Scientists think they figured out how Egyptians moved big stones

egyptThe mystery of how the ancient Egyptians moved the large stones to build the pyramids has possibly been solved.  A team from the University of Amsterdam found that to make it easier for stones or statues to slid when pulled on a wooden sled, you just moisten the sand in front.  Tests confirmed that doing so (with the right amount of water) cuts the force required to pull it by half, mostly because the sand doesn’t pile up into a ridge in front of the sled as it’s being pulled.  As further evidence, artwork from the tomb of Djehutihotep shows a large statue being pulled on a sled…and one person pouring liquid onto the ground right in front of the sled.  It’s a pretty compelling argument, though not as cool as the idea of aliens in UFOs using tractor beams to help out. 😉

(via Gizmodo)

Voynich Manuscript

400px-Voynich_Manuscript_(170)I learned about something interesting today, the Voynich Manuscript, a 15th-century book that has so far gone untranslated (it’s not written in any known language).  Some very minor recent progress has been made in a translation as detailed in this link, though it’s really only a vague starting point and we’re nowhere near understanding this book.  This has raised the question of whether this book is all some elaborate hoax?  While it’s certainly possible, a hoax of this magnitude (~240 pages!) is not considered very likely (carbon dating does give us the age of the vellum the manuscript is written on).  The manuscript appears to be divided into six sections: human biology, herbs, astronomy, cosmology, recipes, and medicine.

You can viewed high resolution scans of all pages on Yale’s website.  Browsing through the manuscript, I came across one image that seemed quite odd, from page 70r:

page 70r


Does that look familiar to anyone else?  It sure reminds me of a Coelacanth, a fish presumed extinct, known only by its fossil record until one was caught off South Africa in 1938:


It’s possible that these fish were known of in the fifteenth century and then forgotten, but these days it’s only found in the Indian Ocean and Indonesia…perhaps providing a clue into the author’s travels?

The Voynich manuscript is a neat mystery…and while I am excited about the prospect of it being someday translated, it’s almost better off in mystery form.  You can read more about it over at Wikipedia.

San Francisco before the 1906 quake (video)

774px-Sfearthquake2We all know that in 1906, a large earthquake, followed by a devastating fire, destroyed about 80% of San Francisco.  Fortunately for history, a few days before the quake, someone strapped a camera to the front of a cablecar and created a twelve minute video of Market Street, a video that included sound.  It’s really cool to look back in time like this on a very busy city, one that was to be changed forever in just a few days.  I find the cars especially fascinating…the way they weave and dart around the horse-drawn wagons and each other reminds me of how people drive in less developed countries these days.  Check out the video below.

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