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The ancient Sumerians, builders of the world’s first known civilization, are a mystery to us. Settling in what we would now call southern Iraq from about 5400 BCE on, they produced a written language, a complex system of mythology, impressive architecture, and a lost world that held regional hegemony for thousands of years. We don’t know where their language came from; we don’t even know where their genes came from. We have no idea who their modern descendants would be, and we’ve never been able to test the DNA of Sumerian remains.
We're used to thinking that big ideas are dreamed up on land by philosophers and writers anchored to their desks.
The way in which the Italian city of Venice dealt with the outbreak of the plague in the fourteenth century holds lessons on how to even mitigate the consequences of today's emerging threats, like climate change, terrorism, and highly infectious or drug-resistant diseases. So says Dr. Igor Linkov of the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center, and a visiting professor of the Ca Foscari University in Italy.
The domestication of animals and plants, a prerequisite for the development of agriculture, is one of the most important technological revolutions during human history.
From ultrasonic bat chirps to eerie whale songs, the animal kingdom is a noisy place. While some sounds might have meaning – typically something like “I’m a male, aren’t I great?” – no other creatures have a true language except for us. Or do they?
A dog’s bark may sound like nothing but noise, but it encodes important information. In 2005, scientists showed that people can tell whether a dog is lonely, happy, or aggressive just by listening to his bark. Now, the same group has shown that dogs themselves distinguish between the barks of pooches they’re familiar with and the barks of strangers and respond differently to each.
It's odourless, colourless, tasteless and mostly non-reactive – but it may help you forget. Xenon gas has been shown to erase fearful memories in mice, raising the possibility that it could be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) if the results are replicated in a human trial next year.
To listen to someone carefully, we first stop talking and then stop moving entirely. This strategy helps us hear better because it cuts unwanted sounds generated by our movements.
Diederik Stapel, the infamous "lying Dutchman" who in 2011 admitted to inventing the data in dozens of psychology research papers, unwittingly signalled his deceit through the language he used. As well as inflating the certainty surrounding his results, Stapel included more science-related terms to describe his methods when writing up his fraudulent "findings" than when describing genuine results.
FACEBOOK, email, texting, instant messaging – more of our life than ever is lived through our keyboards. Communicating emotion through type can be hard, though.
Brain-wave sensing machines have been used to ‘telepathically’ control everything from real-life helicopters to characters in a computer game.
It might seem strange to use an ingredient found in cupcakes and cookies as an energy source, but most living cells break down sugar to produce energy. And, interestingly, the energy density of sugar is significantly higher than that of current lithium-ion batteries.
Last year saw the biggest worldwide boom in renewable energy yet. Across the globe, wind turbines and solar panels were rolled out and set up at a more rapid clip than ever before.
Related: A new renewable energy source? Device captures energy from Earth's infrared emissions to outer space
SO MUCH for slowing down as you age. Earth's tectonic plates are moving faster now than at any point in the last 2 billion years, according to the latest study of plate movements. But the result is controversial, since previous work seemed to show the opposite.
Two volcanoes half a world apart are causing havoc today: Several flights have been diverted around an eruption in Papua New Guinea, and authorities in Iceland briefly put aviation on highest alert (again) owing to a temperamental Mount Bardarbunga, which has been rumbling for the past week.
Related: 'Widespread methane leakage' from ocean floor off US coast
Astronomers have shown that dead stars known as white dwarfs can re-ignite and explode as supernovas.
Most scientists can see, hear, smell, touch or even taste their research. But astronomers can only study light — photons traveling billions of light-years across the cosmos before getting scooped up by an array of radio dishes or a single parabolic mirror orbiting the Earth.
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