Tag: trending

It’s Time To Rethink The Maya Civilization

The Maya civilization has widely been regarded as one of the most accomplished ancient civilizations. A recent archaeological discovery is shedding new light on everything we thought we know about this amazing civilization.

Lidar Leads The Way

Scientists were able to complete the first ever in-depth exploration of the Maya ruins in Guatemala. Before this point, scientist only knew that a large amount of Mayan ruins lied under the canopy of the rainforest. Now, we know exactly what those ruins look like.

Lidar technology is like an x-ray for the earth. Using laser beams sent from airplanes, the light rays are able to pass over trees and dirt, but they stop at brick and clay structures. When the light stops, it bounces back to the plane and creates a 3D image of the ruins.

What Did They Find?

The Mayan city underneath the Guatemalan rainforest is just as complex and amazing as a modern one. There are 60,000 miles of roadways connecting huge fields to each other. There was a modern metropolis’ worth of housing, and there were even what seemed to be palaces and temples.

The Maya civilization wasn’t a mere group of smaller groups. The Mayas were able to grow enough food in ancient times to sustain millions of people living in one city together. This means that their agricultural methods were far more advanced than modern historians every imagined. That many people could not have survived on a subsistence farming or hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The agricultural system in the Mayan world had to be an extremely complex one.

Where Were They Going?

The lidar excavation revealed that the Mayan had an extensive network of roads within this ancient megacity. All of those well-made roads suggest something amazing.

Someone had to commission those roads to be built. It was likely a governmental project. It also suggests that there was a large commerce system within the Maya civilization. People didn’t simply stay where they lived. There was a lot of travel, just as there is travel in modern cities today. It’s quite possible that ancient Mayas hired other people to work in their fields. Who knows? Mayans could have felt the Monday blues like us!

Did We Get It All Wrong?

One of the most interesting discoveries of this extensive lidar forest exploration is that the Maya civilization had military strongholds. The strategic positioning of military fortresses suggests that the Maya’s wanted to be prepared from getting attacked by some group that lived west of the Maya civilization.

For much of modern history, Native American civilizations have been viewed as well structured, yet isolated groups. The roads, complex agricultural systems, and military defenses recently discovered in Guatemala turns that theory on its head. While more research will be necessary to prove anything, it seems more and more possible that the Maya civilization could have had way more interaction with other Native American civilizations than was ever known to modern man.

Popular Weed Killer Harms Honeybees, New Study Shows

Can you imagine a world without honey? It’s a depressing thought, but according to a new study, honeybees are increasingly in danger of deadly infections. What’s the culprit? Look no further than the world’s most popular weed killer, glyphosate.

But this isn’t the first time weed killers have been known to damage honeybees.

What The Previous Reports Said

Previous studies reported that harmful pesticides, including neonicotinoids, can damage honeybees’ abilities to pollinate. As we all learned in school, pollination is a vital function in the food chain and a crucial process for nearly three-quarters of food farms.

Thanks to a new study from the University of Texas at Austin, researchers have learned the weed killer glyphosate, manufactured by Monsanto, is damaging a lot more than the bees’ abilities to pollinate; it’s killing them.

Observing The Bees

Researchers learned bees “lose some of the beneficial bacteria in their guts and are more susceptible to infection and death from harmful bacteria.”

The only way to test this theory, however, was to subject bees to levels of glyphosate commonly found in the weed killer used for crop fields, yard, and roadsides. After three days, the exposed bees already showed signs of a “significantly reduced healthy gut microbiota.”

It wasn’t long after the experiment that the bees began dying from the exposure, and that’s when researchers knew the severity of using glyphosate.

Supporting The Facts

It was previously reported that bees weren’t harmed by herbicides. However, according to Erick Motta, a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, this isn’t true.

“We need better guidelines for glyphosate use, especially regarding bee exposure,” Motta said.

But Motta’s research isn’t the only data supporting this study. Other research from China reported in July that honeybee larvae grew more slowly and died more often after being exposed to weed killer.

Another study, conducted in 2015, showed that adult bees exposed to high levels of glyphosate have an increased chance of impairing “the cognitive capacities needed for a successful return to the hive.”

Denying The Truth

But Monsanto, whose product Roundup contains the herbicide, has denied the findings of research into the harmful levels of glyphosate.

A representative commented, “Claims that glyphosate has a negative impact on honeybees are simply not true.”

Glyphosate isn’t the only harmful threat to the honeybee population.

Bees and other pollinators are affected by the same environmental challenges as other endangered species, including habitat loss, degradation, diseases, pollution, fragmentation, and climate change.

As is the case for many animals, we need honeybees. Bees pollinate about 80% of wildflowers, and as noted, play a key role in the food chain. We may take them for granted, but we shouldn’t. Bees help plants grow, breed and produce the food we consume—including almonds, vanilla, apples, and squash. If you like those foods and other plants, thank a honeybee today.

After all, they keep you fed. Isn’t that a reason to be treated well?

Dogs Can Recognize Bad People, Research Shows

Americans love their pups. These four-legged friends happen to be one of the most popular choices as companions. In fact, more than 89.7 million dogs were owned as pets in the United States in 2017. What’s more, new research indicates humans may have another reason to love dogs as much as they do: dogs can detect bad people.

A recent study, published in the journal, Neuroscience & Behavioral Reviews, shows that not only can your dog tell when you’re being a jerk, but they’re probably judging you for it, too. While many people trust their dogs to be great judges of character, adding a bit of science and research to back up this claim never hurt.

Man’s Best Friend

Dogs are some of the most loyal animals on the planet. Often protective of their owners, there’s no question that they’ve earned the title of “man’s best friend.”


Many people believe the bond between humans and dogs is so strong due to domestication, that humans and canines developed alongside each other after thousands of years together.

Others think that dogs love humans so much because they consider themselves equals to their humans.

However, a group of researchers out of Japan wanted to know more. They sought to uncover whether dogs’ responses to humans are simply automatic, or if they change depending on the humans’ actions.

Behind The Study

“Dogs are known to consistently follow human pointing gestures,” the researchers explained. “In this study, we asked whether dogs ‘automatically’ do this or whether they flexibly adjust their behavior depending upon the reliability of the pointer, demonstrated in an immediately preceding event.”

During the study, several dogs went through various scenarios. In one scenario, a volunteer was instructed to assist someone struggling to open a jar.

In the first group, the volunteer helped the person open the jar. In the second group, the volunteer refused to help. Then, the same volunteers offered the pups a treat to determine how, if at all, they responded to the volunteers’ behavior.

As it turns out, the dogs were way more receptive to the volunteer who helped open the jar and took the treat from them. However, the dogs completely ignored the volunteer who refused to help, even with a treat in the volunteer’s hand.

This indicates that dogs can understand and evaluate when people are being mean. In addition, they favor those who exhibit kind, helpful behaviors and choose to ignore people with bad attitudes.

Incredible Inferences

“These results suggest that not only dogs are highly skilled at understanding human pointing gestures, but also they make inferences about the reliability of a human who presents cues and consequently modify their behavior flexibly depending on the inference,” the researchers concluded.

Amazingly, it seems that dogs are an even better judge of character than some humans. The lesson here? Think twice before acting like a jerk in front of your dog. Better yet, think twice before acting like a jerk, period.

Sci-Fi Fantasy Is Becoming The Stark Reality For China

The Better Business Bureau has a system of rating businesses based on past performance. What if you were rated as a person based on your conduct? People and businesses in China are getting social scores, and the system for assigning the scores sounds right out of a dystopian novel.

What’s Your Social Credit Score?

In China, a new system of scoring the actions of citizens is being slowly rolled out until it is nationwide by 2020. Each citizen and business will have a score. The scores will be connected with individual codes that are linked to the business and medical records of the person.

For actions that are considered good, the person’s score goes up. For actions that are considered bad, the score goes down. People with high scores get special incentives. People with low scores get punishments.

How The System Works

There are hundreds of millions of recording cameras already set up in cities around China. These strategically located cameras have the power to record a person’s every move.

As part of the social credit system, all of the cameras will be equipped with facial recognition software. The information gathered from the cameras will be cross-checked with other records to make sure that the right actions are being connected to the right face.

How Your Score Affects You

People with good scores receive advantages similar to the perks of being in an American rewards program like AAA. They get priority seating on public transportation. They get to skip lines in certain businesses, and they have access to better bank accounts.

The punishments for bad scores are more serious. One journalist who spoke out against the Chinese government has been fired from his job and is unable to get any other jobs in the journalism industry. All of his social media accounts have also been shut down. A common punishment for low scores seems to be restricted use of the Internet, and a person with an extremely low score can be ordered not to travel outside his or her city.

Impact On Businesses

The reach of the social credit system spans far beyond China’s borders. Since China is the most populated nation on Earth, international businesses have large operations in China. Recently, major airlines felt pressure from the new and controversial social credit system.

International airlines received letters from the Chinese government expressing anger about airlines referring to Taiwan as a country.  Businesses were threatened with lower social credit scores and reminded of the possible punishment. As a result, airlines in countries that recognize Taiwan as a nation now refer to it as a Chinese territory.

Public Perception

The social credit system is being compared to dystopian fiction, like Black Mirror and 1984, by foreign media, but the Chinese public has expressed approval of it.

The system is active in major Chinese cities, and citizens claim to enjoy the benefits. The world will certainly be watching to see the further implications of this controversial system.

Dynamite Dinosaur: An Important Italian Fossil Is Nearly Blown Up In The Italian Alps

A mighty, prehistoric meat-eater has been discovered in the Italian Alps. Paleontologists were confused about finding this four-fingered dinosaur in a seemingly random place. The newly identified creature—named Saltriovenator zanellai—lived about 200 million years ago and it’s the first Jurassic dinosaur discovered in Italy. It has also been named the oldest-known ceratosaurian, as well as the largest predatory dinosaur known from the early Jurassic period. Early Jurassic predatory dinosaurs, or at least those discovered so far, are very rare and often pretty small. The most important part of the Saltriovenator zanellai, however, is not its size or weight but its hands. Its hands could hold the answers to a variety of questions about where the common bird’s wing originated.

Not Quite The Oldest Dinosaur

The fossil found in the Italian Alps was at first believed to be the oldest known dinosaur fossil. However, an older one was discovered to have existed around 240 million years ago which is earlier than scientists previously theorized. This particular fossil was named Nyasasaurus parringtoni and it is only known from an upper arm and some backbones that were discovered in Tanzania in the early 1930s. Based on the fossils that were found, scientists estimated that it was between 6.5 to 10 feet long, including its tail. This led scientists to believe that all of the earlier dinosaurs were this size at least until Saltriovenator zanellai was discovered.

There is not much known about the oldest fossil since there were no skull bones recovered so it is unclear what the entire animal looked like. It could have been a theropod or a ceratosaurian like the newly discovered Saltriovenator. The discovery of Nyasasaurus parringtoni in Tanzania also supports the belief that dinosaurs originated in the southern part of the supercontinent known as Pangaea. Leading to the question of how did the fossilized remains of Saltriovenator zanellai end up in the Italian Alps?

Journey To Fossilization

Saltriovenator zanellai had a long journey before it was fossilized according to researchers. They believe that the dinosaur’s body somehow ended up in the sea where it was nibbled on by marine creatures before it was eventually buried. About 30 million years ago, the Alps began to form between the European continent and the Adriatic continent which brought the fossil out of the ground. According to the lead researcher, Cristiano Dal Sasso, a curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Milan Natural History Museum, finding this fossil was a miracle. “It’s a miracle that it survived such a long chain of events: drifting away to the sea, then floating, sinking, being scavenged by marine animals, reworked by sea bottom currents, buried, uplifted within a mountain chain, and eventually blow up by human explosives.”

The fossil was discovered in 1996 by an amateur fossil hunter, Angelo Zanella, in a marble quarry less than 50 miles northeast of Milan near Saltrio. Dal Sasso and his team took a look at the site, dug up more bones, and discovered that there were at least 30 bore marks on the bones from a variety of ancient marine invertebrates. A single tooth and a jaw fragment from bony fish were found with Saltriovenator which hinted to this dinosaur’s watery resting place.

The Evolutionary Tree

While the size of the dinosaur and its path of fossilization are intriguing, the biggest discovery about the Saltriovenator zanellai was told by its fingers. Dal Sasso and his team began piecing the dinosaur back together again and although many of the Saltriovenator zanellai bones were fragmented, there were plenty of signs to indicated that this beast had four fingers. The oldest-known dinosaurs had five fingers but all known ceratosaurs including Ceratosaurus and Eoabelisaururs, had four fingers. Many paleontologists, like Matthew Lamanna who is an assistant curator at Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, believe that “somewhere on the evolutionary line to ceratosaurs, the fifth digit was lost, resulting in the four-fingered hand of ceratosaurs.”

The next branch on the evolutionary tree is the Theropods, a mostly carnivorous and two-legged dinosaur. Theropods evolved further from the ceratosaurs by losing their fourth finger, leading to the three-fingered hands such as those seen on the well-known Tyrannosaurus rex. Eventually, the three fingers turned into the bird wing we see today. This evolution from dinosaurs to birds has been debated for many years but this new discovery may finally bring that debate to an end.

A Missing Piece

Lamanna has also noted that there has been a debate on which finger the theropods actually lost when they evolved from ceratosaurs. Thankfully “Saltriovenator zanellai helps show that the three-fingered hand of these theropods was produced through the loss of the fourth finger rather than the first (thumb).” Scientists found an interesting and surprising fact about this dinosaur as they studied it further. The paleontologists who uncovered the Saltriovenator zanellai noticed before studying it that this dinosaur was very large, about 26 feet long but it was only a young adult. This means that the dinosaur they found wasn’t done growing yet. It hadn’t reached its full size when it died yet it was already one of the largest discovered.

This dinosaur could be the missing piece for a long line of unanswered questions. One question being: how did bird wings evolve? The long debate about birds evolving from dinosaurs may finally come to an end. After all, birds are considered as the lone surviving dinosaur lineage. More specifically, the last theropod dinosaurs around. Some researchers believe that a bird’s wings were the result of the first, second, and third digits of the theropod hand becoming fused.

Saltriovenator zanellai provides evidence that modern bird wings actually evolved from the first, second, and third digits of a distant ancestor. This may seem like a pointless debate, but it could provide us with a better understanding of how certain traits emerge in a species. With further research, scientists may be able to find connections between the different species of dinosaurs and the creatures that walk the Earth today.