Hidden Archaeology of Stonehenge Revealed

Stonehenge,_Condado_de_Wiltshire,_Inglaterra,_2014-08-12,_DD_09Ever since it was first uncovered, Stonehenge has remained a mystery for archaeologists, historians and folklorists alike. First constructed in the Neolithic Era, the purpose and function of these standing stones – set within a dense complex of burial mounds and monuments – are still a matter of speculation and debate. But now, researchers have revealed hundreds of previously unknown features which might shed light on this mysterious site.

As part of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, the researchers used a comprehensive array of remote sensing technology and non-invasive geophysical survey equipment to scan deep beneath the ground. These finds include images of dwellings that date from the Iron and Bronze Ages, as well as details of buried Roman settlements that have never before been seen.

Stonehenge_renderIncluded in the findings are many dozens of burial mounds, including a long barrow entombment structure that predate the construction of Stonehenge itself. Revealed in great detail by the team’s geophysical instruments, the structure appears to have been a very large timber building. The researchers believe this may have been a preparation room where the dead were defleshed before burial, a popular practice amongst tribes inhabiting the area at the time.

Later structures that were built around the well-known circular form were also revealed by this new research, with seventeen previously unidentified ritual monuments being discovered and mapped. These types of results show how new applications of geophysical technology can add to the understanding of archaeological sites; in this case, it is shedding light on the hidden landscape of a site that is 11,000 years in the making.

stonehenge-2As British project leader Professor Vincent Gaffney of the University of Birmingham explained:

Despite Stonehenge being the most iconic of all prehistoric monuments and occupying one of the richest archaeological landscapes in the world, much of this landscape in effect remains terra incognita. This project has revealed that the area around Stonehenge is teeming with previously unseen archaeology and that the application of new technology can transform how archaeologists and the wider public understand one of the best-studied landscapes on Earth.

The techniques included magnetic gradiometer systems, ground and airborne laser-scanning, and ground-based radar, all of which were mapped to GPS systems to provide total GIS (Geographic Information System) coverage. The research also revealed that the Durrington Walls “super henge,” located just two miles (3.2 km) north-west of Stonehenge, had once been surrounded by a circle of massive posts or standing stones.

stonehenge-4Believed to have consisted of up to 60 posts or stones some 12 ft (3 m) tall, the geophysical mapping suggests that some of these may still even be intact somewhere under the enormous earthen banks surrounding the monument. Viewable only through the advanced technology used in the project, this discovery and mapping work has already added yet another dimension of knowledge to this vast and mysterious edifice. According to Professor Gaffney:

New monuments have been revealed, as well as new types of monument that have previously never been seen by archaeologists. All of this information has been placed within a single digital map, which will guide how Stonehenge and its landscape are studied in the future.

What’s more, the project uncovered large burial tombs containing more gold and jewelry than graves anywhere else in Britain, indicating that the area was a cemetery for the rich and powerful. Some of the treasures found by archaeologists were made with materials and techniques originating from the European continent. All of the findings are explored in “Stonehenge Uncovered”, the season premiere of CBC’s The Nature of Things that will be airing on Oct. 9.

stonehenge-0British and U.S. versions of the film will air on BBC and the Smithsonian Channel respectively. Terence McKeown, president of Lightship Entertainment and the film’s Canadian executive producer, said that before working on the film, he had the impression that Stonehenge was always an isolated monument in a landscape populated by little more than a “handful of monks.”

The Hidden Landscapes Project – and the new film – reveal a very different picture. As McKeown put it:

What Stonehenge appears to have been was the spiritual centre of a sophisticated culture. The population around Stonehenge clearly included accomplished engineers, surgeons, artisans, and there’s evidence they had close ties to Europe that advanced their skills.

To check out the episode, either bookmark the CBC link here for live streaming, or tune in to The Nature of Things on CBC-TV on Oct. 9th at 8pm (EDT). And be sure to check out the video below, produced by the University of Birmingham, shows the research team and their instruments in action at Stonehenge.

cbc.ca, gizmag.com

The Future is Here: The Pulse-Tech Car Stopper

safe_stop1High-speed car chases could become a thing of the past, thanks to new technologies that are making unsafe driving a thing of the past. First, there was the joint project being developed by Emotiv and the Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia. Known as an “attention-powered car”, the driver of this vehicle wears a headset that measures their brainwaves and shuts down the engine in case of inattention.

And now, there’s a technology being developed by UK’s E2V which could shut down cars from the other end. That is to say, a technology aimed at detecting speeding cars and stopping them by electronically neutralizing their systems. It’s known as the RF Safe Stop, a system that uses electromagnetic pulses to confuse the systems of car and force its engine to stall.
Safe_StopAccording to the BBC, the technology has piqued the interest of the military and police:

In demonstrations seen by the BBC, a car drove towards the device at about 24km/h (15mph). As the vehicle entered the range of the RF Safe-Stop, its dashboard warning lights and dials behaved erratically, the engine stopped, and the car rolled gently to a halt. Digital audio and video recording devices in the vehicle were also affected.

There are concerns about the technology’s effects on electronic braking and steering systems, but EV2 says the risks are low. Because RF Safe-Stop works on electronic systems, it can also be effective on boats. If adopted, the technology could find its way into road stops and traffic points, where it could be used to target people breaking the speed limit and force their cars into a shutdown until police arrive.

rf_safestopThere are drawbacks, of course. Older vehicles, which are less dependent on electronic systems, will be immune to the Safe Stop’s signals. In this respect, low-tech trumps high-tech due to a lack of complexity. However, given the sheer proliferation of modern vehicles, and their growing dependence on electronic systems (and engines), the Safe Stop technology is likely to be adopted all across the UK in the coming years.

Looking farther down the road, its not unlikely that advanced traffic systems and countermeasures will be featured on highways and waterways all over the world. In addition to being able to monitor traffic patterns, read license plates and registries, and tag those of offenders, it will also be able to deploy a targeted EM burst on vehicles that are identified by police as criminals or possible terrorists, and stop them in their tracks.

Batman_EMPgunAnd of course, a militarized version of the technology is a no-brainer, given the military’s long-standing love affair with EM technology. Imagine, if you will, vehicle-mounted electromagnetic weaponry that will be capable of taking out a column of enemy vehicles simply by neutralizing their systems. Or possibly a handheld device used by infantry (like Batman’s) to defend themselves against tanks and helicopters!

It’s important to dream big! And in the meantime, be sure to enjoy this BBC video short that demonstrates the technology in action:

Sources: fastcompany.com, e2v.com

Artificial Trees to Fight Climate Change?

The indices of Climate Change have been growing in the past few decades, culminating in some serious trends that have left the scientific community worried and the general public far from calm. In addition to Arctic sea ice levels reaching a record low and record high temperatures being set during the summer, North Americans also experienced the worst wildfire season in recorded history. Over a million acres of forest burned up in the US alone, but the extended range of the fires reached from as far south as Texas to as far north as Nunavut.

For many years now, those on the forefront of climate science have been arguing that things will get a lot worse before they get better, and argue that some drastic geoengineering projects might be the only way to avert disaster. Many of these involve advanced climate science, such as evaporating more water around the mid-latitudes or “capturing” carbon in the upper atmosphere and converting it to harmless compounds. But as Gaia Vince, a science writer from BBC’s Future pointed out, the solution may be as a simple as improving upon an existing “carbon capture” technology, otherwise known as the Tree.

For some time now, climatologists and naturalists have understood the role that trees, plants, algae and plankton play in the carbon cycle. Unfortunately, the long life-cycle of trees, and the various ecological issues surrounding the artificial stimulation of algae and plants, make this aspect of ecoengineering somewhat impractical. What’s more, the growing demand for agricultural space is also putting pressure on existing green spaces. As our population continues to grow and more farmland is needed to provided for them, simply planting plants and trees more may not even be an option.

Luckily, there is an invention that takes all this into account and provides a possible solution: the artificial trees. Designed by Klaus Lackner, director of the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy at Columbia University, this “tree” is capable of absorbing CO2 from the air using “leaves” that are 1,000 times more efficient than the real thing, but at the same time does not require exposure to sunlight in order to carry out the process.

As Vince himself describes them: “The leaves look like sheets of papery plastic and are coated in a resin that contains sodium carbonate, which pulls carbon dioxide out of the air and stores it as a bicarbonate (baking soda) on the leaf. To remove the carbon dioxide, the leaves are rinsed in water vapour and can dry naturally in the wind, soaking up more carbon dioxide.”

Based on Lackner calculations, a single tree would be capable of removing one tonne of carbon dioxide from our atmosphere in a single day. By that reckoning, a forest of ten million would be able to remove 3.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in a single year, the equivalent of about 10% of our global annual carbon dioxide emissions. One hundred million would solve our emission crisis altogether!

As for the resulting mass that the process creates, Lackner claims that could be turned into liquid fuels to power vehicles. In fact, when CO2 and water are combined, the end result is what is known as syngas, a fuel that is easily converted into methanol and diesel. So basically, while the artificial trees are scrubbing the air of fossil fuel emissions, they are also actively creating the means to generate more fossil fuel. Might seem ironic, but this in turn will allow humanity to keep using their carbon engines, all the while knowing that they are producing less than the trees are extracting. This will give the scientists of the world more time to invent a clean alternative to the fossil fuel engine, and that by the time they do it won’t already be too late.

Although some question the viability of this entire process, mainly where the issue of total cost is concerned, Lackney stresses that as global fuel supplies dwindle, fuel companies will see the wisdom in buying into this process, mainly because it offers them the possibility of fuel retention. Yes, by investing in artificial trees, oil and gas companies will be able to turn their own carbon emissions back into hydrocarbon fuel. Which will come in handy if the oil runs out as quickly as some analysts say it will. In addition, us consumers can expect a break the pump if it all goes well!

Does this strike you as ironic, or just a weird and interesting take on recycling? Who knows? All that is certain is that the technology is making some pretty bold forecasts, and if it should prove successful, we are likely to see a great deal of investment towards this new method. I can see it now, countless roofs and skyscrapers with fields of artificial trees lining their roofs. Water circulation systems that capture the CO2 once its sucked off the leaves and then channeled down to the fuel cells in the basement. And the rest trucked off by trucks that bear the logo of Haliburton, Shell, and Petro Canada. And for once, the drivers won’t feel a lick of shame!

New Doctor Who Trailer

Doctor Who already has the reputation of being the longest-running science fiction show in the history of television. The original series ran from 1963 to 1989, embracing 26 seasons, seven different actors, 694 episodes (plus 106 that never made it to air), and a changeover from black and white to color. So it’s really no surprise that now, years later when retro is so damn popular, that the BBC would be trying to relaunch the series.

And in anticipation for the 50th anniversary of the show, BBC has released this new teaser trailer that previews all that is to come with the new season. And I think you’ll agree, it’s an exercise in awesomeness. At first, I wasn’t even sure I was watching a television promo. With some of the special effects used, it looked more like a movie preview. I mean, would it really be so farfetched to assume that they would be making a movie at this point?

In addition to providing some hints and teasers of what’s to come, it also features one of the best scenes involving the fictional protagonists known as the Daleks. If I remember my notes from the previous post on AI’s, these would be the alien cybernetic organisms that were created for a war, but have since gone on to become a force of unstoppable malevolence who simply want to destroy anyone in their path.

Check it out, and if you’re a fan, hope you enjoy the new season. I myself have only seen a few episodes and found it to be the perfect example of classic sci-fi. But damn it if the story isn’t just impossible to get into at this point! There’s such a weighty legacy behind it, any time I’ve seen it I’ve been left with the feeling that I need to do my homework. And with something like Doctor. Who, who has that kind of time? 😉

Via: IO9