Friday, April 29, 2011

Kepler spacecraft detects more than 1,200
possible planets orbiting distant suns

NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope detected 1,235 possible extra-solar planets during its first four months of operation, astronomers announced Wednesday, including 68 approximately Earth-size worlds. Five of those are orbiting in the parent star's habitable "Goldilocks" zone where liquid water could exist in environments favorable for life.

The planetary "candidates" must be confirmed by additional observations and analysis and it will take another two years to collect enough data to determine how common Earth-like worlds might be. But based on the initial results, "Kepler's blown the lid off everything we know about extra-solar planets," said Debra Fischer, an astronomer at Yale University.

This graphic represents the field of view of the Kepler space telescope, showing the approximate locations and sizes of 1,235 candidate extra-solar planets. (Credit: NASA)

Launched from Cape Canaveral on March 6, 2009, Kepler's 95-megapixel camera is aimed at a patch of sky in the constellation Cygnus that's the size of an out-stretched hand, a 10-degree-wide target zone that contains more than 4.5 million detectable stars.

Of that total, some 300,000 are believed to be the right age, have the right composition and the proper brightness to host Earth-like planets. More than 156,000 of those, ranging from 600 to 3,000 light years away, will be actively monitored by Kepler over the life of the mission.

The spacecraft's camera works like a photometer, continually monitoring the brightness of target stars in the instrument's wide field of view, on the lookout for subtle changes that might indicate a planet passing between the star and the telescope. By studying those subtle changes in brightness -- comparable to watching a flea creep across a car's headlight at night -- and by timing repeated cycles, computers can identify potential extra-solar worlds even though the planets themselves cannot be seen.

But it's a challenging observation. For a planet like Earth passing in front of a star like the sun, the star's light would dim by just 84 parts per million, or less than 1/100th of 1 percent.

To make sure an observation indicates the presence of a real planet and not some other phenomena, measurements over multiple orbits are required. For Earth-like planets in habitable-zone orbits, a full three years will be needed to confirm an initial observation.

Most of the planet candidates found to date by the Kepler spacecraft are much larger than Earth and orbit very close to their parent stars. (Credit: NASA)

The data released this week covers the first four months of Kepler observations between May 12 and Sept. 17, 2009.

"We found 1,200 candidates in this single field of view," said William Borucki, the Kepler principal investigator. "Imagine that we had that field of view covering the sky. Kepler looks at a 400th of the sky. If we had 400 of these fields of view, we'd see 400 times that number of candidates. We would see 400,000 candidates.

"What that's telling you is the stars around us have a huge number of planets and candidates for us to look at. And if we find that Earths are common ... in the habitable zones of stars, very likely that means life is common around these stars. Kepler is the first step in mankind's exploration of the surrounding galaxy to find life, and the extent of life, in our galaxy."

Before today's briefing, the Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia maintained by the Paris Observatory listed 519 planet candidates beyond Earth's solar system, including nine discovered earlier by Kepler. Last year, the Kepler team announced 700 planetary candidates. The Kepler total now stands at 1,235 candidates, with 15 confirmed planets.

A star known as Kepler-11 features six confirmed planets, seen here in a computer graphic. (Credit: NASA)

Virtually all of the planets found to date by Kepler orbit very close to their parent stars. The Kepler-11 planets would fit inside the orbit of Venus in Earth's solar system. (Photo: NASA)
The candidates unveiled this week include 68 Earth-size planets, 288 so-called "super" Earths, 662 Neptune-class worlds, 165 roughly the size of Jupiter and 19 bodies much larger than Jupiter. Fifty-four candidates orbit their parent stars in the habitable zone and 170 stars feature multiple planets.

Of the 54 candidate planets orbiting in their stars' habitable zones, five are roughly the size of Earth. But all of them orbit much closer to smaller, cooler stars than the sun. For Earth-like planets around sun-like stars, three years of data covering multiple orbits will be needed for confirmation.

"The fact that we've found so many planet candidates in such a tiny fraction of the sky suggests there are countless planets orbiting sun-like stars in our galaxy," Borucki said in a NASA statement. "We went from zero to 68 Earth-sized planet candidates and zero to 54 candidates in the habitable zone, some of which could have moons with liquid water."

On the lookout for double star systems that could result in false readings, Kepler also has identified 1,879 eclipsing binary stars.

In addition, the spacecraft found one star system -- Kepler 11 -- with six confirmed planets orbiting close to the parent sun. If transported to Earth's solar system, all six would fit inside the orbit of Venus.

"Kepler-11 is a remarkable system whose architecture and dynamics provide clues about its formation," Jack Lissauer, a planetary scientist and Kepler science team member, said in a NASA statement. "These six planets are mixtures of rock and gases, possibly including water. The rocky material accounts for most of the planets' mass, while the gas takes up most of their volume. By measuring the sizes and masses of the five inner planets, we determined they are among the lowest mass confirmed planets beyond our solar system."

All of the Kepler-11 planets are larger than Earth.

"This, of course, is an amazing era of discovery for astronomy, for exoplanets in particular," Fischer said. "There's no doubt that the search for planets is motivated by the search for life. Humans are interested in whether or not life evolves on other planets, we'd especially like to find communicating, technological life, and we look around our own solar system and we see that of all the planets, there's only one that's inhabited.

"Naturally, we think that finding another Earth-like planet is identifying a site that's at least friendly here for the evolution of life. The primary goal of the Kepler mission is to statistically assess the occurrence of these small terrestrial worlds."

Fisher said when Kepler launched, astronomers expected "planets would begin to roll out of the Kepler mission like an assembly line."

"The first year, we could expect to see Jovian-mass planets and after two or three years we'd see the Neptunes begin to roll out and then finally, the Earths. So I'm amazed to sit here today and see Kepler is actually reaching the milestone discoveries faster than I anticipated."

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Is It Real? Atlantis

The program examines popular or persistent mysteries to determine whether the featured cryptozoological creature (cryptid) or supernatural phenomenon is real or not.
The show typically includes interviews with believers or proponents of the featured paranormal claims, and then with scientists and skeptics who attempt to find rational explanations for such phenomena using a scientific approach.
The common and uncommon phenomena: Bigfoot, UFOs, Bermuda Triangle and spontaneous human combustion. But are these legends bona fide or bogus?
NGC chases down more of the hard-to-find truths on an extraordinary journey to separate fact from fiction. It’s time to find the answer to the question, Is it Real?

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Pornography: The secret history of civilisation

Channel 4 documentary Title: Pornography: The Secret History of Civilisation (TV mini-series 1999) (6 episodes- 50min/episode) Episode 6 A serious, non-titillating history of pornography, from the earliest days of erotic art right up to the present day's multimedia.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Zeitgeist: Moving Forward

Zeitgeist: Moving Forward' is a film from Director Peter Joseph, creator of the 'Zeitgeist' and 'Zeitgeist: Addendum' films previously viewed by ~150+ million people worldwide. Moving Forward presents a comprehensive solution to the escalating economic crisis and environmental and cultural degradation endangering our planet. Transcending political and economic remedies parroted by corporate and government interests, Moving Forward explores an inspiring project for long-term environmental sustainability and world peace.


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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Giant UFO Over Fukushima Nuclear
Power Plant in German News Footage?

Fukushima UFO: ‘Cloud’, ‘Train’, Large Building, Hoax or…. an actual UFO?
There’s a new ‘UFO’ video up at Youtube that caught our eye, Giant UFO Hovering Over Fukushima Nuclear Plant, April 12.mp4. The video, a clip from a German news video report.
The video posted by ‘SuperGia007′ who posted the following info:
At 55 seconds into the clip a giant UFO can be seen hovering above the nuclear plant. Obviously this was a slip up on behalf of NDR and the Asian news outlet the group received the footage from.
Top secret government departments worldwide collude to censor out any clear and obvious proof of the alien activity that is occurring at all times on planet earth. Only news that fits in with the program the international UFO cover-up has initiated to slowly make people aware of an alien presence on Earth is allowed to reach the public via mainstream media outlets. This was either a slip-up or a leak and no doubt behind closed doors there will heated discussion over this footage that proves without doubt that aliens are here.
The second video is of a UFO fleet that was filmed above Japan around three weeks ago.
So far there’s a big debate in the comment section, the ‘UFO’ was a ‘train’, a ‘large building’ or a ‘cloud’. Missing from the comments, the video is ‘fake’ or a ‘hoax’, most likely the reason why, there’s a second video of the original news report from Germany. A video that has the ‘UFO’ .
You can rule out a train as currently there’s been no trains in the area since March 11, 2011, after the Japan 9.0 earthquake and tsunami. Due to high levels of radiation, there’s a 20 Km, Fukushima ‘No Go Zone’. On March 31st the grim news, Up to 1,000 Bodies Too Radioactive to Remove From Fukushima No Go Zone.
Since there wasn’t an embed code for the videos, here’s the links:
Video One, the clip from the German news report :
Giant UFO Hovering Over Fukushima Nuclear Plant, April 12.mp4
Video Two: Original news report that contained the ‘UFO’ footage:

Giant UFO seen above Fukushima in Japan, Footage from German News.mp4

FBI Vault Cattle Mutilation Documents

Tumbling UFOs Filmed over Ukraine, Montreal – Videos

Guy Hottel FBI UFO Memo: Roswell ‘Proof’? Not Exactly

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Will President Obama and the House GOP ever agree?
Science suggests no


President Obama and House Republicans may have narrowly averted a government shutdown last weekend, but as the two sides prepare to engage in another round of intra-party feuding over budget proposals, a new study suggests that basic brain science might stand in the way of bipartisanship.
Using data from MRI scans, researchers at the University College London found that self-described liberals have a larger anterior cingulate cortex--a gray matter of the brain associated with understanding complexity. Meanwhile, self-described conservatives are more likely to have a larger amygdala, an almond-shaped area that is associated with fear and anxiety.
"Previously, some psychological traits were known to be predictive of an individual's political orientation," lead researcher Ryota Kanai writes of the study in the latest issue of Current Biology. "Our study now links personality traits with specific brain structure."
Observers will notice a familiar name on the report: Oscar-winning actor Colin Firth, who commissioned the report while serving as a guest host of the BBC Radio 4's Today program in London last year. (Neurological sources of stammering don't come into play.)
The study, which was conducted with the help of 90 young adult volunteers, comes on the heels of other research that linked political beliefs to genetic differences between liberals and conservatives. Last year, a joint study by the Harvard and the University of California, San Diego, found there might actually be a so-called "liberal gene" that influences political leanings.
While the London study does find distinct differences between Democrats and Republicans, its authors caution that more research needs to be done on the subject. One unknown is whether people are simply born with their political beliefs or if our brains adjust to life experiences--which is a possibility, Kanai writes.
"It's very unlikely that actual political orientation is directly encoded in these brain regions," he said in a statement accompanying the study. "More work is needed to determine how these brain structures mediate the formation of political attitude."
(Photo of John Boehner and President Obama: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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Monday, April 11, 2011

The Sleepless Elite

Why some people can run on little sleep and get so much done

For a small group of people -- perhaps just 1% to 3% of the population -- sleep is a waste of time.
Natural "short sleepers," as they're officially known, are night owls and early birds simultaneously. They typically turn in well after midnight, then get up just a few hours later and barrel through the day without needing to take naps or load up on caffeine.

They are also energetic, outgoing, optimistic and ambitious, according to the few researchers who have studied them. The pattern sometimes starts in childhood and often runs in families.
While it's unclear if all short sleepers are high achievers, they do have more time in the day to do things, and keep finding more interesting things to do than sleep, often doing several things at once.
Nobody knows how many natural short sleepers are out there. "There aren't nearly as many as there are people who think they're short sleepers," says Daniel J. Buysse, a psychiatrist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and a past president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, a professional group.
Out of every 100 people who believe they only need five or six hours of sleep a night, only about five people really do, Dr. Buysse says. The rest end up chronically sleep deprived, part of the one-third of U.S. adults who get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep per night, according to a report last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To date, only a handful of small studies have looked at short sleepers -- in part because they're hard to find. They rarely go to sleep clinics and don't think they have a disorder.
Normal Sleeper

Most adults have normal sleep needs, functioning best with 7 to 9 hours of sleep, and about two-thirds of Americans regularly get it. Children fare better with 8 to 12 hours, and elderly people may need only 6 to 7.

Wannabe Short Sleeper

One-third of Americans are sleep-deprived, regularly getting less than 7 hours a night, which puts them at higher risk of diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and other health problems.

Short Sleeper

Short sleepers, about 1% to 3% of the population, function well on less than 6 hours of sleep without being tired during the day. They tend to be unusually energetic and outgoing. Geneticists who spotted a gene variation in short sleepers were able to replicate it in mice -- which needed less sleep than usual, too.
A few studies have suggested that some short sleepers may have hypomania, a mild form of mania with racing thoughts and few inhibitions. "These people talk fast. They never stop. They're always on the up side of life," says Dr. Buysse. He was one of the authors of a 2001 study that had 12 confirmed short sleepers and 12 control subjects keep diaries and complete numerous questionnaires about their work, sleep and living habits.One survey dubbed "Attitude for Life" that was actually a test for hypomania. The natural short sleepers scored twice as high as the controls.
There is currently no way people can teach themselves to be short sleepers. Still, scientists hope that by studying short sleepers, they can better understand how the body regulates sleep and why sleep needs vary so much in humans.
"My long-term goal is to someday learn enough so we can manipulate the sleep pathways without damaging our health," says human geneticist Ying-Hui Fu at the University of California-San Francisco. "Everybody can use more waking hours, even if you just watch movies."
Dr. Fu was part of a research team that discovered a gene variation, hDEC2, in a pair of short sleepers in 2009. They were studying extreme early birds when they noticed that two of their subjects, a mother and daughter, got up naturally about 4 a.m. but also went to bed past midnight.
Genetic analyses spotted one gene variation common to them both. The scientists were able to replicate the gene variation in a strain of mice and found that the mice needed less sleep than usual, too.

News of their finding spurred other people to write the team, saying they were natural short sleepers and volunteering to be studied. The researchers are recruiting more candidates and hope to find more gene variations they have in common.
That All-Nighter Feels Good -- Temporarily

Sleep deprivation makes most people grumpy. It's sometimes used as a form of torture. Oddly enough, it can also bring on temporary euphoria, according to a study in the journal Neuroscience last month.

Researchers had 14 healthy young adults stay up all night and all the next day and then compared their reactions with 13 subjects who had slept normally. In one test, sleepless subjects asked to rate a series of images uniformly saw them as more pleasant or positive. "We saw this strange lopsided shift," says lead author Matthew Walker, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of California-Berkeley.

Brain scans also showed that the subjects who had pulled all-nighters had heightened activity in the mesolimbic pathway, a brain circuit driven by dopamine, a neurotransmitter that typically regulates feelings of pleasure, addiction and cravings.

The boost of dopamine after an all-nighter may help explain why sleep deprivation can alleviate major depression in about 60% of patients, although the effect is only temporary. "As soon as they get recovery sleep, all that mood elevation is lost," says Dr. Walker.

Could the sleep-deprived brain be somehow compensating for the lack of downtime with a surge of dopamine to keep on going? Scientists don't yet know.

Earlier studies have also shown that sleep deprivation amplifies activity in the amygdala, the primitive emotional center of the brain, and reduces it the prefrontal cortex, where higher, more rational thought occurs. It may be that the brain reverts to a more basic mode of operating when it is sleep deprived, Dr. Walker speculates. Alternatively, he says, "we know that different parts of the brain are more sensitive than others to sleep deprivation. It may be that the prefrontal cortex just goes down first."

Although the feelings of euphoria sound great, Dr. Walker warns that operating more on emotion than reason can be very risky. "You are all gas pedal and no brake," he says. That can be dangerous, indeed, if you are in a job that requires both long hours and difficult decision making.
Potential candidates for the gene study are sent multiple questionnaires and undergo a long structured phone interview. Those who make the initial screening wear monitors to track their sleep patterns at home. Christopher Jones, a University of Utah neurologist and sleep scientist who oversees the recruiting, says there is one question that is more revealing than anything else: When people do have a chance to sleep longer, on weekends or vacation, do they still sleep only five or six hours a night? People who sleep more when they can are not true short sleepers, he says.
To date, Dr. Jones says he has identified only about 20 true short sleepers, and he says they share some fascinating characteristics. Not only are their circadian rhythms different from most people, so are their moods (very upbeat) and their metabolism (they're thinner than average, even though sleep deprivation usually raises the risk of obesity). They also seem to have a high tolerance for physical pain and psychological setbacks.
"They encounter obstacles, they just pick themselves up and try again," Dr. Jones says.
Some short sleepers say their sleep patterns go back to childhood and some see the same patterns starting in their own kids, such as giving up naps by age 2. As adults, they gravitate to different fields, but whatever they do, they do full bore, Dr. Jones says.

"Typically, at the end of a long, structured phone interview, they will admit that they've been texting and surfing the Internet and doing the crossword puzzle at the same time, all on less than six hours of sleep," says Dr. Jones. "There is some sort of psychological and physiological energy to them that we don't understand."
Drs. Jones and Fu stress that there is no genetic test for short sleeping. Ultimately, they expect to find that many different genes play a role, which may in turn reveal more about the complex systems that regulate sleep in humans.
Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Leonardo da Vinci were too busy to sleep much, according to historical accounts. Winston Churchill and Thomas Edison came close but they were also fond of taking naps, which may disqualify them as true short sleepers.
Nowadays, some short sleepers gravitate to fields like blogging, videogame design and social media, where their sleep habits come in handy. "If I could find a way to do it, I'd never sleep," says Dave Hatter, a software developer in Fort Wright, Ky. He typically sleeps just four to five hours a night, up from two to three hours a few years ago.
"It's crazy, but it works for me," says Eleanor Hoffman, an overnight administrator at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York who would rather spend afternoons playing mahjong with friends than sleep anymore than four hours. Sometimes she calls her cousin, Linda Cohen, in Pittsburgh about 4 a.m., since she knows she'll be wide awake as well -- just like they were as kids.
"I come to life about 11 at night," says Mrs. Cohen, who owns a chain of toy stores with her husband and gets up early in the morning with ease. "If I went to bed earlier, I'd feel like half my life was missing."
Are you a short sleeper? For more information on the genetic study, contact Dr. Jones at

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The memo that 'proves aliens landed at Roswell'...
released online by the FBI

A bizarre memo that appears to prove that aliens did land in New Mexico prior to 1950 has been published by the FBI.
The bureau has made thousands of files available in a new online resource called The Vault.
Among them is a memo to the director from Guy Hottel, the special agent in charge of the Washington field office in 1950.
Proof of (alien) life? A copy of the 1950 memo that recounts the discovery of flying saucers and aliens in New Mexico
Proof of (alien) life? A copy of the 1950 memo that recounts the discovery of flying saucers and aliens in New Mexico. The memo has been published on the FBI website
In the memo, whose subject line is 'Flying Saucers', Agent Hottel reveals that an Air Force investigator had stated that 'three so-called flying saucers had been recovered in New Mexico'.
The investigator gave the information to a special agent, he said. The FBI has censored both the agent and the investigator's identity.
Agent Hottel went on to write: 'They were described as being circular in shape with raised centers, approximately 50 feet in diameter.
'Each one was occupied by three bodies of human shape but only 3 feet tall,' he stated.
The bodies were 'dressed in a metallic cloth of a very fine texture. Each body was bandaged in a manner similar to the blackout suits used by speed flyers and test pilots.'
Was it true? An image allegedly showing one of the aliens that were autopsied at Roswell in 1947
Was it true? An image allegedly showing one of the aliens that were autopsied at Roswell in 1947
He said that the informant, whose identity was censored in the memo, claimed the saucers had been found in New Mexico 'due to the fact that the Government has a very high-powered radar set-up in that area and it is believed the radar interferes with teh controlling mechanism of the saucers'.
He then stated that the special agent did not attempt to investigate further.
The release of the secret memo is likely to fuel conspiracy theorists' claims of a government cover-up.
The town of Roswell in New Mexico became infamous after reports that a flying saucer had crashed in the desert near a military base there on or around July 2, 1947.
The bodies of aliens were said to have been recovered and autopsied by the U.S. military, but American authorities allegedly covered the incident up
Roswell: Secret memo released online is written to the FBI Director and could confirm the 1947 Roswell UFO incident
Roswell: Secret memo released online is written to the FBI Director and could confirm the 1947 Roswell UFO incident

Flying saucers: One of the supposed alien victims of the Roswell UFO crash
Flying saucers: One of the supposed alien victims of the Roswell UFO crash
Military authorities issued a press release, which began: ‘The many rumours regarding the flying disc became a reality yesterday when the intelligence officer of the 509th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force, Roswell Army Air Field, was fortunate enough to gain possession of a disc.’
The headlines screamed: 'Flying Disc captured by Air Force.' Yet, just 24 hours later, the military changed their story and claimed the object they'd first thought was a 'flying disc' was a weather balloon that had crashed on a nearby ranch.
Amazingly, the media and the public accepted the explanation without question. Roswell disappeared from the news until the late Seventies, when some of the military involved began to speak out.
Another memo published in The Vault from 1947 claimed that an object 'purporting to be a flying disc' had been recovered near Roswell.
The disc was 'hexagonal in shape' and 'suspended from a balloon by a cable', according to the memo, marked as 'Urgent', to the FBI director.
Autopsy: A dead alien is allegedly examined following the landing at Roswell
Autopsy: A dead alien is allegedly examined following the landing at Roswell
The memo noted that the disc resembled a weather balloon - but claimed that a telephone conversation between the Air Force and the field office 'had not [word censored] borne out this belief'.
The disc and balloon were being transported to Wright Field for further inspection, the memo noted.
It added that the information was being flagged up because of 'national interest' in the episode, and noting that both NBC and the AP were set to break the story that day.

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Saturday, April 09, 2011

BBC: Richard Hammond invisible worlds

Richard Hammond explores the extraordinary wonders of the world of detail hidden in the blink of an eye.
The human eye takes about fifty milliseconds to blink. But it takes our brain around a hundred and fifty milliseconds to process what we see. We're not aware of this time lag going on, but in those few milliseconds, there are extraordinary things happening that completely pass us by.
But what if we could break through this speed limit? Bend and stretch time in ways never thought possible. What new marvels would we see?
Now, using the latest high-speed cameras, Richard takes us on a journey beyond our eye's limits, letting us see secrets hidden in every element of our planet.
A world where thin air can shatter rock.
And water can tear through metal.
A world where the fastest thing on earth lies right beneath our feet.
And where a spectacular celestial display is finally captured, even though many have claimed it doesn't even exist.


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Thursday, April 07, 2011

The next housing shock

As more and more Americans face mortgage foreclosure, banks' crucial ownership documents for the properties are often unclear and are sometimes even bogus, a condition that's causing lawsuits and hampering an already weak housing market. Scott Pelley reports.


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Sunday, April 03, 2011

Odd News: Big Foot Lives but Chupacabra Doesn't?, Frightfully Flexible, Transformer Man

Big Foot Lives but Chupacabra Doesn't?, Frightfully Flexible, Transformer Man

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70 Metal Books Discovered In Jordanian
Cave Could Change Biblical History

Click here to see more images of the metal books.
By Robert Pigott
BBC News
March 29, 2011
Original Link
They could be the earliest Christian writing in existence, surviving almost 2,000 years in a Jordanian cave. They could, just possibly, change our understanding of how Jesus was crucified and resurrected, and how Christianity was born.
A group of 70 or so “books”, each with between five and 15 lead leaves bound by lead rings, was apparently discovered in a remote arid valley in northern Jordan somewhere between 2005 and 2007.
A flash flood had exposed two niches inside the cave, one of them marked with a menorah or candlestick, the ancient Jewish religious symbol.
A Jordanian Bedouin opened these plugs, and what he found inside might constitute extremely rare relics of early Christianity.
That is certainly the view of the Jordanian government, which claims they were smuggled into Israel by another Bedouin.
The Israeli Bedouin who currently holds the books has denied smuggling them out of Jordan, and claims they have been in his family for 100 years.
Jordan says it will “exert all efforts at every level” to get the relics repatriated.
Incredible Claims
The director of the Jordan’s Department of Antiquities, Ziad al-Saad, says the books might have been made by followers of Jesus in the few decades immediately following his crucifixion.
“They will really match, and perhaps be more significant than, the Dead Sea Scrolls,” says Mr Saad.
“Maybe it will lead to further interpretation and authenticity checks of the material, but the initial information is very encouraging, and it seems that we are looking at a very important and significant discovery, maybe the most important discovery in the history of archaeology.”
They seem almost incredible claims — so what is the evidence?
The books, or “codices”, were apparently cast in lead, before being bound by lead rings.
Their leaves — which are mostly about the size of a credit card — contain text in Ancient Hebrew, most of which is in code.
If the relics are of early Christian origin rather than Jewish, then they are of huge significance.
One of the few people to see the collection is David Elkington, a scholar of ancient religious archaeology who is heading a British team trying to get the lead books safely into a Jordanian museum.
He says they could be “the major discovery of Christian history”, adding: “It’s a breathtaking thought that we have held these objects that might have been held by the early saints of the Church.”
He believes the most telling evidence for an early Christian origin lies in the images decorating the covers of the books and some of the pages of those which have so far been opened.
Mr Elkington says the relics feature signs that early Christians would have interpreted as indicating Jesus, shown side-by-side with others they would have regarded as representing the presence of God.
“It’s talking about the coming of the messiah,” he says.
“In the upper square [of one of the book covers] we have the seven-branch menorah, which Jews were utterly forbidden to represent because it resided in the holiest place in the Temple in the presence of God.
“So we have the coming of the messiah to approach the holy of holies, in other words to get legitimacy from God.”

Location Clues
Philip Davies, Emeritus Professor of Old Testament Studies at Sheffield University, says the most powerful evidence for a Christian origin lies in plates cast into a picture map of the holy city of Jerusalem.
“As soon as I saw that, I was dumbstruck. That struck me as so obviously a Christian image,” he says.
“There is a cross in the foreground, and behind it is what has to be the tomb [of Jesus], a small building with an opening, and behind that the walls of the city. There are walls depicted on other pages of these books too and they almost certainly refer to Jerusalem.”
It is the cross that is the most telling feature, in the shape of a capital T, as the crosses used by Romans for crucifixion were.
“It is a Christian crucifixion taking place outside the city walls,” says Mr Davies.
Margaret Barker, an authority on New Testament history, points to the location of the reported discovery as evidence of Christian, rather than purely Jewish, origin.
“We do know that on two occasions groups of refugees from the troubles in Jerusalem fled east, they crossed the Jordan near Jericho and then they fled east to very approximately where these books were said to have been found,” she says.
“[Another] one of the things that is most likely pointing towards a Christian provenance, is that these are not scrolls but books. The Christians were particularly associated with writing in a book form rather than scroll form, and sealed books in particular as part of the secret tradition of early Christianity.”
The Book of Revelation refers to such sealed texts.
Another potential link with the Bible is contained in one of the few fragments of text from the collection to have been translated.
It appears with the image of the menorah and reads “I shall walk uprightly”, a sentence that also appears in the Book of Revelation.
While it could be simply a sentiment common in Judaism, it could here be designed to refer to the resurrection.
It is by no means certain that all of the artefacts in the collection are from the same period.
But tests by metallurgists on the badly corroded lead suggest that the books were not made recently.
The archaeology of early Christianity is particularly sparse.
Little is known of the movement after Jesus’ crucifixion until the letters of Paul several decades later, and they illuminate the westward spread of Christianity outside the Jewish world.
Never has there been a discovery of relics on this scale from the early Christian movement, in its homeland and so early in its history.
Click here to see more images of the metal books.
By Fiona Macrae
Daily Mail
March 30, 2011
Original Link
For scholars of faith and history, it is a treasure trove too precious for price.
This ancient collection of 70 tiny books, their lead pages bound with wire, could unlock some of the secrets of the earliest days of Christianity.
Academics are divided as to their authenticity but say that if verified, they could prove as pivotal as the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947.
On pages not much bigger than a credit card, are images, symbols and words that appear to refer to the Messiah and, possibly even, to the Crucifixion and Resurrection.
Adding to the intrigue, many of the books are sealed, prompting academics to speculate they are actually the lost collection of codices mentioned in the Bible’s Book Of Revelation.
The books were discovered five years ago in a cave in a remote part of Jordan to which Christian refugees are known to have fled after the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD. Important documents from the same period have previously been found there.
Initial metallurgical tests indicate that some of the books could date from the first century AD.
This estimate is based on the form of corrosion which has taken place, which experts believe would be impossible to achieve artificially.
If the dating is verified, the books would be among the earliest Christian documents, predating the writings of St Paul.
The prospect that they could contain contemporary accounts of the final years of Jesus’s life has excited scholars — although their enthusiasm is tempered by the fact that experts have previously been fooled by sophisticated fakes.
David Elkington, a British scholar of ancient religious history and archeology, and one of the few to have examined the books, says they could be ‘the major discovery of Christian history’.
‘It is a breathtaking thought that we have held these objects that might have been held by the early saints of the Church,’ he said.
But the mysteries between their ancient pages are not the books’ only riddle. Today, their whereabouts are also something of a mystery. After their discovery by a Jordanian Bedouin, the hoard was subsequently acquired by an Israeli Bedouin, who is said to have illegally smuggled them across the border into Israel, where they remain.
However, the Jordanian Government is now working at the highest levels to repatriate and safeguard the collection. Philip Davies, emeritus professor of biblical studies at Sheffield University, said there was powerful evidence that the books have a Christian origin in plates cast into a picture map of the holy city of Jerusalem.
‘As soon as I saw that, I was dumbstruck,’ he said. ‘That struck me as so obviously a Christian image. There is a cross in the foreground, and behind it is what has to be the tomb [of Jesus], a small building with an opening, and behind that the walls of the city.
‘There are walls depicted on other pages of these books too and they almost certainly refer to Jerusalem. It is a Christian crucifixion taking place outside the city walls.’
The British team leading the work on the discovery fears that the present Israeli ‘keeper’ may be looking to sell some of the books on to the black market, or worse — destroy them.
But the man who holds the books denies the charge and claims they have been in his family for 100 years.
Dr Margaret Barker, a former president of the Society for Old Testament Study, said: ‘The Book of Revelation tells of a sealed book that was opened only by the Messiah.
‘Other texts from the period tell of sealed books of wisdom and of a secret tradition passed on by Jesus to his closest disciples. That is the context for this discovery.’
Professor Davies said: ‘The possibility of a Hebrew-Christian origin is certainly suggested by the imagery and, if so, these codices are likely to bring dramatic new light to our understanding of a very significant but so far little understood period of history.’
Mr Elkington, who is leading British efforts to have the books returned to Jordan, said: ‘It is vital that the collection can be recovered intact and secured in the best possible circumstances, both for the benefit of its owners and for a potentially fascinated international audience.’

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Friday, April 01, 2011

New Mercury Images Show Shadowed Craters and New Terrain

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First Color Image

Hundreds of spectacular new images of Mercury are pouring in from the first spacecraft ever to orbit the smallest planet.
NASA’s Messenger spacecraft took its first shot of Mercury early Tuesday morning, and sent 224 more images to Earth by the end of the day. In its first three days of shooting, Messenger will collect 1,500 images, exceeding the number of photos taken by all earlier flybys combined.
“That’s just the barest hint of what we’ll have on a regular basis once the mapping phase begins” on April 4, said principal investigator Sean Solomon in a news conference Wednesday. “This extremely dynamic planet will be on continuous display for the first time.”
This gallery showcases the first detailed peek at the hot, scarred, under-explored world at the solar system’s inner edge.

First Look

The first-ever image from orbit released Tuesday was actually one of eight images taken through several different filters. Each filter lets in a different wavelength of light, letting planetary scientists piece together colored versions of the images. In the image above, wavelengths of 1,000 nanometers, 750 nm and 430 nm are displayed in red, green, and blue, respectively.
The first image caught sight of terrain that had never been seen before, plus several bright craters and the south pole.

Clair de Lune

Clair de Lune

This image features a young crater called Debussy, named for the French composer Claude Debussy who wrote Clair de Lune (moonlight). Mercury does look a lot like the moon in these first images, with gray terrain interrupted by impact craters.
“Don’t be deceived by the images alone,” Solomon said. “The chemical makeup, interior structure and interior dynamics are all quite different.”
Debussy crater is 50 miles wide. Its bright color tells astronomers that it formed relatively recently, probably in the last billion years. Mercury’s surface is darkened by the constant bombardment of tiny meteoroids and charged particles from the solar wind and Mercury’s own magnetosphere. Bright craters like Debussy haven’t been around long enough to grow dark, Solomon said.
“Time will darken the rest of the surface,” he said. “It is their brightness that identifies them as being younger than the rest of the terrain.”

North Pole

North Pole

This image shows a region near Mercury’s north pole, which had never been seen before. Most of these craters are probably secondary craters, formed from chunks of rock and dirt that were tossed out of a bigger crater when it formed.
“This is a heavily cratered surface, but it may have all happened on one really bad day,” Solomon said.
Messenger’s orbit takes it almost directly over Mercury’s poles, giving the first view into heavily shadowed polar craters. Earth-based radio telescopes gave tantalizing hints in the 1990s that these craters could harbor water ice.
“It’s a hypothesis we’ve been aching to test for 20 years,” Solomon said. “We’ve finally started imaging and other measurements that will be able to peer into those crater floors.”

Craters in Color

Craters in Color

Messenger’s wide-angle camera has 11 different filters to build colored images of Mercury’s surface. (Because these images take up so much of the spacecraft’s on-board memory, most of the color images will use only eight filters.) Different colors often correspond to different chemical compositions on the surface. This image of part of Mercury’s northern hemisphere shows how craters expose different-colored material, hinting that Mercury’s upper surface and its interior layers are made of different stuff.

Closing In

Closing In

Because color images are actually eight or more individual shots laid on top of one another, they are lower-resolution than grayscale images. Color images give information on the surface composition, but high-resolution images give the details that help decipher what shaped the landscape.
Messenger’s narrow-angle camera has a field of view seven times smaller than the wide-angle camera, giving sharper views of the same regions. This image is a close up of the historic first-ever image.
“We need both kinds of images,” Solomon said. “They complement each other wonderfully. It’s wonderful that we have both and they’re both working well right now.”

More Than a Pretty Face

More Than a Pretty Face

The cameras are hardly Messenger’s only eyes. The orbiter has a suite of seven science instruments that will work in concert to measure Mercury’s magnetic field, tenuous atmosphere, surface composition, interaction with the sun and more.
This diagram shows measurements of the strength of Mercury’s magnetic field measured on 10 successive Messenger orbits. These observations will help trace the geometry of Mercury’s magnetic field, which will help astronomers figure out how Mercury managed to hold on to a global magnetic field while larger planets like Mars and Venus did not.
“What impresses me is that in a span of five days, from orbit, Messenger tripled the number of observations of the planetary magnetic field” available from the 1970s Mariner 10 mission and Messenger’s own flybys of Mercury, Solomon said. “We are rapidly ramping up a much larger data set with which to characterize the geometry of Mercury’s magnetic field.”

Last Horizon

Last Horizon

Messenger took this beautiful shot of the edge of Mercury’s disk on the first orbit for which the cameras were turned on. But now that Messenger is in orbit, views of the horizon will be much less common.
The Messenger mission marks another sort of horizon for solar system exploration. It’s the last of the inner planets to be explored in detail, and it will be at least a decade before we can say again that we’re seeing part of a solar system planet for the first time.
“The last of the classical planets, the planets known to the astronomers of Egypt and Greece and Rome and the Far East, has finally reached the stage where mankind has put a spacecraft in orbit,” Solomon said. “It’s a wonderful thrill to link that not-particularly bright dot in the sky with the images that we’re now seeing downlinked from Messenger spacecraft.”

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