Monday, March 31, 2008

Combat Spy Plane



The US Army has a new concept: a six-inch robotic spy plane, modeled after a bat, that could gather data from smells, sights, and sounds in combat zones, then transmit the information back to a soldier in real time. A grant was awarded to the University of Michigan College of Engineering a five year, $10-million grant to turn concept into reality. The grant establishes the U-M Center for Objective Microelectronics and Biomimetic Advanced Technology, called COM-BAT for short.

A low-power tiny radar and a sensitive navigation system would help the bat maneuver even in night conditions. It would weigh about a quarter of a pound and use about 1 W of power. The bat's lithium battery would constantly be charging through energy scavenging from wind, solar, vibration and other sources.

The grant includes an options to renew for another five year period, with additional funding. So don't expect anything anytime soon...

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Earth Hour 2008



If you are one of the millions of people who checked yesterday and was sad to see no post, I apologize. On March 29, 2008, 8:00-9:00pm was Earth Hour, but I thought it was Earth Day, therefore had no computer access... That's a good place to start.

What is (was) Earth Hour 2008? Millions of people, across the globe, turned their lights off (and electronics, in my case) to make a statement, to help find new methods of reducing the strain on the environment, in hopes of reaching a solution to our climate change crisis.

Here is their heavyhearted advertisement:
video

According to the website, "Earth Hour 2008 made a difference. Millions of people around the world continuing the commitments we have made–changing our lives and encouraging others to do the same–will change the world."

If you didn't know about this until now, you're too late... But don't feel guilty, the countdown has already started for next year.

Friday, March 28, 2008

BC Forests Feeling Blue


A recent outbreak of mountain pine beetles has destroyed an area of 33.4 million acres of British Columbian pine tree forests. This has huge economic implications, as these forests are a major source of softwood lumber exports to the United States.

According to a news release posted on BC's website, these infesting insects have killed about 710 million cubic meters as of this month, which is up from 582 million cubic meters at the same time last year. The province estimates that about 76% of it will have been killed by 2015.

These tiny black critters lay their eggs in lodgepole and ponderosa pines. The hungry larvae the kill the trees by destroying their ability to absorb nutrients and water. They also carry a fungus that stains the wood blue, leaving a marker for everybody to see...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Draw The Line... Again



One of the most overlooked, yet increasingly pressing issues in conservation biology, is the current location of human-implemented borders. These include borders between countries, as well as borders on natural reserves of protected areas.

First, consider physical barriers between two nations, such as regions of fencing dividing Mexico and the United States. Due to the increasing rate of illegal immigration in the US, the government has chosen to remedy the situation by building massive fences. In fact, in the election year Washington plans to complete 670 miles of it. The problem? Now people will change their point of entry, clogging the same paths that some animals, like the rare jaguar, choose to use as well. Jaguar biologist Emil McCain said, "The border barriers are directly linked with the funneling of people into the last remaining habitats. Jaguars are very solitary animals, they can't move freely where there are a lot of people."

Now, consider other borders, as in the perimeters of natural reserves or national parks. In many cases, these borders were initially devised in order to preserve the habitats of a threatened or endangered species. So how could they be causing harm now? Well, as we all know, the climate is rapidly changing, and in turn has a huge impact on habitat. As the habitat changes, the animals within that habitat will likely relocate in order to live an optimal environment. The borders could potentially prevent their migration.

Perhaps it is time to reconsider where fences are built, and where borders are established.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Lets Go To Space



It will be possible before you know it. Xcor Aerospace, a California aerospace company, plans to enter the space tourism industry with a two-seat rocket ship capable of suborbital flights to altitudes of more than 60 kilometers above Earth.

The spacecraft, called The Lynx, is about the size of small private plane, and is expected to fly in 2010. It will take off from a runway like a normal plane, and reach a top speed of Mach 2 and an attitude of 60,000 meters. Then it would descend in a circling glide to a runway landing.

How much will it cost to get up there? Well, the ship will be flown by two pilots and carry up to six passengers, who will pay about U.S. $200,000 each. Apparently passengers will experience 4.5 minutes of weightlessness and will be able to unbuckle themselves to float in the cabin before returning to Earth.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Up In The Clouds



According to the 2008 Guinness Book of World Records the tallest living man is 37 year old Ukrainian Leonid Stadynk, who measures 8 feet, 5 inches (2.59 meters) tall and weighs 440lbs. Apparently his excessive growth started when he was 14 years old, after having brain surgery. He developed a pituitary gland tumor, causing it to secrete large amounts of growth hormone. This is referred to as acromegalic gigantism.

A news report from 2006 claims that he had grown 2cm in the previous year. Doctors assume that he will keep on going... Check the AP video below to see what he has endure:

video

Monday, March 24, 2008

Philippine Good Friday

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This home-video footage shows Philippine devotees reenacted Jesus Christ's suffering on Good Friday, by volunteering to have themselves nailed to crosses. The event started with a procession of men hitting their backs with bamboo sticks hanging from ropes. This act of self-flagellation is a common way to atone for sins. Soon they approached a mound where three crosses stood. Volunteers were then laid on the crosses and had nails driven through their palms and feet. Around 23 people, including 2 women, were scheduled to go through the crucifixions in three separate ceremonies in San Fernando City.

The Philippines is Asia's largest predominantly Roman Catholic country. Although church leaders frown upon the event, it has become a tourist attraction bringing in huge crowds of local and foreign tourists every year.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Fastest Evolving Animal



This is New Zealand's "living dinosaur" known as the tuatara. This creature is the only surviving member of a reptilian order Sphehodontia that lived with early dinosaurs and separated from other reptiles 200 million years ago in the Upper Triassic period.

A recent study by Professor David Lambert and his team from the Allan Wilson Center for Molecular Ecology and Evolution, examined DNA sequences from 8000 year old bones of ancient tuatara. Although the tuatara have remained physically unchanged over long periods of evolution, they are evolving at a DNA level faster than any other animal examined.

The tuatara rate is significantly faster than for animals including the cave bear, lion, ox and horse. Professor Lambert said: "What we found is that the tuatara has the highest molecular evolutionary rate that anyone has measured."

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Hunt



Several years ago, Kenneth Rose, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine anatomy professor found some curious bones while traveling through India. Unable to determine what sort of bones they were, he decided to store them in a drawer. In the spring of 2007, it finally hit him! The foot that he found appears to belong to the world's earliest known rabbit found so far, making it 3-4 million years older than its closest contemporary.

Past studies indicated that rabbits and hares evolved 35 million years ago from pikas - mouse-like mammals part of the order Lagomorpha. But Rose and his colleagues believe the new bones show rabbit-like features evolving as far back as the early Eocene (54.8 to 33.7 million years ago).

Robert Asher, zoologist from Cambrige University agreed with these assumptions: "The particular importance of this is that it documents the oldest occurrence of a crown lagomorph—that is, a lagomorph that shares a closer relationship to rabbits and hares to the exclusion of pikas."

Friday, March 21, 2008

Seattle Kicks Bottle Habit



San Francisco banned it first, then Chicago decided to tax it. Now Seattle is taking a stand against bottled water. Mayor Greg Nickels recently signed an executive order to stop the city from buying it. What does this mean exactly? No more bottled water at city facilities and events.

Last year the city spent $58,000 on bottled water, not including the true cost and carbon footprint. But this ban isn't just saving the city money. It proves to be major statement of their confidence in the city's municipal water supply + treatment systems. During the press release, Nickels said, "The people of Seattle own one of the best water supplies in the country, every bit as good as bottled water and available at a fraction of the price. When you add up the tremendous environmental costs of disposable plastic bottles clogging our landfills, the better choice is crystal clear."

Perhaps more cities will follow suit...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Dog Buzz



Meet BigDog: the most advanced quadruped robot on Earth. It can walk, run, jump, and climb on rough terrain while carrying heavy loads. BigDog is powered by a gasoline engine that drives a hydraulic actuation system. Its legs have the ability to absorb shock and recycle energy from one step to the next. BigDog is 1 meter long and stands 0.7 meters tall.

BigDog is being developed by Boston Dynamics. Their intentions are in creating robots that have rough-terrain mobility and can be taken any place where people and animals can go. There is an on-board computer that controls movements by use of numerous sensors. These sensors include joint positions, joint force, ground contact, ground load, a laser gyroscope, and a stereo vision system. The program is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA).

In separate trials BigDog ran 6.44 km/hour, climbed slopes up to 45 degrees, walked across rubble, and carried a 340 lb load. Check the video below to see BigDog in action:

video

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

More Trouble For Saiga



This is a saiga mother and its calf. The creature represents a trail mix of the natural world: the body of a deer, the head of a camel, and Gerard Depardieu's nose. They stand just under two feet at the shoulder and weigh less than 50 pounds. The function of their unusual nose is not certain, but it may serve to warm or filter air during frigid winters and vicious dust storms.

Saiga once lived in Alaska and Yukon, but vanished in North America when the last ice age ended. Their numbers have fallen 95% from an estimated 1 million animals 20 years ago. Now they only live on the isolated steppes of Central Asia, and are endangered due to over hunting.

The trouble doesn't stop for this hard-featured creature. According to a study that appears in a recent issue of The Open Conservation Biology Journal, their migration routes are in a jeopardy as well. The study tracked the animals via GPS collars in Mongolia and uncovered an extremely narrow corridor of habitat that connects two populations. This 'migration bottleneck' spans just over 4 km, and is threatened by herders with livestock, along with increased traffic from motor vehicles. According to Dr. Joel Berger, the Mongolian government has expressed interest in protecting the bottleneck.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Stone Age Hand Axes



Jan Meulmeester of the Netherlands, an amateur archaeologist, recently discovered 28 Stone Age hand axes in marine sand and gravel collected at the bottom of the North Sea.

The tools are estimated at about 100,000 years old, and were probably used to kill animals, considering that they were found with teeth, tusks, and fragments of mammoth bones. During the ice-age periods of the Paleolithic era, which ended about 10,000 years ago, the sea levels were much lower, and the North Sea was actually a grassland hunting ground.

The most impressive element to this find is the condition of the axes. "These axes are absolutely immaculate. They are as crisp as the day they were used," said Phil Harding of the U.K. nonprofit Wessex Archaeology. The 5 to 10 meters of gravel covering them provided the perfect environment for their preservation.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Old, But New



Earlier this month, Beena Sukumaran, a professor at Rowan University, and a number of students have developed a pedal-powered grain crusher. This is an entrepreneurial version of the successful Doctors Without Borders and Engineers Without Borders models.

The aluminum grain crusher can be attached to any bike mounted on a stand. When a rider begins to pedal, the back wheel turns a pulley that moves plates in the crusher that process grains until they're suitable for cooking.

Their aim was to create a device for people in developing countries to use to process various grains for cheap. Furthermore, it could also help generate income for people traveling from village to village.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Pet Cloning



Born in 2005, this Afghan Hound was cloned from adult cells by somatic nuclear cell transfer. An empty donor egg was taken from a mixed-breed bitch, and the DNA was taken from the skin cells of the to-be-cloned dog. The egg cell and DNA were then fused together and cultured to trigger embryo growth. The growing egg was then implanted into a Labrador surrogate mother. That's how Snuppy came to be.

That was in 3 years ago, and since Snuppy is still healthy, a new service is appearing. The South Korean biotech company: RNL Bio, affiliated with the Seoul National University lab, is offering dog owners the chance to clone their pets.

Earlier this year, a woman from California wanted her recently deceased pitbull terrier Booger to be recreated. They charged the woman $150,000 and used tissue extracted from its ear before it died.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Awareness Test

Before you read what's below, do the test in the following video, and pay close attention!

video

This is a recent commercial part of the London Transport ad campaign, aimed at reducing the number of cyclists that are hurt on roads. It is quite an interesting test, and really goes to show that human perception is not as dependable as we'd like to think. Only a portion of what you see actually enters your consciousness. From a legal standpoint, this test questions the reliability of eye-witness testimonies.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Frog Rediscovered



This is a picture of a Carrikeri Harlequin Frog. You'd think that with such a vibrant appearance it might be easy to spot. Not the case. Until a few months ago, when one was spotted in a northern Columbian forest, it hadn't been seen for about 14 years.

This rare find is extremely good news for quickly diminishing amphibian populations in rain forest regions. They are quite susceptible to infectious fungal diseases, and many have been forced to extinction. Most notably, the Golden Frog, native to the cloud forests of Central America, has vanished from sight and is assumed to be extinct.

"The rediscovery of [the Carrikeri] is the great news, but we have spent hours trying to find other frogs, and all our efforts have been unfruitful," biologist Luis Rueda said.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Heads Up!



On September 16, 2007, a meteor traveling at 24,000 km/hour struck into the southern Peruvian town of Carangas. This 1 to 2 meter-long boulder created a 15 meter deep crater, shown above two days after impact.

Previous theories stated that objects like this would break apart and scatter before reaching the ground. New analysis of particles at the crash site indicate that the meteor stayed intact as it streamed through the Earth's atmosphere. Research presented this month at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference suggests that the fragments were likely trapped and smoothed into an aerodynamic shape by the shock wave created by its movement through the atmosphere.

The meteor's surprising arrival is making the scientific community question how many more may have similarly crashed into Earth. Although, I can't help but wonder how many more are still to come...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Two Eyed Telescope

The world's most powerful telescope is now looking into space with both of its eyes wide open. The Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) partners have recently announced that it has successfully achieved first binocular light.

The first binocular light images have been released, and show three false-color renditions of the galaxy NGC 2770. The galaxy is 102 million light years from our Milky Way, and has a flat disk of stars and glowing gas.

The telescope is located on Mount Graham in southeastern Arizona, and cost $120 million to put together. This large optical telescope uses 2 massive 8.4 meter diameter primary mirrors mounted side-by-side. The mirrors, which have a unique honeycomb structure, are working in tandem and will be capable of operating as a single instrument.

Check out the news release video below for a more in depth look:

video

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dino Feather

In western France, seven dinosaur-era feathers have been found perfectly preserved in amber. The team of researchers is uncertain whether the feathers belonged to a bird or a dinosaur, since the 100 year-old plumage has similar features to fibers from both.

Either way, the amber-encased feathers show for the first time the transition from downy filaments toward an aerodynamic, planar shape that enabled flight. Perrichot and colleagues described their research last month in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Studies suggest that primitive feathers first evolved in flightless dinosaurs with the function of generating internal heat. It was not until much later on when feathers evolved for use in flight.

Monday, March 10, 2008

An Odd Octopus

Workers at the Blackpool Sea Life Center noticed something odd about a resident octopus named Henry while he was crawling up his tank's glass wall. He was first found three weeks ago in a lobster trap off the coast of Wales.

Henry has 6 legs, instead of the usual 8. The aquarium officials dubbed him a hexapus, and claim that he is the first of his kind ever documented. Experts say that the limb deficiency is due to genetic mutation, rather than an accident, and that the animal does not represent a new species.

"We've scoured the Internet and talked to lots of other aquariums, and no one has ever heard of another case of a six-legged octopus," said aquarium supervisor Carey Duckhouse.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Making Space For Advertising

This is one of the EISCAT 500MHz Ultra Frequency Radars located in Svalbard. On June 12th, it will be broadcasting the first ever advertisement into space. The transmission is being directed at a solar system 42 light years away from Earth, with planets orbiting the star '47 Ursae Majoris'. It is very similar to our Sun and is believed to host small terrestrial planets able to support life.

The advertisement will move at the speed of light and will continue for an indefinite period. The signal will pass the moon in 1.2 seconds. After 4.5 minutes it will pass Mars, and in under 9 minutes the signal will zip by the Sun. After 5.5 more hours it will travel past Pluto and exit our solar system.

The big question in your mind: "What's the ad?"

The British public is being asked to shoot a 30-second ad on their perspective of 'life on earth'. To my surprise, the competition is being run by Doritios, as part of its new 'You Make It, We Play It' campaign. It is being undertaken in association with experts + academics from the University of Leicester.

Oh, the ad will also be broadcast on terrestrial TV, so check back in June. That makes it three for Svalbard, my appreciation for the archipelago grows weekly. Check Frozen Seeds + Marine Monster Excavated

Saturday, March 8, 2008

White Whale Spotted



About 3 kilometers off Kanaga Volcano in Alaska's Aleutian Islands, US scientists have spotted an extremely rare white killer whale. The whale was spotted last month by crew aboard the Oscar Dyson, a research ship conducting an acoustic survey of Pollock, a whitefish, near Stellar sea lion haul-out sites.

It appeared to be a healthy, adult male about 7 to 9 meters long and weighing as much as 10,000 pounds. The whale's saddle area was white, but since other parts of its body had a yellowish/brownish color, it may not have been a true albino.

"I had heard about this whale, but we had never been able to find it," said Holly Fearnbach, a research biologist with the National Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle who photographed the rarity. "It was quite neat to find it."

Friday, March 7, 2008

Moon Ring

The Cassini spacecraft has detected what appears to be a large debris disk around Saturn's 1520 kilometer wide moon Rhea. If confirmed, it would be the first ring system ever found around a moon.

Scientists believe that the halo probably contains particles ranging from the size of grains to boulders. It's not certain how the rings have originated. One explanation may be that they came from an ancient asteroid/comet collision, which spattered material around Rhea.

The finding was described in a study published in the March 7 issue of the journal Science.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Dramatic Drunk


A team of researchers from the University of Aberdeen might have a new technique to clean contaminated ground and waste water. Their secret ingredient? A by-product of whiskey, called DRAM (Device for the Remediation and Attenuation of Multiple pollutants). The Glenfiddich distillery in Speyside has helped researchers through donations.

There are an estimated 330,000 contaminate sites in the UK, mostly in former industrial areas. The UK's annual estimated spend on land remediation or clean up is £1.2 billion. Until now there has been no single solution for treating contaminated groundwater, since different pollutants require different clean up methods that can be costly and take time.

Early test results suggest that DRAM removes pollutants more quickly and more cost effectively than current methods.

Dr. Graeme Paton said "Currently we are using the by-product of Scotland's most famous export but our technology can utilize other by-products from the food and beverage industry."

"The technology that we have developed here at Aberdeen is environmentally friendly, sustainable and has the potential to put Scotland at the forefront for remediation technologies."

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Oh Baby!



Meet iCub. This 1 meter tall baby robot, a project lead by University of Plymouth on ITALK (Integration and Transfer of Action and Language Knowledge in Robots), will be available next year. It will be used to study how a robot could quickly develop language skills.

ITALK plans to teach iCub how to speak, through similar methods that human parents would use. Experiments with iCub include activities like inserting uniquely shaped objects into their corresponding holes of a box or stacking wooden blocks. After this, the iCub will learn to name objects and actions so it can acquire basic phrases such as "robot puts cube in hole".

Professor Nehaniv, an affiliated researcher, said “Our approach is that robot will use what it learns individually and socially from others to bootstrap the acquisition of language, and will use its language abilities in turn to drive its learning of social and manipulative abilities. This creates a positive feedback cycle between using language and developing other cognitive abilities. Like a child learning by imitation of its parents and interacting with the environment around it, the robot will master basic principles of structured grammar, like negation, by using these abilities in context.”

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Cosmic Yellow Pages

The Milky Way has approximately 200 billion stars, at least half of which have orbiting planets. If you estimate that each solar system holds 5 planets, that means there are ~500 billion planets in our galaxy. Surely some of these planets have Earth-like conditions, allowing for evolution to occur. Perhaps civilizations have formed and technology has grown strong enough to emit signals.

Seti-scientists are listening in closely. 300 miles north of San Francisco, deep in the desert, the giant Allen Telescope Array is being expanded. Shown above, the array is a collective of computer-controlled radio antennas designed to work as one integrated unit. Eventually there will be 300 dishes searching for potential alien messages drifting through space.

Unfortunately, they've been searching for 50 years, and haven't heard a peep. In their defense, up until 1995, scientists didn't even know if planets existed beyond our solar system (exoplanets). This made it difficult for them to decide where exactly they should be looking.

Technology prevailed again, and a flurry of exoplanets have recently been discovered. More than 260 to be exact... but none of them anything like Earth. Then, in early 2007, an impressive discovery was made from an observatory in northern Chile. Astronomers found Gliese 581C: the smallest planet ever found orbiting a main sequence star. It was 5.5 times the mass of our planet, and appeared to be at the right distance from its star to support life. For now, other than its location, all other information about this planet is completely speculative.

In 2009, Nasa plans to launch Kepler, a space telescope looking for new worlds. It is designed to be sensitive enough to detect Earth-like planets, and will scan 100,000 stars, day + night, for four years. Nasa's calculations predict that at least 50 Earth-like planets should be found.

All of this information will be very useful for the Allen Telescope Array. Instead of aimlessly looking through the entire galaxy, they can focus their efforts only on planets capable of supporting life.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Extra Butter Please

The feud between activists and whaling fleets has been ongoing since last November. Recently, activists from a Sea Shepherd Conservation Society vessel have allegedly attacked a Japanese ship off the coast of Antarctica. Their method of "non-violent chemical warfare" was throwing containers filled with a mild form of acid made from rotten butter. Apparently, the acid stings if it comes in contact with the eyes.

Officials in Tokyo condemn these actions, claiming that four members of the Nisshin Maru's crew were injured. Sea Shepherd's Paul Watson, who is currently aboard the vessel, denies these allegations.

The Japanese plan to kill upwards of 900 minke whales + 50 fin whales during the expedition. According to their government, they pursue whaling for scientific research purposes. Critics are skeptical of their motivations, and claim that data can be collected without killing the whales.

Here is some footage from the activist's viewpoint:

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Here is some footage from the Japanese vessel's viewpoint:

video

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Nature's Architects



On the left is a typical termite mound; on the right is Zimbabwe’s largest office and shopping complex: The Eastgate Center. Both are built based on the same principles.

Termites build massive mounds inside of which they farm fungus, their primary food source. In Zimbabwe, the temperature outside of the mound ranges from 2 C at night, to 40 C during the day, but the fungus must be kept at exactly 31 C. The termites achieve this by frequently opening and closing a series of heating/cooling vents throughout the mound over the course of a day. Air is sucked in the lower part of the mound, down into the enclosures with muddy walls, and back up through a channel to the top of the mound.

The Eastgate Center has a ventilation system that operates similarly. At the start of the day the building is comfortably cool. During the day, the shining sun, machines and people generate heat, which is absorbed by the fabric of the building. Gradually the temperature inside increases. In the evening, when the outside temperature drops, the warm internal air is vented through chimneys. This movement is assisted by fans, but also rises naturally due to the less dense nature of hot air. This draws in cool air at the bottom of the building. The process continues over night until an ideal temperature has been reached for the next day.

By applying the termite's ventilation method, known as passive cooling, Eastgate uses only 10% of the energy needed by a similar conventionally cooled building.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Back To The Line

If you happen to be flying in a plane over western Peru, between the towns of Palpa and Nazca, make sure you look down. Chances are you will see some of the hundreds of Nazca lines, a series of geolyphs ranging in complexity from simple lines to stylized creatures. These include hummingbirds, spiders, fishes, sharks, llamas, lizards, and monkeys, as shown above. The figures exist within an area of 500 square kilometers, and the largest figures are nearly 270 meters long.

Small stones coated with iron oxide cover the surface of the Nazca desert. The lines are created by removing these pebbles, revealing the lighter-colored earth underneath.

These lines were created by the Nazca culture between 200 BC and 700 AD. However, the real questions to be asked are how and why, rather than when. Nobody really knows the answers, but there are always theories.

How?

Some suggest that the Nazca people made the lines using simple tools and surveying equipment. Using the technology available to the Nazca Indians of the time, a team of researchers lead by Joe Nickell managed to reproduce the figures without any aerial supervision.

Why?
  1. The Nazca lines can only be recognized as coherent figures from an aerial vantage point. For this reason, many believe that their motivation was to make images for gods to see from the skies.
  2. Others hypothesize that these lines suggest the Nazca Indians had some form of manned flight, specifically a hot air balloon, from which to view the lines themselves.
  3. Another theory suggests the lines were "walking temples," where a congregation of worshipers walked in the predetermined pattern of that particular holy entity.
  4. Lastly, in his book Chariots of the Gods, Erich von Daniken claimed that the lines were landing strips for alien spacecraft