Neanderthals fashioned ‘jewelry’ out of animal teeth and shells

The Chtelperronian body ornaments and bone points archaeologists discovered at the Grotte du Renne in Arcy-sur-Cure, France.

The Chtelperronian body ornaments and bone points archaeologists discovered at the Grotte du Renne in Arcy-sur-Cure, France.  (Marian Vanhaeren)

About 42,000 years ago, the Neanderthals — the stocky cousins of modern humans — fashioned tiny jewelry beads from animal teeth, shells and ivory, a new study finds.

The finding is momentous, as it suggests that Neanderthals could engage in symbolic expression — the ability to make art — before they went extinct about 30,000 years ago, the researchers said.

“We now know that some of the last Neanderthals in Europe made artifacts that we do not see in Neanderthal material culture before that time,” said Frido Welker, the study’s lead researcher and a doctoral student of human evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. [In Photos: Neanderthal Burials Uncovered]

The discovery is based on the artifacts and bony remains found in the Grotte du Renne cave in Arcy-sur-Cure, an area located about 125 miles southeast of Paris. After the cave was discovered in 1949, its contents were dated to about 40,000 to 50,000 years ago, a period during which modern humans were sweeping across Europe and displacing the Neanderthals, the researchers said.

At first, anthropologists credited the beads to the Neanderthals, but the prevailing view of Neanderthals was that they didn’t have the brainpower to craft such items. That prompted many experts to wonder whether the excavation team had made a mistake in attributing the beads to Neanderthals, when perhaps modern humans had made the ornaments, according to Phys.org.

The researchers on the new study set out to answer that question once and for all.

“We wanted to know whether an archaeological culture called the Châtelperronian was made by Neanderthals or modern humans,” Welker told Live Science in an email. “If they were modern humans, they would be some of the earliest modern humans on the European continent, and might have played a role in Neanderthal extinction.”

Protein investigation

The ancient bone fragments in the cave did not have enough preserved DNA for a thorough analysis, so the researchers turned to another identifying factor: proteins.

They used several mass-spectrometry techniques to study the proteins preserved in about 200 ancient bone specimens from the cave, Welker said. The mass-spectrometry methods were key to the experiment, he added. That’s because proteins are made out of amino acids, which are joined together on a string.

Each amino acid has a different weight, or mass. “By using massspectrometry, we can establish the different sequences of amino acids in our sample and compare that with existing protein databases,” Welker said.

They found that, although the majority of the bone fragments belonged to horses or aurochs (wild cattle), some were clearly hominin, a group consisting of modern and extinct human species, Welker said. Moreover, the researchers identified an amino-acid sequence that was unique to Neanderthals, proving that the bones did not belong to modern humans or the Denisovans, an extinct human relative, he said. [The 10 Biggest Mysteries of the First Humans]

Results from additional testing methods, such as direct radiocarbon dating and ancient mitochondrial DNA analysis, also hinted that the bones belonged to Neanderthals, he said.

“Very young infant”

One of the proteins found in the Neanderthal bones was a type of collagen found only in growing bones. In addition, the specimen had a high proportion of a certain kind of nitrogen isotope (a variation of an element, but with a different number of neutrons) that is associated with breast-fed infants.

“We identified ancient proteins in these Neanderthal bone specimens that indicated they belong to a very young infant, probably around the age of 1 year old,” Welker said.

The baby likely lived around the same time when the Neanderthals crafted the 1.2- to 2.4-inch-long beads, the researchers said. However, they added that they “don’t know if they [the beads] belong to a single ‘necklace’ or were worn in different ways, and they were found in different areas of the Grotte du Renne,” Welker said.

“It is now up to the archaeologists to try and explain how this happened,” Welker said. “Did they learn [bead making] from modern humans? We know they interacted, as there is genetic interbreeding between Neanderthals in modern humans in our DNA. Or maybe they imitated, or invented such artifacts themselves, independently?”

It’s also possible that the Neanderthals got the beads from modern humans, possibly as a courtship gift, according to Phys.org.

The findings were published online Sept. 16 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Stephen Hawking is still afraid of aliens

Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking views a CGI alien civilization on the exoplanet Gliese 832c in this still from the new documentary "Stephen Hawking's Favorite Places."

Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking views a CGI alien civilization on the exoplanet Gliese 832c in this still from the new documentary “Stephen Hawking’s Favorite Places.”  (“Stephen Hawking’s Favorite Places”/CuriosityStream)

Humanity should be wary of seeking out contact with alien civilizations, Stephen Hawking has warned once again.

In 2010, the famed astrophysicist said that intelligent aliens may be rapacious marauders, roaming the cosmos in search of resources to plunder and planets to conquer and colonize. He reiterates that basic concern in “Stephen Hawking’s Favorite Places,” a new documentary streaming now on the CuriosityStream video service.

“One day, we might receive a signal from a planet like this,” Hawking says in the documentary, referring to a potentially habitable alien world known as Gliese 832c. “But we should be wary of answering back. Meeting an advanced civilization could be like Native Americans encountering Columbus. That didn’t turn out so well.”

For what it’s worth, some other astronomers believe Hawking’s caution is unwarranted. Any alien civilization advanced enough to come to Earth would surely already know of humans’ existence via the radio and TV signals that humanity has been sending out into space since 1900 or so, this line of thinking goes.

The alien musings are just a small part of “Stephen Hawking’s Favorite Places.” The 26-minute documentary shows the scientist zooming through the cosmos on a souped-up CGI spaceship called the “S.S. Hawking,” making five separate stops.

Hawking observes the Big Bang that created the universe, visits the monster black hole at the center of the Milky Way, journeys to Gliese 832c and tours Saturn in Earth’s own solar system. Then, he makes a final stop in Santa Barbara, California, which Hawking calls “my home away from home.”

“In 1974, Caltech [the California Institute of Technology] offered me a job in California,” the Englishman Hawking says in the documentary. “I jumped at the opportunity. In the sun with my young family, it was a world away from the gray skies of Cambridge, [England]. I’ve traveled the globe, but I’ve never found anywhere quite like this.”

You can watch a preview of “Stephen Hawking’s Favorite Places,” and learn how to subscribe to CuriosityStream, at the video service’s website:www.curiositystream.com.

New clues emerge about ill-fated British Arctic expedition

NOW PLAYINGLong-lost HMS Terror finally discovered

The question of what happened to the 129 crew members of the ill-fated 1845 “Franklin Expedition” that was lost in the Canadian Arctic has long fascinated historians. However, researchers at the University of Glasgow may have unearthed clues to help solve the mystery.

The British Royal Navy expedition consisted of the vessels HMS Terror and HMS Erebus, led by Rear Admiral Sir John Franklin. The ships were last seen entering the Arctic in 1845 as they attempted to navigate the final part of the Northwest Passage.

The disappearance sparked a huge search-and-rescue mission, which unearthed a handful of clues. In 1850, three ice-preserved corpses were found in the north Arctic. In 1859, the remains of the rest of the crew were discovered further south on the Canadian mainland along with a single-page document stating the ships were stuck in pack ice in 1846 and deserted in 1848.

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The Erebus was discovered by Parks Canada in 2014, and on Sept. 3 of this year, the Arctic Research Foundation announced it had found the Terror in “pristine condition.” Researchers believe the discovery of both ships will give better insight into what contributed to the disaster, which has become the stuff of legend.

Often, scurvy, lead poisoning and tuberculosis were culprits on expeditions, yet, over time, but have been difficult to prove because the journals or “sick books” that recorded illness on board have never been discovered. Instead, Glasgow University researchers used records from “sick books” aboard other search ships to reconstruct the conditions the Franklin expedition endured and now believe some deaths may have occurred from respiratory, cardiovascular and tubercular conditions.

The team also proposed that the disproportionate number of deaths of Franklin’s officers was probably a result of non-medical factors such as accidents and injuries while hunting and navigating the rough terrain on foot.

“We understand from our colleagues in Parks Canada that if any of the expedition’s written records were stored securely on board then the underwater conditions are such that they may remain in a legible condition,” said Professor Keith Millar, a researcher with the project, on the university’s website. “If a ‘sick book’ has survived on one of these ships it may record the events that led to the failure of the expedition and put an end to further speculation, including our own.”

Could massive white cliffs be forming beneath Antarctica’s ocean?

 Coccolithophores are tiny algae that form calcium carbonate shells.

Coccolithophores are tiny algae that form calcium carbonate shells.  (<a href=”http://www.plosbiology.org/article/browseIssue.action?issue=info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fissue.pbio.v09.i06 “>PLoS Biology, June 2011</a>)

The White Cliffs of Dover, the steep, chalky cliffs that fringe England’s southeastern coastline, formed about 100 million years ago thanks to a “Goldilocks” set of ocean conditions, new research suggests.

What’s more, a massive new set of cliffs could be forming right now in theSouthern Ocean near Antarctica as tiny algae shed their calcium-laden shells. However, depositing enough of that mineral, called calcite, to form similar cliffs could take millions of years.

“While we don’t have the great cliffs of the Southern Ocean, there is solid evidence that the calcite is making it to the seafloor,” William Balch, a biological oceanographer at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay, Maine, and lead author of the new study, said in a statement. [Photos: The Strangest Places on Earth]

White cliff formation

The White Cliffs of Dover, which overlook the English Channel, formed from the chalky detritus of single-celled algae called coccolithopohores. Looked at under a microscope, coccolithopores form a kaleidoscope-like set of intricate, interlocking shapes, thanks to outer shells made up of overlapping wheel-like plates of calcite. When the coccolithophores die, their calcite plates sink to ocean depths, accumulating in heaps on the seafloor. Over millions of years, the shells were squashed as more shells accumulated, the heaps rose, and the cliffs of Dover eventually emerged from the sea.

While researchers already knew that England’s iconic cliffs formed about 100 million years ago, they didn’t know exactly what caused the prolonged coccolithophore bloom in the first place.

Shimmering belt of water

To answer that question, the team decided to analyze coccolithophores in their natural habitat. They traveled to the remote reaches of the Southern Ocean, where a ring of blinding-bright blue and green water pops out in satellite imagery. This shiny circle of water forms the Calcite Belt, and it gets its brilliant shimmer because the water is teeming with tiny coccolithophores whose chalky armor reflects sunlight, brightening the water’s hue.

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“If you take the Earth and look at it upside down, it looks like a bullseye,” Marlon Lewis, an oceanographer at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia who was not involved with the study, said in a statement.

The team then did a detailed analysis of the water conditions that allow the Calcite Belt to thrive. It turned out that coccolithophores bloomed when conditions simultaneously allowed them to grow quickly, while starving out ecosystem competitors such as diatoms, another type of algae.

For instance, coccolithophores bloomed with high nitrate levels, while iron levels had to be too low for diatoms to bloom but high enough for coccolithophore needs. Since diatoms use silicate, the coccolithophores did best when silicate concentrations were low, preventing their competitors from thriving, the researchers reported Aug. 10 in the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles.

The coccolithophores also seemed to do well at the nexus of ocean currents, where upwelling brings nutrients and minerals from the deep.

“These regions can be oases of fertilizer coming up to the surface for these plants,” Balch said.

Original article on Live Science.

‘Last shipwreck’ from WWI’s Battle of Jutland found near Norway

The HMS Warrior was one of 151 British warships in the North Sea on May 31 and June 1, 1916, when a German fleet of 99 warships attempted to break out from the British naval blockade of the German coast.

The HMS Warrior was one of 151 British warships in the North Sea on May 31 and June 1, 1916, when a German fleet of 99 warships attempted to break out from the British naval blockade of the German coast.  (Public domain)

The wreck of the British warship HMS Warrior — the “last shipwreck” from the Battle of Jutland during World War I — has been discovered near Norway. The marine exploration team that found the shipwreck also recently located the wreck of a World War II-era British submarine in the same region.

The HMS Warrior is the last of the Jutland wrecks to be located, out of 14 British and 11 German warships that were sunk on May 31 and June 1, 1916, as the Imperial German High Seas Fleet tried to break out from the Royal Navy blockade of the North Sea.

“It’s the only wreck left from the Battle of Jutland that we can categorically say is completely unspoiled,” said Innes McCartney, a marine archeologist at Bournemouth University in the United Kingdom. [See Photos of the Search for the WWI-Era HMS Warrior]

“It’s completely upside down, and it sank down into an area of very soft seabed, right to the level of the upper deck — so everything inside it is completely sealed in,” McCartney told Live Science.

More than 250 warships took part in the Battle of Jutland, the largest naval engagement of World War I, and more than 8,500 men were killed, according to British and German wartime records.

McCartney said the HMS Warrior, an armored cruiser, was heavily damaged during the battle by gunfire from the German cruiser SMS Derfflinger, but it had attempted to make its way back to Britain.

When the ship’s engines failed, the Warrior was towed throughout the night by aBritish aircraft carrier, the HMS Engadine. By morning, however, the Warrior had filled with water, and it was abandoned after its surviving crew of around 700 were taken off, McCartney said.

He added that the final resting place of the Warrior was unknown until the wreck was discovered on Aug. 25, using sonar scans and a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) equipped with video cameras.

Submarine find

The Warrior is the second major shipwreck found in the area within a few months by McCartney and Danish marine exploration firm JD-Contractor AS, which operates the survey ship Vina. The survey is sponsored by the Sea War Museum Jutland at Thyboron in Denmark.

In March, the team reported the discovery of the wreck of the HMS Tarpon, a British submarine from World War II that sank with around 59 crewmembers aboard after a battle with an armed German merchant ship in 1940.

“The survey was initially aimed at Jutland, but there were 25 ships sunk in that battle, and we’ve found 10 times that number,” McCartney said. “In the case of Tarpon, it was simply a matter that the direction that we left harbor took us past a potential location for this sub, so I requested we stop and do a survey there. And within about an hour or so we found it.” [Sunken Treasures: The Curious Science of 7 Famous Shipwrecks]

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Last week, a Danish TV channel broadcast live video from the wreck of the Tarpon as divers from the exploration team were visiting the site.

The submarine is now lying on the seafloor at a depth of about 130 feet, located about 50 miles off the north coast of Denmark.

McCartney said the sub had been heavily damaged by the depth charges that sank it 76 years ago, and that two of the submarine’s torpedo tubes are empty, which suggests the Tarpon had fired twice at the enemy ship.

Wrecks in ruins

Although the wrecks of the Tarpon and the Warrior are legally protected as war graves, McCartney said all war wrecks in the area are threatened by illegal salvage operators, who plunder them for the valuable metals inside.

He said the most valuable items are the bronze condensers that were used in many wartime ships’ engines, which are worth tens of thousands of dollars as bronze scrap when melted down.

“We estimate that in the last 10 years, anything up to 1.5 million pounds worth of bronze has been ripped out of these [Jutland] wrecks,” McCartney said. “And the majority of those wrecks are also the graves of the sailors who died in the battle, and so it’s just wrong that they should be doing this.”

McCartney said that salvaging naval vessels without permission from the owning navy is illegal under international law, but very little has been done to protect the wrecks.

“There are millions of shipwrecks on the bottom of the ocean — it’s the world’s largest museum. And at the moment it’s being trashed just for a want of people standing up to their responsibilities,” he said.

He said the authorities in Europe, in particular, should track salvage ships and monitor their whereabouts.

“And when they’re stopping over wrecks that they’re not allowed to be on, then they need to be [inspected] when they get back into harbor,” McCartney said.

Copyright 2016 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Armed MUTTs: Self-driving vehicles could boost the military’s arsenal

NOW PLAYINGSelf-driving car? How about a self-driving machine gun

Self-driving cars are grabbing headlines lately, and the military is also making inroads with similar tech— but these vehicles are mounted with weapons like machine guns.

General Dynamics created MUTT, aka Multi-Utility Tactical Transport, to help dismounted small units. This is a smart robot designed to help lighten the load for Marines and other warfighters.

MUTT looks like a futuristic spin on the sort of quad you might have fun driving around your farm. Rectangular shaped, it is 5 feet long and 4.5 feet wide and weighs 750 pounds.

The vehicle drives on tracks or wheels, and there are two wheeled variants: 8×8 and 6×6. War zones are unlikely to provide convenient flat, easy surfaces, so MUTT is designed for high performance mobility in tough terrain like mud, sand and steep inclines.

And MUTTs can also be amphibious. They tackle water with gusto.

Weapons

What sort of weapons can it carry? The robot can be mounted with a range of different machine guns on top. One option is a Browning M2 .50 caliber machine gun that weighs about 84 pounds. In this scenario, forces can harness the power of this weapon without having to lug around the weight themselves.

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Other options could include the belt-fed fully automatic FN Hershel 240B medium machine gun and the classic SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon M249). Beyond machine guns, they’ve also been successfully kitted out with options like 60mm mortars.

Rather than warfighters having to deal with the weight, MUTT can carry heavy weapons that provide even more serious firepower.

Lightening the load

What else can MUTT do? It can carry about 600 pounds, so that U.S. warfighters don’t have to carry that weight themselves. It’s handy for forces on the move, as carrying less weight means warfighters can move faster while reducing fatigue and improving force protection.

There’s a platform on top to load gear, which could be 600 pounds worth of ammunition, supplies, gear, communications equipment, weapons, counter-IED tech, micro UAVs, batteries and more.

In the event of a firefight, MUTT can also help evacuate wounded warfighters.

Teams can harness MUTT as a travelling source of power and to recharge batteries. This is another way that it can help lighten the load for dismounted forces, since batteries are not light.

How do they work?

To travel directly into a warzone, MUTTs can hitch rides on aircraft like the MV-22 Osprey. Once there, they can be powered by an electric hybrid fuel cell.

How does it drive? MUTT isn’t a one trick pony. It can be operated by a remote control up to about 100 meters.

It can also obey a leash. That’s right, this robot has a sort of robot leash. Instead of relying entirely on sensors and computers to navigate, there’s a tether built into the robot to connect it to its human.

MUTT’s master takes the tether and can attach it to his or her belt, rucksack or wherever is convenient. By hooking it up, the tether becomes hands-free, which is very important for ensuring that soldiers’ hands are available for weapons and other tasks.

Once the tether is pulled out to two meters, MUTT will automatically begin to follow its human.

There’s also a wagon mode – think Conestoga wagons—  where a MUTT can follow vehicle tracks in front of it, or reverse and follow its own tracks to its last rally point – all by itself.

Or you can instruct them to be a convoy. You can link them up and the MUTTs will follow each other as a convoy.

Testing

Last month, MUTTs were part of the US Army Pacific Manned-Unmanned Initiative that tested new advances in robotics to see how they integrated into missions. The 25th Infantry Division put various tech including the MUTT through its paces.

Also a few weeks ago, the Marine Corps included MUTTs in an exercise in California to try out new gear in consideration for potential future use. Next week, MUTTs will be making a guest appearance at the Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia at an event where more Marines can check out the MUTTs.

Allison Barrie consults at the highest levels of defense, has travelled to more than 70 countries, is a lawyer with four postgraduate degrees and now the author of the new book “Future Weapons: Access Granted”  covering invisible tanks through to thought-controlled fighter jets. You can click here for more information on FOX Firepower columnist and host Allison Barrie and you can follow her on Twitter @allison_barrie.

Scientists discover a large planet orbiting two stars

This artist's illustration shows a gas giant planet circling a pair of red dwarf stars in the system OGLE-2007-BLG-349.

This artist’s illustration shows a gas giant planet circling a pair of red dwarf stars in the system OGLE-2007-BLG-349.  (NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI))

Astronomers have discovered a planet orbiting two stars 8,000 light years from Earth, NASA announced on Thursday.

While the system was first found in 2007, at that time experts were uncertain whether it contained one planet and two stars, or two planets and one star.

“The ground-based observations suggested two possible scenarios for the three-body system: a Saturn-mass planet orbiting a close binary star pair or a Saturn-mass and an Earth-mass planet orbiting a single star,” David Bennett of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement.

Using the Hubble Space Telescope and a technique called gravitational microlensing, they’ve figured out that it’s the first scenario: one big planet and two stars. The space agency said that this is the first time that the gravitational microlensing strategy has been used to confirm the makeup of a three-body system like this one.

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The technique utilized the effect of a star behind the stars they wanted to study to help them figure out that the system had two stars, not one.

“We were helped in the analysis by the almost perfect alignment of the foreground binary stars with the background star, which greatly magnified the light and allowed us to see the signal of the two stars,” Bennett added, in the statement.

The two stars are both red dwarfs, and are about seven million miles apart from each other. About 300 million miles away is the gas giant planet that orbits them, and it takes about seven Earth years to go around once.

This isn’t the first time that scientists have discovered a planet orbiting twin stars— a configuration sometimes compared to the planet Tatooine from “Star Wars.”

Follow Rob Verger on Twitter: @robverger

‘Shangri-La’ on Saturn moon Titan teeming with sand dunes

  • The &quot;Xanadu Annex&quot; on Titan: This synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) image was obtained by NASA&#039;s Cassini spacecraft on July 25, 2016, during its &quot;T-121&quot; pass over Titan&#039;s southern latitudes.

    The “Xanadu Annex” on Titan: This synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) image was obtained by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on July 25, 2016, during its “T-121” pass over Titan’s southern latitudes.  (NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASI / Université Paris-Diderot)

New close-up photos of Titan, Saturn’s biggest moon, show its mysterious and massive dunes in more detail than ever before.

NASA’s Cassini orbiter obtained these images when it flew by Titan for the 122nd time on July 25, 2016. The spacecraft was just 607 miles above the alien moon’s southern hemisphere, according to NASA officials.

The new images include an area called the “Shangri-La Sand Sea,” a large dark region with hundreds of long and linear sand dunes. A part of this region had been imaged before, but the new image covers more ground and in greater detail. You can see new video of Titan’s ‘Shangri-La Sand Sea’ by NASA here.

Another image reveals the never-before-seen “Xanadu annex,” which lies just south of Xanadu, a region with an Earth-like landscape first imaged by Cassini in 1994.

Because Titan’s atmosphere is thick and hazy, its surface is not easily visible with ordinary cameras. But Cassini comes equipped with a special radar instrument that allows it to see through the obstructing fog by beaming radio waves down to the surface.

Cassini’s radio waves bounce off of Titan’s surface, and the different ground features reflect the waves back at Cassini with different timing and slightly altered wavelengths. By recording these changes to the radio waves, Cassini’s radar instrument can construct an image of the landscapes beneath Titan’s atmosphere.

Titan’s surface is teeming with dunes similar to sand dunes here on Earth, but they aren’t made of silicates like our sand. Instead, Titan’s sand contains grainy hydrocarbons that formed in its atmosphere before precipitating onto the ground.

The dunes reach heights of more then 300 feet, which is aboutas large as the tallest sand dunes on Earth. Compared with the average Earthly sand dune, though, Titan’s dunes are gigantic. Their structures can reveal information aboutTitan’s surface topography and wind patterns. [Titan Sand Dunes Reveal Clues of Saturn Moon’s Past]

“Dunes are dynamic features. They’re deflected by obstacles along the downwind path, often making beautiful, undulating patterns,” Jani Radebaugh, a Cassini radar team associate at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, said in a statement.

These new images of Titan’s southern terrain will also be Cassini’s last. The spacecraft will spend the remainder of its mission checking out lakes and seas in the north. After four more flybys of Saturn’s giant moon, Cassini will end its mission by plunging straight into Saturn’s atmosphere.

Original article on Space.com.

7-foot-tall Michigan teen can’t stop growing

  • Broc Brown with (L-R) his aunt Stacy Snyder, his mother Darci Moss Elliot and his grandmother Joy Moss at his grandmother's house on January 22, 2016 in Jackson, Michigan.

    Broc Brown with (L-R) his aunt Stacy Snyder, his mother Darci Moss Elliot and his grandmother Joy Moss at his grandmother’s house on January 22, 2016 in Jackson, Michigan.  (Ruaridh Connellan / BarcroftImages)

Every year, Broc Brown, 19, grows 6 inches, and the Michigan young man has already reached 7 feet 8 inches tall. At this rate, he could surpass the current world’s tallest man, who stands at 8 feet 2 inches.

Brown was diagnosed with a genetic disorder, Sotos Syndrome, when he was 5 years old, Barcroft Media reported. Sotos Syndrome affects one in every 15,000 individuals. While his mother, Darci, was initially told the boy wouldn’t live beyond his teen years, doctors are now confident he will have a normal life span.

Brown also suffers from learning difficulties, strain on his heart, curvature of the spine and narrowing of the spinal cord, Barcroft reported. He also has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and intermittent explosive disorder, which involves repeated, sudden outbursts of aggressive behavior. The young man was born with one kidney and can’t take painkillers despite suffering constant back pain.

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“It kind of feels like a big tennis racket has gone through my back,” Brown told Barcroft. “I just wish the doctors could do something to help my pain.”

When Brown was in kindergarten, he was already 5 feet 2 inches tall, his mother told Barcroft. He needs to have his clothes and shoes specially made to fit his size 28 feet and requires a specially made 8-foot bed.  His community raised around $10,000 for the boy, which was used to buy clothing and shoes.

Brown traveled to Arkansas Children’s Hospital and met with Dr. G. Bradley Schaefer, a specialist in Sotos, who was unable to relieve Brown’s pain, but told the family he believes the boy will have a regular lifespan.

“It’s the best thing I could have heard,” Brown told Barcroft. “I’m so happy that I will live for a long time.”

Rare, gold Roman coin discovered in Jerusalem

(Shimon Gibson)

(Shimon Gibson)

A rare and remarkable Roman coin made of gold and featuring the image of Nero has been discovered in Jerusalem, archaeologists announced on Tuesday.

Over 1,900 years old, the coin likely dates to the year 56 or 57 AD, around 13 years before the Romans destroyed Jerusalem.

“The coin is exceptional, because this is the first time that a coin of this kind has turned up in Jerusalem in a scientific dig,” Shimon Gibson, an archaeologist and adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, said in astatement. “Coins of this type are usually only found in private collections, where we don’t have clear evidence as to place of origin.”

The archaeologists discovered it this summer during a dig on Mount Zion in Jerusalem; it was found in rubble near villas that might have been the homes of the wealthy Jewish residents of the time, possibly members of a well-to-do priestly class. At the site, the archaeologists have also found the rooms of a large mansion and even a ritual pool.

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When the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD, the precious coin could have been lost in the fray, the archaeologists behind the discovery think.

“It’s a valuable piece of personal property and wouldn’t have been cast away like rubbish or casually dropped,” Gibson said in the statement. “It’s conceivable that it ended up outside these structures in the chaos that happened as this area was destroyed.”

Nero, the Roman leader on the coin, ruled the empire from 54 to 68 AD, and isn’t thought to have traveled to Jerusalem himself. The text surrounding his bust on the coin is: “NERO CAESAR AVG IMP.”

Follow Rob Verger on Twitter: @robverger