Scientists this week announced the strongest evidence yet that there may be liquid water on Mars. A paper published in Nature Geoscience described observations made by researchers over the past three years that indicate that water – most likely in the form of a salty brine – appears seasonally on Mars, forming dark lines as it trickles down steep slopes. Although scientists have known for years that Mars once had water, the new evidence provides hope that one day humans may discover life on the red planet. The latest announcement was based on the study of photographs of the surface of Mars. However, we can reveal here exclusively that a super-sekrit kitteh mission led by Commander Kibbles flew up to have a look and can confirm the findings. Yes, there is water, and yes, it is yucky.
Several whales have been spotted in the western part of Long Island Sound in recent months, the first such sightings since 1993. Boaters have been startled by minke, humpback and beluga whales in the waters off Connecticut and New York State.
According to this article, experts believe the whales were attracted by a big increase in bait fish in the Sound, including menhaden, which are rich in omega-3 oils and calories. We figure that the whales decided to come to the East Coast to see Pope Francis. Whatever the reason, the whales have served as role models for some other hefty mammals.
Detail from Kelly Heaton, The Beekeeper, 2015. Kinetic sculpture made with steel, cast resin, brass, electronics, wood and paint.
Kelly Heaton’s new exhibition, Pollination, uses the central motif of plant sex to explore subjects from the scientific (colony collapse disorder) to the romantic (human sexual attraction), to the technological (the spread of ideas). And she uses a dizzying array of media to do it.
The show, at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts in New York through October 24, is dominated by The Beekeeper, a huge kinetic sculpture in which bees fly around an illuminated honeycomb rooted in a landscape of floral electronics.
Heaton also created eight perfumes for the exhibition. Bee The Flower is an “artist’s toolbox” for painting your body with perfume and “pollen.” The perfumes, which visitors can smell, include one made from bee-friendly plants and one actually extracted from dollar bills.
Other works in the show include paintings, pastels and sculptures exploring ideas about the changing world of agricultural production and about humans’ “infestation” by electronics.
If you can’t make it to New York to see Pollination, Heaton, who has degrees in both art and science, has also written a book about the show, which is available on Amazon. You can see more of her work on her website.
The Shigir Idol
Photo: The Siberian Times
Most of the oldest surviving art in the world is made of stone. But scientists now believe that the Shigir Idol, a huge, enigmatic wooden sculpture found in a peat bog in Russia in 1890, is twice as old as the pyramids at Giza.
The Idol, which once stood about 15 feet tall, depicts a man with many faces and an elaborate pattern of carved lines.
The sculpture was carbon-dated in 1997 and determined to be about 9,500 years old. However, many scientists disputed the findings, so curators at the Sverdlovsk Museum decided to submit samples for re-testing.
A lab in Germany conducted tests using Accelerated Mass Spectrometry on seven tiny wooden samples. The results indicated the idol was in fact about 11,000 years old, from the early Holocene epoch. It was carved from a larch tree using stone tools.
Professor Mikhail Zhilin, of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Archeology, told the Siberian Times: “We study the Idol with a feeling of awe. The ornament is covered with nothing but encrypted information. People were passing on knowledge with the help of the Idol.” While the sculpture’s carvings remain “an utter mystery to modern man,” Zhilin said the Idol’s creators “lived in total harmony with the world, had advanced intellectual development, and a complicated spiritual world.”
The biggest news in science this week was the announcement of the discovery of a new human ancestor, Homo naledi. After anthropologists excavating in South Africa found an almost inaccessible cave which appeared to contain hominid remains, they recruited a team of the smallest, skinniest cavers they could find and sent them to explore it. What they found was astonishing – the skeletons of some 15 individuals of a human-like species with features unlike any seen before. This article in National Geographic gives many more details, with more sure to come as teams of researchers study the finds.
While our science kittehs applaud the discovery of new hoomins, they are slightly vexed that they were not allowed to join the team, given that they are experts in crawling through small tunnels and also highly skilled at guarding valuable stuff.