Archaeologists discover a cave painting of a wild pig that is now the world's oldest dated work of representational art.
- Archaeologists find a cave painting of a wild pig that is at least 45,500 years old.
- The painting is the earliest known work of representational art.
- The discovery was made in a remote valley on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
Oldest Cave Art Found in Sulawesi<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a9734e306f0914bfdcbe79a1e317a7f0"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/b-wAYtBxn7E?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Scientists find that an RNA-DNA mix may have created the first life on our planet.
- New study shows that RNA and DNA likely originated together.
- The mixture of the acids are believed to haveproduced Earth's first life forms.
- The molecules were created with the help of a compound available in planet's early days.
DNA vs RNA<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="da10f8cfd35fb631bd6f1064fb05440d"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/JQByjprj_mA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The search for alien life is far too human-centric. Our flawed understanding of what life really is may be holding us back from important discoveries about the universe and ourselves.
- What, should it exist, is the universal law that connects all living things? To even dream of answering that question, and to one day find alien life elsewhere in the cosmos, humans must first reconcile the fact that our definition of life is inadequate.
- For astrobiologist Sara Walker, understanding the universe, its origin, and our place in it starts with a deep investigation into the chemistry of life. She argues that it is time to change our chemical perspective—detecting oxygen in an exoplanet's atmosphere is no longer sufficient enough evidence to suggest the presence of living organisms.
- "Because we don't know what life is, we don't know where to look for it," Walker says, adding that an unclear or too narrow focus could result in missed discoveries. Gaining new insights into what life on Earth is could shift our quest to find alien life in the universe.
An important step toward figuring out our space station future.
- Long-distance space travel will require self-sufficient, sustainable living in tightly enclosed environments.
- Basic human needs such as growing food and dealing with water have yet to be fully addressed by research.
- Scientists from Tokyo University have developed a way to convert human urine into ammonia fertilizer for growing food.
The basic idea<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk3MTExMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMjgxNzc4OX0.N3VL_qdQyIP8I9XI3WEdgfuGvx_icadr3ALKL6rty4Y/img.jpg?width=980" id="8a11d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dafcd9169c3bf17fe2bb9714ce3ab1fa" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="763" />
Way off on our own
Credit: Luca Oleastri/Adobe Stock/Big Think<p>In the past, we've built communities in areas that provide the resources we need to sustain us. When we've needed to grow food, we've populated locations that have water, land on which to grow food and raise livestock, a decent climate, enough space for us to live, and so on. As we leave such cozy environs, all of that goes out the airlock. As things stand now, all we have will be what we bring with us as we step out among the stars.</p><p>Among the most successful types of fertilizer traditionally has been animal waste that's rich in nitrogen. With this in mind, Suzuki's team has been working on the production of ammonia—which is made up of nitrogen and oxygen—derived from the compound <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urea" target="_blank">urea</a> found in urine.</p><p><a href="https://www.tus.ac.jp/en/mediarelations/archive/20201214_2233.html" target="_blank">Says Suzuki</a>, "I joined the 'Space Agriteam' involved in food production, and my research specialization is in physical chemistry; therefore, I came up with the idea of 'electrochemically' making a liquid fertilizer."</p><p>"This process is of interest from the perspective of making a useful product," asserts Suzuki, "i.e., ammonia, from a waste product, i.e., urine, using common equipment at atmospheric pressure and room temperature."</p>
How it works<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk3MTg1Ny9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNjQxNjgxOH0.FPjD_Jw01vNLVaOEsuFb7KsYu8jejNaYdT0e7Bnoeqg/img.png?width=980" id="3b69d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="42335a3259ef65f3078c4020555b3c11" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="980" data-height="646" />
Credit: Suzuki, et al./New Journal of Chemistry<p>The researchers' experiments so far have used artificial urine.</p><p>The electrochemical process the scientists invented works at room temperature.</p><p>One one side, a reaction cell held both 50 milliliters of an artificial urine sample and a boron-doped diamond (BDD) electrode in a photocatalyst of titanium oxide that was continually stirred throughout the process. On the other was a counter cell in which a platinum electrode was immersed in salty water. When a steady current of 70 mA was introduced to the BDD electrode, the urea oxidized and formed ammonia atoms. </p><p>As part of the experiment, the researchers also exposed the photocatalyst-immersed BDD to light to see if that affected the process, and found that it actually led to less ammonia being oxidized.</p><p>Next up, says Suzuki, "We are planning to perform the experiment with actual urine samples, because it contains not only primary elements (phosphorus, nitrogen, potassium) but also secondary elements (sulfur, calcium, magnesium) that are vital for plant nutrition!"</p>
Counting down<p>Tokyo University's <a href="https://rist.tus.ac.jp/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/e3.jpg" target="_blank">Space Agriteam</a> is part of the school's <a href="https://rist.tus.ac.jp/en-introduction/en-center/research-center-for-space-colony/" target="_blank">Research Center for Space Colony</a>. Obviously, agriculture in space is a key element in developing humankind's off-planet future. Their emphasis is finding technological solutions toward the development of safe, sustainable space agriculture that can thrive in a totally closed-off environment.</p><p>The potential for the researchers' new invention is clear to Suzuki, who predicts "it will turn out to be useful for sustaining long-term stay in extremely closed spaces such as space stations."</p>
The Chumash people poked bits of psychoactive plants into cave ceilings next to their paintings.
- Mysterious pinwheel paintings in a California cave are probably representations of the hallucinogen Datura wrightii.
- The paintings were made by the Chumash people 400 years ago.
- This is the first definitive connection between cave painting and hallucinogens.
A suspicion confirmed<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0MzQ3My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzOTgwMjk5NH0.S3cHxTWA0-NnEZE2Pc2wWEvTjbKGINKAEy7gaI0_nxE/img.jpg?width=980" id="44b2f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a8b2cdbfb20dd669a639aa6467f5ff09" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="913" />
Robinson in Pinwheel Cave
Credit: Rick Bury/PNAS<p>About 50 clumps, or "quids," of chewed <em>Datura</em> plant fibers were found tucked into the stone alongside the swirls. It's believed they were painted sometime between 1530 and 1890 by members of the Chumash tribe, linked to today's Tejon people. This is the first time traces of hallucinogens have been found in proximity to cave art. It strongly suggests a connection.</p><p>The discovery was made by archaeologist <a href="https://www.uclan.ac.uk/staff_profiles/dr_david_robinson.php" target="_blank">David Robinson</a> of the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) in the U.K. Robinson has been excavating the cave since 2007.</p><p>As for what those red-ochre pinwheels represent, Robinson asserts that they depict <em>Datura</em> itself and the way that it unwinds at dusk as seen at the top of this article.</p>
Datura wrightii<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0MzQ4MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMzA1ODM5Mn0.4AU3TZ6B0gntCK45Fkm0_UdMbSXnrQSvAHua0bsj4ec/img.jpg?width=980" id="c3c55" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a3c10957305244183fe3b5f5656a64d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="1440" />
Credit: Dlarsen/Wikimedia Commons<p>Chemical analysis revealed that 15 quid samples contained traces of two hallucinogenic alkaloids found in <em>Datura</em>, scopolamine and atropine. Microscopy revealed that a majority of the quids contained remnants of <em>Datura</em>, and further 3D scrutiny found that the quids exhibited properties consistent with having been chewed.</p><p>Says co-author <a href="https://www.strath.ac.uk/staff/bakermatthewdr/" target="_blank">Matthew Baker</a> of the University of Strathclyde, "The combination of chemistry and archaeology in this project has truly shown the power of a multidisciplinary approach to uncover new knowledge."</p><p>The Chumash people are known to have used <em>Datura</em> in adolescent rites of passage and for shamanic vision quests. The plant was considered part of the tribe's spiritual family, personified as an old woman named "Momoy." The plant is classified today as an <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entheogen" target="_blank">entheogen</a>, which are plants used for spiritual purposes.</p><p><em>Datura</em> was often ingested after being processed into liquid form, it was also chewed, as seen in the cave's quids. The Chumash knew how much <em>Datura</em> to ingest — it can be lethal when the dosage is too high.</p>
Bringing the past to the present<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0MzQ5My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNzg4NTI1MH0.0e6H1ImLOQvOlpO9MloBjvUDCC3jWfyk37voCQU64E0/img.jpg?width=980" id="1bc7e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="173dc2bfcfe6f12ee6c3e89bdfa29d97" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="456" />
Credit: Devlin Gandy/University of Central Lancashire<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The link between hallucinogens and rock art has long been suspected," says Robinson, "and this research shows that it was not only a source of creative inspiration for these prehistoric groups of people, but a core tenet of important rituals and community gathering."</p><p>He adds, "These findings give us a far more in-depth understanding of the lives of indigenous American communities and their relationships, from late prehistoric times right up until the late 1800s. Importantly, because of this research, the Tejon Indian tribe now visits the site annually to reconnect to this important ancestral place."</p><p>Co-author <a href="https://www.southampton.ac.uk/archaeology/about/staff/fcs22.page" target="_blank">Fraser Sturt</a> of the University of Southampton, lauds the partnerships that made the findings possible:</p><p>"The results of this project spring from a high interdisciplinary, open and collaborative approach to research. In this way, new and improved recording and analytical techniques have helped to reconnect material remains, art, narrative and people across space and time. Thus, while the focus is on the hallucinogenic properties of Datura and its role in rock art and community generation, this work also shows that it is one facet of a complex suite of relationships between people, place and the environment."</p>