalyzers, cancer research, exoplanet, retinal prostheses, spacecraft updates,and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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Mayan prediction for end of the world?

YouTube channels : NationalGeographic | AP

  • Thanks for making sure I saw this story Michael Henriques
  • 6 Maya Apocalypse Myths Debunked
  • Magnetic Flip : while magnetic evidence in rocks confirms that continents have undergone such drastic rearrangement, the process took millions of years slow enough that humanity wouldn’t have felt the motion
  • Planet X crash : if there were a ( planet / brown dwarf / etc ) that was going to be in the inner solar system three years from now, astronomers would have been studying it, and it would be visible to the naked eye by now
  • Galactic Alignment : some worry the path of the sun in the sky would appear to cross through what, from Earth, looks to be the midpoint of our galaxy, but there is no alignment in 2012. A type of “alignment” occurs during every winter solstice, when the sun, as seen from Earth, appears in the sky near what looks to be the midpoint of the Milky Way.
  • End of Calendar : During the 2012 winter solstice, time runs out on the current era of the Long Count calendar, which began on what the Maya saw as the dawn of the last creation period
  • Sun to Savage Earth : While the sun isn’t always on schedule; the peak of solar activity this cycle probably won’t happen for a year or two
  • Predictions Calendar : The Maya did pass down a graphic end-of-the-world scenario, it was undated
  • The low down
  • Just 6 square miles (16 square kilometers) of jungle floor the Mayan city now known as Xultun was first discovered in 1915 in northeast Guatemala, and less than 0.1 percent of the city has been explored to date
  • Looters damaged much of the ancient city in the 1970s losing much of historical significance; archaeologists still don’t even know how far the boundaries of the town extend.
  • In 2010, archeologists (from Boston University) were mapping the city when one undergraduate student while looking into an old trench dug by looters, reported seeing traces of faint red and black lines of ancient paint.
  • Paint doesn’t preserve well in the rain forest climate of Guatemala, so it was assumed the find would not yield much information
  • In the end the professor decided he should excavate the room looters had tried to reach if only to be able to report the size of the structure along with the paint finding.
  • The Murals
  • They were shocked to run into a 1,200-year-old 6×6 foot room with a brilliantly painted portrait: a Mayan king, sitting on his throne, wearing a red crown with blue feathers flowing out behind him.
  • Other figures in the room are three loincloth-clad figures sit, wearing feathered headdresses and a man painted in brilliant orange wearing jade bracelets reaches out with a stylus
  • Unfortunately the name of the king pictured in the mural room has been lost, but the scribe and king are referred to as Older/Senior & Younger/Junior Obsidian
  • In front of the mural of the king talking to a kneeling attendant is a plaster bench that resembles those used by Mayan rulers at royal court meetings
  • The murals only survived, because, instead of collapsing the room, Mayan engineers filled it with rubble and then built on top of it.
  • The Calendars
  • Along the north and east walls of the room researchers noticed several barely visible hieroglyphic texts, painted and etched
  • The team scanned all of the paintings and numbers, digitally stitched them together, the images were then sent the images to a epigrapher who specializes in studying Maya inscriptions
  • Analysis revealed that at least five of the numerical columns were topped by hieroglyphs that Maya scribes once used to record lunar data
  • The numbers on the wall were calculations that scribes could refer to, much like those in the back of textbooks, to help them track vast amounts of time
  • The books the scribe would have written using these references would have been filled with elaborate calculations intended to predict the city’s fortunes.
  • The calendars mentioned are the 260-day ceremonial calendar, the 365-day solar calendar, the 584-day cycle of the planet Venus and the 780-day cycle of Mars.
  • Symbols of gods head the top of each lunar cycle, suggesting that each cycle had its own patron deity.
  • Near the calendars is a “ring number”-something previously known only from much later Maya books, where it was used as part of a backward calculation in establishing a base date for planetary cycles.
  • These newly discovered astronomical tables are 600 years older than the previous known examples.
  • The markings also suggest dates more than 7,000 thousand years in the future
  • Of Note
  • Until now, Maya astronomical tables were known from bark-paper books, the ‘Dresden Codex,’ created 400 years or more after the ancient civilization’s demise
  • Researchers believe that both these calculations and the ‘Dresden Codex’ came from earlier books that long ago rotted away
  • This room was likely the ancient workroom of a Maya scribe, a record-keeper of Xultún
  • This space is where someone important was living, this important household of the noble class, and here you also have a mathematician working in that space which shows how closely those roles were connected in Mayan society
  • It is likely that this type of room exists at every Maya site in certain periods of the Mayan civilization, but it’s currently the only example thus far
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube VIDEO : Mysterious Maya Calendar & Mural Uncovered | NationalGeographic
  • YouTube VIDEO : Doomsday Delayed? New Maya Calendar Unearthed | AP
  • VIDEO : History News: Mysterious Maya Calendar & Mural Uncovered |
  • VIDEO : Explorers Journal | (vimeo)
  • IMAGES : New Maya Mural, Calendars Debunk 2012 Myth |
  • IMAGE : Calender |
  • IMAGE GALLERY : Maya Murals: Stunning Images of King & Calendar
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Ancient Maya Astronomical Tables from Xultun, Guatemala |
  • Painted ancient Maya numbers reflect calendar reaching well beyond 2012 (w/ Video) |
  • Looting Leads Archaeologists to Oldest Known Mayan Calendar |
  • Nevermind the Apocalypse: Earliest Mayan Calendar Found |
  • Mayan Ruins Describe Dates Beyond 2012 ‘Doomsday’ |
  • Unprecedented Maya Mural Found, Contradicts 2012 “Doomsday” Myth |
  • 2012 Pictures: 6 Maya Apocalypse Myths Debunked |
  • End of the World Averted: New Archeological Find Proves Mayan Calendar Doesn’t End |
  • Painted ancient Maya numbers reflect calendar reaching well beyond 2012 (w/ Video) |
  • Maya wall calendar discovered |

*— NEWS BYTE — *

A breathalyzer that does more than find out how much you’ve had to drink

Credit: YouTube Channel VideoNSF

  • The low down
  • Blow into the Single Breath Disease Diagnostics Breathalyzer, and you get tested for a biomarker, a sign of disease
  • The unit is about half the size of your typical shoe box and weighs less than one pound
  • Lights on top of the box will give you an instant readout
  • Green light means you pass (bad breath is not indicative of an underlying disease; perhaps it’s just a result of the raw onions you ingested recently)
  • Red light means you might need to take a trip to the doctor’s office to check if something more serious is an issue.
  • Significance
  • Inside is a sensor chip that is coated with tiny nanowires that look like microscopic spaghetti and are able to detect minute amounts of chemical compounds in the breath
  • The nanowires enable the sensor to detect just a few molecules of the disease marker gas in a ‘sea’ of billions of molecules of other compounds that the breath consists of
  • The nanowires can be rigged to detect infectious viruses and microbes like Salmonella, E. coli or even anthrax
  • Of Note
  • Individual tests such as an acetone-detecting breathalyzer for monitoring diabetes and an ammonia-detecting breathalyzer to determine when to end a home-based hemodialysis treatment–are still being evaluated clinically now
  • Researchers envision developing the technology so that a number of these tests can be performed with a single device
  • It might be possible self-detect a whole range of diseases and disorders, including lung cancer, by just exhaling into a handheld breathalyzer.
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube : Science Nation – This Breathalyzer Reveals Signs of Disease | VideoNSF
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • This breathalyzer reveals signs of disease (w/ Video) |


New cancer research

  • Cancer Inhibitor
  • Bowman-Birk Protease Inhibitor (BBI), has shown promise for preventing certain forms of cancer in clinical trials.
  • BBI is derived from the large amounts of soybeans in traditional Japanese diets might underpin low cancer mortality rates in Japan
  • The current method of extracting BBI from soybeans is time-consuming and involves harsh chemicals
  • Scientists have now found that soybean seeds incubated in water at 122 degrees Fahrenheit naturally release large amounts of BBI that can easily be harvested from the water
  • The protein appeared to be active, with tests showing that it stopped breast cancer cells from dividing in a laboratory dish.
  • Surviving chemotherapy
  • Some cancers are resistant to chemotherapy because they harbor an overactive gene called MGMT, which repairs the cancer cells after chemotherapy damages them.
  • To counteract the gene, physicians sometimes add an MGMT-blocking drug, benzylguanine, but is also makes healthy blood and bone marrow cells easy to kill.
  • Scientists wondered what would happen if healthy cells had mutated version of MGMT called P140K
  • Researchers inserted the P140K gene into the patient’s blood stem cells in bone marrow
  • Immediately after a chemotherapy session the team infused the tweaked stem cells back into each patient.
  • Within weeks, the stem cells had developed into mature blood and marrow cells, with 40% to 60% of them carrying the mutated gene.
  • The chemoresistant healthy cells helped patients undergo the benzylguanine treatments
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Soybeans soaked in warm water naturally release key cancer-fighting substance |
  • A Shield Against Chemotherapy |

M2-F2 lifting body crash of 1967

  • The low down
  • A Lifting body is a fixed wing aircraft that is designed so that it produces its own lift, where a flying wing has no fuselage a lifting body does
  • On May 10, 1967, the NASA lifting body M2-F2 launched
  • When attempting roll maneuvers the craft unfortunately had a soft feel, which caused the pilot to overcompensate trying to bring the plane under control
  • This lead to “Pilot induced oscillations”, and while the pilot did eventually get control, the aircraft crashed when the pilot saw a rescue helicopter that seemed to pose a collision threat
  • While trying to land in a lakebed, altitude was very hard to judge and the aircraft hit the ground before the landing gear was fully deployed and locked
  • The pilot actually survived and recovered from the crash, but lost vision in his right eye due to infection
  • Significance
  • Portions of the video from that flight from the ground video of the oscillations and the pilot camera were seen in the TV movie The Six Million Dollar Man
  • A brief shot of a later HL–10 model was also seen as it released from its carrier plane
  • Of Note
  • The M2-F2, was reborn as the M2-F3, and was later given to Smithsonian Air and Space Museum You can see it hanging there now.
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube VIDEO : M2-F2 03 | knightwizz
  • YouTube VIDEO : The Six Million Dollar Man TV Intro | The1970sChannel
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • A Crash Made Famous on TV |

Light from another planet

  • The low down
  • In 2004, scientists discovered one of the first known stars to host an extrasolar planet, 55 Cancri, via radial velocity measurements
  • Infrared light from ’Hot Jupiters" has been seen from Spitzer, Hubble and Kepler telescopes
  • Spitzer became the first telescope to detect light from a planet beyond our solar system, when it saw the infrared light of a “hot Jupiter
  • When a telescope gazes at a star as a planet circles behind it, the planet disappears from view, the light from the star system dips ever so slightly, but enough that astronomers can determine how much light came from the planet itself
  • The information does however reveal the temperature of a planet, and, in some cases, its atmospheric components
  • Other current planet-hunting methods obtain indirect measurements of a planet by observing its effects on the star.
  • Now for the first time that same method has been used to detect light from a “SuperEarth”
  • At about 8.57 Earth masses Cancri e is tidally locked, so one side always faces the star
  • It was a radius 1.63 times that of Earth, a density is 10.9 ± 3.1 g cm–3 (the average density of Earth is 5.5 g cm–3)
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Light From a ‘SuperEarth’ Detected for the First Time |

Eye see you

  • The low down
  • A handheld computer processes images from a video camera that sits on specialized goggles.
  • Lasers using infrared light inside the goggles send that information to photovoltaic chips implanted in the eye, one-third as thin as a strand of hair
  • Electric currents from the photodiodes on the chip would then trigger signals in the retina, which then flow to the brain, enabling a patient to regain vision.
  • Scientists tested the process in rat retinas in vitro and how they elicited electric responses, which are widely accepted indicators of visual activity, from retinal cells
  • They are now testing the system in live rats, taking both physiological and behavioral measurements
  • There are several other retinal prostheses being developed, and at least two of them are in clinical trials.
  • Those devices require coils, cables or antennas inside the eye to deliver power and information to the retinal implant
  • This new device uses near-infrared light to transmit images, thereby avoiding any need for wires and cables, and making the device thin and easily implantable
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Solar-panel-like retinal prosthesis could better restore sight to blind |
  • Retinal implants could restore partial vision |

The water of Earth

  • The low down
  • Although oceans of water cover about 70 percent of Earth’s surface, these oceans are shallow compared to the Earth’s radius
  • This illustration shows what would happen is all of the water on or near the surface of the Earth were bunched up into a ball
  • Further Reading / Media
  • All the Water on Planet Earth | Astronomy Picture of the Day;


Opportunity Rover


Curiosity Rover

SpaceX Dragon

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems


Looking back

  • May 16, 1866 : 146 years ago : Rootbeer : Charles Elmer Hires a pharmacist from Pennsylvania formulated the eponymous Hires Root Beer. Some say Hires discovered root beer on his honeymoon in New Jersey where the woman who ran his honeymoon hotel served root tea. Hires thought that “root beer” would be more appealing to the working class. Originally, Hires packaged the mixture in boxes and sold it to housewives and soda fountains. They needed to mix in water, sugar, and yeast.He became a millionaire just for selling drinks.
  • May 18 1980 : 32 years ago : Mt. St. Helens : Following a weeklong series of earthquakes and smaller explosions of ash and smoke, the long-dormant Mount St. Helens volcano erupted in Washington state, U.S., hurling ash 15,000 feet into the air and setting off mudslides and avalanches. The eruptions caused minimal damage in the sparsely populated area, but about 400 people – mostly loggers and forest rangers – were evacuated. The explosion was characterized as the equivalent of 27,000 atomic bombs. The cloud of ash eventually circled the globe

Looking up this week

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