Hidden Pyramids In The Samoa’s Jungle

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Hidden deep in Samoa’s thick jungles, along almost impassible rocky footpaths lie what archaeologists have called the South Pacific’s best-kept secret: star mounds. Around 80 of these ancient, star-shaped platforms have sat abandoned for around 300 years, and even after excavation, their significance continues to baffle experts. Now, though, archaeologists and historians are using the largest of these stone marvels to challenge previously held beliefs about Samoan history.

At 12m high and with a base of 65m by 60m, Pulemelei Mound, which is located on the Samoan island of Savai’i, is one the oldest and largest structures in Polynesia. Often referred to as a pyramid despite its flat top, Pulemelei Mound was most likely built in stages starting in 1,000 CE, and the structure contains eight points, or cogs, giving it the look of a star from above. It is almost squarely oriented with the points of the compass and is surrounded by several smaller mounds.

While some locals and experts believe that the pyramid was used for pigeon-snaring competitions, religious ceremonies or meetings, or as a burial monument or lookout platform, no-one has been able to pinpoint its actual significance. But now, new laser mapping of the area surrounding Pulemelei Mound has recently provided a vital clue to archaeologists.

A vast network of ruins was discovered beneath the area in a 2002-to-2004 excavation, and experts believe it is evidence of an entire pre-colonial settlement that flourished before European discovery in 1722. Experts also say that this new discovery proves that Samoa’s population before colonialism was far larger than previously thought, and they now suggest that the Samoan population mortality rate following colonialism was around 80 to 90% in some areas, a steep and shocking increase from the 20-to-50% estimate that was previously accepted.

(Video by Bill Code, text by Emily Cavanagh)

This video is part of BBC Reel’s Secret Worlds playlist.

Join more than three million BBC Travel fans by liking us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

If you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter called “The Essential List”. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Culture, Worklife and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday.

A ‘no-brainer Nobel Prize’: Hungarian scientists may have found a fifth force of nature

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

A ‘no-brainer Nobel Prize’: Hungarian scientists may have found a fifth force of nature

Physicist Attila Krasznahorkay, right, works with a fellow researcher at the Institute for Nuclear Research at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

(CNN)Essentially the entirety of physics centers on four forces that control our known, visible universe, governing everything from the production of heat in the sun to the way your laptop works. They are gravity, electromagnetism, the weak nuclear force, and the strong force.

New research may be leading us closer to one more.
Scientists at the Institute for Nuclear Research at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Atomki) have posted findings showing what could be an example of that fifth force at work.
The scientists were closely watching how an excited helium atom emitted light as it decayed. The particles split at an unusual angle, 115 degrees, which couldn’t be explained by known physics.
The study’s lead scientist, Attila Krasznahorkay, told CNN that this was the second time his team had detected a new particle, which they call X17, because they calculated its mass at 17 megaelectronvolts.
“X17 could be a particle, which connects our visible world with the dark matter,” he said in an email.
Jonathan Feng, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California, Irvine, told CNN he’s been following the Hungarian team’s work for years, and believes their research is shaping up to be a game changer.
If these results can be replicated, “this would be a no-brainer Nobel Prize,” he said.

Hungarian scientists are building on 2016 results

Three years ago, the Hungarian researchers published a similar paper in Physical Review Letters, one of the most prestigious journals in physics.
The nuclear physics experimental team had been studying another isotope, beryllium-8, as it decays down to a ground state. They saw electrons and positrons splitting off from the atom at unusual angles.
Those findings, which showed particles coming off beryllium-8 at around a 140-degree angle, were strange and new.
“We introduced such a new particle, which nobody saw before, and which existence could not be understood by the widely accepted ‘Standard Model’ of particle physics, so it faced scrutiny,” Krasznahorkay said in an email.
The findings by Krasznahorkay’s team didn’t get much attention at first, but they raised Feng’s eyebrows. He said he “didn’t want to leave potentially revolutionary results just sitting on the table.”

A physicist in California developed a theory to explain the unusual results

In short, it could change physics as we know it, or it could have just been a simple lab error.
“Some people said they screwed up,” Feng said.
But he believed the Hungarians were for real. His research group published a paper on the heels of the Hungarians’ 2016 work, laying out a theory to observe what Krasznahorkay’s experimental team had seen.
They referred to this unseen fifth force in action as a “photophobic force,” meaning that it was as though the particles were “afraid of light.”
Meanwhile, nuclear physicists around the world set to work looking for errors in the Hungarians’ work, and have come up empty-handed over the past few years.
“Some very well-known nuclear physicists have done that exercise,” Feng said.
The numbers seemed to add up, and no one could find ways their equipment was calibrated incorrectly.
And Feng said his own team was comparing the Hungarian experiments with “with every other experiment that’s been done in the history of physics.”
The only way to explain X17 was a hitherto undetected “fifth force.”

The findings point toward the Holy Grail of physics

To move their breakthrough idea from 2016 forward, the Hungarians would need to repeat the results again. That’s exactly what their 2019 results do.
Feng says there was only a one in a trillion chance that the results were caused by anything other than the X17 particle, and this new fifth force.
He added that if another research group could repeat these results with a third type of atom in addition to beryllium and helium, “that would blow the cover off this thing.”
Experimental research groups have already been reaching out to him hungry to do that.
More sightings of the fifth force could lead to scientists settling on a specific name for it, understanding its workings more deeply, and developing practical applications for how to harness its power.
They’re leading us closer to what’s considered the Holy Grail in physics, which Albert Einstein had aimed at but never achieved. Physicists hope to create a “unified field theory,” which would coherently explain all cosmic forces from the formation of galaxies down to the quirks of quarks.
But the universe isn’t giving up its secrets easily.
“There’s no reason to stop at the fifth,” Feng said. “There could be a sixth, seventh, and eighth force.”