Controversy erupted over an archaeological claim for a 27,000-year old pyramid

The ancient pyramid of Djoser, a symbol of advanced civilization, was constructed by a stone-mason at the end of the last ice age

The Pyramid of Djoser was 4,600-year-old at the time. Gbekli Tepe is one of the oldest megalithic sites in Turkey and was built by stone-masons around 11,000 years ago. And it would completely rewrite what is known about human civilization in the area. The pyramid has become a symbol of advanced civilization according to a paper co-author. “It’s not easy to build pyramids. You need high masonry skills,” he says.

The paper is being investigated by Archaeological Prospection and its publisher. In an email to Nature, Ernenwein mentioned that the editors, including herself, and the ethics team were investigating the paper in accordance with the guidelines of the Committee on Publication Ethics. She declined to elaborate on the nature of the concerns raised.

Gunung Padang comprises five stepped stone terraces, with retaining walls and connecting staircases, that sit atop an extinct volcano. Natawidjaja and colleagues investigated the site using ground-penetrating techniques to identify what is underneath the terraces.

The four layers identified by them represent separate phases of construction. According to the paper, the lava core is meticulously sculpted and is the innermost layer.

Dibble says that there is no clear evidence that the buried layers were built by humans and were not the result of natural weathering and movement of rocks over time. He says material rolling down a hill will orient itself. But Natawidjaja says that the column-shaped stones were too large and orderly to have simply rolled there: “The neatly arranged, shaped and massive nature of these rocks, some weighing up to 300 kilograms, dismisses the likelihood of transportation over significant distances.”

The authors reported finding a stone shaped like a dagger. “This object’s regular geometry and distinct composition, and its materials unrelated to the surrounding rocks, signify its manmade origin,” says Natawidjaja. Dibble doesn’t think that the rock was shaped by humans. There is no evidence that it is made by man, he says.

The Gunung Padang site featured in a British author’s documentary about the demise of civilization at the end of the last ice age. The authors acknowledge the work of someone else.

Farley says that people should celebrate Gunung Padang for what it is — “an amazing, important and cool site” — rather than because it can be written into any particular narrative about the development of human civilization.

Natawidjaja wants the controversy to not lead to animosity in the community. He says that anyone who wants to do a research programme on Gunung Padang can come to Indonesia. “We know very little about our human history.”

DeepCell: A deep-learning tool to identify the nuclei of early-born baby fishes: Evidence from a human-loud, high-resolution imaging study

Several species of whipnose anglerfish have been seen swimming, suggesting that they are normal deep-sea behavior. “Just when you think they couldn’t get any weirder, anglerfish outdo themselves,” says biologist Pamela Hart. The whipnose anglerfish live in the depths of the ocean. There are females who use their bioluminescent nose appendage to lure in prey, while upside down. The researchers suggest that this position allows the fish to take down larger and faster animals without accidentally biting themselves.

Babies are likely to learn their native language by listening to their mother’s voice while still in the womb. Babies listening to recordings of their native language had more signs of learning compared to other languages, according to a study. This doesn’t mean that babies are necessarily disadvantaged if they don’t have prenatal exposure to speech or if they learn a different language after birth, however. The study shows that new babies can learn languages that they wouldn’t have learned in a normal way.

Scientists are using deep-learning methods to teach computers to perform a task that humans excel at: picking out specific elements, such as cell nuclei, from the dense, messy background of biological material. Attempts to teach the skill of ‘segmentation’ started with image-analysis tools trained and optimized for a particular experiment — for example, detecting mouse liver cells labelled with a specific fluorescent dye. Now scientists are working on easy-to-use, universal image-recognition algorithms to spot cellular features across a range of images — even 3D volumes. David Van Valen, the systems biologist who is responsible for the creation of DeepCell, believes better data, better labels are the secret to success.

Source: Daily briefing: Furore over ‘oldest pyramid’ claim

Climate protests and public opinion: A critique of Fisher, Berglund and Davis against climate change and a critique of the practice of sand drawing

“Protesters cannot tell people what to think, but they might be able to influence what people are thinking about,” write sociologist Dana Fisher, economist Oscar Berglund and psychologist Colin Davis. The authors argued that it was wrong to assume that people would abandon the cause because of high visibility confrontational tactics. At the same time, publicity does not necessarily translate into greater public concern. “There is reason to think that both large numbers and disruptive actions are necessary components for more direct outcomes from climate protest,” the trio suggests.

Sand drawing is a tradition of the South Pacific Ocean and is practiced with a single finger stroke. The drawings have very strict rules that can be described using a graph theory, according to Alban Da Silva. Expert artists have a repertoire of up to 400 designs and breaks are usually taken after what mathematicians call a cycle, a sequence of edges that start and end at the same node. Da Silva raises questions about the way mathematics is used in other cultures and the universality of mathematics.

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