NASA Study Proposes Airships, Cloud Cities for Venus Exploration


Repost: Apollo 13: Eyewitness to the Explosion

By Mike Klesius

Odyssey, You Have a Problem.”
If five men in Houston had realized what they were seeing through a telescope on the evening of April 13, 1970, they could have radioed those words to the crew of Apollo 13, who was still trying to grasp what had just happened: an oxygen tank on their spacecraft had exploded en route to the moon.George Wyckliffe Hoffler was at the time a young NASA flight surgeon assigned to study cardiovascular data gathered from the Apollo astronauts during their spaceflights. On the second night of the mission, Hoffler was taking a break from studying for his medical boards, and had joined four other NASA employees on the roof of building 16A at the Manned Spacecraft Center, now the Johnson Space Center. There they watched a television monitor hooked up to a 16-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope with a television camera mounted in place of the eyepiece. The monitor showed two dots flying in formation on their way to the moon: the brighter of the two was the spent third stage of the Saturn V launch vehicle; the dimmer one was the Apollo 13 spacecraft, which had separated from the third stage two days earlier.

The Apollo 13 spacecraft, as seen through the telescope, immediately after the oxygen tank blew. Credit: NASA

Every ten seconds the TV camera integrated, or updated, the image. “Between one ten-second integration and the next one,” says Hoffler, now retired in Titusville, Florida, “we can’t say exactly what second that was, the less bright dot was not a dot anymore. It was an expanded sphere, reflecting light. A disc. And I remember the guy who was in charge of the thing, Andy Saulietis,…he said, ‘What in the world is that?’ Every ten seconds it continued to grow a bit, and then started to fade as the gas dissipated into the vacuum of space. We watched it for two or three minutes I guess. In retrospect, none of us had the presence of mind to call next door to Mission Control and say, ‘Hey guys, you’ve got a problem.’ ”

What they were seeing was oxygen from the ruptured tank venting into space. In the vacuum, there was no atmospheric pressure to contain the expanding vapor. “We calculated the diameter of that reflecting sphere of gas surrounding the spacecraft to be approximately 25 miles. And it just blew out in just a few seconds,” says Hoffler. “It was under pressure, and when the cannister blew, the gas molecules jetted out with enormous velocity.” In this extended recording, astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise remain calm as they report various readings to mission control. Lovell finally looks out the window to say that he sees some sort of gas being vented into space.

Hoffler notes that the anniversary of Apollo 13, which launched on April 11, overlaps with the April 12 anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s flight as the first human in space in 1961, as well as the first flight of the space shuttle, launched on April 12, 1981. When offered the suggestion that April was a good month for human spaceflight, he says: “It was a bad month too.”

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Who speaks for Earth?

…The civilization now in jeopardy is all humanity. As the ancient myth makers knew, we are children equally of the earth and sky. In our tenure of this planet, we have accumulated dangerous, evolutionary baggage — propensities for aggression and ritual, submission to leaders, hostility to outsiders, all of which puts our survival in some doubt. We have also acquired compassion for others, love for our children, a desire to learn from history and experience, and a great, soaring passionate intelligence — the clear tools for our continued survival and prosperity.

Which aspects of our nature will prevail is uncertain, particularly when our visions and prospects are bound to one small part of the small planet earth. But, up and in the cosmos an inescapable perspective awaits. National boundaries are not evidenced when we view the earth from space. Fanatic ethnic or religious or national identifications are a little difficult to support when we see our planet as a fragile, blue crescent fading to become an inconspicuous point of light against the bastion and citadel of the stars.

There are not yet obvious signs of extraterrestrial intelligence, and this makes us wonder whether civilizations like ours rush inevitably into self-destruction. I dream about it . . . and sometimes they are bad dreams.

In the vision of the dream I once imagined myself searching for other civilizations in the cosmos. Among a hundred billion galaxies and a billion trillion stars, life and intelligence should have arisen in many worlds; some worlds are barren and desolate. On them life never began or may have been extinguished in some cosmic catastrophe. There may be worlds rich in life not yet evolved to intelligence and high technology; there may be civilizations that achieved technology and then promptly used it to destroy themselves; and, perhaps, there are also beings who learn to live with their technology and themselves, beings who endure and become citizens of the cosmos.

Immersed in these thoughts, I found myself approaching a world that was clearly inhabited, a world I had visited before. I saw a planet encompassed by light and recognized the signature of intelligence. But, suddenly, darkness — total and absolute.

In my dream, I could read the “Book of Worlds”, a vast encyclopedia of a billion planets within the Milky Way. What could the galactic computer tell me about this now darkened world? They must have survived some earlier catastrophe. Their biology was different from ours. High technology. I wondered what those lights had been for; there must have been signs they were in trouble. The possibility of survival in a century — less than one percent, not very good odds. Communications interrupted. Their world society had failed; they had made the ultimate mistake. I felt a longing to return to earth.

The television transmissions from earth rushed past me, expanding away from our planet at the speed of light. Then suddenly — silence, total and absolute. But the dream was not yet done.

Had we destroyed our home? What had we done to the earth? There had been many ways for life to perish at our hands; we had poisoned the air and water; we had ravaged the land. Perhaps we had changed the climate. Could it have been a plague or nuclear war? I remembered the galactic computer. What would it say about the earth?

There was our region of the galaxy; there was our world. I had found the entry for earth: HUMANITY: THIRD FROM THE SUN. They had heard our television broadcasts and thought them an application for cosmic citizenship. Our technology had been growing enormously (they got that right). Two hundred nation states, about six global powers, the potential to become one planet. Probability of survival over a century — here, also, less than one percent. So, it was nuclear war, a full nuclear exchange.

There would be no more big questions, no more answers. Never again a love or a child; no descendents to remember us and be proud; no more voyages to the stars, no more songs from the earth.

I saw east Africa and thought, “a few million years ago we humans took our first steps there. Our brains grew and changed. The old parts began to be guided by the new parts, and this made us human — with compassion and foresight and reason. But, instead, we listened to that reptilian voice within us, counseling fear, territoriality and aggression. We accepted the products of science; we rejected its methods”.

Maybe the reptiles will evolve intelligence once more. Perhaps, one day, there will be civilizations again on earth. There will be life, there will be intelligence; but there will be no more humans — not here, not in a billion worlds.

Every thinking person fears nuclear war, and every technological nation plans for it. Everyone knows its madness, and every country has an excuse. There is a dreary chain of causality. The Germans were working on the bomb at the beginning of World War II, so the Americans had to make one first. If the Americans had one, the Russians had to have one. Then the British, the French, the Chinese, the Indians, the Pakistanis. Many nations now collect nuclear weapons; they are easy to make. You can steal fissionable material from nuclear reactors. Nuclear weapons have almost become a home industry.

The conventional bombs of World War II were called “blockbusters”, filled with 20 tons of TNT they could destroy a city block. All the bombs dropped on all the cities during World War II amounted to some 2 million tons of TNT — two megatons. Coventry, Rotterdam, Dresden and Tokyo — all the death that rained from the skies between 1939 and 1945 — a hundred thousand blockbusters, two megatons. Today, two megatons is the equivalent of a single thermonuclear bomb — one bomb with the destructive force of the second world war. But there are tens of thousands of nuclear weapons. The missile and bomber forces in the Soviet Union and United States have warheads aimed at over 15,000 designated targets. No place on the planet is safe.

The energy contained in these weapons — genies of death, patiently awaiting the rubbing of the lamps — totals far more than 10,000 megatons; but, with the destruction concentrated efficiently, not over six years but over a few hours. A blockbuster for every family on the planet; a World War II every second for the length of a lazy afternoon.

The bomb dropped on Hiroshima killed 70,000 people. In a full nuclear exchange, in the paroxysm of global death, the equivalent of a million Hiroshimas would be dropped all over the world. And, in such an exchange not everyone would be killed by the blast and the fire storm and the immediate radiation. There would be other agonies. The loss of loved ones; the legions of the burned and blinded and mutilated; disease; plague; long-lived radiation poisoning the soil and the water; the threat of stillbirths and malformed children; and, the hopeless sense of a civilization destroyed for nothing. The knowledge that we could have prevented it and did nothing.

The global balance of terror pioneered by the United States and the Soviet Union holds hostage all the citizens of the earth. Each side consistently probes the limits of the other’s tolerance — like the Cuban missile crisis, the testing of anti-satellite weapons, the Vietnam and Afghanistan wars. The hostile military establishments are locked in some ghastly mutual embrace, each needs the other but the balance of terror is a delicate balance with very little margin for miscalculation. And the world impoverishes itself by spending half a trillion dollars a year in preparations for war and by employing perhaps half the scientists and high technologists on the planet in military endeavors.

How would we explain all this to a dispassionate, extraterrestrial observer? What account would we give of our stewardship of the planet earth?

We have heard the rationales offered by the superpowers. We know who speaks for the nations; but who speaks for the human species? Who speaks for earth?

From an extraterrestrial perspective, our global civilization is clearly on the edge of failure and the most important task it faces is preserving the lives and well-being of its citizens and the future habitability of the planet. If we are willing to live with the growing likelihood of nuclear war, shouldn’t we also be willing to explore vigorously every possible means to prevent nuclear war? Shouldn’t we consider in every nation major changes in the traditional ways of doing things, a fundamental restructuring of economic, political, social and religious institutions? We have reached a point where there can be no more special interests or special cases. Nuclear arms threaten every person on the earth.

Fundamental changes in society are sometimes labeled impractical or contrary to human nature: as if nuclear war were practical or as if there were only one human nature. But fundamental changes can clearly be made. We are surrounded by them. In the last two centuries abject slavery, which was with us for thousands of years, has almost entirely been eliminated in a stirring world wide revolution. Women, systematically mistreated for millennia, are gradually gaining the political and economic power traditionally denied to them. And some wars of aggression have recently been stopped or curtailed because of a revulsion felt by the people in the aggressor nations. The old appeals to racial, sexual and religious chauvinism and to rabid nationalism are beginning not to work. A new consciousness is developing which sees the earth as a single organism and recognizes that an organism at war with itself is doomed. We are one planet.

One of the great revelations of the age of space exploration is the image of the earth, finite and lonely, somehow vulnerable, bearing the entire human species through the oceans of space and time. But this is an ancient perception . . . history is full of people who, out of fear or ignorance or the lust for power, have destroyed treasures of immeasurable value which truly belong to all of us. We must not let it happen again.

We have considered the destruction of worlds and the end of civilizations, but there is another perspective by which to measure human endeavors. Let me tell you a story — about the beginning.

Some fifteen billion years ago our universe began with the mightiest explosion of all time. The universe expanded, cooled and darkened. Energy condensed into matter, mostly hydrogen atoms, and these atoms accumulated into vast clouds; rushing away from each other they would one day become the galaxies. Within these galaxies the first generation of stars was borne, kindling the energy hidden in matter, flooding the cosmos with light. Hydrogen atoms that made suns and starlight. There were in those times no planets to receive the light, no living creatures to admire the radiance of the heavens. But deep in the stellar furnaces nuclear fusion was creating the heavier atoms — carbon and oxygen, silicon and iron. These elements, the ash left by hydrogen, were the raw materials from which planets and life later arrived.

At first, the heavier elements were trapped in the hearts of the stars, but massive stars soon exhausted their fuel and in their death throes returned most of their substance back into space. Interstellar gas became enriched with heavy elements.

In the Milky Way galaxy the matter of the cosmos was recycled into new generations of stars now rich in heavy atoms, a legacy from their stellar ancestors. And in the cold of. interstellar space great turbulent clouds were gathered. by gravity and stirred by starlight. In the depths the heavy atoms condensed into grains of rocky dust and ice, complex carbon-based molecules. In accordance with the laws of physics and chemistry, hydrogen atoms had brought forth the stuff of life. In other clouds more massive aggregates of gas and dust formed later generations of stars. As new stars were formed, tiny condensations of matter accreted near them, inconspicuous moats of rock and material ice and gas that would become the planets And on these worlds, as in interstellar clouds, organic molecules formed made of atoms that had been cooked inside the stars. In the tide pools and oceans of many worlds molecules were destroyed by sunlight and assembled by chemistry. One day, in these natural experiments, a molecule arose that quite by accident was able to make crude copies of itself.

As time passed self-replication became more accurate as molecules that copied better produced more copies. Natural selection was under way. Elaborate molecular machines had evolved slowly, imperceptibly — life had begun. Collectives of organic molecules evolved into one-celled organisms. These produced multi-celled colonies. Various parts became specialized organs. Some colonies attached themselves to the sea floor; others swam freely. Eyes evolved and now the cosmos could see. Living things moved on to colonize the land. Reptiles held sway for a time and gave way to small, warm blooded creatures with bigger brains who developed dexterity and curiosity about their environment. They learned to use tools and fire and language — star stuff, the ash of stellar alchemy had emerged into consciousness.

We are a way for the cosmos to know itself. We are creatures of the cosmos and always hunger to know our origins, to understand our connection with the universe. How did everything come to be? Every culture on the planet has devised its own response to the riddle posed by the universe. Every culture celebrates the cycles of life and nature. There are many different ways of being human.

But, an extraterrestrial visitor examining the differences among human societies would find those differences trivial compared to the similarities. We are one species. We are star stuff harvesting star light. Our lives, our past and our future are tied to the sun, the moon and the stars. Our ancestors knew that their survival depended on understanding the heavens. They built observatories and computers to predict the changing of the seasons by the motions in the skies. We are all of us descended from astronomers.

The discovery that there is order in the universe, that there are laws of nature, is the foundation on which science is built on today. Our conception of the cosmos — all of modern science and technology –is traced back to questions raised by the stars. Yet, even 400 years ago we had still no idea of our place in the universe. The long journey to that understanding required both an unflinching respect for the facts and a delight in the natural world.

Johannes Kepler wrote: “We do not ask for what useful purpose the birds do sing, for song is their pleasure since they were created for singing. Similarly, we ought not to ask why the human mind troubles to fathom the secrets of the heavens. The diversity of the phenomena of nature is so great and the treasures hidden in the heavens so rich precisely in order that the human mind shall never be lacking in fresh enrichment.”

It is the birthright of every child to encounter the cosmos anew in every culture in every age. When this happens to us, we experience a deep sense of wonder. The most fortunate among us are guided by teachers who channel this exhilaration. We are born to delight in the world; we are taught to distinguish our preconceptions from the truth. Then, new worlds are discovered as we decipher the mysteries of the cosmos.

Science is a collective enterprise which embraces many cultures and spans the generations in every age and sometimes in the most unlikely places there are those who wish with a great deal of passion to understand the world. There is no way of knowing where the next discovery will come from. What dream of the mind’s eye will remake the world. These dreams begin as impossibilities. Once, even to see a planet through a telescope was an astonishment; but we studied these worlds, figured out how they moved in their orbits, and soon we were planning voyages of discovery beyond the earth and sending robot explorers to the planets and the stars.

We humans long to be connected with our origins so we create rituals. Science is another way to experience this longing. It also connects us with our origins, and it too has its rituals and its commandments. Its only sacred truth is that there are no sacred truths. All assumptions must be critically examined. Arguments from authority are worthless. Whatever is inconsistent with the facts — no matter how fond of it we are — must be discarded or revised. Science is not perfect. It is often misused. It is only a tool, but it is the best tool we have — self-correcting, ever changing, applicable to everything. With this tool we vanquish the impossible; with the methods of science we have begun to explore the cosmos. For the first time scientific discoveries are widely accessible. Our machines — the products of our science — are now beyond the orbit of Saturn. A preliminary spacecraft reconnaissance has been made of 20 new worlds. We have learned to value careful observation, to respect the facts even when they are disquieting, when they seem to contradict “conventional wisdom”.

WWe depend upon free inquiry and free access to knowledge. We humans have seen the atoms which constitute all of nature and the forces that sculpted this work and others. We have found that the molecules of life are easily formed under conditions throughout the cosmos. We have mapped the molecular machines of the heart of life. We have discovered a microcosm in a drop of water; we have peered into the bloodstream and down on the stormy planet to see the earth as a single organism. We have found volcanoes on other worlds and explosions on the sun, studied comets from the depths of space and traced their origins and destinies; listened to pulsars and searched for other civilizations.

We humans have set foot on another world in a place called the Sea of Tranquility, an astonishing achievement for creatures such as we, whose earliest footsteps three and one-half million years old are preserved in the volcanic ash of east Africa. We have walked far.

These are some of the things that hydrogen atoms do given fifteen billion years of cosmic evolution. It has the sound of epic myth, but it is simply a description of the evolution of the cosmos as revealed by science in our time. And we, we who embody the local eyes and ears and thoughts and feelings of the cosmos, we have begun at least to wonder about our origins — star stuff contemplating the stars, organized collections of ten billion billion billion atoms, contemplating the evolution of nature, tracing that long path by which it arrived at consciousness here on the planet earth, and perhaps throughout the cosmos.

Our loyalties are to the species and to the planet. We speak for earth. Our obligation to survive and flourish is owed not just to ourselves but also to that cosmos ancient and vast from which we spring!

(transcript of the last Episode of Cosmos: A Personal voyage by Carl Sagan, broadcast on PBS and reproduced from

Titanic’s last resting place (repost)

THE sinking of the Titanic was one of the 20th century’s great dramas, a mystery that has confounded scientists and historians for decades.

New photos of the ship that sank 100 years ago on April 15, on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, will be published in the April edition ofNational Geographic Magazine – or online at – for the first time giving a sense of what the wreck looks like today.

The photographs, shot by independent research group Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, provide a greater understanding of what happened on that fateful day.

The photos are the by-product of a multi-million dollar, two-month expedition that used a number of different approaches to get never-before-seen views of the wrecked ship.

For much of August and September 2010, explorers used robotic vehicles to sweep the 5km-by-8km site, scanning images that were later combined to produce the first shot below.

Side-scan and multibeam sonar was used to store the minute details of the ship and to evaluate what has changed since previous exploratory expeditions.

During these sweeps, the robots stored “ribbons” of data, with the products of the repeated attempts then collected together and observed as a whole unit.

The process, which is referred to as “mowing the lawn”, worked over the entire area of the ship and the surrounding seabed.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration archaeologist James Delgado told National Geographic the technique was “a game-changer”.

“In the past, trying to understand Titanic was like trying to understand Manhattan at midnight in a rainstormwith a flashlight,” he told the magazine.

“Now we have a site that can be understood and measured, with definite things to tell us. In years to come this historic map may give voice to those people who were silenced, seemingly forever, when the cold water closed over them.”

The side views of the two main parts of the ship speak volumes about the speed at which they crashed into the ocean floor, 3.2km down.

It had taken more than 2 1/2 hours for the ship to break up, allowing 711 passengers to escape with their lives. More than 1500 died. The last survivor died in 2009.

King George Dies in Sleep at Sandringham

London, Feb. 6 — In the early hours of this morning George VI died peacefully in his sleep at the royal estate at Sandringham. As night fell upon this mourning capital of a still great family of nations, his elder daughter was proclaimed Queen of this realm and its dependencies, head of the British Commonwealth and the Defender of the Faith, with the title of Elizabeth II

She is flying home tonight from her tragically interrupted visit to East Africa with her consort, the Duke of Edinburgh, and is expected back tomorrow to assume her royal duties as the wearer of the crown that somewhat mystically binds the British Commonwealth together.London, Feb. 6 — In the early hours of this morning George VI died peacefully in his sleep at the royal estate at Sandringham. As night fell upon this mourning capital of a still great family of nations, his elder daughter was proclaimed Queen of this realm and its dependencies, head of the British Commonwealth and the Defender of the Faith, with the title of Elizabeth II.

Like the Elizabeth of England’s golden age, she takes the throne at the age of 25.

Operated On 4 Months Ago

The King’s death occurred just a little more than four months after an operation for the removal of a growth in his right lung. This operation resulted in the loss of the lung. His recovery seemed assured and in recent days he had been seen publicly at the theater and at London Airport when he bade good-by to his daughter, now the Queen, as she set out with Prince Philip, her husband, on a journey that was to take her to East Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Only yesterday he was out shooting, his favorite sport.

It was assumed that the king had died as a result of a heart attack, probably caused by coronary thrombosis.

Tributes to the late monarch poured into London from leading world figures and from persons of humbler station.

His death came in his 57th year. It was the beginning of the sixteenth year of an unhappy reign. He never wanted or expected the throne of Britain, but he ascended to it when his brother Edward VII abdicated to marry “the woman I love,” Wallis Simpson.

Six years of his reign were war years when he and Elizabeth, his Queen, who now becomes Queen Mother, endeared themselves to their people by their bravery and devotion to their predestined roles.

When he was crowned King on May 12, 1937, he was King Emperor but the title of Emperor went with the granting of independence to India. His reign marked the end of an era of British power.

Parliament is Suspended

His death also brought to an end this session of Parliament in the midst of a bitter and acrimonious debate on how far this country should go in aligning itself with United States policy in the Far East lest it be dragged into war. That debate, which began yesterday, was left in mid-air as Parliament put aside its controversies to swear allegiance to the new Queen and deferred its partisan arguments on controversial issues until a more seemly time.

At Sandringham when the King died there were his two grandchildren, whom he adored, Prince Charles and Princess Anne; Sir Alan Lascelles, his private secretary; Sir Harold Campbell, his Equerry, and Lady Hyde, Lady-in-Waiting to his Queen. Soon after his death had been discovered by a servant bringing early morning tea, Dr. James Ansell, “Surgeon Apothecary” to the royal household at Sandringham, was called. He said that the King had died in his sleep without pain.

The news of the King’s death went out over the news tickers at 10:45 A. M. At 11:15 it was broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation. By noon flags were flying at half-staff on almost every building in London with a flagstaff.

The exception was Marlborough House, the home of Queen Mary, that stanch old lady nearing 85 whose eldest son, the Duke of Kent, was killed in an airplane crash early in the war; whose husband, George V, died just over sixteen years ago on Jan. 21, 1936, and who now must bury the son who has been Britain’s ruling sovereign for more than fifteen years. Over her home, alone in all London, her standard flew at the top of the staff, a dauntless symbol of the continuity of the British Crown and her own indomitable spirit.

The mood of London today, was one of sorrow for the sovereign who had served his country so well and who was no more.

There is real love and affection for the new Queen Elizabeth which will show itself in the future. But today to the late King and his widow, Elizabeth, with the ready smile and the warm gesture of the uplifted hand. Today it was “The King is dead.” Tomorrow it will be “Long live the Queen.” But as yet tomorrow has not come and the Queen is not here.

Most newspapers presented the news in black bordered columns. The theaters shut down and restaurants and night clubs abandoned music and dancing. The B.B.C. gave up all its entertainment programs and stayed on the air only to give weather reports and gale warnings to ships at sea.

Prime Minister Churchill received the news at Downing Street and called a Cabinet meeting to discuss the constitutional issues involved. Clement R. Attlee left a meeting of the Parliament Labor party of the Opposition to take a telephone call and returned to tell his confreres in a hushed tone that for the moment there could be no thought of controversy over foreign policy or anything else because the sovereign was dead.

In the afternoon at the usual time Parliament met but only long enough to hear the grievous official news. In the House of Lords the Marquess of Salisbury announced. In the House of Commons Mr. Churchill delivered the sad tidings to an already informed but attentive House. He said:

“We cannot at this moment do more than record the spontaneous expression of our grief.”

The Prime Minister then asked the Speaker, W.S. Morrison, for guidance and the Speaker suspended the session of the House until 7 P. M. when, he said, he would resume the chair, after swearing allegiance to the new Queen, to receive the oaths of the other members. Thus ended a Parliament sworn to George VI, and opened was a new one with the same members sworn to serve as liege lords of Her Majesty the Queen.

At 5 o’clock members of the Privy Council met at St. James’ Palace and drafted the proclamation that informed England that she had a second Queen Elizabeth. The proclamation of her sovereignty was signed by 150 Privy Councilors who attended the conclave in their colorful medieval costumes of scarlet and gold.

The proclamation they adopted will be read tomorrow by the Garter King at Arms, Sir George Rothe Bellew, from the rooftop of St. James’ Palace and repeated throughout the realm by criers with drums and trumpets tomorrow or the next day.

The King died in the little hamlet where he was born and where his father George V had died. It is a little village that looked upon him as squire and whose inhabitants turned out each Sunday to see the royal family go to church.

Funeral plans are still somewhat indefinite. It is believed, however, that the King’s body will be brought to London to lie in state in Westminster Hall in the Parliament Buildings for several days and that it will be taken to Windsor for burial at a private ceremony.

Tonight’s Court Circular, issued from Buckingham Palace, was black bordered. It said:

“The King passed peacefully away in his sleep early this morning.”

All day long while crowds gathered outside Buckingham Palace, Marlborough House and St. James’s Palace, members of the diplomatic corps called to express their sympathy and leave their cards.

Walter S. Gifford, United States Ambassador, was one of the earliest arrivals at Buckingham Palace.

(Originally printed in the New York Times)

Peruvian Mass grave dating 1000 years discovered.

I saw this article appear on twitter but alas it’s the Daily Mail and me not wanting to give them the traffic decided to find this pretty cool story from somewhere else.

Sixty apparently sacrificed bodies were found in a 1000 year tomb in the Peruvian Lambayeque, reveals a report released today by the Lima newspaper El Comercio.

According to the archaeologists in charge, sacrifices were made presumably to pay homage to the deceased who belonged to the ruling elite of the Sican culture.

“We found in the tomb of about 150 square meters and eight meters deep”, according to the report, and is divided into two sets of remains.

In one there are dozens of headless skeletons and in another about 30 human skulls next to the remains of dogs and llamas. For experts, some killed were thrown from the top and others were sacrificed elsewhere.

At the site, located in the historic Pomac forest, rich in archaeological finds, it also had irrigation infrastructure, water wells, furnaces, metallurgy and ceramics workshops and food production areas. “For the Lambayeque Culture (Sicán) human sacrifices were not acts of savagery, but a custom of ancestor worship,” said museum director in the area, Carlos Elera. “It is estimated that there were three different times in which the remains were placed en masse,” said the resident archaeologist Jose Pinilla.

Sicán Culture prevailed between approximately 900 and 1100 in what is today is Lambayeque.

According to DNA studies done by Japanese scientists, although the townspeople was from the area, the ruling elite belonged to a line further north, on land now between the cities of Piura, Peru, and Guayaquil, Ecuador.

Original article :