Prof Bert Roberts, from the University of Wollongong, Australia, says the new dating actually resolves what had always been a head-scratcher: how it was possible for floresiensis to survive for 30,000 to 40,000 years after modern humans are believed to have passed through Indonesia.
“Well, it now seems we weren’t living alongside this little species for very long, if at all. And once again it smells of modern humans having a role in the downfall of yet another species,” he told BBC News.
“Every time modern humans arrived somewhere new, it tended to be bad news for the endemic fauna. Things would go pear-shaped pretty quickly.”
H. floresiensis – A sensational finding on Flores Island
Work continues to excavate the sediments in Liang Bua Cave
Remains of individuals discovered 6m below Liang Bua cave surface in 2003
Officially announced in 2004; Lord of the Rings films popular at the time
Fully grown, a H. floresiensis adult probably stood about a metre tall
Brain was extremely small – the size of a chimpanzee’s (about 400 cu cm)
Hobbits may be a dwarf version of the archaic species Homo erectus
New dating work suggests they disappeared around 50,000 years ago
Other animals such as pygmy ‘elephants’ also go missing at this time
Arrival of modern humans could have pressured them all into extinction
This does not mean we necessarily killed the Hobbits; it may just have been that we made life miserable for them.
Modern humans could have outcompeted the little people for the best food resources and land, for example.
The Liang Bua cave on the island of Flores where the Hobbit fossils were unearthed continues to be investigated.
The intervening years have seen researchers dig down through new areas, to get a better picture of how the sediments are structured.
It now transpires that the first floresiensis specimens were lodged just below an unconformity – a missing, eroded layer of material.
The absence of this sediment made the context of the 2003 finds appear younger than they actually were.
Various dating technologies have subsequently been applied to the contents of the cave – charcoal, sediments, flowstones, volcanic ash and even the H. floresiensis bones themselves – to help build a new timeline.
This points to the skeletal remains of floresiensis being between about 100,000 and 60,000 years old.
“But then we have some stone tools that were 50,000 years old and these were very likely made by Hobbits,” explained Prof Roberts.
“We say ‘very likely’, not because they were small stone tools able to fit in their hands, but because they were made from a volcanic rock called silicified tuff, which they seemed to prefer.
“When modern humans came through that region, we used stone tools made of chert, for example.
“So, 50,000 years ago is when the Hobbits disappear, as far as we can determine. But then we haven’t excavated the whole cave yet.”
The Hobbits were found in sediments aged between 100,000 and 60,000 years ago
One of the key implications of the new dating is that it fells one of the early counter-theories about the origin of the Hobbits – that they might not have been a separate species but merely a diseased form of modern human.
But if the Hobbits were living on Flores 100,000 years ago, this view is no longer tenable: no modern humans have been recorded in south-east Asia so far back in time.
Prof Chris Stringer, from the Natural History Museum in London, UK, is an expert on ancient humans.
He agrees that the new research helps straighten out the story of the Hobbits, and makes it much more likely that we were involved in their extinction somehow.
“The other fascinating and tricky thing to think about is the possibility of interbreeding. We know modern humans interbred with Neanderthals and Denisovans (other archaic human species), so could they have got together with floresiensis? Are there people on Earth today who have a little bit of Hobbit DNA in them? You couldn’t rule it out.”
A handful of leftfield scientists have been trying to harness the power of gravity. Welcome to the world of Project Greenglow, writes Nic Young.
In science there exists a uniquely potent partnership between theory and engineering. It’s what’s given us atomic energy, the Large Hadron Collider and space-flight, to name a few of the more headline acts.
The theorists say: “This is theoretically possible.” The engineers then figure out how to make it work, confident the maths is correct and the theory stands up.
These camps are not mutually exclusive of course. Theorists understand engineering. Engineers draw on their deep understanding of the theory. It’s normally a pretty harmonious, if competitive, relationship.
Yet occasionally these two worlds collide. The theorists say something is just not possible and the engineers say: “We’re going to try it anyway – it’s worth a shot.”
There is one field of science where just such a contest has been raging for years, perhaps the most contentious field in all science/engineering – gravity control.
When, in the late 1980s, the aerospace engineer Dr Ron Evans went to his bosses at BAE Systems and asked if they’d let him attempt some form of gravity control, they should probably have offered him a cup of tea and a lie down. Gravity control was a notion beloved of science fiction writers that every respectable theoretical physicist said was impossible.
Project Greenglow and the battle with gravity.
Project Greenglow: The Quest For Gravity Control – written and directed by Nic Young – is a Horizon programme, broadcast at 20:00 GMT on BBC Two, 23 March – catch up on BBC iPlayer
As Evans himself admits, it was a tough sell. “Let’s be clear – there were many people in the company who felt we shouldn’t do it because we made aeroplanes and this was highly speculative.” Pushing against gravity with wings and jets was BAE’s multi-billion pound business, why dabble in scientific heresy? Because, as Evans puts it: “The potential was absolutely enormous. It could totally change aerospace.”
If it was possible to make gravity push instead of pull, they would have a potentially infinite – and free – source of propulsion. It would put BAE Systems at the forefront of the greatest technological breakthrough since the invention of powered flight. It might just be worth a small punt.
They asked Evans to go away, consult with his colleagues and come up with some concepts. He brought them a drawing of a vertical take-off plane, powered by an as-yet non-existent “gravity engine”.
He worried it didn’t look visionary enough, so he asked the artist to add some green rays emanating from the plane – a green glow. When Evans’s bosses decided to give him a small budget and an office, Project Greenglow was born. “It was incredible, everyone was captivated by what we were trying to do. We were overwhelmed.”
One of the original sketches for Project Greenglow
Evans soon discovered he was able to call on engineers at leading UK universities to help with the research, and it wasn’t just academic curiosity. Like BAE, everyone was looking for the next propulsion paradigm. Wings and jets had reached their limits.
In the US, Nasa aerospace engineer Marc Millis began a parallel project – the Breakthrough Physics Propulsion Program. Nasa had committed to getting beyond the solar system within a generation, but knew conventional rockets would never get them there.
According to Millis: “If you wanted to go to our nearest neighbouring star, and say you want to do it in 50 years, you’re having to go at a tenth of the speed of light. Well, the amount of propellant you’d need for that journey is about the mass of our entire sun. We needed something radically different.” Like Evans, Millis was told: “To think radical, and think big.”
Out of the blue, a Russian chemist called Dr Eugene Podkletnov claimed he’d stumbled on the answer by accident. By using rapidly spinning superconductors Podkletnov claimed he’d managed to create a “gravity shield”.
Around the world, gravity labs like Greenglow and Nasa jumped on the news and tried to replicate Podkletnov’s “breakthrough”. They failed.
In Dresden, Dr Martin Tajmar was given the funds to thoroughly test every possible avenue. Germany’s space programme was just as hungry as the US’s for a breakthrough. “Anti-gravity is a kind of synonym for saying, ‘I’m trying to do the impossible, yeah’. But always be ready for the surprise,” says Tajmar.
Yet to theorists like Dr John Ellis, at Cern, it was no surprise when nothing came of it: “So this guy had the idea that by messing around with superconductors he could change the strength of the earth’s gravitational field? Crap!”
Martin Tajmar of Dresden University
Further Podkletnov breakthroughs went the way of the first and there was no shortage of theoretical physicists to point out the reasons.
First of all, there was the big, big problem of scale. As Dr Clifford Johnson from the University of Southern California puts it: “We tend to think of gravity as very strong – after all it’s what binds us to the earth. But actually of all the forces we know in nature, gravity’s the weakest.
“Let me give you a number. It’s 10 to the power 40 times weaker than electromagnetism, that’s a one with 40 zeros after it!” It seemed that even if one could manipulate gravity in the lab, there was almost nothing there to create any meaningful effect.
In short, to alter the gravity of a planet, you need the mass of another planet.
USC’s Cliff Johnson: “Of all the forces we know in nature, gravity’s the weakest”
Yet just when it seemed the engineers were running out of ideas, it was theoretical physics which threw them a lifeline.
Recently it was discovered that the universe was not just expanding, but accelerating in its expansion, and suddenly the theorists had some explaining to do. According to Dr Tamara Davis from Queensland University: “Something’s accelerating the galaxies away from each other. Gravity appears to be ‘pushing’.”
Some theorists are now breaking ranks to offer radical explanations, among them Dr Dragan Hajdukovic at Cern, who has developed a theory that gravitational polarity does exist. He says: “So far, we believe that gravity’s only a force of attraction. It may be that gravity can also be a force of repulsion but not between matter and matter but between matter and anti-matter.”
It’s a theory Cern is gearing up to test next year. If Hajdukovic can show that anti-matter particles fall “upwards”, he not only opens the way to some form of demonstrable anti-gravity on earth, he almost certainly wins a Nobel prize into the bargain.
Yet even if he is proved right, harnessing such a phenomenon in any practical sense could be beyond our engineering capability.
What is Gravity
What is gravity
Newton’s law of gravitation states that any particle of matter in the universe attracts any other with a force varying directly as the product of the masses and inversely as the square of the distance between them (expressed in the equation above)
Isaac Newton put forward the law in 1687 and used it to explain the observed motions of the planets and their moons
Newton’s law was superseded by Einstein’s general theory of relativity, but it is still considered accurate enough for most small calculations
Other even more outlandish proposals are now on the table. For example one idea championed by Tajmar is to use a purely conceptual substance – “negative mass”. Theoretically when negative mass is brought into proximity with positive mass it would create a powerful repulsive force – an infinitely accelerating drive, or to borrow from Star Trek, a warp drive.
Johnson is quick to point out the theoretical problems – it would effectively invert Einstein’s accepted model of universal space-time and create a runaway physics nightmare. Davis’s objection is more practical: “[You had] better hope the people you want to visit in your warp-drive spacecraft are people you don’t like because you’d annihilate them in the process of getting there.”
Now there are theories of how anti-gravity might work, it’s the engineers who seemingly cannot provide practical ways to bring them to life.
Ron Evans retired when Project Greenglow was finally wound up in 2005, with no practical form of gravity control on offer. Yet the story does not quite end there.
One device survived, almost unnoticed, from the Greenglow days – a propellant-less electromagnetic or EmDrive, created by British aerospace engineer Roger Shawyer.
What sets the EmDrive apart from other concepts? As Shawyer puts it: “We’re no longer looking to control gravity itself. We’re beating gravity the smart way.” Because the EmDrive actually appears to do something. In tests, it seems to move under its own steam.
Roger Shawyer with the EmDrive
Shawyer claims his concept uses a known property of microwave energy called “cut-off” to generate thrust. According to Shawyer, the conical shape of the closed box causes the microwaves to effectively stop at one end of the cavity, while continuing to vibrate against the other, creating a difference in pressure.
With a solar power supply, Shawyer claims he would be able to accelerate the EmDrive in any direction almost continually. “You would suddenly have a lift engine, which simply hovers there, or indeed accelerates upwards. So you can envisage launching large payloads into space on an EmDrive-driven space plane.”
The theorists are deeply sceptical of these claims because the EmDrive seems to defy Newton’s law of conservation of momentum. John Ellis at Cern is particularly scathing: “With the EmDrive, unlike a rocket, nothing comes out of it. So I don’t see how you can generate momentum out of nothing.”
Yet engineers like Ron Evans are predictably unrepentant: “My view is, who cares? It’s the experiment that counts. If the experiment works, it’s up to the theoretical people to put a theory round why it works.”
The experiments and the debates continue. Meanwhile, Boeing has apparently licensed its own version of the EmDrive and the Pentagon has shown a keen interest.
As the saying goes – watch this space.
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Now here’s a strange video of ‘something’ defying gravity. What do you think it is? Alien, apparition, fake?
By News from Elsewhere…
…as found by BBC Monitoring
Contractors at a site in southern New Zealand have made an unexpected find while digging a trench – dozens of bones belonging to a long-extinct species of giant bird.
Workers spotted the bones during excavations in an area of South Canterbury which was once swamp land, the Stuff.co.nz website reports. They’ve been identified as belonging to a female South Island giant moa, an enormous flightless bird which roamed the area for millennia. One of the bones is thought to belong to a smaller male moa.
Stumbling upon moa bones is increasingly rare, according to South Canterbury Museum director Philip Howe. “This is quite a significant find because in this day and age we’re not finding moa bones all round the place like people did maybe 100 years ago,” he tells the site. “A discovery is quite a chance thing – it’s not something you can just hope to go out and find.”
Project manager Dave Sutton says the small size of the trench dug by his team made the discovery even more unlikely. “It’s not every day you dig a hole and find a moa,” he says. “Only one small hole and this is the result.”
Among the nine species of moa, the largest stood at about 2m (6.5ft) tall and weighed a whopping 250kg (550lb), while others were closer to the size of a turkey. Unlike other flightless birds, moa had lost all trace of ever having wings. They were hunted to extinction after Polynesian colonists arrived in New Zealand around AD1300.
How the newly excavated moa met their end isn’t clear. But Mr Howe says finding remains of both a male and female “begs the question: was this the tragic outcome of a Sunday picnic at the swamp with the moa family?”
Moa, extinct or not?
The moa is thought to have been eaten to extinction by New Zealand’s Maori people. But there are those who disagree. Like the people who claim to have seen one. Here’s a story of two me who claim to have seen a moa on New Zealand’s South Island.
Animal X investigates the unknown, the unusual, the mysterious and the unexplainable. In short natural and supernatural mysteries.
We have investigated sightings of mysterious animals, ghostly creatures, chupacabra, bigfoot, mothman, Reptoids – reptilian humanoids, aliens, anything paranormal, the supernatural. Anything that is classed as cryptozoological.
There are many possible explanations for the stories we’ve covered. Or rather theories and ideas as to what these sightings are.
Some theories or explanations are scientific based, others are cultural. Some people believe they are hoaxes, drug induced hallucinations. Others claim they are telling the truth. While others say aliens, hybrids, UFOs, and demons, are inter-dimensional creatures; and they are responsible.
There are as many theories and ideas as to the truth, as there are stories of the unknown.
But what is the truth?
Who can tell? We wont find out the truth until we actually die and go to where ever we are going, be it good or evil.
Nephilim, Satan, Fallen Angels, Giants, Aliens and God.
Here’s an interesting video with another take on the whole scene.
This video claims that, what people are seeing are are evil entities. That apparitions like ghosts, aliens, Bigfoot, Chupacabra, Mothman and the like are inter-dimensional demons. The Nephilim, Satan’s demons and fallen angles are masquerading as these things.
From Bigfoot to ghosts. From aliens to Chupacabra. They claim that Satan and his demons are hoodwinking humans into believing anything but the truth. That what we see, whether Bigfoot, Chupacabra or aliens are in fact demons. They claim this as the truth.
It’s a long documentary but worth the watch. It would be good to get your take on what it is saying.
A FISH with wings, creepy green eyes and a nose like a wizard’s hat has been branded an alien after being caught by a shocked fisherman. From the Daily Star
Evil eyed alien fish?
The slimy black creature, which has a ridge of pointed quills on its back, was spotted among the day’s catch and photographed. It’s the latest in a series of strange finds in the world’s oceans and comes after another fish was found with legs.
A terrifying new species of shark – with a pitch black body – has also been discovered in the depths of the sea. The newest find was caught 30 miles off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada, by a fishing vessel. When a crew member posted a picture of it online, the fish was described as an alien by Reddit users. “Wow, it looks like an link in evolution,” wrote one person. “What is that birdfish?” Another posted: “We don’t need no stinkin’ aliens – we already got them!”
But other eagle-eyed commenters identified the fish as a black long-nosed chimaera. Chimaeras, which are related to sharks, are usually found between 8,500ft and 660ft deep. Reddit user McGuire72, who posted his photo of the creature online, said it was thrown back in the ocean. He wrote: “Unfortunately, from what I’ve read here, he’s a deep-sea fish and likely didn’t survive to get back down to the bottom.” This from National Geographic Kids.
Want more underwater mysteries?
Check this out from the Animal X Natural Mystery Unit. A one hour special on monsters of the deep. Ever hear of the Bloop? or the Welsh sea monster? What about the Monster of San Francisco Bay?
Scientists say this fossil dates back 90 million years
Amber-trapped lizard fossils reveal ‘lost world’
By Helen Briggs BBC News
Lizards locked in amber for 99 million years give a glimpse of a “lost world”, say scientists.
The ancient reptiles are preserved in “superb detail” down to scales of skin, the tip of a tongue and tiny claws.
Two of the fossils are related to modern-day chameleons and geckos, revealing how features such as sticky toe-pads evolved.
The lizards inhabited tropical forests in what is now Myanmar during the Mid-Cretaceous Period.
Researchers in the US have published their assessment of the specimens in the journal Science Advances.
“The fossilised amber provides a view into a lost world, revealing that the tropics of the Mid-Cretaceous contained a diverse lizard fauna,” Dr Edward Stanley of the Florida Museum of Natural History told BBC News.
Claw of lizard
Some of the lizards are representatives of modern groups such as geckos, while others have no modern equivalent and eventually died out.
One of the fossils appears to be a transitional form between the “standard” lizard form and chameleons, said Dr Stanley.
“This ‘missing-link’ is roughly 80 million years older than the next oldest chameleon fossil, and shows that features like the chameleon’s projectile tongue was present deep in its ancestry,” he added.
“But its strange fused toes (adaptations for climbing along branches) evolved later.”
Snapshot of the past
The amber fossils were obtained by private collectors and were acquired by museums in the US. They have now been collated and studied for the first time.
“They provide details of external morphology, which is something that is pretty rare to find,” said Juan Diego Daza, of Sam Houston State University in Texas, who led the research.
“These fossils represent most of the diversity of lizards with a superb amount of detail.”
The whole picture
Soft tissues and internal organs – as well as bones – can persist in amber for millions of years.
“We can pretty much see how the animals looked when they were alive,” explained Prof Daza.
“They provide a really nice snapshot of the past. To me it is like going back in time and doing a lizard collecting trip when we can see what these animals looked like.”
Some of the smaller specimens are whole lizards but others are fragments of animals.
Together, they could resolve some of the gaps in the family tree between ancient reptiles and their modern relatives.
From one of the smallest and oldest to one of the largest
Ever heard of the Megalania?
Megalania is a giant lizard that used to live in Australia. Part of the Mega Fauna that used to roam the continent. In fact it was the largest land-living carnivorous lizard that ever walked the the planet. It was top of the food chain in Australia.
Megalania has been extinct for tens of thousands of years.
It’s not the sort of animal you’d like to meet on a dark night, or bright day for that matter.
But one man from Sydney Australia claims to have come across one in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney.
Reg Gilroy, a fossil hunter, claims one day while walking in the bush he came across a megalania. He wasn’t the only one. As this story says.