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How Long Have Dogs Been Helping Us Hunt?

It is believed that dogs started to become domesticated around 14,000 years ago. People found dogs to be useful in all sorts of ways, and soon put them to work. Evidence unearthed in Jordan shows that dogs (that were still close to their wolf ancestors) helped human hunt animals almost 12,000 years ago.

The study, by archaeologists from the University of Copenhagen and University College London, looks at animal bones found in a Neolithic settlement known as Shubayqa 6, established 11,500 years ago, in the Black Desert of northeast Jordan. The bones suggest that the site’s residents were using their dogs to help them hunt, a finding that can help clarify the murky origins of dog domestication. It hasn’t been clear, the researchers write in a release, whether that process was deliberate or accidental, but this new evidence of canine-assisted hunting implies that these Stone Age humans were highly dependent indeed on their dogs.

The clues come from bones of prey, including bones that had been digested. Read about the research at Atlas Obscura.

(Image credit: Rama)


How in the World Did Someone Steal This "Extremely Heavy" Bronze Hippo Statue?

A 2-meter tall hippo sculpture was stolen from Chilstone ornament makers in the UK. It took five people to lift the luxurious hippo sculpture in the past. The sheer size of the piece makes it difficult to hypothesize how it was stolen.

From the BBC:

The three-quarter tonne beast, described as "hugely distinctive" by police, was taken from the Chilstone showgarden near Tunbridge Wells.
Officers think the 2m (6ft 7in) sculpture may have been lifted onto the back of a truck by "mechanical means".
Kent Police appealed for witnesses who may have spotted the unusual cargo due to "its sheer size".

Got an idea of how the hippo statue was stolen?

(Image: Kent Police)


Woman Knitted Sweater Out of Her Own Hair

See those strands of hair that fall out as you comb your hair? You probably just toss 'em away, but not Xiang Renxian of Chongqing, China!

Xiang, a 60-year-old retired teacher, collect strands of her own hair for 11 years, then spin them into yarn and knit a sweater and hat that she can actually wear:

"It's actually not that difficult. The key is patience and persistence," said Xiang. ...
According to Xiang's records, the nearly half-kilogram sweater is made from exactly 89,112 hairs and is decorated with 18 knit roses. The sweater required 15 hairs to spin a knitable strand.

Read more over at Global Times - via Huffington Post

(Photo: Chongqing Economic Times)


Forget Santa! Spain Prefers the Three Kings to Santa Claus

When asked about their favorite Christmas gift giver, most children would choose jolly Saint Nick. But not in Spain:

In a 2015 survey, Spanish children overwhelmingly chose the Three Kings as their favourite gift giver (67 percent) over Santa Claus (27 percent).
In Spain ‘Los Reyes Magos’ - Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar - play a similar role to Santa Claus in many other parts of the world. Spanish children write letters to the Three Kings, or Three Wise Men, who then bring the children gifts the night before, or on the morning of the Epiphany, January 6th.
In some houses children leave their shoes outside the door so that the Three Kings will fill them with gifts, often leaving bigger presents alonsgide.

Read more over at The Local

(Image: Ravenna - Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo - 3 Wise men or 3 Magi/Ruge/Wikipedia)


No Computers in the Classroom? No Problem: Teacher in Ghana Draws Out a Microsoft Word on the Blackboard

Can you teach students how to use a computer without having any computer in the classroom?

Richard Appiah Akoto (aka "Owura Kwadwo Hottish" on Facebook), a teacher in Ghana, didn't let the lack of computers in the classroom stop him from teaching his students.

As old tech is better than no tech, Akoto decided to draw the features of a Microsoft Word window on a blackboard using multi-colored chalk. When Akoto posted photos of this on Facebook, the post went viral.

NPR's Malaka Gharib has the story and interview with Akoto:

Why didn't you just teach them on a computer?
There is no computer and I had no choice but to draw for them.
What else do you teach besides Microsoft Word?
We teach them the basics, like turning on and off the computer, components of the personal computer and creating folders.
And you do that all on the chalkboard!
When your students actually see a real computer are they able to take what you've learned from the chalkboard and apply it to real life?
Yes, but not with ease. They sometimes fumble behind the real computers. [Teaching with a real computer] would be easier for them.

(Image: Richard Appiah Akoto/Facebook)


Could Pets Be a Key to the Obesity Crisis?

More and more people are being classified as obese, now about 1.9 billion around the world. Our pets are also becoming more obese. Much of that is easy to understand, as people often overfeed pets and don't give them enough exercise. But obesity is rising in dogs and cats even when they don't overeat or under-exercise. What's going on? Research on pet obesity is uncovering several potential answers, like genetic links, the quality of our food, and even the use of antibiotics.

The good news is that animals could help us disentangle those environmental factors, too. Factory farm animals are traditionally fattened with antibiotics that transform their gut so they need less food to gain weight. New regulations have pushed antibiotic use in UK food-producing animals to their lowest level since data were first published and the EU has banned antibiotics as growth promoters in feed.

If antibiotics fatten animals, could they be doing the same to humans?

The answer to that question lies in your gut. The microbiome describes the genomes of the vast colonies of micro-organisms – bacteria, fungi, protozoa, viruses, all 100 trillion of them – living in your digestive system. This community influences your weight: germ-free mice that receive gut microbes from an obese (human) twin gain more weight and body fat than mice that receive microbes from the lean twin. An imbalance in the microbiome possibly leads to not only obesity, but irritable bowel syndrome, coeliac disease, and type 2 diabetes.

Read about other research findings on obesity in people and their pets at BBC Future.

(Image credit: Tripp)


An Honest Trailer for Halloween (2018)

Last fall, there was another Halloween sequel. Or was it a remake? It had the same characters, the same name, and virtually the same plot as the 1978 movie, but set 40 years afterward. Halloween is the 11th movie in the series, but it was designed to be the "real" sole sequel to the 1978 original. Confused? You'll be even more confused after watching this Honest Trailer for Halloween from Screen Junkies.


B-Movie Heaven!

One of my favorite websites is, a site dedicated to the discussion and mockery of b-movies. Reviews of these films, complete with clips, stills, sounds, and hilarious commentary are to be found therein, along with a lot of other germane film information. Try it and you'll be hooked even as I was.

Per Wikipedia we find:

A B movie is a low-budget commercial movie. In its original usage, during the Golden Age of Hollywood, the term more precisely identified films intended for distribution as the less-publicized bottom half of a double feature (akin to B-sides for recorded music). Although the U.S. production of movies intended as second features largely ceased by the end of the 1950s, the term B movie continues to be used in its broader sense to this day.

Most B movies represent a particular genre—the Western was a Golden Age B movie staple, while low-budget science-fiction and horror films became more popular in the 1950s. Early B movies were often part of series in which the star repeatedly played the same character. Almost always shorter than the top-billed films they were paired with, many had running times of 70 minutes or less. The term connoted a general perception that B movies were inferior to the more lavishly budgeted headliners.

And so here we are. The owner of the site referenced is a film enthusiast, a very patient man, and possessed of a keen wit. His commentary is priceless, as seen in the following example, this concerning 1957's Attack of the Crab Monsters, a B-movie if ever there was one (and available on YouTube):

I've spent hours looking through this site, just to see what has been said about old films with which I am familiar, and I am impressed. Give it a look to see if your old favorites are covered. Note that it isn't static and entries continue to accrue, supplemented by guest commentaries. There's quite a bit to explore, so get going.


A 4-Year-Old Trapped in a Teenager’s Body

We brought you the story of the Linder family, who is trying to stop a genetic disease from passing to another generation. Patrick Burleigh also suffered from a genetic disease, one which meant he began puberty as a baby, just as his father and grandfather did.

Having a mutant LHCGR gene leads to what doctors now call familial male-limited precocious puberty, an extremely rare disease that affects only men because you have to have testicles, which is why it’s also called testotoxicosis. The condition tricks the testicles into thinking the body is ready to go through puberty — so wham, the floodgates open and the body is saturated with testosterone. The result is premature everything: bone growth, muscle development, body hair, the full menu of dramatic physical changes that accompany puberty. Only instead of being 13, you’re 2.

Testotoxicosis affects fewer than one in a million men, and a leading expert estimates that we may only number in the hundreds. Being an anomaly for having pubes when you’re still breastfeeding isn’t typically something one brags about, which is why, like my forefathers, I spent the majority of my life hiding it, lying about it, repressing it, and avoiding it. This feeling of freakishness, of being strange and different, persisted well into adulthood, such that I refused to talk about it with anyone other than close friends and family.

Unlike his ancestors, Burleigh was studied and treated for the condition starting when he was three years old. Eventually, he married and he and his wife began the process of becoming parents through in-vitro fertilization. That's when Burleigh was confronted with the possibility of testing embryos for the mutant LHCGR gene. Would he want to eliminate any embryos that carried it? Unlike the Linders, his condition isn't fatal. To make the decision, he retraced his life dealing with testotoxicosis, and the lives of his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather (who was the youngest soldier to serve in World War I). That gives us a fascinating story that you can read at The Cut. -via Digg

(Image courtesy of Patrick Burleigh)  


Big Bird Box

Don't look! Don't look! Okay, now look. Nerdist brings us a parody of the Netflix movie Bird Box with the monster revealed! This monster is from Sesame Street, though, so it's not all that terrifying. But it might induce you to ...giggle. Watch it at Nerdist. -via Geeks Are Sexy



The Ohlone: Pre-Internet Advanced Society of Silicon Valley

Though we might be enjoying the fruits of technology and development of new devices and methods, several societies lived just as comfortably as we do now, given their social, cultural, and economic contexts. They had what they need and much more, so we can say that they aren't as undeveloped in relation to their contemporaries.

One such society is the Ohlone peoples which populated the San Francisco Bay Area centuries ago.

Five hundred years ago, this swath of northern California was populated by the Ohlone peoples, about 10,000 of whom lived in the stretch of land that we call the San Francisco Bay Area. So rich in plant and animal life was this region that the Ohlone were able to survive without farming or animal domestication; indeed, western explorers, when they eventually arrived, were amazed at the quantity of wild animal life.

Of course, everything changed once the colonizers, Spanish missionaries, arrived in America and began forcibly trying to convert the people. What followed is a struggle between the Western concept of civilization and the existing system of the peoples they occupied.

(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)


It's Raining Spiders, Hallelujah!

Spiders like to lurk in dark corners and shadowy places but if you're out in the open during broad daylight, surely you're safe from the creepy crawlies. Right?

Wrong, said Mother Nature, who proceeded to rain spiders from the skies:

Summer in south-east Brazil has brought soaring temperatures and some disconcerting eight-legged visitors.
Residents in a rural area of southern Minas Gerais state have reported skies “raining spiders”, a phenomenon which experts say is typical in the region during hot, humid weather.

While the spiders in the sky may seem scary, they are not venomous. Moreover, instead of raining they are clinging on to a giant web that is unnoticeable to the human eye. Find out more over at The Guardian.

Photo: Image capture from footage of Brazil's "spider rain" (TV45000)


Maria Clara Eimmart: The Astronomer-Artist of 17th Century

Before Charles Bittinger, there was Maria Clara Eimmart who had made illustrations of the planets in the solar system as well as other celestial objects.

Born in Germany in an era when no woman could obtain a formal education in science anywhere in the world, Maria Clara Eimmart (May 27, 1676–October 29, 1707) predated Caroline Herschel — the world’s first professional woman astronomer — by a century.
She went on to become an artist, engraver, and astronomer who produced some of the most striking astronomical art since the invention of the telescope, in a time when humanity had no idea that the universe contained galaxies other than our own.
Like Margaret Fuller, Eimmart benefitted from the love and intellectual generosity of a father who equipped her with a rigorous foundation of French, Latin, mathematics, and art.

(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)


Rare Gemstone Found in an Ancient Tooth Leads to Rethinking of the History of Book Production

Historians used to believe that only men wrote manuscripts in the medieval times, but evidence has proved them wrong. Scientists have identified traces of a rare gemstone called lapis lazuli in an ancient female tooth. This is direct evidence that shows that the lady was a paintbrush-licking painter. The ultramarine gemstone was reserved for only the most exceptional of scribes to use.

Who would have thought that medieval women participated in the production of religious manuscripts too?

Because female names are especially scarce among the surviving texts from this period, historians have long assumed that male monks were the primary producers of these intricately illustrated manuscripts.
Only recently has this belief been re-examined. Along with a growing body of research, a new discovery adds even more evidence that female monastics were not only literate, but were also prolific producers and consumers of books during the Middle Ages.
Hidden within the dental plaque of a middle-aged woman buried at an all-female

monastery in Germany sometime around 1000-1200 CE, researchers have now found a clue that speaks volumes: a hint of ultramarine ink.

Read more about how the rare gemstone was found.

(Image: Christina Warinner/Max Planck Institute)


Before There Was Mulder and Scully, There Was....

Although the 1960's saw the advent of many a great television series, the 1970's was just as competitive and one of the best of the TV programs of the 70's was Kolchak: the Night Stalker, which has a cult following even today.

In this TV series, the late and great Darren McGavin portrayed Carl Kolchak, a rumpled, misanthropic reporter who has often been fired due to his abrasive attitude and insubordination. As such, he can't be any too choosy when it comes to assignments, and he thus gets assigned to cover weird events that no one else wants to cover. Strangely enough, these all invariably seemed to be supernatural events.

It all began in 1972 with a TV movie, The Night Stalker, which, as per the IMDb, concerned an abrasive Las Vegas newspaper reporter investigating a series of murders purportedly committed by a vampire. Response was positive enough that a second TV film was made in 1973, The Night Strangler, which concerned Kolchak hunting down a 144-year old alchemist who is killing women for their blood. It too was a tremendous success and so the stage was set for the launch of the TV series Kolchak: The Night Stalker in 1974.

The early episodes were tremendous and often genuinely frightening. One of these is embedded below and is probably the scariest thing I have ever seen on commercial television. The scene where a trembling Kolchak attempts to nullify a zombie, which reanimates during the process, will make you jump out of your seat. At least it did me in 1974.

Although the two TV movies were great successes, and the early TV episodes were excellent, the TV series itself soon flopped due to formulaic repetition and it lasted just the one season for only 20 episodes. I think it was all my fault, since so many TV series that I have liked in the past were doomed to a short life. The second video below contains a fan's comments on what made the show so great. I have to concur.

Darren McGavin went on to other things, among which was his portrayal of the foul-mouthed father (The Old Man Parker) in the 1983 film A Christmas Story. Just as he made the role of The Old Man his own, so did he make the role of Carl Kolchak. A subsequent attempt at rebooting the TV series years later was unsuccessful, mainly because the actor portraying Carl Kolchak was really not up to the task. Ironically, near the end of his career, Darren McGavin appeared on The X-Files in a couple of episodes as Agent Arthur Dales. I have to wonder if Mulder knew who he was dealing with.

Happily, and surprisingly, the two TV films and all 20 TV episodes are available in full-format on YouTube. I can recommend them unreservedly. If you have never seen these, give them a try; they're well worth the watching.

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