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World’s Largest Underwater Cave Discovered by Divers, and It’s Full of Maya Secrets [Photos]

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It took ten months of intensive exploration, but researchers with the Great Maya Aquifer Project (GAM) discovered the world’s largest flood cave system. The subterranean caverns span an astonishing 347 kilometers (216 miles) and are reportedly full of lost secrets of the ancient Maya civilization.

Said underwater archeologist Guillermo de Anda, of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History:

“This immense cave represents the most important submerged archaeological site in the world. It has more than a hundred archaeological contexts, among which are evidence of the first settlers of America, as well as extinct fauna and, of course, the Maya culture.”

Credit: Herbert Meyrl/GAM

Science Alert reports that de Anda is presently in charge of GAM. For decades, the research effort has explored underwater caves in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. Approximately 358 submerged cave systems are located in the region, making up approximately 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) of flooded freshwater tunnels. Recently, the organization made its biggest discovery yet. 

The Sac Actun System was first believed to be two different cave systems. Upon further exploration, however, the underwater explorers determined another system called Dos Ojos (“two eyes”) is actually part of the Sac Actun System. Together, they form a mammoth continuous cavity.

Herbert Meyrl/GAM

“We came really close a few times. On a couple of occasions, we were a metre from making a connection between the two large cave systems,” Robert Schmittner, GAM exploration director told Mexican newspaper El Pais. “It was like trying to follow the veins within a body. It was a labyrinth of paths that sometimes came together and sometimes separated. We had to be very careful.”

The researchers’ hard work paid off, as the Sac Actun is now recognized as the largest underwater cave in the world. The second-largest is the Ox Bel Ha System, also located in Quintana Roo, which extends for 270 kilometers.

In many ways, the researchers’ work is just getting started. This is because Sac Actun may grow even larger. In fact, the underwater divers believe it could connect to three other underwater cave systems. In many of these unexplored pockets lie preserved Maya artifacts and human remains. The researchers are eager to find these treasures so their findings may be analyzed and documented.

Credit: Herbert Meyrl/GAM

De Anda told the Mexican media:

“We’ve recorded more than 100 archaeological elements: the remains of extinct fauna, early humans, Maya archaeology, ceramics, and Maya graves. It’s a tunnel of time that transports you to a place 10,000 to 12,000 years ago.”

Credit: Herbert Meyrl/GAM

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h/t Science Alert

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Awesome New Infrared Goggles Could Help Blind People ‘See’ Surroundings

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People who are blind or deal with low vision face a unique number of challenges in their daily lives, ranging from accessing published material to holding a job or living on one’s own.

However, emerging infrared technology under research could help the blind and visually impaired navigate the world around them using a pair of innovative goggles.

In new research recently published and yet to be peer-reviewed, Manuel Zahn and Armaghan Ahmad Khan at Germany’s Technical University of Munich explored how their 3D camera and haptic feedback armband can assist people with low vision.

“Even in the present era, visually impaired people face a constant challenge of navigation,” the pair wrote. “The most common tool available to them is the cane. Although the cane allows good detection of objects in the user’s immediate vicinity, it lacks the ability to detect obstacles further away.”

The two students’ design deploys two infrared cameras placed in a 3D-printed goggles prototype to get a stereoscopic view that is transformed by a small computer into a map of the user’s surroundings. The infrared gear also works in the dark. The armband then uses 25 actuators arranged in a grid that vibrates when users come close to objects while also assisting them in their orientation. As users walk near obstacles, the vibration intensity of the actuators increases.

In tests, subjects enjoyed roughly 98 percent accuracy while getting through obstacle pathways, with all five participants completing the course in their first run. After two additional runs, the volunteers were able to navigate the obstacles more rapidly.

Zahn and Khan frequently cited Microsoft’s Kinect motion detection system for the Xbox in their study, but the pair are confident that their own setup will be far smaller, cheaper and less conspicuous than the gaming device.

The new headset could offer an interesting opportunity for blind and partially sighted people to clear the myriad obstacles they face when performing regular tasks or navigating the world around them.

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Toddler Goes On $2000 Furniture-Shopping Spree On Mom’s Phone

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A New Jersey mom learned that keeping your browser open may not be the best idea as children, and even infants, become increasingly tech savvy.

Madhu Kumar was browsing Walmart’s furniture selection on their website and had added some items to her shopping cart but never checked out. She was shocked and confused when she started to receive a steady stream of packages from the big-box retailer.

Madhu immediately turned to her husband and two older children to find out who ordered the packages.

“I need one or two, why would we need four?” Madhu asked.

As it turned out, her toddler Ayaansh Kumar – who, at 22 months old, was barely learning to count – had gone on a $2,000 shopping spree while playing on his mother’s phone.

“It is really hard to believe that he has done this, but that’s what happened,” Ayaansh’s dad, Pramod Kumar, told NBC New York.

Among the packages were some that could barely be squeezed through the family’s front door at their home in Monmouth Junction.

Purchases included accent chairs, flower stands and a range of other household items that arrived throughout the week.

“He’s so little, he’s so cute, we were laughing that he ordered all this stuff,” his mom remarked.

From birth, young Ayaansh had observantly watched his family members engage in a range of activities from home – including shopping, attending classes, and going to school. And as it the case for many kids of his generation, he knows the basics of operating a smartphone.

The parents are still waiting for all of the boxes to arrive so that they can return them to their local Walmart. The retailer has already told the Kumars that they are eligible for a refund, but the parents plan to save at least a few items to remind them of their son’s first e-commerce adventure.

“Moving forward, we will put tough passcodes or face recognition so when he picks up the phone he finds it in locked condition,” his father said.

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