Oldest footprints in the Americas dated in White Sands


Dan Odess

The footprints look like they were left behind just moments ago by a barefoot visitor to New Mexico’s White Sands National Park, the amblings of a slightly flat-footed teen, each toe and heel impression crisply defined by a fine ridge of sand.

But this is no tourist track. These prints are among the oldest evidence of humans in the Americas, marking the latest addition to a growing body of evidence that challenges when and how people first ventured into this unexplored land.

According to a paper published today in the journal Science, the footprints were pressed into the mud near an ancient lake at White Sands between 21,000 and 23,000 years ago, a time when many scientists think that massive ice sheets walled off human passage into North America.

Exactly when humans populated the Americas has been fiercely debated for nearly a century, and until recently, many scientists maintained this momentous first occurred no earlier than 13,000 years ago. A growing number of discoveries suggest people were in North and South America thousands of years before…

…After decades of the field centering around a Clovis culture of only 13,000 years ago, change may finally be on the horizon. “I think we will not speak in terms of pre-Clovis possibilities,” Ciprian Ardelean says. “We will speak in terms of pre-White Sands and post-White Sands.”

I haven’t been to White Sands since I retired. There was a time I would pass by there [and stop in for a spell] every three or four weeks. One of the most beautiful places on this planet. Coupling that natural beauty with the earliest human settlers just makes it all the more intriguing.

UK startup turns plastic waste into wax


Plastics dump in the Maldives

A British startup’s innovation to tackle plastic pollution by decomposing the material into a wax that’s digested by nature is making inroads in Asia.

Polymateria Ltd., which has a lab on Imperial College London’s campus, has struck a deal with a supplier to 7-Eleven in Taiwan, Polymateria Chief Executive Officer Niall Dunne said in an interview. The company has also inked a deal worth as much as $100 million to license its technology to Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics Corp., one of the world’s biggest petrochemical manufacturers.

Polymateria’s technology uses about a dozen different chemicals, including rubbers, oils and desiccants, that are added to plastic during the manufacturing process. The additives can be adjusted to create thin films that cover food products or more rigid materials to make cups or drink pouches. The products can be customized to essentially self-destruct after a certain time. The additives help break down plastic polymers and turn the plastic into a wax that’s fully digested by natural bacteria and fungi.

Hey! It’s a start.