Archive for 09/05/2011

Aristea Brady –

For most people, it’s the limited ability to breathe that scares them about scuba diving. But imagine if you couldn’t see while diving.

That’s a feat a 25-year-old woman from New Hope has decided to take head-on.

Asha Duncan was born blind. Although she has no ability to see, she hasn’t let that stop her from pursuing a life dream.

Most people might find a situation underwater a bit frustrating. Duncan overcomes her frustration with a smile.

Duncan said she first got the idea to scuba dive when she saw the shark tank at the Mall of America on Oct. 18, 2008.

Duncan said being underwater is the one time her heightened sense of hearing goes silent.

“I like the feeling of it, because you’re weightless underwater, and you don’t hear much sounds. And if you do, you can’t really tell where the sounds coming from,” Duncan said.

Gary Shaleen is the owner of Fantasea Scuba and Travel in Burnsville. Duncan called Shaleen to see if he’d be willing to teach her.

“It was a no-brainer. Let’s do it!,” Shaleen said.

During Duncan’s final certification test, Shaleen swam close by to offer Duncan assistance.

“So we’re just basically right next to each other, following each other along. So, we’ll give okay signals, she’ll feel my hand, then she’ll give okay back, or if we’re going to go down or go up, we’ll communicate,” Shaleen said.

Full story…

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Cdispatch –

Many young people — and old ones too — enjoy collecting fossil shark’s teeth. The Tombigee River Valley is full of chalk and sand outcroppings that contain many different kinds of fossils. In the Golden Triangle area, these deposits are mostly from the Cretaceous Period of geologic history and range from about 70 to 82 million years old. Throughout the area are found the teeth of sharks, giant fish, sea going reptiles and even an occasional dinosaur.

During the Cretaceous Period (some times called the “Age of Dinosaurs”) a great sea covered much of the South Central United States. The chalk and sands of our region date to the end of that period. The southern end of the then already ancient Appalachian Mountains was eroding and filling rivers with sand and gravel. These rivers were emptying into the forerunner of the Gulf of Mexico in northwest Alabama and the northeast corner of Mississippi.

When the Aberdeen, Columbus, Starkville and West Point area was covered by the inland sea, what is now Jackson and the part of the Delta around southern Humphreys County, were volcanic islands. The Delta volcano is known as the Midnight Volcano for the sleepy community of Midnight under which it lies. The Jackson Volcano was actually a 420-square-mile volcanic island on which Jackson now sits. The remains of the Jackson Volcano’s main vent still exist a half a mile beneath the city whose name it bares.

The large amounts of ash from these volcanoes reacting with the sea water created the bentonite deposits that are found around Aberdeen. Fortunately it has probably been 75 million years since there has been a major eruption and the two volcanoes are now considered extinct.

The variety of fossils that can be found in the Cretaceous deposits is amazing. One can find everything from amber to coral, shells, crabs, sand dollars, bones, plant remains and even coprolites (fossilized animal waste). It is teeth, however, that most seem to capture people’s imagination.

Full story…

Larry O’Hanlon –

Mariners may have been traveling the Aegean Sea even before the end of the last ice age, according to new evidence from researchers, in order to extract coveted volcanic rocks for pre-Bronze Age tools and weapons.

A new technique which dates obsidian — volcanic glass which can be fashioned into tools — suggests that people were mining for obsidian in Mediterranean waters and shipping the once valuable rocks from the island of Melos in modern day Greece as far back as  15,000 years ago.

“Obsidian was a precious natural rock-glass found only in Melos, some in [the modern-day Greek areas of] Antiparos and Yali,” explained Nicolaos Laskaris of the University of the Aegean in Greece. “From there it was spread all over the Aegean and in the continent too through contacts of trade.”

If you wanted to have sharp tools and weapons in the days before bronze, you needed places like Melos. But you also needed a boat to get there. The evidence that people were crossing over to Melos even before the end of the last ice age comes from obsidian artifacts found in the Franchthi cave on the Peloponnese peninsula in southern mainland Greece — far from the island of Melos.

Previous geochemical work had already established the artifacts were from Melos, but figuring out when they were brought from the island is a trickier problem.

“They were sailors, certainly, especially in the Aegean region they followed little islands jumping like a frog reaching also Asia Minor and the Greek mainland,” said Laskaris, who with his colleagues has published a paper about the discovery in the Sept. 2011 issue of Journal of Archaeological Science.

“Until now only in Franchthi cave obsidians had been found at circa 8,500 B.C. Now we prove earlier contact with coastal sites was a fact.”

Full story…

Michelle Roberts –

Scientists hope to harness coral’s natural defence against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays to make a sunscreen pill for humans. The King’s College London team visited Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to uncover the genetic and biochemical processes behind coral’s innate gift.

By studying a few samples of the endangered Acropora coral they believe they can synthetically replicate in the lab the key compounds responsible.

Tests on human skin could begin soon.

Before creating a tablet version, the team, led by Dr Paul Long, plan to test a lotion containing the same compounds as those found in coral.

To do this, they will copy the genetic code the coral uses to make the compounds and put it into bacteria in the lab that can rapidly replicate to produce large quantities of it.

Once we recreate the compounds we can put them into a lotion and test them on skin discarded after cosmetic surgery tummy tucks”
Lead researcher Dr Paul Long

Dr Long said: “We couldn’t and wouldn’t want to use the coral itself as it is an endangered species.”

He said scientists had known for some time that coral and some algae could protect themselves from the harsh UV rays in tropical climates by producing their own sunscreens but, until now, they didn’t know how.

“What we have found is that the algae living within the coral makes a compound that we think is transported to the coral, which then modifies it into a sunscreen for the benefit of both the coral and the algae.

Full story…