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This Week in Science News: Maya Warfare, Lucid Dreams, Ancient Galaxies

By Discover Staff
Aug 9, 2019 9:30 PMDec 23, 2019 2:05 AM
Pills - iStockPhoto
(Credit: iStockphoto)


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Maya Warfare

The Maya Classic Period, from 300 to 900 A.D., is seen as a kind of golden age for the ancient Central American civilization.

Populations boomed. Art and science flourished. It was a pretty peaceful time, or so we thought. Archaeologists have now discovered evidence of all-out warfare and near-complete destruction at a Maya city called Witzna. Ash layers and written texts hint that the city was ruined, its temples burned and its people taken away or killed.

It’s a sign that destructive warfare wasn’t just present during the Maya civilization’s collapse. Such violence might have been a part of their lives all along.

Read More: A Burned City, and a New View of Warfare Among the Ancient Maya

A Pill for Lucid Dreams?

If ancient warfare doesn’t give you nightmares, maybe you’d be interested in having a lucid dream. Lucid dreams are when you take control of your own dream narrative, often with thrilling results. Ever wanted to fly? You can lift right off. But only a lucky few actually get to experience this.

Now some people are trying to bring on lucid dreams with chemical shortcuts. That’s despite little research on the safety and efficacy of such pills.

Researchers and dream enthusiasts have been experimenting with everything from dementia pills to over-the-counter supplements to memory tricks that help you notice when you’re dreaming.

Read More: Looking to Have a Lucid Dream? There’s a Pill for That

Heracles the Unexpected

You’d probably think you were dreaming if you came face to face with the ancient and extinct giant parrot scientists recently discovered in New Zealand.

Some are calling it “squawkzilla,” but it’s scientific name is Heracles inexpectatus, after the muscled Greek hero and the surprising nature of the find.

The ancient parrot stood up to three feet tall — as tall as a large dog — and weighed as much as 15 pounds. Its beak alone spanned 4 inches. 

Paleontologists were digging in an eroded riverbed when they found the animals’ fossils. They say it lived roughly 20 million years ago. 

Read More: Heracles the Giant Parrot Stood 3-Feet-Tall

Deep Space Problems

In a recent study, researchers exposed mice to chronic, low-dose radiation for six months. It’s the kind of radiation that future space colonists might experience on a journey to Mars. 

But the results were troubling for the future of spaceflight. The radiation left the mice suffering from both memory and mood problems that the scientists say would likely show up in human subjects as well.

In fact, it hints that one in five astronauts may experience increased anxiety or mood swings on a mission to Mars, while one in three astronauts will have memory problems.

Read More: Long-Term Radiation Exposure From Space Travel Harms Memory, Mood

Ancient Galaxies Revealed

In much, much, much more distant space, astronomers have discovered dozens of massive galaxies that formed just two billion years after the Big Bang. 

Because these galaxies are so far away and so dim, very few have actually been spotted before, and those were usually the brightest kind – not very typical galaxies. The 39 just discovered are special because they actually are of the more normal variety.

The scientists involved were surprised at their own success in finding so many typical, early galaxies. It’s a sign that many more of them likely existed earlier than scientists suspected.  

So, studying these may help explain scientists explain how today’s galaxies began, and also how so many of them came to exist so early in the universe.

Read More: Dozens of Galaxies Discovered From the Early Universe

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