Archive for the 'Ancient Wonders' Category

How viruses may have created consciousness…

Reality as science fiction…


Not only is an ancient virus still active in the cells of human and animal brains, but it seems to be so important that processes of thought as we know them likely never would have arisen without it.



From Live Science,


An Ancient Virus May Be Responsible for Human Consciousness
By Rafi Letzter


“You’ve got an ancient virus in your brain. In fact, you’ve got an ancient virus at the very root of your conscious thought.


According to two papers published in the journal Cell in January, long ago, a virus bound its genetic code to the genome of four-limbed animals. That snippet of code is still very much alive in humans’ brains today, where it does the very viral task of packaging up genetic information and sending it from nerve cells to their neighbors in little capsules that look a whole lot like viruses themselves. And these little packages of information might be critical elements of how nerves communicate and reorganize over time — tasks thought to be necessary for higher-order thinking, the researchers said.


Though it may sound surprising that bits of human genetic code come from viruses, it’s actually more common than you might think: A review published in Cell in 2016 found that between 40 and 80 percent of the human genome arrived from some archaic viral invasion.


That’s because viruses aren’t just critters that try to make a home in a body, the way bacteria do. Instead, as Live Science has previously reported, a virus is a genetic parasite. It injects its genetic code into its host’s cells and hijacks them, turning them to its own purposes — typically, that means as factories for making more viruses. This process is usually either useless or harmful to the host, but every once in a while, the injected viral genes are benign or even useful enough to hang around. The 2016 review found that viral genes seem to play important roles in the immune system, as well as in the early days of embryo development.


But the new papers take things a step further. Not only is an ancient virus still very much active in the cells of human and animal brains, but it seems to be so important to how they function that processes of thought as we know them likely never would have arisen without it, the researchers said….”


For the rest, click here.


Iron was out of this world…

The mystery of procuring much-coveted iron before the Iron Age…


A depiction of a meteoric event from the Augsburger Wunderzeichenbuch, a 1552 German manuscript. Public domain


From our friends at Atlas Obscura,


Before the Iron Age, Most Iron Came From Space

New research is showing just how coveted meteoritic iron was in the Bronze Age.
by Vittoria Traverso


“Earth is not short of iron—the metal makes up much of our planet’s core and is the fourth most abundant element in the crust. But actually getting that iron out to use it—to make tools, for example—hasn’t always been a simple process. Most iron is packed away in ore, and you have to know how to smelt it to produce the metal, long prized for its strength and workability. Humans didn’t really master the process and produce iron at a large scale until around 1200 B.C. But once they did … well, the next period of human history is known as the Iron Age for a reason.


However, iron does appear in the archaeological record in the earlier Bronze Age. Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun, who died in 1324 B.C., for example, was buried with an iron headrest, bracelet, and dagger. For a long time it was thought that some civilization somewhere had managed to smelt iron earlier, resulting in these coveted, precocious artifacts. But there is another way to get iron—one that is literally out of this world…”


For the rest, click here.



Sounds of the Hagia Sophia from the Middle Ages

Breathtaking acoustics! Do not miss a chance to watch (and listen to) this beautiful video.



From The Smithsonian,


You Can Hear Hagia Sophia’s Sublime Acoustics Without a Trip to Istanbul
Stanford scientists have digitally created the building’s unique sound, taking listeners back to the Middle Ages


“Hagia Sophia, a former church and mosque, is an important part of Istanbul’s long history. Who knew its sublime sound could be transferred to Stanford?


Twice in the past few years, Stanford scholars and scientists have worked to digitally recreate the experience of being in Hagia Sophia when it was a medieval church. Collaborating with choral group Cappella Romana, they digitally recreated the former holy building’s acoustics, and performed medieval church music in the university’s Bing Concert Hall as if it was Hagia Sophia. Their efforts are part of a multi-year collaboration between departments at Stanford that asks the question: can modern technology help us go back in time?


The “Icons of Sound” project focuses on the interior of Hagia Sophia, using recordings of balloon pops taken in the space and other audio and visual research to  figure out the building’s acoustics by extrapolating from those noises. The scientists used that data to recreate the experience of being there—an experience that has been in some ways timeless for the almost 1,500 years the building has stood. But much has changed for the Hagia Sophia in that time…”





For the original article, click here to go to The Smithsonian.


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