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Veverka's Blog for Heritage Interpreters
June 6th, 2023

Today - CA drought affects dams and reservoirs


Free Climate Interpretation Resource Issues

These are timely past interpretive resourse issues.  If you want a copy (sent as a PFD) just send me an e-mail (

Extreme climate change (projected left - now - right)

Visit my new Climate Crisis/interpretation Resource Center:


6 June 2023 Hi and welcome to my first June 2023 blog. I have a lot going on for 2023- new courses and working on new textbooks. My new book and course: Heritage Economics: A Guide for Interpreters, Planners, Site Managers, and Educators is at the Publishers (MuseumsEtc - London) and shoulld be out in July.  I have a new course on Economics for Heritage Interpreters now too:  More on the new book when it's available.


Dr Zahi Hawass lecture - 26 May 2023 - Detroit update.

This was a great lecture with lots of new pics and videos
of new Egyptian discoveries.
About 2000 attended.
More being offered in different states and cities.


Check out my new MUFON page:
I 'm training to become a formal UFO Investigator
in Michigan.  

Visit the website page for more details.


My 2023 issues of InterpNEWS, are now only available by SUBSCRIPTIONS.
 Don't get scared, subcriptions are only be $20.00 a year.  You can go to the updated InterpNEWS website for details - and to subscribe today if you'd like.


Our May/June Issue - Secrets of the Deep is now available. Our issue interpreting mummies -stories from the afterlife -  is set for July/August 2023.  Subscriptions are only $20.00/Year for all issues.


InterpNEWS – May-June 2023 The Deep Blue Seas now available.

In this issue                  

-10 bizarre deep sea creatures found in 2022 - By Harry Baker    
- In photos: Spooky deep-sea creatures - By Remy Melina        
-Illuminating the facts of deep-sea bioluminescence       
-12 of the weirdest deep-sea creatures that lurk in the oceans' depths -Dr Jon Copley  
-Mysteries of the deep sea: 5 burning questions about Earth's final frontier- Helen Scales  
- Is deep-sea mining a cure for the climate crisis or a curse? by Robin McKie   
-What Organisms Live In The Mariana Trench?       
- In the ocean’s twilight zone, a fish that could feed the world – or destroy it. Helen Scales
-Trash in Marianas Trench: the World’s Deepest Garbage Destination - iBan Plastic Team
- Plastic proliferates at the bottom of world's deepest ocean trench – Sarah Gibbens  
- Life In The Extreme – Hydrothermal Vents        
- Giant Squid – Smithsonian          
-5 Surprising Facts About the Oarfish That Has Been Washing Up on Beaches –
-These women unlocked the mysteries of the deep sea. Nina Strochlic    
-Rolling in the Deep: Climate Change and Deep Sea Ecosystems. Katherine Beem   
-Research: the deep sea is slowly warming. NOAA-led research.     
-Researchers Find Massive Rare Sponge Mounds Hiding in the Deep Sea. NOAA   
-Chambered Nautilus. NOAA  


Coming for my July/August 2023 InterpNEWS Issue.
Mummies - stories from the afterlife.

In this very special issue interpreting mummies:   stories from the afterlife.              

-Mummies in Ancient Egypt and the Process of Mummification – History   
-Mummification: The lost art of embalming the dead - Tom Garlinghouse
-Ötzi the Iceman: The famous frozen mummy - Tom Garlinghouse, Jessica Leggett  
-What Did Tollund Man, Eat Before He Died? N.McGreevy      
-The Ill-fated Elling Woman: An Iron Age Sacrifice to Appease the Gods? Ancient Origins
-The Chilling Mystery Of The Yde Girl, The World’s Most Infamous Bog Mummy
Marco Margaritoff | Edited By Erik Hawkins       
-"Frankenstein" Bog Mummies Discovered in Scotland. Rachel Kaufman    
-Peruvian Mummies           
-1,000-year-old mummy discovered in Peru – The Tribune      
-Mummy of ‘elite Inca man’ who died in Peru 600 years ago is unwrapped by experts.
Charlotte Edwards           
-Hundreds of Ancient Mummies Discovered at Ceremonial Site in Peru. April Holloway  
-Egyptian Mummies: Preserving the Body for the Afterlife. Angel Damian    
-Under wraps: X-rays reveal 1,900-year-old mummy’s secrets.  Andre Salles    
-The Mummified Animals of Ancient Egypt        
-Scientists ‘Digitally Unwrap’ Ancient Egyptian Animal Mummies. Claire Bugos  
-The Modern Mummies of Papua New Guinea. Daniel Stone     
-Mummies and the Usefulness of Death. Mariel Carr       
-Anubis –God of the dead. Evan Meehan        
-Archaeologists in Egypt Unearth 2,500-Year-Old Mummified Crocodiles. Meilan Solly  
-Mummified ‘golden boy’ found covered in 49 precious amulets. Ashley Strickland,   

If you’d like to subscribe to InterpNEWS for 2023 (only $20.00) and receive this new issue you can visit the InterpNEWS website for an overview of past 2022 (free) issues and the issues planned for 2023 and subscribe to InterpNEWS at the bottom of the page.


Updated two climate courses for 2023.  Start a course anytime - complete the course at your own pace with live online support via zoom or skype.

Climate change summer surprises?

1. Interpreting the Climate Crisis - 2023 (Updated course)

2. Interpretive Planning for Programs, Exhibits, Panels and Related Services To Help You to Interpret Climate Change and Global Warming Issues to Your Audiences, Communities and Regions.

13 Units, 4 CEU's $250.00. Our Climate Change special resource issues will be included.
Interpretive Planning for Climate Change (

Visit my new Climate Crisis/interpretation Resource Center:


New June Interpretive Stories to Share

Looking for a good story to interpret? JV working at Al Ula, Saudi Arabia.

James Webb telescope discovers gargantuan geyser on Saturn's moon, blasting water hundreds of miles into space
By Isobel Whitcomb published 13 days ago

The James Webb Space Telescope caught Saturn's icy moon Enceladus spraying a 'huge plume' of watery vapor far into space — and that plume may contain chemical ingredients for life.

An illustration of NASA's Cassini orbiter soaring through a giant vapor jet over the moon Enceladus (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Scientists caught Saturn's icy moon Enceladus spraying a "huge plume" of watery vapor far into space — and that plume likely contains many of the chemical ingredients for life.

Scientists detailed the eruption — glimpsed by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) in November 2022 — at a conference at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore on May 17.

"It's immense," Sara Faggi, a planetary astronomer at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said at the conference, according to According to Faggi, a full research paper on the massive plume is pending.

This isn't the first time scientists have seen Enceladus spout water, but the new telescope's wider perspective and higher sensitivity showed that the jets of vapor shoot much farther into space than previously realized — many times deeper, in fact, than the width of Enceladus itself. (Enceladus has a diameter of about 313 miles, or 504 kilometers.)

Scientists first learned of Enceladus' watery blasts in 2005, when NASA's Cassini spacecraft caught icy particles shooting up through large lunar cracks called "tiger stripes." The blasts are so powerful that their material forms one of Saturn's rings, according to NASA.

Analysis revealed that the jets contained methane, carbon dioxide and ammonia — organic molecules containing chemical building blocks necessary for the development of life. It's even possible that some of these gases were produced by life itself, burping out methane deep beneath the surface of Enceladus, an international team of researchers posited in research published last year in The Planetary Science Journal.

Water is another piece of evidence in the case for possible life on Enceladus. Enceladus is totally encrusted in a thick layer of water ice, but measurements of the moon's rotation suggest that a vast ocean is hidden beneath that frozen crust. Scientists think the spurts of water sensed by JWST and Cassini come from hydrothermal vents in the ocean floor — a hypothesis supported by the presence of silica, a common ingredient in planetary crusts, in the vapor plumes.

NASA scientists are discussing future return missions to seek out signs of life on Enceladus. The proposed Enceladus Orbilander would orbit the moon for about six months, flying through its watery plumes and collecting samples. Then, the spacecraft would convert into a lander, descending on the surface of the icy moon. Orbilander would carry instruments to weigh and analyze molecules, as well as a DNA sequencer and a microscope. Cameras, radio sounders and lasers would remotely scan the moon's surface, The Planetary Society reported.

Another proposed mission involves sending an autonomous "snake robot" into the watery depths below Enceladus' surface. The robot, dubbed the Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor, features cameras and lidar on its head to help it navigate the unknown environment of Enceladus' ocean floor. ED68-A084-4D3B-A790-76DDF0606CC8&utm_source=SmartBrief


2,000-year-old stone receipt discovered in Jerusalem

By Laura Geggel published 13 days ago

An ancient financial transaction from Jerusalem that was "set in stone"
dates to the Early Roman period.

The 3.5-inch-long (9 centimeters) inscribed stone with the financial record.
(Image credit: Eliyahu Yanai/City of David)

These days, most receipts are made of paper, but about 2,000 years ago, an important financial record was recorded on a much heavier material: stone.

Archaeologists found the inscribed proof-of-purchase at the archaeological site of the City of David in Jerusalem. The hand-size rock — the fragmented lid of an ossuary, or burial chest — has seven lines of partially preserved text that mention people's names and sums of money. These letters and numbers are likely the record of financial activity, perhaps of payment for workers or people who owe money, according to a new study published in the journal 'Atiqot.

"At first glance, the list of names and numbers may not seem exciting, but to think that, just like today, receipts were also used in the past for commercial purposes, and that such a receipt has reached us, is a rare and gratifying find that allows a glimpse into everyday life in the holy city of Jerusalem," the study authors, archaeologists Esther Eshel, a professor at Bar-Ilan University, and Nahshon Szanton, an archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority, said in a statement.

The legible parts of the receipt's text include names with numbers written next to them. For instance, one line has Shimon, a popular biblical male name during the early Roman period (37 B.C. to A.D. 70), the researchers said. Following the name is the Hebrew letter mem, an abbreviation of ma'ot — Hebrew for "money."


Why do people like spicy food?

By Donavyn Coffey( lifes-little-mysteries ) published 13 days ago

The chemicals that make food spicy don't target taste receptors,
but rather temperature receptors in the tongue.

Spicy food can be painful. (Image credit: DigiPub via Getty Images)

Not everyone likes it hot. That's because eating spicy food can literally be a painful experience, which raises some questions: What makes certain foods spicy, and why do only some people like them?

Spiciness is related to temperature sensation, which is why it doesn't make the list of classic tastes alongside sour, bitter, sweet, salty and umami. In addition to its taste receptors, the tongue hosts different temperature receptors, some of which are triggered by spicy foods to create a literal burning feeling. So it's not an exaggeration to say that Indian or Thai food packs some "heat."

The "spicy" chemical that ignites your tongue is called capsaicin. It comes from chili peppers, which evolved the chemical as a secondary metabolite to protect them from being eaten by predators, John Hayes, director of the Sensory Evaluation Center at Penn State, told Live Science.

Capsaicin fits into a temperature receptor on the tongue called TRPV1. Normally, TRPV1 is set off by temperatures around 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) and higher. But when we eat something spicy with capsaicin, the molecule binds to the receptors and lowers their activation energy. In other words, capsaicin tricks the receptor into sending burning signals to the brain at just 91 F (33 C), Hayes said. So your mouth feels as if it's burning even though it's at mouth temperature, or roughly 95 F (35 C), he said.

Piperine in black pepper and the low pH of vinegar can also trigger TRPV1's "burning" pathway. While allicin in garlic, wasabi and mustard oil all interact with a separate temperature receptor called TRPA1.

There are several theories as to why humans enjoy spicy foods despite the sometimes-painful experience. The most robust theory is all about risk and reward, Hayes said. A 2016 study in the journal Appetite showed that a person's risk-taking behavior was a good predictor of their spicy food preference. If they liked riding roller coasters or driving fast down a windy road, they tended to like their chicken wings hot. It all comes down to whether you get some kind of reward or rush from the pain or risk, said Alissa Nolden, a food scientist and sensory expert at the University of Massachusetts.

How the risk-reward experience plays out in the brain is still a mystery. One researcher called spicy food's allure "constrained risk" and "benign masochism." But there isn't any neuroimaging or data to confirm the exact mechanisms in the brain for either of these ideas, Hayes said.

Spicy food consumption may also come down to a personality trait that's reinforced in some social groups or cultures. A 2015 study in the journal Food Quality and Preference found that men in Pennsylvania were more susceptible to external or social motivations for spicy food than women. So there may be some link between spicy food liking and perceived masculinity. Some of the first studies on spicy food preference hypothesized that spicy food consumption was related to the idea of machismo. However, they did not find a difference in spicy food preference between men and women in the Mexican sample.

Another theory postulates that spicy food may have offered an evolutionary benefit in hot environments, Nolden said. Some experts have hypothesized that spicy food was valuable in these areas because it caused perspiration and thus had a cooling effect, she said.


Strange star system may hold first evidence of an
ultra-rare 'dark matter star'

By Paul Sutter published 13 days ago

In a distant star system, a sunlike star orbits an invisible object that
may be the first example of a 'boson star' made of dark matter, new research suggests.

An illustration of a supermassive black hole at the center
of a galaxy. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Astronomers long thought that a peculiar star system observed by the European Space Agency's Gaia satellite was a simple case of a star orbiting a black hole. But now, two astronomers are challenging that claim, finding that the evidence suggests something far stranger: possibly, a never-before-seen type of star made of invisible dark matter. Their research, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, was published April 18 on the preprint server arXiv.

The system itself consists of a sunlike star and, well, something else. The star weighs a little less than the sun (0.93 solar mass) and has roughly the same chemical abundance as our star. Its mysterious companion is much more massive — around 11 solar masses. The objects orbit each other at a distance of 1.4 astronomical units, about the distance at which Mars orbits the sun, making a complete orbit every 188 days.

What could that dark companion be? One possibility is that it's a black hole. While that would easily fit the bill in terms of the orbital observations, that hypothesis has challenges. Black holes form from the deaths of very massive stars, and for this situation to arise, a sunlike star would have to form in companionship with one of those monsters. While not outright impossible, that scenario requires an extraordinary amount of fine-tuning to make the match happen and to keep these objects in orbit around each other for millions of years.

So perhaps that dark orbital companion is something much more exotic, as researchers propose in the new study. Maybe, they suggest, it's a clump of dark matter particles.

Dark matter is an invisible form of matter that makes up the vast majority of the mass of every single galaxy. We still do not have a solid understanding of its identity. Most theoretical models assume that dark matter is smoothly distributed in each galaxy, but there are models that allow it to clump up on itself.

One of these models hypothesizes that dark matter is a new kind of boson. Bosons are the particles that carry the forces of nature; for example, a photon is a boson that carries the electromagnetic force. While we know of only a limited set of bosons in the Standard Model of particle physics, there's nothing, in principle, stopping the universe from having many more kinds.

These kinds of bosons wouldn't carry forces, but they would still soak the universe. Most importantly, they would have the ability to form large clumps. Some of these clumps could be the size of entire star systems, but some could be much smaller. The smallest clumps of bosonic dark matter could be as small as stars, and these hypothetical objects get a new name: boson stars. ce=SmartBrief


'Brain-eating' amoebas are a new concern in northern US
states, health officials advise

By Nicoletta Lanese published 13 days ago

Ohio public health officials raise concern about brain-eating
amoeba in northern states.

This "brain-eating" amoeba has started infecting more people in northern U.S. states in recent years, due to climate change. (Image credit: KATERYNA KON/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY)

Deadly "brain-eating" amoeba infections usually strike people in southern U.S. states, but thanks to climate change, the brain-invading organism has expanded its range northward. In light of this trend, the Ohio Public Health Association recently published a case report to raise awareness of the disease among health care providers in the state.

"Increased incidence of N. fowleri [a species of brain-eating amoeba] in northern climates is but one of many ways climate change threatens human health and merits novel education of health care providers," the case report authors wrote in a paper published May 16 in the Ohio Journal of Public Health.

Naegleria fowleri is a single-cell organism that typically lives in soil and warm fresh water, as well as the occasional water tank, heater or pipe, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In rare instances, the amoeba can infiltrate the human brain and spinal cord by first entering a person's nose — but it cannot reach the brain if swallowed in a gulp of water, for instance, and it doesn't spread between people. N. fowleri causes an infection called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), which is nearly always fatal.

PAM is rare — since 1962, about zero to eight cases have been reported nationwide each year, the case report noted. Most of these infections have been linked to swimming in the South, particularly in Florida and Texas, but since 2010, cases have started to occur in more northern states, including the Midwestern states Minnesota, Kansas and Indiana.

"Ohio public health professionals should take note of the incidence of N fowleri infections in northern states including Indiana, Iowa, and Minnesota, as well as common vacation destinations for Ohioans where N fowleri infection has been reported, such as Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida," the new case report noted.

The report describes a case in which a woman in her mid-30s was brought, unconscious, to a hospital in an unspecified Midwestern state after experiencing severe headache, light sensitivity, nausea and confusion. She was initially flagged as having a suspected case of bacterial meningitis, or brain inflammation caused by bacteria.

During an interview with the woman's spouse, however, a public health nurse learned that the patient and her family had gone to a freshwater lake beach four days prior and she'd submerged her head beneath the water. (PAM symptoms typically arise one to 12 days after N. fowleri enters the nose.) 0-76DDF0606CC8&utm_source=SmartBrief


Hundreds of ancient, invisible structures discovered near our galaxy's center
By Brandon Specktor published 3 June 2023

Radio astronomers have discovered hundreds of long, thin structures
emanating from our galaxy's supermassive black hole.

Radio observations of the Milky Way's center, including hundreds of newly discovered filaments (the smaller, yellowish lines and dots). (Image credit: Farhad Yusef-Zadeh/Northwestern University)

Astronomers have discovered hundreds of strange, stringlike structures at the center of our galaxy, possibly tracing the violent path of an ancient black hole eruption.

According to new research published June 2 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, each of these previously unknown "filaments" measures between 5 and 10 light-years in length — thousands of times the distance between the sun and Pluto — but is visible only in radio wavelengths, meaning the structures were likely created by bursts of high-energy particles that are invisible to the naked eye.

When seen together, the hundreds of crackling filaments seem to point directly at our galaxy's central supermassive black hole, suggesting that they may be the unhealed scars of an ancient, high-energy black hole outburst that tore through the surrounding clouds of gas.

"It was a surprise to suddenly find a new population of structures that seem to be pointing in the direction of the black hole," lead study author Farhad Yusef-Zadeh, a professor of physics and astronomy at Northwestern University in Illinois, said in a statement. "I was actually stunned when I saw these … and we found that these filaments are not random but appear to be tied to the outflow of our black hole."

The Milky Way's central supermassive black hole, dubbed Sagittarius A* (or Sgr A*), is a cosmic monster with more mass than 4 million suns. Its intense gravitational pull binds our galaxy together — but its monstrous appetite has also resulted in some severe cases of interstellar indigestion.

Prior radio observations of Sgr A* conducted by Yusef-Zadeh's team turned up enormous bubbles of energy towering 25,000 light-years above each side of the black hole's maw, as well as roughly 1,000 vertical, strand-like radio filaments emanating from Sgr A* like the strings of an immense harp. Both of these mysterious phenomena were likely created by an ancient outburst from our galaxy's black hole, Yusef-Zadeh has suggested. =SmartBrief


150-year-old mystery of strange half-circles from Paleolithic site in
France finally solved
By Tom Metcalfe published 2 June 2023

Hurling spear-thrower projectiles at archery targets revealed that these
loops may have been finger grips.

The latest study proposes that the antler "open rings" were finger loops for wooden spear-throwers, which have since rotted away. Here we see a hand clenching around the end of a wooden spear, with the forefinger in the "open ring" finger loop. (Image credit: Justin Garnett)

Enigmatic, C-shaped antler carvings from France's Stone Age have puzzled scientists for over 150 years, but now a modern experiment investigating these artifacts may have revealed their purpose: They were likely crafted to be Paleolithic finger grips for spear-throwers, a new study finds.

The discovery was made by using similar crescent-shaped devices to throw dart-like projectiles at archery targets. The success of these trials suggests that the objects — made of deer antler and called "open rings" — were once attached to now-rotted-away wooden spear-throwers: weapons also known as atlatls that were used to throw large darts at high speeds, according to the study, published March 22 in the Journal of Paleolithic Archaeology.

Although the discovery hasn't been verified by finding a Paleolithic atlatl with the open rings attached, "we've mostly convinced ourselves," said study co-author Justin Garnett, a doctoral student in archaeology at the University of Kansas who did the research with co-author Frederic Sellet, an archaeologist at the university.

"The rings come from the kinds of sites where gear maintenance would have been performed, and they look like finger loops and work well as finger loops," Garnett told Live Science in an email. "That said, we should always be cautious when assigning functions to prehistoric artifacts — there's always the chance that we may be mistaken."

Finger loops

The first open ring was discovered among Upper Paleolithic artifacts at Le Placard Cave in southwestern France in the 1870s. Since then, 10 more have been found, all in France, as well as one "preform" — an open ring that was in the process of being carved but still attached to the rest of the antler.

Only the preform has been directly dated, showing it was made about 21,000 years ago, by early modern humans of the Magdalenian culture or the Badegoulian culture that preceded it.

Each open ring is an arc a bit more than 1 inch (3 centimeters) high and about 2 inches (5 cm) long; each of the two ends has a horizontal tab, giving it the shape of the Greek letter omega. Some archaeologists suggested that the rings may have been ornaments or fasteners for clothing. m_source=SmartBrief


Stephen Hawking's most famous prediction could mean that everything in the
universe is doomed to evaporate, new study says
By Ben Turner published 3 days ago

A new theory has radically revised Stephen Hawking's 1974 theory of black holes
to predict that all objects with mass may eventually disappear.

An artist's illustration of three black holes merging. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Stephen Hawking's most famous theory about black holes has just been given a sinister update — one that proclaims that everything in the universe is doomed to evaporate.

In 1974, Hawking proposed that black holes eventually evaporate by losing what's now known as Hawking radiation — a gradual draining of energy in the form of light particles that spring up around black holes' immensely powerful gravitational fields. Now, a new update to the theory has suggested that Hawking radiation isn't just created by stealing energy from black holes, but from all objects with enough mass.

If the theory is true, it means that everything in the universe will eventually disappear, its energy slowly bled from it in the form of light.

"That means that objects without an event horizon [the gravitational point of no return beyond which nothing, not even light, can escape a black hole], such as the remnants of dead stars and other large objects in the universe, also have this sort of radiation," lead author Heino Falcke, a professor of astrophysics at Radboud University in the Netherlands, said in a statement. "And, after a very long period, that would lead to everything in the universe eventually evaporating, just like black holes. This changes not only our understanding of Hawking radiation but also our view of the universe and its future."

The researchers published their findings June 2 in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Space-time monsters

According to quantum field theory, there is no such thing as an empty vacuum. Space is instead teeming with tiny vibrations that, if imbued with enough energy, randomly burst into virtual particles, producing very-low-energy packets of light, or photons.

In a landmark paper published in 1974, Hawking famously predicted that the extreme gravitational force felt at the mouths of black holes — their event horizons — would summon photons into existence in this way. Gravity, according to Einstein's theory of general relativity, distorts space-time, so that quantum fields get more warped the closer they get to the immense gravitational tug of a black hole's singularity.

Because of the uncertainty and weirdness of quantum mechanics, Hawking said this warping creates uneven pockets of differently moving time and subsequent spikes of energy across the field. These energy mismatches make photons appear in the contorted space around black holes, siphoning energy from the black hole's field so they can burst into existence. If the particles then escape the black hole, this energy theft led Hawking to conclude that — over a vast timescale much longer than the current age of the universe — black holes would eventually lose all of their energy and disappear completely.

But if a gravitational field is all that's needed to produce quantum fluctuations and photons, what's stopping any object with a space-time warping mass from creating Hawking radiation? Does Hawking radiation need the special condition of a black hole's event horizon, or can it be produced anywhere in space? To probe these questions, the authors of the new study analyzed Hawking radiation through the lens of a long-predicted process called the Schwinger effect, in which matter can theoretically be generated from the powerful distortions caused by an electromagnetic field. 4C0C2D-CC15-49EC-B998-5F9C3CE6412E&utm_source=SmartBrief


Deadly fungal meningitis outbreak linked to cosmetic procedures in Mexico
By Nicoletta Lanese published 3 days ago

An outbreak of dangerous fungal infections has been tied to recent cosmetic procedures at specific clinics in Mexico. Health officials urge anyone who underwent such procedures to seek a medical evaluation right away.

An outbreak of fungal meningitis, likely caused by the fungus pictured here, has been linked to two clinics in Matamoros, Mexico. (Image credit: Rafael Zarate via Getty Images)

The fungus behind an outbreak of dangerous nervous system infections in U.S. residents who underwent cosmetic procedures in Matamoros, Mexico, has been identified.

The culprit is Fusarium solani, a fungal species found in the environment whose genus has been tied to eye infections and fungal meningitis in the past, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Thursday (June 1).

Investigations into the outbreak suggest that many more people may have been exposed to the disease-causing fungus than have been initially identified. The CDC is therefore advising anyone who had a medical or surgical procedure done under epidural anesthesia at the affected clinics — River Side Surgical Center and Clinica K-3 — between Jan. 1 and May 13, 2023 to be tested for possible meningitis at their nearest emergency room.

The outbreak has affected people in multiple U.S. states, three of whom have died — two with probable cases of the disease and one with a confirmed case, the CDC reported. In total, 547 people in the U.S., Mexico and Canada had procedures done this year at the affected clinics in Matamoros and therefore may have been exposed to F. solani, according to the World Health Organization.   

Last month, CDC officials reported that five people in Texas had been hospitalized, and one of whom had died, due to suspected fungal meningitis, in which a fungus triggers inflammation in the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. All of the patients had recently undergone cosmetic procedures under epidural anesthesia in Matamoros, Mexico.

Investigators learned that these patients had been treated at two clinics in Matamoros, called River Side Surgical Center and Clinica K-3. Both clinics were closed on May 13, the CDC website states.

Now, more possible meningitis cases have been flagged and three U.S. labs and the Mexican national laboratory have confirmed that they detected F. solani in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) — fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord — of patients receiving follow-up care in Mexico or the U.S. All the cases have been tied to the two aforementioned clinics.

In 2006, fungi in the genus Fusarium were linked to an outbreak of an eye infection called fungal keratitis that was associated with a type of contact lens solution. More recently, Fusarium caused a health-care-associated outbreak of meningitis in Durango, Mexico, according to the June 1 CDC alert. More than 4 in 10 patients who developed meningitis in that outbreak died. 12E&utm_source=SmartBrief


Elon Musk's Neuralink 'brain chips' cleared for 1st in-human trials

By Sarah Moore published 3 days ago

Brain implants developed by Elon Musk's company Neuralink have been approved for human testing. The safety of the devices previously came under scrutiny following reports of "botched surgeries" in animal test subjects.

Neuralink has been cleared to begin the first in-human trials of its brain implants and the surgical robot used to install them. (Image credit: NurPhoto / Contributor via Getty Images)

Elon Musk's brain-implant company Neuralink has been given clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to carry out its first trials in humans, according to news reports.

Neuralink aims to use its brain-computer interface (BCI) technology to restore movement in people with quadriplegia, meaning complete or partial paralysis of the arms, legs and trunk. Musk has also said that the brain implants could be used to restore sight in blind people.

Neurons, or nerve cells, communicate via electrical signals to coordinate our thoughts, feelings and behavior. Neuralink's implants, which have only been tested in animals, would theoretically work by interpreting these electrical signals and transmitting the decoded information to a computer via Bluetooth. In the case of helping to restore movement, for example, the computer would then analyze the incoming information and respond by sending signals back to the body, stimulating nerves and muscles to control movement.

The implant is inserted into a small hole in the skull created by a surgery-performing robot and the implant's electrodes are then embedded just a few millimeters into the cortex, the brain's outer layer. The procedure can be done in 30 minutes, without general anesthesia, Musk has claimed — although again, this has never been attempted in humans.

Neuralink is not the only company working on BCI technology. For example, in 2022 Synchron implanted its Stentrode system into its first human patient after gaining FDA clearance to begin in-human trials; the device is designed to let people with paralysis operate assistive technologies using only their thoughts. Synchron also aims to restore movement in severely paralyzed people, according to Forbes.

Musk once reportedly approached Synchron's founder about a potential deal. This approach came just months before a federal investigation into Neuralink was launched to look into potential violations of animal welfare and Neuralink staff raised complaints that the company's animal testing was being rushed, leading to unnecessary animal suffering and deaths, Reuters reported.

An animal rights group, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), filed a complaint in February 2022 that accused Neuralink of "botching surgeries." The group claimed that surgeons had used an unapproved glue on two occasions to fill the holes in the monkeys' skulls, which then leaked onto the animals' brains and ultimately killed them. Separately, based on a PCRM tip, the Department of Transportation is investigating whether Neuralink is taking the required precautions when transporting implants that have been removed from monkey brains.


More than half of the world’s largest lakes are drying up
By Nikk Ogasa - MAY 18, 2023

Lake loss is a big problem for people who rely on that water for drinking and irrigation

More than half of the world’s largest lakes shrank over the last three decades, researchers report in the May 19 Science.

That’s a big problem for the people who depend on those lakes for drinking water and irrigation. Drying lakes also threaten the survival of local ecosystems and migrating birds, and can even give rise to insalubrious dust storms (SN: 4/17/23).

“About one-quarter of the Earth’s population lives in these basins with lake water losses,” says surface hydrologist Fangfang Yao of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

Using satellite observations from 1992 to 2020, Yao, then at the University of Colorado Boulder, and colleagues estimated the area and water levels of nearly 2,000 freshwater bodies. That work provided a continuous stream of lake volume measurements. The lakes account for 96 percent of Earth’s total natural lake storage and 83 percent of that in reservoirs. The team also used population data to estimate the number of people living by the drying lakes.

About 53 percent of the world’s lakes have clearly shrunk, the researchers found, while only 22 percent made gains. From these bodies of water, roughly 600 cubic kilometers of water were lost over the 28-year time span. That’s around 17 times the maximum capacity of Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States.

The researchers used hydrologic and climate simulations to tease out the processes influencing the fluctuating water bodies. They found climate change and human consumption were the main causes of the decline in natural lakes, while in reservoirs, sediment buildup was the primary driver of storage loss.

Questions or comments on this article? E-mail us at | Reprints FAQ

F. Yao et al. Satellites reveal widespread decline in global lake water storage. Science. Vol. 380, May 19, 2023, p. 745. doi: 10.1126/science.abo2812.


19th century painters may have primed their canvases with beer-brewing leftovers
By McKenzie Prillaman

Brewer’s yeast proteins turned up in several works by two of Denmark’s
most famous artists

The 1834 painting The 84-Gun Danish Warship "Dronning Marie" in the Sound by Danish artist Cristoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg contains proteins from brewer’s yeast in its base layer.


Beer breweries’ trash may have been Danish painters’ treasure.

The base layer of several paintings created in Denmark in the mid-1800s contains remnants of cereal grains and brewer’s yeast, the latter being a common by-product of the beer brewing process, researchers report May 24 in Science Advances. The finding hints that artists may have used the leftovers to prime their canvases.  

Records suggest that Danish house painters sometimes created glossy, decorative paint by adding beer, says Cecil Krarup Andersen, a conservator at the Royal Danish Academy in Copenhagen. But yeast and cereal grains have never been found in primer.

Andersen had been studying paintings from the Danish Golden Age, an explosion of artistic creativity in the first half of the 19th century, at the National Gallery of Denmark. Understanding these paintings’ chemical compositions is key to preserving them, she says. As part of this work, she and colleagues looked at 10 pieces by Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, considered the father of Danish painting, and his protégé Christen Schiellerup Købke.

Canvas trimmings from an earlier conservation effort allowed for an in-depth analysis that wouldn’t have otherwise been possible, since the process destroys samples. In seven paintings, Saccharomyces cerevisiae proteins turned up, as well as various combinations of wheat, barley, buckwheat and rye proteins. All these proteins are involved in beer fermentation (SN: 9/19/17).

Tests of an experimental primer that the researchers whipped up using residual yeast from modern beer brewing showed that the mixture held together and provided a stable painting surface — a primary purpose of a primer. And this concoction worked much better than one made with beer.

Beer was the most common drink in 1800s Denmark, and it was akin to liquid gold. Water needed to be treated prior to consuming and the brewing process took care of that. As a result, plenty of residual yeast would have been available for artists to purchase, the researchers say.


Spiny mice have armadillo-like armor in their tails

By Jake Buehler

Osteoderms are rare in mammals

This 3-D digital reconstruction of a spiny mouse, based on CT scans, shows bony plates (red rectangles) that line its tail. The plates, called osteoderms, sit in the rodent’s skin, similar to armadillos’ bony armor. E. STANLEY

The spiny mouse is an unassuming rodent, but it’s armed with a very special tail.

CT scans show the tail is sheathed in a secret blanket of bony plates. Before the scans, only one other group of modern mammals was known to wield this kind of armor: armadillos. The discovery, reported May 24 in iScience, may mean that the skin bones are more widespread in mammals than previously thought and could shed light on their evolution.

The rodent’s secret was revealed when evolutionary biologist Edward Stanley of the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville put a museum specimen of a spiny mouse (Acomys spp.) in an X-ray machine as part of a multi-institutional project to develop 3-D digital models of all vertebrate life.

It was a “nondescript looking” mouse with slightly spiky fur, Stanley says. But in the initial X-ray, its tail looked unusual. “It looked kind of dark and weird,” he says.

A more detailed CT scan showed the mouse’s whole tail was covered in overlapping bony plates within the skin, under the surface layers.

To understand how the bony plates develop, Stanley and his colleagues teamed with Malcolm Maden, a developmental biologist at the University of Florida. The team scanned the tails of newborn spiny mice up to those that were 6 weeks old. Bony plates form first near the base of the tail and then as the mouse ages, grow down the tail to its tip. CT scans revealed that three other species in the same subfamily as the spiny mouse also have armor-studded tails.

These bony plates, called osteoderms, may help keep spiny mice and their relatives alive. The rodents’ skin is especially fragile and easily tears off, particularly on the tail. It’s hypothesized that the tearaway skin is a macabre defense, where attacking predators are left with a mouthful or paw full of shed skin. The plates may prevent predators from piercing too deep.


Climate change could trigger gigantic deadly tsunamis from
Antarctica, new study warns

By Ben Turner published 12 days ago

Slippages in sediment beneath the Antarctic seabed could spawn gigantic
tsunamis as oceans warm.

Climate change could unleash gigantic tsunamis in the Southern Ocean by triggering underwater landslides in Antarctica, a new study warns.

By drilling into sediment cores hundreds of feet beneath the seafloor in Antarctica, scientists discovered that during previous periods of global warming — 3 million and 15 million years ago — loose sediment layers formed and slipped to send massive tsunami waves racing to the shores of South America, New Zealand and Southeast Asia.

And as climate change heats the oceans, the researchers think there's a possibility these tsunamis could be unleashed once more. Their findings were published May 18 in the journal Nature Communications.

"Submarine landslides are a major geohazard with the potential to trigger tsunamis that can lead to huge loss of life," Jenny Gales, a lecturer in hydrography and ocean exploration at the University of Plymouth in the U.K., said in a statement. "Our findings highlight how we urgently need to enhance our understanding of how global climate change might influence the stability of these regions and potential for future tsunamis."

Researchers first found evidence of ancient landslides off Antarctica in 2017 in the eastern Ross Sea. Trapped underneath these landslides are layers of weak sediment crammed with fossilized sea creatures known as phytoplankton.

Scientists returned to the area in 2018 and  drilled deep into the seafloor to extract sediment cores — long, thin cylinders of the Earth’s crust that show, layer by layer, the geological history of the region.

By analyzing the sediment cores, the scientists learned that the layers of weak sediment formed during two periods, one around 3 million years ago in the mid-Pliocene warm period, and the other roughly 15 million years ago during the Miocene climate optimum. During these epochs, the waters around Antarctica were 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius) warmer than today, leading to bursts of algal blooms that, after they had died, filled the seafloor below with a rich and slippery sediment — making the region prone to landslides.

"During subsequent cold climates and ice ages these slippery layers were overlain by thick layers of coarse gravel delivered by glaciers and icebergs," Robert McKay, director of the Antarctic Research Centre at Victoria University of Wellington and co-chief scientist of International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 374 — which extracted the sediment cores in 2018 — told Live Science in an email. 78A96&utm_source=SmartBrief


Scientists may be able to put Mars-bound astronauts into 'suspended animation' using sound waves, mouse study suggests

By Ben Turner published 25 May 2023

Firing ultrasound signals into rodent brains puts them in a torpor-like state. Scientists are wondering if it could be used on humans.

Ellen Ripley (played by Sigourney Weaver) places herself into suspended animation in the 1979 movie Alien. (Image credit: AJ Pics/Alamy Stock Photo)

Scientists have blasted the brains of mice and rats with ultrasound to knock them into a hibernation-like state, and the researchers say the technique could one day be used on injured humans in critical care or on astronauts taking long-haul spaceflights.

The first-of-its-kind method — which works by firing ultrasound at a region of the brain responsible for controlling metabolism and body temperature — reduced the rodents' average body temperatures by up to 6.25 degrees Fahrenheit (3.5 degrees Celsius) while also slowing down their heart rates and reducing their oxygen consumption.

The results of the animal study could provide researchers with some clues for how hibernation-like states, or torpor, could be safely and non-invasively induced in humans. The researchers published their findings Thursday (May 25) in the journal Nature Metabolism.

"If successfully demonstrated in humans, this technology holds significant potential for medical applications, particularly in life-threatening conditions such as stroke and heart attacks," lead study author Hong Chen, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, told Live Science. "Inducing a torpor-like state in these patients might extend the treatment window and enhance their chances of survival," she said.  

When food is scarce or the weather too cold, some mammals, birds, insects, amphibians and fish preserve their energy by involuntarily entering a state known as torpor, a mysterious and temporary condition marked by a drastically-reduced metabolism.

While in a torpid state, an animal's body temperature and heart rate drop dramatically and its blood flows slower. During hibernation (a voluntary act prepared for ahead of time) animals string together multiple bouts of torpid states. They slow their heart rates from hundreds of beats per minute to a mere handful; breathe once every ten minutes or more; and dim their brain activity until it is undetectable.

In fact, so few unconscious functions are performed during torpid periods that many hibernating animals have to periodically awaken to catch some proper sleep.

Torpor's profound physiological changes drastically reduce the energy that animals need to survive. It's perhaps not surprising, then, that scientists have long been keen to figure out if these benefits could be conferred to humans in critically-injured states, or to people bound on long and lonely flights to distant planets.

In fact, records of the potential medical usefulness of hypothermia, a normally dangerous drop in body temperature, date as far back as ancient Egypt. It was also observed by Napoleon's chief surgeon Baron de Larrey during the failed French invasion of Russia in 1812. Lerrey packed limbs with ice before amputating them, and noticed that wounded men died quicker by the warmth of the fire than near the cold. In modern times, surgeons use hypothermic states to increase patients' survival rates during heart and brain surgeries. BF21-B816-4C91-858C-FD12E8A0FC96&utm_source=SmartBrief


Massive dino from Brazil ate 'like a pelican,' controversial new study finds. Why is it causing an uproar?

By Harry Baker published 11 days ago

The study reveals new information about the carnivorous dinosaur Irritator challengeri, but the research has been criticized because the fossils may have been illegally removed from Brazil.

An artist's interpretation of Irritator challenegri scooping its extended lower jaw though water. (Image credit: Olof Moleman/Universität Greifswald)

A large predatory dinosaur related to Spinosaurus may have scooped up prey "like a pelican" by extending its lower jaw, European researchers propose in a new study. But the findings have upset some paleontologists who contest that the fossils were illegally taken from Brazil and should be returned to their country of origin.

The dinosaur at the center of the controversy is Irritator challengeri, a member of the family Spinosauridae — a group of bipedal, carnivorous dinosaurs with long, crocodilian-like snouts. The species, which grew to a max length of around 21 feet (6.5 meters), was first described in 1996 from 115 million-year-old fossils uncovered in the Araripe Basin of northeastern Brazil and later shipped to Germany, where they now reside in the Stuttgart Museum of Natural History in the state of Baden-Württemberg.

In the new study, which was published in the journal Palaeontologia Electronica, researchers digitally reconstructed the skull from the I. challengeri specimen housed in Stuttgart and discovered that the species' lower jaw could spread out to the sides, widening the animal's pharynx, the area behind the nose and mouth. This is similar to how a pelican widens its lower beak to scoop up small fish, suggesting that I. challengeri likely fed in the same way, the researchers wrote in a statement.

The new analysis also revealed that, due to its eye placement, I. challengeri would have naturally inclined its snout at a 45-degree angle and been capable of rapid-yet-weak bites. When combined, these features suggest that the snout would have been well suited to quickly scooping prey out of shallow water, the researchers wrote.

Fossil controversy

I. challengeri's journey from Brazil to Germany is a contentious one. The fossils were unearthed by nonscientific commercial diggers and were sold to the Stuttgart Museum before 1990, when Brazil began restricting scientific exports to other countries. As a result, the study's researchers believed that the fossils legally belonged to the Baden-Württemberg state.

However, an older Brazilian law dating to 1942 states that Brazilian fossils are federal property and cannot be sold, meaning that the fossil was technically stolen by the commercial diggers who exported it, Juan Carlos Cisneros, a paleontologist at the Federal University of Piauí in Brazil who was not involved in the new study, told Live Science in an email. "And buying something stolen does not make you its owner," he said.

Cisneros and others believe that this issue is an example of scientific colonialism.

"That dinosaur is Brazilian heritage that was used to advance science in a European country," Cisneros said. "It fits the very definition of colonialism — using valuable resources from other countries to the benefit of a rich country." Publishing studies based on illegally taken fossils helps to validate this colonialism and makes it harder for poorer countries to contribute to science, he added. 8C-FD12E8A0FC96&utm_source=SmartBrief


Hi folks -

Well, that's it for this blog.  Hope you found something of interest. I'll start looking for more unusual stories to provoke you with. Any comments about my blog please feel free to let me know if you like it.

John Veverka -


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