May 1, 2013

The ruins of Jamestown.     Photo: Robert Sears

Cannibalism at the Jamestown Colony

First physical evidence found

Anthropologists have found the first physical evidence of cannibalism at the Jamestown colony during the bleak winter of 1609-1610.

The proof: The skeleton of a 14-year-old girl found in a cellar full of debris. Her skull, lower jaw, and leg bone bear the marks of an ax or cleaver and a knife. While the cause of her death remains unknown, the closely spaced cuts are evidence that she was dead and not struggling when they were made.

“Historians have to decide whether this type of thing happened,” Douglas Owsley, a physical anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution, told the Washington Post. “I think that it did. We didn’t see anybody eat this flesh, but it’s very strong evidence.”


    Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

China Missing 28,000 Rivers

Result of two-year water census

China recently completed its first National Census of Water and found that 28,000 of the country’s estimated 50,000 rivers have completely disappeared. The loss is equivalent to losing the entire Mississippi River basin.

The Chinese government was quick to fault a disparity in previous census data. “Due to limited technology in the past, the previous figures were estimated using incomplete topographic maps dating back to the 1950s," said Huang He, China's Deputy Director of the Ministry of Water Resources. He also attributed some river loss to climate change.

However, water expert and president of the Pacific Institute Peter Gleick, believes that the disappearances have more to do with China’s own meddling. "As China's population and economy have rapidly grown, the country has experienced serious degradation of its water resources, including massive overuse and contamination," Gleick said. "The 'disappearance' of major rivers and streams is far more likely to be directly connected to uncontrolled and unsustainable extraction of water for industry and agriculture, though climate change may play a greater role in the future."

The census, which was conducted by roughly 800,000 surveyors, took two years to complete. The final estimates place the country’s remaining number of rivers with catchment areas of at least 100 square kilometers at 22,909.

Check out America's own list of the Most Endangered Rivers.


Workers in hazardous material suits walk away from the scene of the bombing on Boylston Street three days after the blast that killed three and injured over 180 people.     Photo: Rebecca Hildreth/Flickr

Boston Was Twitter's Saddest Day

Marathon sparked low point in social media

The Boston Marathon bombings triggered Twitter's saddest day in five years, according to a group of scientists who track emotionally loaded tweets. The team's "hedonometer" scours the microblogging service for words with negative or positive emotional connnotations and uses them to compute a "happiness index" for users as a group.

According to the Washington Times, the team found that words like "explosion" and "kill" dropped the hedonometer down to the notable low, despite the fact that positive words like "love" and "prayers" were trending as well. "If we remove 'prayers', 'love', and 'families' it's not going to change the day's overall deviation from the background because of all the other words," said Chris Danforth, a mathematician from the University of Vermont who co-developed the system.

Other low points on the hedonometer in the past several years include the Newtown shootings in 2012, the Tohoku earthquake in 2011, and Michael Jackson's death in 2009.


Blood Transfusion

Blood Transfusion     Photo: El Alvi/Flickr

Operation Puerto Doc Guilty (UPDATE)

Judge denies anti-doping authorities access to evidence

The doctor at the center of the Operation Puerto drug bust was found guilty Tuesday in a Spanish court of endangering public health, seven years after a raid on his clinic sent shockwaves through cycling.

Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes was given a one-year suspended prison sentence and banned from working as a doctor for four years. Three of his colleagues were acquitted, while Ignacio Labarta, a former trainer of the cycling team Kelme, was handed a four-month sentence, according to CyclingNews.

Judge Julia Patricia Santamaria rejected calls from international sports federations and anti-doping authorities for permission to analyze the 211 blood bags found in the raid, several of which may have been used by the Basque soccer team Real Sociedad, and other soccer and tennis players.

Update: The Spanish Anti-Doping agency intends to appeal the judge's decision to destroy evidence found in the raid. "We know the truth that says that Dr. Fuentes is not a good doctor because he did some practices that are very bad for the health of athletes. But, on the other hand, it is necessary to know the names of the athletes," Ana Muñoz, the director of the agency, told the Associated Press.


    Photo: Twonix Studios via Shutterstock

Mt. Fuji to be World Heritage Site

Expected to be formally listed in June

UNESCO has recommended the iconic Mount Fuji for cultural World Heritage status, a decision that many Japanese citizens have been pushing for more than 20 years. It is expected to be formally recognized in June, when the World Heritage Committee meets in Cambodia. 

The 3,776-meter peak is Japan’s tallest mountain, an active volcano, and home to local shrines, waterfalls, and five major lakes. World Heritage status would mean a boost in tourism and an official commitment to preserving Mt. Fuji and its surrounding sites.

That comes as even better news considering environmental concerns around the already popular tourist spot. Japan’s central government has been nervous that UNESCO would reject Mt. Fuji because it has been so polluted by visitors. Now that it's set to be inducted, Japan can celebrate its 13th registered World Heritage site—and hopefully make plans to keep it clean.