Scientists Discovered the Egyptian Secret to Moving Huge Pyramid Stones

Scientists Discovered the Egyptian Secret to Moving Huge Pyramid Stones - The question of just how an ancient civilization—without the help of modern technology—moved the 2.5 ton stones that made up their famed pyramids has long plagued Egyptologists and mechanical engineers alike. But now, a team from the University of Amsterdam believes they've figured it out, even though the solution was staring them in the face all along.

It all comes down to friction. See, the ancient Egyptians would transport their rocky cargo across the desert sands, from quarry to monument site with large sleds. Pretty basic sleds, basically just large slabs with upturned edges. Now, when you try to pull a large slab with upturned edges carrying a 2.5 ton load, it tends to dig into the sand ahead of it, building up a sand berm that must then be regularly cleared before it can become an even bigger obstacle. 

Wet sand, however, doesn't do this. In sand with just the right amount of dampness, capillary bridges—essentially microdroplets of water that bind grains of sand to one another through capillary action—form across the grains, which doubles the material's relative stiffness. This prevents the sand from berming in front of the sled and cuts the force required to drag the sled in half. In half. 

As a UvA press release explains,

The physicists placed a laboratory version of the Egyptian sledge in a tray of sand. They determined both the required pulling force and the stiffness of the sand as a function of the quantity of water in the sand. To determine the stiffness they used a rheometer, which shows how much force is needed to deform a certain volume of sand.

Experiments revealed that the required pulling force decreased proportional to the stiffness of the sand...A sledge glides far more easily over firm desert sand simply because the sand does not pile up in front of the sledge as it does in the case of dry sand.

These experiments served to confirm what the Egyptians clearly already knew, and what we probably already should have. Artwork within the tomb of Djehutihotep, which was discovered in the Victorian Era, depicts a scene of slaves hauling a colossal statue of the Middle Kingdom ruler and in it, a guy at the front of the sled is shown pouring liquid into the sand. You can see it in the image above, just to the right of the statue's foot.

We can now finally put this scientific snipe hunt to rest and focus on how the hell Stonehenge got that way. Gizmodo en Español ]

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Mystery behind construction of ancient pyramids

Mystery behind construction of ancient pyramids - Solved! How Ancient Egyptians Moved Massive Pyramid Stones - The ancient Egyptians who built the pyramids may have been able to move massive stone blocks across the desert by wetting the sand in front of a contraption built to pull the heavy objects, according to a new study.

Physicists at the University of Amsterdam investigated the forces needed to pull weighty objects on a giant sled over desert sand, and discovered that dampening the sand in front of the primitive device reduces friction on the sled, making it easier to operate. The findings help answer one of the most enduring historical mysteries: how the Egyptians were able to accomplish the seemingly impossible task of constructing the famous pyramids.

A man makes his camel sit at the historical site of the Giza Pyramids near Cairo, Egypt, on Friday, Dec. 13, 2013. Tourism in Egypt has dropped following unrest surrounding the July 3 popularly backed military coup that ousted President Mohammed Morsi. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)             
A large pile of sand accumulates in front of the sled when it is pulled over dry sand (left). On the wet sand (right) this does not happen.

The ancient Egyptians who built the pyramids may have been able to move massive stone blocks across the desert by wetting the sand in front of a contraption built to pull the heavy objects, according to a new study.

Physicists at the University of Amsterdam investigated the forces needed to pull weighty objects on a giant sled over desert sand, and discovered that dampening the sand in front of the primitive device reduces friction on the sled, making it easier to operate. The findings help answer one of the most enduring historical mysteries: how the Egyptians were able to accomplish the seemingly impossible task of constructing the famous pyramids.

To make their discovery, the researchers picked up on clues from the ancient Egyptians themselves. A wall painting discovered in the ancient tomb of Djehutihotep, which dates back to about 1900 B.C., depicts 172 men hauling an immense statue using ropes attached to a sledge. In the drawing, a person can be seen standing on the front of the sledge, pouring water over the sand, said study lead author Daniel Bonn, a physics professor at the University of Amsterdam. 

"Egyptologists thought it was a purely ceremonial act," Bonn told Live Science. "The question was: Why did they do it?"

Bonn and his colleagues constructed miniature sleds and experimented with pulling heavy objects through trays of sand.

When the researchers dragged the sleds over dry sand, they noticed clumps would build up in front of the contraptions, requiring more force to pull them across.

Adding water to the sand, however, increased its stiffness, and the sleds were able to glide more easily across the surface. This is because droplets of water create bridges between the grains of sand, which helps them stick together, the scientists said. It is also the same reason why using wet sand to build a sandcastle is easier than using dry sand, Bonn said.

But, there is a delicate balance, the researchers found.

"If you use dry sand, it won't work as well, but if the sand is too wet, it won't work either," Bonn said. "There's an optimum stiffness."

The amount of water necessary depends on the type of sand, he added, but typically the optimal amount falls between 2 percent and 5 percent of the volume of sand.

"It turns out that wetting Egyptian deserts and can reduce the friction by quite a bit, which implies you need only half of the people to pull a sledge on wet sand, compared to dry sand," Bonn said.

The study, published April 29 in the journal Physical Review Letters, may explain how the ancient Egyptians constructed the pyramids, but the research also has modern-day applications, the scientists said. The findings could help researchers understand the behavior of other granular materials, such as asphalt, concrete or coal, which could lead to more efficient ways to transport these resources. ( Live Science )

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Earliest Jesus Depiction May Have Been Discovered In Ancient Egyptian Tomb

Earliest Jesus Depiction May Have Been Discovered In Ancient Egyptian Tomb - A team of Catalan archaeologists have discovered what they believe to be one of the earliest depictions of Jesus in an ancient tomb in Egypt.

The researchers uncovered an underground structure in a series of buried tombs that date to the 6th and 7th centuries. Among the Coptic, or early Christian, images painted on the walls was what lead researcher Josep Padró described as "the figure of a young man, with curly hair, dressed in a short tunic and with his hand raised as if giving a blessing."

"We could be dealing with a very early image of Jesus Christ," Padró told La Vanguardia.
Tombs in the Kidron Valley.
Synagogue excavated at Gamla.
The interior of a burial crypt at Dominus Flevit ("The Lord wept") on the Mount of Olives.

Archaeologists believe the tomb belonged to a well-known writer and a family of priests in the ancient Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus, according to The Local.

The researchers removed 45 tons of rock to access the tombs, which are situated among several sites Padró has been excavating for the last 20 years. 

The drawing is under lockdown while researchers begin to translate the inscriptions surrounding it.

In 2011, archaeologists working near the Sea of Galilee discovered a 2,000-year-old booklet with what was then thought to be one of the earliest depictions of Jesus. The booklet reportedly bore the inscription ‘Saviour of Israel’ and was found in a cave in Jordan among other ancient artifacts. ( )

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Fossil whales in desert mystery solved

Fossil whales in desert mystery solved — Scientists investigating a graveyard of marine mammal fossils near Chile's northern coast say toxins generated by algae blooms most likely poisoned the animals millions of years ago.

The study by a team of Chilean and Smithsonian Institution scientists was published Wednesday in the British journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The experts traveled to Chile's Atacama region in 2011 to unearth one of the world's best-preserved graveyards of prehistoric whales. Their findings help solve a mystery about how dozens of whales and other marine mammals congregating off South America's Pacific Coast died only to emerge again atop a desert hill over a half mile from the surf.
FILE - In this Aug. 24, 2010 FILE photo released by Chile's Paleontological Museum of Caldera, a prehistoric whale fossil lays in the Atacama desert near Copiapo, Chile. A team of Chilean and Smithsonian Institution scientists investigating the graveyard of marine mammal fossils say toxins generated by algae blooms most likely poisoned the animals millions of years ago. The study by a team of Chilean and Smithsonian Institution scientists was published Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. (AP Photo/Museo Paleontologico de Caldera, File)

"There are hundreds of whale skeletons yet to be found," said Nick Pyenson, curator of fossil marine mammals at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. "This is a site on par with Dinosaur National Monument here in the United States, a whole hillside littered with dinosaur skeletons. We seem to have the same thing except with whales here in Chile."

The remains were first found by construction workers in 2010 during the widening of the Pan American Highway, or Route 5, which is Chile's main north-south road. Other unusual creatures found at the "Cerro Ballena," or Whale Hill, site include an extinct aquatic sloth and a walrus-like toothed whale.

Scientists say the skeletons show the animals were poisoned by toxins some 5 million to 11 million years ago and "died at sea, prior to burial on a tidal flat."

"Based on the orientation of the skeletons and other information, these whales likely died from harmful algae blooms, which we know in the modern world can be a killer," Pyenson said.

Algae blooms can create poisons that can be ingested or inhaled causing organ failure in marine mammals. Blooms are common along coasts and are enriched by nutrients like iron carried by rivers into the ocean. Scientists say that for more than 20 million years, runoff from the iron-rich Andes mountains has created ideal conditions for harmful algae blooms along South America's western coast.

"The key for us was its repetitive nature at Cerro Ballena," Pyenson said. "No other plausible explanation in the modern world would be recurring, except for toxic algae, which can recur if the conditions are right."

With funding from the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian team used sophisticated photography and laser scanners to create an online archive of 3-D images of the whales and they made life-size models before the site was covered by the highway. The fossils themselves were put in museums in Santiago and the northern Chilean city of Caldera. ( Associated Press )

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Astronomy Teacher Finds Hubble Telescope's Hidden Treasure

Astronomy Teacher Finds Hubble Telescope's Hidden Treasure - A Connecticut astronomy teacher has uncovered a dazzling view of a satellite galaxy to the Milky Way while exploring the "hidden treasures" of the Hubble Space Telescope.

The new Hubble photo, released Thursday (Jan. 17), shows an intriguing star nursery dotted with dark dust lanes in the Large Magellanic Cloud about 200,000 light-years from Earth. The Hubble observation used to create the image was discovered in the telescope's archives by Josh Lake, a high school astronomy teacher at Pomfret School in Pomfret, Conn., as part of the "Hubble Hidden Treasures" contest that challenged space fans to find unseen images from the observatory. 
Nearly 200 000 light-years from Earth, the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, floats in space, in a long and slow dance around our galaxy. As the Milky Way’s gravity gently tugs on its neighbour’s gas clouds, they coll

Hubble officials also released an eye-popping video tour of the Large Magellanic Cloud, which zooms in on the region highlighted in Lake's photo.

Lake won first prize in the Hubble photo contest with an image of the LHA 120-N11 (N11) region of the Large Magellanic Cloud. Hubble officials combined Lake's image with more observations of the N11 region in blue, green and near-infrared light wavelengths to create the new view.

"In the center of this image, a dark finger of dust blots out much of the light," Hubble officials said in an image description. "While nebulae are mostly made of hydrogen, the simplest and most plentiful element in the universe, dust clouds are home to heavier and more complex elements, which go on to form rocky planets like the Earth."

The interstellar dust in N11 is extremely fine, much more so than household dust on Earth. It is more similar to smoke, researchers explained.

The Large Magellanic Cloud, or LMC, is one of two small satellite galaxies of the Milky Way (the other is the smaller, aptly named Small Magellanic Cloud). Because of its relatively close proximity, the Large Magellanic Cloud has long been used as a sort of cosmic laboratory to study how stars form in other galaxies.

"It lies in a fortuitous location in the sky, far enough from the plane of the Milky Way that it is neither outshone by too many nearby stars, nor obscured by the dust in the Milky Way’s center," Hubble officials said in a statement. "It is also close enough to study in detail … and lies almost face-on, giving us a bird’s eye view."

In addition to the N11 region, the Large Magellanic Cloud is also home to the spectacular Tarantula nebula, the brightest nearby star nursery, Hubble officials said.

The Hubble Space Telescope has been snapping spectacular photos of the universe since 1994 and is a joint project by NASA and the European Space Agency. This month, NASA officials said the long-lived space observatory could potentially last through 2018. ( )

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Scientists explore the illusion of memory

Scientists explore the illusion of memory - Every time someone recalls a memory, it's a chance to change it. A memory might seem like a permanent, precious essence carved deep into the circuits of the brain. But it is not. Instead, scientists are discovering that a memory changes every time you think about it.

"Every time you recall a memory, it becomes sensitive to disruption. Often that is used to incorporate new information into it." That's the blunt assessment from one of the world's leading experts on memory, Dr. Eric Kandel from Columbia University.

And that means our memories are not abstract snapshots stored forever in a bulging file in our mind, but rather, they're a collection of brain cells — neurons that undergo chemical changes every time they're engaged.

So when we think about something from the past, the memory is called up like a computer file, reviewed and revised in subtle ways, and then sent back to the brain's archives, now modified slightly, updated, and changed.

As scientists increasingly understand the biological process of memory, they are also learning how to interrupt it, and that means they might one day be able to ease the pain of past trauma, or alter destructive habits and addictions, as though shaking an Etch A Sketch, erasing the scribbles on the mind, and starting fresh.

In his McGill University lab, researcher Karim Nader routinely erases the memory of his laboratory rats. But first he has to give them a memory and he does that by putting them in an isolation cubicle, playing a tone, and then delivering a small electrical shock to their feet.
Experiments to erase memory

"So that's the traumatic memory," he says. For the rat, the sound of the tone equals an unpleasant experience. The next time the animal hears the tone, it is afraid, even though it doesn't get the foot shock.

How do you tell that the rat remembers pain? It freezes.

"If you are in the dark, and you're scared. You freeze. It's the same as a rat, the same brain mechanism that controls our fear response controls the rat's fear response," Nader said.

The next step in erasing the memory is to put the animal back in the conditioning chamber and play the tone, so the memory is freshly recalled in the rat's brain. Then Nader experiments with drug that blocks the chemical process needed to restore the memory. The old memory of the tone followed by a foot shock is replaced by a new memory of a tone followed by nothing at all.

Nader puts the rat back into the isolation cubicle, plays the tone and watches what happens. The previously shocked rat no longer freezes in fear when it hears the tone. Instead, it moves around the box calmly exploring the environment, the bad memory of tone-plus-shock apparently erased, as though the whole unpleasant foot-shocking business never happened.

The point of this research? If you can erase a memory in a rat brain, you should also be able to erase a memory in a human brain.

"The memories can become unstored and have to be restored. And when they're being restored, it's an opportunity to either strengthen them, change their content to possible false memories, or weaken them," Nader said. "And if you weaken them, essentially it's the same as erasing memories."

"The old view of memory processing was that our memories got stored in the brain and once they're stored, you can't touch them," Nader said. But scientists now realize that memories are evolving all the time. "Every time someone recalls a memory, it's a chance to change it," Nader added.

That's because the memory has to be restored using a biochemical pathway that is very similar to the original storage. And there are ways to interfere with this memory "reconsolidation" using a drug. "You have to change the strength of the connection between neurons. It's almost like you've unwired the memory," Nader said.

For some, the idea that memories are unstable is an unsettling concept. But Eric Kandel says understanding the biology of memory doesn't dehumanize it.

"This does not take the magic out of it," Kandel said. "You know that your heart is a muscular pump that pushes blood around the circulation, but that doesn't mean you can't lose your heart to somebody. The metaphorical meaning is not in any way altered, but there is a biological underpinning to what the brain actually does."

"The modern view is that everything you and I do, from the most simple reflex act of hitting a racket in tennis to the most creative flights of ideas, comes from the brain," Kandel said. He won the Nobel Prize in 2000 for his research on the biological basis of memory. "You are who you are and I am who I am because of what we learn and what we remember and these are all biological processes," he said.

It was a controversial concept when Karim Nader published his first scientific paper about interfering with memory, more than a decade ago. Back then, he faced many skeptics and he was surprised at the hostile the reaction.

"Definitely," he said. "There was a huge shock and backlash. After years of scientific rigour and argument, I did manage to inspire a lot of the younger generation to at least test it. So very quickly after that it had been shown across species, across tasks, using different kinds of tools, so at that point it became impossible for anyone to say, 'this can't be real.' I mean it has to real, they find it in snails, they find it in humans, they find it in dogs."
Understanding memory could lead to treatments

Understanding the neurochemical process of memory opens up possibilities for therapy in situations where memory is causing pain.

"People think that post-traumatic stress disorder might be susceptible to treatments of this kind. No one has shown this in a convincing way. But this is certainly an interesting avenue of investigation," Kandel said.

"There are many disorders of memory. Obviously, age-related memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, working memory loss, PTSD which is a hyperactivity of memory if you will," he explained.

Nader believes memory disruption could be helpful in a wide range of psychiatric disorders. He is collaborating with other researchers on drug addiction, and others are investigating the implications for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

"So if you imagine OCD, what happens over time is somebody becomes more and more obsessive in a certain compulsion, then the neurons that contribute and maintain that behavior, they're going to undergo a reconsolidation process," Nader says.

"So every time they have another episode, that circuit controlling the compulsion is going to have to be hypothetically unstored and then restored. And so if you had a tool just to block that restorage process, then, in theory, what should happen is you should be able to make somebody better and go from their compulsive behavior to something relatively more normal."

Early research on post traumatic stress disorder has been encouraging, Nader said. In studies, subjects have been asked to remember the trauma, and then take a drug that has been shown to block memory reconsolidation, and that seems to reduce the strength of the traumatic memory to non-PTSD levels.

Researchers finding other ways to change memory

Other research has suggested that it might even be possible to block the memory reconsolidation without drugs, by asking a person to remember something and then, in those moments of remembering, replace the old memory with new information.

"The memory becomes unstored and during that time you just tell them a different kind of information is correct and you allow time for that other information to be restored. It's almost as if the new information, can, in some cases, replace the old information," Nader said.

"It's great theoretically, because you don't have to give anyone any kind of a drug," he said. "Every time you remember something, it's an opportunity to change the content of it, that's just the way the brain is."

Sitting in his McGill University lab, watching his rats calmly exploring the chamber they once feared, Karim Nader agrees that memory is much more transient than most people think.

"Yes, but that's not to say it's bad," he said. "The fact that memory turns out to be far from permanent is a positive thing for human survival. Evolution thinks it's the best way for it to work. Therefore, it's not a bad way. If it was a bad way, then we would have been extinct a while ago." ( )

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