Benvenuti in queste pagine dedicate a scienza ed arte. Amelia Carolina Sparavigna

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A mound near Jefferson City

"Before the coming of white settlers, the region surrounding Jefferson City was home to an ancient group known as the Mound People. In fact, America's largest prehistoric city was located only 160 miles away at what is now Cahokia, Illinois. Why this civilization disappeared remains a mystery."
Information on the mounds near Jefferson City we can find in the paper
published by The Project Gutenberg EBook of Scientific American Supplement, No. 841,
February 13, 1892, by Various
Logan wrote
"Recently, a party consisting of engineers and employes of the Missouri River Improvement Commission began an exploration of one of the mounds, a work of a prehistoric race, situated on the bluff, which overlooks the Missouri River from an elevation of one hundred and fifty feet, located about six miles below Jefferson City.
This mound is one of about twenty embraced in a circle one quarter of a mile in diameter.
The above party selected the mound in question apparently at haphazard; all the mounds presenting nearly a uniform outline, differing only in size and mostly circular in form, and from twenty to twenty-four feet at the base, rising to a height of eight feet and under. A trench was cut on a level with the natural soil, penetrating the mound about eight feet. A stone wall was encountered which was built very substantially, making access in that direction difficult, in consequence of which the earth was removed from the top for the purpose of entering from that direction. The earth was removed for a depth of four feet, when the top of the wall was exposed. Further excavation brought to light human bones, some of them fairly well preserved, especially the bones of the legs. On the removal of these and a layer of clay, another layer of bones was exposed, but presenting a different appearance than the first, having evidently been burned or charred, a considerable quantity of charcoal being mixed with the bones. In this tier were found portions of several skulls, lying close together, as if they had been interred without regard to order. They were, in all probability, detached from the body when buried....
A few pieces of flint weapons were found in the upper layers, and nothing else of any significance....
At this juncture the diggers abandoned the search, and some days later the writer, desirous of seeing all that was to be seen, resumed the work and removed the earth and remains until the bottom of the vault was reached; several layers being thus removed. All of these had evidently been burned, as charcoal and ashes were mixed with the bones of each succeeding layer. The layers were about an inch in thickness, with from two to four inches of earth between, and small flat stones, about the size of a man's hand, spread on each different layer, as if to mark its division from the next above.
Between the bottom layers, mixed with charcoal, ashes and small portions of burned bones were found what gives value to the search, numbering about fifty tools and a smoking pipe.
The material of the tools is the same as the rock forming the vault, locally known as "cotton rock." I would consider it a species of sandstone.
Overlying the edge of "cotton rock" in the bluff is flint in great quantities, and in every conceivable shape, that these people could have resorted to had they been so disposed, and why they used the softer material I will leave to some archæologist to determine. The tools themselves are made after no pattern, but selected for their cutting qualities, as they all have a more or less keen edge which could be used for cutting purposes, and were no doubt highly prized, as they were found all in a pile in one corner of the vault and on top of which was found a stone pipe. The pipe is made bowl and stem together, and it is curious that people of such crude ideas of tools and weapons should manufacture such a perfect specimen of a pipe. It is composed of a very heavy stone, the nature of which would be difficult to determine, as it is considerably burned.
A description of the vault will be found interesting to many. The wall of the vault rests upon the natural surface of the ground, about three feet high and eight and a half feet square, the inside corners being slightly rounded; it is built in layers about four inches in thickness and varying in length upward to three feet, neither cement nor mortar being used in the joints; the corners formed a sort of recess as they were drawn inward to the top, in which many of the stones were found. The stone for constructing the vault was brought from a distance of about a quarter of a mile, as there is none in sight nearer.
I assume from all these circumstances that these people lived in this neighborhood anterior to the age of flint tools, as the more recent interments indicate that they were then entering upon the flint industry, and it may be that the "cotton rock" had become obsolete.
These people buried their dead on the highest ground, covering and protecting them with these great mounds, when it would seem much easier to bury as at the present day; but instead, they, with great labor, carried the rock from a great distance, and it is reasonable to suppose, also, that the earth was brought from a distance with which they are surrounded, and piled high above, as there is no trace of an immediate or local excavation....
My object is the hope of a more thorough investigation at some future time...."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bicycles - 1897

The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Great Round World and What Is Going On
In It, Vol. 1, No. 19, March 18, 1897, by Various


Some lover of the wheel, who evidently cannot bear to lose the pleasure of wheeling even when the snow lies thick on the ground, has invented a sleigh attachment. This is a runner fastened beneath the driving-wheel of the bicycle. 

What a great thing this will be! Fancy wheeling away over the snow, propelling our wheels as fast as the pedals can make us go. The bicyclists ought to be very happy this year; so many clever brains are working for their comfort and pleasure. All who ride have been troubled at times what to do with the bicycles when they are standing still.

It may be there is damp grass, which would make it impossible to lay the precious wheel down; or there may be a thousand other little inconveniences. Some one has come to the aid of the bicyclist, and invented a bicycle support, which can be secured to the machine, and raised at will, so as not to interfere with the wheel when in motion. It is just the thing all bicyclists have been longing for.

Another busy brain has been at work in anticipation of the summer, and the glorious time in store, riding along the country roads. An umbrella support is the result. It consists of an attachment composed of portions which can be connected or removed at will. What a boon it will be, on a hot summer's day, to have an umbrella comfortably held over one's head, while the hands are free to guide the wheel!

The searchlight - 1897

The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Great Round World and What Is Going On
In It, Vol. 1, No. 15, February 18, 1897, by Various
we find the following news

A New York newspaper has been making some experiments in signalling ships at night, which, if as successful as it is claimed to be, will be of the greatest service to sailors for all time to come.
Ships have a regular way of talking to one another, by means of flags arranged in certain ways...
There has been one difficulty with the flag-signals, and that has been that they were useless at night. When it became too dark for the flags to be seen, sailors had no other means of communication.
The New York paper claims to have overcome this difficulty.
In saying that ships have no means of communicating with each other, it must not be forgotten that they can use lights and send certain messages with them. But the flag system enables them to say exactly what they wish to, while through the lights they can only show where they are, and call for help in case of accident.
The invention of the searchlight set men thinking, and at last the idea struck one man that if the searchlight were turned on the flags, it ought to be perfectly possible to see them in the darkest night.
A few nights ago two tugs went down to Sandy Hook to try if the experiment would work. To their great delight they found it did answer perfectly. The tugs were stationed about a mile and a half apart, and could read with ease the messages waved across the water.
More experiments will be made, and if on further trial the method is found to be practical, a great advance will have been made in navigation...
This invention is in the nature of a powerful foghorn. It is, however, made somewhat like a musical instrument, so that different tones can be produced by it; and the idea is to have these tones arranged into a signalling code, after the fashion of the flag-signals, so that a conversation can be kept up in a similar way to that done with flags. G.H.R."

Edison's searchlight cart, from the Smitsonian: http://americanhistory.si.edu/edison/ed_d21.htm

Of course, the use of the Morse Code is better. But we have to wait till the Aldis Lamp.
According to the Oxford Dictionary: Aldis lamp, a handheld lamp for signalling in Morse code. Origin:
First World War: named after Arthur C. W. Aldis (1878–1953), its British inventor
The Aldis Lamp is a  signal lamp, a visual signaling device for optical communication (typically using Morse code). Modern signal lamps are a focused lamp which can produce a pulse of light.

Moving sand dunes

 In several desert areas, the slow motion of sand dunes can be a challenge for modern human activities and a threat for the survival of ancient places or archaeological sites. However, several methods exist for surveying the dune fields and estimate their migration rate. Among these methods, the use of satellite images, in particular of those freely available on the World Wide Web, is a convenient resource for the planning of future human settlements and activities. More at http://arxiv.org/abs/1112.5572

The barchans move. Note the dunes on the tracks.

Centennial Superconductivity

The Japanese Journal of Applied Physics
Volume 51, Number 1, January 2012
had published the Special Section: Centennial Anniversary of Superconductivity in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of JJAP and the centennial anniversary of superconductivity.

Special Section —Centennial Anniversary of Superconductivity—
Comprehensive Review
Invited Review Papers
Selected Topics in Applied Physics
Rapid Communications
Regular Papers
Semiconductors, dielectrics, and organic materials
Photonics, quantum electronics, optics, and spectroscopy
Spintronics, superconductivity, and strongly correlated materials
Device physics
Nanoscale science and technology
Crystal growth, surfaces, interfaces, thin films, and bulk materials
Plasmas, applied atomic and molecular physics, and applied nuclear physics
Device processing, fabrication and measurement technologies, and instrumentation
Brief Notes

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Higgs boson

"On Tuesday, physicists at the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland, said that data from two independent experiments had helped them narrow the range of what the mass of the Higgs boson could be. Higgs bosons—if they exist—are created in the giant atom-smashing machine, where they almost instantly decay into other particles. Discovery is based on observing the particles into which they decay.
One experiment, known as Atlas, suggested that the hypothesized Higgs is most likely to have a tiny mass, in the range of 116 to 130 gigaelectronvolts, or GeV. The other experiment pegged mass at 115 to 127 GeV. The experiments were carried out at the European particle physics laboratory CERN near Geneva."
Wall Street Journal

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Acoustic freezer

Thermoacoustic engines (sometimes called "TA engines") are thermoacoustic devices which use high-amplitude sound waves to pump heat from one place to another, or conversely use a heat difference to induce high-amplitude sound waves. In general, thermoacoustic engines can be divided into standing wave and travelling wave devices. These two types of thermoacoustics devices can again be divided into two thermodynamic classes, a prime mover (or simply heat engine), and a heat pump. The prime mover creates work using heat, whereas a heat pump creates or moves heat using work. Compared to vapor refrigerators, thermoacoustic refrigerators have no ozone-depleting or toxic coolant and few or no moving parts therefore require no dynamic sealing or lubrication.
More http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermoacoustic_heat_engine

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mollusc shell features in engineering materials

"The mollusc shell is made up of only one mineral: calcium carbonate, yet the combination of that plus other enzymes and proteins gives it remarkable properties in terms of strength, while remaining incredibly light. Prof Mark Rodger, project leader and director of Warwick University’s Centre for Scientific Computing, told The Engineer: ‘The whole point of this project is to try to understand what happens when you make hybrid materials that are partly organic and partly inorganic.’"

Read more: Mollusc shell features could be replicated in synthetic fabrics | News | The Engineer

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hic sunt Garamantes

"Satellites and aerial photographs have revealed evidence of over a hundred fortified farms, villages, and towns - many with castle-like structures - in the southwestern deserts of Libya. These structures date back to between 1 and 500 C.E., meaning they predate the rise of Islam. ...
Archaeologists from the University of Leicester have used all this aerial data to identify as much as they can about the so-called Garamantes people, who are otherwise known purely through Greek and Roman sources. They've already discovered "the mud brick remains of the castle-like complexes, with walls still standing up to four metres high, along with traces of dwellings, cairn cemeteries, associated field systems, wells and sophisticated irrigation systems." "

Friday, December 2, 2011

Raphael's portrait of Leonardo

Published as An image processing of a Raphael's portrait of Leonardo, by Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, Dipartimento di Fisica, Politecnico di Torino, http://arxiv.org/abs/1111.6030
Abstract: In one of his paintings, the School of Athens, Raphael is depicting Leonardo da Vinci as the philosopher Plato. Some image processing tools can help us in comparing this portrait with two Leonardo’s portraits, considered as self-portraits.

The "Scuola di Atene" is one of the most famous paintings by Raphael, the Italian Renaissance artist. Painted between 1510 and 1511, this fresco decorates the wall of one of the rooms, the "Stanza della Segnatura", in the Apostolic Palaces of Vatican. The great Greek philosophers are represented inside a classic architecture. At the central position of this masterpiece, we see two philosophers, Plato on the left and Aristotle, his student, on the right. Plato is shown as a wise-looking man (see Fig.1). It is believed that Raphael based the Plato's face on the features of Leonardo da Vinci [1]. The two artists probably had established a direct interaction when Raphael spent a period of his life in Florence, perhaps from about 1504 to 1508 [2-4]. Leonardo da Vinci returned to Florence from 1500 to 1506: therefore, if the image of Plato is a portrait of Leonardo, this means that Raphael depicted him when Leonardo was 52 or 54 year old.  

Fig.1 Raphael’s Plato (image source: http://www.aiwaz.net/)
To see a slide-show of Raphael's masterpieces, visit please https://www.artsy.net/artist/raphael

There is a portrait in red chalk, dated approximately 1510 and held at the Biblioteca Reale of Turin, which is widely accepted as a self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci. It is thought that Leonardo drew this self-portrait at the age of 58 or 60 (see Fig.2). Ref.5 tells that this well-known drawing is not universally accepted as a self-portrait, because the depicted face appears to be quite old, suggesting that Leonardo represented his father or grandfather. Another possibility is that Leonardo altered himself, in order that Raphael might use it for his Plato. However, Plato does not look so old in the painting by Raphael.

Fig.2 Leonardo’s portrait in red chalk (dated approx. 1510) held at the Biblioteca Reale of Turin.

In any case, let us try to find some matching points between the portraits, that of the man in red chalk (Fig.2) - let us call it from now on the self-portrait in red chalk – and the image of Plato (Fig.1) that Raphael had depicted in his fresco. To match the two faces, the image processing is fundamental: in particular, we will use another Leonardo's portrait merged with the self-portrait in red chalk. This portrait is a drawing of the Codex on the Flight of Birds, which Leonardo had partially hidden by his writing, as shown in Fig3, left panel. According to Carlo Pedretti, an Italian historian expert on the life and works of Leonardo, this is a self-portrait [6,7] made when the artist was young. The codex dated approximately 1505, but the portrait is older for sure: Leonardo recycled the paper for the composition of the Codex.
To use this portrait it is necessary to remove the written text. Carlo Pedretti was the first to suggest a “restoration” of this drawing, of course not of the real page of the Codex, but made on a photographic plate. It was only two years ago, in 2009, that Piero Angela, an Italian scientific journalist, presented the digital restoration of the portrait [8,9], that is, the restoration of the corresponding digital image. In 2009, I have proposed a simple approach that uses an iterative procedure based on thresholding and interpolation with nearest neighbouring pixels [10,11]. Recently, I proposed a further processing with a wavelet-filtering program, Iris [12-14]: the result is shown in Fig.3, right panel. According to Pedretti, this is the young Leonardo da Vinci self-portrait.
Fig.3. A page of the Codex on the Flight of Birds contains a Leonardo’s portrait. Using a digital restoration that removes the writing, the portrait appears.

For any comparison with the Raphael’s portrait, we have to complete this image, since the artist abandoned it unfinished. We use another processing tool, the GIMP [15], for this purpose. Using GIMP, we can add this drawing of the young man to the self-portrait in red chalk of the old man. The result is given in Fig.4: besides showing that the two faces have the same relative distances of eyes, nose and mouth, this portrait makes the old Leonardo look younger.

Fig.4 Using GIMP [15] we can add the portrait of the young man (Fig.3, right) to the self-portrait in red chalk (Fig.2) of the old man.

Fig.5 On the right, the Raphael painting and on the left, the result of a merging of two Leonardo’s drawings

In Figure 5 we have the two images, the Raphael painting on the right and the result of merging the two Leonardo’s drawings on the left, shown side by side. Let me remark that we are looking at two images obtained from originals created by two artists who used different techniques and a different rendering of the head position. Moreover, there is another fact, which is in my opinion quite important, that the two portraits are showing a distinct side of the face. And we know very well that the two sides are not equal and that the existing small differences create the "good" and "bad" side of our faces [16].
Let us remember that for all the living creatures, the bilateral symmetry [17] of the body is an approximate symmetry: the two halves, left and right, of the body and then of the face, are not perfectly symmetrical. The symmetry of human faces is a subject of several studies. Some researchers are supporting the idea that more symmetry means more beauty and freedom from diseases [18-20]. On the other hand, a face, which is too symmetric, gives the impression of being unnatural [21].

Fig.6. Let us consider two canvasses, having on them a self-portrait and a portrait respectively, with the head depicted in the same position. The side of the face is different. When an artist is depicting a self-portrait, he is looking at the face in a mirror. Assuming the position of the head as above, the self-portrait is showing the left side of the face. In the case that it is another artist depicting the portrait, he is looking at the face directly, and then the side depicted is the right one.

The fact that the two sides are different is quite relevant if we are comparing a self-portrait with a portrait, because we must be sure to compare the same side of the face. For the explanation, let me use Fig.6. Let us consider two canvasses, having on them a self-portrait and a portrait, with the head depicted in the same position, the two paintings are showing a different side of the face. When the artist is depicting a self-portrait, he is looking at the face in a mirror. When it is another artist depicting the portrait, he is looking at the face directly. For this reason, if the face on the canvas has the same position, the depicted sides turn out to be different. Therefore, if the left image of Fig.5 is a self-portrait and the right image is a portrait, it is necessary to reflect one of then, to point out that we are seeing different sides.
I decided to change the Raphael’s image, with a reflection and a small rotation using GIMP. Moreover, I converted the colours in grey tones, to avoid the vision of different hues. Fig.7 gives the result. Is the figure showing the same person? I guess that there is this possibility, but further studies are necessary. Let me then avoid a direct answer and just write some conclusions.

Fig.7 Is this the same person?

Using the image processing we had compared portraits having quite different origins. This is telling that several processing tools, some of them freely available, can help in the study of history and arts. For what concerns the specific case, it seems from Fig.7, that the structure of the two faces, in particular of nose and cheekbones, is quite similar. We can also see that one of the eyes is a little bit larger in both images. According on the previous discussion on portrait and self-portrait (Fig.6), I tend to consider the Raphael’s Plato based on a direct interaction between Raphael and Leonardo, when Raphael was in Florence, and then on a previous portrait or drawing that Raphael made of Leonardo.

1. Raffaello Sanzio, presentato da M.G. Ciardi Dupré, Milano, Fratelli Fabbri Editore, 1963.
2. Cecil Gould,  The Sixteenth Century Italian Schools, National Gallery Catalogues, London 1975.
5. Cultural depictions of Leonardo da Vinci,
6.. E. Crispino, C. Pedretti, C. Frost, Leonardo: Art and Science,  Giunti, 2001. 
7. C. Pedretti, A Chronology of Leonardo Da Vinci's Architectural Studies after 1500, E. Droz, Geneva, 1962.
8. ANSA.it - News in English - Leonardo self- portrait 'discovered', 2009 and also BBC NEWS  Europe - 'Early Leonardo portrait' found, 2009.
10. Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, 2009, The Digital Restoration of Da Vinci's Sketches, http://arxiv.org/abs/0903.1448
11. Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, 2009, Digital Restoration of Ancient Papyri, http://arxiv.org/abs/0903.5045
12. Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, 2011, A self-portrait of young Leonardo, http://arxiv.org/abs/1111.4654
13. Iris © 1999-2010, Christian Buil, http://www.astrosurf.com/buil/us/iris/iris.htm
14. Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, 2009,  Enhancing the Google imagery using a wavelet filter, http://arxiv.org/abs/1009.1590
15. GIMP © 2001-2011, http://www.gimp.org/
16. I have read on the Glamour Magazine about a simple  experiment by P. Gugliemetti, Do You Have A Good Side And Bad Side Of Your Face?, 11-13-2008. The author writes "At a party over the summer, I mentioned to someone how I have a good side and bad side, and she thought I was just being dramatic. So I had her take a photo of each side and we showed the shots to random people in the room, asking them to vote on which side was my prettier one. Every single person voted right! Then we tried this on other people, lining them up one-by-one against a white wall, shooting their sides, and having people vote. Only a couple had equally attractive sides."
17. Bilateral symmetry of a body means that there exists a plane which is dividing the body into two mirror image halves. An operation of reflection shows that the two halves coincide.
18. G. Rhodes and L.A. Zebrowitz, Facial Attractiveness - Evolutionary, Cognitive, and Social Perspectives. Ablex. ISBN 1567506364, 2002
19. R.J. Edler,  Journal of Orthodontics Vol.28(2), pag.159, 2001
20. K. Grammer and R. Thornhill, Journal of Comparative Psychology, Vol. 108, pag.233, 1994.
21. R. Kowner, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, Vol.22, pag.662, 1996.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A young Leonardo

A young Leonardo da Vinci - A superposition of images.
See how I processed them at
and also

Friday, November 18, 2011

Turning darkness into light

"Quantum mechanics tells us that the vacuum is not empty but is filled with virtual particles that pop into and out of existence. Normally these particles are hidden from our view, but now a team of physicists has used the electrical equivalent of an ultrafast mirror to convert virtual photons into real electromagnetic radiation. Known as the dynamical Casimir effect, it was first predicted more than 40 years ago. The static Casimir effect ... 1948, involves two perfectly reflecting parallel mirrors that, when placed in a vacuum, will be attracted to one another. This attractive force is caused by the radiation pressure exerted by virtual photons outside the mirrors and the fact that this pressure exceeds the pressure between the mirrors because of the limited number of modes of electromagnetic vibration that are permitted within this gap. In other words, the force results from a mismatch of electromagnetic modes in space. The dynamical effect was proposed by Gerald Moore in 1970 and is caused by a mismatch of modes in time. The phase of an electromagnetic wave goes to zero at the surface of a mirror, if that mirror is a perfect electrical conductor. When the mirror is moved slowly through a vacuum, this zero point can move with the mirror. However, if the mirror is moved at a significant fraction of the speed of light, then the electromagnetic field does not have time to adjust but instead becomes excited and as a result generates real photons. Put another way, the mirror prises virtual photons (always produced in pairs) apart so that instead of rapidly annihilating, the particles are free to remain as real photons."

How to turn darkness into light - physicsworld.com

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Earth's close encounter of asteroids

"After yet another narrow encounter with an asteroid the size of an airship earlier this week, do we need to pay more attention to technology that could protect our planet and its inhabitants from these turbo-charged cosmic fireworks?"
Should Earth's close encounter trigger asteroid avoidance research? | Opinion | The Engineer

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Leonardo, Genio e Mito

Alla Venaria Reale (Torino) si apre la mostra su Leonardo da Vinci. Il titolo è "Leonardo, il Genio, il Mito".
In esposizione vi è l'autoritratto della Biblioteca Reale e il Codice del Volo.
In una pagina del codice, sotto la scrittora di Leonardo, vi è un ritratto, forse un suo autoritratto da giovane.
Vedi http://staff.polito.it/amelia.sparavigna/da-vinci-portrait.html

Image processing della pagina del codice, A.C. Sparavigna

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bee rescue

Stingless bee rescue,   by Wendy Pyper
"Of the 1600 species of wild bees native to Australia, about 14 species are stingless. As stingless bees are harmless to humans, they have become an increasingly attractive addition to the suburban backyard or verandah.
Most stingless bee keepers are not after honey. Rather, they enjoy the sense of conserving a native species whose original habitat is being increasingly cleared and developed. In return, the bees pollinate crops, garden flowers and bushland during their search for nectar and pollen."

Stingless bees

Ci sono api e api...

¿Un Futuro Sin Abejas?

s"Misteriosamente, las abejas mueren o se extravían y no pueden volver a su reducto, por lo que sus poblaciones se diezman inexplicablemente. Si ellas desaparecieran, alimentar a los 7 mil millones de habitantes de la Tierra, será muy difícil."
Especial Abejas: ¿Un Futuro Sin Abejas?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Giant Waterworld Around Naked Eye Star

Giant Waterworld Confirmed Around Naked Eye Star - Technology Review
"55 Cancri A is a Sun-like star some 40 light years away. It has an apparent magnitude of about 6 and so is visible to the naked eye in the constellation of Cancer.
This star is unusual in that it is just one of a handful that are known to have at least 5 planets. The innermost of these planets--55 Cancri e--was discovered in 2004 and has since had plenty of attention from astronomers. Various groups have observed the the changes in radial velocity that it causes its parent star. This tells them about that it orbits its star every 18 hours and that its mass is about 8 times Earth's or about half Neptune's."
"The innermost planet around 55 Cancri A is almost certainly an exotic waterworld with a radius about twice Earth's, say astronomers"

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mela, Pomponius

"Pomponius Mela, who wrote around AD 43, was the earliest Roman geographer. He was born in Tingentera (Algeciras) and died c 45 CE. His short work (De situ orbis libri III.) occupies less than one hundred pages of ordinary print. It is laconic in style and deficient in method, but of pure Latinity, and occasionally relieved by pleasing word-pictures. Excepting the geographical parts of Pliny's Historia naturalis (where Mela is cited as an important authority) the De situ orbis is the only formal treatise on the subject in Classical Latin."
Munich Digitization Center

Digitised works/ Author: Mela, Pomponius


Thursday, October 13, 2011


"Sed praeter physicos Homerumque qui universum orbem mari circumfusum esse dixerunt, Cornelius Nepos ut recentior, auctoritate sic certior; testem autem rei Quintum Metellum Celerem adicit, eumque ita rettulisse commemorat: cum Galliae pro consule praeesset, Indos quosdam a rege Botorum dono sibi datos; unde in eas terras devenissent requirendo cognosse, vi tempestatium ex Indicis aequoribus abreptos, emensosque quae intererant, tandem in Germaniae litora exisse. Restat ergo pelagus, sed reliqua lateris eiusdem adsiduo gelu durantur et ideo deserta sunt."Pomponius Mela
De chorographia, Liber III

"Mais à l'autorité des anciens philosophes et d'Homère, qui ont prétendu que la terre était de tous côtés environnée par la mer, on peut ajouter celle de Cornélius Nepos, qui, étant plus moderne, est par conséquent plus sûr. Or, cet auteur rapporte, à l'appui de cette opinion , le témoignage de Q. Metellus Celer, auquel il fait dire qu'étant proconsul dans la Gaule, le roi des Botos lui fit présent de quelques Indiens , et que, s'étant informé d'où ils étaient venus, il apprit que, les tempêtes les ayant emportés loin de la mer des Indes, ils avaient été jetés, après un long trajet, sur les rivages de la Germanie. Le reste de la côte asiatique est donc baigné au nord par une mer sans bornes; mais cette partie est couverte de glaces éternelles, et par conséquent déserte."
Louis Baudet translation

To the ancient philosophers and Homer, who claimed that the land was surrounded on all sides by the sea, we may add Cornelius Nepos, who, being more modern, is therefore more reliable. However, this author reports in supporting this fact, the witness of Q. Metellus Celer: when he was proconsul in Gaul, the king of Botos  made ​​him a present of a few Indians, and that, being informed of where they came from, he learned that the storms have swept away them of the Indian Ocean. They were thrown, after a long journey, on the shores of Germania. The rest of the northern Asian shores are surrounded by the sea, but this part is covered with eternal ice, and therefore deserted.

King Arthur's round table

According to Telegraph, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/8724183/King-Arthurs-round-table-may-have-been-found-by-archaeologists-in-Scotland.html, 26 Aug 2011, King Arthur's round table may have been found by archaeologists in Scotland. In fact, the archaeologists  have found a "circular feature" beneath the historic King's Knot in Stirling. The King's Knot is a geometrical earthwork in the gardens below Stirling Castle. The design of the Knot that we see today dates from the 1620s, but its central mound could  be much older. It seems that some writers going back more than six centuries have linked the landmark to  King Arthur. Archaeologists from Glasgow University, working with the local Archaeological Society, found that the round feature on the site pre-dates the visible earthworks.

For a discussion on the King's Knot
see please "The orientation of the King's Knot of Stirling Castel" at

How to measure the stair angle

According to the site of Duradek http://duradekmidatlantic.com/durarailchecklisthelp.html you can
use a protractor (available at most hardware stores) to determine this angle. 

Lay a straightedge across a minimum of 3 stair nosings. Put your universal protractor on the straightedge and measure the angle. Note that the more stair nosings you have under the straightedge, the more accurate the angle will be. In the case that the run of stairs is very long, measure the stair angle at 2 or 3 places along the run to check that the angle remains constant along the full run.
I am proposing that Kha the architect at Deir El-Medina, Egypt, supervisor of the projects of three kings of the 18th Dynasty used his protractor to check the inclination of stairs for instance. You can see it at the Egyptian Museum of Torino. Read more at http://stretchingtheboundaries.blogspot.com/2011/08/khas-protractor.html

A modern universal protractor for building is that shown in the following figure.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


Kha, the architect
Museo Egizio, Torino 

Back to Kha's protractor

In the post "Kha's protractor", I have discussed an object found in the tomb of  an ancient egyptian architect, Kha.  It can be used to measure angles.Plums, levels, protractors , compasses and so on are instruments for surveying. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surveying and the table http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Table_of_Surveying,_Cyclopaedia,_Volume_2.jpg
In this table there is the image of a compass rose. We can start from it and go back to the Kha's rose.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Romans in America?

From the paper "History Mystery: Ancients in America", by Stephen Wagner, About.com Guide"Many of us learned that rhyme, part of a longer history poem, when being taught in school that Christopher Columbus discovered America. Although nothing can be taken away from Columbus' daring voyage, he certainly was not the first to arrive on the shores of the Americas. For one thing, there were already people here - many Native American nations inhabited what later became known as North and South America and even the Caribbean islands where Columbus landed. Columbus probably wasn't even the first "white man" to make it here. It's fairly well documented that Icelander Leif Ericsson successfully sailed to North America in the year 1000 - almost 500 years prior to Columbus's voyage.
In fact, there's a growing amount of evidence suggesting that a lot of the familiar history of human exploration and "discovery" by our ancestors as we were taught it may be quite wrong. There is hard evidence of ancient civilizations making their mark in places where, according to traditionally accepted history, they just shouldn't be. Here's an overview of some of the most remarkable and fascinating cases."
read more
At http://paranormal.about.com/od/ancientanomalies/a/History-Mystery-Ancients-In-America.htm

Friday, September 30, 2011

Fairy chimneys in Peru

Fairy chimneys in Peru , Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, Dipartimento di Fisica, Politecnico di Torino, Torino, Italy

The erosion of water and wind on the rocks is able to create beautiful landscapes. Some places are well-known and have been declared natural heritage sites by UNESCO; some others are in desert and hostile regions, hard to visit. In most cases, just the local population knows these landscapes. In this post we will see that the simple action of some users of World Wide Web services, such as the Google Maps, in uploading their pictures, allows the discovery, study and perhaps future preservation of some of them. We will see in particular the case of some fairy chimneys in Peru, in the district of Pampachiri, Apurímac.
Before talking about this Peruvian landscape, let us discuss briefly the nature of these rocky structures, tall and thin cusps of rock protruding from the land. They are named in several manners [1]. These pinnacles are considered as "tent rocks", "fairy chimneys" or simply "earth pyramids", according to their shapes. Another name is “hoodoo": at first sight, this name seems to be derived from "hood" because of the structure looking like a sort of "dwarf hat", but probably its etymology is different [2]. Hoodoo is the common term used to describe the rock chimneys found in the western United States and Canada.
The fairy chimneys consist of a relatively soft rock. Some of them have on the top a harder stone, less easy to erode: the result is a geological structure resembling that of a chimney. These structures typically arise within sedimentary rocks or volcanic formations. The height of these chimneys can be of tenths of meters. Their shapes are affected by the existence of different and alternate layers of materials having different strength. In some regions, there are the freezing of water and the gravity that are creating these structures. The process is known as "frost wedging". The water, that percolates in the cracks of rocks, freezes and then expands, acting as a wedge and breaking the rocks apart [1,3]. This is the same action chiseling the landscape of Dolomites, the mountain range located in northeastern Italy [4]. During the night, when the temperature goes below the freezing point, the water into the fractures of rock turns into ice. The corresponding expansion of volume increases the distance between the sides of fractures. During the day, the sun warms the rocks and water melts. So separated from the bulk, some parts of the rock fall for gravity. In the case that the fairy chimneys are made by tuff rocks from volcanic eruptions, the erosion is due to wind and rain. In Italy, there are several areas with gullies (calanchi) and pinnacles, chiseled by water and wind. Well-known are the Calanchi di Volterra in Tuscany, but several others interesting places are in Abruzzo [5].
Among the best-known landscapes having fairy chimneys, there is that of Cappadocia, Turkey [6]. Besides the importance of this geophysical area, the region is quite interesting because Cappadocians carved their homes into the soft rock (see Fig.1). During the medieval era, this area becomes a refuge for Byzantine Christians. The people established monastic settlements and churches inside the pinnacles. According to [6], the Göreme Open-Air Museum in Cappadocia has the best-preserved collection of chapels and houses, most dating about the 11th Century [7]. The life in Cappadocia was even more complex, because, due to the persecution, the local Christians often had to hide themselves. It seems that, alarmed by the hoof beats [6], they could abandon the caves in the pinnacles to find a refuge in the underground. Beneath the ground of Cappadocia, archaeologists found a network of subterranean villages, the largest discovered is almost 10 levels deep, with narrow passages among them [6-9].

Fig.1. Fairy chimneys in Cappadocia (picture by Zeynel Cebeci, of a site at Ürgüp - Nevşehir, Turkey).

Not only Cappadocia has some houses inside the natural chimneys. We can find them also in Peru, near Pampachiri and San Pedro de Larcay. This is a region having several interesting places for geophysical and archaeological researches. In fact, there is the archaeological site of Wallpa Wiri, having structures of Incas age [10,11]. Moreover, this region possesses a large structured system of carved stones, used as landmarks for agricultural purposes, system created in the Late Horizon period of Peruvian prehistory [11]. Analyzing this landscape within its agricultural and social context [11], the researcher provided evidence of water distribution and management of the irrigation cycles by the Incas; that is, there was an administration and management of the local agricultural processes by the central government. A survey of the region with Google Maps reveals the presence, at south-west of San Pedro, coordinates -14.178624,-73.592713, of several "qochas", ponds with a diameters of about 100 meters (see Fig.2).

Fig.2. Qochas near San Pedro. The average size is about 100 meters.

Linked together by a network of canals, qochas form a system of water and soil management [12]. This system is probably of pre-Incaic origin.
Unfortunately, the satellite map corresponding to this area has a limited resolution. However, Google Maps has an interesting feature: it is possible to drag the icon of the street view on the map and see if there are photos of the landscape uploaded by users. Doing this dragging, the location of the pictures appears as blue dots on the map (see Fig.3). In this manner, anybody using the map can have some information on the landscape corresponding to the specific location. There are no photos of the qochas of San Pedro, but many pictures of nearby locations, uploaded by Max Altamirano Molero [13]. Besides being very beautiful, the pictures display the existence of a forest of fairy chimneys. The location in the Pampachiri district is given in the map of Fig.3.

Fig.3. The position of San Pedro de Larcay, Peru, in the district of Pampachiri is given by the green arrow. The location of the fairy chimneys is given by the blue dots corresponding to the photo

Fig.4. The image shows a part of the very interesting set of images by Max Altamirano Molero. To see them, the reader can visit [13].

To the author’s knowledge, the pictures by Altamirano are among the best existing documentations of fairy chimneys in Peru . In fact, among the pictures that Altamirano has collected on a site (see Fig.4 and directly at [13]), several images are showing that some dwelling places have been obtained under or inside the fairy chimneys. It seems, as far as it is possible to gain from his pictures that a supporting structure of stones had built to reinforce the chimney (Fig.5). Only a local survey and analysis can tell how many and how old these structures are. For me, a physicist, it is also interesting to model their thermodynamic behavior, such as that of the chimneys in Cappadocia, to see if there are some thermal benefits in using them as houses.
In conclusion, we have seen that a fairy chimneys landscape exists in Peru, where some of the chimneys seem used as dwelling places. Moreover, the documentation of these remarkable structures is due to the activity of a Google Maps user, demonstrating that each user can help in the process of spreading the knowledge of existing cultural landscapes.

Fig.5. This image is adapted from a picture by Max Altamirano Molero, to show the importance of the pictures he collected. Note how the fairy chimneys had been transformed in a dwelling place.

1. Frank R. Spellman, Geography for Nongeographers, Government Institutes, 2010
2. www.scienceclarified.com/landforms/Ocean-Basins-to-Volcanoes/Plateau.html
3. How do you make a Hoodoo?, Bryce Canyon National Park,
4. In August 2009, the Dolomites were declared a natural heritage site by UNESCO.
5. Roberto D’Andrea, Il Geosito dei Calanchi di Atri, Tesi di laurea, 2007, Università degli studi “G. d’Annunzio” di Chieti.
6. James Bainbridge, 30 May 2011, BBC, www.bbc.com/travel/feature/20110421-turkeys-land-of-fairy-chimneys
7. Spiro Kostof, Caves of God: Cappadocia and its Churches, Oxford University Press, 1989
8. Lyn Rodley, Cave Monasteries of Byzantine Cappadocia, Cambridge University Press, 2010
9. Thomas Krassmann, Unterirdische Städte in Kappadokien, http://www.mineral-exploration.com/mepub/kaymakli.pdf
10. Rocio Ferrel, ConNuestroPeru, private communication, 2011.
11. Frank Meddens, Rocks in the Landscape: Managing the Inka Agricultural Cycle, The Antiquaries Journal, 86, 2006, pp 36–65
12. Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, Qochas on Andean highlands, Archaeogate, May 5,  2011.
13. Photos by Max Altamirano Molero, in the Google Earth (KML), see also Panoramio, http://www.panoramio.com/user/4345310

Speed of neutrinos and cosmic consequences

Let me report a part of the discussion on the speed of neutrinos by Wikipedia
"In September 2011 the OPERA collaboration released calculations showing velocities of 17-GeV and 28-GeV neutrinos exceeding the speed of light in their experiments. The authors write, "Despite the large significance of the measurement reported here and the stability of the analysis, the potentially great impact of the result motivates the continuation of our studies in order to investigate possible still unknown systematic effects that could explain the observed anomaly." This result had not been detected by previous experiments, and lies in contrast to several others. For instance, photons and neutrinos from SN 1987A were observed to have an agreement in transit time to about 1 part in 450 million, with even this difference being accounted for by light being impeded by the material of the star early in its journey. The OPERA results, in contrast, suggested that neutrinos were traveling faster than light by a factor of 1 in 40,000, i.e. that neutrino speed is 1.0000248(28)c. Had neutrinos from SN 1987A (a supernova, approximately 168,000 light-years from Earth, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SN_1987A) traveled faster than light by this factor, they would have arrived at Earth several years before the photons; this was not observed to be the case. However, neutrinos from the supernova had orders of magnitude less energy than the neutrinos observed in the OPERA experiment, as the authors point out."

Friday, September 23, 2011

Neutrino: fast and furious

Here the news of the day!Neutrinos are faster than light!
"Scientists at the Opera (Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tRacking Apparatus) experiment in Gran Sasso, Italy, found that beams of neutrinos sent to its detectors from Cern, 730km away in Geneva, arrived earlier than they should have."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Coherers as “energy catalyzers”

Coherers as “energy catalyzers”

Amelia Carolina Sparavigna
Dipartimento di Fisica,
Politecnico di Torino, Torino, Italy

Abstract: A device defined as an “energy catalyzer”, able to give thermal energy at the expense of electric energy, has aroused a great popular interest. In fact, the confidence on this device does not allow its discussion. Some known features are intriguing, which can therefore become the starting point for a discussion on old coherers and the Branly effect. We could define the coherers as a sort of “energy catalyzers”.


On Wednesday September 21, 2011, from the news of RAI, the Italian broadcaster, I learned that a new device for energy production was on the way for industrial developments. I had not immediately realized the features of this device, but I memorized the fact that it was based on water, nickel powders and current, that I saw sparkling in the video clip. After searching on the Web, I found that the announced device was the energy catalyzer, E-Cat, under patent request by its inventor, Andrea Rossi. The development of prototypes was due to the work of Rossi and Sergio Focardi, University of Bologna. It seems that they have announced a device able of producing more than 10 kilowatts of heat power, while only consuming a fraction of that. "On January 14, 2011, they gave the Worlds' first public demonstration of a nickel-hydrogen fusion reactor capable of producing a few kilowatts of thermal energy. At its peak, it is capable of generating 15,000 watts with just 400 watts input required. In a following test the same output was achieved but with only 80 watts of continual input" [1]. The item is also reporting that the inventor prefers to invoke a catalyzer process, not to a cold fusion. There are so many Web pages on the E-Cat, that it is impossible to list them, but an exhaustive one is the corresponding Wikipedia item [2]. It is there that we can find the reference to the patent [3], which is about a "method and apparatus for carrying out a highly efficient exothermal reaction between nickel atoms and hydrogen atoms, in a tube, preferably, though not exclusively made of a metal, filled by a nickel powder and heated to a high temperature preferably, though not necessarily, from 150 to 5000°C, by injecting hydrogen into said metal tube said nickel powder being pressurized, preferably, though not necessarily, to a pressure from 2 to 20 bars ".

The confidence on this device does not allow its discussion. And in fact, the aim of my paper is not a discussion on E-Cat, but on what the poor information on it suggested me. Some features of the device attracted my interest: they are the metal powders, the high temperatures and the sparks of electricity. In fact I read recently about all these things together in a old book published in 1904, entitled Element of Physics, by Fernando Sanford, professor at the Stanford University, one of the members of the group of scientists who came there to create the pioneer faculty in 1891. In [4], I discussed the experiments of Sanford on the electric photography and the fact that, several years after in 1939, the fringes around the electrically photographed objects had been rediscovered by Semyon Kirlian. Of course the book written by Sanford is quite old, but, in my opinion, it has to be appreciated due to the fact that it is based on the description of experiments. The book is then quite interesting from the point of view of experimental physics and for its history. A chapter is devoted to electric radiation and electric waves. Let us remember that Fernando Sanford was talking of experiments, which, at his times were revolutionizing physics and technology. Reading the book we learn that a new device was used in laboratories, the Coherer (see Fig.1). Let me report the Laboratory Exercise 119 of the book

"Take a glass tube of about a centimeter bore and six or eight centimeters long, fit the ends with corks through which copper wires can be passed, and fill the tube between the corks with brass or iron filings. Thrust copper wires through the corks and into the iron filings until their ends are one or two centimeters apart. Connect these wires in circuit with one or more voltaic cells and a tolerably sensitive galvanometer. The resistance of the filings to the passage of a current should be so great that the galvanometer is slightly, if at all, deflected. Bring an electric machine near, and pass sparks from one discharging knob into one of the wires which enter the tube. The resistance should fall so that the galvanometer is deflected through nearly 90°. This instrument is called a Coherer. The passage of the electric discharge into the small metallic particles in the tube apparently causes them to cling together so that they make better electric contact than before. After your coherer has become sensitive enough to allow the passage of a suitable current, increase its resistance again by tapping gently on the glass and causing the particles to separate. Then move the electric machine to a distance of a few feet from the coherer and turn the handle and cause sparks to pass between the discharging knobs of the machine. If your coherer has been properly adjusted, the galvanometer will be deflected again, showing that the resistance of the coherer has been again diminished. By a little care in the adjustment, and by using a sensitive galvanometer, the coherer will respond to a spark at a distance of several yards. ... The Coherer described above is similar to the receiver used in "wireless telegraphy." The Coherer is connected between a battery and a telegraph sounder, and is attached to a long wire or other conductor suspended at some height. A similar conductor is suspended at the sending station, and is connected with the spark gap of the electric machine or induction coil. The oscillations in the receiving conductor are accordingly partly due to resonance, and they are sufficient to lower the resistance of the coherer so that a signal can be made through it. An automatic tapper jars the particles apart, so that the signal is momentary unless the instrument is sensitized by another spark. "

Fig.1. The Coherer in the book written by F. Sanford.

The device described by Sanford is a radio signal detector used in the receivers of wireless telegraphy at the beginning of the twentieth century. The coherer was invented, around 1890, by Édouard Branly [5]. As described by Sanford, it consisted of a tube or capsule containing two electrodes spaced a small distance apart, with metal filings in the space between them. To have the Branly effect, it is necessary a thin resistive layer between the grains, to have an initial high resistance. The effect is not observed with noble metal grains, cleaned from any surface contaminant. The coherer works because the metal particles cling together, that is cohere after being subjected to the radio frequency electricity. This provokes a reduction in the coherer's electrical resistance, which is persistent after the radio signal. To receive another signal, the device needs a de-coherer mechanism, able to tap the coherer, mechanically disturbing the particles and resetting them to the high resistance state. As Wikipedia [5] is telling "Coherence of particles by radio waves is an obscure phenomenon that is not well understood even today", but several recent experiments with metal particles seem to confirm that particles cohere by a micro-weld phenomenon, caused by radio frequency electricity fluxing across the small contact area between particles. This phenomenon is probably involving a tunnelling of charge carriers across an imperfect junction between conductors, as deeply discussed in Ref.6. In fact, in this reference the author is proposing to relate the Branly effect to the induced tunnelling effect first described by François Bardou and Dominique Boosé, asserting then that the effect is mainly governed by an electrical tunnel effect [7].

In the work published in 2001 [7], Bardou and Boosé theoretically proposed that the tunnelling probability of a particle through a potential barrier could be enhanced by striking the particle when the centroid of its wave packet is reflecting on the barrier. This is applied to Branly effect as discussed in [6] in the following way. “In a granular metallic medium microscopic grains are electrically isolated one from the other by a metal oxide nanometric layer ... When a voltage is applied to the medium, electrons are accelerated and they do reflect on the potential barriers. At the time of the reflection, these electrons can be kicked forward or backward by the short electromagnetic pulses present in the external electromagnetic field. … The enhanced transmission induced by the momentum transfer produces an increased electrical current, that for some events become large enough to permit a local heating in the metal grains thanks to the Joule effect. Eventually a welding of the grains can occur and when a percolation path has formed the electrical resistance of the medium drops down going from an exponential dependence on the applied voltage to a linear one”. Reference 6 is also reporting that Auerbach demonstrated in 1898 that a coherer could be made conducting by an acoustic excitation in the audible range of the spectrum. According to [6], this means that acoustical wave, by giving vibrations to tunnel barriers between the metallic grains, could be responsible of an induced tunnelling.

Let us also consider the recent experiments with particle coherers by Falcon et al. [8]. They reported on observations of the electrical transport within a chain of metallic beads, which were slightly oxidised. As the applied current is increased, a transition from an insulating to a conductive state is observed. The authors are proposing that the transition comes from an electro-thermal coupling, at the micro-contacts between each bead. Due to these contacts, the current flows through them, generating a high local heating. This heating increases the local contact areas, enhancing the conduction. This current-induced temperature rise, up to 1050°C, results in the micro-soldering of the contact points, even for low voltages.

If we define an “energy catalyzer” as a device able to produce change in, or transform energy, the coherer acts in such a manner, where the catalyst is an electromagnetic pulse. Let us hope that as soon as possible, an open report on E-Cat is published, in order to understand the role of hydrogen in it. In this device, is any tunnelling present? Is it there a tunnelling able to give a fusion of nickel and hydrogen to have copper in a proton capture as told in [9]? Is there any kicking mechanism? What we find in [9] is that the paper is just reporting the results “obtained with a process and apparatus not described here (in [9]) in detail and protected by patent in 90 countries, consisting of a system whose heat output is up to hundred times the electric energy input. As a consequence, the principle of the conservation of energy ensures that processes involving other energy forms are occurring in our apparatus”. And in the conservation of energy we trust.


1. http://peswiki.com/index.php/Directory:Andrea_A._Rossi_Cold_Fusion_Generator

2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_Catalyzer

3. http://www.wipo.int/pctdb/en/wo.jsp?IA=IT2008000532&DISPLAY=DESC

4. A.C. Sparavigna, Fernando Sanford and the "Kirlian effect", arXiv:1105.1266v1 [physics.pop-ph], http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1105/1105.1266.pdf

5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coherer

6. C. Hirlimann, Understanding the Branly effect, arXiv:cond-mat/0703495v1 [cond-mat.mtrl-sci], http://arxiv.org/ftp/cond-mat/papers/0703/0703495.pdf

7. D. Boosé and F. Bardou, A quantum evaporation effect, Europhys. Lett., 53, 1-7 (2001).

8. E. Falcon, B. Castaing, and M. Creyssels, Nonlinear electrical conductivity in a 1D granular medium, The European Physical Journal B, 38, 475-483 (2004)

9. S. Focardi and A. Rossi, A new energy source from nuclear fusion, http://www.lenr-canr.org/acrobat/FocardiSanewenergy.pdf

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Magnetic scan without magnets

Magnetic scans with a tiny magnet, by Michael Schirber
discussion of the paper entitled Near-Zero-Field Nuclear Magnetic Resonance by M. P. Ledbetter, T. Theis, J. W. Blanchard, H. Ring, P. Ganssle, S. Appelt, B. Blümich, A. Pines, and D. Budker
Phys. Rev. Lett. 107, 107601 (Published September 1, 2011)
"Nuclear magnetic resonance is a powerful technique for analyzing molecular structure in biology, medicine, and materials science. Conventionally, it calls for huge magnets to align nuclear spins and to detect them with high sensitivity, but recent work has demonstrated that similar analysis can be done without a magnetic field. The problem with this zero-field technique is that it can’t unambiguously identify molecules. Now, in a paper in Physical Review Letters, Micah Ledbetter of the University of California, Berkeley, and his collaborators address this limitation, showing that a very small magnetic field can provide extra signatures for chemical discrimination."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Concrete in the Great Pyramids

Did the Great Pyramids' builders use concrete? 
This is the question we can find in the article by Colin Nickerson on New York Times.
"It is a theory that gives indigestion to mainstream archaeologists. Namely, that some of the immense blocks of the Great Pyramids of Egypt might have been cast from synthetic material - the world's first concrete - not just carved whole from quarries and lugged into place by armies of toilers. Such an innovation would have saved millions of man-hours of grunting and heaving in construction of the enigmatic edifices on the Giza Plateau."
See also: 
Revisiting the construction of pyramids

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Objeto del antiguo Egipto sería el primer transportador en el mundo

"Un objeto hallado en una tumba egipcia hace más de 100 años sería el primer transportador, función que finalmente se plante tras un largo misterio entre los arqueólogos sobre su utilidad según informa la revista New Scientist."

Connuestroperu Objeto del antiguo Egipto sería el primer transportador en el mundo

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Toshka Lakes from space

The decreasing level of Toshka Lakes seen from space
Amelia Carolina Sparavigna,   Dipartimento di Fisica, Politecnico di Torino

Toshka Lakes are lakes recently formed in the Sahara Desert of Egypt, by the water of the Nile,  conveyed from the Nasser Lake through a canal in the Toshka Depression. From space, astronauts noticed the growing of a first lake, the easternmost one, in 1998. Then additional lakes grew in succession due west, the westernmost one between 2000 and 2001. In fact, sources of precious information on Toshka Lakes are the pictures takes by the crews of space missions and the satellite imagery. They show that, from 2006, the lakes started shrinking. A set of recent images displays that the surface of the easternmost lake is strongly reduced. 

Toshka Lakes is the name given to the lakes, quite recently formed, in the Sahara Desert of  Egypt. These new lakes are endorheic, that is, the water can never flow out this region toward the sea. They are near the Nasser Lake (see the map in Fig.1), the huge lake created by the Aswan High Dam, built in 1964-1968. As Wikipedia is reporting [1], in 1978, Egypt began to build the Sadat Canal, originating from the Lake Nasser and passing through the Wadi Toshka, to allow the water, when it is overflowing a specific level, to be drained off to flood a depression located at the south end of a desert limestone plateau. This is the Toshka Depression. In fact, the Egyptian government decided to undertake a development project of the surrounding region, known as the "New Valley Project". The project intends to extend this waterway till the Kharga oasis.

Fig.1 Toshka Lakes are lakes recently formed in the Sahara Desert of Egypt. They are near the Nasser Lake, the huge lake was created by the Aswan High Dam, built in 1964-1968. The water is flowing in the Sadat Canal, pumped in the Toshka Depression, when it is overflowing a specific level in the Lake Nasser. The image has been adapted from the Google Maps. 

 It was in late 1990s [1] that the water started flowing in the canal. This waterway, feeding the depression with the water from Nile, was prepared in order to reduce the water losses. This water, in order to flow the Sadat Canal needs a pumping station, which is situated north of Abu Simbel.  From space, astronauts noticed the growing of a first lake, the easternmost one, in November 1998 [1]. They saw the other lakes grown in succession westward, the westernmost lake between September 2000 and March 2001. A public source of information on Toshka Lakes is in fact in the pictures taken by the crews of space missions. Starting from 2006, the images show that the lakes started shrinking, because of a reduction of water supply [3]. One of the lakes dried out. As reported in [3], the flooding of the Toshka Depression had created the four wide lakes, with their maximum surface area in 2002, of ca 1,500 km^2 , having about 5 × 10^9 m^3 of water. Some of the water evaporated and some recharges the underlying aquifer [3]. At the beginning of the
flooding, the fauna and flora of Nile invaded the Toshka valley [3], with a resultant very rich  population of fishes. But, unfortunately, the water supply reduced. The western-most lake shows a rapidly increasing salinity. As the researches are observing, the zooplankton reacts to the increase of salinity by a striking impoverishment [3]. The life in the lake started to decline.  A publication [4] estimated the loss of water from the lakes using remote sensing and GIS, collecting a set of images and processing them to show the aerial extend shrinkage of these lakes from 2002 up to 2007. By means of a spatial analysis of bathymetry in a digital elevation model, the authors found that the loss rate is around 2.5 m/year. They noted that the lakes stored around 25.26 billion cubic meters of water in 2002, but in 2006 the stored water was reduced to 12.57 billion cubic. The authors conclude that the location of these lakes in such hyper-arid zone is
responsible for a high loss rate, mainly caused by the evaporation, because they found the  percolation of water through the ground quite limited. They say that “It is strongly recommended that measures must be taken to maximize the benefits of these huge, exceptional water resources before totally lost via evaporation. Additionally, geo-environmental problems are likely to arise  from the concentration of salts when the lakes dry up”.

 Fig.2 The "NASA Earth Observatory" allows to see the evolution from 2001 to 2005, of the western Toshka Lakes. In the upper image, we have a record of the lakes as soon as they formed. But in 2005, the water level was strongly reduced.  

Let us see what happened by means of the NASA satellite imagery. The "NASA Earth  Observatory" allow us to see the evolution of the western Toshka Lakes (see Fig.2). In the upper image, we have a figure of the lakes as soon as they formed, 2001. But in 2005, the water level was strongly reduced. In Fig.3, the "NASA Earth Observatory" dated 2005 is compared with an image that we can obtain (on date July 21, 2011) from Google Maps. It is not possible for the author to tell when the Google image had been recorded. But, surely it is more recent, because we see a further reduction of the surfaces of the lakes.

 Fig.3 The "NASA Earth Observatory" of the western Toshka Lakes in 2005 (upper panel) is compared with an image from Google Maps (downloaded July 21, 2011). It is not possible for the  author to tell when the image of the lower panel had been recorded. But, surely it is more recent. We can see a further reduction of water in the lakes. 

Let us note that reference [4] is dated 2007. But what is the current situation of the lakes?
Let us try to answer using NASA images again, and in particular, those of the easternmost  Toshka Lake. In 2005, it was as shown in upper panel of Fig.4, as provided by the "Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth". The original image has been enhanced and rotated to compare it with that provided the Google Maps, displayed in the lower panel of Fig.4. As told for Fig.3, it is not possible for me to date the Google image; surely after 2005, because comparing the images, we note that the surface of the lake had shrunk.

Fig.4 The easternmost Toshka Lake in 2005, as provided by the "Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth", is shown in the upper panel. The original image has been enhanced and rotated to compare it with that provided (downloaded July 21, 2011) by the Google Maps, displayed in the lower panel.  Note that, it is not possible for me to date the Google image. I can only tell thta it is surely after 2005, because comparing the  images, we note that the surface of the lake had shrunk.    

But the "Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth" has a set of images of March 31, 2011,  quite recent then, that allowed me to create a composite map of the current aspect of the lake. The  map is proposed in Fig.5. This map had been rotated and enhanced as discussed in Ref. 5 (the image processing proposed in [5] has interesting applications in archaeology, see [6]). The processed images have so many details that we can use them to see the evolution of the lake. This is proposed in Fig.6, where we see a part of the lake, as it evolved from 2005 to March 31, 2011. In this figure we pass from the image dated 2005, to that of 2011, through that from Google Maps, of unknown date. This part of the easternmost lake was large in 2005, shrinking between 2005 and 2011, and reduced to one half the original in 2011, as it can be seen in Figure 7, where the superposition of the two NASA images, of 2005 and 2011, is proposed. We see the surface of the lake strongly decreased.

Fig.5 A set of images from the "Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth" dated, March 31, 2011, allows to create a composite map of the current aspect of the easternmost lake. This map had been rotated and enhanced as discussed in Ref. 5. The processed image has so many details useful for a comparison with the images in Fig.4.

Fig.6. From the image by the "Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth" dated 2005 (up-left), to that of March 31, 2011 (down-right), passing through that from Google Maps (up-right/down-left). The two images labelled with a question mark, are the same. The question mark means that the year when it was recorded is unknown to the author. We have the evolution of a part of the easternmost lake that was large in 2005 shrinking between 2005 and 2011, and reduced to one half the original part in 2011. The surface of the lake has dramatically decreased.  

Fig.7. Superposition of the two NASA images, of 2005 and 2011, of Fig.6, proposed to help the reader in the comparison. 

Let me continue with a little bit of history. Egypt had already lived a similar situation, but on a  longer period and more than two thousand years ago. In Egypt there are several lakes; one is the Lake Moeris, an ancient saltwater lake in the northwest of the Faiyum Oasis. During the prehistory, the lake had freshwaters due to the high flood of Nile. From the XII Dynasty, in 2300 BC, the natural waterway from the river to the lake was widened and deepened to make a canal which is now known as the Bahr Yussef, "the waterway of Joseph" [7]. This canal served for the purpose to control the flooding of the river and help in irrigating the surrounding area. Moreover, the kings of the twelfth dynasty used the water of the natural lake of Faiyum in the dry periods. In fact these kings transformed the lake into a huge water reservoir, giving the impression that the lake was an artificial excavation, as reported by Pliny the Elder. He is writing, when discussing
the pyramids in his book [8], that two of them are “in the place where Lake Mœris was  excavated, an immense artificial piece of water, cited by the Egyptians among their wondrous and memorable works“ [8]. As the surrounding area changed, since the local branch of the Nile shrank, from about 230 BC, the Bahr Yussef became neglected and Lake Moeris began to dry up, creating a depression in the modern province of Faiyum [7].
As the history is showing, it is undoubtedly necessary for the Toshka Lakes what the researches  in Ref.4 are recommending, that is, to undertake measures to preserve these water resources and avoid the problem of the salinity of soil when the lakes dry up. Perhaps, it is too late.

1. Toshka Lakes, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toshka_Lakes
2. In fact, it was with the Mercury missions in the early 1960s, that astronauts began to take  pictures of the Earth. The NASA, through its "Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth", provides a database with locations, supporting data, and digital images. The images are processed from those coming down from the International Space Station, http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/. The "NASA Earth Observatory", created in 1999, has the same task. This is considered the principal source of satellite imagery and other scientific information on climate and environment, among the services provided by NASA, for the general public, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_Earth_Observatory, http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=1008
3. Gamal M. El-Shabrawy and Henri J. Dumont, The Toshka Lakes, in, The Nile, Monographiae  Biologicae, 2009, Volume 89, III, 157-162.
4. M. El Bastawesy, S. Arafat and F. Khalaf, Estimation of water loss from Toshka Lakes using  remote sensing and GIS, 10th AGILE International Conference on Geographic Information Science 2007, Aalborg University, Denmark, pp.1-9.
5. Anelia Carolina Sparavigna, Enhancing the Google imagery using a wavelet filter, 8 Sep 2010,  Geophysics (physics.geo-ph); Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP), arxiv:1009.1590
6. Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, The satellite archaeological survey of Egypt, 31 May 2011, Geophysics (physics.geo-ph), arXiv:1105.6315
7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Moeris
8. Pliny, The Natural History, Translated by John Bostock and H.T. Riley, Henry G. Bohm,
London, 1857