2,000 Year Old Bog Butter

I thought this article about the recent discovery of a well-preserved 2,000 year old barrel filled with butter was pretty neat. 

It was found by workmen in a peat bog in Ireland and weighs some 77 pounds.  Though the butter itself has turned into a waxy substance, the whole of it is remarkably well-preserved — owing to the cool, acid- and oxygen-free conditions which prevail in these bogs.

According to this page, discoveries of bog butter are not uncommon at all in Ireland — though a 2,000 year old find is apparently unprecedented.  The children in the image above are pretending to eat one of these more ordinary discoveries.  

Many well-preserved organic materials are in fact found in the peat bogs of Europe and the British Isles.  Most familiar are probably the bog bodies — such as the spectacularly well-preserved Tollund Man, discovered in Denmark in 1950.      

Greensboro Public Library has several books on bodies recovered from these peat bogs, the best of which, though published in 1969, is P.V. Glob’s The Bog People:  Iron Age Man Preserved.  We also have two juveniles on this fascinating topic:  Bodies From the Bog by James M. Deem; and Bog Bodies by Janet Buell. 

Written in Bones:  How Human Remains Unlock the Secrets of the Dead, edited by Paul Bahn, also includes a section on bodies recovered from the peat bogs of Europe.

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Mount Wilson Observatory Threatened by the Station Fire

Once again, Southern California is coping with a large, out-of-control fire — this time near Los Angeles.  Over 85,000 acres have burned so far, and 1000s of homes are threatened and under mandatory evacuation orders.

Word was received yesterday that the famous Mount Wilson Observatory is also in the fire’s path, and late news today indicates that firefighters who have spent the last few days clearing brush and prepping the mountain have been ordered off. 

Here’s yet another article which explains just how vast the Mount Wilson complex is (50 to 60 buildings owned by UCLA, USC, UC Berkeley and Georgia State), as well as the presence of a large number of cell phone, television, and radio facilities on the mountain.   

Also, here’s a blog with frequent updates on the situation from Mount Wilson’s Director, Hal McAlister. 

Lastly, you can get updates from this Sky and Telescope magazine page, which includes a time lapse movie of webcam images of the fire as seen from Mount Wilson — at this writing, the webcam seems to either be down or so busy that it won’t load.   

Mount Wilson includes several very large telescopes and is of historical importance as the observatory where Edwin Hubble conducted research using the 100 inch Hooker telescope — which for many years was the largest in the world — leading to his recognition that the universe is expanding — and ultimately to the “Big Bang Theory” (a turn-of-phrase coined many years later by Fred Hoyle).

Greensboro Public Library has lots of books on astronomy, as well as a few that will no doubt discuss the Mount Wilson Observatory, such as Kevin Krisciunas’ Astronomical Centers of the World, and Stargazer:  The Life and Times of the Telescope by Fred Watson.

We’ve also got a DVD called The Journey to Palomar:  America’s First Journey into Space:  A Film which includes information on the history of Mount Wilson Observatory. 

And please don’t forget, you can find information about the Mount Wilson Observatory in Science Online.

UPDATE:  The latest post from Hal McAlister, which came in at 5:46 eastern time, indicates that “passage of fire across Mount Wilson is imminent and will be fought aerially rather than with ground personnel.”

UPDATE 2:  For the latest updates from Hal McAlister on Mount Wilson please go here.

A Changing Kingdom and the Saudi Petra

For those of you interested in archaeological sites, I thought this AP article mentioning an ancient Nabataean city called Madain Saleh, located in Saudi Arabia, was a good one.

Most anyone with any interest in the history of archaeology will be familiar with Jordan’s extraordinary Petra, “the rose red city half as old as time” discovered by Johann Ludwig Burkhardt, a Swiss traveling in disguise as an Arab, in 1812.  The city’s well-preserved rock-cut tombs, combining classical with Nabataean motifs, are simply extraordinary — one of the finest being the so-called “Treasury,” which is reached through a narrow gorge called the Siq. 

But I must admit I had no idea there was a similar Nabataean city in Saudi Arabia called Madain Saleh.

Part of the reason for my ignorance, as the author of the AP article explains, has been the hitherto Saudi practice of regarding pre-Islamic archaeological sites as manifestations of evil — and essentially ignoring them. 

However, in recent years, this attitude has begun to change.  Archaeologists are beginning to excavate Saudi sites that were previously off limits, and archaeological tourism is now being encouraged.         

If you’d like to read more about the forces currently shaping Saudi culture, the library’s holdings include several pertinent recent titles, such as:  Inside the Kingdom:  Kings, Clerics, Modernists, Terrorists, and the Struggle for Saudi Arabia by Robert Lacey (on order); The Battle for Saudia Arabia:  Royalty, Fundamentalism, and Global Power by Asad Abukhalil; and Saudi Arabia by Nicholas Buchele.  And this book, The Gold of Exodus:  The Discovery of the True Mount Sinai by Howard Blum, deals at least in part with antiquities in Saudi Arabia. 

The library also has a couple of older books on the ancient Nabataean city of Petra.  These are Deities and Dolphins:  The Story of the Nabataeans by Nelson Glueck (1965) and Petra by Iain Browning (1973).

Brett Favre, a Minnesota Viking — Finally!

Well, ever since former standout Green Bay Packer quarterback Brett Favre “retired,” there has been talk about him joining his arch-rival.  It’s been an on again, off again courtship, to say the least.  But last week Favre finally became a Minnesota Viking.

I must admit, I’m skeptical that Favre has still got it and can help turn the Vikings around.  For me rather, the whole Favre thing just brings back a lot of Vikings memories.

I guess in North Carolina most people these days follow the Panthers, but back when I was growing up here in the 1970s we Tar Heels didn’t have a pro team to cheer for — at least we didn’t have one in our backyard anyway.  So, for whatever reason, I became a Vikings fan. 

Maybe it was their purple uniforms, the reputation of the “Purple People-eaters” for defensive toughness, or maybe it was the fact that they simply had one of the best teams in the NFL when I was a kid, I don’t know — but I was a Vikings fan then and still am.

Of course, the thing about being a Vikings fan back in the ’70s was that you had to get used to the emotional rollercoaster of great victories but no Super Bowl rings — ’cause the Viks just couldn’t quite get the job done.  (And the last few decades they just haven’t been able to do the job at all.  Sometimes I think they lost their mojo when they went to that domed stadium in 1982!)       

The first year I followed the NFL and pulled for the Viks was 1969-70.  Their quarterback was an awesome, tough guy type named Joe Kapp, and he had a stellar season that year.  There were some incredible moments:  a great come-from-behind victory over the Rams in the playoffs and an amazing win over Detroit in the snow on Thanksgiving Day.  Kapp ultimately led Minnesota to Super Bowl IV, where they were heavily favored but suffered a disappointing loss to Kansas City, 23-7.    

Then quarterback Fran Tarkenton returned to the Vikings (in ’72 I think), and after he settled in they had a run of really good seasons, though of course they were never able to win a Super Bowl, losing the big one three times to the Dolphins (’74), Steelers (’75) and Raiders (’77).  And who could forget the great team that lost to Dallas with that “Hail Mary” pass in the first round of the playoffs in 1975?     

Returning to the here and now, I think the thing Brett Favre represents to old Vikings fans like me — and maybe young ones too — is another shot at a Super Bowl ring.  Just as we looked to quarterbacks such as Kapp and Tarkenton to make the difference 35-40 years ago, today we look to Favre.

But it’s a long shot, I know, especially with Favre now 39 years old.  And it comes as a real shock for me to realize that he was born (October 1969) during the season Kapp and the Viks had their great run!

Anyway, if the Favre story has peaked your interest in him, you may want to check out Brett Favre:  The Tribute by Sports Illustrated or Favre:  the Man, the Legend, edited by Joe Funk. 

Greensboro Public Library’s holdings also include plenty of recent books on pro football generally, including:  The Paolantonio Report:  The Most Overrated and Underrated Players, Teams, Coaches, and Moments in NFL History by Sal Paolantonio with Rueben Frank; That First Season:  How Vince Lombardi Took the Worst Team in the NFL and Set It On the Path to Glory by John Eisenberg (on order); War Without Death:  A Year of Extreme Competition in Pro Football’s NFC East by Mark Maske; Brand NFL:  Making and Selling America’s Favorite Sport by Michael Oriard; Pro Football’s Fifty Toughest Players by Neil Reynolds; Tailgating, Sacks, and Salary Caps:  How the NFL Became the Most Successful Sports League in Sports History by Mark Yost; The Long Snapper:  A Second Chance, a Super Bowl, a Lesson for Life by Jeffrey Marx; Uncommon:  Finding Your Path to Significance by Tony Dungy with Nathan Whitaker; The Score Takes Care of Itself:  My Philosophy of Leadership by Bill Walsh with Steve Jamison and Craig Walsh (on order); and The Glory Game:  How the 1958 NFL Championship Changed Football Forever by Frank Gifford with Peter Richmond.

Britain Releases UFO Files

Here’s a neat story about last week’s British National Archives release of thousands of pages of UFO files from the 1980s and ’90s.  You can view the files here.  

As MSNBC reports, the release included the complete file on the Rendlesham Forest Incident, a series of UFO sightings which occurred in late 1980 and considered by some to be Britain’s equivalent to the infamous Roswell, New Mexico, event of 8 July 1947.  Among the witnesses of a “strange glowing object” in the Rendlesham Forest near Ipswich were several U.S. servicemen, and elevated radiation levels were said to have subsequently been recorded at the site.

Greensboro Public Library has books on UFOs, of course — though it’s sometimes a topic that we have trouble keeping in stock.  On the Roswell Incident, for example, we’ve got:  The Roswell Dig Diaries, ed. by Mike McAvennie; Roswell:  Final Declassification (DVD); Roswell:  Inconvenient Facts and the Will to Believe by Karl T. Pflock; The Roswell Report:  Case Closed by James McAndrew; The Day After Roswell by Philip J. Corso with William J. Birnes; The Truth About the UFO Crash at Roswell by Kevin D. Randle & Donald R. Schmitt; and The Roswell UFO Crash:  What They Don’t Want You to Know by Kal K. Korff. 

Our more general works on UFOs in include:  The UFO Phenomenon:  Fact, Fantasy and Disinformation by John Michael Greer (on order); Flying Saucers and Science:  A Scientist Investigates the Mysteries of UFOs:  Interstellar Travel, Crashes, and Government Cover-ups by Stanton T. Friedman; UFOs and Aliens by Preston Dennett; Connecting the Dots:  Making Sense of the UFO Phenomenon by Paola Leopizzi Harris; The Mothman Prophecies by John A. Keel; Shockingly Close to the Truth:  Confessions of a Grave-robbing Ufologist by James W. Moseley and Karl T. Pflock; Need to Know:  UFOs, The Military, and Intelligence by Timothy Good; Cosmic Test Tube:  Extraterrestrial Contact, Theories & Evidence by Randall Fitzgerald; and Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind:  Alien Abduction, UFOs, and the Conference at M.I.T. by C.D.B. Bryan.

Hurricane Bill Forms in Atlantic & Predicted to Reach Category 3 Status

Well, it’s Atlantic hurricane season again, and over the last week or so we’ve seen our first named storms of the season develop. 

Though still well out to sea, the most threatening of these is Bill, as of 11 AM a Category 1 hurricane with 90 mph winds.  According to this MSNBC report, Bill is expected to grow to a Category 3 with winds of 110 mph by Wednesday.   

Any threat the storm may present to the U.S. east coast is uncertain at this point — but will probably become clearer by the end of the week.  You can follow Bill’s progress online at the National Hurricane Center‘s webpage, which includes charts, satellite imagery, reports on the predicted track of the storm and conditions favorable or unfavorable to development, wind speeds, etc.

Of course, the library has books on hurricanes if you’re interested.  Try some of these recent titles:  Hurricanes, Typhoons, & Other Tropical Cyclones by Neil Morris (juvenile); Storm World:  Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle Over Global Warming by Chris Mooney; Storm That Drowned a City (DVD); Hurricane Hunters!:  Riders on the Storm by Chris L. Demarest (juvenile); Hurricane Katrina Strikes the Gulf Coast:  Disaster & Survival by Mara Miller (juvenile); Hurricane Watch:  Forecasting the Deadliest Storms on Earth by Jack Williams and Bob Sheets; Inside the Hurricane:  Face to Face with Nature’s Deadliest Storms by Pete Davies; The Great Hurricanes of North Carolina by John Hairr; Faces from the Flood:  Hurricane Floyd Remembered by Richard Moore and Jay Barnes; Isaac’s Storm:  A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History by Erik Larson; The Great Hurricane–1938 by Cherie Burns; Down in New Orleans:  Reflections from a Drowned City by Billy Sothern; 1 Dead in Attic: After Katrina by Chris Rose; Breach of Faith:  Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City by Jed Horne; and Storm that Drowned a City (DVD).

Is Cave System Discovered Under the Giza Pyramids = Ancient Egyptian Underworld?

This story from the Discovery Channel about an amateur sleuth’s “alleged” discovery of a cave system under the pyramids at Giza is not confirmed (and has a sort of Graham Hancock ring to it), but I nonetheless thought it very interesting.

In March, 2008, with the financial assistance of the Association for Research and Enlightenment (ARE) and the Edgar Cayce Foundation, Andrew Collins, along with his wife Sue and another man named Nigel Skinner-Simpson, mounted an expedition to Egypt to look for these caves which Skinner-Simpson believes correspond to “catacombs” explored in the early 19th century but subsequently forgotten.

Egyptologist Zahi Hawas dismisses the discovery of the caves as nothing new, but Collins thinks he’s found “the region of the ancient Egyptian underworld known as the Duat” and says that “Giza was known anciently as Rostau, meaning the ‘mouth of the passages.'”

There’s an Atlantean connection too.  In his newsletter, Collins notes

the modern-day belief that existing beneath the Sphinx is the entrance to a hidden chamber known as the Hall of Records.  According to the readings of American psychic Edgar Cayce (1877-1945), this subterranean structure contains the life records of those belonging to a lost civilization that thrived at Giza at the end of the last Ice Age, c. 11,000-10,000 BC.

Here’s a link to Collins’ online newsletter in which he discusses his discovery; and on this page you can find a link to an interview with Mr. Collins (note the Indiana Jones style hat!).

Greensboro Public Library has plenty of books about Ancient Egypt if you’d like to learn more.  Try some of these:  Red Land, Black Land:  Daily Life in Ancient Egypt by Barbara Mertz; Ancient Egpyt by George Hart (juvenile); The Secret of the Great Pyramid:  How One Man’s Obsession Led to the Solution of Anceint Egypt’s Greatest Mystery by Bob Brier and Jean-Pierre Houdin; Imagining Egypt:  A Living Portrait of the Time of the Pharaohs, written and illustrated by Mark Millmore; An A to Z of Ancient Egypt by Simon Cox and Susan Davies; The Rosetta Stone and the Rebirth of Ancient Egpyt by John Ray; Mirage : Napoleon’s Scientists and the Unveiling of Egypt by Nina Burleigh; National Geographic Investigates Ancient Egypt: Archaeology Unlocks the Secrets of Egypt’s Past by Jill Rubalcaba (juvenile); Treasures of the Pharaohs by Delia Pemberton; The Rape of the Nile:  Tomb Robbers, Tourists, and Archaeologists in Egypt by Brian Fagan; and The Search for Nefertiti:  The True Story of an Amazing Discovery by Joann Fletcher.