Current Events


Computer Science Education, One Hour at a Time
December 5, 2016
It's Computer Science Education Week, time for the Hour of Code. This year, youngsters in more than 180 countries will take part in a worldwide drive to encourage more people to get interested in computer science, by delving into writing computer code. Across the world, the website has registered more than 117,000 Hour of Code events; that number is expected to grow as the week progresses. (Computer Science Education Week runs December 5–11 and is in honor of Admiral Grace Hopper, a computing pioneer.)

Washington Monument to Shut until 2019
December 3, 2016
The Washington Monument will remain shut until at least 2019, according to the National Park Service. The well-known obelisk in the nation's capital has been shut since August because of ongoing problems with the internal elevator. A crack near the top of the 555-foot-tall monument appeared after a 2011 earthquake that measured 5.8 on the Richter scale, and park service officials closed the building at that time, reopening it after nearly three repairs. The ongoing shutdown will allow officials to make repairs to the electrical system, the computer system, and to other mechanical systems. The hallmark of the newly opened monument will be an entirely new elevator, so that visitors can once again rise nearly to the top and access an observation deck for panoramic views of the surrounding area.

1,000-year-old Viking Toolbox Discovered
December 3, 2016
Danish archaeologists have opened a toolbox for the first time in 1,000 years. The dig team, from the Danish Castle Center in Vordingborg, found the tools in a gatehouse at Borgring, a ring-shaped fortress on Zealand, the country's most populated island. The 14 iron tools were originally in a wooden chest, but the wood has nearly disintegrated. The gatehouse itself collapsed in the 10th Century. The tools are heavily rusted, but archaeologists have been able to discern that they found large drills used to carve holes in timber, a set of pliers, a kind of nail used to join wooden planks, an iron draw plate, and several chain links that are attached to an iron ring. The working theory is that a craftsman had his workroom inside the gatehouse.

'Faithless Electors' Number Grows in Possible Trump Protest
November 30, 2016
Seven people who have been selected as members of the Electoral College for 2016 have said that they will use their votes to protest the impending election of Donald Trump as President. As enshrined in the Constitution, the Electoral College formally elects the President, in meetings in each individual state on the same day in the month after the presidential election. The 2016 date is December 19.

Captain Cook's Ice Info Helps Track Climate Change Today
November 30, 2016
Captain Cook's findings live on in the tracking of climate change, according to a study recently released. James Cook and his crew made an expedition to the Arctic in August 1778 and compiled meticulous charts, maps, and notes of the area, in particular of the location and thickness of the ice barring further exploration. Scientists today have found Cook's crew's records very helpful in charting sea loss in the icy far north. In particular, Cook's observations were the earliest recorded evidence of ice cover Chukchi Sea. Then, the ice was extensive; now, it's not so much. The edge of the ice is now hundreds of miles farther north than Cook and crew found it to be, another indicator of how much ice has melted in the recent past.

Healthy Eating on the Rise in American Youth
November 27, 2016
American children ate healthier food overall but can still do better, according to a recent study. The study asked 38,000 children in the United States ages 2 to 18 to list what they had eaten in the last day and then assigned to the consumed food a score on the Healthy Eating Index. Nutritionists combined the scores to create a yearly average for each year from 1999 to 2012. The average score from 1999 was 42.5 (on a 100-point scale); the average score from 2012 was 50.9. That is definitely improvement, the nutritionists said, but they also pointed to the scale's top number, 100, and said that American children could do better with their consumption of healthy foods.

ICEHOTEL Opens Frozen Doors for Year-round Business
November 28, 2016
The new solar panels at Sweden's ICEHOTEL are designed to keep the heat out, meaning that guests stay in a very cold room all year round. The hotel, in Jukkasjarvi, has been a winter treat for guests for nearly 20 years, opening its doors in 1989. The rooms, suites, and amenities are housed inside giant blocks of ice, nearly 5,000 tons of it, which is harvested from a nearby river each year, beginning in March, in time for construction to begin in October so that the hotel is ready when the guests begin arriving. The addition, called ICEHOTEL 365, is designed to house guests every day of the year, in temperatures that don't top 21 degrees Fahrenheit.

Norman Rockwell Undecided Voter Painting Sells for $6.5 Million
November 28, 2016
The Norman Rockwell painting featuring an undecided voter has sold at auction for $6.5 million, U.K. auctioneer Sotheby's reported. The pre-sale estimate was $6 million. The painting, Which One (Undecided; Man in Voting Booth), was put up for auction by the estate of Ogden Mills Phipps, a horse racing executive who bought the painting in 1985. Phipps died in April 2016.

Calf Bones Point to Evidence of Pilgrims' Settlement
November 25, 2016
Archaeologists have found evidence of the original Plimoth Plantation settlement, the evolution of the Pilgrims' landing. The archaeology team, from the University of Massachusetts Boston, found tin, beads, musket balls, ceramics, and the bones of a calf, all of which led the team to the conclusion that they had found remnants of the famed 1620 settlement, whose residents celebrated the First Thanksgiving.

Driverless Truck Movement Gains Momentum in U.S.
November 25, 2016
Driving down two roads in Ohio soon will be a truck driven by no human. The self-driving truck from a company named Otto will go down a 35-mile stretch of U.S. Route 33, through regular traffic on a four-lane divided highway. A human will be in the truck and will be able to assume control easily, if needed. A sophisticated system of radar and camera sensors, coupled with high-tech computer software, helps guide the vehicles down the road.

More Inductees into Toy Hall of Fame
November 25, 2016
The new members of the National Toy Hall of Fame have swung, imagined, and inspired their way in. Joining the 59 other members of the Hall of Fame are Dungeons & Dragons, Fisher Price Little People, and the ubiquitous wooden swing. Examples of all will be on permanent display in the Strong's National Toy Hall of Fame museum, in Rochester, N.Y.

Anne Frank Poem Brings $148,000 at Auction
November 24, 2016
A poem written by famed World War II diarist Anne Frank has sold at auction for $148,000, far more than what was expected. The eight-line poem, partially copied from a book Dutch children's poems, had a term of attribution, that of Christiane van Maarsen, whose sister was Anne's closest friend, Jacqueline. Christiane died in 2006. She had torn it from her poezie album (a kind of diary and scrapbook) and given it to her sister in the 1970s.J acqueline put the poem up for auction with the Haarlem auction house Bubb Kuyper. The expected sale price was about $50,000. The buyer made the purchase online and wished to remain anonymous.

The 'Faithless Electors' of the Electoral Process
Article II of the Constitution lists the specifics of the Electoral College. Each state sends a number of electors to that state's capital, for a special meeting that, technically, elects the President; however, the requirements of those electors as to how to proceed at that meeting varies by state.

Ancient Precursor to The Thinker Unearthed in Israel
November 23, 2016
An ancient precursor to Rodin's iconic statue The Thinker has been found in a grave in Israel. The statue is 3,800 years old and features a hat-wearing man with one hand to a cheek and the other hand resting on a knee, as if in a pensive pose, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said. Archaeologists found the 7-inch-tall ornament atop a jug in a Bronze Age, alongside arrowheads, daggers, and an axe head.

Nations Agree on Plan for Emissions Monitoring
November 20, 2016
Two weeks of talks on global warming in Marrakesh, Morocco, have resulted in an agreement to finalise rules for the Paris Agreement. The deal, approved by hundreds of nations in late 2015, sets targets for nations to cut emissions of greenhouse emissions. What was not included in the deal was firm parameters for reporting and monitoring of the nations’ progress toward the goals. The Marrakesh agreement sets a deadline of December 2018 for working out how to report and monitor emissions.

Discoveries Boost Knowledge of Shakespeare Stage
November 20, 2016
The curtain has gone up again for Shakespeare’s early efforts.Researchers at the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) have unearthed a significant piece of the Curtain Theatre, one of London’s first purpose-built theaters and an early favourite of famed Elizabethan playwright William Shakespeare. Unlike other theatres of the day, which would have been adapted to include a stage, the rectangular Curtain was built with the stage and the audience in mind. An intriguing bonus in the dig was the discovery of a long passageway running underneath the length of the stage. The theory is that actors could get from one side of the stage to the other quickly and secretly – a common enough occurrence in today’s theater but not so commonly found or easily done in Elizabethan times.

Milk Consumption Dates Back 9,000 Years: Study
November 20, 2016
The consumption of milk dates as far back as 9,000 years ago, according to a new study. Scientists examined more than 500 prehistoric pieces of pottery with the express purpose of detecting milk residue and animal fat. They found traces of both, suggesting the consumption of milk, and of animal skeletal remains, suggesting the maintaining of domestic animals for meat purposes. The pottery came from 82 sites around the northern Mediterranean region; remains dated as far back as the 7th Century B.C. and as recent as the 5th Century B.C.

3,800-year-old Boat Tableau Found on Egyptian Wall
November 6, 2016
Archaeologists have discovered a wall tableau of dozens of boats that date back more than 3,800 years. The images, which number more than 120, are on the wall of building near the tomb of Pharaoh Senwosret III, who ruled 1878–1839 B.C. A powerful leader who enjoyed great military success and a visionary builder who had constructed many famous buildings and other landmarks, Senwosret III was one of just a few kings of Ancient Egypt who enjoyed his own cult in his own lifetime. The images, which range from 4 inches to nearly 5 feet in width, show masts, sails, cabins, rudder, oars, and other trappings of ancient ships. Some images even show people doing the rowing. Other images showed flowers and animals, notably cattle and gazelles.

Largest Marine Protected Area off Antarctica
October 28, 2016
Representatives from 24 nations and the European Union have created the world’s largest marine protected area, off the coast of Antarctica. The area, in the Ross Sea, is 598,000 square miles in size and home to 16,000 species of penguins, seals, whales, and other wildlife that are found nowhere else on Earth. Under the agreement, 30 percent of the area will be off limits to commercial fishing. Another 28 percent will be research zones.

Emoji on Display in NY Museum of Modern Art
October 28, 2016
Emoji are going to MoMa. The pictographs now so familiar to users of portable phones and tablets will be on display at New York's Museum of Modern Art from December, in a permanent exhibit on graphics and animation. First appearing in 1999, emoji were the brainchild of Shigetaka Kurita, on behalf of the Japanese mobile phone carrier NTT DoCoMo. The first emoji, a set of 176, were simple in nature because cell phones in those days could handle only simple line drawings. The initial set included basic drawings of weather symbols, modes of transportation, zodiac signs, sports, symbols of food and drink, suits of playing cards, methods of communication, and even animals (not to mention the most popular emoji of all time, the smiling face). Today's emoji are more complex in construction and more varied in scope. One estimate lists the total as more than 1,800.

Rockwell Undecided Voter Painting on Auction
October 28, 2016
Just in time for the 2016 presidential election, the auction Sotheby's is selling a Norman Rockwell painting of an undecided voter. The 1944 painting Which One? (Undecided; Man in Voting Booth) will be on public display on November 4, to publicize the painting ahead of its American auction, which will be on November 21. The painting features a man standing a voting booth, with the curtain undrawn; in the man's hand is a copy of the newspaper The Cedar Rapids Gazette, showing the faces of the two major-party candidates in the 1944 presidential election. Experts think that the price paid for the painting will between $4 million and $6 million.

Over the Rainbow (and Moon) at Slippers Rescue
October 24, 2016
There is indeed no place like home, and Dorothy’s ruby red slippers can stay at the Smithsonian and even get an upgrade, thanks to help from the public. The museum had appealed for help from the public, in the form of a Kickstarter campaign. The campaign launched October 17, with a goal of $300,000, which the museum said was needed to repair the shoes and also construct a state-of-the-art preservation display case. In less than a week, the campaign reached its goal, thanks to donations from more than 5,300 people in 41 countries.

Black Sea Trawlers Discover Dozens of Shipwrecks
October 24, 2016
An underwater archeology enterprise has discovered dozens of previously unknown shipwrecks from ancient times, some in excellent condition. The Black Sea Maritime Archeology Project has been using photogrammetry to construct 3D models to approximate what the ships’ shells would have looked like in their entirety. Some of the more than 40 ships discovered date to the Ottoman period; other ships date to the Byzantine Empire.

Chips off an Expensive Block
October 24, 2016
Potato chips for $56? How many do you get? How about only 5?That’s the special set of tasty snacks on offer from St. Erik’s brewery in Sweden. The price is so high because the chips are filled with specialty ingredients, including truffle seaweed, matsutake mushrooms, a special kind of wort, and (the main ingredient) potatoes grown only in a certain place on the planet.

Global Agreement Targets HFC Emissions
October 16, 2016
More than 170 countries have agreed to limit the use of hydrofluorocarbons, after down-to-the-wire negotiations concluded at a world summit in Kigali, Rwanda. The year that the countries agreed that they will begin taking action is 2019. That is the year that the U.S., the world’s second-largest polluter, and the European Union committed to begin. China, the largest polluter on the planet, will start in 2024, along with more than 100 developing countries.

Amundsen Ship Back above Water
October 16, 2016
A ship that carried famed South Pole explorer Roald Amundsen has emerged from the depths after decades underwater. Amundsen was the first to reach the South Pole, in 1911, and in 1906, the first to lead an expedition through the Northwest Passage. It was in 1918 that Amundsen and crew set out aboard the Maud to traverse the Northeast Passage. They left Oslo, Norway, and travelled along the Russian coast to Nome, Alaska. In all, the crew spent seven years aboard the Maud. The ship took the crew through the frozen Arctic lands, faciliating observations of weather and the stars. In 1930, the Maud sprung a leak and sunk. A Norwegian salvage team has finally brought the ship back to the surface.

Blue Lights Show the Way on Bike Path
October 11, 2016
A Polish town is lighting the way on cycling in the dark. Engineers in Lidzbark Warminski, a rural town in the far north of the country, have unveiled a small strip of bike path that, in the dark, glows … blue. The blue comes as a result of synthetic particles in the asphalt that scientists have dubbed “luminophores,” which store sunlight during the day and emit the blue-hued light at night. The blue light can shine for up to 10 hours, scientists said. The 328-foot section is part of a larger path that leads to nearby Wielochowski Lake. The plan is to install more luminophores, once the path proves workable.

Climate Change Helped Burn Forests More, Study Says
October 11, 2016
Forest fire damage has tripled in the past three decades and can be attributed to man-made climate change, according to a new study. National Integagency Fire Center data show that the total acres of land burned in the Western United States was 2.9 million in 1985 and 10.1 million in 2015. A corresponding increase in average temperatures was found to be 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1970. The researchers drew a straight line from man-made climate change to the increased temperatures and there to a forest fire’s propensity to burn hotter with higher temperatures, which creates more moisture in the air and less in the forests themselves. The study also listed non-human factors, including natural climate shifts, as causes. The study found that the increase in fires burned 16,000 square miles of land that would not have been burned if temperatures were lower.

3D Video Puts Pompeii Banker Back into Focus
October 10, 2016
Remembrances of a banker who lost his life and his livelihood in the volanic ash of Mount Vesuvius are accessible, thanks to digital reconstruction of the house in which the banker lived. Archaeologists on the Swedish Pompeii Project have been working for a decade and a half on a project to document in painstaking detail what a city block in the ruined city of Pompeii would have been like. The block, known as Insula V1, contained a bakery, a laundry, a tavern, a few gardens, and three very large estates (and one of those estates belonged to a banker). The archaeologists found, among other things, that the taps to a fountain in one of the gardens were on at the time of the volcanic eruption and that the volcanic ash had frozen the running water solid. As well, one of the shops still had intact three windows, made of gypsum.

Complete Woolly Mammoth Skeleton on Auction
October 2, 2016
A scientist in the Netherlands has stitched together nearly 300 bones to make a complete skeleton of a woolly mammoth and is auctioning it off. The bones date back to between 30,000 years ago and 50,000 years ago, said Bart Schenning, who spent more than a decade painstakingly attaching the bones on a frame that approaches 10 feet in height and 18 feet in length. Schenning assembled the skeleton in a very large shed outside his house, then mounted the skeleton on a giant frame. The auction appears on the online site Catawiki. A representative for the site said that both museums and private collectors had expressed interest. The sale price is expected to exceed 200,000 pounds, the website representative said.

Dig at Japanese Castle Unearths Roman Coins
October 1, 2016
Archaeologists in Japan have found in the ruins of a Japanese castle some coins minted in Ancient Rome. The 10 coins are bronze and copper, and the oldest dates to the 4th or 5th Century A.D. The coins were found on one of the Ryukyu Islands, near Okinawa, in the ruins of Katsuren, a medieval castle that has been designated a UNESCO world heritage site and as a Designated Historial Monument by the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs. The island is home to several U.S. military bases, so the archaeologists thought at first that they had found some pedestrian coins dropped by U.S. soldiers. But further investigation revealed Roman letters and illustrations of a Roman soldier holding a spear. Further X-ray scanning revealed that some of the coins showed the profile of Constantine the Great, who was emperor of Rome in the 4th Century.

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David White