Earliest known art in Europe confirmed. Were the creators Neanderthals?

An international team of researchers have concluded that prehistoric works of art discovered in four caves in Spain constitute the earliest evidence of art and symbolic thinking produced by humans in present-day Europe, and that they may have been created, not by modern humans, as is commonly thought by most scholars, but by their cousin species, the Neanderthals. Read more.

78,000-year cave record from East Africa shows early cultural innovations

An international, interdisciplinary group of scholars working along the East African coast have discovered a major cave site which records substantial activities of hunter-gatherers and later, Iron Age communities. Detailed environmental research has demonstrated that human occupations occur in a persistent tropical forest-grassland ecotone, adding new information about the habitats exploited by our species, and indicating that populations sought refuge in a relatively stable environment. Prior to this cave excavation, little information was available about the last 78,000 years from coastal East Africa, with the majority of archaeological research focused on the Rift Valley and in South Africa. Read more.

The Science of Dates and Rates

Geochronology and thermochronology combine geochemistry, nuclear reactions, and technology to probe the history and dynamics of Earth and planetary processes.

Geology is, in essence, the history of the Earth, and any history depends on dates and rates. Geochronology supplies these. A new book, Geochronology and Thermochronology, recently published by the American Geophysical Union, presents the current state of this science including its concepts, approaches, methods, and applications. Here, the authors answer some questions about the science of geochronology and its relevance, and describe how this field has evolved. Read more.

Viewpoint: Resonant Ionization Spectroscopy Technique Becomes Tabletop Friendly

A modified version of a spectroscopic technique used at large-scale radioactive-ion-beam facilities could be used in tabletop experiments.

Optical spectroscopy provides an important window into the atomic and subatomic world. It can be applied to determine nuclear, atomic, and molecular structures, to test fundamental physics theories, and to track radioactive isotopes for environmental, geological, and medical applications. Recently, researchers have developed spectroscopic methods with exquisite precision and sensitivity, which allow them to study rare or short-lived isotopes at the edge of nuclear stability. Read more.