Saturday, April 3, 2010

The figure of a young Khmer girl carved in stone at the Cambodian temple of Angkor Wat.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Floods, then drought, did in Angkor

The Warwick Mall will rise again; Angkor Wat wasn’t so lucky.

It turns out that flooding rain, intersperced with decades-long drought, conspired to topple the historic city of Angkor, researchers from the U.S., Australia, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam have reported. They studied the ring patterns of millennia-old trees found the Khmer empire’s former capital and found they were subjected to water and food supply-depleting weather events, leaving the city vulnerable to interrelated infrastructural, economic and geopolitical pressures in the 14th and 15th centuries.

The finding, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, sheds new light on the mystery surrounding Angkor’s demise in 1431. Spanning about 400 square kilometers (98,842 acres) in southwestern Cambodia, Angkor is South-East Asia’s most important archaeological site, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which listed it as a World Heritage site in 1992.

The analysis showed several abrupt reversals from drought to very intense monsoons during the late 14th and early 15th centuries.

Vatican artifacts stopping in St. Louis

The Missouri History Museum in St. Louis will be the only Midwestern stop in a traveling exhibition of rarely seen art and artifacts from the Vatican.

“Vatican Splendors: A Journey through Faith and Art” opens May 15. The exhibition is one of the largest collections of Vatican art, documents and historically significant objects ever to tour North America. Some of the items have never left the Vatican.

Highlights include artwork, personal objects and tools of Michelangelo; frescoes and mosaics; artwork dating to the third century; and bone fragments and other relics of saints.

Tickets go on sale April 19. Details:

Tracking college friends online

Want to keep track of your friends on spring break or any other time of year? A new Web site started by college students aims to make it easier.

With Gtrot — — you can use Facebook to check out where your friends are headed and broadcast your own travel plans. Gtrot also links with travel booking sites like to help you hop onto your friend’s flight. And through Gtrot, you can see a map of where your friends have been, to pick up tips on a city you might be planning to tour.

Of course, your friends have to be registered on Gtrot and Facebook for all this to happen. But if you’re a college student heading to Cancun or Panama City, Fla., chances are they’re on Facebook already. Gtrot just takes things one step further, said Zachary Smith, one of the site’s young co-founders.

“Being college students ourselves, we saw the need for a more integrative kind of travel experience,” said Smith. “We’re the target audience.”

He noted that any highly mobile person on Facebook will find Gtrot handy, even if it’s just to share a cab to the airport.

“Especially during major academic holidays, when thousands of students leave the same campus for similar destinations, our cab- and ride-sharing tools will help travelers save money and reduce the environmental impact of their trips,” said Robert Corty, another Gtrot co-founder, in a press release.

Moving artwork on Disney cruise ship

The walls and floors will come alive on Disney’s latest cruise ship.

More than 20 pieces of moving artwork will line the decks of the Dream, which launches early next year, while two interactive floors will keep kids on their feet in the ship’s youth areas.

The new interactive experiences were unveiled during a recent press demonstration at the headquarters of Walt Disney Imagineering, the company’s creative design team.

The 22 pieces of “enchanted art” will be showcased on LCD screens encased in glass and surrounded by a frame housing speakers and a camera that can detect when a cruiser is in front of it. For example, if a passenger is looking at a photo of Walt Disney on the beach in Rio de Janeiro, the characters from “The Three Caballeros” may zip through the landscape.

In the ship’s youth areas, children will be encouraged to step, jump and pound on two interactive floors featuring games with characters from such Disney films as “Bolt,” “Tron” and “Princess and the Frog.” Glowing pads around the floor’s perimeter are used to detect weight and control what happens on 16 screens planted within the interactive floor surface.


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