New Discoveries


Below are new discoveries about topics found on this website:

Sun may soon have four poles, say researchers

The Asahi Shimbun   -

April 20, 2012

 By SEIJI TANAKA/ Staff Writer

The sun may be entering a period of reduced activity that could result in lower temperatures on Earth, according to Japanese researchers.

Officials of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and the Riken research foundation said on April 19 that the activity of sunspots appeared to resemble a 70-year period in the 17th century in which London’s Thames froze over and cherry blossoms bloomed later than usual in Kyoto.

In that era, known as the Maunder Minimum, temperatures are estimated to have been about 2.5 degrees lower than in the second half of the 20th century.

The Japanese study found that the trend of current sunspot activity is similar to records from that period.

The researchers also found signs of unusual magnetic changes in the sun. Normally, the sun’s magnetic field flips about once every 11 years. In 2001, the sun’s magnetic north pole, which was in the northern hemisphere, flipped to the south.

While scientists had predicted that the next flip would begin from May 2013, the solar observation satellite Hinode found that the north pole of the sun had started flipping about a year earlier than expected. There was no noticeable change in the south pole.

If that trend continues, the north pole could complete its flip in May 2012 but create a four-pole magnetic structure in the sun, with two new poles created in the vicinity of the equator of our closest star.




Past Horizons -  Astronomical Alignments

Article created on Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A three year examination of astronomical alignments found in the buildings of researching2.htm#Latest_scientific_news_on__Astronomical_Alignments_Mesoamerican cities has demonstrated the basis of some pre-Columbian rituals.

Archaeologist Francisco Sánchez Nava, of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), together with archaeoastronomer Ivan Sprajc, from the Centre of Scientific Research of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, jointly developed the project “The Archaeo-astronomical Properties of Architecture and Urbanism in Mesoamerica”.

Investigating the ancient sites for astronomical alignments

Through the research, archaeologists are trying to establish archaeo-astronomical patterns to see if these impacted in some way to distribution alignments and placement of pre-Colombian cities and the main structures within Mesoamerica. To date, 150 Maya sites have been investigated in the Gulf of Mexico, the Central Highlands and Oaxaca, with a range of temporal periods from the Formative to the late Postclassic (500 BCE - 1521 CE).

Based on the results so far obtained, Sanchez Nava said that of the buildings that have had alignment measurements taken, more than 70 per cent are solar in nature and their functionality is undoubtedly based on an east-west direction, with Mesoamericans mainly viewing sunrises and sunsets.

Equinox did not fit

Although the researchers have no doubt that solstice was important to the people – with alignments found in all the archaeological sites studied so far – the same is not true for equinox.

Perhaps surprisingly, it seems that equinox alignments are a recent tourist based fashion which have no real basis or hard evidence, with the results of the study reinforcing this.

Distinct repeating patterns

Sanchez Nava also explained that they found the patterns of orientation of the buildings built in the majority of archaeological sites of the Highlands are shared with most sites of the Maya Region, in the lowlands, such as Chichén Itzá and Uxmal.

However, at many other Highland sites such as Tonina and Largatero, there is a distinct and repeating pattern that still remains a mystery.

One hypothesis is the construction and alignment of these Highland Maya sites are related to the cycles of Venus, but the researchers still lack some vital measurements to prove this theory.

Meanwhile, on the north coast of the Yucatan peninsula, on the fringe of Quintana Roo, Sanchez Nava Sprajc found a further alignment pattern different from the previous two: “apparently, architectural alignments of this region are due to the cycles of the moon.” he said.

Sanchez Nava explained “the importance of astronomy in these archaeological sites is beyond doubt, and that for some years it has been accepted that Mesoamerican cities are not distributed randomly, but by strict and defined guidelines, alignments architectural and urban patterns, are all based on a series of observations of the environment as the stars.”

Little hard evidence

However, he said, “the hard evidence was patchy and this is why our project offers a significant sample size of measurements obtained using a standardised methodology, in different cultural regions and different chronologies, so that the results are comparable.”

They selected the same type of buildings: tall, palace types or temples which had recognisable observational function where the horizons was easily visible. First measurements were taken with a compass, to determine the distribution pattern guidelines, and then with a theodolite for greater accuracy.

The list of sites that have been studied so far include:

Tenochtitlan, Cantona, Tenayuca, Cuicuilco (Altiplano); Monte Alban, Mitla, Yagul, Guiengola and Copalita Bocana, Monte Negro (Oaxaca); Comalcalco, sale, El Tajin, Quiahuiztlan, Cuauhtoxco, Castillo de Teayo (Gulf); as well as maya area: Chichén Itzá, Uxmal, Edzná, Kohunlich, Calakmul, Rio Bec, Coba and Tulum (in the lowlands region); Toniná and Chinkultic, Tenam Puente, Largatero (Highlands); Palenque, Bonampak, Yaxchilan (jungle); Izapa e old church (Pacific coast). Also, it is Tikal, Guatemala (low lands of South).

Source: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH, National Institute of Anthropology and History)

Greenland Ice Not a Reliable Model For Younger Dryas Period


Source: redOrbit

June 27th 2012

Ice samples that profile Greenland glaciers have long been used to give climate scientists historical temperature data, but those samples could be misleading, according to a new study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 A team led by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers found that the data gathered from the ice cores around Greenland varies greatly from other records of Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the Younger Dryas. Also referred to as the “Big Freeze” — the Younger Dryas was a period of abrupt cooling that began nearly 13,000 years ago.

 “In terms of temperature during the Younger Dryas, the only thing that looks like Greenland ice cores are Greenland ice cores,” said Anders Carlson, a UW-Madison geosciences professor.

 “They are supposed to be iconic for the Northern Hemisphere, but we have four other records that do not agree with the Greenland ice cores for that time. That abrupt cooling is there, just not to the same degree.”

 While collaborating with UW–Madison climatologist Zhengyu Liu and scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Carlson could reliably recreate temperatures in the Oldest Dryas, a cooling period about 18,000 years ago. But when using the same model to reconstruct Younger Dryas data, the program breaks down around data culled from Greenland ice cores.

 In an attempt to understand why the Greenland samples did not match expectations, researchers found that oxygen isotope data did not account for the sort of crash climate change occurring during the Younger Dryas. They also realized their assumption that prevailing winds and jet streams are dumping precipitation from the Atlantic Ocean on Greenland was incorrect.

 “The Laurentide ice sheet, which covered much of North America down into the northern United States, is getting smaller as the Younger Dryas approaches,” Carlson said. “That’s like taking out a mountain of ice three kilometers high. As that melts, it allows more Pacific Ocean moisture to cross the continent and hit the Greenland ice sheet.”

 The two oceans have distinctly different ratios of oxygen isotopes, thus snow that originated from the Pacific will appear much different than Atlantic snow.

 “We ran an oxygen isotope-enabled atmosphere model, so we could simulate what these ice cores are actually recording, and it can match the actual oxygen isotopes in the ice core even though the temperature doesn’t cool as much,” Carlson said. “That, to us, means the source of precipitation has changed in Greenland across the last deglatiation. And therefore that the strict interpretation of this iconic record as purely temperature of snowfall above this ice sheet is wrong.”

 Based on the study’s findings, the researchers said Greenland temperatures may not have cooled as momentously as climate headed into the Younger Dryas relative to the Oldest Dryas, because of the increased levels in atmospheric carbon dioxide that had occurred since the Oldest Dryas.

 The study also showed that climate change is the result of a confluence of factors and determining historical temperature trends is a highly nuanced science.

 “Abrupt climate changes have happened, but they come with complex shifts in the way climate inputs like moisture moved around,” Carlson said. “You can’t take one difference and interpret it solely as changes in temperature, and that’s what we’re seeing here in the Greenland ice cores.”

Brett Smith for


Eureka Alert

June 21 2012


New deglaciation data opens door for earlier First Americans migration


CORVALLIS, Ore. - A new study of lake sediment cores from Sanak Island in the western Gulf of Alaska suggests that deglaciation there from the last Ice Age took place as much as1,500 to 2,000 years earlier than previously thought, opening the door for earlier coastal migration models for the Americas.

The Sanak Island Biocomplexity Project, funded by the National Science Foundation, also concluded that the maximum thickness of the ice sheet in the Sanak Island region during the last glacial maximum was 70 meters – or about half that previously projected – suggesting that deglaciation could have happened more rapidly than earlier models predicted.

Results of the study were just published in the professional journal, Quaternary Science Reviews.

The study, led by Nicole Misarti of Oregon State University, is important because it suggests that the possible coastal migration of people from Asia into North America and South America – popularly known as "First Americans" studies – could have begun as much as two millennia earlier than the generally accepted date of ice retreat in this area, which was 15,000 years before present.

Well-established archaeology sites at Monte Verde, Chile, and Huaca Prieta, Peru, date back 14,000 to 14,200 years ago, giving little time for expansion if humans had not come to the Americas until 15,000 years before present – as many models suggest.

The massive ice sheets that covered this part of the Earth during the last Ice Age would have prevented widespread migration into the Americas, most archaeologists believe.

"It is important to note that we did not find any archaeological evidence documenting earlier entrance into the continent," said Misarti, a post-doctoral researcher in Oregon State's College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. "But we did collect cores from widespread places on the island and determined the lake's age of origin based on 22 radiocarbon dates that clearly document that the retreat of the Alaska Peninsula Glacier Complex was earlier than previously thought."

"Glaciers would have retreated sufficiently so as to not hinder the movement of humans along the southern edge of the Bering land bridge as early as almost 17,000 years ago," added Misarti, who recently accepted a faculty position at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.

Interestingly, the study began as a way to examine the abundance of ancient salmon runs in the region. As the researchers began examining core samples from Sanak Island lakes looking for evidence of salmon remains, however, they began getting radiocarbon dates much earlier than they had expected. These dates were based on the organic material in the sediments, which was from terrestrial plant macrofossils indicating the region was ice-free earlier than believed.

The researchers were surprised to find the lakes ranged in age from 16,500 to 17,000 years ago.

A third factor influencing the find came from pollen, Misarti said.

"We found a full contingent of pollen that indicated dry tundra vegetation by 16,300 years ago," she said. "That would have been a viable landscape for people to survive on, or move through. It wasn't just bare ice and rock."

The Sanak Island site is remote, about 700 miles from Anchorage, Alaska, and about 40 miles from the coast of the western Alaska Peninsula, where the ice sheets may have been thicker and longer lasting, Misarti pointed out. "The region wasn't one big glacial complex," she said. "The ice was thinner and the glaciers retreated earlier."

Other studies have shown that warmer sea surface temperatures may have preceded the early retreat of the Alaska Peninsula Glacier Complex (APGC), which may have supported productive coastal ecosystems.

Wrote the researchers in their article: "While not proving that first Americans migrated along this corridor, these latest data from Sanak Island show that human migration across this portion of the coastal landscape was unimpeded by the APGC after 17 (thousand years before present), with a viable terrestrial landscape in place by 16.3 (thousand years before present), well before the earliest accepted sites in the Americas were inhabited."



New evidence suggests Stone Age hunters from Europe discovered America

The Independent

February 28 2012

New archaeological evidence suggests that America was first discovered by Stone Age people from Europe – 10,000 years before the Siberian-originating ancestors of the American Indians set foot in the New World.

A remarkable series of several dozen European-style stone tools, dating back between 19,000 and 26,000 years, have been discovered at six locations along the US east coast. Three of the sites are on the Delmarva Peninsular in Maryland, discovered by archaeologist Dr Darrin Lowery of the University of Delaware. One is in Pennsylvania and another in Virginia. A sixth was discovered by scallop-dredging fishermen on the seabed 60 miles from the Virginian coast on what, in prehistoric times, would have been dry land.

The new discoveries are among the most important archaeological breakthroughs for several decades - and are set to add substantially to our understanding of humanity's spread around the globe.

The similarity between other later east coast US and European Stone Age stone tool technologies has been noted before. But all the US European-style tools, unearthed before the discovery or dating of the recently found or dated US east coast sites, were from around 15,000 years ago - long after Stone Age Europeans (the Solutrean cultures of France and Iberia) had ceased making such artifacts. Most archaeologists had therefore rejected any possibility of a connection. But the newly-discovered and recently-dated early Maryland and other US east coast Stone Age tools are from between 26,000 and 19,000 years ago - and are therefore contemporary with the virtually identical western European material.

What’s more, chemical analysis carried out last year on a European-style stone knife found in Virginia back in 1971 revealed that it was made of French-originating flint.

Professor Dennis Stanford, of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, and Professor Bruce Bradley of the University of Exeter, the two leading archaeologists who have analysed all the evidence, are proposing that Stone Age people from Western Europe migrated to North America at the height of the Ice Age by travelling (over the ice surface and/or by boat) along the edge of the frozen northern part of the Atlantic. They are presenting their detailed evidence in a new book - Across Atlantic Ice – published this month.

At the peak of the Ice Age, around three million square miles of the North Atlantic was covered in thick ice for all or part of the year.

However, the seasonally shifting zone where the ice ended and the open ocean began would have been extremely rich in food resources – migrating seals, sea birds, fish and the now-extinct northern hemisphere penguin-like species, the great auk.

Stanford and Bradley have long argued that Stone Age humans were quite capable of making the 1500 mile journey across the Atlantic ice - but till now there was comparatively little evidence to support their thinking.

But the new Maryland, Virginia and other US east coast material, and the chemical tests on the Virginian flint knife, have begun to transform the situation. Now archaeologists are starting to investigate half a dozen new sites in Tennessee, Maryland and even Texas – and these locations are expected to produce more evidence.

Another key argument for Stanford and Bradley’s proposal is the complete absence of any human activity in north-east Siberia and Alaska prior to around 15,500 years ago. If the Maryland and other east coast people of 26,000 to 19,000 years ago had come from Asia, not Europe, early material, dating from before 19,000 years ago, should have turned up in those two northern areas, but none have been found.

Although Solutrean Europeans may well have been the first Americans, they had a major disadvantage compared to the Asian-originating Indians who entered the New World via the Bering Straits or along the Aleutian Islands chain after 15,500 years ago.

Whereas the Solutreans had only had a 4500 year long ‘Ice Age’ window to carry out their migratory activity, the Asian-originating Indians had some 15,000 years to do it. What’s more, the latter two-thirds of that 15 millennia long period was climatologically much more favorable and substantially larger numbers of Asians were therefore able to migrate.

As a result of these factors the Solutrean (European originating) Native Americans were either partly absorbed by the newcomers or were substantially obliterated by them either physically or through competition for resources.

Some genetic markers for Stone Age western Europeans simply don’t exist in north- east Asia – but they do in tiny quantities among some north American Indian groups. Scientific tests on ancient DNA extracted from 8000 year old skeletons from Florida have revealed a high level of a key probable European-originating genetic marker. There are also a tiny number of isolated Native American groups whose languages appear not to be related in any way to Asian-originating American Indian peoples.

But the greatest amount of evidence is likely to come from under the ocean – for most of the areas where the Solutreans would have stepped off the Ice onto dry land are now up to 100 miles out to sea.

The one underwater site that has been identified - thanks to the scallop dredgers – is set to be examined in greater detail this summer – either by extreme-depth divers or by remotely operated mini submarines equipped with cameras and grab arms.


The mysterious forest rings of northern Ontario

CBC News: Last Updated May 21, 2008

By Elle Andra-Warner

The Cheeka Ring is a ring measuring 1km. in diameter, located 20 km east of Hearst, Ont. Scientists believe it was formed by a natural gas deposit. (Courtesy S. Hamilton, OGS)


It is a strange phenomenon: thousands of large, perfectly round "forest rings" dot the boreal landscape of northern Ontario.

From the air, these mysterious light-coloured rings of stunted tree growth are clearly visible, but on the ground, you could walk right through them without noticing them. They range in diameter from 30 metres to 2 kilometres, with the average ring measuring about 91 metres across. Over 2,000 of these forest rings have been documented, but scientists estimate the actual number is more than 8,000.

What causes these near-perfect circles in the forest?

Since they were discovered on aerial photos about 50 years ago, the rings have baffled biologists, geologists and foresters. Some explanations put a UFO or extraterrestrial spin on the phenomenon. Astronomers suggest the rings might be the result of meteor strikes. Prospectors wonder whether the formations signal diamond-bearing kimberlites, a type of igneous rock.

We have been working on the rings since 1998, and there have been many developments, but there are still many unanswered questions," says Stew Hamilton, a Sudbury-based geochemist with the Sedimentary Geoscience Section of the Ontario Geological Survey.

Hamilton first became interested in the rings in 1997 when Sudbury prospector and geologist Bob Komarechka asked him about the potential kimberlite link. Now he has some new theories about how the giant rings were created, and his paper discussing some of the strange electrical phenomena that occur over the rings has been accepted for publication in the journal Geophysics.

According to Hamilton, the forest rings are caused by giant, naturally occurring electrochemical cells — big centres of negative charges (called reduced chimneys) that are frequently situated over metal or mineral deposits or methane (a natural gas source).

Think of them as huge natural electrical batteries with a negative charge in carbonate soil and surrounded by oxygen that carries a positive charge. The current from the batteries — the negative charge — travels outward and where it meets the positive charge, acidic conditions are created that eat away at the carbonate soil, causing it to drop in a circular depression around the natural battery.

How it all started

The origin of Ontario's methane-based forest rings, according to Hamilton's theory, lies in the glaciers and glacial lakes that at one time covered the province. As the glaciers began receding from northern Ontario about 10,000 years ago, they left behind a mix of clay and other glacial sediment.

Bacteria began eating the dead plankton and other organic matter left in the clay, a process that can only last a few thousand years before the organic matter is consumed, a short time, geologically speaking. This produced methane, a chemical that is the principal component of natural gas. In the case of forest rings, the methane is released into the atmosphere partly through the depressions of the rings.

So why the perfectly formed circles?

"Because force goes out in a circle," Hamilton says. "For example, throw a stick in the water. At first it makes a stick shape when it hits the water, then perfect circles go out from that. Electricity is just the same."

Gordon Southam, a geo-microbiologist at the University of Western Ontario, has just begun working with Hamilton on the biogeochemical aspects of forest rings.

"We debate back and forth on the various theories on forest ring formation. I find it extremely interesting any time that water-rock interactions release materials that support the growth of the biosphere; we're very interested in litho-trophic [rock-eating] bacteria," Southam says.

"In the case of forest rings, they appear to create anoxic [oxygen-free] conditions that support methane-producing bacteria below ground and methane-oxidizing bacteria near the earth's surface."

A map of forest rings in northeastern Ontario devised by Hamilton also seems to indicate that the creation of these anoxic conditions appears to be coinciding with permafrost melting, which is causing new activity in the biosphere.

Why is northern Ontario lord of the rings?

Although northern Ontario has the highest concentration of forest rings, you can also find them in the Yukon, Quebec, Russia and Australia.

"For years, we have been puzzled as to why Ontario has so many, and we now think we have some of the answers," Hamilton says. "We have measured the isotopic signature of natural gas in a number of rings, and it suggests the gas is very geologically young and is likely still being produced today and constantly escaping into the atmosphere. Northern Ontario has the youngest and most extensive glacial clay deposits in the world, and therefore we also have the most rings."

He estimates 80 per cent to 85 per cent of the region's rings are methane-based, with the rest being a result of kimberlite; hydrogen sulfide (recognizable by its "rotten egg” smell); metal-based sources such as nickel, copper and zinc; or buried peat. These, too, are all sources of negative electrical charge and have a capacity to create similar electrical fields as methane.

"On the one hand, the rings are a large potential source of relatively clean natural gas. On the other hand, they are constantly venting methane into the atmosphere, which has a greenhouse gas equivalent that is more than 20 times that of carbon dioxide," said Hamilton.

He is keen to see companies develop technology to extract the gas and use it as energy.

"Extracting the gas would therefore be doubly beneficial and also fairly easy from a technical point of view."

Source of charge unclear

And what about those other exotic theories of forest rings?

"It is definitely not a UFO thing, crop circles, tree-killing fungus or meteors falling from the sky," Hamilton laughs.

He does admit, though, that forest rings have "a million mysteries." For example, the electrical field found inside the forest rings is a puzzle that needs to be solved.

"It shouldn't be there," Hamilton says. "Something is creating a huge electrical field, and we think it might be millions of chemical-eating micro-organisms in the soil."

Hamilton, University of Ottawa geochemist Kéiko H. Hattori (chair of the department of earth sciences) and graduate student Kerstin Brauneder are the only Canadian scientists currently studying forest rings. This summer, they will test their hypothesis by generating chemicals in test tubes and adding some forest ring micro-organisms (bacteria) to the chemicals.

"To see a perfectly round forest ring in the middle of the forest is really very strange," said Brauneder, whose master's thesis is titled Origin and Distribution of Forest Ring-Related Methane.

"This summer, Dr. Hamilton and I will be sampling soils over five forest rings near Timmins and Hearst. Together with Dr. Southam, we will try to recreate a small-scale forest ring phenomena in-vitro, in a test tube, to see where and how methane-producing microbial communities grow. Understanding the methane-cycle of the rings is important, because we are hoping the methane could eventually be used as a new energy source for isolated communities."

Calling the forest rings the "world's largest petri dish," Hamilton said the testing will be the first step to recreating, in the lab, the mysterious electrical field process.

"Our hypothesis is that with the forest rings, millions of micro-organisms are creating a massive, low-voltage electrical field that causes their food, the chemicals, to come forward to them. The bacteria don't have to move — the food keeps coming to them along the electrical field they have created," explained Hamilton.

This, he said, also poses an intriguing question: "Are micro-organisms changing and modifying geology?"

"It is a new paradigm for us. What science doesn't understand is the most interesting, and we're having a lot of fun working on the many pieces of the strange puzzle. This is beyond science fiction — it is unbelievable."