What Created This 'Melted Limestone' Beside the Pyramids of Giza?

Everyone loves a good pyramid anomaly, and geologist Robert Schoch (best known for his involvement in the 'redating the Great Sphinx' controversy) has posted an interesting curiosity on his Facebook page. During a tour group visit to the Giza plateau, Dr Schoch took some time to look at a strange patch of limestone not far from the pyramids, which appears to have been 'melted' by some strong heat source.

Schoch's interest - beyond pure curiosity - comes from his research into possible 'plasma events' in the ancient past, as discussed in his book Forgotten Civilisation: The Role of Solar Outbursts in Our Past and Future (he touches on the topic in this essay on his website as well).

In response to a commenter asking about the temperature needed to melt the rock, Schoch noted that it would require...

...around 1000 degrees C, depending on the specific composition and structure. A major plasma strike, lightning-like, could I believe cause what I saw -- but it still needs more study (I did not post the video, although I do not mind that it was posted as it gets people thinking about this important subject). This is a topic that I am currently researching.

Any other geologists out there want to add their opinion? Is this 'melted limestone' an oddity? And if so, what might be the source: ancient smelter, modern construction works, lightning strike, plasma event? Heck, while we're speculating (rather wildly), given the ancient Egyptians seem to have venerated meteorites, could it have been melted by a meteor strike?

Post your own theory in the comments....

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News Briefs 15-08-2016

Pyramids of Earth and Mars, and everything else in between...

Quote of the Day:

Even when we are alone, we are never alone. We exist in symbiosis — a wonderful term that refers to different organisms living together. Some animals are colonised by microbes while they are still unfertilised eggs; others pick up their first partners at the moment of birth. We then proceed through our lives in their presence... Every one of us is a zoo in our own right — a colony enclosed within a single body. A multi-species collective. An entire world.

Ed Yong, in 'I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life'

Million Dollar Prize Will Be Used to Search for Lost Ancient Sites Using Satellite Images and Data

There are two types of 'space archaeology'. There's the type that documents space history - from our own fledgling efforts to travel beyond Earth, to searching for remnants of extraterrestrial civilisations - and then there is archaeology on Earth, done from space. The short TED talk above, in which Sarah Parcak outlines how her team used satellite data to find a lost Egyptian city, is on the latter.

Due to its length, the talk is very short on the details of her work, but Parcak's involvement at TED was for a very interesting reason: she was awarded the 2016 TED prize of a million dollars to further her great wish:

I wish for us to discover the millions of unknown archaeological sites across the globe. By building an online citizen science platform and training a 21st century army of global explorers, we'll find and protect the world's hidden heritage, which contains clues to humankind's collective resilience and creativity.

Parcak will use the funds to launch Global Xplorer, a 'crowd-sourcing' science platform, in 2017. Global Xplorer will enable anyone with a web connection "to discover the next hidden tomb or potential looting pit using satellite technology".

You can sign up for updates - and ultimately to become involved as a 'citizen scientist' at the Global Xplorer website. We've seen many stories in recent times about using satellite data to uncover lost ancient structures and cities (see the 'Related stories' links at the bottom of this post), so perhaps a truly paradigm-shifting discovery could be made in the near future by an 'arm-chair archaeologist' using just their computer.

Given the lack of information in the TED talk, to learn more about Sarah Parcak's work you can read read this Wired article from earlier in the year, or alternatively watch the embedded hour-long documentary below on Parcak and the emerging field of space archaeology.

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News Briefs 12-08-2016

“Nirvana is a state of pure blissful knowledge.”

Quote of the Day:

“No self is of itself alone. It has a long chain of intellectual ancestors. The "I" is chained to ancestry by many factors … This is not mere allegory, but an eternal memory.”

E. Schrödinger

Fear and Loathing In Russia: Artificial Intelligences Made To Feel Emotions


If you're afraid of artificial intelligences, like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, the tables are about to get turned. Researchers at Kazan Federal University made an artificial rat brain feel fear and disgust, and they're hoping to model more emotions soon.

An interdisciplinary team led by Maxim Talanov are modelling emotional states in a simulated rat brain using Lővheim's cube of emotion. Along the three axes of the cube of emotion are the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline with eight emotions at its corners. According to this theory emotions arise as neurotransmitters fluctuate; for example high levels of dopamine but low serotonin and noradrenaline cause fear.

In the case of Talanov's artificial rat brain, emotions are simulated by redistributing computer power between data storage processes and decision-making. So far the easiest emotions to provoke have been disgust and fear. Talanov and his team are certain other emotions, like joy and excitement, will be simulated in 2-3 years.

Which raises some ethical issues about the status of artificial intelligences. If an A.I. feels the whole spectrum of human emotions, should we consider it conscious and afford the entity the same rights as us? Would a smartcar be considered culpable for murder because it felt road rage, its lawyer arguing "It was programmed that way" or hacked with a 'rage' virus?

Talanov acknowledges there's much more to be done since there's not enough computing power available to model the human brain. "This simluation is about a thousand times smaller than the real work of the cerebral cortex, and the brain only needs 20 watts of power to do its job" he told Nikita Statsenko of Rusbase.ru.

Maybe next time you hear someone peddling the horrors of A.I., take heart that they're probably just as afraid of you as you are of them.

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News Briefs 11-08-2016

Hang on tight fellow Grailers, as we explore today's news briefs together...

Quote of the Day:

The real problem of humanity is the following: we have paleolithic emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology

E.O. Wilson

ESP in EEG? Study Finds That People's Brains Show a Neural Spike When a Friend's Brain is Stimulated


Find more fascinating articles like this one by liking The Daily Grail on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter.

Recent research into the neuroscience of social interactions between humans has revealed fascinating details of how the brains of friends and family (in scientific terms, brains that "operate at least in part on shared information content”) can synchronise and 'align' with each other. So, given the (controversial) results from parapsychology that suggest telepathy and other 'psi' talents might be real, is it possible that this 'neuro-resonance' can be detected even when two people attempt to mentally interact despite being blocked from doing so via normal sensory means?

That is the question asked in a recent paper titled "EEG correlates of social interaction at a distance". Subject pairs were included based on criteria of (a) mutual friendship of more than a decade, and (b) experience in meditation, in order to maintain prolonged, focused concentration.

The members of each pair were placed in two separate rooms approximately five meters from each other - with appropriate measures taken to block any sharing of sensory information - and their brains were monitored using electroencephalograph (EEG).

The 'Sender' was told to relax, think about the 'Receiver, and simply "mentally transmit what you perceive". During a 10 minute session, the Sender was given 128 'stimulations' of 1 second duration each, separated by pauses of random length lasting 4 to 6 seconds (in order to avoid predictable rhythms). These stimulations were "from a light signal produced by an arrangement of red LEDs, and a simultaneous 500 Hz sinusoidal audio signal of the same length."

The 'Receiver', sitting in their isolated room, was told to relax and be prepared to "receive stimuli" from their partner: "Your task is to mentally connect with him/her and try to perceive the stimulus he/she is receiving".

Over three days, data from 25 pairs of subjects was collected. The result: "a weak but robust response" was detected in the EEG activity of the 'passive' Receiver, "particularly within 9 – 10 Hz in the Alpha range...this signal was found to be statistically significant".

EEG evidence for ESP?

The researchers concluded that, while the study was clearly explorative...

...it is in agreement with the results observed in three different experiments by Hinterberger (2008) who observed an increase in the ERPs in the Alpha (8–12 Hz) band only in the related pairs of participants. If further confirmed, these findings would be of huge scientific importance because they provide neurophysiological evidence of a connection – or social interaction – at distance.

I have to say I get a little concerned when I see papers on these sorts of controversial topics say the positive results showed up only "when a new algorithm was applied to the EEG activity". But certainly an interesting study all the same, worth more detailed and careful investigation.

Link: "EEG correlates of social interaction at a distance"

(via Dr Carlos Alvarado)

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News Briefs 10-08-2016

Events and accidents?

Quote of the Day:

My life seemed to be a series of events and accidents. Yet when I look back I see a pattern.

Benoit Mandelbrot

Tabby's Star: Is It Beginning To Look A Lot Like Aliens?


The mystery surrounding Tabby's Star just ratched up another notch. Or down, considering the data outlined in Benjamin Montet and Joshua Simon's latest submission to the arXiv, "KIC 8462852 Faded Throughout The Kepler Mission". Everyone's favorite "megastructure" star continues to confound mainstream astronomers and the taboo of last resort, aliens, is still on the table.

Montet and Simon discovered KIC 8462852, a.k.a. Tabby's Star, dimmed by 2.5% over the course of Kepler's mission to survey the heavens for alien planets. The data lends support to Bradley Schafer's conclusion [1] that Tabby's Star steadily dimmed from 1890 to 1989. What everyone and their telescope are getting excited about is the rate of dimming has been increasing according to the Kepler data.

If the rate of dimming increases, this could be the product of self-replicating machines or von Neumann devices tasked to build this putative alien megastructure. When I looked at Montet and Simon's graphs, I had an insight on how they could suggest the possibility of self-replicating machines or aliens. Rather than charting the curve of the dimming light, but the 'growth' of material or machines causing the dimming, the a graph would show a sigmoid curve. In biology, sigmoid curves illustrate population growth [2, 3] through three phases of transitional and exponential growth before reaching a plateau. In this context transitional growth may be the dust of "construction crews" tearing apart an object for raw materials, followed by exponential growth as another segment of the megastructure is created, before plateauing as the 'bots travel to the next planetary or cometary resource a mere handful of astronomical units away.

The prospect of aliens, despite my speculation, remains unfalsifiable for now. But Montet and Simon do a handy job outlining the unlikely natural explanations most sane scientists would embrace. Astronomers have observed polar star spots on F-type stars like KIC 8462852, but those F-type stars are cooler and smaller in contrast. Also polar spots can't explain the short-term dips previously observed by Tabetha Boyajian, et al.. Some of the proposed transit events under suspicion for the star's dimming are even less likely.

For an optically thick transiting object, the 2.5% transit depth indicates a minimum radius of 0.15R* (Boyajian et al. 2016 estimate a radius of 1.58 R☉ for KIC 8462852). If the transiting body is in a Keplerian orbit, the extremely slow ingress time and long transit duration place it at the implausibly large distance of ~10 PC, with a transit possibility of ~10-9.

Fingers are crossed that the Tabby's Star observing campaign with the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, currently underway after the successful Kickstarter, will capture one of the mysterious long transits. Should the cause is a solid object, like a megastructure, then the dimming of KIC 8462852's light would be achromatic. On the other hand if the culprit is dust and/or gas, then the starlight would redden.

Maybe in a year we'll know for certain if the alien hypothesis is still worth consideration. Perhaps some science fiction-types will find inspiration around Tabby's Star for another big dumb object to fit the mystery. In either case, our interesting times are becoming more interesting by the moment.

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  1. KIC 8462852 Faded at an Average Rate of 0.165+-0.013 Magnitudes Per Century From 1890 To 1989 - https://arxiv.org/abs/1601.03256
  2. Populations - http://ibguides.com/biology/notes/popula...
  3. Explain the sigmoid population growth curve - http://ibbiology.wikifoundry.com/page/Ex...