Controversial Maya Codex Is the Real Deal After All

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Controversial Maya Codex Is the Real Deal After All

Friday 8:00pm
The Grolier Codex is the oldest known manuscript in ancient America. (Image: Justin Kerr)

Scientists have been arguing over the authenticity of an ancient document called the Grolier Codex for 50 years. A new analysis published in a special section of the journal Maya Archaeology has concluded that the codex is indeed genuine, making it the oldest surviving manuscript from the pre-Colombian era.

Perhaps you’re not familiar with the Grolier Codex. It’s the surviving pages of a 20-page book, made of stucco-coated bark paper folded into an accordion shape. The pages are painted with typical Maya iconography—gods, warriors, slaves, and hieroglyphs, for instance—and include a calendar charting the movement of the planet Venus.

Legend has it that looters ransacking a cave in Mexico came across the badly damaged pages in the 1960s, along with a turquoise mask, a sacrificial knife, and some blank pieces of fig-bark paper. That’s according to a Mexican collector named Josue Saenz, who claimed he was contacted by the looters and taken by plane to a remote airstrip to collect the items—although at least one archaeologist, Donna Yates, has called this account “fantastical.”

Saenz’s questionable account and subsequent actions cast doubt on the authenticity of the fragments from the start, even though the other artifacts have since been shown to be genuine. Scientists tested the codex in 2007, but couldn’t decisively settle the matter of its authenticity, partly because while many of the materials used were pre-Colombian, some of the wear and tear in the pages seemed artificial. It was possible a gifted forger may have used materials from the right period to throw off archaeologists. And radiocarbon dating revealed the blank pages of bark paper found with the codex pegged them to around 1230 AD.

A detail from the Grolier Codex. (Image: Justin Kerr)

“It became a kind of dogma that this was a fake,” co-author Stephen Houston of Brown University said in a statement. “We decided to return and look at it very carefully, to check criticisms one at a time. Now we are issuing a definitive facsimile of the book. There can’t be the slightest doubt that the Grolier is genuine.”

Along with Harvard University’s Michael Coe, and Mary Miller and Karl Taube of the University of California, Riverside, Houston reviewed all the known research on the codex.

That included assessing the manuscript’s origins, the carbon dating results, the various deities depicted, how the bark paper was made, the Maya blue pigments, and thin red sketch lines underneath the paintings, among other aspects. The team concluded that a forger in the 1960s simply could not have known all the details required to create such a forgery. Many of the deities shown in the codex hadn’t even been discovered then, for example, and scientists didn’t successfully make Maya blue in the lab until the 1980s.

There are three other known (authenticated) ancient Maya manuscripts, known as the Dresden, Madrid, and Paris Codices, in addition to the Grolier Codex. There are variations among them, but all include astronomical calendars tracking the movements of heavenly heavenly bodies. And radiocarbon dating shows the Grolier predates the other three.

“A reasoned weighing of evidence leaves only one possible conclusion,” the authors wrote. “Four intact Mayan codices survive from the Precolumbian period, and one of them is the Grolier.”

[Maya Archaeology]

World’s First ‘Nanofish’ Coming to Swim Drugs Up Your Bloodstream

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World’s First ‘Nanofish’ Coming to Swim Drugs Up Your Bloodstream

Saturday 1:36pm

If the idea of a robot fish swimming through your veins elicits a Cronenberg-ian chill up your spine, you might want to brace yourself. Researchers at U.C. San Diego have created the first nanofish, the New Scientist reports—a magnet-powered bot that they hope to use for targeted delivery of medication, non-invasive surgery and single-cell manipulation.

Developed by Jinxing Li and his team at the University of California, these new nanobots are 100 times smaller than a grain of sand and consist of tiny gold and nickel segments that are connected with silver hinges. An external magnet is used to manipulate the nickel and create a waving motion to propel the bot forward. The speed and direction of the little swimmer is determined by the orientation and strength of the magnetic field.

Ultimately, the team hopes that their remarkable invention will be able to deliver drugs like pain medication to the specific area of the body that needs it.

While other scientists have developed “nanoswimmers” for the same potential purposes, most of those experimental models are more like submarines than fish. Traditionally, bacteria’s corkscrew tail has been the design inspiration for helical propellers that move a nanobot through the bloodstream. Experiments have shown that the nanofish is actually more efficient.

Tiny metal mechanisms building up in your body might conjure visions ofTetsuo the Iron Man, rest assured—Li says that they are working on a biodegradable version.

[The New Scientist]

Airlines Now Verbally Warning Passengers Not to Use Samsung Galaxy Note 7 on the Plane

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Airlines Now Verbally Warning Passengers Not to Use Samsung Galaxy Note 7 on the Plane

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 after sustaining fire damage from its battery (Twitter)

Airlines and airports are beginning to crack down on explosive Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones. This morning, New York Times reporter Mike Isaactweeted that his airline verbally warned passengers to power off and stow the recalled device.

For the past two weeks, consumers have been reporting that their Note 7s are exploding. Earlier today, the Post reported that one exploded in a six-year-old boy’s hands.

Samsung has stopped selling the phone and initiated a “product exchange program,” that would allow customers to return their potential phone bombs. After being criticized for not issuing an official recall, Samsung now says that it is working with the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The latest statement from the company puts things more clearly: “We are asking users to power down their Galaxy Note7s and exchange them now.”

On Friday, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission issued an official statement urging people not to use the Note 7.

The FAA has issued a warning to passengers in which it strongly advised them to not turn on or charge the phone during a flight. The United Arab Emirate’sGeneral Civil Aviation Authority has banned the use of the device on the plane, as have Scandinavian Airlines, Virgin Australia, Singapore Airlines and more. Pakistan International Airline “strongly advised” passengers not to take the phone onboard, “not even in their check-in luggage, as it may compromise aircraft and passenger safety.”

Experts say that it would be difficult to enforce such a ban. Airline consultant, Mike Boyd told CNN, “The reality is, if we know it catches fire, we shouldn’t have it on airplanes. Period.”

These New Images of Jagged Rock Formations on Mars Are Just Incredible

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These New Images of Jagged Rock Formations on Mars Are Just Incredible

Yesterday 8:40am
(Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

NASA’s Curiosity rover is currently exploring the “Murray Buttes” region of lower Mount Sharp, where it captured these beautiful color images of eroded rock formations. The pictures are so crisp and detailed, it’s as if we’re right there on the Martian surface.

A hillside outcrop with layered rocks. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Curiosity captured these images using its Mastcam on Thursday, September 8. The images reveal Martian buttes and mesas—the eroded remnants of ancient sandstone that first formed when winds deposited sand after Mount Sharp had formed.

Finely layered rocks. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

The layering within the sandstone is referred to as “cross-bedding,” and it’s a sign that the sandstone was deposited by wind as migrating sand dunes. Mars features an incredibly active and dynamic surface, one that’s still undergoing changes.

“Studying these buttes up close has given us a better understanding of ancient sand dunes that formed and were buried, chemically changed by groundwater, exhumed and eroded to form the landscape that we see today,” noted Curiosity project scientist Ashwin Vasavada in a statement.

Sloping buttes and layered outcrops within the Murray Buttes (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

NASA plans to take some of the images snapped at the site to create several large color mosaics, which we’re seriously looking forward to.

A sloping hillside within the Murray Buttes. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

These new images represent Curiosity’s last stop at the Murray Buttes, where it has been romping around for the past month. The rover is now headed south, driving up to the base of the final butte as it exits the area and makes its way higher up the mountain.

An outcrop with finely layered rocks. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)


George is a contributing editor at Gizmodo and io9.

Blue Origin’s New Reusable Rocket Is Absurdly Huge

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Blue Origin’s New Reusable Rocket Is Absurdly Huge 

Yesterday 11:30am
Image: Blue Origin

Blue Origin is adding a new re-usable rocket to its stable—and it’s a big one. Meet the New Glenn, a 23-foot diameter rocket booster with 3.85 million pounds of thrust.

Company founder Jeff Bezos announced the new rocket model today, along with a graphic comparing it to some other heavy rockets. The New Glenn crests to 313 feet tall in its three-stage version—just below the world’s tallest rocket the 363-foot Saturn V.

Although it’s the tallest (except for the now-defunct Saturn V) it won’t necessarily be the most powerful. SpaceX’s forthcoming Falcon Heavy is supposed to be able to generate 5 million pounds of thrust to New Glenn’s 3.85 million. Saturn V was able to generate over 7 million pounds.

Still, this is an incredibly powerful rocket that signals some deeper space ambitions from the company. “The 3-stage variant—with its high specific impulse hydrogen upper stage—is capable of flying demanding beyond-LEO missions,” Bezos noted.

The rocket is named for astronaut John Glenn and Blue Origin expects it to fly by the end of the decade. They also released the name of another upcoming rocket series, New Armstrong, although no details on that have yet come out.