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Prehistoric Cattle Cult In Saudi Arabia

Mustatials, a group of ancient monuments discovered in Saudi Arabia, are part of the world’s oldest ritual landscape, according to archaeologists. A study published in Antiquity reported that the monuments were built between 8,500 and 4,800 years ago. Experts have raised numerous theories on the structures’ function, but the new study shows that the monuments could have been used to raise cattle: 

“You don’t get a full understanding of the scale of the structures until you’re there,” archaeologist Hugh Thomas, the director of the project, told New Scientist. “It’s not designed to keep anything in, but to demarcate the space that is clearly an area that needs to be isolated.”
Archaeologists found animal bones on the sites, which seem to be the remains of religious offerings. The presence of cattle skulls in particular suggests the existence of prehistoric cattle cult.
The largest mustatils are more than 1,500 feet long, with one example constructed from 12,000 tons of basalt stone. Some are simple constructions, with low rock walls forming long rectangles. But others are far more complex, with pillars, interior walls, and small chambers that may have been used for ritual sacrifices.
During the construction of the mustatils, Saudi Arabia would have been all but unrecognizable to contemporary eyes, a verdant green landscape where there is now arid desert.
“The environment was certainly much more humid during this period,” Melissa Kennedy, assistant director of the Aerial Archaeology in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia project, told Live Science. “Cattle need a lot of water to survive.”

Image via Artnet  

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Volcanic Lava Bread

Did you know that you can bake bread using the ground? Iceland’s popular volcanic lava bread is a rye bread that was cooked for 24 hours buried in the country’s hot springs. Food Insider speaks with Sigi Rafn Hilmarsson to learn about the process involved in cooking the baked treat. Check the full video here

Image screenshot via Food Insider 

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‘Disaster Girl’ Sold A Digital NFT Of Her Meme For $450,000

Wow. Zoe Roth became an Internet sensation at the age of four when she stood in front of a burning building with a smirk on her face. Sounds familiar? The image is the famous ‘disaster girl’ meme! Roth, now 21-years-old, has managed to sell the original photograph of the meme as an NFT for a whopping $473,000: 

The picture in the form of a non-fungible token (NFT) - a kind of unique digital asset that has exploded in popularity so far in 2021 - was snapped up for 180 Ethereum, which is equivalent to $473,000, by a collector known only as @3FMusic.
An NFT is a unique digital token encrypted with an artist's signature and which verifies its ownership and authenticity and is permanently attached to the piece.
It allows 'original' versions of popular online content - like viral memes and tweets - to be sold as if they were physical pieces of art. 
The collector @3FMusic is reportedly Farzin Fardin Fard, CEO of a Dubai-based music production company, according to Gizmodo.  
Zoe, now a university student and waitress, and her father Dave - who captured the photo - were approached by an anonymous person via email in February who encouraged them to sell the image as an NFT.  

Image via the Daily Mail 

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The Cat on the Rug Problem

Cats love boxes, and they tend to fit themselves inside a cat-sized shape on the floor, even if it's not a box. Cats will even sit inside fake squares. This presents a problem for Muslims. Set a prayer rug out, and the cat will be there. You can see plenty of examples in this Twitter thread.

What to do? The simplest solution has been to get the cat its own prayer rug. These miniature rugs have become rather popular in Malaysia and Indonesia, as you can see from this collection of images.

Now, that's a devout cat! -via Metafilter

(Image credit: Risa Andriana Putri)

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A Dog's Tale

Raven is now 13 years old, and sort of retired from running trails. But she has led an amazing life. And she tells us about trail life quite poetically.

Celebrating the joys of mountain biking through the eyes of the trail dog, Raven takes us from her driveway memories in BC to the high deserts of Utah, to freshly cut South African trails and back again. We meet some of the feistiest, four-legged trail personalities along the way, who all enjoy the mountain bike world in their own way, just like us humans do, whether it’s hitting jump lines, lapping through the loam, or setting out to build new trail.

They're all good dogs, and the photography is amazing. Don't miss the credits. -via Everlasting Blort

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Orange Peel Used For Sustainable Wood

Researchers from all over the globe are now looking at wood, showing how its complex makeup can be edited to give it new properties. One of the new developments was making the construction material transparent by removing polymers. Scientists from Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology have produced a renewable version of see-through wood using a fruit peel extract, as New Atlas details: 

The scientists at KTH Royal Institute of Technology have been at the forefront of this research for years, demonstrating their first transparent wood back in 2016. Like other versions of this technology, the process starts by extracting lignin – an organic polymer that gives wood its color, rigidity and ability to absorb light – from the material.
This leaves behind empty pores, and previously, the team has filled these gaps with synthetic polymers to give the material strength and transparency. Now, the scientists have found a more eco-friendly replacement, in a monomer made from a component in citrus fruit peels called limonene.

Image via New Atlas 

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A First Look at HBO's House of the Dragon

The era of Game of Thrones spinoffs will begin in 2022, and we've already got a look at the prequel series House of the Dragon. Above you see a couple of obvious Targaryens, Emma D’Arcy as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and Matt Smith as Prince Daemon Targaryen. You can see more images and descriptions of the main characters here. What do these people have to do with Game of Thrones?

Regardless of if Game of Thrones‘ final season left you wanting more or wishing you could go back before any of that happened, HBO is obliging fans with a spin-off show all about House Targaryen, aka our girl Daenerys’ folks. Set a few hundred years before Dany ever laid eyes on Westeros, House of the Dragon presumably follows the events that take place in George R.R. Martin’s novel Fire and Blood, which recounts the history of House Targaryen, including their civil war, often referred to as the “Dance of the Dragons.”

If you'd like some idea how this family history plays out in the books (which may or may not be spoilers for the series), Uproxx has the details.

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The Best Living Rooms In The World

Have you ever wondered what the best-designed rooms look like? Well, interior design enthusiasts, rejoice! The 2021 edition of By Design: The World’s Best Contemporary Interior Designers has been released. If you don’t know what that is, it’s basically the bible of interior design. Introducing new or groundbreaking interior designers, the book also showcases well-designed rooms. Homes and Gardens gives us a preview of the book, presenting the nine best living rooms featured in the book. Check the full list here. 

Image via Homes and Gardens

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Emotion Recognition AI For Animals

Researchers from Wageningen University & Research believe that a facial recognition AI can be used to identify the emotional state of farm animals. If this machine could actually be created (and work), then checking an animal’s emotional state would no longer be exclusive to farming simulator games. However, there’s little evidence that emotion recognition systems could work, as the Next Web details: 

The same ‘science‘ driving systems that claim to be able to tell if someone is gay through facial recognition or if a person is likely to be aggressive, is behind emotion recognition for people and farm animals.
Basically, nobody can tell if another person is gay, or aggressive just by looking at their face. You can guess. And you might be right. But no matter how many times you’re right, it’s always a guess and you’re always operating on your personal definitions.
That’s how emotion recognition works too. What you might interpret as “upset,” might just be someone’s normal expression. What you might see as “gay,” well.. I defy anyone to define internal gayism (ie: do thoughts or actions make you recognizably gay?). 
It’s impossible to “train” a computer to recognize emotions because computers don’t think. They rely on data sets labeled by humans. Humans make mistakes. Worse, it’s ridiculous to imagine any two humans would look at a million faces and come to a blind consensus on the emotional state of each person viewed.
Researchers don’t train AI to recognize emotion or make inferences from faces. They train AI to imitate the perceptions of the specific humans who labeled the data they’re using.

Image via the Next Web

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Malian Woman Gives Birth to Nine Babies

In 2009, Nadya Suleman achieved a Guinness World Record for multiple births when she had eight babies at once, and they all survived. Two instances of a woman giving birth to nine babies have been recorded, but none of the infants survived. But now a Malian woman has given birth to nine babies by cesarian, and they are all alive. Halima Cisse was told she was carrying seven babies; two more were a surprise.

Doctors in the West African nation had been concerned for her welfare and the chances of the babies' survival - so the government intervened.

After a two-week stay in a hospital in Mali's capital, Bamako, the decision had been made to move Ms Cisse to Morocco on 30 March, Dr Siby said.

After five weeks at the Moroccan clinic, she had given birth by Caesarean section on Tuesday, the minister said.

Cisse has one older daughter, who stayed behind in Mali with her husband. The nontuplets, five girls and four boys, are said to be doing well. -via Boing Boing

(Image credit: the Malian Health Ministry)

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Toadlet With Glowing Bones

Yep, you’ve heard that right -- it’s a toadlet. A small frog. Surprisingly, the actual scientific term for the newly-discovered tiny orange toadlet is toadlet. The B. rotenbergae is less than an inch long! The amphibian can be found in the Mantiqueira mountains in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest. Besides being small, did you know that its bones glow under UV light? Popular Science has more details: 

This pumpkin toadlet looks almost identical to another species of pumpkin toadlet. If you were walking in the forest and came across one (they are difficult to spot, as they hide amongst the leaf litter), you almost certainly wouldn’t know this tiny frog from its cousin. But if you’re a herpetologist, like those that described the new species in a recent PLoS ONE article, you might have noticed the faded spots on its back that differentiate it from its cousin, Brachycephalus ephippium. The new toadlet, B. rotenbergae, is also a little smaller, though the two share fluorescent bones. It’s unclear what function the fluorescent bones serve, though they might have something to do with communication

Image via Popular Science 

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What’s Up With Italy’s €1 Houses?

Did you know that there are houses being sold  for just €1 ($1.20) in Italy? The deal sounds too good to be true, of course. However, according to California resident Rubia Daniels, they’re real - just don’t expect brand new houses. Daniels was one of the first who bought a house in Mussomeli, Sicily. Travel and Leisure spoke with her to know what to do and what to avoid when you’re trying to buy one of Italy’s  €1 homes:

Does that €1 home really cost just €1? There are taxes and fees to pay, of course, along with the building work, but not all schemes are equal when it comes to the price of the house itself.
"I know some people who went to another town, and it turned out to be an auction," says Daniels.
Each town has different rules, whether that's the pricing structure, deposit system, number of architects or lawyers you must involve (and pay), or time in which you have to complete your renovations to avoid penalties. Make sure to pick the one that works for you.
You should also be aware of the criteria for renovations. In Mussomeli, for example, you can do what you like with the interior, as long as you keep the façade as it originally would have been. Daniels is already planning an art gallery on the ground floor of one of her homes.

Image via Travel and Leisure

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Yellowstone Is Shooting Paintballs At Wolves Now

It’s for their own good, apparently. Yellowstone National Park  is now shooting paintballs at wolves. Since wildlife and human interaction is an issue in the park, signs and notices are scattered all over the park to warn visitors. However, it seems that these warnings are no longer enough to keep the tourists safe from accidents when they get too close for the animals’ comfort. Now, park officials are using paintballs to deter the wolves from engagement and interaction with the park’s visitors: 

“Instead of killing them, we want to do everything in our power to preserve them—that’s where non-lethal munitions come into play,” Smith said.
Hazing, used frequently on wildlife like coyotes, involves the use of deterrents, like loud noises, inflicted pain, and in many times, a combination of the two on an animal to discourage them from engaging in an undesirable activity or behavior. The idea with wolves is to essentially make them afraid of humans again, especially if they’ve lost that fear due to park visitors feeding them or getting too close to them.
According to Ausband, the use of wolf hazing doesn’t really work. “We tried hazing methods in the livestock industry in Idaho, but the wolves were pretty smart and caught on pretty quickly.”
Smith and his crew disagree. In fact, they’ve developed a method shared with Teton National Park, Denali National Park, and others, that involves bean bag rounds “in the ass,” which is according to Smith “the best place to hit a wolf,” rubber bullets, and cracker shells to create a cacophony of noise and a barrage of the senses that frightens the wolf and discourages it from interacting with humans again.
“I tell my guys to make it seem like the Fourth of July is happening right over their heads,” Smith told The Daily Beast.
Clear paintball rounds (that, importantly, don’t leave a mark on the animal), are also a tool used since, Smith says, “you’re lucky if you can even use one tool before the moment has passed.”

Image via the Daily Beast 

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A Game Console Or A Trip To A City? This Boy’s Choice Will Surprise You!

Well, this kid has his priorities sorted. When a mother asked her son what he wanted for his birthday, he responded with two things: a Nintendo Switch and a trip to Buffalo, New York. Both of these choices are costly, so she told him he could only pick one. The little guy actually chose the trip to Buffalo to try out their famous pizza. What an unexpected choice! 

Image screenshot via WIVB

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How the ‘Queen of Thieves’ Conned French Riviera Wealthy

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the French Riviera was a popular retreat for the wealthy elite -as it is today. W. Somerset Maugham called it “a sunny place for shady people.” And so that's where Amélie Condemine went to relieve the rich of their cash and jewels. She passed herself off as the Comtesse de Monteil, which gave her access to the finest hotels and resorts, and kept suspicions from her victims at bay. In fact, she operated for twenty years before she was finally arrested in 1908.

After her arrest, the comtesse became something of a folk hero in the media. Newspapers emphasized her pluck and daring, such as when she robbed the same Swiss banker three times. The third time, he awoke and raised the alarm, but she sprinted back to her room, where she pretended to be asleep and was never suspected. On another occasion, in Alexandria, the hotel accused her and an accomplice of theft; the pair fought the accusation in court and won a defamation suit against the hotel. While she was a criminal conning the wealthy, she was also portrayed as a woman of the people. Le Petit Parisien noted that her maid liked and respected her, and that she was a generous tipper.

Read the story of the Queen of Thieves at Atlas Obscura.

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