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Science News: November 2004

Author: Nicolas Delerue, Issue: November 2004, Topic: Science, Science News

The grave of Genghis Khan discovered?

A team of archaeologists from Japan and Mongolia recently reported that they have discovered a place that might be connected with Genghis Khan's burial site. Genghis Khan (around 1162-1227) had wished to be buried without any markings, so as to foil grave robbers. The researcher have not yet located his grave, but they found ruins that seem to be closely associated with the burial of the founder of the Mongol Empire and his grave probably lies nearby. Such a discovery will probably provide us invaluable information on the Mongol civilization at its peak, but opening up the grave of somebody whose wish of having his grave preserved undisturbed will certainly raise some ethical concerns in the minds of some.

Source: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?nn20041005f2.htm

Earthquakes modify gravity

During an earthquake, such as the one we felt at the beginning of October, massive blocks of rock move. Even if this movement is very small (even a few millimeters) scientists expected that if would affect gravity around the epicenter of the earthquake (as the mass distribution of the underlying rocks change). For the first time, this effect has been confirmed experimentally by researchers from the University of Tokyo. They have collected data on the gravity field in three different locations in Japan before and after the Tokachi-oki earthquake that occurred in Hokkaido (September 2003) and which was one of the most powerful earthquakes of the decade. Their data show that following the earthquake, the gravity field was slightly modified (one part in two billion). This study opens the way to more precise studies that could be done with satellites measuring the gravity field of the ground to follow movements in the bedrock and map them.

More details at http://physicsweb.org/articles/news/8/10/9

Child birth simulator

Last month issue of the Alien Times stressed that giving birth is never an easy task for the mother. For the doctor, it is not easy either, especially for inexperienced doctors. To help train new midwives, doctors and obstetricians a team from France has built a child birth simulator called BirthSIM. The simulator uses pneumatic systems to simulate a birth and various control sensors that the trainee applies to achieve the right pressure while helping the baby come out. A team from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Tsukuba is working on a similar project which uses a visual simulator to give more realism to the training.

Source: http://newpaper.asia1.com.sg/top/story/0,4136,74935-1,00.html

There are 108 active volcanoes in Japan

Japan is at the meeting point of 3 major faults. Thus, earthquakes are frequent (you wouldn't have guessed!) and there are many active volcanoes. According to the Meteorological Agency, there are 108 active volcanoes in Japan that have erupted in the past 10,000 years. Among these 108 volcanoes, 20 are monitored on a 24 hours basis either because they are very active (13 volcanoes) or because of their proximity to residential areas (7 volcanoes). The other volcanoes are also monitored but less frequently. This monitoring detects any changes in seismic activity, often a sign of an imminent eruption. One of the most monitored volcanos is mount Fuji which has not erupted since 1707. Prior to that eruption, it seems to have erupted at least every century or so.

More details and a review of the major postwar volcanic eruptions in Japan are at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?nn20041019f2.htm

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