Archive for the ‘Greece’ Category

greece

EVEN the darkest cloud may have a silver lining. The sharp drop in air pollution that accompanied Greece’s economic crisis could be a boon to the nation’s health.

Mihalis Vrekoussis of the Cyprus Institute in Nicosia and colleagues used three satellites and a network of ground-based instruments to measure air pollution over Greece between 2007 and 2011. Levels of nitrogen dioxide fell over the whole country, with a particularly steep drop of 30 to 40 per cent over Athens. Nitrogen monoxide, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide also fell (Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1002/grl.50118).

Pollution levels have been falling since 2002, but the rate accelerated after 2008 by a factor of 3.5, says Vrekoussis. He found that the drop in pollution correlated with a decline in oil consumption, industrial activity and the size of the economy. “This suggests that the additional reported reduction in gas pollutant levels is due to the economic recession,” he says.

In Athens, a combination of heavy car use and lots of sunshine have created serious health problems, so city dwellers should see real benefits. Sunlight triggers chemical reactions that make the car exhaust pollution more harmful, for instance by forming small particulates that cause respiratory diseases. “Hospital admissions for asthma should decline,” says Dwayne Heard of the University of Leeds in the UK.

It’s not all good news: despite the drop in pollutants, levels of ground-level ozone – another cause of respiratory disease – have risen. Ozone would normally be suppressed by nitrogen oxides, but those have declined. That will take the edge off the benefit, says Heard.

Greece isn’t the only country where air pollution has dropped. Nitrogen oxide levels fell across Europe after the 2008 financial crisis (Scientific Reports, doi.org/j74). In the US, nitrogen dioxide levels fell between 2005 and 2011, with the sharpest fall at the height of the recession (Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, doi.org/j75).

Such declines can be one-offs, or governments can help make them permanent, says Ronald Cohen of the University of California, Berkeley, who led the US study. “A time of crisis is a real opportunity to initiate change.” After the 2008 financial downturn, for instance, the US and Europe committed to pollution cuts. “In 10 years, there will be an end to air pollution in the US and Europe,” says Cohen. “It’s an incredible success story.”

Greece, however, is not seizing the current opportunity, says Vrekoussis. “Investments in clean technologies and low-carbon green strategies have been abandoned,” he says. “I’m afraid that in the long run the negative effects will override the positives.”

Global greenhouse gas emissions initially fell in the wake of the financial crisis, but not by much. Emerging economies like China and India continued their economic growth, so a small emissions drop in 2009 was followed by a huge rise in 2010 which continued in 2011.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21729014.300-greek-economic-crisis-has-cleared-the-air.html?cmpid=RSS|NSNS|2012-GLOBAL|online-news

The ancient mummy of a mysterious young woman, known as the Ukok Princess, is finally returning home to the Altai Republic this month.

She is to be kept in a special mausoleum at the Republican National Museum in capital Gorno-Altaisk, where eventually she will be displayed in a glass sarcophagus to tourists.

For the past 19 years, since her discovery, she was kept mainly at a scientific institute in Novosibirsk, apart from a period in Moscow when her remains were treated by the same scientists who preserve the body of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin.

To mark the move ‘home’, The Siberian Times has obtained intricate drawings of her remarkable tattoos, and those of two men, possibly warriors, buried near her on the remote Ukok Plateau, now a UNESCO world cultural and natural heritage site, some 2,500 metres up in the Altai Mountains in a border region close to frontiers of Russia with Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan.

They are all believed to be Pazyryk people – a nomadic people described in the 5th century BC by the Greek historian Herodotus – and the colourful body artwork is seen as the best preserved and most elaborate ancient tattoos anywhere in the world.

To many observers, it is startling how similar they are to modern-day tattoos.

The remains of the immaculately dressed ‘princess’, aged around 25 and preserved for several millennia in the Siberian permafrost, a natural freezer, were discovered in 1993 by Novosibirsk scientist Natalia Polosmak during an archeological expedition.

Buried around her were six horses, saddled and bridled, her spiritual escorts to the next world, and a symbol of her evident status, perhaps more likely a revered folk tale narrator, a healer or a holy woman than an ice princess.

There, too, was a meal of sheep and horse meat and ornaments made from felt, wood, bronze and gold.  And a small container of cannabis, say some accounts, along with a stone plate on which were the burned seeds of coriander.

‘Compared to all tattoos found by archeologists around the world, those on the mummies of the Pazyryk people are the most complicated, and the most beautiful,’ said Dr Polosmak.

‘More ancient tattoos have been found, like the Ice Man found in the Alps – but he only had lines, not the perfect and highly artistic images one can see on the bodies of the Pazyryks.

‘It is a phenomenal level of tattoo art. Incredible.’

While the tattoos, preserved in the permafrost, have been known about since the remains were dug up, until now few have seen the intricate reconstructions that we reveal here.

‘Tattoos were used as a mean of personal identification – like a passport now, if you like. The Pazyryks also believed the tattoos would be helpful in another life, making it easy for the people of the same family and culture to find each other after death,’ added Dr Polosmak.

‘Pazyryks repeated the same images of animals in other types of art, which is considered to be like a language of animal images, which represented their thoughts.

‘The same can be said about the tattoos – it was a language of animal imagery, used to express some thoughts and to define one’s position both in society, and in the world. The more tattoos were on the body, the longer it meant the person lived, and the higher was his position.

‘For example the body of one man, which was found earlier in the 20th century, had his entire body covered with tattoos. Our young woman – the princess – has only her two  arms tattooed. So they signified both age and status.’

The tattoos on the left shoulder of the ‘princess’  show a fantastical mythological animal: a dear with a griffon’s beak and a Capricorn’s antlers. The antlers are decorated with the heads of griffons. And the same griffon’s head is shown on the back of the animal.

The mouth of a spotted panther with a long tail is seen at the legs of a sheep.

She also has a dear’s head on her wrist, with big antlers. There is a drawing on the animal’s body on a thumb on her left hand.

On the man found close to the ‘princess’, the tattoos include the same fantastical creature, this time covering the right side of his body, across his right shoulder and stretching from his chest to his back.

His chest, arms, part of the back and the lower leg are covered with tattoos. There is an argali – a mountain sheep – along with the same dear with griffon’s vulture-like beak, with horns and the back of its head which has a griffon’s heads and an onager drawn on it.

All animals are shown with the lower parts of their bodies turned inside out. There is also a winged snow leopard, a fish and fast-running argali.

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