Zerqa Valley has been inhabited and irrigated for 13,000 years

You can make major discoveries by walking across a field and picking up every loose item you find. Dutch researcher Eva Kaptijn succeeded in discovering – based on 100,000 finds – that the Zerqa Valley in Jordan had been successively inhabited and irrigated for more than 13,000 years. But it was not just communities that built irrigation systems: the irrigation systems also built communities.

Archaeologist Eva Kaptijn has given up digging in favour of gathering. With her colleagues, she has been applying an intensive field exploration technique: 15 metres apart, the researchers would walk forward for 50 metres. On the outward leg, they’d pick up all the earthenware and, on the way back, all of the other material. This resulted in more than 100,000 finds, varying from about 13,000 years to just a few decades old. Based on further research on the finds and where they were located, Kaptijn succeeded in working out the extent of habitation in the Zerqa Valley in Jordan over the past millennia.

The area where she undertook her research is also called the Zerqa Triangle; it is bounded by the River Zerqa and forms part of the Jordan Valley. The area covers roughly 72 square kilometres. Kaptijn discovered that the triangle had been inhabited, on and off, for thousands of years, but that this habitation was always highly dependent on the irrigation methods used by those who lived there. While the soil in the valley is very rich, there was usually not enough rainfall to cultivate plants without some additional irrigation.

The irrigation methods exerted a major influence on the people who lived in the valley; power was often dependent on controlling the allocation of water. Kaptijn discovered that the type of irrigation system could result in a community of internally egalitarian tribes, with these tribes being linked to each other in a strict, hierarchical order. At other times, the valley was actually dominated by a large-scale, almost capitalist cultivation of sugar cane.

I’m jealous. Any suggestions on how to rid myself of several decades – and start all over again as an archaeologist?

Scotland issues anthrax alert after junkie dies

Scottish health agencies have been placed on alert after a drug user who died in hospital tested positive for anthrax.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said the man died in Glasgow’s Victoria Infirmary on Wednesday. A woman being treated there has also tested positive.

A second man, who is being treated at treated at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, is being tested for the deadly anthrax bacterium. All three had infections in areas of the body they injected with heroin.

Doctors fear more people could die and have ordered tests on every drug user in Scotland who has been treated for infections over the past month…

Anthrax was suspected of being responsible for a spate of deaths among Scottish heroin addicts in 2000.

New Scientist magazine reported that tests at the UK biological defence lab in Porton Down found signs of infection in dead addicts.

However, health officials in Glasgow, where several of the deaths occurred, insisted at the time that the drug users were not infected with anthrax.

RTFA. Discussion of how and where. Also a review of symptoms which is pretty grotty.

Just a local news story about more jobs…

Less than nine months after beginning production at its new Albuquerque facility, Schott Solar this week announced the expansion of its photovoltaic (PV) module production line. PV production will double, from two shifts to four shifts on a rotating schedule, effectively creating a 24 hour-a-day, 7 days-a-week production capacity at Schott Solar’s flagship facility.

In order to meet this increased production schedule, Schott Solar has been hiring up to 10 new employees per week since the first of November. The majority of the new positions have been PV Production Technicians.

These 60 new employees will bring the PV production lines to full capacity of 160 employees by the end of December.

“Creating jobs in today’s economic environment is a tremendous achievement for any company,” said Dr. Gerald Fine, CEO & President, Schott Solar, Inc. “To be able to almost double our PV workforce in such a short time is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the people who have been with us from the start. They put in the work that allows us to grow.”

In industrial states this wouldn’t be a big deal. But, this reflects first of all a process that started with a Democrat governor who isn’t anything more than liberal – but, has enough of a brain, enough foresight, to see what committing to alternative energy solutions, green energy means to our economy.

Governor Bill brought Schott Solar to New Mexico and now they’re just about up to speed in under a year. I don’t doubt they will be expanding as markets demand that expansion. As will the other high tech and green companies that have continued to move in right through the recession.

I think we’re the poster child – on the small scale that reflects our population size and, frankly, mediocre education level – for what Obama’s jobs and green energy program means to America.

Most enjoy MP’s Christmas card – bigots hate it!

It has all the hallmarks of a politician’s glossy Christmas card.

Pastoral setting? Check.

Doe-eyed golden retriever? Check.

Handsome couple dressed in smart casual? Check.

Same-sex couple?

That was too much for “a handful of bigots” who objected to Scott Brison’s holiday greeting card depicting him and spouse Maxime St. Pierre, according to the Nova Scotia Liberal MP.

“The overwhelming response has been very positive,” Brison said from Windsor, N.S. “There’s always a very, very tiny minority of bigots. It’s their problem, it’s not my problem.”

At least one news website had to shut down its comments section running under a story about the card. The Globe and Mail web editor said the section was shut down because of “hateful and homophobic remarks…”

Brison is one of the few openly gay members of Parliament. He married his partner in 2007, two years after same-sex marriage became legal in Canada. He easily won re-election last year…

“It’s a personal card,” he said. “I’m not the first politician to have a family picture on a Christmas card … I’m looking forward to the day when this is seen as no big deal.”

As it should be. In a well-educated, modern nation.

Thanks, Mr. Fusion

Tweeting about death apparently is controversial

Readers of “mommy blogger” Shellie Ross are used to her sharing information about her life through her blog and also through her Twitter stream. No-one, however, expected a tweet she sent out on Monday that has sparked a storm of protest, criticism, headlines and sympathy. Here is why.

At 17:22 local time from her home in Florida, Ms Ross tweeted that:

“Fog is rolling in thick scared the birds back in the coop.”

Eleven minutes later, her son called 911 to report that his two-year-old brother Bryson was floating unconscious in the pool. The paramedics arrived at the house at 17:38.

At 18:12, Ms Ross tweeted again:

“Please pray like never before, my 2 yr old fell in the pool.”

Tragically, five hours later her son Bryson was declared dead. At 23:08 Ms Ross returned to her Twitter account to update her 5,400-plus followers. “Remembering my million dollar baby.” She also included a photo of Bryson in the post.

The case has now fuelled a debate about parenting and of course about how much someone should share about something so personal. There are equal amounts of shock, sympathy and anger about the affair.

And naturally enough, much of it is being conducted over the internet, especially through Twitter and a number of blogs.

RTFA for some of the commentary.

Regular readers will know that at best I’m non-social, a hermit except for my wife – who probably would also be a hermit except for me and the fact that she can’t telecommute her job. That doesn’t mean we’re anti-social.

I find it easy to comprehend the “social” nature of social media. How individuals find themselves in a collective and social relationship with many other individuals. It’s another part of how we evolved, after all. Personally, this blog is sufficient.

To berate someone for belonging to an atypical community – atypical by 19th Century standards prevalent in societies that have managed to achieve a minimal level of education and even less understanding – is crap!

Dark matter finally detected?

For 80 years, it has eluded the finest minds in science. But tonight it appeared that the hunt may be over for dark matter, the mysterious and invisible substance that accounts for three-quarters of the mass of the universe.

In a series of coordinated announcements at several US laboratories, researchers said they believed they had captured dark matter in a defunct iron ore mine half a mile underground. The claim, if confirmed next year, will rank as one the most spectacular discoveries in physics in the past century.

Tantalising glimpses of dark matter particles were picked up by highly sensitive detectors at the bottom of the Soudan mine in Minnesota, the scientists said.

Dan Bauer, head of the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS), said the group had spotted two particles with all the expected characteristics of dark matter. There is a one in four chance that the result is due to some other effect in the underground detectors, Bauer told a seminar at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, near Chicago…

“If they have a real signal, it’s a seriously big deal. The scale on which people are looking for dark matter is vast,” said Gerry Gilmore at Cambridge University’s institute of astronomy. “Dark matter is what created the structure of the universe and is essentially what holds it together. When ordinary matter falls into lumps of dark matter it turns into galaxies, stars, planets and people. Without it, we wouldn’t be here,” Gilmore said…

RTFA. If you read anything today – RTFA.

Fascinating and qualitative step forward in science – though it may take a while to prove and publish.

Stolen! – Auschwitz’ “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign – UPDATED

Thieves have stolen the infamous sign at the entrance of Poland’s Nazi-era concentration camp, Auschwitz, … police and museum staff reported Friday.

“The inscription was stolen early this morning,” museum spokesman Jaroslaw Mensfeld told AFP.

“It’s a profanation of the place where more than a million people were murdered. It’s shameful,” he added.

Whoever did it must have known what he was stealing and how to do it, he added.

The forged iron inscription was not hard to unhook from above the large gates at the entrance, “but you needed to know how,” he said.

Frackin unbelievable.

Care to speculate on the motive, or who would do it?

I have a feeling we’ll all know soon.

UPDATE: Police in Poland have arrested 3 young men who had the sign – cut into pieces – in their possession. No details, yet.

UPDATE: Swedish police have at least one Nazi terrorist in custody.

Open up that unpaid storage unit – and find what?

Fulton County, Georgia – Nearly 100 boxes of cremated remains were found in an East Point storage unit.

The 96 boxes were left behind by Sellers Brothers Funeral home, which has gone out of business, WSB-TV said.

Neil Gordon, a bankruptcy attorney and the trustee for the funeral home, told WSB that his staffers were at the storage facilities looking for the funeral home’s financial records when they discovered the cremated remains instead.

Some of the cremated remains — or, cremains — date back as far as 25 years.

They deserve a proper burial,” Gordon told WSB. “Their loved ones deserve to know that their remains were handled properly.”

Uh, especially since those families probably forked over the money for that proper burial.

Pic of the day – if you’re a satellite geek awaiting more HDTV

One of the latest snaps from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan – showing progress on getting the DirecTV D12 satellite ready for launch on 28th December.

Russian crew from ILS and American crew from Boeing. Taking their work very seriously.

Actually, they do. They’re working on a satellite the size of a schoolbus costing $9-figures. But, you have to behave a little silly once in a while to keep your sanity.

There’s a link behind the photo where you can follow months of discussion among completely batshit, Hi-Def TV and engineering nerds.