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.

An earthquake lasted 32 years and ended in disaster

An 8.5-magnitude earthquake struck the Indonesian island of Sumatra in February 1861, shook the earth and caused a wall of water to wash away the nearby banks and kill thousands of people…Now it seems that the tragic incident was not an isolated incident: the truth is that It was the end of the longest documented earthquake to date, which occurred over a span of 32 years. These types of earthquakes, known as slow slip events, can occur over days, months, or years. But the recently described phenomenon lasted more than twice as long as the previous record holder, as stated in an article published in natural earth sciences…

Like fast phenomena, slow earthquakes release energy stored by the movements of tectonic plates. But instead of releasing it into an earth-shaking storm, slow earthquakes release tension little by little over time and are not a danger on their own. However, subtle changes below the surface can increase pressure in adjacent areas along the fault, which could increase the risk of a larger nearby earthquake…

In 2016, Reshav Malik from Nanyang Technological University analyzed coral reef data with fresh eyes. By modeling the physics of the subduction zone and the movement of fluids along the fault, the researchers discovered that the rapid change was caused by the release of accumulated stress – the onset of a slow earthquake…

Understanding these slow phenomena is critical to understanding the potential risks they pose in causing larger tremors. Slow landslides preceded many of the strongest earthquakes documented to date…“It’s a hot topic in this area,” says Noel Bartlow, a slow seismic geophysicist at the University of Kansas who was not involved in the study. But proving that slow slip events can cause major geological earthquakes has been difficult. Not all slow earthquakes cause a large earthquake…“The evidence is growing, but it is still limited to a few case studies…”

Worth learning about. Of course. As our knowledge and research technology improves, we find more to research…in addition to what prompted study in the first place.

Wooly Mammoths to be recreated to roam the Arctic, once again

A little more than two years ago, serial tech entrepreneur Ben Lamm reached out to renowned Harvard geneticist George Church. The two met in Boston, at Church’s lab, and that fruitful conversation was the catalyst for the start-up Colossal, which is announcing its existence Monday.

The start-up’s goal is ambitious and a little bit crazy: It aims to create a new type of animal similar to the extinct woolly mammoth by genetically engineering endangered Asian elephants to withstand Arctic temperatures.

It could take as little as six years for Colossal to create a calf, Church told CNBC…“Our goal is in the successful de-extinction of inter-breedable herds of mammoths that we can leverage in the rewilding of the Arctic. And then we want to leverage those technologies for what we’re calling thoughtful, disruptive conservation…” Lamm told CNBC.

Proving the technology with de-extinction is only the beginning. These same technologies will be able to solve a huge array of human problems,” Richard Garriott told CNBC. “Synthetic biology will allow us to create new life forms that can address massive problems, from oil and plastic cleanup to carbon sequestration and much more. Solving tissue rejection and artificial wombs will go on to help improve and extend life for all humans.”

Cripes! I’d like to live another 80 years or so just to see the products of future genetic engineering coming to fruition.

These boots were made for walking…

Henry Leutwyler

The boots of Port Authority Sgt. John McLoughlin, who was buried for 22 hours in the 9/11 rubble before his rescue.

Photographer Henry Leutwyler was nearby, too…He watched the first World Trade Center tower fall from his rooftop at Broadway and Bleecker in Lower Manhattan. His direct connection to this moment in history, combined with his ability to imbue simple objects with emotion, made him the ideal photographer, years later, for a unique project.

Over the course of two weeks, with unprecedented access to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, he combed through hundreds of dusty boxes in the archive, each with close to 20 objects inside. Henry made thousands of photographs. They carry a power and dignity of their own—and some are featured…in September’s issue of National Geographic.

I appreciate walking shoes, hiking boots, work shoes. Never forgot my first pair of steel toe safety shoes. GE Apprentice Dept. got me a discount.

I even talked my way into a shoemaking apprenticeship once. The boss paid such crap wages I just couldn’t afford to stay there and work for him.

Ready for the next BIG ONE?

One of the most prominent features on the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Seismic Hazard map is the red high hazard zone surrounding the New Madrid Seismic Zone; as high as other western areas famous for quake activity. The zone is active, averaging more than 200 measured seismic events per year…

Unlike the West Coast where major quake activity is more predictable based on measured movement at tectonic plate boundaries, New Madrid is located near the center of the North American Plate. The crust in the central U.S. is being deformed / strained slowly in contrast to conditions in the west. What has been learned in studies there may not apply here.

Another contrast is due to a difference in geological characteristics. The harder, colder, drier, less fractured crust in the central U.S generates greater shaking over larger areas than quakes of comparable magnitude in the west. Shake and damage areas are up to 20 times larger than similar West Coast quakes…

To date, the earthquakes of 1811-1812 remain 1 of the most remarkable seismic events in history. On the USGS list of the 20 largest earthquakes in all 50 United States, the 3 main shocks are ranked #18, 19, and 20 (Alaska dominates the top of the list). On the list for the continental 48 states, the New Madrid main shocks are ranked #5, 6, and 7…

In the 200 years since 1811, changes to the areas that would be affected by major quake activity in the zone have been drastic. Sparsely populated and developed then, there were approximately 5,700 residents in St. Louis in 1811. Today an estimated 11 to 12 million live in the St. Louis to Memphis region.

Just in case our politicians haven’t offered you enough to worry about. Don’t forget about Mother Nature!

Think disasters are unrelated? Think again!

Given the ever-increasing frequency of severe weather events, human-made catastrophes and epidemics, piecemeal and fragmented responses will fail to address root causes and may in fact compound the challenges, a new United Nations report argues.

The Interconnected Disaster Risks report analyses 10 disasters of 2020 and 2021, including the Amazon wildfires, the Beirut explosion, and the cold wave in Texas in the United States among others, and makes the case that solving such problems will require addressing their root causes rather than surface challenges.

“If we keep trying to manage disasters as isolated events, we will fail,” Jack O’Connor, senior scientist at the United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security, told Al Jazeera.

“Unless we change our approach to not only ask ‘what’ happened when investigating disasters, but also ‘why’ they happened, any preparatory measures we devise will not be enough,” said O’Connor, who is the lead author of the report.

Say it, again, Jack. After decades of scientists trying to convince folks just how interconnected societies, cultures, economies are becoming…nature and human-made climate change may finally push ignorant “locals” into understanding (1) how small the world has become…and (2) we may have reached the limits of passing the buck instead of taking some part of responsibility to act to cure whole problems. Finally.