International Intonation: Nov. 7, 2012

Mark Hendricks, Contributor Ω

Ruins in Bulgaria believed to be Europe’s oldest

As an ancient urban settlement in Bulgaria is being unearthed, interesting details are coming to light. Evidence points to this being the oldest urban settlement in Europe.

The settlement is believed to be dated between 4,700 and 4,200 BC according to radiocarbon dating and was home to around 350 people.

This ancient settlement is being unearthed by a team of archaeologists led by Vasil Nikolov from Bulgaria’s National Institute of Archaeology. The excavation has been ongoing since 2005 but only recently has there been enough evidence to claim a date.

This ancient civilization — which predates the Greeks — is believed to have been built around salt production. “For millenniums, salt was one of the most valued commodities, salt was the money,” Nikolov told Associated Press.

“They boiled brine from salt springs in kilns, baked it into bricks, which were then exchanged for other commodities with neighbouring tribes,” Nikolov said.

Where you can find out more:

Thought-controlled prosthetic put to the 103 flight test

By the time you read this, Zak Vawter will have either succeeded or failed in his attempt to climb Chicago’s Willis Tower with a prosthetic leg controlled by his mind.

Nov. 4 will mark the first public test of this new prosthetic. Vawter’s prototype prosthetic works thanks to an operation which reroutes nerves that previously controlled a limb to different areas of the body. In Vawter’s case the nerves that controlled his leg now go to his hamstring.

This new prosthetic gives more natural control of the limb than standard prosthetics. One moves the prosthetic by thinking about moving it, the same way we move our leg by thinking about it.

“With my standard prosthesis, I have to take every step with my good foot first and sort of lift or drag the prosthetic leg up,” said Vawter in a news release. “With the bionic leg, it’s simple, I take stairs like I used to and can even take two at a time.”

Where you can find out more:

Turning the deserts into a renewable energy plant

A new renewable energy project called “Desertec” is being pushed forward by the German, French, Italian, Spanish and Moroccan governments.

The proposed plan – an agreement of intent is expected to be signed November – would create a €600-million wind and solar energy plant in the Moroccan desert.

The energy generated would be split among the participating nations. Cables have already been laid from Morocco to Europe to transfer the power.

The Desertec Industrial Initiative (Dii), which is spearheading the project, has as a long-term goal of turning desert lands in North Africa and the Middle East into renewable sources of solar and wind energy.

Dii plans to be able to provide 15 per cent of Europe’s power needs with renewable energy by 2050.

Where you can find out more: