The Mesoamerican attraction to magnetism

first_img Radcliffe fellow heads a team helping preserve the ancient city of Nicomedia in modern-day Turkey New tool aids in sensing magnetic fields Uncovering an ancient world The purpose of Mesoamerican potbelly statues have been the subject of debate among anthropologists for decades: Are they depictions of the ruling elite? A way to honor dead ancestors? Or perhaps portrayals of women giving birth?As the various theories wound their way through academic circles, the surprising discovery four decades ago that many of the statues, found in Guatemala, are magnetized in certain spots added a new dimension to those discussions.And a Harvard study suggests that where those areas show up is no accident.Led by Assistant Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences Roger Fu, a team of researchers has shown that artisans carved the figures so that the magnetic areas fell at the navel or right temple — suggesting not only that Mesoamerican people were familiar with the concept of magnetism but also that they had some way of detecting the magnetized spots. The study is described in an April 12 paper published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.“Our direct observation is that there are magnetic anomalies consistently on certain features of these sculptures,” Fu said. “And the question we asked is whether this is consistent with random chance, or does it require some knowledge or some awareness of where those anomalies are?“There’s some chance it could happen randomly, but as we find more and more sculptures that are aligned like this, the smaller than likelihood is,” he continued. “In this paper, we looked at four, and we found a less than 1 percent chance that this wasn’t intentional.”A close study of the anomalies, Fu said, showed they could only have been caused by one source — lightning.“All rocks contain magnetic minerals,” he said. “If you go outside and pick up any random rock, it is magnetic. It’s just very, very weakly magnetic. These rocks are basalts from the highlands of Guatemala, and they happen to contain quite a bit of magnetite, as well as other magnetic minerals.”Rocks typically become magnetized as they cool, and minerals like magnetite, hematite, and iron sulfides become aligned with Earth’s magnetic field. While that process can create detectable magnetic fields, Fu said they are usually not even strong enough to move a compass needle.The fields found in the statues, however, are far stronger — in some cases nearly four times that of the Earth’s magnetic field.,“What happened here is that these rocks were struck by lightning sometime between when they were formed many thousands of years ago, and when they were carved,” Fu said. “Because lightning is an electric current, it produces very strong magnetic fields, many orders of magnitude stronger than normal … and we believe the ancient Mesoamerican people were able to detect these anomalies.”It’s uncertain exactly how they detected the anomalies, but earlier research had turned up evidence that Mesoamericans may have used lodestones — naturally magnetized rocks — for a variety of purposes.“In one case, in 1975, people discovered a hematite-rich bar,” Fu said. “Its purpose was unknown, and it was broken, but it was clearly very carefully made.“If you were to tie it on a string or float it on a piece of wood, it actually could act as a compass needle,” he added. “If the makers of these sculptures had access to a tool like that, that’s one way they could have detected them.”And though the study suggests that ancient Mesoamerican people had knowledge of magnetism and how to detect it, it leaves unanswered the question of why the figures were carved to highlight their magnetism.“The short answer is we don’t have a good idea for the exact reason they did this,” Fu said. “There are some hypotheses which are quite intriguing … that involve digging into why we think people made these sculptures.“Probably the most successful idea is that they might represent some depiction of the ancestors of the ruling elites,” he continued. “The idea is: If you have some claim to power, sculptures of your ancestors with strong magnetic anomalies could appear very impressive to your subjects. The word people use in the literature is that there’s a performative aspect to these sculptures, so when the sculptures deflected a magnetized stone, it would appear as though there was something alive with it, or some supernatural aspect to it.”Ultimately, Fu said, the study offers key evidence that an understanding of magnetism existed in the Americas far earlier than first believed. It uses NV centers to detect them in various directions Related “In the Old World, there was some documentation of magnetism in the Greek world by the sixth century B.C., and the first usable compass wasn’t until centuries later in China,” he said. “To me, what’s really interesting is this is a completely independent discovery. There’s a perception that the Old World is the advanced world and transferred all this knowledge to the New one, but we are realizing that they knew a lot, and I think this is one more piece of evidence for that.”This research was supported with funding from NASA.last_img read more

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AP2 backs call for Shell to turn back on climate-sceptic lobby group

first_imgSweden’s AP2 has urged Shell to leave several US and European industry groups it argues are obstructing a transition towards a low-carbon economy.In a letter organised by the UK’s ShareAction, the buffer fund and 18 other institutional investors – including the pension funds for the‎ London borough of Enfield and employees of UK union UNISON – said the oil firm’s continued membership in the trade associations was “inconsistent with Shell’s evolving position on climate change”.Catherine Howarth, chief executive of ShareAction, argued that the trade associations were ”known to do companies’ dirty work when it comes to backroom lobbying on climate policy”.The signatories include a dozen institutions that backed a recent shareholder resolution for Shell to disclose how it would transition to a low-carbon economy – a resolution endorsed by the company’s management ahead of last month’s AGM. In the letter, signatories noted comments by Ben van Beurden, Shell’s chief executive, that it might leave the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which they argued had been “strongly obstructive” when it came to climate change policy.ALEC was one of a number of industry groups a recent report by the Policy Studies Institute of the University of Westminster said risked damaging its membership by espousing views contrary to firms’ public pronouncements.At the time, Howarth argued that such “Jekyll and Hyde behaviour” had to stop.The letter also urged Shell to reconsider its membership with European groups including FuelsEurope and BusinessEurope, which it said had put forward views that were “inconsistent” with the company’s recent statements on climate change.“It would appear these trade associations have lobbied to weaken two important pieces of legislation,” the letter continues, citing the European Commission’s 2030 policy on climate change and energy, as well as a revision of the European Union’s Emissions Trading System.‎Leaving the trade associations, which would follow in the footsteps of BP’s departure from ALEC and Unilever’s resignation from BusinessEurope, would “reassure” shareholders Shell’s climate change policy would remain consistent, while also discrediting the associations.‎The company’s departure from industry groups would also provide a “counter-balance to the unhelpful positions these associations have historically taken on climate and energy policies”, the letter concludes.‎The letter comes ahead of December’s UN climate conference in Paris that is expected to see developed and emerging countries agree to a new carbon reduction target.last_img read more

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Lagos Gov’s Cup Tennis: Nigerian Duo in Doubles Q/finals

first_imgSome Nigerian male players have fought their ways into the quarter finals of the doubles event of the first leg (Futures 5) in the ongoing 16th edition of Governor’s Cup Lagos Tennis Championship.Henry Atseye and Enosoregbe Clifford will play against the duo of Tunisian Moez Echargui and Egyptian Karim-Mohamed Maamoun in today’s quarterfinals at the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club, Onikan, while Thomas Otu pairs with Kofi Tsatsu Segbedzie from Ghana and they will slug it out with Spanish Lopez-Perez Enrique and Boy Westerhof of The Netherlands.Meanwhile, the quest of some Nigerian players to make impact in the Singles event, especially the men’s, is getting tougher by the day as some of them who make it to the second round will have to contend with wars on courts if they want to play in the quarter finals. Christopher Anefu will play against tournament number 3 from Egypt, Karim-Mohamed, while Henry Atseye will have his hands full when he face Boy Westerhof, who is number six seed.Clifford Enosoregbe will battle Maciej Smola from Poland, while Sylvester Emmanuel will face number seven seed, Alexis Klegou from Benin Republic.In other second round pairings in the Men’s Singles, number one seed, Spain’s Enrique will play against Duncan Mugabe of Uganda, while number five seed, Mina Gianni from France will face Pavel Mirobyan from Russia.In the women’s singles, top seed Valetini Grammatikopoulou from Greece will play Indian Prarthana Thombare. Number 2 seed, Tadeja Majeric from Slovakia will battle Venugopal Talachar from India.The results of matches of the first round that were concluded yesterday were not favourable to the Nigerians taking part in this year’s Governor’s Cup. Moses Michael failed to live up to expectations as he was humbled by France’s Calvin Hemery in straight set of 6-3,6-2.Moses confessed in the post match interview that the French player was good that him. “I lost to a player who did not allow me to play at all. I tried my best but he played better than me and there was nothing I could do to help the situation,” said Moses.Another French player, Gianni Mina beat Umaru Balami in 6-0,6-0 game. Nonso Madueke lost 3-6,0-6 to Polish Karol Drzewiecki. Albert Bisong Bikom lost 1-6,0-6 to Indian Sasi Kumar Mukund. Nonso Madueke was beaten 3-6,0-6 by Polish Karol Drzewiecki.Share this:FacebookRedditTwitterPrintPinterestEmailWhatsAppSkypeLinkedInTumblrPocketTelegramlast_img read more

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Atletico beat Sevilla to stay in front in Spain

first_img “We are improving little by little,” Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone said. “Possibly, this was one of the best matches we’ve played in a very long time.” Koke opened the scoring with a strike from near the penalty spot in the 35th minute; Gabi added to the lead with a shot that deflected off the back of a defender in the 78th; and Martinez came off the bench to seal the win with a well-placed left-footed shot from the top of the area in the 85th. It was the first Spanish league goal for the Colombian forward, who transferred from FC Porto. “We are thrilled to win in such a difficult environment,” Koke said. “Sevilla is one of our main rivals.” MADRID (AP): Jorge “Koke” Resurrecciun, Gabi Fernandez and substitute forward Jackson Martinez scored a goal each as Atletico Madrid defeated Sevilla 3-0 yesterday to win their second game in a row and keep pace with Barcelona atop the Spanish league. Atletico and Barcelona are among the only four teams to have won both matches to start the season, along with Celta Vigo and surprising Basque club Eibar. Celta and Eibar finished the second round atop the standings with six points and the same goal difference. Each team scored five goals and conceded one. Celta defeated Rayo Vallecano 3-0 on Saturday, while Eibar beat Athletic Bilbao 2-0 in their home opener yesterday. Real Madrid rebounded from a scoreless draw against newly promoted Sporting Gijon with a 5-0 rout of Real Betis in their first match at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday, while Barcelona edged Malaga 1-0 at the Camp Nou yesterday. After struggling in their opener at home, Atletico picked up a convincing win at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium in Sevilla, showing that they have the strength to be considered an early contender for the title. Little improvementlast_img read more

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