Brain Candy for Chimps: No, Really

File under, “Hmph.”

No, really, I don’t know what to say, so let us just check in with Pallab Ghosh, for BBC:

My name is Tomas ....A study has shown that anti-depressants can be used to help former lab chimps combat depression and trauma.

Researchers say that the treatment should be considered for hundreds of other chimps that have been used in scientific research.

The finding comes as a US funding body thinks about retiring the more than 300 chimps it uses for medical research.

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Temple of Fire

    The smoke allowed the priests to connect with their gods.”

    Marco Guillen

Huaca El Paraiso, just north of LimaThe ways of elder cultures can often be strange, with bizarre rituals and, if I remember correctly an archaeology class I barely passed once upon a time, transcendent substances. Well, that isn’t so shocking, but I remember something about tobacco so strong it could induce hallucinations; maybe I should have paid closer attention, or at least gone to class more often.

As we all know, though, there is plenty of smoke that lets you “connect with gods”.

Er … um … right.

Aerial view of Huaca El ParaisoArchaeologists working at El Paraiso, in Peru, have unearthed a structure with a footprint of over 570 square feet (≈55m2) in a wing of the main pyramid. Dubbed “The Temple of Fire”, the ruins could be as much as 5,000 years old. The BBC reports:

They had been carrying out conservation work on the site on behalf of Peru’s Ministry of Culture when they came across the remains, which had been obscured by sand and rocks.

They said the temple walls were made of stone and covered in fine yellow clay which also contained some traces of red paint.

The archaeologists said the find suggests that the communities in the Late Pre-ceramic Age (3500 BC to 1800 BC) were more closely connected than had been previously thought.

Huaca El ParaisoPeru’s Deputy Minister for Culture Rafael Varon said the the temple was the first structure of its kind to be found on Peru’s central coast.

“It corroborates that the region around Lima was a focus for the civilisations of the Andean territory, further bolstering its religious, economic and political importance since times immemorial,” Mr Varon said.

Archaeologist Marco Guillen, who led the team which made the discovery, said the hearth gave insight into the civilisation which had used the site.

“The main characteristic of their religion was the use of fire, which burnt in the centre,” he told the BBC’s Mattia Cabitza in Lima.

“The smoke allowed the priests to connect with their gods,” Mr Guillen said.

Science and Star Wars

The Death of Admiral OzzelAs Star Wars fever heats up toward its inevitable pandemic in 2015, when J. J. Abrams is slated to release the yet-untitled Chapter VII, the first symptoms are already apparent over at Wired Science, where physics professor Rhett Allain reflects on his Reddit AMA session discussing the science of the cinematic saga. Actually, he’s giving out homework:

• How hot is a light saber? (from roguepublichealth) I think you have to first figure out what a light saber actually is and why it glows.

• How much material would be needed to build the Death Star (from astanisic) You will obviously need some estimates here. If you want a second question, how long would it take to put this Death Star together. You can answer for both the first (Episode IV) and second (Episode VI) Death Stars – which are different sizes.

The physics of choking someone to deathAnd so on. In truth, it’s not one of his better Dot Physics posts, but only because he’s asking the questions and not explaining the answers. For instance, there is more to learn from his consideration of the vital question, “How much does Darth Vader weigh?”

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Twit le Monde

TweetpingTwitter is a curious beast, a nest of contradictions. To the one it is annoying and inane. To the other, it is fascinating and transformative. And, really, it depends on who you pay attention to. That is to say, sure my favorite novelist likes to tell the world what and when he’s drinking, or what he thinks the dog thinks, or the latest idea for a band name. But I like his sense of humor, so it’s hardly as annoying as a high school friend who constantly shares coupons and sale prices from various online and brick-and-mortar retailers via Facebook; my own Facebook page, incidentally, is littered with bad jokes about news, and updates on what beer I’m drinking. To the other, you can get important news updates, or find out what rock Curiosity is drilling, or even how far away the Voyager probes are. And, of course, there are the constant updates of who has posted what on the internet. (NovSci does not currently have a Facebook page or Twitter feed, but we are considering the merits.)

Enter Tweetping, which might actually be more interesting than Twitter itself. The site allows you to watch Twitter in realtime, and is strangely hypnotic.

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Spiders!Science does have its creepy side. Then again, why would it not? Still, perhaps the phrase raining spiders ought to serve as a warning about what comes next.

And while the idea of spiders falling from the sky like rain is not entirely accurate, well, you get the picture. Arachnophobes might want to skip Nadia Drake’s report for Wired Science:

When 20-year-old web designer Erick Reis left a friend’s house on Sunday, he saw what looked like thousands of spiders overhead, reported G1, a Brazilian news site, on Feb. 8. The large, sturdy spiders were hanging from power lines and poles, and crawling around on a vast network of silk strands spun over the town of Santo Antonio da Platina.

Social spidersReis did what many of us might do: He pulled out his camera and shot a video of spiders seemingly falling from the sky.

As creeptastic is it may be, “The phenomenon observed is not really surprising,” said Leticia Aviles, who studies social spiders at the University of British Columbia. “Either social or colonial spiders may occur in large aggregations, as the one shown in the video.” The reason, she and others say, is simple: This is how they hunt.

Er … yeah. I’m not a fan of spiders. Ironically, I had a dream the night before I saw this article that had something to do with a staggering number of spiders. I have no idea why, or what it means. Forgive me, please, if I haven’t paused to dwell on the Freudian or Jungian interpretive values involved.

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