An Ice Core Reveals the Economic Health of the Roman Empire
A year by year economic history of the Roman Empire might seem as impossible to reconstruct as the lost 107 books of Livy’s history of Rome. Yet something close to such a record has now been retrieved from the unlikeliest of places — a glacier in central Greenland.
The record is written not in Latin but in lead. Lead emissions generated by mining operations in Northern Europe reached Greenland and were washed down in snowfall. The snow accumulated, turned into ice, and preserved a record that stretches back thousands of years.
Ice cores from Greenland have long been used to track global climate change, which is recorded in the frozen water’s oxygen isotopes. The project to measure ancient lead emissions in ice cores was initiated by Andrew I. Wilson, an archaeologist at the University of Oxford who studies the Roman economy. A French team tried this in the 1990s but Dr. Wilson believed new technology might allow a more comprehensive approach and reached out to Joseph R. McConnell, a leading expert in ice core analysis at the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nev.
Deep Greenland ice cores are hard to obtain because it can take three or four years to drill to bedrock. But Dr. McConnell knew of a core that had to be abandoned when the drill got stuck at the 6,500-foot level. Still, the core recorded 40,000 years of annual snowfalls, and the Danish custodians of the core let Dr. McConnell’s lab use a section of some 1,400 feet from its upper portions, corresponding to the years 1235 B.C. to 1257 A.D.
In the lab the ice core was cut into rods just over three feet long that were stood on a heating pad and melted from the bottom. Grooves in the pad directed water from the central and purest part of the core to instruments known as mass spectrometers that continuously measured the quantity of lead down to one hundredth of a picogram, which is one trillionth of a gram. When the ice core was set to melt at the rate of two inches per minute, Dr. McConnell’s team found they could take 12 measurements per year throughout the Roman era.
The dates of these ice years were verified by synchronizing them with other chronologies, such as those derived from tree rings and volcanic eruptions.
The continuous record of lead pollution is not as good as having figures for Roman gross domestic product, which no one knows, but it does seem to reflect the general economic health of the Roman state.
Lead was widely used in the Roman economy for making water pipes and sheathing the hulls of boats. Its production was also a proxy for a central economic activity, the use of silver in the Romans’ standard silver coin, the denarius. Silver occurs in lead ores, and the process of separating the silver from lead at high temperatures was a major source of airborne lead. In the early Roman Empire the denarius was 100 percent silver. But under the emperor Nero, starting in 64 A.D., the proportion of silver was reduced to 80 percent and the state made a tidy profit by recycling the all-silver denarii into debased ones.
These changes coincided with, and perhaps were caused by, a drop in silver production, and just such a fall in lead emissions is recorded in the Greenland ice core shortly after 60 A.D. Under the emperor Trajan there was a brief return from 103 to 107 A.D. to making coins from newly mined silver and this historical event too is reflected in a brief spike of lead pollution that ends in 107 A.D.
Lead emissions, as reflected in the ice core, dropped to an absolute low during the Imperial Crisis of 235 to 284 A.D., when the empire nearly collapsed under the stresses of internal discord, barbarian invasions and the Cyprian plague. Thereafter the economy, to judge by lead levels, recovered a little but entered a final period of decline marked by the withdrawal of Roman legions from Britain in the early 5th century A.D. and the collapse of the western Roman Empire in 476 A.D.
Economic historians have tried to reconstruct the Roman Empire’s gross domestic product but have to make too many assumptions, Dr. Wilson said. “I wouldn’t say the lead pollution graph is a close reflection of GDP but it’s probably the best overall proxy for economic health we’ve got,” he said.
He and Dr. McConnell are now working to see if the lead isotopes (lead atoms of different weight) in the ice core will help identify the geographic sources of lead production and thus make allowance for the fact that nearby sources of lead, such as in Britain, would have contributed more heavily to the Greenland pollution than distant ones such as the Rio Tinto mines in Spain.
May 14, 2018
Sources: New York Times
or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes.</p><p> Jupiter's moon Europa, as photographed by NASA's Galileo spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute </p><p>This is exciting news for astrobiologists: If the plume is indeed real, it could offer a way for a spacecraft to sample Europa's buried ocean of liquid water without even touching down on the moon. And NASA is working on a mission that could do just that.</p><p>At 1,900 miles (3,100 kilometers) wide, Europa is slightly smaller than Earth's moon. But scientists think the Jovian satellite harbors a huge amount of liquid water — perhaps twice as much water as Earth does, in fact — in a deep global ocean sloshing beneath the object's ice shell.</p><p>The newly analyzed Galileo data could help solidify evidence for the plume's existence. </p><p>During its time at Jupiter, Galileo performed 11 flybys of Europa. Jia and his team took an in-depth look at information the probe gathered during the closest of these encounters — a 1997 flyby that brought Galileo within 128 miles (206 km) of the moon's frigid, fractured surface.</p><p>The researchers found that, during this flyby, Galileo detected a significant change in Europa's magnetic field, as well as a brief but big increase in the density of plasma, or ionized gas. Both of these observations provide strong evidence of a plume, Jia said. And these lines of evidence are independent of those gathered by Hubble. For example, in the 2014 and 2016 candidate detections, the possible plumes blocked some ultraviolet light emitted by Jupiter. </p><p>Intriguingly, Jia and his colleagues also determined that the 1997 candidate plume emanated from the same general hotspot (or thermal anomaly) as the 2014 and 2016 phenomena.</p><p>Why did it take more than two decades to tease this result out of the Galileo data set? For starters, Jia said, the Galileo mission team wasn't specifically looking for plumes. </p><p>In addition, "to make sense of the observations, we had to really go for sophisticated numerical modeling" techniques, he told Space.com. "And I don't think those were available back 20 years ago." </p><p>NASA officials have also said they'd like Clipper to dive through Europa's putative plumes, if possible, to potentially grab fresh samples of the moon's ocean (if plume material is indeed coming directly from that ocean). </p><p>The evidence gathered to date suggests that the processes producing Europa's plumes — if they do indeed exist — may not be continuous like the geysers of Enceladus but instead intermittent. Ephemeral plumes could make it tough to plan sample-snagging flybys. </p><p>But the new results offer some optimism in this regard, Jia said. After all, scientists have now spotted possible plume activity in the same area of Europa multiple times over a 19-year span.</p><p>"The general region of the thermal anomaly might have long-lived plume activity," Jia said. </p><p>Such activity may be caused by different individual jets or geysers turning on and off over time, he added. If NASA (and the rest of us who care about the search for alien life) get lucky, those jets may be on when the Europa Clipper reaches its destination and starts its science work.</p><p>This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes.</p>
ocean flowing underneath its surface. NASA is planning a mission soon that will look for signs of possible life there.</p><p>Now, a new finding from old data makes that mission even more tantalizing.</p><p>In recent years, the Hubble Space Telescope has spotted what looks like plumes, likely of water vapor, reaching more than 100 miles above the surface.</p><p>The plumes, if they exist, could contain molecules that hint at whether Europa possesses the building blocks of life.</p><p>“That’s too many coincidences just to dismiss as ‘There’s nothing there’ or ‘We don’t understand the data,’” said Robert T. Pappalardo, the project scientist for NASA’s upcoming Europa Clipper mission, which may launch as soon as 2022. “It sure seems like there’s some phenomenon, and plumes seem consistent.”</p><p>During a flyby of Europa on Dec. 16, 1997, instruments on Galileo measured a swing in the magnetic field and a jump in the density of electrons. At the time, scientists noted the unusual readings, but they did not have an explanation.</p><p>Then, in 2005, another spacecraft passing by another moon around another planet made a startling observation.</p><p>That spurred renewed curiosity about Europa and whether it too might burp bits of its ocean into space. The Hubble first recorded signs of possible plumes in 2012, then again in 2014 and 2016. But at other times, Hubble has looked and seen nothing. That suggests the plumes are sporadic.</p><p>Last year, Melissa A. McGrath, a senior scientist at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif. who was not involved in the new study, took a look at some radio experiments conducted by Galileo which examined how signals bent as Europa passed between Earth and the spacecraft. The experiments showed Europa possesses an atmosphere.</p><p>Some of the flybys indicated a higher density of particles near the surface — possible plumes. Before heading to a meeting of scientists working on the Clipper mission, a thought occurred to Dr. McGrath: “Gee, I really should check to see if any of them line up with any of the claimed plume detections,” from Hubble.</p><p>Margaret G. Kivelson, an emeritus professor of space physics at U.C.L.A. who was the principal investigator for Galileo’s magnetometer, was at Dr. McGrath’s talk. She remembered the odd magnetic readings from 1997.</p><p>For years, she had been thinking of taking another look at the data for signs of plumes, but, “there are always other things to do,” she said.</p><p>“With the Hubble data in hand,” Dr. Kivelson said, “we had an idea of how big a plume might be reasonable. That we could translate into how long it would take Galileo to move across a plume that had been proposed.”</p><p>The three-minute-long magnetic anomaly seemed to fit with the apparent size of the Hubble plume.</p><p>Next, they turned to William S. Kurth, an astronomer at the University of Iowa who headed Galileo’s plasma wave experiment, which listened to the radio waves generated as charged particles bobbed back and forth along magnetic fields around Jupiter and its moons. That instrument also noticed a burst of radio waves during the flyby — and it occurred right in the middle of the magnetic anomaly.</p><p>The final piece was a computer model of a plume by Xianzhe Jia, a professor of climate and space sciences and engineering at the University of Michigan, that created the same effects on the magnetic field and the plasma waves.</p><p>“It all seemed to hang together,” Dr. Kivelson said.</p><p>The location was close, though not exactly the same, as the site Dr. McGrath reported. But Dr. McGrath said the new paper was convincing. “They did a really good job of the modeling and made a strong case,” she said.</p><p>Also convinced is John Culberson, a Texas congressman who is chairman of the House subcommittee that sets NASA’s budget. Mr. Culberson has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Clipper mission, repeatedly adding more money to the project than NASA officials requested. He has also been pushing for a follow-up mission that would land on Europa and drill into the ice.</p><p>The scientists were amused as they were not allowed to talk publicly about their findings yet. “That was really funny, because we’ve been so careful,” Dr. Kivelson said. “And all of sudden, Representative Culberson is throwing around the paper on the table. Very funny.”</p><p>Astronomers will certainly be taking more looks at Europa with the Hubble, trying to better understand how often the plumes erupt.</p><p>Dr. Pappalardo said it might be possible to adjust the trajectory of Europa Clipper so that at least one of the more than 40 planned flybys pass over a potential plume site. But that would have to be weighed against other science goals and how much fuel would be needed to nudge the spacecraft’s trajectory.</p><p>“Obviously this is a place we would want to suss out with the Europa Clipper mission in the future,” he said. “I think this is going to make for a lively debate at our next science mission meeting.”</p>
a retired judicial assistant, dropped by the boisterous kitchens of the nonprofit group where she volunteers to pick up rock cod, cauliflower couscous and an “immune broth” enriched with vegetables and seaweed. She planned to deliver the meals to Brandi Dornan, 46, who is recuperating from breast cancer.</p><p>“It’s food I wouldn’t have thought to make myself,” said Ms. Dornan, who started getting the meals during radiation therapy and is grateful for the help. “Wow, bless their hearts.”</p><p>The group is now participating in an ambitious, state-funded study to test whether providing daily nutritious meals to chronically ill, low-income people on Medi-Cal — California’s version of the Medicaid program — will affect their prognosis and treatment, or the cost of their medical care.</p><p>Over the next three years, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, and Stanford will assess whether providing 1,000 patients who have congestive heart failure or Type 2 diabetes with a healthier diet and nutrition education affects hospital readmissions and referrals to long-term care, compared with 4,000 similar Medi-Cal patients who don’t get the food.</p><p>As the disease became treatable with antiretroviral medicines, many groups expanded their missions to help people with chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes.</p><p>“When you feel terrible, managing your diet falls to the bottom of your list,” said Karen Pearl, the president and chief executive of God’s Love We Deliver.</p><p>Their care also cost less: the price of feeding each participant for six months was $1,184 per person, less than half the $2,774 cost per day at a California hospital, according to the study.</p><p>“It lightens the load mentally,” said Conrad Anthony Nesossis, 69, a Mississippi native with diabetes who received hot meals delivered to his doorstep as part of the study. He still uses the seasoning mix of garlic, onion and chili powder he learned then. “I’m not a fancy cook, but it opened my eyes and my taste buds.”</p><p>Poor people can have an especially hard time controlling chronic diseases, because they often eat cheap foods laden with sugar and salt and avoid costly fruits and vegetables.</p><p>“Sometimes there is a short-term sacrificing of food to pay the rent, or they go without medications because they can’t afford the co-pay,” said Dr. Sanjay Basu, an assistant professor of medicine at Stanford who will be involved in the new study. “That’s when they unintentionally end up in the E.R.”</p><p>For cancer patients, a loss of appetite because of treatment side effects can lead to malnutrition, which lessens the body’s ability to fight disease. Dr. Fasih Hameed, an associate medical director at the Petaluma Health Center, prescribes meals from Ceres to cancer patients as well as those with hepatitis C.</p><p>The House of Representatives Hunger Caucus recently launched a Food Is Medicine Working Group to look at how research into medically tailored meals might inform national policy, said Rep. Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts and co-chairman of the caucus.</p><p>Daniel N. Mendelson, chief executive of Avalere Health, a Washington research and consulting company, said that to qualify for coverage under Medi-Cal and Medicaid, the tailored meals need to be medically necessary.</p><p>“If California’s large-scale demonstration with Medi-Cal populations reduces costs and provides proof of positive outcomes, every state will want to do the same thing,” he said.</p><p>Dr. Hilary K. Seligman, an associate professor of medicine at U.C.S.F. who will participate in the new California study, noted that “the critical epidemics of our day — obesity and diabetes — are diet related.” The medical profession, she said, “accepts the most expensive procedures and medications without batting an eyelash. But with food, we have to prove it’s inexpensive to be accepted.”</p>
to be disappearing overnight. By 1999, researchers had determined the culprit was a deadly disease caused by chytrid fungus which infected the animals with tiny, swimming spores. </p><p>Today this disease, called Chytridiomycosis, is thought to be one of the deadliest pathogens on the planet. It infects hundreds of species of amphibians and is thought to have wiped out a third of all frog species. These animals are important contributors to biodiversity, insect and disease control and may even be sources of new types of medicine.</p><p>Previously, researchers were limited by the scrappy bits of the fungus’s DNA they could obtain by smearing a cotton swab across the skin of a frog or a salamander.</p><p>They also discovered that this Korean lineage contained strains that were more genetically diverse than any others — and because it infected animals but didn’t kill them, it likely had been living with amphibians, who adapted to tolerate or defend against it, for some time. </p><p>The researchers think the virulent, global strain emerged within the past century coinciding with rapid development in global technology, commerce and trade. During this time, animals stowed away in equipment or produce or they were traded directly as scientific or medical specimens, food and pets. These amphibians likely harbored the fungus, allowing it to become more virulent and spread to others not adapted to it. </p><p>Many regulators have assumed that animals can harbor only one kind of chytrid fungus. But Dr. Lips said this paper brings attention to how diverse strains of the fungus could slip through the cracks and cause greater declines if trade is left unregulated. </p><p>“They like to say, well the horse has left the barn, and I say, well maybe one horse left the barn and all the other ones are still in there,” she said. “We need to make sure they don’t get out either, and that they don’t mate and have babies that also escape.” </p><p>But she emphasized that, “this is a much bigger picture than frogs, chytrid and amphibians.” This case merely highlights the importance of preventing the global spread of infectious diseases for all kinds of plants and animals. </p>
or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes.</p><p> NASA's Mars Helicopter, a small autonomous rotorcraft, will explore Mars with the 2020 rover as a technology demonstration for heavier-than-air vehicles on the Red Planet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech) </p><p>The craft will undergo a 30-day test campaign once it reaches the Red Planet to demonstrate the viability of travel above the Martian surface with a heavier-than-air craft.</p><p>The helicopter's twin blades will whirl at about 10 times the rate of a helicopter's blades on Earth — at 3,000 rpm — to stay aloft in Mars' thin atmosphere.</p><p>"To make it fly at that low atmospheric density, we had to scrutinize everything, make it as light as possible while being as strong and as powerful as it can possibly be," she added.</p><p>The helicopter will ride to Mars attached to the rover's belly pan, officials said. Once the rover reaches the planet's surface, it will place the helicopter on the ground and move to a safe distance to relay commands; controllers on Earth will direct it to take its first autonomous flight.</p><p>"We don't have a pilot, and Earth will be several light-minutes away, so there is no way to joystick this mission in real time," Aung said. "Instead, we have an autonomous capability that will be able to receive and interpret commands from the ground, and then fly the mission on its own."</p><p>The helicopter will attempt up to five flights, going farther and operating for longer each time — up to a few hundred meters and 90 seconds, officials said. It will also climb to 10 feet (3 m) and hover for about 30 seconds.</p><p>"The ability to see clearly what lies beyond the next hill is crucial for future explorers," he added. "We already have great views of Mars from the surface as well as from orbit. With the added dimension of a bird's-eye view from a 'marscopter,' we can only imagine what future missions will achieve."</p><p>This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes.</p>
or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes.</p><p> NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured this image of Saturn, its rings and the moons Mimas, Janus and Tethys on March 13, 2006. Tethys is below the ring plane, Mimas is above it and tiny Janus appears to sit right on the rings in this view. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute) </p><p>NASA and the Cassini team have given us another gorgeous blast from Saturn's past.</p><p>The satellite Tethys is below the rings, Mimas is above them and tiny Janus appears to sit right on top of the ring plane in the photo, which Cassini took at a distance of 1.7 million miles (2.7 million kilometers) from Saturn.</p><p>Tethys is the largest of the three moons in the photo, with a diameter of 662 miles (1,066 km). It has a crater, called Odysseus, that’s about as large as Mimas, which is 246 miles (396 km) across. Janus is considerably smaller, with a diameter of about 112 miles (180 km).</p><p>Mimas, by the way, is often called the Death Star moon, because one of its big craters gives the icy, battered satellite a striking resemblance to the superweapon in the "Star Wars" films.</p><p>The $3.2 billion Cassini-Huygens mission — a collaboration involving NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency — launched in October 1997 and arrived in orbit around Saturn on June 30, 2004.</p><p>Huygens was a European lander that rode piggyback with Cassini and eventually touched down on the surface of Titan, Saturn's largest moon, in January 2005. This was the first soft landing ever achieved on a body in the outer solar system.</p><p>This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes.</p>
or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes.</p><p> File photo - A sprinkler waters the grass surrounding the ancient site of Stonehenge, southern England April 30, 2011. (REUTERS/Chris Helgren) </p><p>The ingenuity of our stone-age ancestors never ceases to amaze.</p><p>Complex timber walkways. Towns built entirely of slate. Intimidating standing stones — and enormous stone circles.</p><p>But some apparent achievements are still such a wonder that they are a cause for doubt.</p><p>Such as moving Stonehenge’s monumental bluestones from the site of their geological formation — Pembrokeshire in Wales — to the Salisbury Plain.</p><p>It’s a journey of 140 miles. Sea, hills and forests stood in their path</p><p>We know it’s doable. Egyptian engravings, papyri and surviving quarries detail how such stones were cut and transported enormous distances.</p><p>There’s little reason to believe something similar could not also be done in stone-age Britain.</p><p>And archaeologists have proven through tests that there are plenty of possible techniques open to peoples of the neolithic to do just that.</p><p>In fact, he goes so far as to call the concept ‘mythology’.</p><p>Dr John is a long-term sceptic of the human-transport idea. In 2015, he co-authored a report arguing that what was believed to be evidence of neolithic quarrying of bluestones in Wales was actually an ‘entirely natural’ process.</p><p>“This has been driven partly by constant media demands for new and spectacular stories about the monument, and partly by the archaeological emphasis on impact,” he says.</p><p>“So we see an obsession with narrative at the expense of evidence, and a host of newly manufactured myths which are even more wacky than the old ones. It’s time for a cool reassessment.”</p><p>What made the bluestones so special? What could they possibly represent to require such a huge investment of human resources among a community?</p><p>It’s a question lost to time. We’ll likely never know.</p><p>Dr John takes a pragmatic approach: they weren’t significant.</p><p>Dr John argues a glacier carved its way across Wales some 500,000 years ago. The relentlessly crawling river of ice picked up loose bluestones along the way, eventually depositing them on the Salisbury Plain once the planet warmed again and the ice melted away.</p><p>He says there is no convincing evidence dating quarrying operations in the bluestone outcrops of Pembrokeshire to the neolithic. And what is presented as evidence could just as easily be the result of natural processes, he insists.</p><p>So when the neolithic farming societies resolved to build enormous sundials to mark the passage of the year — and the signal the different stages of tilling the soil — all they had to do was use what was available.</p><p>And the ice-transported bluestone boulders would have been prominently scattered about the Salisbury Plain landscape.</p><p>A stone henge, while harder to build, would ultimately require less maintenance than a timber one. But they still had a sense of aesthetics, Dr John says.</p><p>The imposing sarsen stones that make up the prominent, curved and capped outer ring of Stonehenge</p><p>The smaller bluestones were used to outline what became the inner sanctum.</p><p>“The story of bluestones transported by the vast Irish Sea Glacier is every bit as wonderful as the archetypal myth of Neolithic Argonauts struggling to move heavy stones with the aid of crude tools, heavy sledges and flimsy rafts,” Dr John said.</p><p>This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes.</p>
or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes.</p><p> When scientists said "Jump!", this spider said, "How high?" Credit: Mostafa Nabawy/The University of Manchester </p><p>A tiny but proficient jumper named Kim is the first spider ever trained by scientists to leap on demand.</p><p>"If we can understand these biomechanics, we can apply them to other areas of research," Nabawy said.</p><p>Most of the spiders showed no interest in the experiment. Kim, however, jumped at the opportunity, becoming the scientists' lone source of data. She performed in 15 jumping tasks, leaping up, down and across the platforms, while the researchers filmed her with high-speed cameras. They recorded her speed, landing positions, leg and body angles, and lengths of the jumps, and then calculated how much energy Kim spent on every leap.</p><p>The researchers found that Kim deployed different strategies depending on where she had to jump. She adjusted the position of her legs depending on the distance of the targets, and she used lower-angled jumps to travel shorter distances, and steeper jumps for longer distances.</p><p>However, further research would be necessary to confirm whether the spiders do, in fact, push off solely with muscular power, the scientists reported.</p><p>This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes.</p>
us to reflect again on where we’re coming from and where we’re going.</p><p>In the spring of 1964 the filmmaker Stanley Kubrick was very worried. NASA was about to fly the Mariner 4 space probe past Mars.</p><p>At the time he was deep in development of a blockbuster film about the discovery of alien intelligence. Word was that MGM had bet their studio on the film. What if Mariner discovered life on Mars and scooped them?</p><p>Mr. Kubrick’s movie, “2001, A Space Odyssey,” finally debuted, late and over budget in April 1968, to baffled film critics and long lines of young people. John Lennon said he went to see it every week. It was the top-grossing movie of the year and is now a perennial on critics’ lists of the most important movies of all time, often the first movie scientists mention if you ask them about sci-fi they have enjoyed.</p><p>The movie broke with many of the conventions of the time, like mood music to tell you what to feel and think. “2001” left you alone in space with your thoughts.</p><p>The story begins four million years ago in Africa, where a bunch of bedraggled primates are losing the battle of the survival of the fittest until a strange black monolith appears. To the thunder of “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” one of those apemen is inspired to pick up a bone and use it as a club to kill the animals that have been pushing him around.</p><p>Suddenly, the apemen are eating meat and chasing their rivals away from the water hole. In a moment of exultation the ape throws the bone into the sky where, in what has been called the longest fast forward in film history, it turns into a spaceship.</p><p>Around that toss Kubrick pivots his movie and all of human evolution. Another monolith appears on the moon, and yet another in orbit around Jupiter, where an astronaut named Dave Bowman connects with it after subduing a neurotic computer, the HAL 9000, which has murdered his shipmates. In the finale, Bowman is sent through a “star gate” on a trip through space and time, death and rebirth, returning as a glowing Star Child to float like a fetus over the Earth.</p><p>The last time I watched the movie (on VHS of all things on my tiny home television), was in 2000, on the eve of its eponymous year.</p><p>I never realized how much I had missed until I read Mr. Benson’s book, a deep, informative and entertaining dive into the making of the movie.</p><p>One revelation is how haphazardly the movie was made. Nevermind the special effects and the model spaceships, Kubrick and Clarke were making up much of the story as they went along. Up until the very end, Mr. Benson tells us, they were struggling with how to portray the alien being responsible for the monoliths, until they realized it couldn’t be done. We don’t know what is out there. It would be hubris to even try to imagine.</p><p>This is not a review of the book; Mr. Benson is a friend of mine, and I’m unabashedly ignorant of the history of cinema anyway. But it is a review of my own shifting attitudes and encounters with the movie itself over the years.</p><p>One mark of the movie’s status as a masterpiece is that it has something different to say to us every time we encounter it anew.</p><p>Like the monolith it appears to give us what we need.</p><p>Fifty years ago it was a harbinger of the future. We were about to win the race with the Russians to the moon. A whole generation was pumped and primed to tune in, turn on and transcend the whole dreary space-time continuum as we knew it.</p><p>Thoroughly researched by Kubrick and Clarke, large swaths of the film were like a documentary of the future: the space station, the moon base, the grand-stepping outward just as Clarke and people like Wernher von Braun had prophesied.</p><p>It’s now been 46 years since there was anyone on the moon. It’s possible to imagine a time in which there will be no humans alive who have been there.</p><p>But Mars is having a moment in the popular imagination — from the Matt Damon film “The Martian,” which got high marks for scientific realism a couple years ago, to an upcoming television series “The First,” about settlers on Mars being planned by Beau Willimon, the producer and showrunner of the Netflix series “House of Cards.”</p><p>Where the script has really flipped is in the future history of evolution.</p><p>We all carry HAL in our pockets now, and in a few years he, it, will be in our bloodstreams. The future, to the extent that humans are part of it, is bionic.</p><p>Computers, to the delight of surveillance states and the despair of civil libertarians, can now recognize faces. For all we know neural networks like Deep Mind can dream.</p><p>In that case, I have a bone or two to pick with the director.</p>
or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes.</p><p> Purdue University President Mitch Daniels connects with Purdue alumni astronauts Scott Tingle, left, and Andrew Feustel, who are aboard the International Space Station some 250-plus miles above Earth. (Purdue University photo/John Underwood) </p><p>Amid all the commencement ceremonies taking place at colleges across the country, one particular commemoration on Friday featured a guest who was literally out of this world.</p><p>Purdue University granted NASA astronaut and alumnus Andrew J. “Drew” Feustel an honorary doctorate during its spring commencement ceremonies, which was connected live to the International Space Station as it circled about 250 miles above Earth.</p><p>While a Purdue dean typically places a ceremonial hood on honorary degree recipients, fellow alum and NASA astronaut Scott Tingle, who is also stationed on the ISS, had to stand in and place the hood on Feustel due to obvious logistical challenges.</p><p>“For me, after community college, there was no other choice but Purdue, the only university I applied to, hoping and now knowing that that decision would change my life and set me on a path to the stars,” Feustel told graduates.</p><p>Feustel, who earned a bachelor’s degree in solid earth sciences in 1989 and a master’s degree in geophysics from Purdue in 1991, has spent 80 days in space, including 51 days on his third mission. The Purdue alum is a veteran of three NASA spaceflights, and is currently assigned aboard the ISS until October.</p><p>"As the adventure unfolds, I hope you look back on Purdue the way I do, with fond memories of the good and challenging times," Feustel said. "You have earned your right to walk the stage and I wish you all the chance to fly among the stars professionally and for some of you, personally."</p><p>Purdue has graduated 24 NASA astronauts and, by the end of 2018, Purdue astronauts will have spent the equivalent of more than 1,100 days in space.</p><p>This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes.</p>