Brief #15 - okładka

Prehistoric rock paintings in Colombia and the importance of sculpting

In 2017, in the rain forest covering the Serrania de la Lindos mountain range in Columbia archeologists encountered tens of thousands of prehistoric rock paintings – a fact previously held secret. Most probably, the paintings are at least 12 500 years old, and they span almost 12 kilometers of the cliff face. Among the art are: geometric shapes, images of animals (fish, lizards, turtles, and birds), humans dancing or holding hands, figures with masks, and a significant number of handprints. There are pictures of animals long extinct and giant sloths, Ice Age horses, or the palaeolama (a kind of ancient camel).The finding will allow scientists to better understand the prehistoric plants and life of the Amazon region people during the Ice Age. Including their rituals and the ways of communication.

“Sculpture is a form of physical thinking. That’s its nature. It’s like alchemy: it works by changing a lump of clay or stone into something utterly different. Its basic premise is rather like that old saying: matter matters most. (…) Carving involves investing time into stone,” according to the artist Antony Gormley. Together with the critic Martin Gayford, they authored the book Shaping the world, where they describe the importance of sculpture and the way it shaped the world. It is one of the oldest and most important arts, and they think it was significant for humans at least since the first languages appeared.

Toxic metals in spices in India and the climate issues with the organic meat

Toxic metals from spice powders and car batteries in India are especially dangerous to children there. Among others, lead chromate and lead oxide are used to get colors in turmeric and chili. In urban areas, lead-acid car batteries’ improper processing causes toxic material to leach into the ground. Lead-acid batteries last about four years before they are recycled, often in backyards and scrap metal businesses. Research from 1995 made on 15 000 children and 5 000 adults found that “lead poisoning was a major obstacle to growth, affecting more than 50% of Indian children before puberty.”Roughly half of the children under twelve had a blood lead level that doubled that the World Health Organization considered causing symptoms of decreased intelligence, behavioral difficulties, and learning problems.

Climate damage caused by organic meat production is similar to that of the conventionally farmed meat – a new analysis finds. It also shows that even the production of the lowest impact organic meat, like pork, is still eight times more costly to the environment than the highest impact plants (conventional oilseeds). For the prices to cover climate-cost, beef would have to cost 6 euros more per kilogram, and chicken 3 euros more. Moreover, organically grown plants are half as harmful to the environment as those produced conventionally.

World Food Programme to reduce food rations for the refugees in Rwanda

About 90% of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in extreme poverty. That means that they rely on less than 37 dollars monthly per person – according to the black – market rate [which shows the real power of the local currency]. 40% of Syrians are not officially registered by the U.N. and therefore are not qualified for financial assistance or food parcels. Half of the Syrian families polled by the U.N. face food insecurity. Lebanon has the highest number of refugees per capita globally: according to the U.N., every fourth person in the country is one. Moreover, Lebanon is now also populated by 470 000 UN-registered Palestinian refugees, including 30 000 who escaped from Syria.

Over 1.2 million refugees in Uganda will get reduced food rations from the World Food Programme due to the lack of international funding. The refugees in Uganda come from Congo, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and Burundi. Now, the World Food Programme, an organization awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, had to cut its relief programs as it was able to secure only half of the money needed to support its refugee program in Uganda. It needs to raise almost 100 million dollars to avoid reducing food rations in Uganda – the second time as it already happened once in April 2020. “COVID-19 must not be an excuse for the world to turn its back on refugees at this terrible time,” said WFP Country Director El-Khidir Daloum

Misery and creativity, making children fall in love with reading and the archives of John le Carré

Creativity and art could, indeed, grow out of misery. At least in Ludwig van Beethoven’s case as this is the conclusion drawn from the linguistic software analysis of 250 of his letters. The music genius’ creativity measured in the number of important works seemed to increase following the negative emotions. A 9.3% rise in “negative feelings” caused by an event like a death in the family corresponded with 6.3% more significant compositions in the next year. Among the negative feelings of anxiety, anger, and sadness, it was the last one that turned out to be most fueling for Beethoven. The correlation between depression and creativity was already previously suggested by scientists.

Archives of the recently late John le Carré, a British author of espionage novels, show that he made almost thirty drafts of some of his works, before publishing. He also collaborated deeply with his wife. That was the case with his most famous “Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy”, made later into a movie featuring Gary Oldman. Le Carré, whose real name was David Cornwell, authored 25 spy novels. After he died in mid-December 2020, he was hailed by the current British Secret Intelligence Service chief as the one who “left his mark on MI6”. Le Carré himself worked in MI6 in the sixties.

A researcher from Oxford University developed five ways to make children love reading. According to Isang Awah, the first is reading aloud, especially in an exciting way. The second is access to interesting lectures, not only books but for example comics as well. That makes kids more vivid readers. It is also essential to create a comfortable “reading environment”, give children the freedom to choose books, and talk with them about what they have read.

Oceans on the Uranus’ moons and the powerful sun storms to come

Scientists believe that the moons of Uranus may possess underground oceans capable of sustaining life. The main candidates are the planet’s biggest natural satellites – Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, and Oberon. They share many similarities with Europa and Enceladus, Jupiter’s moons, already considered hospitable to life. To see if the theory is true, scientists would have to confirm the existence of magnetic fields from the oceans’ current. That will probably be possible no sooner than in 2042 – or when the space mission to Uranus will get there.

There is a possibility that the U.S. will remain without a functioning space station “for years”, once the International Space Station is retired. Working now for over two decades, ISS is close to its operating deadline of 2024. And even though it will most probably be prolonged for six more years, the Station itself is getting old. Meanwhile, the American administration lacks a plan of what to do next. The help could come from the private sector, but there is little time left – it took the current ISS 14 years from the conception to the first modules being put on the low-Earth orbit.

The solar storms of the coming years will be more energetic and frequent, according to some scientists. The new solar cycle has just started, and the consensus states it will be “small to average”. The team of Scott McIntosh from the American National Centre for Atmospheric Research claims that the coming sunspot cycle will be one of the strongest ever recorded and will double the consensus prediction. If true, it means danger to satellites or even on-Earth power grids – with trillions of dollars of potential losses.

Issues around Cyberpunk 2077 and online gaming as a social lifeline

After almost a decade in the making, the premiere of the hyped Cyberpunk 2077 game made headlines  with problems around the product rather than its quality. Great reviews from the critics followed a big marketing campaign featuring Keanu Reeves. But the game is full of issues, especially on the older generations of consoles – Playstation 4 and Xbox One. A fact that was undisclosed before the premiere. Now, the studio behind it has to face the consequences: the biggest online shops promised refunds, the company’s stock is losing several dozen percent, and some of the investors are threatening to sue.

An Internet community of over half a million people treats reality as “a free-to-play MMORPG with 7 billion+ active players”. They tell real-life stories the way they would describe a video game experience, calling their age “levels”, events “quests” and some of the threats or catastrophes “bugs” that hopefully will be resolved with the coming updates. Some of the users feel that this approach helps them cope with life problems: “(…)if you gamify it, it suddenly becomes less serious and less threatening, because it doesn’t matter to you as an individual. It matters to your character.”

Online gaming has become a social lifeline in the pandemic time.  Gamers have created online communities for years now – sometimes making long-lasting friendships. Now, people new to spending that much time in front of the screens experience a similar community. It helps them keep mental balance, and even the World Health Organization has acknowledged the importance of online relationships.