A 41-year-old British man will become the world’s first “parastronaut” ● The mystery of ancient gold hoards and their common origin ● The origins of music would lie in empathy
parastronautPhoto: Francois Mori / AP / Profimedia
A 41-year-old British man will become the world’s first “parastronaut”.
That the rigors applied to all those who were going to fly in outer space were and remain some draconian ones, such individuals having to have an impeccable physical condition, is a fact known to everyone. However, the European Space Agency (ESA) has announced that it will break down these barriers, and humanity will soon have its first “parastronaut”, i.e. the first disabled astronaut.
The selected one is a 41-year-old British man named John McFall. A former Paralympic athlete, McFall lost a leg aged 19 in a motorcycle accident. It has not been announced when McFall will fly into outer space or what actions he will take there. No one knows exactly how a disabled person’s performance in space will be affected, but ESA is determined to find out, selecting John McFall to do so.
In fact, McFall is not the first person to be allowed to fly in outer space, despite a condition or disability that may affect his performance. In 1996, astronaut Rich Clifford was allowed to fly aboard the space shuttle Atlantis, and even completed a six-hour extravehicular mission to the Mir space station, despite reporting early symptoms of Parkinson’s. Even though the astronaut had problems due to the partial lack of mobility of his right arm, the mission was considered a success.
The mystery of the ancient gold hoards and their common origin
An international team made up of specialists in archeometry recently tried to identify the source of the gold in Priam’s hoard, that of the much older hoard discovered in the Poliochini site on the island of Lemnos, or the one recovered following archaeological excavations in the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur, and the result turned out to be a big surprise. More precisely, the gold in these hoards has a common origin.
61 artifacts belonging to the three hoards, all dating from about 3,500 to 4,500 years ago, were subjected to analyzes to determine their chemical composition. Given the high concentration of palladium and platinum in the objects studied, the specialists were able to conclude that the gold was obtained by the method of washing gold sand.
What is really interesting is that the gold seems to come from the same source. As for Priam’s hoard, discovered in western Anatolia, the specialists were also able to identify the fact that the pieces were produced en masse, and not individually. Given that precious stones and other luxury items were widely traded at that time, the possibility of acquiring gold is most plausible at this time, especially since in Mesopotamia, for example, there are no sources of gold that to have been used in the creation of the royal treasury in Ur.
What could not be identified until now is the place of origin of this gold. A first hypothesis pointed to Anatolia, but the chemical analysis of the gold in Georgia seems to make this area much more likely. However, a definite answer could not be given until now. Specialists claim that the area covered by the traders of the time was a huge one, from Greece to India, and other sources can always appear.
The origins of music would lie in empathy
Music is one of the artistic manifestations that have accompanied humanity since ancient times. How old? No one can say for sure. Moreover, why people chose to sing and compose music has remained a mystery.
With certainty, music was also shared by other human species, and may even have been created by them. The oldest known musical instrument, a whistle made from a cave bone femur, is about 60,000 years old, was discovered in the Divje Babe cave in Slovenia, and is the work of Neanderthal man.
As for why people in the distant past felt the need to express themselves through music, scholars have long argued that it arose as a form of emotional expression or even as a form of communication. Over time, it evolved from simple forms to particularly complex ones.
A recent study from researchers at the University of Oregon appears to support this hypothesis. They were able to correlate the ability to read and empathize with the emotions of some characters, with that of associating different sounds with such experiences. In short, the subjects who showed a high degree of empathy were those who could associate emotional states with sounds or melodic fragments.
Moreover, the specialists were able to demonstrate that the same neural circuits that react to strong emotional states are the same ones that resonate with music. As they say, music is what can define us as people.
Photo source: profimediaimages.ro