Discovered: Viking treasure, NASA's snow angel, a Pyramid of the Sun offering, distracted doctors and the latest sobering anti-smoking statistic.

  • Holiday cheer from NASA: an 'rebeling' star, or a snow angel. This morning, NASA's Hubble telescope image taken earlier this month made the science Twitter and press release rounds. And it is a pretty amazing image, even if we're informed that "there is nothing peaceful about star forming region Sh 2-106, or S106 for short." If it wasn't December, would we look at the picture and think of a "snow angel" extending "outstretched 'wings' ... of heat and motion against the backdrop of a colder medium"? Well, yes. It's hard not to look at that image and see something sort of angelic. [NASAEurekalert]
  • Viking King's hoard of ancient treasure unearthed by hobbyist. The Guardian, our go-to UK news source for ancient Viking news, informs us that an amateur archaeologist described as a "metal detectorist" had unwittingly unearthed a treasure trove of silver loot "probably stashed for safe keeping around AD900." Lucky guy, Darren Webster, actually gets to keep half the reward for the arm bands and silver pieces he discovered while "using the metal detector his wife gave him as a Christmas present." His wife will surely be expecting a decent gift this holiday. [The Guardian]
  • Mexico's Pyramid of the Sun gives us a new mysterious-looking finding. Professional archaeologists, meanwhile, have unearthed a few ceremonial pots and a cryptic-looking green stone ceremonial mask (large image here) that were "laid on a sort of rubble base where the temple was erected about A.D. 50," the AP tells us. Take a look at that mask, it was described by the AP as "green serpentine stone mask so delicately carved and detailed that archaeologists believe it may have been a portrait." Regardless of the presumed ill-fate of the wearer (?) of the mask, it's photographed so perfectly that it looks like it could be a movie prop. [Associated PressHistory]
  • Doctors have a texting problem--during surgery.  It seems unbelievable to think medical technicians would be talking on cell phones or texting during heart surgery in any substantial number, but there is, sadly, a research link. In today's paper, The New York Times found more than just anecdotal evidence of a "distracted doctor" trend. "A peer-reviewed survey of 439 medical technicians ... found that 55 percent of technicians who monitor bypass machines acknowledged to researchers that they had talked on cellphones during heart surgery. Half said they had texted while in surgery." Yes, that was read correctly. Perhaps more surprising was that less than a majority thought it was a big deal: "About 40 percent said they believed talking on the phone during surgery to be 'always an unsafe practice.'" [The New York Times]
  • The sobering anti-smoking statistic of the day. Reuters reports on an Australian study that linked fathers who smoke to a 15 percent higher chance of their kids developing leukemia. Oddly, and counter-intuitively, "the mothers' smoking behavior had no impact on the kids' risk of developing the cancer." Which is head-scratching considering the huge warning labels on cigarette packs about smoking during pregnancy. The survey was conducted with families that had children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a rare disease, and came to the conclusion that smoking was "just one of the possible contributing factors." [Reuters]