The New World’s ‘10,000-year missing link’


The outlines of  Siberia (left) and Alaska (right) — in dashed lines — go head to head. The area in darker green (now submerged by seawater) represents Beringia near the end of the last glacial maximum, when sea levels were low and ice sheets prevented migrants from Siberia from reaching America. | Photo courtesy of Wlliam Manley, Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado.

Did you ever wonder how ancient peoples managed to stay warm in bitterly cold weather like this?

Ice-age mammal bones provided a nice fire, researchers say. But to get the fire started, Siberian migrants who began a trek to America 25,000 years ago needed woody shrubs, which were growing in only one region, according to a study in Science. The findings help explain how the migrants survived for 10,000 years in what was thought to be a land devoid of trees and why no archaeological traces of their settlements have been found. Continue reading


Don’t mess with my parking chair


A local merchant came up with a “joke” chair. Photo courtesy of Commonwealth Press.

It’s a fine winter tradition: When it snows, you shovel the parking space in front of your house and save it with a cheap, plastic chair, or whatever else you have handy.

In Chicago, it’s called dibs. In Boston, its longtime mayor referred to it as “this rummage sale” of space savers. In Philly, “savesies.”

But the time-honored practice is on thin ice in cities from the Midwest to New England. Continue reading


Years before 9/11, FBI had mole close to Bin Laden


daily-news-front-page1993bombingA Los Angeles-based associate of Omar Abdel-Rahman, the so-called Blind Sheikh in prison for the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, was a mole for the FBI, NBC News reports.

And, according to an investigation by the Washington Times, the FBI kept Congress in the dark about the operation, which involved the source meeting with the mastermind of al-Qaida.

“I do not recall the FBI advising us of a direct contact with Osama bin Laden,” former Rep. Lee Hamilton, an Indiana Democrat who served as the vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission,  tells The Times, the first to report on the mole. Continue reading


Great-grandpa takes wrong kindergartner home from school


Parents in a small Connecticut town are up in arms because a school last week let a great-grandfather pick up the wrong 5-year-old and take him home.

Derek Stone’s boy was waiting for the school bus at Sterling Community School when a strange, elderly man put him in his car. The great-grandpa evidently thought Stone’s child was his relative because both kids happened to be wearing yellow hats and blue coats, Stone tells the New York Daily News. Continue reading


The Outernet: Project aims to put world online


Only 60 percent of people on the planet has access to the Internet.

In the most populous country, 1,349,585,838 people and counting have limited access because Chinese censors silence voices critical of the government, filter search results, put up firewalls and even remove innocent-seeming American TV shows from Netflix-like streaming lists.

But that could all change with Outernet, a project started by Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF), a New York-based group that seeds news outlets such as PolicyMic.

The plan is to launch a “constellation” of hundreds of mini satellites that would beam sort of a “modern version of shortwave radio” from space, bringing free Wi-Fi to everybody. Continue reading


His master’s voice: Dogs love it when you’re happy


Researchers at Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary have shown that dogs’ brains light up more when they hear human or canine voices than when they hear other noises.

They were able to check out the canine mind with fMRIs (functional magnetic resonance imaging). When blood flow increases in areas of the brain, it’s a sign of increased activity.
“The very exciting finding is that in both the human brain and the dog brain, these ‘voice areas’ are located in very similar places,” says Attila Andics, a neuroscientist at the university and lead author of the study in Current Biology. “We think this might be able to explain what makes vocal communication between the two species so effortless and successful.”

The coolest part of the study is that when dogs listened to happy sounds (laughter, a dog greeting his master), activity increased in areas of the canine brain consistently. “The more positive the voice, the stronger the response” in the auditory cortex, Andics says.

h/t Smithsonian Magazine