Ninety Million Years

Nothing lives forever.

However, death does not stop one’s role in the Universe; most dead things go to decay and recycle their basic elements back through nature. But some things go to the fossil record, instead:

Professionals from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History, pictured from left to right, Tom Suazo, fossil preparer, Amanda Cantrell, geosciences collections manager, Jake Sayler, volunteer, and Asher Lichtig, student researcher, excavate a 90 million-year-old turtle fossil about six miles east of Turtleback Mountain, a well-known peak near Truth or Consequences. (Robin Zielinski - Sun-News)The terrain looked much like any other in the southern New Mexico desert with its clumps of desert grass, its stands of mesquite bushes and its rock-strewn soil.

But to keen-eyed Jeff Dornbusch, a volunteer with a Truth or Consequences museum, a certain pile of rocks he spotted on a hike years ago looked a bit different.

Sure enough, as he’d later learn, they were fragments of a roughly 90 million-year-old turtle fossil.

“It just looked like a pile of gray rocks out here,” he said.

(Alba Soular)

If there absolutely must be a moral to the story, we might find satisfaction in the reminder that the Universe is a fascinating place, and well worth paying attention to. Sometimes there are wonders very nearly underfoot.

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Alba Soular, Diana. “Team digs up 90 million-year-old turtle remains in Sierra County”. Las Cruces Sun-News. 2 November 2014.

Linkadelica

Detail of photo by Olivier Grunewald

• If you haven’t discovered Summer Ash, do so. Or, consider the physics of your morning coffee, an exoplanet extravaganza from Kepler, or maybe the oldest known piece of planet Earth (and other notes).

• What do you get when you cross Bill Nye, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and President Barack Obama? I don’t know, but it sure is smart ….

Disordered hyperuniformity: You’ll never look at a chicken the same way again.

• Two words: blue lava.

• What does the number 915,103,765 have to do with LEGO bricks?

• Cosmic spiders? Not quite, but black widow binaries are still pretty scary.

• Every cloud has a silver lining, and really bad weather helps us find things we’ve lost.

• The question on everyone’s minds: What is a dropleton?

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.