Archive for the ‘Berlin’ Category

Two men whose remains were recently excavated from tombs in western China put their pants on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us. But these nomadic herders did so between 3,300 and 3,000 years ago, making their trousers the oldest known examples of this innovative apparel, a new study finds.

With straight-fitting legs and a wide crotch, the ancient wool trousers resemble modern riding pants, says a team led by archaeologists Ulrike Beck and Mayke Wagner of the German Archaeological Institute in Berlin. The discoveries, uncovered in the Yanghai graveyard in China’s Tarim Basin, support previous work suggesting that nomadic herders in Central Asia invented pants to provide bodily protection and freedom of movement for horseback journeys and mounted warfare, the scientists report May 22 in Quaternary International.

“This new paper definitely supports the idea that trousers were invented for horse riding by mobile pastoralists, and that trousers were brought to the Tarim Basin by horse-riding peoples,” remarks linguist and China authority Victor Mair of the University of Pennsylvania.

Previously, Europeans and Asians wore gowns, robes, tunics, togas or — as observed on the 5,300-year-old body of Ötzi the Iceman — a three-piece combination of loincloth and individual leggings.

A dry climate and hot summers helped preserve human corpses, clothing and other organic material in the Tarim Basin. More than 500 tombs have been excavated in a graveyard there since the early 1970s.

Earlier research on mummies from several Tarim Basin sites, led by Mair, identified a 2,600-year-old individual known as Cherchen Man who wore burgundy trousers probably made of wool. Trousers of Scythian nomads from West Asia date to roughly 2,500 years ago.

Mair suspects that horse riding began about 3,400 years ago and trouser-making came shortly thereafter in wetter regions to the north and west of the Tarim Basin. Ancient trousers from those areas are not likely to have been preserved, Mair says.

Horse riding’s origins are uncertain and could date to at least 4,000 years ago, comments archaeologist Margarita Gleba of University College London. If so, she says, “I would not be surprised if trousers appeared at least that far back.”

The two trouser-wearing men entombed at Yanghai were roughly 40 years old and had probably been warriors as well as herders, the investigators say. One man was buried with a decorated leather bridle, a wooden horse bit, a battle-ax and a leather bracer for arm protection. Among objects placed with the other body were a whip, a decorated horse tail, a bow sheath and a bow.

Beck and Wagner’s group obtained radiocarbon ages of fibers from both men’s trousers, and of three other items in one of the tombs.

Each pair of trousers was sewn together from three pieces of brown-colored wool cloth, one piece for each leg and an insert for the crotch. The tailoring involved no cutting: Pant sections were shaped on a loom in the final size. Finished pants included side slits, strings for fastening at the waist and woven designs on the legs.

Beck and Wagner’s team calls the ancient invention of trousers “a ground-breaking achievement in the history of cloth making.”

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/first-pants-worn-horse-riders-3000-years-ago

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Vets in Berlin are warning about an increase in the number of pets falling ill and being unable to walk properly after eating the drug-users’ faeces in the city’s parks.

Parks in the Treptow and Kreuzburg areas of the capital see groups of drug users gathering – some of whom go to the toilet in the bushes. The results of which, the Tagesspiegel newspaper reported on Monday, are proving dangerous for dogs.

Vets told the newspaper that they had seen a rise in the number of dogs being brought in that had eaten human waste. Tests revealed that they had been poisoned by illegal drugs, like heroin, still present in the excrement.

Vet Reinhold Sassnau told the paper that symptoms include dehydration, shaking, an inability to walk properly and a rapid heartbeat. He sees a lot of these cases during his night shifts, he said.

If owners take their dog to a vet in time, the animal can be given an emetic which forces them to vomit up the faeces. If not, treatment can require staying in a clinic for some time to stabilize. Sassnau said fatal cases were rare.

One student, identified only as Malte, told the newspaper that he had to take his 10-year-old dog, Bob, to an emergency vet after walking him through Görlitzer Park, an area well-known for drug-dealing. “We thought he was going to die,” he said.

Jörn Bischof, the vet at the Charlottenburg clinic who treated Bob earlier in October, told the paper: “This is becoming more frequent.”

He added that although dogs are often tempted to eat waste they come across outdoors, owners should try to train them not to.

http://www.thelocal.de/society/20131021-52497.html

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German Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, Soitec, CEA-Leti and the Helmholtz Center Berlin announced today that they have achieved a new world record for the conversion of sunlight into electricity using a new solar cell structure with four solar subcells. Surpassing competition after only over three years of research, and entering the roadmap at world class level, a new record efficiency of 44.7% was measured at a concentration of 297 suns. This indicates that 44.7% of the solar spectrum’s energy, from ultraviolet through to the infrared, is converted into electrical energy. This is a major step towards reducing further the costs of solar electricity and continues to pave the way to the 50% efficiency roadmap.

Back in May 2013, the German-French team of Fraunhofer ISE, Soitec, CEA-Leti and the Helmholtz Center Berlin had already announced a solar cell with 43.6% efficiency. Building on this result, further intensive research work and optimization steps led to the present efficiency of 44.7%.

These solar cells are used in concentrator photovoltaics (CPV), a technology which achieves more than twice the efficiency of conventional PV power plants in sun-rich locations. The terrestrial use of so-called III-V multi-junction solar cells, which originally came from space technology, has prevailed to realize highest efficiencies for the conversion of sunlight to electricity. In this multi-junction solar cell, several cells made out of different III-V semiconductor materials are stacked on top of each other. The single subcells absorb different wavelength ranges of the solar spectrum.

“We are incredibly proud of our team which has been working now for three years on this four-junction solar cell,” says Frank Dimroth, Department Head and Project Leader in charge of this development work at Fraunhofer ISE. “This four-junction solar cell contains our collected expertise in this area over many years. Besides improved materials and optimization of the structure, a new procedure called wafer bonding plays a central role. With this technology, we are able to connect two semiconductor crystals, which otherwise cannot be grown on top of each other with high crystal quality. In this way we can produce the optimal semiconductor combination to create the highest efficiency solar cells.”

“This world record increasing our efficiency level by more than 1 point in less than 4 months demonstrates the extreme potential of our four-junction solar cell design which relies on Soitec bonding techniques and expertise,” says André-Jacques Auberton-Hervé, Soitec’s Chairman and CEO. “It confirms the acceleration of the roadmap towards higher efficiencies which represents a key contributor to competitiveness of our own CPV systems. We are very proud of this achievement, a demonstration of a very successful collaboration.”

“This new record value reinforces the credibility of the direct semiconductor bonding approaches that is developed in the frame of our collaboration with Soitec and Fraunhofer ISE. We are very proud of this new result, confirming the broad path that exists in solar technologies for advanced III-V semiconductor processing,” said Leti CEO Laurent Malier.

Concentrator modules are produced by Soitec (started in 2005 under the name Concentrix Solar, a spin-off of Fraunhofer ISE). This particularly efficient technology is employed in solar power plants located in sun-rich regions with a high percentage of direct radiation. Presently Soitec has CPV installations in 18 different countries including Italy, France, South Africa and California.

http://phys.org/news/2013-09-world-solar-cell-efficiency.html

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

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Women’s rights protesters disrupted the opening of a giant pink doll’s house in Berlin on Thursday, saying the Barbie “Dreamhouse Experience” objectified women.

Promoting the doll made by Mattel Inc, the house allows paying visitors to try on Barbie’s clothes, play in her kitchen and have a go on her pink piano. The exhibition will be open until Aug. 25.

A handful of protesters gathered outside the shocking pink house that has been erected in one of central Berlin’s greyest areas.

A topless woman, a member of the Femen protest group, who had the slogan “Life in plastic is not fantastic” scrawled across her chest, set fire to a Barbie doll tied to a mini crucifix.

“There’s too much emphasis on becoming more beautiful and on being pretty and that puts an awful lot of pressure on girls as well as wasting capacities which they could use to simply be happy or for school,” said Stevie Meriel Schmiedel, a founding member of the “Pink Stinks” protest group.

“We’re protesting because Barbie would not be able to survive with her figure and yet she is an idol for many girls and that’s not healthy,” she said.

One placard read: “Dear Barbie – don’t just bake cupcakes, eat them too!”

A male protester in a wig, pink shirt and shimmering skirt held a poster reading: “Do you like me now?”

Christoph Rahofer, chief executive of Event Marketing Services, which organised the exhibition, similar to one that recently opened in Sunrise, Florida, said the Dreamhouse Experience was a positive thing.

“It’s basically about playing, being amazed and discovering – there’s lots of hidden things to be found and it’s an interactive exhibition.”

The Barbie doll made its debut in 1959, and is named after the daughter, Barbara, of its inventor Ruth Handler, according to Mattel’s website.

http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/WeirdNews/2013/05/16/20828031.html

Social Networking Sites May Be Monitored By Security Services

No surprise — those Facebook photos of your friends on vacation or celebrating a birthday party can make you feel lousy.

Facebook is supposed to envelope us in the warm embrace of our social network, and scanning friends’ pages is supposed to make us feel loved, supported and important (at least in the lives of those we like). But skimming through photos of friends’ life successes can trigger feelings of envy, misery and loneliness as well, according to researchers from two German universities. The scientists studied 600 people who logged time on the social network and discovered that one in three felt worse after visiting the site—especially if they viewed vacation photos. Facebook frequenters who spent time on the site without posting their own content were also more likely to feel dissatisfied.

“We were surprised by how many people have a negative experience from Facebook with envy leaving them feeling lonely, frustrated or angry,” study author Hanna Krasnova from the Institute of Information Systems at Berlin’s Humboldt University told Reuters. ”From our observations some of these people will then leave Facebook or at least reduce their use of the site.”

The most common cause of Facebook frustration came from users comparing themselves socially to their peers, while the second most common source of dissatisfaction was “lack of attention” from having fewer comments, likes and general feedback compared to friends.

The study authors note that both men and women feel pressure to portray themselves in the best light to their Facebook friends, but men are more likely to post more self-promotional content in their ”About Me” and “Notes” sections than women, although women are more likely to stress their physical attractiveness and sociability.

The authors write [PDF]

Overall, however, shared content does not have to be “explicitly boastful” for envy feelings to emerge. In fact, a lonely user might envy numerous birthday wishes his more sociable peer receives on his FB Wall. Equally, a friend’s change in the relationship status from “single” to “in a relationship” might cause emotional havoc for someone undergoing a painful breakup.

So far, it seems that the positive effects of being socially connected supersede the negative consequences of feeling inferior or left out by your circle of friends. But the authors suggest that if the hurtful feelings grow, Facebook and other social media may no longer be a fun way to stay connected with friends, but could become just another source of stress for people.

The research will be presented at an information system conference in Germany in February, called the 11th International Conference on Wirtschaftsinformatik.

Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2013/01/24/why-facebook-makes-you-feel-bad-about-yourself/#ixzz2J7kynw00

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A group of sperm whales appear to have taken in a deformed bottlenose dolphin, marine researchers have discovered.

Behavioral ecologists Alexander Wilson and Jens Krause of Berlin’s Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries came across the heartwarming scene some 15 to 20 kilometers off the Azores in the North Atlantic, as they observed the dolphin six times while it nuzzled and rubbed members of the group, reports the journal Science.

“It really looked like they had accepted the dolphin for whatever reason. They were being very sociable,” Wilson told the journal.

The dolphin’s unfortunate deformity — a spinal disfigurement, likely a birth defect, which gives its back half an “S” shape — could help explain how it’s come to be taken in by the sperm whale group, explains Science.

“Sometimes some individuals can be picked on. It might be that this individual didn’t fit in, so to speak, with its original group,” Wilson says, speculating that the deformity could have put the animal at a disadvantage among its own kind — perhaps it had a low social status, or just couldn’t keep up with the other dolphins.

Sperm whales swim more slowly than dolphins, notes the journal, and the pod designates one member to “babysit” the calves near the surface while the other adults dive deep.

But what was in it for the sperm whales? There’s no obvious advantage, Wilson tells Science.

In fact, as cetacean ecologist Mónica Almeida e Silva of the University of the Azores in Portugal tells the journal, sperm whales have good reasons not to like bottlenose dolphins. “Why would sperm whales accept this animal in their group?” she said. “It’s really puzzling to me.”

But maybe we shouldn’t draw too much from this apparent display of affection: as behavioral biologist Luke Rendell of the University of St. Andrews in the U.K. explained to Science, the briefness of the observation, and its rarity, as well as how little is known about these particular whales, makes it hard to interpret. They might simply enjoy the dolphin’s attentions, says Rendell, or “they could just be thinking, ‘Wow, this is a kind of weird calf’.”

Read more: http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/01/26/adoption-at-sea-sperm-whales-take-in-outcast-bottlenose-dolphin/#ixzz2J7iTuEgQ

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The brain waves of two musicians synchronize when they are performing duet, a new study found, suggesting that there’s a neural blueprint for coordinating actions with others.

A team of scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin used electrodes to record the brain waves of 16 pairs of guitarists while they played a sequence from “Sonata in G Major” by Christian Gottlieb Scheidler. In each pair, the two musicians played different voices of the piece. One guitarist was responsible for beginning the song and setting the tempo while the other was instructed to follow.

In 60 trials each, the pairs of musicians showed coordinated brain oscillations — or matching rhythms of neural activity — in regions of the brain associated with social cognition and music production, the researchers said.

“When people coordinate their own actions, small networks between brain regions are formed,” study researcher Johanna Sänger said in a statement. “But we also observed similar network properties between the brains of the individual players, especially when mutual coordination is very important; for example at the joint onset of a piece of music.”

Sänger added that the internal synchronization of the lead guitarists’ brain waves was present, and actually stronger, before the duet began.

“This could be a reflection of the leading player’s decision to begin playing at a certain moment in time,” she explained.

Another Max Planck researcher involved in the study, Ulman Lindenberger, led a similar set of experiments in 2009. But in that study, which was published in the journal BMC Neuroscience, the pairs of guitarists played a song in unison, rather than a duet. Lindenberger and his team at the time observed the same type of coordinated brain oscillations, but noted that the synchronization could have been the result of the similarities of the actions performed by the pairs of musicians.

As the new study involved guitarists who were performing different parts of a song, the researchers say their results provide stronger evidence that there is a neural basis for interpersonal coordination. The team believes people’s brain waves might also synchronize during other types of actions, such as during sports games.

The study was published online Nov. 29 in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

http://www.livescience.com/25117-musicians-brains-sync-up-during-duet.html