In the news stories today, we're back to the old lure of gold. What makes us love it so? Mankind's attitude to gold is bizarre. Chemically, it is uninteresting in that it barely reacts with any other element. Yet, of all the 118 elements in the periodic table, gold is the one we humans have always tended to choose to use as currency. en.wikipedia.org
The gold artifacts featured on my blog today are part of the treasure unearthed from the Sutton Hoo burial ship belonging to a 7th century British king and can be seen at the British Museum. I'll link part of my novel-writing to the British Museum at the end. All my books are based on the magical qualities of an ancient star moonstone ring set in pure gold. Caught by the lure of gold, my creativity explors other dimensions.
Gold is thought to derive from meteors. The biggest producers: China, Australia, US, and Russia.
One of the noble metals that do not oxidize under ordinary conditions, gold is used in jewelry, electronics, aerospace and medicine.
After analyzing all metals seeking suitability for currency, it turns out that the reason gold is precious is precisely that it is so chemically uninteresting. Gold's relative inertness means that after creating an elaborate golden jaguar, the artist or king could be confident that 1,000 years later it would be found in a museum display case, still gleaming and in pristine condition.
If we amassed every earring, every gold sovereign, the tiny traces gold in every computer chip, every pre-Columbian statuette, every wedding ring and melted it all down, it's guesstimated you'd be left with just one 20-metre cube, or thereabouts. But scarcity isn't the whole story. Gold has one other quality that makes it the best contender for currency in the periodic table. Gold is ... golden.
All the other metals in the periodic table are silvery-colored except for copper.
But copper corrodes, turning green when exposed to moist air. That makes gold very distinctive.
Here's a short excerpt from my co-written forth book in the Higher Ground futuristic series, Long Doom Calling. Cerridwen has just dived down under the murky waters to the British Museum and surfaced clutching treasure.
Dressed again, Cerridwen sat beside Trevly, the bag in front of her. To one side, Brunhild smeared some of Hasid's special salve over Boris's chafed chest.
Aron settled at Cerridwen's other side. “Tip it out.”
She glanced at him and smiled. “You do it.”
“Fine.” With trembling fingers—he had no idea why—Aron shook the contents out.
Sasha, already wearing several rings, gazed at the other pieces, then back at her hands.
Aron whistled. Bracelets. A ring. Some kind of head gear. Sasha snatched a necklace and ran her fingers over the gold.
“The ring,” Cerridwen whispered. She picked up the one with the blue stone and held it against the light before she slipped it on.
Despite his sudden apprehension, Aron smiled.
They say that fire is the devil's only friend. Now, it seems disease is the benefactor of war. History has repeatedly shown that contamination rides well with human conflict. en.wikipedia.org
For instance, the poliovirus outbreak in Syria, Israel and Egypt, caused by related strains can be traced back to Pakistan.
War and insurgency provide the ideal conditions for bacteria and viruses to take hold, so it is little surprise that polio has become entrenched in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The dreaded disease has now re-emerged in the Middle East and Africa. Consequently, poliovirus continues to circulate in northern Nigeria, igniting a further outbreak in war-torn Somalia and the wider Horn of Africa.
While the type of warfare has changed down the ages, the link between war and disease remains as robust as ever. The collapse of hygiene and healthcare systems leads to infections rapidly re-establishing themselves in war-torn populations. Civilians and soldiers end up living in crowded and insanitary conditions, ideal breeding grounds for a range of bacterial, viral and parasitic infections. In Syria, a typhoid epidemic has taken hold in an eastern province. en.wikipedia.org
But, mass movement of troops and refugees also spreads infectious disease. Many civil wars in Africa have been accompanied by the swell in infectious diseases, such as HIV.
Vast mobilization of troops during World War I undoubtedly played a part in one of the most devastating contagions of modern history. The 1918 influenza pandemic. Although widely known as the Spanish flu, no one knows for sure where the virus originated. Three waves of infection led to the demise of 50 million to 100 million people worldwide, more than twice as many people as the war itself.
The impact of infection during war can be traced back to the depths of time.
From the BBC, Chronicles of contagion:
165 AD: Roman soldiers returning from the Parthian war spark the Antonine Plague (probably smallpox) that ravishes the Roman Empire.
1155: Emperor Barbarossa contaminates drinking water by disposing human corpses in wells in Italy.
1618-48: The Thirty Years War. Typhus fever caused by a bacterium spread through the feces of blood-sucking lice was rampant and lead to the cancellation of some battles.
1763: British settlers give two blankets and a handkerchief from a smallpox hospital to two visiting Native American chiefs.
1805-14: The Napoleonic wars. Typhus fever wreaked havoc, killing more French soldiers than the war effort itself.
1853-56: Crimean war. British forces are decimated by cholera outbreaks.
1870-71: Franco-Prussian war. A particularly aggressive form of smallpox virus, originating in France, was introduced into Prussia by French prisoners of war incarcerated in camps. This spread through the civilian population, but not to the Prussian soldiers - they had been protected.
1914-18: World War I. Across the world the influenza pandemic kills millions. In Russia, peace was followed by widespread famine and a constant flow of refugees blighted by cholera, dysentery, malaria, typhoid and typhus.
1939-45: World War II. The Japanese poison more than 1,000 Chinese wells with cholera and typhus and drop plague-infested fleas.
2011: The CIA was reported to have established fake vaccination programs in Pakistan to secure DNA samples during the "war on terror" and the search for Osama Bin Laden. The ensuing mistrust has hampered legitimate polio vaccine programs.
2012-13: Environmental samples test positive for the presence of poliovirus in Egypt, Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and cases of polio reported in Syria.
May 2013: WHO report on the isolation of wild poliovirus from a young girl in Somalia, which had been polio-free since 2007.
The current polio outbreaks in Syria, Israel and Egypt, along with Pakistan, Afghanistan, Africa and the Middle East are sad reminders that infectious diseases win during any mass conflict.
Why do people fight? For what they believe is right? Considering the dignity with which Nelson Mandela conducted his campaign for equal rights in South Africa, I'm wondering if peaceful protest would work just as well. At least it would deny disease a chance of spreading.
A major storm has hit northern Europe during the last two days, leaving at least three people dead, causing transport chaos and threatening the biggest tidal surge in decades.
Already, a lorry driver was killed when his vehicle was blown over in Scotland, while a man died when he was hit by a falling tree in England. Britain's Environment Agency said tidal surges could bring significant coastal flooding. The Thames Barrier was being closed to protect London. Thousands of households along vulnerable coasts have been evacuated as seawater floods coastal areas of eastern England and North Wales.
In Denmark, a woman died after a lorry turned over in high winds. The Oeresund road and rail bridge between Sweden and Denmark - which links the Danish capital Copenhagen with the Swedish city of Malmo and features in the hit television series The Bridge - was due to close from 1500 GMT.
In the low-lying Netherlands, the Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier has been closed off for the first time in six years. Dutch authorities said they had issued the highest possible flood warning for four areas in the north and north-west of the country.
In Germany, the port of Hamburg is bracing for a direct hit and a massive tidal surge. There are fears it could be as powerful as the flood that killed more than 300 people in the city in 1962.
The news of these very real events is terrifying to those people who live close by. Fortunately, I live safe inland on higher ground. The weather's changes have caused meteorologists worry for some time now. Environmentalists around the world have predicted that the scenario will worsen unless mankind changes their way. Unfortunately, this is a slow process during which world representatives work to hash out sanctions.
As an author of fiction, I feel somewhat burdened, embroiled and culpable, not only with the title of my second book, Tidal Surge, which is set in the present day, but by publishing the Higher Ground Series. The futuristic novels, set after the Great Flood, follow the lives of a group of characters. Mankind has been swept backwards to live a more-or-less primitive life with only memories, broken articles poking above the soil, and ruined cities hinting at the past. Four books tell of adventure--Wind Over Troubles Waters
, Knights in Dark Leather
, Golden Submarine
, and Long Doom Calling
. You can see the covers on the sidebar and click on them to link to the books. The heroine guides a group of followers from Saint Eyes (St. Ives) to Long Doom (London) to find an ancient ring in the hope of setting Britland on the right track.
I believe in a Universal Consciousness into which highly-tuned people can gain access. This explains why inventors, artists and scientists can discover the same idea simultaneously. Perhaps my writing partner and I captured thoughts about the future of mankind. I hope we're wrong.
It seems there really IS such a thing as man flu! www.dailymain.co.uk
And women are MORE EFFICIANT. But please don't accuse me of being sexist. Brain scientists have found a real reason for the stereotypical differences in male and female behavior.
Neurologists used magnetic resonance imaging (radio-wave scans that produce detailed images of the inside of the body) to study the brains of almost 1,000 volunteers.
The differences between the genders were so profound that men and women might almost be separate species.
Women's and men's brains are wired in fundamentally different ways. Findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that men generally have more connections within each hemisphere and between the front and back of the brain. In women the stronger connections usually run from side to side, between the left and right hemispheres. This shows that men are more logical and better at coordination. Women are more intuitive, have greater emotional intelligence—like hearing a baby cry—and better memories for words and faces.
The researchers from the University of Pennsylvania concluded that male brains are geared to link perception with doing. This makes men better at, for example, learning a new sport.
The male ability to process information set out in abstract ways—such as maps, which are abstractions of the landscape—was investigated last year by U.S. neuroscientists, who asked groups of men and women to study a complex diagram and draw what it would look like if turned around. www.huffingtonpost.com
Men could do this faster and better than women. In fact, brain scans showed they had more activity in four areas of the brain associated with decision-making, focusing closely on a task and visualizing.
Female brains, meanwhile, are configured to handle matters of heart and mind and to study others' behavior, then interpret it using intuition and analysis.
The fact that female brains have many more interconnections may help to explain a conundrum that has long puzzled scientists: why women can show just as much intelligence as men even though their brains are 8 per cent smaller.
In March, a study by universities in Los Angeles and Madrid showed that, for women, brain size does not matter because their brains are more efficient. Their highly networked neurons can perform complex tasks that use less energy and fewer brain cells.
The study found that women perform better than men at bigger-picture thinking and keeping track of a changing situation. Men do better on spatial intelligence. Sounds like judging distances to me. I guess primitive man needed this when he went off hunting, leaving his multi-tasking woman in the cave to care for the children.
Now—about man flu. Apparently, men suffer more with coughs and colds because they have extra temperature receptors in the brain and so experience worse symptoms. This information makes me feel much more sympathetic to my husband. We've both been suffering with a cold for over a week. He continually asks me to feel his head, which is sweating, whereas mine is dry. Up to now, I've been ho-hum about it. But now, I understand his suffering. With my newly conceived emotional intelligence, I can interpret his pain and handle his need for attention with more tact.
Eating lots of fruit and vegetables gives people a golden glow.
Researchers at York University believe we have learnt to link bronzed skin with good health. But rather than sporting a suntan, eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day could also lead to a healthy love life. The golden glow revealed by a healthy person's skin makes them look more attractive.
By using a series of photos showing skin tone, researchers assessed the test group's preferences. The results suggest that rather than being a color we find attractive in general, yellow tells us something special when part of someone’s radiance.
I agree about finding the color yellow unappealing in other contexts. I avoid shades of yellow in the house and reject yellow-blooming plants. No bunches of daffodils for me in spring. I remember playing a game as a child. We'd hold a yellow dandelion flower to each other's throat. If it reflected on the skin, that person was healthy. I think everyone passed. Another pastime was to suck the juice from a sour sop stem below the yellow flower. The flavor made my taste buds come to life. I guess I didn't ingest enough to make me ill.
The special glow on the skin imparted by nature's bounty could help us pick a mate and also ensure we avoid sickly sorts who might pass on an infection. Nobody wants to touch someone who has an illness you might catch.
Previous research has shown that the golden glow of those who eat their greens is due to plant chemicals called carotenoids, the yellow, orange and red pigments in fruit and vegetables. When absorbed by the body and distributed in the skin, they appear yellowish gold to the naked eye. Carotenoids boost the human immune system and although most commonly associated with carrots, they are also abundant in green fruits and vegetables.
So, don't bother with potions, lotions and make-up. Fruit is cheap and readily available. Even small amounts of your five-a-day can make a difference. It is best to eat a variety of the earth's produce to get the most benefit.
How would you like to take a holiday in a luxury hotel under the sea? That's what Deep Ocean Technology is proposing. The Polish company is planning an underwater hotel called Water Discus. It can be towed to a suitable location and placed on supports on the sea bed. Apparently, the technology needed to build underwater rooms is well-established and proven.
The hotel is made up of an underwater disc containing 22 bedrooms with sea views, connected by lift and stairs to a similar disc above the surface containing other hotel facilities, rather like a dumb bell. On arrival, guests will be given basic instructions on how to dive to a depth of about 10m (33ft), as that provides a good color environment in sunlight. Lower than this removes everything but blue.
Then, the guests can gaze outside at waving seaweed and relax while fish swim by. See more here.
One of the biggest challenges designers faced was to muffle the inevitable noise that an underwater hotel generates. That is important because a noisy environment would disturb and scare away fish and other marine creatures. This would defeat the purpose of building an underwater hotel in the first place. This problem has been overcome by careful design from the beginning, ensuring that items like lavatories, pumps and air conditioning equipment that generate noise are placed at the centre of the underwater structure.
The other difficulty is weighting boxes containing everything that needs to be placed in the rooms daily and lowering them underwater. Seems like an awful lot of bother. Why can't they build a shaft with pulleys, like the old-style dumb-waiter used in mansions when plenty of servants attended to every guest's wish?
So, those people who like a challenge can take a break at an underwater penthouse suite, rather than facing the blue grotto in Egypt's Red Sea, where more than a hundred testosterone-charged men and one woman have been lured to their death.
I won't be staying in an underwater apartment. It sounds way too expensive and risky.
Previous generations' genetic memory can affect our behavior. Experts said the results of tests on animals were important for human phobia and anxiety research. www.freeimages.co.uk
Animal experiments showed that a traumatic event could affect the DNA in sperm and alter the brains and behavior of subsequent generations.
A Nature Neuroscience study shows mice, trained to avoid the smell of cherry blossom, passed their aversion on in two subsequent generations.
The team at the Emory University School of Medicine, in the US, then looked at what was happening inside the sperm. A section of DNA responsible for sensitivity to the cherry blossom scent had been made more active in the mice's sperm. Both the mice's offspring, and their offspring, were extremely sensitive to cherry blossom and would avoid the scent, despite never having experiencing it in their lives.
Changes in brain structure were also found.
The report concluded that the experiences of a parent, even before conceiving, markedly influence both structure and function in the nervous system of subsequent generations.
The findings provide evidence that the environment can affect an individual's genetics, which can in turn be passed on.
Prof Marcus Pembrey, from University College London, said the findings were "highly relevant to phobias, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders" and provided "compelling evidence" that a form of memory could be passed between generations.
This leads me to wonder if attitudes can be inherited along with smells. For instance, the aversion to walking alone in the dark. However, this could be affected by lessons learned and scary movies. What about racial discrimination? Is this learned or passed down the generations through word of mouth?
I have no racial discrimination, despite never seeing another race until I was in my mid-thirties. Adelaide, South Australia, consisted of mainly English people. My first sight of Aboriginals gave me a sense of wonder. Then, twenty years on when I arrived in England, I gazed with fascination at West Indian women in their colorful clothing and bright golden jewelry whenever I rode on the Tube. As you can see, I had no background to judge other races.
I've got to admit that racial prejudice is rife amongst many normal English people. However, I think the attitude could be taken from their parents rather than their genes.
I used to have a phobia with my first husband, much as I told myself to ignore the rippling in my back each time we were close. Despite loving him, the fear would rise each time--he would stab me in the back. I can remember the spot thirty years later--under the ribcage to the right. After his betrayal, we separated, and the feeling left me. Somehow, I've decided this is a lingering memory from another life. I dreamed once of a flag associated with him--the crescent moon and two stars. Scary.
Well, scientists, on with the phobia and anxiety research.
I'm making this post short and contentious due to suffering from one of the worst colds I've ever had. I've taken a pain killer, something I rarely do, so that my brain is clear enough to think. Yesterday, I dozed most of the day, felt bilious, and slept straight through the night. However you might feel about the use of chemicals to relieve a headache, that's not the main reason for debate. www.dailymail.co.uk
A photographer unintentionally captured a mysterious object hovering above Fullabrook wind farm in Devon, UK on Saturday. In the photograph, a grey-colored shape can be seen floating above turbines in broad daylight.
After the photograph was published, a representative of the Chivenor Search and Rescue told the North Devon Journal that it had not received any reports of UFO sightings in the area. It also pointed out that rescue workers had been on a training exercise on Saturday, so the mysterious object may have been one of its aircraft. Read more here
I've got mixed feelings about the existence of UFOs. Whilst I believe there could be other intelligent life on distant planets, most of the so-called sightings can be explained away as something else occurring in the area. I'd love to hear your views.
I don't feel well today. A not-so-common cold has invaded my body with a headache, runny nose, coughs--you know the symptoms.
So, unable to think straight, I'm sharing the beginning of Still Rock Water, which you can see on the right sidebar.
My God, I'm flying. Or hallucinating. Blank it out. Close your eyes.
I'm so scared. My fingers reach out for reassurance. Nothing. Since emerging from the tunnel, my senses are spinning and the bed no longer supports my body. Wait. Tunnel. Death's a possibility. Can't be. I wasn't sick. Perhaps I died in my sleep. If I keep my eyes shut, maybe I'll wake up. Counting doesn't work. How long should I wait? Five minutes, an hour? I can't see the clock anyway, so how would I know? Impatient, I wriggle, or try. I can't feel my legs.
I ease my eyes open. White fluffy mist. At least I'm not surrounded by a casket. I reach out but don't make contact with anything solid. I won't close my eyes again. Now I'm curious. Right, I'll look down. I panic at the absence of anything beneath me. No bodily reactions. Hold it together. I can do this. At last, I focus through the blur below. It's as if I'm looking through a telescope with a haze around the edges.
An old car sits sideways behind another, with traffic driving around them on a motorway.
If this is heaven, it's very much like earth. Then, I'm falling—diving. I struggle, but a powerful force pulls me right through the roof where I land without feeling. Inside the car, I'm as helpless as I am in real life. It's scary. I don't want to be manipulated like this. Get me out of here.
Thick hands grip the steering wheel. A diver's watch clamps a hairy wrist. Cars slow outside the window and a woman peers into my car.
Where are the almond-shaped fingernails I've always taken care of? Overwhelmed by shock, rising panic and rapid heartbeat, I'm sitting in the driver's seat of a jalopy. A faint sound of thunder echoes inside my head. The taste of iron and smell of oil sicken me. I struggle, but the body doesn't move. Wait. Thoughts slam into me.
'Accident. Think, man, think'. Rigid with shock, I—we centre on a digital clock. Nine-zero-zero. Morning.
I've got to work this out. I'm me, but I'm also part of a strange man. His name is David. Multiple personalities? I've heard of that happening. I've suffered enough distress to cause the effect. Although I can't move, perhaps I can wish myself away. I concentrate, but it does no good. All David's panicked thoughts and body reactions pump through me.
He twists to the back seat. Worry rises, gripping his heart so hard he finds it hard to breathe. His four-year-old son Tim remains upright strapped into a child-seat—eyes closed with his head slumped forward. David leans back and touches Tim's shoulder, then checks for the faint pulse under his ear. He grasps the tiny wrist, and looks for any movement under the delicate eyes.
I'm staggered. Something tells me I should help him, help them both, but I don't know how. David's the one with the body. I'll just watch and wait. At some point I might escape.
With shaky hands, he reaches for his mobile phone and dials the emergency number. Following instructions from the voice in his ear, he climbs over to sit beside his son. The boy's head must not be moved in case of injury, and David must breathe for Tim until an ambulance arrives.
With the reassuring operator's voice crackling around my mind, I'm feeling everything David does, panic, worry and confusion. Maybe I can influence him rather than let his emotion drain me. With something like a heart-felt prayer, I will the child to breathe—assist the father to remain calm and help his son.
The child's head remains slumped forward, and David mustn't move him. With great care, he blows from the front but he can't reach the boy's mouth. A strong sense tells me whatever I do will be of some help. But what if, by participating, I'm trapped here forever without a body of my own, living through someone else's consciousness?
Terror squeezes David's heart. “I love you, son. Don't die.” He groans and his eyes blur. The operator tries to reassure him.
It's no use avoiding the situation any longer. It's as real to me now as my own life. I can't allow the child to slip away before help arrives. I urge David forward to lift the child's lip from the side. With empathy rising in me like a song, I assist with the breath of life.
By twisting his head, David's tender breath through the side of Tim's mouth brings results. When the blue eyelids flutter, David's heartbeat quickens in relief. After another breath, Tim opens his eyes and coughs. David murmurs, “Hello, little man. Are you okay?”
“Yes, Dad,” Tim blinks and looks around. “I heard your voice through a long sort of tunnel. It was so bright ... and I saw a happy fairy.”
Compassion swells my heart and lifts me away. I'm floating free.
* * * *
Liliha opened her eyes in her own bed again. In the dark, her fingers slid over the ridges on her patchwork quilt.
A gigantic communal latrine created at the dawn of the dinosaurs has been unearthed in Argentina. A study in Scientific Reports tells of thousands of fossilized poos left by rhino-like megaherbivores were found clustered together. The dung contains clues to prehistoric diet, disease and vegetation.
The 240-million-year-old site is the world's oldest public toilet and the first evidence that ancient reptiles shared collective dumping grounds.
Here's something I didn't know: Nowadays, elephants, antelopes and horses defecate in socially agreed hotspots to mark territory and reduce the spread of parasites. The hoses in the field outside my window poo wherever they stand. Perhaps domesticated animals have given up the tendency to choose where they defecate in exchange for board and lodgings.
But the herd animals' best efforts are dwarfed by the enormous scale of this latrine - which breaks the previous record oldest toilet by 220 million years. Piles of fossil dung, some as wide as 40cm and weighing several kilograms, were found in seven massive patches across the Chanares Formation in La Rioja province. Apparently, fine ash covered the site and preserved the remains.
The animal behind the action was Dinodontosaurus, an eight-foot-long megaherbivore similar to modern rhinos. These animals were dicynodonts - large, mammal-like reptiles common in the Triassic period when the first dinosaurs began to emerge. The dicynodont skull is highly specialized, light but strong, which would have enabled dicynodonts to cope with tough plant material.
The shared latrine strategy suggests they were gregarious, herd animals, who had good reasons to poo strategically. Firstly, it was important to avoid parasites. 'You don't poo where you eat', as the saying goes. But the huge pile also warns predators about the size of the herd.
What would aliens think of our sewers? Sometimes, I wonder if mankind will run out of space for all their cast-offs.