World’s Most Powerful Telescope to Launch in 2018

2018 proves to be a very exciting year indeed. Not only does this mark my anticipated graduation year, but NASA and it’s international partners have announced that they will launch the world’s most powerful telescope this year as well. Apparently this telescope will have the ability to look so far back it will be able to see the first stars forming. According to the DailyMail article, “The agency hopes to do this with the James Webb Space Telescope, which will be 100 times more potent than Hubble, and will be able to see back to 200 million years after the Big Bang.”

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3051222/World-s-powerful-telescope-launch-2018-Time-machine-peer-13-5-billion-years-stars-forming.html#ixzz3Y6QIrTFr

Below is a simplified photo of how NASA plans for this to work.

Photo Credit: NASA.
Photo Credit: NASA.

This implications if this telescope works are obvious in the world of science. If we are able to see things, we will be able to study them, and this opens us up to large potential of scientific advancement. Not only will we be able to see the process of stars being born, but this advancement helps with the search of extraterrestrial life, not to forget all the things in the universe that we can’t even see yet. It will be interesting to follow the development of this telescope as well as its findings.

Connecting this back to the African Cosmos exhibit, this telescope relates to the observatories located in Johannesburg, South Africa. Although an image could not be found online, the African Cosmos features Marcus Neustetter’s Google Earth trace of the Vredefort Dome. Although not nearly as powerful as the James Webb Space Telescope, both have made significant impacts on astronomical observations. This is all in the nature of new equipment being developed to help further scientific research. Before we know it, we will have yet another telescope which can look even further back in time and answer the questions which this one was unable.

Sources:

Dailymail.com, Ellie Zolfagharifard For. “World’s Most Powerful Telescope to Launch in 2018: ‘Time Machine’ Will Peer Back over 13.5 Billion Years to See First Stars Forming.” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 22 Apr. 2015. Web. 23 Apr. 2015.

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Long Lost Pharaoh Discovered

While flipping through my Flipboard magazine app today, I came across an article entitled “Egyptologists Unearth Tomb of Long Lost Pharaoh so Ancient Only His Name is Known.” Like any other student of African art history, this caught my eye. Essentially what happened is exactly what the title describes; the point of this post is to explain what it means.

Granite head of an Old Kingdom pharaoh identified with KhaBa. Photo Credit: JMCC1/Wikimedia Commons.
Granite head of an Old Kingdom pharaoh identified with KhaBa. Photo Credit: JMCC1/Wikimedia Commons.

First, the definition of an Egyptologist is one who studies Egypt’s history and culture and regarded to in North America as a branch of archaeology. Mamdouh al-Damati, a minister of antiquities in this subject area, helps us better understand what exactly is going on. On April 20, 2015 al-Damati’s crew discovered a new tomb belonging to a Pharoah whose name was KhaBa. According to sources, KhaBa ruled in Egypt around 2670 BC. This not only places him as one of the earliest leaders of the Old Kingdom, but a stone with his name on it has been uncovered which supports his existence.

Similar to the oldest tool ever found in Kenya, this discovery goes to show even further that Africa has had one of the richest and most original civilizations known to mankind. According to sources, KhaBa’s name means “radiant soul” and this has been seen on a number of seals and bowls. Implications for this finding are huge in terms of imagining what Egypt was like in an era before humans had likely travelled elsewhere in the world. With the oldest civilizations ever recorded to be around 5000 BC in Sumeria, this discovery helps with understanding migration patterns and lifestyles of the earliest humans.

Artifact found in the burial tomb carrying the name of King Khaba. Egypt Exploration Society.
Artifact found in the burial tomb carrying the name of King Khaba. Egypt Exploration Society.

In terms of its relationship to the African Cosmos, civilization this early on gives more probability that scientific and cultural advancements were being made. Given the chance for more research and uncovering more evidence, it would be interesting to see if any of the artifacts contained astrological information or legends. This is a field in which the possibilities are quite endless, and there is still much to learn about the KhaBa.

Sources:

Miller, Mark. “Egyptologists Unearth Tomb of Long Lost Pharaoh so Ancient Only His Name Is Known.” Ancient Origins. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2015.

Wright, Alex. “Egypt Discovers Tomb of Old Kingdom Pharaoh.” Alaraby. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2015.

Skateboarding in Madagascar

After the Disney pixar film entitled Madagascar, the country located on an island off the east coast of Africa gained international popularity and recognition. However, like many Disney films there is an element of magic and imagination behind the film. What many people forget is that this country actually exists and people actually live there. So what is actually like?

Seen in the video above, Red Bull has sent a group of skateboarders to explore the country of Madagascar on boards and created a short film series from it. What happens in these films are almost as magical as the Disney pixar films. Not only had this group probably been the first to skateboard on the streets of Madagascar, the impact it had on the local community was huge.

Everywhere they went, crowds of people gathered in the streets to watch the shows that they put on. It was the exposure of Western culture that made these films so significant. These skateboarders became idols of the children in the region and provided entertainment for the adults.

Baobabs © Lev Maslov. 2015.
Baobabs © Lev Maslov. 2015.

In the second part of this short film series, the crew explores to the beach village on the Mozambique Channel called Morondava. Here they explored the beauty and wonder of the Baobab trees in Madagascar. According to the natives, there are only 10 species of this tree in the entire world, 7 of which are found on Madagascar. In addition to understanding the unique ecology of the country, the boarders spent time trying to teach the kids of this remote village to skateboard, leaving a lasting impact on the community of this area.

In terms of the Cosmos exhibition, this is a great example of a modern day representation of art in Africa. Where the majority of the African Cosmos exhibit explains ideas that we have learned by studying historical African cultures, this video shows the opposite. What is seen within this video series is the education of Madagascar’s youth by those who are truly passionate about what they do. The mix of Western culture and African culture allows for a powerful outlet of creativity and the chance to learn new things about the world in which we all live on. This film series symbolizes the coming together of all types of people and cultures from around the world.

Sources:

Leungc. “Foggy Skating in Madagascar in “Melodies for the Lemurs” Part 2.” Hypebeast. Red Bull, n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2015.

The Biggest Thing in the Universe

The universe is largest conceivable structure that mankind is able to conceive. The notion of a universe so vast that we barely know about truly humbles the existence of our life. However, of all things in this universe, what is the largest structure that humans have observed? The video below introduces the Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall to be the largest known structure in the entire universe.

Discovered in November of 2013, the Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall was discovered as a cluster of galaxies bound together by gravity about 10 billion light years away and another 10 billion light years to cross. What do these numbers mean and imply?

Assuming you could travel at light speed, it would take you 10 billion years to reach the edge of the Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall. This enormous distance implies that this structure was created only 4 billion years after the Big Bang occurred. However, for a structure created so soon after the Big Bang this galaxy cluster exceeds the size limit for the acceptable size range according to astrophysicists. As one of the astronomers who first discovered this structure, Dr. Jon Hakkila, an astrophysics professor at the College of Charleston in South Carolina claims that “the Her-CrB GW is larger than the theoretical upper limit on how big universal structures can be.”

This structure relates to the piece in the African Cosmos exhibit in which an artist collaborates with NASA astronomers in order to create the video which zooms in on a 1km square in the sky. This shows the vast infinite of the galaxies and starts that are beyond our reach. To imagine that so many structures exist in just a square of our size, gives perspective into imagining the magnitude of the 10 billion light year sized Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall.

There is no doubt that this structure exists somewhere out there in the universe. Perhaps this record setting size will challenge the way scientists view the universe and revise the old data. If you do recall one of the earlier posts on the Big Bang, there is a constant renewal of true and false knowledge in our culture and scientific community. Hopefully this discovery will help us reach a new vantage point on understanding our place in the massive openness of space.

Sources:

Gunn, Alastair. “WHAT IS THE LARGEST OBJECT IN THE UNIVERSE?” Science World. N.p., 4 Mar. 2015. Web. 2 Apr. 15.
Howard, Jacqueline. “The Biggest Thing In The Universe Is So Gigantic It Shouldn’t Exist At All (VIDEO).” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2015.
Klotz, Irene. “Universe’s Largest Structure Is a Cosmic Conundrum : DNews.” DNews. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2015.

Nabta Playa’s Archaeological Significance

Situated in the eastern Sahara of Egypt, Nabta Playa is the home of one of the pieces featured in the African Cosmos Stellar Arts exhibition. The calendar circle at Nabta Playa dates more than a millennium before the Stonehedge in England, and is thus far one of the oldest calendar systems in the world.

Calendar circle at Nabta Playa, Egypt, January 1997 Photograph by J. McKim Malville.
Calendar circle at Nabta Playa, Egypt, January 1997
Photograph by J. McKim Malville.

However, this site also has much more to it than just this calendar circle. According to sources the Nabta Playa was a large internally drained basin, which was an important ceremonial center for prehistoric people about 10,000 years ago. During seasonal rain people would bring their livestock down to drink from the basin as well as record astronomical events. What this means however, is that the people located near the Nabta Playa had the ability to domesticate cattle and had developed the system to farm and produce livestock.

How do we know that these cattle existed and were domesticated? Archaeological evidence suggests that there would be no way for the cattle to survive in the arid climate of Egypt without the guidance of humans. If this is the case then the Nabta Playa proves to be a very important spot in the Sahara desert. Not only is there significant astronomical interpretations, the fact that the prehistoric humans in this region had settled down and were no longer a nomadic people. This also means that they had the ability to farm and did not have to survive off of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

What’s more, approximately 9,000 years ago the people of the Nabta Playa dug out walk-in wells in order to provide a year-round source of water for humans as well as cattle. This goes more to suggest that the humans of the Nabta Playa had acquired the technology and skills to live year round in the Sahara desert.

Given the ability to visit the Nabta Playa thousands of years ago, this site truly seems reminiscent of a prehistoric desert oasis. The technology and knowledge from this site was once great and is still being studied today by archaeologists and astronomers in the area.

Sources:

Hirst, K. Kris. “Nabta Playa – Early Evidence of Cattle Domestication.” About Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

Wallace, Ryan C. “Megalithic Astronomy at the Ceremonial Center of Nabta Playa.” Home Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

Oldest Tools Discovered in Kenya

Recent news has come out about how archaeologists claim to have found the oldest tools made by man in Kenya. This is crucial information in understanding many different aspects of our history. The stone tool is estimated to be around 3.4 million years old. According to sciencetimes.com and Science magazine, this tool outdates the previous oldest tool by 700,000 years.

This is just the beginning in the search for more information of early human tool making capabilities and intelligence. Thanks to the researchers who found this, we can now search the vicinity to better understand truly what it was that set us apart from all the other species on this planet.

ScienceTimes.com. Jon Du. 2015.
ScienceTimes.com. Jon Du. 2015.

According to lead researcher Sonia Harmand at Stony Brook University, “”The artifacts were clearly knapped [created by intentional flaking] and not the result of accidental fracture of rocks.” What’s more, she claims that the discovery of these tools were actually accidental and they were actually looking for fossils of ancient human relative species.

Not only does this finding break previous archaeological records, implications from this find affect the way we interpret history, geography, and science. For one, this discovery allows for evidence and the knowledge humans had the cognitive and physical abilities to create and use tools to their own benefit. Furthermore, this supports that Africa was the home of the earliest intelligent human beings. This gives insight to the migration patterns and lifestyles of the earliest humans. What’s more, if humans were able to event tools like this and it was found by accident, there is a good chance that this is not the only tool that was used 3.4 million years ago.

This finding proves that Africa has arguably one of the richest and most important archaeological histories and geographic locations. In terms of the African Cosmos art exhibit, this is further evidence that the verbal and visual representations of the many tribal cultures around Africa are extremely valuable in understanding the world from a unique perspective. Although no more than a rock, the symbolism in this finding makes waves in fields of modern day science and archaeology.

Sources:

“Scientists Discover Oldest Evidence of Stone Tool Use and Meat-Eating Among Human Ancestors | California Academy of Sciences.” California Academy of Sciences. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

“World’s Oldest Tools Found Near Africa’s Lake Turkana | Sci-Tech Today.” SciTech Today RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

Wu, Brian. “World’s Oldest Stone Tools Discovered in Kenya.” Science Times RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2015.

Chroococcidiopsis and the City in the Moon

City in the Moon, Adebisi Fabunmi, Nigeria, 1960’s; National Museum of African Art collection
City in the Moon, Adebisi Fabunmi, Nigeria, 1960’s; National Museum of African Art collection

Nigerian artist Adebisi Fabunmi created the piece titled “City in the Moon” based on his dreams of a crowded city in the moon as a symbol for his belief that humans would eventually find a new home in the universe away from the Earth. Significant for its Yoruba influence, this work published the 1960’s depicts the cosmos as our new home. There is no doubt that this notion is a very common thought in the modern day as a result in the decreasing optimism about the Earth’s ability to sustain life for much longer. What is interesting however, is that innovative and creative ideas like this bridge the gap between science and art. While Fabunmi can portray this as fabric on a wooden board, scientists have also made discoveries that make this plan more concrete.

Contemporary science often turns to Mars as the nearest possible planet to inhabit. Currently, the environment is harsh and impossible for humans to live on; however, there is the possibility that we can alter the climate and culture the atmosphere of Mars that will eventually allow for human life. One of these theories is the use of the bacteria Chroococcidiopsis.

A photomicrograph of Chroococcidiopsis, enlarged 100 times. NASA.
A photomicrograph of Chroococcidiopsis, enlarged 100 times. NASA.

This bacteria is not only able to survive in the most extreme of climates, but it has the ability to photosynthesize. For those who are unaware of the implications of photosynthesis, this means that this bacteria is able to essentially sustain life by taking in light and converting it into oxygen. Granted that this procedure is by no means as simple as it sounds, there is scientific hope for Fabunmi’s visions.

With any solution comes more problems, and this also is portrayed by Fabunmi’s artwork. Part of the significance of this piece is seen by the representation of a crowded city in cosmos. This suggests that even if we do find a new home, it will echo the same problems that we had before on Earth. Furthermore, research on chroococcidiopsis have shown that although able to live in the most unforgiving climates, Mars is still much too cold for this bacteria to survive just yet. This means that there must be significant preparation for this plan to follow through. Combined with Fabunmi’s concerns, the result when science and art come together teach a lesson in setting up the right foundation and then learning from our old lessons to ensure we don’t make the same old mistakes.

Sources:

Britt, Robert Roy. “Best Way to Make Mars Habitable: Inject Greenhouse Gas | Space.com.” Space. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

“Greening of the Red Planet.” NASA Science. NASA, n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

Walker, Robert. “Can We Engineer an Oxygen Producing Bacteria Capable of Surviving on Mars?” Quora. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 15.