Home Blog

How Google Maps for BlackBerry Devices Works


Download Google Maps on a BlackBerry



On your BlackBerry, you can get directions, check traffic and send e-mails.

© Eric Van Den Brulle/Getty Images

Google Maps for BlackBerry is free, available in more than 20 countries and really easy to install. It’s compatible with any BlackBerry model with a color display, starting with model 7120 and including the current BlackBerry Pearl, Curve and 8800 models. You’ll also need Internet data service from your mobile provider to be able to access a Google Map and location information.

You can download Google Maps in either of two ways:

1. Go to Google Maps and enter your mobile phone number. Google will send a link to use for downloading.

2. You can also enter www.google.com/gmm on your BlackBerry browser and follow the installation instructions, which will be specific for your type of phone. In fact, Google will do a test first to make sure your BlackBerry model is compatible with Google Maps before trying to go forward with the installation.

Note that while Google Maps software is free, you may incur data charges in using it to access maps. Your mobile service provider can provide more information about specific charges. Many companies offer an unlimited monthly data plan, and that may be the cheapest way to go if you access the Internet frequently from your BlackBerry.

Maybe you’d like to try an interactive demo before you download Google Maps. You can try it out your PC by visiting the Google Maps Web site. You’ll be able to search for locations or directions and see search results, maps and satellite images as they would appear on your BlackBerry’s screen.

If your company offers the BlackBerry Enterprise edition of Google Maps, you’ll be able to use all of its features without downloading directly to your corporate BlackBerry device. Instead, your company’s information technology administrator will install the application remotely to your BlackBerry. When the Enterprise edition is updated several times a year, the administrator will send these upgrades directly to your BlackBerry. If you want to know more about installing the Enterprise edition for your company as a whole, visit the Google Maps Web site.

Once you have Google Maps downloaded onto your BlackBerry, you’ll want to start using it. Keep reading to find out more about its features.

Your Location Without GPS

Newer BlackBerry models, such as the Pearl, Curve and 8800 models, have a built-in global positioning system (GPS) that you can use to pinpoint your location. But if you have an older model with a color display (7100 or later), you can use Google Maps’ "My Location" feature to show your location without GPS.

How does it work? Mobile towers have individual coverage areas called cells. Google associates information such as anonymous GPS readings with the cells to create a database of cell locations. Then various algorithms are applied to approximate a Blackberry user’s location related to the nearest cells. The more mobile towers and cells in the area, the more accurate the estimation of your location will be. Google expects accuracy to be within 1,000 meters, or 3,280 feet.

So if you want to find the nearest coffee shop, you don’t need to start by entering your current address. Just type "coffee shop" to get results. And you don’t need to download anything beyond just Google Maps to use this feature.

How Google Maps for BlackBerry Devices Works



Google maps for BlackBerry devices let you search for directions from wherever you are.

Sean Justice/Getty Images

You’ve just gotten off the plane, which arrived late, and hopped into your rental car. Your client is waiting for you at a restaurant across town, and you’re going to be late. You need to double-check directions to the restaurant, check traffic to find the best route and contact the client to apologize for the delay to say you’ll be there within a certain time.


While it may sound like you need a combination of maps, radio traffic reports and a phone book, you can check it all by using Google Maps on your BlackBerry device. The success of the actual meeting will be up to you.


With Google Maps for BlackBerry, you can enter your airport car rental location and the restaurant’s name to get directions and a Google Map, as well as the restaurant’s address and phone number. You can check local traffic and get a map that shows how fast you can expect to travel on major routes (currently available for 30 U.S. metropolitan areas) to estimate your time. And if you don’t have the client’s cell phone number, you can find the restaurant’s number on Google, have the client paged and give him or her your approximate arrival time.


Or let’s say your plane arrived early in the morning, and you want a cup of your favorite beverage before meeting your client. Is your favorite coffee shop open, and where’s the nearest location? Just drop in the brand name or "coffee shop," and Google Maps will show you where to get your java hit and how to get there. Just use the phone number from Google to give the store a quick call to make sure it’s open.


But how easy is it to install Google Maps onto your BlackBerry? With which models is it compatible? And how can you take advantage of its features? Let’s start with how easy it is to download Google Maps.

What happens to your discarded old computer?


Recycling Old Computers



This woman in Guiyu, China, was about to smash the cathode ray tube off a computer monitor to retrieve the copper-laden yoke. The lead-laden glass is a hazard, and toxic phosphor dust coats the inside of the monitor.

Photo courtesy Basel Action Network 2001

Recycling old computers can be accomplished when people follow proper, valid channels. When the recycling trend is on the upswing, the market inevitably starts to respond. Manufacturers are taking back some old electronics from customers and recycling or refurbishing them. In certain instances, companies are improving their products so they contain fewer toxins to begin with. Some companies are doing this voluntarily; others are being forced by government regulations. Legitimate e-waste recycling centers with on-site facilities are also springing up in various cities.

But the sad reality is that for years — and even to this day — many so-called recycling operations are simply collection points. Collected electronic devices and parts are sold to scrap brokers, who ship this cargo to developing nations for deconstruction.

So why bother transporting e-waste? Why not recycle it right where it is? Like many aspects of the global economy, the cost of shipping e-waste is more than made up for by the cheap labor available at its destination. Recycling electronics in developing nations (including China, India, Pakistan, Ghana, Nigeria and Ivory Coast)­ is achieved at a fraction of what it would cost in developed countries. Part of the savings also stems from the fact that occupational and environmental laws tend to be weaker in those regions.

Once the e-waste arrives in these economically challenged regions, laborers earn their incomes by recycling these old computers, TVs and cell phones for their core components. And the process is ugly.

In some communities, the young, the old and everyone in between dismantle e-waste every day. Laborers smash and unhinge devices, spraying toxic shrapnel all over the ground, where people with no shoes walk. Then workers employ a variety of methods to track down and remove the metals from objects like circuit boards, semiconductors and wires.

Fire can burn away the flame-retardant cocoons that cradle copper wiring, releasing soot and smoke into the air. Fire also melts the metal off circuit boards and other electronic organs. This allows workers to harvest gold, lead, copper and other materials from the burned plastic husks.

Another method is an acid bath. Soaking the circuit boards in powerful solutions of nitric and hydrochloric acids (highly corrosive to human tissue in strong concentrations) can free the metals from their etched electronic pathways. This process is often done by hand. After that, the recovered resources are sold and re-enter the manufacturing cycle.

The acid, hazardous waste and worthless byproducts are often burned or find their way into local water sources, often by outright dumping. Tests performed on the air and soil that surrounds large recycling operations show a high level of pollution. Researchers are studying how this e-waste recycling affects the local populations. Preliminary reports are expected to show negative results.

Now you have a better idea of the sad journey your computer may have taken after it left the warmth and security of your home office. Continue to the next page for great links about how you can properly dispose of your next outdated, broken computer.

What Goes Around, Comes Around

Many developed nations seem to operate on the "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" principle, but their e-waste excesses could be coming back to haunt them. Researchers think products like the recent surge of lead-loaded jewelry from China are indications we’ll see a turnaround in the trade flow of toxins. The jewelry was especially suspicious because it also contained copper and tin, suggesting the producers derived the alloy from recycled circuit boards [source: Carroll].

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • How Computer Monitors Work
  • How E-waste Works
  • How PCs Work
  • How Microprocessors Work
  • How Landfills Work
  • How Recycling Works
  • Is what we’re recycling actually getting recycled?
  • Where can I recycle my old electronics?
  • Why do CRTs contain lead?
  • Lead Poisoning Dictionary

More Great Links

  • Basel Action Network
  • E-cycling Center
  • Electronic Product Environment Assessment Tool
  • Electronics Take Back Coalition
  • WEEE Man Project


  • "A Metals Primer." Dartmouth Toxic Metals Research Program. 10/19/2007. (5/21/2008) http://www.dartmouth.edu/~toxmetal/TX.shtml
  • Carroll, Chris. "High-Tech Trash." National Geographic. 1/2008. (5/20/2008) http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/01/high-tech-trash/carroll-text
  • Chopra, Anuj. "Developing countries are awash in e-waste." San Francisco Chronicle. 3/30/2007. (5/21/2008) http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/ article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/03/30/MNGNNOUHQL1.DTL
  • "Directive 2002/96/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 January 2003 on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE)." Office Journal of the European Union. 2/13/2003. (5/21/2008) http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file29931.pdf
  • Downing, Bob. "Recyclers bracing for deluge of devices: Switch to digital television e-scrap in Summit." Akron Beacon Journal. 2/21/2008. (5/21/2008) http://www.ohio.com/news/15830757.html
  • Greenemeier, Larry. "Laws Fail to Keep up with Mounting E-Trash." Scientific American. 11/29/2007. (5/19/2008) http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=laws-trash-epa-waste
  • Greenemeier, Larry. "Trashed Tech: Where Do Old Cell Phones, TVs and PCs Go To Die." Scientific American. 11/29/2007. (5/19/2008) http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=trash-tech-pc-tv-waste
  • Ladou, Joseph and Lovegrove, Sandra. "Export of Electronics Equipment Waste." International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health. 1/2008-3/2008. (5/21/2008)
  • "Management of Electronic Waste in the United States." Environmental Protection Agency. 11/2007. (5/20/2008) http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/ hazwaste/recycle/ecycling/docs/fact11-07.pdf
  • Puckett, Jim et al. "Exporting Harm: The High-Tech Trashing of Asia." 2/25/2002. (5/21/2008) http://www.ban.org/E-waste/technotrashfinalcomp.pdf
  • "Recycling Your Computer: Which Computer Companies Will Take Your Old Computer?" Computer TakeBack Campaign. 3/16/2007. (5/21/2008) http://www.computertakeback.com/docUploads/Using_Takeback_ Programs_v9.pdf
  • Selin, Henrik and VanDeveer, Stacy. "Raising Global Standards." Environment. 12/2006. (5/20/2008)
  • Sinha, Satish. "Downside of the Digital Revolution: The Issue of E-Waste." Toxics Links. (5/21/2008) http://www.unep.fr/scp/marrakech/consultations/ national/pdf/NatRoundtable_India2007_BackgroundPapers.pdf
  • Wang, Thanh. "E-waste recycling centers are hot spots for POPs." Environmental Science and Technology. 3/14/2007. (5/21/2008) http://pubs.acs.org/subscribe/journals/esthag-w/2007/mar/science/ tw_ewaste.html
  • "WEEE Man Project." The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce. 2006. (5/20/2008) http://www.weeeman.org/index.html
  • "Where does e-waste end up?" Greenpeace International. (5/20/2008) http://www.greenpeace.org/international/campaigns/toxics/electronics/ where-does-e-waste-end-up

What happens to your discarded old computer?


Dangers of Old Computers



Landfills don’t make the best retirement communities for your old computers.

Marina Dodis/Photographer’s Choice RR/Getty Images

So where do these electronic relics go to retire? Between 2003 and 2005, as much as 85 percent of the disposed electronics in the U.S. went straight in the trash and headed directly to local landfills or incinerators [source: EPA]. Worldwide, as much as 50 million tons of old electronics are discarded annually [source: Carroll].

Some of you may be thinking, "So what? All my other garbage goes to the landfill, why not my old computer?" But let’s think back to what we touched on briefly on the previous page — the potentially lethal chemical combination that could seriously harm the environment if not properly handled.

The dangers of discarded, old computers stem from what’s inside them. Your typical piece of electronic equipment — especially one like a PC with many circuit boards — may contain up to 8 pounds (3.6 kilograms) of lead, along with lower levels of mercury, arsenic, cadmium, beryllium and other toxic chemicals [source: Downing]. These elements are all toxic at varying exposure levels. There is also a fairly poisonous family of flame-retardant chemicals used in most electronics. Find out how lead affects the body by reading Why do CRTs contain lead?

Many of the aforementioned hazardous chemicals and toxic substances are known to cause health problems — and in some cases death — when exposure occurs in large doses. Less is known about the dangers of exposure in small doses over a long period of time, like elevated levels of toxic chemicals in the water supply or inhalation of chemicals by factory workers. It’s safe to assume the effects aren’t good.

As you may imagine, landfills are a particularly harsh hotbed for pollutants. In the U.S., e-waste accounts for approximately 4 percent of the total amount of trash, but it contributes about 40 percent of the lead content in landfills. Of the other heavy metals in landfills, e-waste accounts for about 70 percent of that pollution [source: Downing]. While most landfills are strategically located in an attempt to contain potential soil and water contamination, having this much hazardous waste on the ground may be cause for concern.

There is an even darker side as to what might await your discarded, old PC. In the U.S., even if you made a well-intentioned effort to properly recycle your computer, there’s a 50 to 80 percent chance that your computer didn’t end up where you thought it would [source: Ladou].­ Continue to the next page to learn more about your ex-computer’s potential world tour.

What happens to your discarded old computer?



You traded in that cumbersome, old monitor for a swanky new flat screen. But where does the old monitor end up? See our collection of computer hardware pictures.

Stephen Swintek/Stone/Getty Images

Remember how good it felt the last time you hauled your clunky, old computer and monitor out to the curb and went back inside to turn on your shiny, new PC? Well as it turns out, that quick trip to the trash wasn’t the best idea you ever had.

A growing number of advocacy groups are working to educate the public on what happens to their discarded, old computers and why they may want to take more precautions when disposing them. What many of us don’t realize is that our electronics and other household electrical gadgets are potential Molotov cocktails, filled with unsavory heavy metals and toxic chemicals.

Before we talk about the dangers, let’s first examine how ubiquitous these types of products have become in the U.S. and around the world. Americans own billions of electronic products, including 200 million computers [source: Downing].

With high technology turnover and obsolescence rates, in the next five years, about a billion computers around the world will be discarded [source: Ladou]. And how quickly are we discarding computers in the U.S.? The Environmental Protection Agency ­estimates 20 million computers were thrown out in 1998. By 2005, that number had more than doubled, with estimates at 130,000 computers being discarded daily [source: EPA]. In addition to computers, Americans toss out millions of cell phones and TVs each year. On the other side of the pond, Europeans discard about 6.5 million tons of household electronic items each year [source: WEEE Man Project].

The technical term for all this high-tech garbage is e-waste. It refers to products like TVs and computers (including keyboards, monitors, ­mouses, printers, scanners and other accessories). E-waste also includes cell phones, DVD players, video cameras and answering machines. The term refers to any products that use electricity, like refrigerators, toasters, lamps, toys, power drills, and pacemakers. For simplicity’s sake, this article will refer to all of these devices as electronics. For a more in-depth look at e-waste and what it involves, read How E-waste Works.

We’ll examine what lies underneath the outer casing of your discarded computer and other e-waste, and why you should care what happens to it after you give it the big heave-ho.

Anti-Vaccine Movement Joins Ebola, Drug Resistance on List of Top Global Threats


A new list of top global health threats from the World Health Organization (WHO) reads like a "who's who" of public health hazards: Pandemic flu. Ebola. Drug resistance. But tucked in this list of much-talked-about threats is one perhaps-surprising inclusion: the anti-vaccine movement.

The list, released this week, highlighted "10 of the many issues that will demand attention from WHO and health partners in 2019," the organization said in a statement. And the anti-vaccine movement, which the list refers to as "vaccine hesitancy," made the cut.

Vaccines prevent 2 million to 3 million deaths a year globally. However, vaccine hesitancy — defined as delays in vaccination or refusal of vaccines despite the availability of vaccination services — threatens to reverse progress being made against infectious diseases, the WHO said. [5 Dangerous Vaccination Myths]

For example, measles — a vaccine-preventable disease — has seen a 30 percent rise in cases globally in recent years, and vaccine hesitancy may have played a role in that increase. In fact, some countries that were close to eliminating the measles have now seen a resurgence in cases, the WHO said.

The inclusion of vaccine hesitancy in the WHO's list of global health threats puts a focus on the "danger of this movement," said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore.

If this list had been made 100 years ago, all of the top 10 health threats would have been infectious diseases, Adalja said. But that's not the case today, and that's because of vaccines. "Vaccine hesitancy threatens to undo a lot of that progress," Adalja told Live Science.

Adalja also noted that another health threat on the WHO's 2019 list is "noncommunicable," or noninfectious, diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

But in years past, "you wouldn't even live to get many of these noncommunicable diseases," Adalja said. "The fact that noncommunicable disease are included is a testament to how powerful vaccines are."

Vaccine hesitancy is a complex problem to tackle, the WHO said. Indeed, the reasons for refusing vaccines can differ depending on the individual, Adalja said. Some people question the safety of vaccines, even though numerous studies show that vaccines are safe and effective. Other people may think their children are getting "too many vaccines" over a short period and so ask to have the vaccines spread out. But such "alternative vaccination schedules" put children at risk for contracting preventable infectious diseases.

When a patient shows vaccine hesitancy, doctors need to figure out what that individual's concerns are and "provide facts and evidence for why vaccination is the best course of action" Adalja said.

Another reason for vaccine hesitancy is complacency, when people perceive the risks of infectious diseases as low, the WHO said, even though these diseases are real threats.

Adalja said he would like to see today's society better embrace vaccines and their life-saving benefits, as was the case, for example, in the 1950s when news of the release of the polio vaccine was met with much public jubilation.

"We need to get back to that era where vaccines were celebrated the way a new iPhone [is]," Adalja said.

Other important global health threats on WHO's list include: Climate change — which is predicted to lead to an additional 250,000 deaths each year from factors such as malnutrition, heat stress and malaria; weak primary health care services; dengue fever; HIV; and fragile and venerable settings, including those affected by ongoing crises such as famine, conflict and population displacement.

  • 6 Flu Vaccine Myths
  • 27 Devastating Infectious Diseases
  • The 9 Deadliest Viruses on Earth

Originally published on Live Science.

Opal-Filled Fossils Reveal Timid, Dog-Size Dinosaur That Lived Down Under


When Mike Poben, an opal buyer and and fossil fanatic, bought a bucket of opal from an Australian mine, he was surprised to find to find what looked like an ancient tooth in the pile.

Later, he also found a fossilized jaw piece — one that was shiny and glistening with opal.

After showing the two opalized specimens to paleontologists in 2014, Poben learned that they were part of a previously unknown dog-size dinosaur species, a new study finds. This dino lived about 100 million years ago in Australia, back when the landscape was lush and dotted with lakes. [Photos: Meet Wade, the Long-Necked Dinosaur from Down Under]

The fossils originally came from a mine in Wee Warra, near the town of Lightning Ridge in New South Wales. The mine's amazing name gave the paleontologists an opportunity that was too good to pass up, so they named the newfound Cretaceous-age dinosaur Weewarrasaurus pobeni.

"Weewarrasaurus was a gentle herbivore about the size of a kelpie dog [a type of Australian herding dog]," said study lead researcher Phil Bell, a senior lecturer of paleontology at the University of New England in Australia. "They got around on two legs and had a long tail used for balance. Because they were small and didn't have horns or particularly sharp claws for defense, they were probably quite timid and would have traveled in small herds or family units for protection."

In that sense, these dinosaurs were likely the kangaroos of Cretaceous Australia, Bell told Live Science. "I think I would have liked one as a pet."

Opals glisten on the jaw fossils of Weewarrasaurus pobeni.
Credit: Robert A. Smith, courtesy of the Australian Opal Centre

The finding is remarkable, and not just because Poben happened across the fossils in an opal-filled bucket. It's extremely rare to find opalized fossils in general, though "Lightning Ridge is the only place in the world where you find opalized dinosaurs," Bell said.

During the Cretaceous, Lightning Ridge was a flood plain where dinosaurs lived, Bell said. Most of the opalized fossils found there came from marine creatures that lived in a nearby ancient sea. These iridescent fossils include shells, cephalopods known as belemnites and marine reptiles called plesiosaurs.

But sometimes, an opalized dinosaur is also uncovered.

"Occasionally, a bone from a land animal, like a dinosaur, would wash out to sea" and fossilize, Bell said. There, they may encounter silica minerals in the water, the solution that makes opal. Sometimes when these bones fossilized into rock, these minerals would accumulate in in the fossils' cavities, laying down opal. Other times, if the organic bone was still present, these silica minerals could take its shape, preserving its internal structure as opal, according to Geology In, a news site focused on Earth sciences.

Unfortunately, the rest of W. pobeni, at least this particular specimen, is likely lost and gone forever.

"Because these things are exhumed by opal miners, lots of other information is often lost, like their exact position in the mine and any other fossils that were found around it," Bell said. "We know of plenty of cases where a miner has brought up a handful of bones from a single animal. The rest of the thing might have been destroyed in the mining process or sitting in a waste pile at the bottom of the mine."

Poben has since donated the fossils to the Australian Opal Centre, a museum that holds the world's largest collection of opalized fossils, according to National Geographic.

The study was published online in December in the journal PeerJ.

  • Images: Denali National Park's Amazing Dinosaur Tracks
  • Photos: New Triceratops Cousin Unearthed
  • Photos of Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs

Originally published on Live Science.

Did the Vikings Think the Gods Were Watching Them?


Today, the name "Thor" likely conjures up an image of a well-muscled Chris Hemsworth playing the Norse-inspired superhero on the big screen. For the actual Vikings, the god of thunder may have similarly been admired for his great feats — but certainly not for his moral fortitude.

New research suggests that Vikings didn't look to their pantheon of gods for moral enlightenment, nor did they expect the gods to punish wrongdoers.

Despite their lack of all-knowing, moralizing gods, the Vikings developed a complex society. That suggests that even belief in smaller deities can spur human cooperation, researchers reported in December 2018 in the journal Religion, Brain & Behavior.

"From the Viking perspective, there seems to be a number of supernatural beings that facilitate cooperation," said study author Ben Raffield, an archaeologist at Uppsala University in Sweden. [Fierce Fighters: 7 Secrets of Viking Seamen]

Thor, Odin, Freyja and the other Norse gods are well-known names even today, but figuring out what the Vikings actually believed about them is a tricky business. Prior to the arrival of Christian missionaries and travelers starting around A.D. 800, the people of Scandinavia didn't write much of anything down. The sagas, poems and ballads that record the tales of the Norse pantheon were all written down relatively late, between the 12th and 14th centuries, Raffield told Live Science. When the tales were written down, Christians or people who'd come in contact with Christians were the ones doing the writing — meaning it's hard to say whether Christian values had colored the tales.

Still, the sagas and poems do reveal some information about pre-Christian Scandinavian belief, Raffield said, particularly when combined with archaeological evidence. He and his colleagues analyzed common Viking artifacts and multiple texts, including the Poetic Edda, the Prose Edda, several sagas and traveler accounts. [Image Gallery: Viking Voyage Discovered]

The study is part of an ongoing anthropological debate over whether supernatural beliefs form the scaffolding of complex societies. Some evidence from history and psychology studies suggests that a god or gods can keep people in line with the threat of punishment, thus increasing cooperation, even among strangers. But if this is true, it's not entirely clear whether a "big" god like the all-knowing god of the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths is necessary, or if any sort of monitoring by otherworldly beings will do the trick.

The Vikings were an intriguing case study for the question of whether a god or gods can help facilitate the development of a complex society, because they went through major changes between around A.D. 750 and A.D. 1050. At the beginning of this period, Scandinavia was peopled by small tribes. By the end, it was a hierarchical society of kingdoms, politics and laws that was capable of launching seafaring expeditions all the way to North America. Raffield and his co-authors wanted to know if moralizing high gods, or "big" gods like the God of the Bible, were necessary for this transformation.

Their findings suggest that they were not. The sagas, poems and artifacts of the old Norse people do indicate that Vikings believed that supernatural beings were watching them. They swore oaths by the gods and sometimes wore oath rings dedicated to the god Ullr. Some war helmets bore a gold-and-garnet eye representing the eye of the god Odin. Scandinavian contracts mentioned gods, and characters in sagas who failed to make sacrifices to the gods often died in awkward ways. (One popular fate was to get impaled on one's own sword.)

But the Viking gods did not seem to be "big" gods, Raffield said. They weren't supremely powerful — in fact, Norse mythology holds that they weren't even immortal, but were fated to die in a cataclysm called Ragnarök — and they weren't omnipotent. They weren't even the first beings: According to the Prose Edda, Odin and his brothers were born of the first man (licked out of a salty ice block by a cow) and the daughter of a frost giant. And, morally speaking, they were kind of a mess.

"They might, or might not, punish those who violated social norms, and in some cases they actively engineer situations that were designed to harm humans, for no other reason than because they could, because that is what made them powerful," Raffield said. "So, it seems that they were not especially concerned about upholding moral standards, or punishing humans who failed to do so."

These findings indicate that big, omnipotent gods weren't necessary for a society to become more complex, Raffield said. They also point to a system of belief quite unlike most of the major world religions today. The Vikings also believed in a number of nondeity supernatural forces, Raffield said. These included elves, dwarfs, ogres, trolls and giants, any of whom could meddle in human affairs. [Supernatural Powers? Tales of 10 Historical Predictions]

"You would have been wise not to anger any of them if you wished to live to old age, but, again, there is no evidence to suggest that these beings would hold you to any form of behavioral code, nor follow one themselves," Raffield said.

In fact, the Vikings may not have viewed the gods as the most important factor in their success or failure at all, he said. Perhaps more important was the concept of fate. One group of spirits, the disir, was said to determine a person's fate by favoring or neglecting him; some cast lots or wove cloth to determine the events of a person's life.

"So perhaps the gods were less influential than we today would ordinarily perceive them to be," Raffield said.

By the same definition of morality, Greek and Roman gods were similarly capricious and amoral, Raffield said, but both of those societies were extremely complex. Perhaps any sort of god could prompt widespread cooperation, he said — or perhaps supernatural forces aren't so crucial to complexity after all.

"I'd certainly like to think that humans have the capacity to live and work together without relying on the intervention of supernatural beings," Raffield said, "but I am in no way qualified to answer that one."

  • 25 Cultures That Practiced Human Sacrifice
  • 7 Bizarre Ancient Cultures That History Forgot
  • 10 Biggest Historical Mysteries That Will Probably Never Be Solved

Originally published on Live Science.

A Rare Kind of Black Hole May Be Wandering Around Our Milky Way


Scientists think that they've spotted a rare, Jupiter-size black hole casually strolling through the Milky Way galaxy.

Of course, scientists can't see any black holes directly — but new research tracking a celestial cloud structure saw strange behavior that may have been caused by just such an invisible object. That data came courtesy of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), a set of 66 telescopes scattered across the Atacama Desert in northern Chile.

"When I checked the ALMA data for the first time, I was really excited because the observed gas showed obvious orbital motions, which strongly suggest an invisible massive object lurking," lead author Shunya Takekawa, a physicist at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, told New Scientist.

Takekawa and his colleagues were using ALMA to study two gas clouds, which the team nicknamed Balloon and Stream for their shapes, during a two-day period in May 2018. During that time, they watched the gas moving strangely, seeming to spin around a center.

That movement allowed the team to calculate that 30,000 times the mass of our sun was packed into an object the size of Jupiter at the center of the movement. Those characteristics, combined with the lack of light coming from the location, suggest that the culprit is medium size for a black hole.

Scientists think tiny black holes and supermassive black holes are pretty common, but that there aren't a whole lot of medium-size black holes. Astronomers believe they've spotted two other black holes in this size range near the heart of the Milky Way. All three, if future observations continue to see evidence for them, may be escapees from the giant black hole at our galaxy's center.

The research is described in an article posted to the preprint server arXiv.org on Dec. 27.

Email Meghan Bartels at mbartels@space.com or follow her @meghanbartels. Follow us @Spacedotcom and Facebook. Original article on Space.com.

Small Terrapin Outsmarts Young Lion in Wild Video


Without a doubt, lions are fierce predators, capable of taking down enormous African buffalo and ripping their tough hide to shreds. But a new video shows how one adorable young lion seems to have met its match in a small but well-armored terrapin.

In this exclusive clip from BBC America's new series "Dynasties," a young lion discovers a marsh terrapin waddling through the grass. Curious, and perhaps hungry for a snack, the lion investigates the shelled reptile, pawing the potential prey and lifting it up in its mouth. The terrapin huddles tightly in its hard shell for protection, never yielding to the lion's torment.

Losing patience, the young lion drops the terrapin upside-down, and slumps away. As soon as the coast is clear, the clever terrapin uses its neck to flop itself right-side-up and marches straight into the water, away from any other potentially curious predators. 

The lion featured in the video is a member of the Marsh Pride of Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve. The Masai Mara is a large game reserve famous for its impressive wildlife, including leopards, cheetahs, zebras, wildebeests and gazelles. The area is also home to several formidable prides of lions.

BBC America followed the Marsh Pride and its female leaders, Charm and Sienna, in the new documentary series "Dynasties." The show chronicles the trials and tribulations of lions living in the African savannah — the struggle to capture prey, competition with rival lion prides and deadly encounters with humans.

A young lion cub in Kenya’s Masai Mara.
Credit: Simon Blakeney/BBC America

African lions (Panthera leo) are scattered throughout central and eastern portions of the continent, and their populations have dropped by nearly 50 percent in the last two decades, according to BBC America. Only around 20,000 lions remain in the wild, with fewer than 2,000 in Kenya. The primary threats to their population come from human-caused habitat loss due to farming, ranching and urban development, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).

Lion prides typically consist of several adult females and their offspring and occasionally a lucky adult male. Otherwise, male lions are shunned from the pride as soon as they are old enough to compete with other males, at around 2 to 4 years old, according to the Smithsonian National Zoo.

Although lions have a predatory instinct, they aren't born expert hunters; they must learn and practice their technique once they're old enough. Cubs don't start eating meat until around 3 months old, and they'll continue to nurse until they're about 6 months old.

As seen in this clip, young lions may eventually learn which prey animals provide the best return on their investment. Hunting a lumbering terrapin may seem easy, but the bounty leaves much to be desired for a hungry lion.

BBC America's "Dynasties" gives viewers an up-close-and-personal look into the family lives of five of the most celebrated and endangered animals on the planet. The first episode, "Lion," premieres Saturday, Jan. 19, on BBC America at 8 p.m. EST/7 p.m. CST. Viewers can also watch the first episode for free online.

  • In Photos: A Lion's LIfe
  • Photos: The Biggest Lions on Earth
  • Look Quick: Gallery of the Fastest Beasts on Land

Originally published on Live Science.