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Alt-week 11.23.13: Woman videotapes the news for 35 years non-stop


Alt-week takes a look at the best science and alternative tech stories from the last seven days.

Missing the end of the game, thanks to your VCR was part of the accepted technology norm during the format's hey day in the 80s. Not for Marion Stokes, though, who managed to keep the VCR wheels turning for over three decades straight, amassing quite the archive of news coverage as she did so. Also, we've got one new island, and an Ice Age DNA puzzle. Where else but alt-week?

Where's the hottest vacation destination right now? Well, on more than one front it could be this newly-formed volcanic island, around 600 miles from the coast of Japan. Hot, in the literal sense, and the fact that you'd likely be the first -- and potentially only -- tourists to visit. Japan's coastguard caught the undersea volcano erupting near the southern Ogasawara chain of islands, and is the latest addition to the country's already 6,000 or so strong collection. Reuters reports that a government spokesperson "welcomed" the newcomer, but that it won't be getting an official name just yet, as sometimes volcanic islands can disappear just as quickly as they arrive -- sinking back into the sea. Better hold off on that long-haul flight then, for now.

Ever found a box of old video tapes in the loft, or maybe under the stairs? Did it stir up some nostalgia, or a sense of curiosity as to what might be on them? How about finding 140,000 tapes, with labels dating as far back as 1977? That's exactly what serial archivist Marion Stokes left behind after she died in 2012. Fittingly, Stokes was a librarian by profession, who began recording the news over 30 years ago, and then kinda never stopped. According to Fastcompany, she'd have unto six VHS recorders spinning at any one time, getting up early, and cutting short social engagements to make sure the recording never stopped. To many, this may seem like nothing more than a curious tale of eccentricity. For Roger Macdonald, who takes care of the video section at, it's nothing short of a gift. Upon hearing about Stokes' collection, he contacted the family to learn more. The result? the Internet Archive will be digitizing the archive for further posterity. With the process involving each tape being manually inserted into VCRs one by one, it's no small feat, but like all the internet's great documents, Macdonald believes it's worth it as a resource that could find many, even unexpected uses. It certainly makes our near complete collection of Friends re-runs seem somewhat trivial.

How far back do you think you have to go until European DNA was first mixed with that of Native Americans? Well, according to samples taken from the remains of a young boy found in Eastern Siberia, at least 24,000 years. "But Siberia's not Europe" we hear you cry. Correct, and that's what makes this specimen doubly fascinating to anthropologists. Despite the location of his demise, the boy has a DNA profile that's mostly Western European, plus a surprise 25 percent that's a match for living Native Americans. Even more eyebrow raising was the total lack of any East Asian traces, something that suggests that Native American populations had already splintered away on their own some time before the boy's time on this earth. The conclusion? Well, mainly that our indigenous history is perhaps even more of a rich tapestry than first though. Sadly, it seems, one other secret the boy also took with him to the grave, is the official way to pronounce "tomato."

[Image credits: Michael Metelits, Thomas W Stafford, Jr]

Seen any other far-out articles that you'd like considered for Alt-week? Working on a project or research that's too cool to keep to yourself? Drop us a line at alt [at] engadget [dot] com.

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