Hawaiian sunset: You don't get these kinds of shots from space.
Hawaiian sunset: You don't get these kinds of shots from space.Courtesy Mark Ryan
Today, on their Earth Observatory webpage, NASA has been nice enough to post a couple photographs of the Big Island of Hawaii, one taken from satellite on January 26, 2014 and the other from the International Space Station, snapped by an astronaut. I happen to be on the Big Island right now so I wanted to add a couple ground-level photos I took last evening at sunset. I hope my Minnesota friends don't hate me too much. They've been suffering under a Deep Freeze for the last couple weeks while I've been enjoying Hawaii's unbelievably beautiful weather. Just so they aren't too hateful, I'll mention that it did rain all day yesterday in Kailua-Kona where I'm located on the west side of the island. But just before sunset the clouds broke and produced one of the best sunsets I've seen here. And a rainbow was thrown in to boot. I've endured Minnesota winters for just about every year of my life so I don't feel at all guilty that I'm not enduring the current one. Aloha!

Earth Observatory webpage

Sure you've been cold during these polar vortexes. But what about that tree in your front yard? Thanks to the folks at MinuteEarth, you can learn how it's adapted to be able to survive this harsh weather.

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At the Sheffield site we encountered many different kinds of lithic material that the Oneota used at this site. As we sort through our findings there are multiple different types of lithic material that have been identified. Lithics are stone artifacts and it consists of items such as stone tools or stone flakes. There were fragments of all different colors and luster and density to them. Going through all these different kinds of tools and flakes may lead someone to think: “Where did these rocks come from?”
Prairie Du Chien Chert
Prairie Du Chien ChertCourtesy SMM
Tongue River Silica
Tongue River SilicaCourtesy SMM
Hixton Orthoquartzite
Hixton OrthoquartziteCourtesy SMM

The most common lithic we found at Sheffield was Prairie Du Chien Chert, which makes sense because quarries can be found throughout the southeastern part of Minnesota. Another kind of lithic material we found was Tongue River Silica and this rock can be found on the western side of Minnesota. One stone that was particularly interesting to me though is Hixton Orthoquartzite since it is sparkly. We believed the lithic material made of Hixton came from quarries in west Wisconsin.

These are just three of the many lithic materials we found at Sheffield, these lithic materials are significant because of where they originate from. The Sheffield site is located along the Saint Croix River which acted as a means for transportation. Did the Oneota move from place to place and collected these rocks in their travels?

Lithics are an important part in archaeology and not just because the tools made from them look cool. The material that makes up the stone can have as much information as how the lithic material was made into a stone tool. We are not just looking at rocks, but the more we know about what types of material were being used the more we might know about the people who lived at Sheffield.


Pit Oven
Pit OvenCourtesy www.instructables.com
Hey there! Do you know that food can be cooked in the ground? Well it can! We learned about the process at the Archaeology Festival in Mille-Lacs Kathio State Park. This method of cooking was used by cultures over hundreds of years ago. Here are the steps that are similar to what we learned at Mille-Lacs Kathio State Park:

1.) Dig the hole on flat land and make sure there are no low hanging tree branches. Sandy areas work too. How big the hole will be is determined by size of the fire, and what you are going to cook. The hole should be about 3 feet deep.

2.) Line up the hole with medium or flat rocks on the sides and on the base.

3.) Next, it’s time to build the fire! Collect some dry wood. Put the larger branches on the base which will be the main fuel for the fire, and place smaller ones, like twigs or sticks, on top of it.

4.) When you fire it, let it sit for 2 hours so the stones can get hot and ready for cooking. If you run out of wood, you can use charcoals to keep the fire going.

5.) During those 2 hours, you can go prepare and season the food that you’re going to cook in your pit!

6.) Wrap the food with layers of aluminum foil, enough so that dirt won’t be able to sweep through. You can also use an oven pan or any other pots that are oven safe.

7.) After 2 hours, and the stones are heated up, remove half of the burning coals out of the pit and put them on the side for the next step.

8.) Place your food on top of the coals in the pit and then put coals that you took out around its sides.

9.) After that you cover it with dirt. Make sure to make a mound on the top, so you won’t lose its location.

10.) Depending on what you’re cooking, it’ll take awhile for it to get fully cooked, including vegetables. Depending on the size, it can take up to 12 hours. Look up the time it’ll take for the food to get cooked before doing this!

11.) When it’s time to take the food out, carefully dig the dirt and rocks out and make sure not to hit the food by accident or it’ll probably get ruined! It’s also very hot!

12.) Enjoy your food!

13.) Also remember to clean up the pit the next day by removing any scraps of aluminum foil and fill in the pit back with dirt. It’s very important!

If you plan to do this, stay safe!

If you want to check out on upcoming archaeology events. You can find the calenders on the Minnesota Archaeological Society website: http://mnarchsociety.org/events.html


Bees: Another new virus, similar to HIV, has been identified as being a possible cause to high numbers of honey bee deaths.
Bees: Another new virus, similar to HIV, has been identified as being a possible cause to high numbers of honey bee deaths.Courtesy Bksimonb
There's a new possible factor to the rapid collapse of honey bee population numbers. And tobacco plays a role; but the impacted bees aren't smoking.

New research shows that a rapidly mutating plant virus, called the tobacco ringspot virus (TRSV), may be at play in the high fatality rates in bee population numbers. This new virus behaves very similarly to the HIV virus in that it rapidly mutates to evade the immune systems of the honey bees. Evidence of TRSV has been showing up in many dead honeybees.

It's one new piece of the puzzle researchers trying to solve this mystery now can look at. Other factors that appear to be killing honey bees at high rates are new agricultural pesticides, a specific species of mites, the Israeli paralytic virus (IASV) and the loss of open wilderness.

Last winter, one third of honey bees died, a 42-percent increase over the regular winter death rates of 10-15 percent.

What do you think of this new theory? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment here for other Science Buzz readers.

Chasmosaurus belli: An adult specimen on display at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta.
Chasmosaurus belli: An adult specimen on display at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta.Courtesy Mark Ryan
In 2010, paleontologist Philip Currie came across a very unusual fossil in the barren badlands of Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada: a baby Chasmosaurus belli, a ceratopsian dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous. Only the edge of the frill on back of the skull was visible when Currie first came upon it, but eventually he dug out a nearly complete, articulated specimen. The only bones missing were the dinosaur's front legs.

Currie is professor of Dinosaur Paleobiology at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton, and now, after three long years of lab preparation, he and his staff are proudly showing off their prize dinosaur and getting it ready to put on display at the U of A Museums’ Galleries starting February 6th. "Baby" as the dinosaur is affectionately called, is the most complete baby ceratopsian dinosaur in the world.


Battery almost empty
Battery almost emptyCourtesy By Cyberpower678 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

As we become more and more reliant on portable electronics, we also become more reliant on the batteries powering them and the ability to easily, quickly charge these devices.

Scientists in Korea are working to develop wearable batteries that can be integrated into clothing textiles and will be able to power portable electronics. These textile batteries are made with Nickel-coated polyester yarn. Additionally, their prototype textile battery included flexible and lightweight solar cells on the battery pouch to enable convenient solar-charging capabilities.

To read more about this research visit:

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Candle Flame
Candle FlameCourtesy Arivumathi via Wikimedia Commons

Scientist Wuzong Zhou, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Saint Andrews in Scotland, has found millions of diamond nano-particles in the flickering light of a simple candle.

Professor Zhou was able to extract particles from the center of a flame – and found to his surprise that a candle flame contains all four known forms of carbon, including tiny diamond particles.

Past studies have shown that hydrocarbon molecules are burned at the bottom of the flame and carbon dioxide released at the top, but it was not know that tiny diamond particles were formed in the center of the flame.

The nano particles of diamonds are burned away very quickly and converted to carbon dioxide.
Dr. Zhou believes that his research might leads towards a better understanding of diamonds which could eventually lead to cheaper, cleaner manufacturing of diamonds, especially for industrial uses.

To read more about this research visit:

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When I read that the Smithsonian's dinosaur hall will be shutting down for five years for remodeling, it struck me as taking an awfully long time. Then I read this story and it makes perfect sense. It takes a lot of time to clean dinosaurs.

Cosmic carbon-14 display
Cosmic carbon-14 displayCourtesy Travis S
If you've ever wondered how radiocarbon dating actually works, the science news website, EarthSky.org, provides a nice explanation of the cosmic origin of the carbon-14 isotope, and how scientists use the degradation of that isotope into carbon-12 to determine the age of organic remains. Be sure to check out some of EarthSky's provided links to learn even more.