Ancient Burials? Whatever These Are, They’re Amazing #archeology #Laos #travel

The world is a much bigger place than I know. How can I have missed these fascinating remains of an ancient society in Laos? Probably because the sites are so remote, not to mention still peppered with unexploded Vietnam War bombs, that you’re not likely to find a trip arranged for tourists.

Ancient giant stone jars in Laos

Not all the jars are this big, but I can’t resist sharing this image

Carved stone jars around 2,500 years old… [perhaps] used by an Iron Age civilization to expose their dead relatives to the elements for a period of time before the bones were cleaned and buried.

Remains of elaborate human burials have been found at some of the jar sites… archaeologists aren’t sure if the jars were made for the purpose of the burials or if the burials were performed later.

Some of these stone jars are truly enormous, and since no written records have been found, local people speculate. Perhaps a race of giants used them to brew rice alcohol, or maybe they were used to store water. Some studies connect the giant jars’ locations with ancient trade routes.

Perhaps ancient burial practices are reflected in modern traditions.

In contemporary funerary practices followed by Thai, Cambodian and Laotian royalty, the corpse of the deceased is placed into an urn during the early stages of the funeral rites, at which time the soul of deceased is believed to be undergoing gradual transformation from the earthly to the spiritual world. The ritual decomposition is later followed by cremation and secondary burial. wikipedia

Archaeologists from Laos and Australia continue to discover and study more of these jar-sites.


Beware Wishful Thinking: A Science Lesson

To not-fool yourself is why science beats all other methods of discovering the physical world – but it’s so hard! That’s why peer-review is part of science – review by someone who sees your work as objective data and not your beloved baby.

Planet Pailly

This may seem like a contradiction.Astrobiologists are actively searching for alien life.It’s their job.And yet whenever new evidence of alien life is presented, astrobiologists are the first and most vocal skeptics about it.If your job is to search for alien life, why would you be so quick to doubt any evidence that alien life actually exists?

This goes back to the famous “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” line from Carl Sagan, or the whole proof beyond a reasonable doubt thing I kept saying during my recent A to Z series on the search for alien life.  Astrobiologists very much do want to find alien life.  They’re eager to find it.  Perhaps a little too eager.

And thus, astrobiologists have to be careful.  They have to be extra skeptical, because they have to be on guard against their own wishful thinking.

And really, this is not only true in the field of astrobiology; it’s true…

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Earth or the Solar System? Is That Our Choice? #space #science #Bezos

The richest man on Earth asks, “Do we want stasis and rationing or do we want dynamism and growth?”

He offers this as a choice between misery on Earth and prosperity in space. I hope those aren’t the only possibilities- especially since staying on Earth’s my only option.

His colonies will save the Earth, too, by moving all the nasty manufacturing and polluting industries off the planet. He talks about space colonies in the present-tense, as if they existed already. First step – the Moon.

Ultimately, Bezos envisions science-fiction-like rotating space colonies, because low gravity is a problem. He has a point. Low gravity is a lot of problems!

If you don’t aim high, if you don’t start, you’ll never achieve. And I’m glad Bezos doesn’t want to abandon Earth:

Please make no mistake about this, Earth is the best planet. We do need to protect it, it’s essential, it’s our job. We’re now big enough to hurt this planet. We have to use the resources of space.

Perhaps, as seen in a lot of science fiction, it will be fantastically wealthy individuals instead of governments who lead the way into space. If 90% of Earth’s wealth does end up in a few hands (it seems we’re headed that way) I hope they make good plans.

Research that’s Hilarious – Luck May Be a Skill #science #selfhelp #psychology

Seven Lucky Gods with Lucky CatI’m smart in a school-smart way. Always got good grades. But if I could choose, I’d rather be lucky than smart. Well, okay – there have been times I’d rather be pretty, but lucky’s a good choice too. Today’s post wanders into self-help. Learn to be lucky.

Wiseman provided a group of volunteers with a newspaper and instructed them to count the photographs inside.

Written in large font on half of the second page was this message: “Stop counting—there are 43 photographs in this newspaper.” A similar insert placed halfway through the paper read, “Stop counting, tell the experimenter you have seen this and win $250.”

Overall, the self-identified unlucky participants were left counting. It suggested that luck could have something to do with spotting opportunities, even when they were unexpected.

The researcher created a class to teach people to become luckier and it worked for most students. One assignment was to talk to at least one new person every week, because you won’t find new opportunities if you’re stuck in a rut.

As another luck-researcher says, anxiety literally narrows your perception and you just don’t see opportunity.

One of the factors that sets lucky people apart from the unlucky is how they ‘create, notice, and act upon the chance opportunities in their lives.’

You can teach your kids, and yourself, how to be luckier.

Reports in the popular press often take research out of context and leave out the ifs, ands, and buts. So  I offer no guarantees. But, maybe, here’s research you can use.

Cats Fetch But Not For You #CatsOfTwitter #CatAndDog #poem #haiku

annoyed catDon’t say cats can’t fetch
A dog’s success requires you
Cats choose when to please

NPR got an ear-full when they playfully suggested cats can’t play fetch. They set the record straight here.

Social Sciences Can Improve Your Life – Turning Gangs into Good Citizens #police #gangs #science #sociology

In Ecuador:

bullets and hand cuffsA stunningly successful experiment has the potential to upend the mainstream US approach to deviance.

Social sciences are sometimes called soft. You don’t get hard numbers. Human beings are difficult to study in the wild, and if you do lure them into a lab, you’re not allowed to lock the door. Plus, it takes so much time. With the right conditions, some bacteria can produce a new generation every 20 minutes. Humans are so slow.

But social sciences can produce results.

In 2007, the crime-riddled nation of Ecuador did something surprising: It legalized the gangs that had been the source of much of the violence. Then something even more surprising happened over the next decade: Murder rates plummeted.


Ecuador’s approach requires some willingness to forgive and manage fears.

The country allowed gangs to remake themselves as cultural associations that could register with the government, which in turn allowed them to qualify for grants and benefit from social programs…

When you hang out for a while, you see how differently they respond to conflicts now. For example, they [the Latin Kings] put on one of the biggest hip hop concerts ever, and they worked with other previously antagonistic gangs on the project.

Wow again. This reminds me of the optimism of Star Trek, where conflicts are often misunderstandings, and everyone is redeemable. Could that be real?

Previously violent Latin Kings were working in everything from catering to crime analysis. And they were collaborating with other gangs they’d warred with in the past.

David Brotherton, a sociologist at the City University of New York, helped set up the approach and will soon head back to Ecuador for the next phase of his multi-year research.

Scene from musical West Side Story

Gangs have been around a long time – from West Side Story, performing Gee, Office Krupke

Watch for this approach in your own communities. Be willing to support politicians who want to try. There’s no magic here – it takes dedicated individuals, consistent policies, and no doubt, there will be some setbacks. Let go of cynicism. Think of the parable of the Prodigal Son. Or, think of Star Trek.


Update: Beresheet Moon Lander Crashed, but to get that far is quite an achievement

Lots of reporting on this, but the craft that made it to the moon crashed in its last moments.They were so close to success. Some private group is going to make it!

The little robot couldn’t quite make it, crashing into the gray dirt around 3:25 p.m. EDT (1925 GMT). Mission control lost communications with the spacecraft when it was about 489 feet (149 meters) above the moon’s surface.