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IBM Solar Concentrator Can Produce12kW/day, Clean Water, and AC

Artifakt Re:Cubic litres (268 comments)

I'm going to claim there's prior art on that cubic water thing. I have several copies of a device that produces cubic water in dozen lots, in the bottom of my refrigerator.

about a week ago
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It's Banned Books Week; I recommend ...

Artifakt Re:Can't help plugging Atwood (404 comments)

Probably, it's more like the reason Kurt Vonnegut did the same thing. Slaughterhouse Five, for just one of his works, really needs to be read like the reader isn't allowed to be sure whether Billy Pilgrim is objectively experiencing being unstuck in time and meeting Tralfamadorians and such, or has become a trifle unglued coping with tremendous shell-shock from WW2. If it comes prelabeled as SF, the deliberate ambiguity is ruined. Wondering if Tralfamadorian anatomy makes sense for a realistic alien is not even close to the biggest points Vonnegut hoped people would take away from Slaughterhouse Five.
              Even Heinlein, who didn't usually mind being called things like the "number one Science Fiction author ever" and such, had cases like this - Glory Road deliberately switches at the very end from Fantasy tropes to SF, and Stranger in a Strange Land exists in two published forms, one more clearly SF, one deliberately deemphasizing those elements.

about a week ago
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SpaceX and Boeing Battle For US Manned Spaceflight Contracts

Artifakt Re:Can someone explain to me (123 comments)

"There is no purpose to manned spaceflight. The scientific return comes from unmanned spaceflight."

You are currently modded +4 Insightful for having claimed, essentially, that the HST repair and upgrade missions could have all been done by unmanned systems. I have points, I could have modded you as you deserve. I could just ask for a citation - you're making an extraordinary claim there and you really do deserve to have to back it up or retract it. Instead, I'm taking a couple of months vacation from Slashdot - there's too many like you around - the signal to noise ratio keeps dropping towards an absolute zero, and I join all the 3 digit old farts in saying "This site just ain't what it used to be!" .

about three weeks ago
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Report: Microsoft To Buy Minecraft Studio For $2bn+

Artifakt Re:HALO (368 comments)

Halo was really based in the same universe (or a very similar one) as an earlier series of games usually called the Marathon trilogy. These were Bungie's first big hits, and had two major properties that make them remembered fondly.

1. They were like Doom (2 1/2 D shooters), but with great plots and characterization for their time. (And most of this keenness was something more players saw there for the first time, often before Doom came out, or at least caught on, because Apples were around more then- see point 2). Bungie may have been first with some features, was definitely first to get them right with others, and it took some time for Id games to even be taken seriously. Think of the story everybody wanted for Mass Effect 3, and mostly felt disappointed in. For most gamers who started the series, Marathon 3 was like everything more modern players hoped Mass Effect 3 would be. Plus, many players felt they got a lot of other things right, like squad level control, vehicle movement, microphone talk in multiplayer, weapons/ammo ratios (and not being able to carry 10 or so weapons and thousands of rounds of ammo all at once), being able to design your own levels, and the whole blend of Single Player/Multiplayer/Deathmatch modes.
2. They ran on Apples, and were so big there that many people actually complained about how there was notihng in gaming for the PC as good as for the Apple. (There were other games, such as Myst and Armor Alley contributing to this effect too, I'm not saying it was all Marathon, but Myst and Bungie doing ports to Microsoft shifted the whole gaming scene away from Apple over just a couple of years).

Halo was supposed to be the updated version of those, going to a fully 3D engine, and it delivered an really exciting story with a giant ring around a planet, a weapon that could destroy whole worlds, and A.I. systems that would burn themselves out in 3 years or so just through being so ubersmart (and you had to hope the one you were relying on got you through the next scenario before it popped). And for the first time, there was a version for the X-Box and you didn't ahve to have an Apple Mac!

about three weeks ago
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Surprise! More Than Twice As Much Mercury In Environment As Thought

Artifakt Re:Were the latex paint people jealous (173 comments)

Tetraethyl Lead was used in automotive fuel from the 1920s through much of the 70s, and is still used in some aviation fuel. There appears to be illegal manufacture and use of the substance ongoing in the PRC. The amounts involved as a fuel antiknock ingredient exceed Lead's use in mold control and paint, and should be considered the primary source for increased Lead in the environment..

about three weeks ago
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Surprise! More Than Twice As Much Mercury In Environment As Thought

Artifakt Re:Broken light bulbs. (173 comments)

And you were present to see this but didn't call an ambulance?
There are some forms of heavy metal exposure that produce such symptoms and have near instantanious onsets. One account of such concerns a french soldier who poured and drank about 250 ml of wine passed through a 155 mm artillery piece barrel as part of a unit induction ceremony, and picked up a substantial Tungsten exposure. He had immediate onset of symptoms including seizures and rapid unconsiousness. All the symptoms mentioned by the parent poster are recognized for acute inhalation exposure to Mercury, but I'm running into paywalls trying to find out just how rapid their onset can be. Still the AC who generalized that heavy metal poisoning does not work that way is simply wrong, and is probably not picking up on the differences between gradual and rapid exposure, or inhalation vs ingestion, or both.

And about your sig: You'll take your insight where you find it, like everybody else. and you'll like it!

about three weeks ago
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New DNA Analysis On Old Blood Pegs Aaron Kosminski As Jack the Ripper

Artifakt Re:Bullshit claim. (135 comments)

Ah, I had thought the claim was to have a more specifically identifiable form of DNA, without that, this can only be considered a minor bit of evidence for one suspect. I still say we don't even have that for several of the others, but this is not really conclusive.

about three weeks ago
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New DNA Analysis On Old Blood Pegs Aaron Kosminski As Jack the Ripper

Artifakt Re:But thanks for all the antisemitic comments, ti (135 comments)

I really doubt the claim that in the victorian era, Poland was literally flooded by jews. Figuratively, maybe, but I do not think that word 'literally' means what you think it means.

about three weeks ago
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New DNA Analysis On Old Blood Pegs Aaron Kosminski As Jack the Ripper

Artifakt Re: tldr; why is blood the perpetrator's? (135 comments)

It's the previous DNA analysis that was based on just mitochondrial DNA - This one isn't. It's based on what is allegedly a new improvement in DNA testing, but it involves testing conventional nuclear DNA. Also, given the rest of Kosminski's history, if he was, say, merely a pimp who was wounded at the same time as the death of one of his prostitutes, his subsequent behavior was rather unlikely, to say the least. He was suspected of being Jack while he still lived. I don't know about you, but if the police were looking into the possibility I was Jack the Ripper, and the real Jack had tried to kill me, then proving my own innocence by giving them information that might lead to the real killer looks a lot more rational than shutting up about it. It's pretty much killing two birds with one stone at that point. (As opposed to Jack's method of killing birds, I guess). There are people pointing to K's mental illness history, and how he might not be particulalry rational, but there's a big difference between saying someone is mentally ill, and saying, they were mentally ill, and it was definitely in a way that would make them not do what most people would do here, but definiitely also not in a way that would make them commit murder either.
        People taking the other side have to either beleive this new evidence isn't a real improvement in genetic testing and that claim is essentially false (which is fine by me if they do - time will settle whether it is or isn't), or they have to make some pretty bizarre and often self contradictory claims about the few other items of evidence we have, such as claiming Kosminski was a real bad apple who the police wanted enough for very serious crimes (just what, they never wrote down), that he couldn't have whitewashed his own reputation even by giving them Jack, or that Kosminski had some major underworld contacts who would have paniced if he had gone to the police (but these contacts couldn't take care of the Ripper if Kosminski went to them instead). ,
    Other such evidence that has to be tweaked is there are some good sketches of the crime scenes, and for this one Jack had to, for example, fight Kosminski only in places where it was too dark to see his face, then kill the prostitute and move her body indoors past some well lighted areas without K hanging around to see who the real Jack was, and do it all quickly enough that the real Jack could get out of there before K could have returned with the police. (Or somehow, the real Jack had to know K was not the type to return with police, or something else both odd and very much not in evidence.).
            There's also the claim which has been around for decades, that the word Jewes in the grafitti scrawled at one crime scene has to refer to some Masonic ritual and not be a misspellling of Jews, and other such things which have always been oddish speculations, but had better be taken as basic assumptions to make it less likely that K did it - people who seriously want to claim there's no other evidence than this 'questionable' DNA test to link Kosminski will just about have to buy into one or another of these oddish assumptions like the "It had to be a Mason" bit, as well. People willing to go down such roads usually end up "proving' that jack was Queen Victoria, or the Loch Ness Monster, or other such candidates.

about three weeks ago
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Islamic State "Laptop of Doom" Hints At Plots Including Bubonic Plague

Artifakt Re:But is it reaslistic? (369 comments)

I considered asking the original poster if he took Physics for Non-Scientists. The simplest design that would theoretically work involves U-235 in a gun type configuration, an evacuated metal tube at least five stories tall, and no high explosives needed. But I tend to agree with OP in part, such a device isn't really very useful. I grew up in Oak Ridge, TN. We'd find physics packages when they fell off the trucks, but they always had that sticker saying "Atomic bomb, handle with caution - put in any mailbox and the government will pay the return postage", so we never kept them. However, not being able to put them back together right resulted in a lot of teasing, so we all learned pretty quickly. That was a few years before everyone moved back above ground, when the strobe-gophers really got loose and started burrowing through the lead walls and blinking those eyes at us, but for a while there, they were just making the roads bumpy. It might have been the year the giant slime mold ate all the paint off of everyones's cars that the government started telling us kids to stay off the reservation ...

Warning: at least one of the things I've said above is actually true. Sorry if anyone loses sleep over this, but that fact's been out of the bag since the 1950s, when people worked the math out in the letters column of Astounding Science Fiction. U-235 has a broad enough prompt criticality window someone could theoretically get a yield of about 10 Kt by just letting gravity draw the two pieces of a gun type device together.

about three weeks ago
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Islamic State "Laptop of Doom" Hints At Plots Including Bubonic Plague

Artifakt Re:It is realistic... (369 comments)

Given how the US reacted to about 3,000 deaths at the WTC, I would confidently expect any bio-weapon attact killing a million or so US citizens (directly, or as a consequence of wrecking our transportation system and economy) would result in the use of thermonuclear devices jacketed in Cobalt to to create an area denial effect (that is, not even radiation resistant bacteria would be able to survive in the designated area for the next 100 years or so.). (It was actual US doctrine at the time I mustered out (middle of the Clinton years) that we did not have offensive biological or chemical weapons of mass destruction, and so the use of WMD level biologicals against the US would ALWAYS be met with a nuclear reponse, and that hasn't really changed under Clinton or Bush 43 or Obama).
          Assuming an Islamic source, probably that "designated area" would be much or even all of what we currently call Southwest Asia. A little panic, and the US congress would pass a resolution claiming that human decency required spitting all surviving infants in the region on bayonets to send the sub-human monstrous larvae straight to Satan their maker. Remember, Pearl Harbor was enough to make the US demand unconditional surrender and place many ethnic Japanese/American is internment camps, and for a US admiral to promise to make Japanese a language only spoken in Hell.
          If we actually acted better than that, any biological attack sufficent to leave millions starving to death in the US would probably involve literally a hundred times that many people in tropical and sub tropical nations around the globe, and India and China are both thermonuclear powers. Maybe Russia would take a much smaller number of casualties, especially if the attack occured after cold weather set in, but who would bet Putin would say "Ehh, we only lost half a million, let's be calm about this". So if the US didn't, the chances are damned good at least one of the others would. (And all the nations that were about to starve if the US and other Nuclear Powers couldn't even distribute food to themselves would be voting FOR such options in the UN, plus a lot of them would take 50% casualties from a Biological strong enough to disrupt us like that).

about three weeks ago
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Bill Gates Wants To Remake the Way History Is Taught. Should We Let Him?

Artifakt Re:My formal history classes were boring (363 comments)

Right now, there's videos on You-Tube, under the heading Crash Course World History and Crash Course US History. These are little 10-15 minute pieces teaching history, and the introductory level (freshman college) course goes mostly by locations and eras, while the second level (sophomore equivalent), goes by big threads running through history, like societies energy needs or the effects of disease.
          This sounds like just 'feeling good by watching TV', but its much better than that. I've had college level history, but it didn't mention some things at all (Mansa Musa and the Malian empire for one). If nothing else, this series refreshed what I had already learned and showed me how much world history in the time I was in college was about nothing but Dead White European Males (yes I'm an old fart - but what's being taught now really is more balanced and complete).
          30 seconds into the Renaissance episode, narrator John Green brings up just how many years apart some historical figures we group into that era are, how essentially some of them's great, great grandchildren had died before others were even born, and whether we should even count all those events as one related thing, and it motivated me to go back over when various Italian artists did their work, who was whos student and so on - I'd bet that most people who go a full semester just about the renaissance couldn't tell you that much about which artists influenced or trained which, and a lot of them couldn't tell you if Michaelangelo's David was carved before or after Leonardo painted the Mona Lisa, and if the second artist saw the first one's work and could have been influenced by it or not.
          That same episode kept referencing Ninja Turtles for some reason. Now if that makes you lose respect for the whole thing, that's your choice, but this series does a great job of linking the 'dry', dates and names and wars sort of history to big ideas and the real reasons why it benefits the student to understand history. Is it comprehensive - No! (like I said it's 10 to 15 minutes long, of course it's doesn't have that much depth.) . But if you showed this to a young person about to take his or her first college world history or US history course, they will probably be more turned on to learning history in more depth, and then it's just up to that course to not turn them off. And I guarantee you, they will ask smarter questions .If you show this to a high school freshman you will have a kid who enters highschool already at the level most of the high school courses aim for. In fact, if I had a kid who needed help to write a thousand words on, say, the Mongols, the first thing I would do is cue up that episode of this 'silly' You-Tube video.

about three weeks ago
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Bill Gates Wants To Remake the Way History Is Taught. Should We Let Him?

Artifakt Re: So long as it is consential (363 comments)

Except no major political group actually acts on what you said (and I'm counting the Libertarian left in' major' there). Why fuss about the size of government if that argument leads to cutting only the parts of government that can't directly come and shoot you? Why is so much of the movement for smaller government focused on cutting the EPA, which can't come and shoot you, or the NEA, which can't come and shoot you, or NASA, which can't come and shoot you, and not on military and homeland security related agencies which can? Why are many conservatives terribly worried about the National Education Association taking their homeschooled kids away, but not noticing that the NEA has no guns, and has to get some judge and some other agency to cooperate if it wants to shoot you, but if some guy from a homeland security related agency wants to mess with you as much as that NEA person did, they don't have to get any outside help to leave your widow filing on your behalf? Why did Ron Paul want to cut the entire department of Energy, but stop advocating that when he found out that DOE has police like powers and numerous weapons systems to protect the US nuclear arsenal when it's on US soil, and start focusing on only the energy research part?

      To sum it up, why do people who advance your argument then damned near universally turn around and advocate reining in big government by first eliminating a department that has no weapons and no police or military like powers?

about three weeks ago
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Obama Administration Seeks $58M To Put (Partly) Toward Fighting Ebola

Artifakt Re:Nice (105 comments)

Fast mutation does not equal fast evolution. RNA based viruses mutate a lot faster than DNA based organisms because single helix RNA has less error correction than DNA. Single celled organisns mutate more than multicelled organisms that can protect their reproductive cells inside their outher layers, cells with nuclei have lower mutation rates than un-nucleated cells, and there are several other changes in organisms that reduce the mutation rate further which I won't bother to go into. But that doesn't translate to the organisms evolving faster. Any organism that survives to reproduce is pretty close to being a perfect fit for its environment. That's why evolution isn't about big, sudden jumps, A big change positions an organism so that it is much farther from perfectly adapted, and only a small change has any chance of positioning the organism closer to perfectly adapted for its local conditions, without overshooting. Viruses are so simple that just about any change is a big change. If, just for the sake of argument, we say that only 1 in 100 mutations in an 'advanced' organism (i.e. flounder, oak trees or us) is an improvement, then only 1 in 100,000 or 1 in a Million or an even lower ratio of changes is similarly beneficial to a virus.
        Imagine a giraffe, that is within a couple of inches of being the perfect height to reach the highest branches it needs to eat from. Figure that if a single mutation made a difference of 12 feet to that giraffe's height, the mutants would all have tremendous problems with pumping blood up to their brains, and be very unsuccessful. but a girraffe may have 20 different genes that each affect height in a small way, so a mutation can occur that gets that giraffe's descendents those couple of inches that actually count as an improvement, without overshooting wildly. A virus, on the other hand, may have one short gene for making a simple repeating structure that tiles to make its whole outer shell, and any change makes a structure that won't tile at all. The virus can mutate a lot, but every single time it gets any possible mutation on that gene, it dies without reproducing at all. Huge amounts of mutation are possible ,where maybe 20% of each generation dies of that one mutation before final assembly, but no evolution happens at all.

I do like the idea of people choosing to donate for various projects, if they can be confident the government won't transfer the donations to other areas. I think even a system where people have to pay a given amount of taxes, but get to decide how much they want to go to what government projects would be an improvement.

about three weeks ago
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Welcome To Laniakea, Our New Cosmic Home

Artifakt Re:A body in motion etc. (67 comments)

Analogies are never exact correspondences. They're simply more or less useful. People who replace 'useful' with 'accurate' in that sentence are like a clown car full of lawyers in a fruit flavored hailstorm.

about a month ago
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Anti-Ebola Drug ZMapp Makes Clean Sweep: 18 of 18 Monkeys Survive Infection

Artifakt Re:ZMapp experiments done on tobacco plants. (91 comments)

That depends on whether the monstrous fuck-up is just extinction of one plant variety or Triffidized tobacco.

about a month ago
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Underground Experiment Confirms Fusion Powers the Sun

Artifakt Re:Learn something new every day... (141 comments)

A theory is something that has strong supporting evidence, and if you agree with Popper and Kuhn and various" Historians or Philosophers of Science", something that skilled people have tried to come up with alternatives, tested them, and the theory has survived where they didn't. Ideas that have been proposed, and maybe have a little supporting evidence, but are considered not tested enough, and not studied rigorously to see if they can be falsified, or if some other idea better fits Occam's razor, are called hypothesi (or often just interesting ideas until they get at least a little support). Yes, just who qualifies as skilled, which idea is actually simpler by the razor, how much testing is enough, and 'how much better at predicting what than the competing ideas are' are all somewhat subjective, and individual scientists are not exceptionally flawless at making those judgement calls. But that's true of just about everything. Science works because the method tends to correct for those subjective aspects, not make them more powerful as in so many other areas of human activity.

By this era, the theory that the sun was powered by Fusion of Hydrogen into Helium had a lot of evidence supporting it, such as the abundance of various elements in it and other stars, as determined spectrally. Try a web search for Hans Bethe if you want to know about the first evidence that helped raise this hypothesis to the status of theory, in 1930, although he didn't get the Nobel for his work until 1967. It's interesting to me that people are debating just what counts as a theory, and for this particular case, there's an exact date when a particular paper was published, and widespread agreement that this date and event is when the hypothesis got enough support to start calling it a theory. This is additional evidence that adds more support, and by the Philosophers of Science, ought to mean anyone who thinks they have a better idea will have to gather even more evidence and work even harder if they want their alternative to be taken seriously.
 

about a month ago
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Limiting the Teaching of the Scientific Process In Ohio

Artifakt Re:If you don't want science... (528 comments)

I'm sure that Von Neumann, Lemaître, Dirac, and Minkowski were concerned by the possibility of being put in a cell or killed (by the Spanish Inqusition, I guess).
Even Newton, who really was criticised rather unfairly for his Non-anglican variant Christian religion, apparently didn't feel the existing majority religion was going to lock him away or kill him.
Kepler, now there was a guy who had a real reason to worry, Bruno should have worried more. But since then? Historically, you had one period (the Counter-Reformation), when the Church of one region really had both the power and the intention to persecute non-Christian or variant Christian scientists, philosophers, and such. Evidently, that outweighs a lot of other eras and places. That the Roman Catholic church, 20 years before the trial of Galileo wouldn't, and didn't even have the means to conduct such a trial, and that there were other reasons for the sentence in G's case doesn't mean we should think religions ever act differently.
The sad thing is, most of your other points stand pretty well. If you said that movements like the one driving this proposed law can be compared to the Counter-reformation, or even the Inquisition, you would be on pretty solid ground.

about a month ago
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How the Ancient Egyptians (Should Have) Built the Pyramids

Artifakt Re:Slave labor is still the best explanation (202 comments)

Working on a crew may have been an option the workers got to choose (here's why):
1. When a government taxes peasants, it's sometimes awkward to use the revenues. Imagine you are the guy who has to actually process the payments from a lot of really poor farmer types. Peasants may only be able to pay you with a share of their harvest. If they can't hand you gold coins, or anything easily stored and lasting, you end up having to sell their wheat or whatever to get the taxes into a form you can use.You have limited time to do this before the wheat rots in place. If there's not a lot of durable goods in the hands of the average Joe, and every time you insist on being paid in something easy to handle, it just drives up the price for those things, there gets to be times when nothing the peasants can pay you in is worth collecting.
2. Those same peasants work hard in harvest seasons, but they have idle time in other seasons. In a place like Egypt, where there isn't a real cold season, you can put that idle time to working seasons where the peasants don't have all that much else to do. Wars work for that, but if you get a war started, it may keep going until next planting season (This is serious - it keeps being a factor all the way up to the US civil war. Even that late in history, farming season was still an argument for people who's hitch was up and didn't think they should be delayed mustering out because they needed to get back home to help with the crops).
3. So you need to have a work project that can be stopped when planting and harvest seasons come on, and restarted without much waste, and that the peasants and craftsmen can both contribute to. This way, when all the granaries are full, you can offer people a chance to work off their taxes instead of paying them off in goods. You make the work just easy enough that it looks like a good deal compared to a share of the wheat, animals, and such the farmers raise, give the craftsmen shorter hours or some other perks for making stuff for the project, and you also gain having peasants that are trained to think they have to pay their taxes one way or another. How hard you work the peasants depends in large part on just how many of them you want to take the pay-in-work option instead of the pay-in-goods option - that means you really can't work them as hard as slaves, or too many will pick the pay-in-goods option, but if you make it a token duty, they'll all pick pay-in-work, and you don't want that either, so you set up a system where you pass out some prizes for best team, bonuses in beer, and such so just the right percentage pick work.

It's technically better than slavery. In fact, it's a precurser to modern wage slavery. The Egyptians practically invented giving people a token reward that makes them feel they are doing better than being slaves, but doesn't cost all that much, AND finding something more controllable than a war to occupy the masses idle time.

about a month ago
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How the Ancient Egyptians (Should Have) Built the Pyramids

Artifakt Re:They made the blocks into wheels (202 comments)

Cradles have actually been found in archaological excavations, as the original article mentions. However, it also says the cradles as found don't have holes for ropes to tie them around the blocks, so we could be looking at a not very efficient design, for example one where the 'cradels" were really rockers which lay loose on the ground, and the workers have to keep building chains of rockers ahead of the blocks, piching up the trail or frockers as the block is moved, etc., or there's something we are missing, or the Egyptians didn't use these things for moving blocks (that last possibility seems really odd since the size of a cradle's straight edge seems to match really well with the correspondiing edge of the blocks). There's just enough ambiguity that professionals don't want to say the question is totally answered. The cradles actually found also don't really explain how bigger blocks, such as the 50 ton+ ones used to form the vaults over the inner chambers, and various statues and pylons were moved, but they could in principle. maybe someday, somebody will find some bigger cradles that match other objects equally well...

I'm going to propose the cradles were assembled around the blocks into rollers, but they were glued on. I have no evidence for that last, but what the hell.
I'd also like to point out, wood is somewhat scarce in that particular environment, and wooden items have both a low rate of preservation over archeological time and a high rate in post-dynastic days of getting burnt for fuel by people who didn't care about old stuff unless they could sell it, so we may never find ways to settle this question.
     

about a month ago

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