“Not all those who wander are lost.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Flamenco, Whatsapp & Google Translate

deur Gerard Scholtz (Rol af vir foto’s) Ana, flamenco cantaura, led us through Seville’s narrow, dark and cobbled backstreets. We were running a little late. [...]

Cordoba, die wit stad

deur Gerard Scholtz (Rol af vir foto’s) Ons het afgewyk van die Silwer Roete om ook Cordoba en Granada in te sluit. Kom so [...]

  • Thailand bans single-use plastic bags
    by Imogen Searra on 17 January 2020 at 10:22 am

    On 1 January 2020, Thailand officially banned single-use plastic bags in all its major stores in a bid to phase them out entirely by 2021. The post Thailand bans single-use plastic bags appeared first on Getaway Magazine.

  • SAA selling 9 aircraft: business rescue not the reason
    by Getaway on 17 January 2020 at 10:10 am

    South African Airays is selling four Airbus A340-600s and five Airbus A340-300s, as well as '15 spare engines and four auxiliary power units'. The post SAA selling 9 aircraft: business rescue not the reason appeared first on Getaway Magazine.

  • Live for free on a remote Irish island
    by Imogen Searra on 17 January 2020 at 8:53 am

    The Great Blasket Island off the coast of Ireland is looking for two people to manage accommodations and a coffee shop from 1 April to 1 October 2020. The post Live for free on a remote Irish island appeared first on Getaway Magazine.

  • Spekboom plants to form Great Labyrinth of Africa
    by Elise Kirsten on 17 January 2020 at 8:38 am

    Work on an ambitious project to create the largest labyrinth in Africa out of spekboom hedges will continue in Stellenbosch. The post Spekboom plants to form Great Labyrinth of Africa appeared first on Getaway Magazine.

  • Air-Dropped Carrots Might Be a Temporary Answer to a Threatened Wallaby's Prayers
    by Jessica Leigh Hester on 17 January 2020 at 12:09 am

    Recently, Australian authorities air-dropped thousands of pounds of carrots and sweet potatoes across the scorched landscape of New South Wales, as part of a bushfire recovery effort backed by the state government. Scientists have dropped off snacks, too. The hope is that the veggies wind up in the little paws and bellies of brush-tailed rock-wallabies, whose hiding places and food sources have been badly damaged by fires exacerbated by climate change. Across Australia, millions of acres have burned, more than two dozen humans have died, and according to Christopher Dickman, an ecologist at the University of Sydney, an estimated 1 billion animals have been affected. Operation Rock Wallaby 🦘- #NPWS staff today dropped thousands of kgs of food (Mostly sweet potato and carrots) for our Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby colonies across NSW 🥕🥕 #bushfires pic.twitter.com/ZBN0MSLZei — Matt Kean MP (@Matt_KeanMP) January 11, 2020 The brush-tailed rock-wallaby was in trouble even before the fires—and that precarious position made the animals even more vulnerable when the flames tore through. Fire aside, the species “has declined enormously,” largely because of predation by foxes, says Ben Moore, a senior lecturer in ecology at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment at Western Sydney University. “It is listed as vulnerable nationally, but endangered in New South Wales and Victoria, the two states most affected by fires.” In Victoria, there are only two colonies remaining in the wild, according to Zoos Victoria, with just a few dozen members in each. In many places, the recent fires scorched the plants that the animals eat and the hiding places where they dodge predators, making life even harder for a species that was already stressed. While many ecologists may try to limit intervention in the lives of the creatures they study, this feeding is a short-term move. Most of the known populations of brush-tailed rock-wallabies are mapped and monitored by camera traps and other tactics, which means that “food drops can be targeted to where known populations occur,” says Thomas Newsome, an ecologist at the University of Sydney. “The feeding is not an attempt to maintain large numbers of animals across the entire landscape,” Moore says, “but rather a last-ditch attempt to keep these remaining populations hanging on.” Brush-tailed rock-wallabies don’t typically chow down on carrots and sweet potatoes—usually, they leave their stomping grounds on rocky outcrops and cliffs to feed on grasses, sedges, shrubs, and ferns, Newsome says. The advantages of root vegetables are that they’re easy to obtain, simple to transport, and they keep well, Moore says. “They are a good source of energy, and the animals happily eat them.” #drought took their water and #bushfire took their food so our team, based ⁦@UniNewEngland⁩ have been providing both to some key #rockwallaby colonies (with permission) for nearly 2 months now. Listen to the happy chomping! pic.twitter.com/bfHkyWPCZj — Guy Ballard (@DingoResearch) January 8, 2020 Newsome says that it’s unlikely that any given population will nosh their supplementary food for more than a few months, and then surviving wallabies will go back to eating greens. Of course, it’s hard to predict when plants will regrow, says Marco Festa-Bianchet, an animal ecologist at the Université de Sherbrooke, in Quebec, who studies kangaroos. A lot depends on rain, which is badly needed after months of heat and drought. If enough falls, “there will be stuff regrowing in a couple of weeks,” he says. “In a scenario where everything is gone and it doesn’t rain for awhile, it could be months with nothing.” (Rain has already begun in New South Wales, but as Earther reported, a downpour can cause floods and landslides in landscapes where fires have consumed the vegetation.) The first plants back on the scene tend to be grass and other ground cover, says Newsome, followed by regrowth on surviving trees. Newsome says there’s little risk that the animals will become overly dependent on their air-dropped food supply. “If the food is only provided for a short period, and then slowly reduced, they should quickly readjust to finding their own food,” he says. “I suspect they will switch back to natural foods as soon as they become available.” In the meantime, the brush-tailed rock-wallabies will be adorably gnawing on carrots and sweet potatoes, trying to hang in there.

  • Some Space Rocks Are Notorious for Being Stinky
    by Jessica Leigh Hester on 16 January 2020 at 11:45 pm

    In September 1969, it seemed that everyone in the village of Murchison in Victoria, Australia, had a story about the meteorite. They swapped tales of the sight of the space rock barreling across the sky and chatted about the booming sound they heard just before it crashed to the ground, late on the morning of the 28th. In the days following the fall, residents fanned out. They divided the community into grids and searched, methodically and cooperatively, for pieces of the cosmic visitor. They found one fragment after another—often blackish gray and distinctively dented with imprints that look as though a sculptor pressed her thumbs into clay. The space rocks were appealing and unusual—and the locals couldn’t help but notice that they also stank to high heaven. Many eyewitnesses described the rocks as smelling of tar or methylated spirits, also known as “denatured alcohol,” which has additives to make it taste and smell foul, to prevent people from drinking it. Others agreed that the rocks had an odor, but didn’t find it offensive: Some described them as smelling “like wet hay,” says Kay Ball, president of the Murchison & District Historical Society. Chunks of the meteorite went to research institutions around the world, and the smell went along, too. When David Deamer, now a research professor of biomolecular engineering at the University of California, Santa Cruz, was grinding up a marble-sized bit of the Murchison meteorite to study, he found that a “strange, penetrating odor rose from the mortar … simultaneously smoky, dusty, and sour,” he writes in his book First Life, Discovering the Connections Between Stars, Cells, and How Life Began. He thought it “reminiscent of a cigar butt or the contents of a vacuum cleaner bag.” In the book, Deamer describes the meteorite as his introduction to “the odor of outer space.” But descriptions of meteorites’ aromas can change during the rocks' time on Earth, depending on what both people and the elements put them through. Researchers who revisited bits of the Murchison meteorite for a new paper, published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, discovered that, under certain circumstances, the rock still packs a wallop. Meteorites are messengers, and can carry information about star formation and other aspects of our universe. But to get at that trove of data, researchers often have to bust the meteorites open. The scientists, from the University of Chicago, the Field Museum, and several other institutions, working on the recent paper were looking for presolar grains, minerals that predate our sun. By isolating and analyzing these, the researchers can approximate their age, and then work backward through the life cycle of stars, which shed grains like these as a last hurrah. Once the rock has been crushed, to get at the presolar silicon carbide they were looking for, the researchers poured the meteorite dust into test tubes, and shuttled those between liquid nitrogen and hot water baths, and attacked it “with some really nasty acids,” says Jennika Greer, a graduate student at the Field Museum and the University of Chicago, and a coauthor of the study. Ultimately, the team found that some of these grains date to between five-and-a-half and seven billion years old. (The particular presolar grains examined for this study had already been isolated, but this work is ongoing in the lab.) The bits of the meteorite had begun to smell like a very gnarly old sandwich. This scientific insight came with an olfactory cost. During the freeze-thaw cycle, when they dunked the test tube into liquid nitrogen and then the scalding bath, the team started to notice something funky. They caught a whiff of “rotten peanut butter,” Greer says. The bits of the meteorite had begun to smell like a very gnarly old sandwich. Greer suspects that the odor evolved over time as the rock lost volatile compounds, and then emerged as the crushing exposed new surfaces. “There are trapped gases and ices in the meteorite that evaporate and slowly diffuse out,” she says. When that happens, the overall scent morphs into something new—or, sometimes, more or less vanishes. A fragment of the Murchison meteorite at the Murchison & District Historical Society doesn’t have such a distinctive bouquet any more. “Our sample has been exposed to air for too long,” says Ball, the organization’s president. “It now only has a vague, earthy smell.” Greer and her collaborators also recently smelled another carbonaceous chondrite—the same kind of meteorite as the Murchison one—at the Field Museum. It is known as Aguas Zarcas, named for the town in Costa Rica where it landed in 2019. It’s rich in clay and looks like a squat, squarish clump of the stuff, giving it the nickname, “Cosmic Mudball.” Like the Murchison meteorite, this one is rich in organic compounds, including amino acids. Its scent is often said to evoke cooked Brussels sprouts, or maybe compost. When she smelled it straight out of a plastic bag, Greer had a different take: “I think it smells like vanilla,” she says. “You expected something more tarry, but it has a sweet smell.” These days, at the Field Museum, it can be harder to sniff the Aguas Zarcas meteorite at all: Some samples go into cryogenic storage, or might be too small, or get embedded in epoxy to make them easier to put under a scanning electron microscope, Greer says. Laurence Garvie’s team at the Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University also has a bit of the meteorite, and has designed tests to puzzle out the source of the smells and what they reveal about the components of the meteorite, Popular Science reported last year. Strictly speaking, sniffing meteorites isn’t key to the work that Greer’s team set out to tackle, but it’s fun, silly, and compelling—and “scientists are human, too,” she says. “If you start smelling something a little bit, you might think, ‘Wait, what is that?’ It’s just natural curiosity and wanting to learn more.”

  • Some Neanderthals Wintered in Italy, Diving for Clams
    by Isaac Schultz on 16 January 2020 at 10:59 pm

    In 1949, archaeologists pulled 171 clamshells and 49 pumice stones and fragments out of a seaside cave in Italy, up the coast from Naples. The assemblage predated the arrival of Homo sapiens in Western Europe, but had clearly been worked by a human hand. That left only one suspect: Neanderthals. The actual origins of the clams, however, was overlooked, and it remained that way for the past 70 years. Now, a new paper published in the journal PLOS One argues that the Neanderthals didn’t just gather the dead material from the nearby beaches—they actually dove into the Mediterranean for it themselves. “If you’re a Neanderthal in Italy, I can tell you there’s lots of beaches, and lots of caves near the sea,” says Paola Villa, an archaeologist at the University of Colorado and lead author of the paper. “They probably collected [the clams] by just holding their breath underwater and scooping them off of the seafloor.” Like many bivalves, the smooth clams found in Grotto dei Moscerini—Callista chione—like to embed themselves in the seafloor, leaving just their siphon above the sand to feed. By looking at the degree of wear on some of the shells, which remained shiny, Villa’s team determined that the clams weren’t scavenged off the dry sand like their more opaque brethren. Rather, they’d been plucked directly from their burrows under the sea. The clams weren’t all that deep in the water—probably just a dozen or so feet beneath the surface. For the Neanderthals, their shells made a convenient substitute for the workable stone lacking in the region. “When we have more stone tools, we have less shells, and vice versa,” Villa says of Neanderthal sites. “When they had more stone, they didn’t care about the shells.” The Neanderthals at Grotto dei Moscerini likely inhabited the area seasonally—during the winters—based on previous archaeological work on shell fishing in the Upper Paleolithic, the time period that saw the extinction of Homo neanderthalensis. Recent research has determined that some Neanderthals suffered from swimmer’s ear—an outer ear infection typically caused by water lingering in the ear, which can create a fertile ground for bacterial growth. Perhaps our water-loving cousins forgot to shake their heads after swimming. Unlike the clamshells, the pumice stones found in the cave were not from the area. Rather, Villa argues, the porous rock made its way to Grotto dei Moscerini on sea currents, which floated it north from the Neapolitan volcanoes. The rock would likely have been used for polishing and abrading other tools. “[The pumice] was definitely collected by Neanderthals,” Villa says. “The cave is more than 200 meters [650 feet] in elevation, and pumices don’t fly.” Given that there’s no evidence Neanderthals could fly either, it was probably convenient to them that the pumice washed up on their doorstep. And as for the clams, it was probably easier to hit the beach than to scrape the sky.

  • The Sun Met
    by Charles Human on 16 January 2020 at 10:00 pm

    The Sun Met is the jewel in the Cape horse racing calendar, attracting 50,000 spectators, and not just for the horses. It’s held at the Kenilworth Race Track (the oldest in the country), and attending the Sun Met will ensure you start your February in style. Dress to the nines along with thousands of locals... The post The Sun Met appeared first on Cape Town Travel.

  • For Sale: 500 Pounds of 20-Year-Old Cheddar
    by Luke Fater on 16 January 2020 at 8:46 pm

    Most of the cheddar you’ve eaten was sold in the first few months after it was produced. Some sharper varieties may have aged a year or so. On the market now, however, is one nearly old enough to buy you a drink at the bar. One Wisconsin cheesemaker’s 20-year aged cheddar is now available for online presale. Too sharp, you say? Cheese-aging pioneer Tony Hook says cheddar hits peak bitterness at three to five years. "After that, it starts smoothing out, like a fine wine.” He and his wife Julie are the intrepid cheesemakers behind the rare batch, and owners of Hook’s Cheese Company. It’s not exactly their first rodeo: A 450-pound batch of their 20-year cheddar that hit the market in 2015 sold out within days. It cost $209 a pound, as will the new one. Ken Monteleone is the owner of Madison cheese-shop Fromagination, a longtime carrier of Hook’s Cheese. Like most cheese-keen Wisconsinite, he expected Hook’s 2015 batch of super-aged cheddar to be too bitter, too strong. “It was actually very smooth and buttery,” he says, “with all these layers of flavor and these calcium crystals you’d typically only see with parmigiano reggiano.” He’s now fielding orders from all over the country for Hook’s new batch. Monteleone insists that Hook’s is one of the best aged-cheddar makers in the country: “They’re the people everyone looks up to in Wisconsin for cheddar.” And while Tony Hook is downright demure, this 20-year batch is a milestone in more ways than one. With its maturation, he’ll have been quietly making cheese for 50 years. Tony started working in cheese right out of high school. “Worked there while I went to college, once I got my degree, it was the only business I knew,” he says. “By that point it was also a business I loved.” It was at the University of Wisconsin in the early 1970s that he met his wife, Julie. He pulled her into the cheesemakers life, though she didn’t need much hand-holding. Her 1982 Colby won “Finest Cheese in the World” at the 1982 World Cheese Championship. She was the first woman to do so. When the Hooks bought their own factory in 1987, they decided to experiment with the facility’s underground cold storage. At that time, no one was aging their cheddars past three or four years. “We decided we’d expand to at least five years, because nobody in the U.S. was going that old,” says Hook. “It was uncharted territory.” Alone against the unrecorded mysteries of super-aging cheddar, Tony followed his tongue. Having sourced from the same dairy farm for decades, he became uncannily familiar with his ingredients over the years. He then learned to forecast flavor through the aging process, testing each batch and selling off wheels he knew wouldn’t make it to his target age. “It’s still a very good cheese, I can just tell when it’s not meant to age much longer,” he says. This time, 500 pounds of cheddar, which the Hooks squirreled away when the Soviet Union was still intact, made it to the 20-year mark. Dale Curley, owner of Larry’s Market in Brown Deer, Wisconsin, calls Hook’s 20-year cheese simply “spectacular.” What struck him most, however, was Hook’s ability to develop the cheese in the first place. “There’s just so much that can go wrong. Tony’s a master at this.” The 90 pounds that Hook’s allocated to Curley’s retail market sold out in 48 hours online. If the price tag startles you, know that half of the proceeds will fund dairy research at the couple’s alma mater. While the pre-sale is on now, the cheese won't arrive until Memorial Day Weekend this year. If it sells out before you splurge, Tony urges patience: “I’m not going to give out any dates—they may not even come out until I’m retired. But there will be more.”

  • Atching Lillian Restaurant in Mexico, Philippines
    on 16 January 2020 at 8:22 pm

    Kapampangans are rightly proud of their cuisine. The province of Pampanga is often seen as the culinary heart of the Philippines, because it is where many modern Filipino favorites originate, including the ubiquitous sisig, a sizzling plate of grilled pork face. For Atching Lillian, however, the food of Pampanga is about more than just grilled pork faces, although she does that very well, too. For Lillian, what's important is the story, what's important is the heritage behind Kapampangan cuisine, because tradition can add as much flavor to a dish as the spices. That's because Lillian is more than just a chef; she's a historian, too, and she prides herself on collecting age-old Kapampangan recipes and preparing food in as traditional a manner as possible. Most of the time, she doesn't even use scales, because she says that her ancestors would simply throw in the ingredients, and guess the measurements. Little has changed in over a century inside her ancestral home, which also doubles as her kitchen and restaurant, and strewn around the dining hall are cooking implements that have been used by generations of chefs in Pampanga. Lillian's signature creations are San Nicolas cookies, a religious treat dedicated to Saint Nicholas, which can trace its origins back to the arrival of Catholicism in the Spanish colonial era. Many of the wooden molds that Lillian uses to shape her famed San Nicolas cookies are well over 100 years old, and she demonstrates to her guests in the dining area just how, exactly, she makes and bakes the cookies, using a 300-year-old recipe she unearthed from archival research. Guests can even try preparing these historic cookies themselves, while they await the rest of Lillian's reborn dishes to be served. She calls these her "Heirloom Recipes," and everything on the menu at Lillian's kitchen has the full force of Kapampangan history behind it. She cooks a traditional take on adobo, which, according to the recipes she’s discovered, is white, not black, because there shouldn't be any soy sauce in the mix. She cures tough Carabao meat into a sticky, sweet-and-sour take on the cured bacon classic tocino, and she prepares Mexican-inspired tamales, which were brought to Pampanga during Spanish rule. Dining at Lillian's home-restaurant is about more than just eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Lillian's reconstructed Heirloom Recipes are all about the history, and you'll be taken on a culinary journey stretching back hundreds of years as you gorge on Pampanga's most traditional eats.

  • Thailand bans single-use plastic bags
    by Imogen Searra on 17 January 2020 at 10:22 am

    On 1 January 2020, Thailand officially banned single-use plastic bags in all its major stores in a bid to phase them out entirely by 2021. The post Thailand bans single-use plastic bags appeared first on Getaway Magazine.

  • SAA selling 9 aircraft: business rescue not the reason
    by Getaway on 17 January 2020 at 10:10 am

    South African Airays is selling four Airbus A340-600s and five Airbus A340-300s, as well as '15 spare engines and four auxiliary power units'. The post SAA selling 9 aircraft: business rescue not the reason appeared first on Getaway Magazine.

  • Live for free on a remote Irish island
    by Imogen Searra on 17 January 2020 at 8:53 am

    The Great Blasket Island off the coast of Ireland is looking for two people to manage accommodations and a coffee shop from 1 April to 1 October 2020. The post Live for free on a remote Irish island appeared first on Getaway Magazine.

  • Spekboom plants to form Great Labyrinth of Africa
    by Elise Kirsten on 17 January 2020 at 8:38 am

    Work on an ambitious project to create the largest labyrinth in Africa out of spekboom hedges will continue in Stellenbosch. The post Spekboom plants to form Great Labyrinth of Africa appeared first on Getaway Magazine.

  • Air-Dropped Carrots Might Be a Temporary Answer to a Threatened Wallaby's Prayers
    by Jessica Leigh Hester on 17 January 2020 at 12:09 am

    Recently, Australian authorities air-dropped thousands of pounds of carrots and sweet potatoes across the scorched landscape of New South Wales, as part of a bushfire recovery effort backed by the state government. Scientists have dropped off snacks, too. The hope is that the veggies wind up in the little paws and bellies of brush-tailed rock-wallabies, whose hiding places and food sources have been badly damaged by fires exacerbated by climate change. Across Australia, millions of acres have burned, more than two dozen humans have died, and according to Christopher Dickman, an ecologist at the University of Sydney, an estimated 1 billion animals have been affected. Operation Rock Wallaby 🦘- #NPWS staff today dropped thousands of kgs of food (Mostly sweet potato and carrots) for our Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby colonies across NSW 🥕🥕 #bushfires pic.twitter.com/ZBN0MSLZei — Matt Kean MP (@Matt_KeanMP) January 11, 2020 The brush-tailed rock-wallaby was in trouble even before the fires—and that precarious position made the animals even more vulnerable when the flames tore through. Fire aside, the species “has declined enormously,” largely because of predation by foxes, says Ben Moore, a senior lecturer in ecology at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment at Western Sydney University. “It is listed as vulnerable nationally, but endangered in New South Wales and Victoria, the two states most affected by fires.” In Victoria, there are only two colonies remaining in the wild, according to Zoos Victoria, with just a few dozen members in each. In many places, the recent fires scorched the plants that the animals eat and the hiding places where they dodge predators, making life even harder for a species that was already stressed. While many ecologists may try to limit intervention in the lives of the creatures they study, this feeding is a short-term move. Most of the known populations of brush-tailed rock-wallabies are mapped and monitored by camera traps and other tactics, which means that “food drops can be targeted to where known populations occur,” says Thomas Newsome, an ecologist at the University of Sydney. “The feeding is not an attempt to maintain large numbers of animals across the entire landscape,” Moore says, “but rather a last-ditch attempt to keep these remaining populations hanging on.” Brush-tailed rock-wallabies don’t typically chow down on carrots and sweet potatoes—usually, they leave their stomping grounds on rocky outcrops and cliffs to feed on grasses, sedges, shrubs, and ferns, Newsome says. The advantages of root vegetables are that they’re easy to obtain, simple to transport, and they keep well, Moore says. “They are a good source of energy, and the animals happily eat them.” #drought took their water and #bushfire took their food so our team, based ⁦@UniNewEngland⁩ have been providing both to some key #rockwallaby colonies (with permission) for nearly 2 months now. Listen to the happy chomping! pic.twitter.com/bfHkyWPCZj — Guy Ballard (@DingoResearch) January 8, 2020 Newsome says that it’s unlikely that any given population will nosh their supplementary food for more than a few months, and then surviving wallabies will go back to eating greens. Of course, it’s hard to predict when plants will regrow, says Marco Festa-Bianchet, an animal ecologist at the Université de Sherbrooke, in Quebec, who studies kangaroos. A lot depends on rain, which is badly needed after months of heat and drought. If enough falls, “there will be stuff regrowing in a couple of weeks,” he says. “In a scenario where everything is gone and it doesn’t rain for awhile, it could be months with nothing.” (Rain has already begun in New South Wales, but as Earther reported, a downpour can cause floods and landslides in landscapes where fires have consumed the vegetation.) The first plants back on the scene tend to be grass and other ground cover, says Newsome, followed by regrowth on surviving trees. Newsome says there’s little risk that the animals will become overly dependent on their air-dropped food supply. “If the food is only provided for a short period, and then slowly reduced, they should quickly readjust to finding their own food,” he says. “I suspect they will switch back to natural foods as soon as they become available.” In the meantime, the brush-tailed rock-wallabies will be adorably gnawing on carrots and sweet potatoes, trying to hang in there.

  • Some Space Rocks Are Notorious for Being Stinky
    by Jessica Leigh Hester on 16 January 2020 at 11:45 pm

    In September 1969, it seemed that everyone in the village of Murchison in Victoria, Australia, had a story about the meteorite. They swapped tales of the sight of the space rock barreling across the sky and chatted about the booming sound they heard just before it crashed to the ground, late on the morning of the 28th. In the days following the fall, residents fanned out. They divided the community into grids and searched, methodically and cooperatively, for pieces of the cosmic visitor. They found one fragment after another—often blackish gray and distinctively dented with imprints that look as though a sculptor pressed her thumbs into clay. The space rocks were appealing and unusual—and the locals couldn’t help but notice that they also stank to high heaven. Many eyewitnesses described the rocks as smelling of tar or methylated spirits, also known as “denatured alcohol,” which has additives to make it taste and smell foul, to prevent people from drinking it. Others agreed that the rocks had an odor, but didn’t find it offensive: Some described them as smelling “like wet hay,” says Kay Ball, president of the Murchison & District Historical Society. Chunks of the meteorite went to research institutions around the world, and the smell went along, too. When David Deamer, now a research professor of biomolecular engineering at the University of California, Santa Cruz, was grinding up a marble-sized bit of the Murchison meteorite to study, he found that a “strange, penetrating odor rose from the mortar … simultaneously smoky, dusty, and sour,” he writes in his book First Life, Discovering the Connections Between Stars, Cells, and How Life Began. He thought it “reminiscent of a cigar butt or the contents of a vacuum cleaner bag.” In the book, Deamer describes the meteorite as his introduction to “the odor of outer space.” But descriptions of meteorites’ aromas can change during the rocks' time on Earth, depending on what both people and the elements put them through. Researchers who revisited bits of the Murchison meteorite for a new paper, published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, discovered that, under certain circumstances, the rock still packs a wallop. Meteorites are messengers, and can carry information about star formation and other aspects of our universe. But to get at that trove of data, researchers often have to bust the meteorites open. The scientists, from the University of Chicago, the Field Museum, and several other institutions, working on the recent paper were looking for presolar grains, minerals that predate our sun. By isolating and analyzing these, the researchers can approximate their age, and then work backward through the life cycle of stars, which shed grains like these as a last hurrah. Once the rock has been crushed, to get at the presolar silicon carbide they were looking for, the researchers poured the meteorite dust into test tubes, and shuttled those between liquid nitrogen and hot water baths, and attacked it “with some really nasty acids,” says Jennika Greer, a graduate student at the Field Museum and the University of Chicago, and a coauthor of the study. Ultimately, the team found that some of these grains date to between five-and-a-half and seven billion years old. (The particular presolar grains examined for this study had already been isolated, but this work is ongoing in the lab.) The bits of the meteorite had begun to smell like a very gnarly old sandwich. This scientific insight came with an olfactory cost. During the freeze-thaw cycle, when they dunked the test tube into liquid nitrogen and then the scalding bath, the team started to notice something funky. They caught a whiff of “rotten peanut butter,” Greer says. The bits of the meteorite had begun to smell like a very gnarly old sandwich. Greer suspects that the odor evolved over time as the rock lost volatile compounds, and then emerged as the crushing exposed new surfaces. “There are trapped gases and ices in the meteorite that evaporate and slowly diffuse out,” she says. When that happens, the overall scent morphs into something new—or, sometimes, more or less vanishes. A fragment of the Murchison meteorite at the Murchison & District Historical Society doesn’t have such a distinctive bouquet any more. “Our sample has been exposed to air for too long,” says Ball, the organization’s president. “It now only has a vague, earthy smell.” Greer and her collaborators also recently smelled another carbonaceous chondrite—the same kind of meteorite as the Murchison one—at the Field Museum. It is known as Aguas Zarcas, named for the town in Costa Rica where it landed in 2019. It’s rich in clay and looks like a squat, squarish clump of the stuff, giving it the nickname, “Cosmic Mudball.” Like the Murchison meteorite, this one is rich in organic compounds, including amino acids. Its scent is often said to evoke cooked Brussels sprouts, or maybe compost. When she smelled it straight out of a plastic bag, Greer had a different take: “I think it smells like vanilla,” she says. “You expected something more tarry, but it has a sweet smell.” These days, at the Field Museum, it can be harder to sniff the Aguas Zarcas meteorite at all: Some samples go into cryogenic storage, or might be too small, or get embedded in epoxy to make them easier to put under a scanning electron microscope, Greer says. Laurence Garvie’s team at the Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University also has a bit of the meteorite, and has designed tests to puzzle out the source of the smells and what they reveal about the components of the meteorite, Popular Science reported last year. Strictly speaking, sniffing meteorites isn’t key to the work that Greer’s team set out to tackle, but it’s fun, silly, and compelling—and “scientists are human, too,” she says. “If you start smelling something a little bit, you might think, ‘Wait, what is that?’ It’s just natural curiosity and wanting to learn more.”

  • Some Neanderthals Wintered in Italy, Diving for Clams
    by Isaac Schultz on 16 January 2020 at 10:59 pm

    In 1949, archaeologists pulled 171 clamshells and 49 pumice stones and fragments out of a seaside cave in Italy, up the coast from Naples. The assemblage predated the arrival of Homo sapiens in Western Europe, but had clearly been worked by a human hand. That left only one suspect: Neanderthals. The actual origins of the clams, however, was overlooked, and it remained that way for the past 70 years. Now, a new paper published in the journal PLOS One argues that the Neanderthals didn’t just gather the dead material from the nearby beaches—they actually dove into the Mediterranean for it themselves. “If you’re a Neanderthal in Italy, I can tell you there’s lots of beaches, and lots of caves near the sea,” says Paola Villa, an archaeologist at the University of Colorado and lead author of the paper. “They probably collected [the clams] by just holding their breath underwater and scooping them off of the seafloor.” Like many bivalves, the smooth clams found in Grotto dei Moscerini—Callista chione—like to embed themselves in the seafloor, leaving just their siphon above the sand to feed. By looking at the degree of wear on some of the shells, which remained shiny, Villa’s team determined that the clams weren’t scavenged off the dry sand like their more opaque brethren. Rather, they’d been plucked directly from their burrows under the sea. The clams weren’t all that deep in the water—probably just a dozen or so feet beneath the surface. For the Neanderthals, their shells made a convenient substitute for the workable stone lacking in the region. “When we have more stone tools, we have less shells, and vice versa,” Villa says of Neanderthal sites. “When they had more stone, they didn’t care about the shells.” The Neanderthals at Grotto dei Moscerini likely inhabited the area seasonally—during the winters—based on previous archaeological work on shell fishing in the Upper Paleolithic, the time period that saw the extinction of Homo neanderthalensis. Recent research has determined that some Neanderthals suffered from swimmer’s ear—an outer ear infection typically caused by water lingering in the ear, which can create a fertile ground for bacterial growth. Perhaps our water-loving cousins forgot to shake their heads after swimming. Unlike the clamshells, the pumice stones found in the cave were not from the area. Rather, Villa argues, the porous rock made its way to Grotto dei Moscerini on sea currents, which floated it north from the Neapolitan volcanoes. The rock would likely have been used for polishing and abrading other tools. “[The pumice] was definitely collected by Neanderthals,” Villa says. “The cave is more than 200 meters [650 feet] in elevation, and pumices don’t fly.” Given that there’s no evidence Neanderthals could fly either, it was probably convenient to them that the pumice washed up on their doorstep. And as for the clams, it was probably easier to hit the beach than to scrape the sky.

  • The Sun Met
    by Charles Human on 16 January 2020 at 10:00 pm

    The Sun Met is the jewel in the Cape horse racing calendar, attracting 50,000 spectators, and not just for the horses. It’s held at the Kenilworth Race Track (the oldest in the country), and attending the Sun Met will ensure you start your February in style. Dress to the nines along with thousands of locals... The post The Sun Met appeared first on Cape Town Travel.

  • For Sale: 500 Pounds of 20-Year-Old Cheddar
    by Luke Fater on 16 January 2020 at 8:46 pm

    Most of the cheddar you’ve eaten was sold in the first few months after it was produced. Some sharper varieties may have aged a year or so. On the market now, however, is one nearly old enough to buy you a drink at the bar. One Wisconsin cheesemaker’s 20-year aged cheddar is now available for online presale. Too sharp, you say? Cheese-aging pioneer Tony Hook says cheddar hits peak bitterness at three to five years. "After that, it starts smoothing out, like a fine wine.” He and his wife Julie are the intrepid cheesemakers behind the rare batch, and owners of Hook’s Cheese Company. It’s not exactly their first rodeo: A 450-pound batch of their 20-year cheddar that hit the market in 2015 sold out within days. It cost $209 a pound, as will the new one. Ken Monteleone is the owner of Madison cheese-shop Fromagination, a longtime carrier of Hook’s Cheese. Like most cheese-keen Wisconsinite, he expected Hook’s 2015 batch of super-aged cheddar to be too bitter, too strong. “It was actually very smooth and buttery,” he says, “with all these layers of flavor and these calcium crystals you’d typically only see with parmigiano reggiano.” He’s now fielding orders from all over the country for Hook’s new batch. Monteleone insists that Hook’s is one of the best aged-cheddar makers in the country: “They’re the people everyone looks up to in Wisconsin for cheddar.” And while Tony Hook is downright demure, this 20-year batch is a milestone in more ways than one. With its maturation, he’ll have been quietly making cheese for 50 years. Tony started working in cheese right out of high school. “Worked there while I went to college, once I got my degree, it was the only business I knew,” he says. “By that point it was also a business I loved.” It was at the University of Wisconsin in the early 1970s that he met his wife, Julie. He pulled her into the cheesemakers life, though she didn’t need much hand-holding. Her 1982 Colby won “Finest Cheese in the World” at the 1982 World Cheese Championship. She was the first woman to do so. When the Hooks bought their own factory in 1987, they decided to experiment with the facility’s underground cold storage. At that time, no one was aging their cheddars past three or four years. “We decided we’d expand to at least five years, because nobody in the U.S. was going that old,” says Hook. “It was uncharted territory.” Alone against the unrecorded mysteries of super-aging cheddar, Tony followed his tongue. Having sourced from the same dairy farm for decades, he became uncannily familiar with his ingredients over the years. He then learned to forecast flavor through the aging process, testing each batch and selling off wheels he knew wouldn’t make it to his target age. “It’s still a very good cheese, I can just tell when it’s not meant to age much longer,” he says. This time, 500 pounds of cheddar, which the Hooks squirreled away when the Soviet Union was still intact, made it to the 20-year mark. Dale Curley, owner of Larry’s Market in Brown Deer, Wisconsin, calls Hook’s 20-year cheese simply “spectacular.” What struck him most, however, was Hook’s ability to develop the cheese in the first place. “There’s just so much that can go wrong. Tony’s a master at this.” The 90 pounds that Hook’s allocated to Curley’s retail market sold out in 48 hours online. If the price tag startles you, know that half of the proceeds will fund dairy research at the couple’s alma mater. While the pre-sale is on now, the cheese won't arrive until Memorial Day Weekend this year. If it sells out before you splurge, Tony urges patience: “I’m not going to give out any dates—they may not even come out until I’m retired. But there will be more.”

  • Atching Lillian Restaurant in Mexico, Philippines
    on 16 January 2020 at 8:22 pm

    Kapampangans are rightly proud of their cuisine. The province of Pampanga is often seen as the culinary heart of the Philippines, because it is where many modern Filipino favorites originate, including the ubiquitous sisig, a sizzling plate of grilled pork face. For Atching Lillian, however, the food of Pampanga is about more than just grilled pork faces, although she does that very well, too. For Lillian, what's important is the story, what's important is the heritage behind Kapampangan cuisine, because tradition can add as much flavor to a dish as the spices. That's because Lillian is more than just a chef; she's a historian, too, and she prides herself on collecting age-old Kapampangan recipes and preparing food in as traditional a manner as possible. Most of the time, she doesn't even use scales, because she says that her ancestors would simply throw in the ingredients, and guess the measurements. Little has changed in over a century inside her ancestral home, which also doubles as her kitchen and restaurant, and strewn around the dining hall are cooking implements that have been used by generations of chefs in Pampanga. Lillian's signature creations are San Nicolas cookies, a religious treat dedicated to Saint Nicholas, which can trace its origins back to the arrival of Catholicism in the Spanish colonial era. Many of the wooden molds that Lillian uses to shape her famed San Nicolas cookies are well over 100 years old, and she demonstrates to her guests in the dining area just how, exactly, she makes and bakes the cookies, using a 300-year-old recipe she unearthed from archival research. Guests can even try preparing these historic cookies themselves, while they await the rest of Lillian's reborn dishes to be served. She calls these her "Heirloom Recipes," and everything on the menu at Lillian's kitchen has the full force of Kapampangan history behind it. She cooks a traditional take on adobo, which, according to the recipes she’s discovered, is white, not black, because there shouldn't be any soy sauce in the mix. She cures tough Carabao meat into a sticky, sweet-and-sour take on the cured bacon classic tocino, and she prepares Mexican-inspired tamales, which were brought to Pampanga during Spanish rule. Dining at Lillian's home-restaurant is about more than just eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Lillian's reconstructed Heirloom Recipes are all about the history, and you'll be taken on a culinary journey stretching back hundreds of years as you gorge on Pampanga's most traditional eats.