SciTech Roundup 1






The ship ‘graveyard’ at Fournoi which hit the news late last year continues to produce a remarkable number of ancient shipwrecks:

The team carrying out the investigation, The Fourni Underwater Survey, previously found 22 wrecks in the same area, bringing the total number of finds in a nine month period to 45.

The project, an exciting joint Greek-American venture, is exploring the coastline of a group of islands east of mainland Greece which may contain one of the largest concentrations of ancient shipwrecks in the world, hidden beneath the waves.

Peter Campbell, of the University of Southampton and the US based RPM Nautical Foundation says: “The concentration of the shipwrecks and the large area remaining to be explored leaves every indication that there are many more sites to discover. We expect more seasons like these first two. The data we have recorded offers great insight into ancient navigation and trade.”

The area doesn’t seem to have been particularly dangerous but it’s location in the Aegean meant it saw a great deal of sustained traffic from merchant ships (and others) throughout history:









From Classical Greece to Medieval Times

The sunken ships discovered in June 2016 span more than 2,000 years of Greek maritime history. The earliest shipwreck dates to roughly 525 B.C., while the most recent is from the early 1800s. The other wrecks range across the centuries, with cargoes from the Classical period (480-323 B.C.), the Hellenistic period (323-31 B.C.), the Late Roman period (300-600 A.D.), and the Medieval period (500-1500 A.D.) Cooking pots, plates, bowls, storage jars, a palm-size lamp, and black-painted ceramic fine-ware are among the artifacts recovered from the wrecks so far.


In the aftermath of the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona, which killed 19 firefighters, NASA has been trying to adapt some of it’s technology for use by firefighters stateside:

NASA Technology May Help Protect Wildland Firefighters

NASA research into flexible, high-temperature space materials may some day improve personal fire shelter systems and help wildland firefighters better survive dangerous wildfires.

NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service to see if flexible thermal protection system technology being developed for space entry vehicles could also work to protect firefighters caught in a raging forest fire.

This follows a well established tradition over the last coule of decades whereby technology developed by NASA being modified and adopted for use by fire services:

In the late 1990s, the Houston Fire Department took a trip down to the local NASA office to see what they could do to help them develop a better helmet, which hadn’t changed much since the 1800s. The discussion began, and soon a partnership developed that had them rethinking the entire suit. In 2000, NASA unveiled this newfirefighter suit, developed with the Houston Fire Department, the Department of Defense and Lockheed Martin [source: Petty].

Other developments include the adoption of satellites and drones to monitor fires and co-ordinate response.


The significance of patient gender in transplant outcomes is well established – both with regards to longterm prognosis for males vs females as well as the impact of gender difference/matching between organ donor and recipient – but recent research has shown women who receive cornea transplants from men do worse than those who have a gender-matched donor:

She Has His Eyes: Does Gender Matter in Cornea Transplants?

Doctors who transplant corneas have always thought of the vision-saving surgery as gender-neutral, but a new study in the United Kingdom has found that female patients do better if they get their new corneas from other women rather than men.

The study of more than 18,000 British patients found that female transplant recipients were more likely to have successful transplants if they got a woman’s cornea—but there was no gender difference in failure rates for men receiving women’s tissue. With one corneal disease, called Fuchs endothelial dystrophy, women’s transplants were 40 percent less likely to fail if they received another woman’s cornea instead of a man’s, according to the study published Thursday in the American Journal of Transplantation.

Despite their considerable historical influence, comparatively little is known about the Phoenician people. Most historical sources which deal with them tend to come from their enemies; particularly Rome, which famously acted on Cato’s consistent advice that Carthago delenda est

While their worldview, language and culture, may be lost forever the advances in archaeology and genomics have led to the first sequencing of Phoenician DNA:

DNA Captured From 2,500-Year-Old Phoenician

Researchers have sequenced the complete mitochondrial genome of a 2,500-year-old Phoenician, showing the ancient man had European ancestry.

This is the first ancient DNA to be obtained from Phoenician remains.

Known as “Ariche,” the young man came from Byrsa, a walled citadel above the harbor of ancient Carthage. Byrsa was attacked by the Roman general Scipio Aemilianus “Africanus” in the Third Punic War. It was destroyed by Rome in 146 B.C.

Ariche’s remains were discovered in 1994 on the southern flank of Bursa hill when a man planting trees fell into the ancient grave.

Analysis of the skeleton revealed the man died between the age of 19 and 24, had a rather robust physique and was 1.7 meters (5’6″) tall. He may have belonged to the Carthaginian elite, as he was buried with gems, scarabs, amulets and other artifacts.

Which allowed the reconstruction of what ‘Ariche’ looked like:

And research into the cause of individual musical taste has reached the unsurprising conclusion that preferences are formed due to upbringing rather than being biologically rooted:





Some people like to listen to the Beatles, while others prefer Gregorian chants. When it comes to music, scientists find that nurture can trump nature.

Musical preferences seem to be mainly shaped by a person’s cultural upbringing and experiences rather than biological factors, according to a study published on 13 July in Nature1.

“Our results show that there is a profound cultural difference” in the way people respond to consonant and dissonant sounds, says Josh McDermott, a cognitive scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and lead author of the paper. This suggests that other cultures hear the world differently, he adds.

The study is one of the first to put an age-old argument to the test. Some scientists believe that the way people respond to music has a biological basis, because pitches that people often like have particular interval ratios. They argue that this would trump any cultural shaping of musical preferences, effectively making them a universal phenomenon.

Ethnomusicologists and music composers, by contrast, think that such preferences are more a product of one’s culture. If a person’s upbringing shapes their preferences, then they are not a universal phenomenon.

Though I’m not sure what part of my childhood I can blame for this abomination being the first pop single I ever bought:


%d bloggers like this: