Monthly Archives: December 2013

Why We Sing “Auld Lang Syne” on New Year’s Eve

Why We Sing “Auld Lang Syne” on New Year’s Eve

DAVEN HISKEY DECEMBER 30, 2013 2

This is an excerpt from our book, The Wise Book of Whys, available on Kindle | Nook and in Print | Audiobook

guy-lombardo2

This tradition is mostly thanks to Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadian Band. While their work is largely unknown to those born in the last few decades, the band has sold over 300 million records to date. Guy Lombardo himself has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and he was once the “Dick Clark” of New Years before Clark and his “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” attempting to appeal to younger audiences, started supplanting “Mr. New Year’s Eve,” Guy Lombardo.

It was in 1929 that Guy Lombardo and his band took the stage at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City on New Year’s Eve. Their performance that night was being broadcast on the radio, before midnight Eastern-time on CBS, then after on NBC radio.

At midnight, as a transition between the broadcasts, the song they chose to play was an old Scottish folk song Lombardo had first heard from Scottish immigrants in Ontario. The song was Auld Lang Syne.

Previous to this, there are several documented instances of others singing this song on New Year’s Eve, going all the way back to the mid-nineteenth century, but it wasn’t anywhere close to the staple it would soon be after Lombardo’s performance.

The next year, and every year thereafter, all the way to 1976, with Lombardo dying at the age of 75 in 1977, they played it at midnight on New Year’s Eve at first broadcast out on the radio and later on TV. Thanks to “Mr. New Year’s Eve” and his band, it’s still tradition to this day.

Bonus Fact:

It is often said that the song, Auld Lang Syne, was written by famed eighteenth century poet/songwriter, “Scotland’s Favorite Son” -Robert Burns. However, Burns never claimed to have written the song -in fact, quite the opposite. When he submitted it to the Scots Musical Museum, he included a note stating:

The following song, an old song, of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I took it down from an old man’s singing, is enough to recommend any air.

The song was first published in 1788, and later a slightly modified version was published in Thomson’s Select Songs of Scotland in 1799, three years after Burns’ death.

The title, roughly translated to modern English, literally means “old long since,” but more figuratively means, “Times Gone By” or “Times Long Past.” It is simply a song about remembering old friends and the times spent with them. Burns set the lyrics to a traditional Scottish ditty called Can Ye Labour Lea.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Humor and Observations

What we learned about human origins in 2013

What we learned about human origins in 2013

By Charles Q. Choi

Published December 30, 2013

LiveScience
  • dmanisi-human-skull-1

    The 1.8-million-year-old skull unearthed in Dmanisi, Georgia, suggests the earliest members of the Homo genus belonged to the same species, say scientists in a paper published Oct. 18, 2013 in the journal Science. (PHOTO COURTESY OF GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM)

The existence of a mysterious ancient human lineage and the possibility that the earliest humans were actually all one species were among the human-evolution-related discoveries of 2013. Other breakthroughs include the sequencing of the oldest human DNA yet.

Here’s a look at what scientists learned about humanity and human origins this year:

Mystery lineage
Recent analyses of fossil DNA have revealed that modern humans occasionally had sex and produced offspring not only with Neanderthals but also with Denisovans, a relatively newfound lineage whose genetic signature apparently extended from Siberia to the Pacific islands of Oceania.

This year, hints began emerging that another mystery human lineage was part of this genetic mix as well. Now, the first high-quality genome sequence from a Neanderthal has confirmed those suspicions.

These findings come from Denisova Cave in southern Siberia, where the first evidence of Denisovans was discovered in 2008. To learn more about the Denisovans, scientists examined DNA from a toe bone unearthed there in 2010.

The researchers found that the fossil belonged to a Neanderthal woman. Her DNA helped refine the human family tree, as it revealed that about 1.5 to 2.1 percent of the DNA of modern people outside Africa is Neanderthal in origin, whereas about 0.2 percent of DNA of mainland Asians and Native Americans is Denisovan in origin. [Top 10 Mysteries of the First Humans]

The scientists also discovered that the Denisovans interbred with an unknown human lineage, getting as much as 2.7 to 5.8 percent of their genomes from it. This newfound relative apparently split from the ancestors of all modern humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans between 4 million and 900,000 years ago, before these latter groups started diverging from each other. It’s possible that this mysterious lineage could even be Homo erectus, the earliest known undisputed predecessor of modern humans. However, there are no signs that this unknown group interbred with modern humans or Neanderthals.

Genetic analysis also revealed that the parents of this Neanderthal woman were closely related possibly half-siblings, or another close relative. (Inbreeding may have been common among early humans it remains uncertain as to whether it was some kind of cultural practice or whether it was unavoidable due to small community populations at the time.)

Were earliest humans all one species?
Modern humans, Homo sapiens, are the only living member of the human lineage, Homo, which is thought to have arisen in Africa about 2 million years ago at the beginning of the Ice Age. Many now-extinct human species were thought to once roam the planet, such as Homo habilis, which is suspected to be among the first stone-tool makers; the relatively larger-brained Homo rudolfensis; the relatively slenderHomo ergaster; and Homo erectus, the first to regularly keep the tools it made.

The level of variation seen in Homo fossils is typically used to define separate species. However, analysis of 1.8-million-year-old skulls excavated from the Republic of Georgia revealed the level of variation seen among those skulls was about the same as that seen among ancient African Homo fossils. As such, researchers suggest the earliest Homo fossils may not be multiple human species, but rather variants of a single lineage that emerged from Africa. In other words, instead of Africa once being home to multiple human species such asHomo erectusHomo habilisHomo ergaster and Homo rudolfensis, all of these specimens may actually simply be Homo erectus.

Oldest human DNA
The testing of the oldest known human DNA added more evidence that human evolution was complex.

The genetic material, some 400,000 years old, came from a human thighbone unearthed in the Sima de los Huesos, or “Pit of Bones,” an underground cave in northern Spain. Until now, the previous oldest known human DNA had come from a 100,000-year-old Neanderthal from a Belgian cave.

The fossils unearthed at the site resembled those of Neanderthals, so researchers expected the ancient DNA they analyzed to be Neanderthal as well. Surprisingly, the DNA revealed that this fossil’s closest known relatives were not Neanderthals but Denisovans. This finding is strange, scientists said, because studies to date currently suggest the Denisovans lived in eastern Asia, not in western Europe, where this fossil was uncovered. One possible explanation is that a currently unknown human lineage brought Denisovan-like DNA into the Pit of Bones region, and possibly also to the Denisovans in Asia.

Evolution of tool use
The capability to make and use complex tools is a critical trait distinguishing modern humans from all other species alive today. Now, scientists have found an ancient hand-bone fossil that reveals that the modern human ability to make and use complex tools may have originated far earlier than previously thought.

A key anatomical feature of the modern human hand is the third metacarpal, a bone in the palm that connects the middle finger to the wrist. A little projection of bone known as a styloid process in this bone helps the thumb and fingers apply greater amounts of pressure to the wrist and palm. Researchers had thought the styloid process was a relatively recent feature, perhaps evolving close to the origin of modern humans. However, scientists have discovered a 1.4-million-year-old fossil that possesses this vital anatomical feature, meaning it existed more than 500,000 years earlier than it was previously known to have existed and was perhaps fundamental to the evolution of the whole genus Homo, not just modern humans.

This hand bone may not be the only key trait for tool use that evolved near the origin of the human lineage. Humans are the only species that can throw with great speed and precision, and scientists found this ability first evolved nearly 2 million years ago with anatomical changes to the shoulder, arm and torso. This advance likely boosted the hunting prowess of now-extinct human ancestors, helping them effectively and safely kill big game.

Neanderthal discoveries
In 2013, researchers also made important discoveries about Neanderthals, modern humans’ closest extinct relatives. For instance, analysis of a Neanderthal tomb in France suggests that, like modern humans, Neanderthals may have intentionally buried their dead. The new findings are further evidence that Neanderthals might have possessed complex forms of thought, enough for special treatment of the dead.

In addition, a cache of Neanderthal fossils discovered in a cave in Greece suggests the area may have been a key crossroad for ancient humans. The age of these fossils suggests Neanderthals and other humans may have had the opportunity to cross paths there, and even interact, the researchers added.

2 Comments

Filed under Humor and Observations

Ancient kingdom discovered beneath mound in Iraq

Ancient kingdom discovered beneath mound in Iraq

By Owen Jarus

Published October 01, 2013

LiveScience
  • 1-ancienct-city

    A domestic structure, with at least two rooms, that may date to relatively late in the life of the newfound ancient city, perhaps around 2,000 years ago when the Parthian Empire controlled the area in Iraq. (COURTESY CINZIA PAPPI.)

In the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq archaeologists have discovered an ancient city called Idu, hidden beneath a mound.

Cuneiform inscriptions and works of art reveal the palaces that flourished in the city throughout its history thousands of years ago.

Located in a valley on the northern bank of the lower Zab River, the city’s remains are now part of a mound created by human occupation called a tell, which rises about 32 feet above the surrounding plain. The earliest remains date back to Neolithic times, when farming first appeared in the Middle East, and a modern-day village called Satu Qala now lies on top of the tell.

The city thrived between 3,300 and 2,900 years ago, said Cinzia Pappi, an archaeologist at the Universitt Leipzig in Germany. At the start of this period, the city was under the control of the Assyrian Empire and was used to administer the surrounding territory. Later on, as the empire declined, the city gained its independence and became the center of a kingdom that lasted for about 140 years, until the Assyrians reconquered it. [See Photos of Discoveries at the Ancient City of Idu]

The researchers were able to determine the site’s ancient name when, during a survey of the area in 2008, a villager brought them an inscription with the city’s ancient name engraved on it. Excavations were conducted in 2010 and 2011, and the team reported its findings in the most recent edition of the journal Anatolica.

“Very few archaeological excavations had been conducted in Iraqi Kurdistan before 2008,” Pappi wrote in an email to LiveScience. Conflicts in Iraq over the past three decades have made it difficult to work there. Additionally archaeologists before that time tended to favor excavations in the south of Iraq at places like Uruk and Ur.

The effects of recent history are evident on the mound. In 1987, Saddam Hussein’s forces attacked and partly burnt the modern-day village as part of a larger campaign against the Kurds, and “traces of this attack are still visible,” Pappi said.

Ancient palaces
The art and cuneiform inscriptions the team uncovered provide glimpses of the ancient city’s extravagant palaces.

When Idu was an independent city, one of its rulers, Ba’ilanu, went so far as to boast that his palace was better than any of his predecessors’. “The palace which he built he made greater than that of his fathers,” he claimed in the translated inscription. (His father, Abbi-zeri, made no such boast.)

Two works of art hint at the decorations adorning the palaces at the time Idu was independent. One piece of artwork, a bearded sphinx with the head of a human male and the body of a winged lion, was drawn onto a glazed brick that the researchers found in four fragments. Above and below the sphinx, a surviving inscription reads, “Palace of Ba’auri, king of the land of Idu, son of Edima, also king of the land of Idu.”

Another work that was created for the same ruler, and bearing the same inscription as that on the sphinx, shows a “striding horse crowned with a semicircular headstall and led by a halter by a bearded man wearing a fringed short robe,” Pappi and colleague Arne Wossink wrote in the journal article.

Even during Assyrian rule, when Idu was used to administer the surrounding territory, finely decorated palaces were still built. For instance, the team discovered part of a glazed plaque whose colored decorations include a palmette, pomegranates and zigzag patterns. Only part of the inscription survives, but it reads, “Palace of Assurnasirpal, (king of the land of Assur).” Assurnasirpal refers to Assurnasirpal II (883-859 B.C.), the researchers said, adding that he, or one of his governors, must have built or rebuilt a palace at Idu after the Assyrians reconquered the city. [The 10 Biggest Battles for the Control of Iraq]

A hero facing a griffon
Another intriguing artifact, which may be from a palace, is a cylinder seal dating back about 2,600 years. When it was rolled on a piece of clay, it would have revealed a vivid mythical scene.

The scene would have shown a bow-wielding man crouching down before a griffon, as well as a morning star (a symbol of the goddess Ishtar), a lunar crescent (a symbol of the moon god) and a solar disc symbolizing the sun god. A symbol called a rhomb, which represented fertility, was also shown.

“The image of the crouching hero with the bow is typical for warrior gods,” Pappi wrote in the email. “The most common of these was the god Ninurta, who also played an important role in the [Assyrian] state religion, and it is possible that the figure on the seal is meant to represent him.”

Future work
Before conducting more digs, the researchers will need approval from both the local government and the people of the village.

“For wide-scale excavations to continue, at least some of these houses will have to be removed,” Pappi said. “Unfortunately, until a settlement is reached between the villagers and the Kurdistan regional government, further work is currently not possible.”

Although digging is not currently possible, the artifacts already excavated were recently analyzed further and more publications of the team’s work will be appearing in the future. The archaeologists also plan to survey the surrounding area to get a sense of the size of the kingdom of Idu.

Leave a comment

Filed under Humor and Observations

Cute Dogs for Your Monday Blues – The Last One for 2013!

Cute Dogs for Your Monday Blues – The Last One for 2013!

Leave a comment

Filed under Animals, Humor and Observations

Western Digital unveils 6TB, helium-filled hard drive

Western Digital unveils 6TB, helium-filled hard drive

Published November 04, 2013

FoxNews.com
  • Western Digital USC7K1000.jpg

    A stack of platters and the read / write arms that pull data off of them in an ordinary hard drive. New helium-filled models from Western Digital pack in more platters yet draw less power. (WESTERN DIGITAL)

  • Air HDD vs HeliumHDD.jpeg
    WESTERN DIGITAL
  • Air HDD vs Helium HDD.jpeg

    New helium-filled hard disk drives from Western Digital pack in more platters yet draw less power. (WESTERN DIGITAL)

Western Digital had a problem: ordinary air.

Modern hard drives store data on five metal platters that spin at up to 15,000 revolutions per minute, so fast in fact that drag from the tiny amount of air they whistle through is a problem. But at one-seventh the density of air, helium provides far less resistance for those spinning disks, letting the company pack in more disks that require less power and therefore cost less to operate.

The company on Monday unveiled a 6 terabyte hard disk called the Ultrastar He6 that packs seven platters of data filled goodness into the space usually filled by five. The company says these helium-filled hard disks are the future.

“Our mainstream helium platform will serve as the future building block for new products and technologies moving forward. This is a huge feat, and we are gratified by the support of our customers in the development of this platform,” said Brendan Collins, vice president of product marketing, for the company.

Netflix appears to agree.

“We serve billions of hours of streaming video per quarter to over 40 million subscribers,” said David Fullagar, director of content delivery architecture at Netflix. “The high storage density and lower power usage of the Ultrastar He6 hard drives allow us to continue with that goal, and create a great customer experience.”

The new drive consumes 23 percent less power when idle, and it runs quieter. (It weighs less too, of course — fully 50 grams less, the company said.) The drives are hermetically sealed to keep the helium in, something the company said was an engineering challenge.

1 Comment

Filed under Humor and Observations

Cosplay Pictures for Your Saturday

1 Comment

December 28, 2013 · 7:40 pm

1959 Girl Watcher Magazine – The Maxim of the 50s

The June 1959 issue of Girl Watcher Magazine – the equivalent to today’s Maxim Magazine.  This is from 54 years ago, which means people who are in their 70’s now were reading this for risque enjoyment.  Your grandparents were indeed sexual beings and that is how your parents and then you got here.  We tend to think that modern America is more sexualized, which it is, but even in Ancient Rome the walls of ruins are covered with sexual graffiti.  There have always been men who always want to stare at pretty women.  I reposted this here because I think it is part of our ‘history’ that people forget.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Leave a comment

Filed under Humor and Observations