Home' Greymouth Star : June 9th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
They hoisted up tens of thousands of
terrified wild animals to the blood-soaked
sands of the Colosseum.
Now, more than 1500 years after the last
fights between lions, leopards and bears,
one of the ingenious wooden machines
that carried the beasts to certain death
has been reconstructed in the middle of
the ancient Roman arena.
Unveiled at the weekend, the massive
timber structure has been built amid the
warren of tunnels and passageways that
lay beneath the arena of the Colosseum, a
fetid, torch-lit underworld of frightened
animals, sweating slaves and gladiators
waiting to do battle.
It consists of a wooden cage which can
be winched up to the arena floor with the
help of a sophisticated system of ropes,
pulleys and lead weights.
Wild animals such as wolves and big
cats would have been forced into the cage
and hoisted upwards, emerging via trap
doors in the centre of the arena to the
delight of the emperor and 50,000 baying
It took a year and a half to build the
7m-high timber lift, using only materials
that would have been available to the
A documentary was made of the project,
during which a full-grown male wolf
was put in the cage and released into the
middle of the amphitheatre. But instead
of being put to death with a gladiator’s
sword or the horns of a bull, it was
rewarded with a biscuit.
“It was the first time that a wild animal
had been released into the Colosseum
in 1500 years,” said Gary Glassman,
the American director who made the
“One of the reasons we are attracted
to the Colosseum is because of the
incredible violence that went on here. The
question it poses is, how could such an
advanced culture have staged such bloody
Eight slaves would have been required
to power the lift by turning the enormous
wooden shaft at its centre.
It is able to comfortably lift a load
weighing up to 300kg.
It would have carried not just wild
animals but props and pieces of scenery
used to render more realistic the wild
animal hunts that the Colosseum hosted
along with gladiatorial battles.
Animals such as deer, antelope, wild
boar and ostriches were dispatched
by trained hunters known in Latin as
The beasts, which included elephants
and rhinoceroses captured in Africa, were
prodded into action by handlers known
The lift will now remain as a permanent
feature within the amphitheatre.
“It will help people understand exactly
what the Colosseum was like,” said
Francesco Prosperetti, a senior Rome
cultural heritage official.
The Romans built 28 such lifts in the
bowels of the amphitheatre.
The modern-day machine was based on
remaining clues in the tunnel network,
including bronze fittings, holes car ved for
timber posts and rope marks that can still
be seen in the stone.
The amphitheatre was officially opened
under Emperor Titus in AD80 in “an
extravaganza of fighting, beast hunts and
bloodshed that is said to have lasted a
hundred days,” the historian Mary
Beard writes in her book The
Pompey, a general who was later
defeated by Julius Caesar, laid on a
spectacle in the first century BC in which
20 elephants, 600 lions and 410 leopards
are said to have been killed.
The emperor Commodus, who
sometimes fought in the arena, killed
five hippos, two elephants, a rhino and
a giraffe, according to contemporary
accounts from the second century AD.
The Romans also unleashed wild
animals on prisoners and criminals, in
a grisly ritual known as “damnatio ad
bestias” where the victims, some tied to
stakes, were mauled and eaten by the
— New Zealand Herald
4 - Tuesday, June 9, 2015
We appreciate the value of the Letters to the Editor
column as a public forum for West Coasters and
welcome your opinion and suggestions.
Letters may be submitted by post, fax or e-mail and
must include your name, address, phone number
and — except for e-mails — your signature. Noms
de plume are not accepted.
Please keep your letters honest, respectful and
within 300 words. Letter writers will generally not
be published more often than weekly. The Editor
reserves the right to edit or not publish letters,
especially those that are offensive or too long.
Post to PO Box 3, Greymouth, fax to 768 6205 or
e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
uLetters to the editor
68 - Roman Emperor Nero commits suicide.
1549 - Church of England adopts The Book
of Common Prayer, compiled by Thomas
1803 - Matthew Flinders returns to Sydney
after circumnavigating Australian
1870 - Death of Charles Dickens,
1874 - Cochise, the Chiricahua
Apache Indian chief, dies.
1898 - Agreement is signed under
which Hong Kong is leased to
Britain from China for a period of 99 years.
1967 - Gamal Abdel Nasser resigns as
president of Egypt after his country is defeated
in war with Israel.
1976 - Dame Sybil Thorndike, British stage
and screen actress, dies.
1979 - Seven people die in ghost-train fire at
Sydney ’s Luna Park.
1980 - US comedian
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Peter I (the Great) of Russia (1672-1725);
George Stephenson, English locomotive
designer (1781-1848); Otto Nicolai, German
composer (1810-1849); Elizabeth Garrett
Anderson, English physician (1836-1917);
Cole Porter, US songwriter (1893-
1964); Joe Santos, actor of The
Sopranos fame (1931-); Jackie
Mason, US comedian (1934-);
Patricia Cornwell, American author
(1956-); Michael J Fox, Canadian
actor (1961-); Johnny Depp, US
actor (1963-); Natalie Portman, US
“Be the inferior of no man, nor of any be
the superior. Remember that every man is
a variation of yourself. No man’s guilt is not
yours, nor is any man’s innocence a thing
apart.” — William Saroyan, American
“ Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to
you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do
not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let
them be afraid.” — ( John 14.27).
Charles Hikana, from
Sunday night scooped
the £200 first prize in the grand final of the
Civic Centre’s talent quest, held in the Regent
Theatre, Greymouth. Last year he was second
in the Marist Rugby League Club’s quest
held here. Second place-getter was another
Christchurch artist Beverly Cornelius who
thrilled the packed theatre with her polished
singing and dancing.
The judges Mesdames Audrey Murly,
Dorothy Thomas and Messrs Bill Boucher,
George O’Gorman and Jim Penny voted
unanimously for the first two but had a difficult
job separating the rest of the contestants.
The Westsiders, a Greymouth dance band
took first placing in the West Coast final.
Runanga girl dancer Judith Pinn was third in
the grand final.
The death of John Patrick Rochford occurred
at the Westland Hospital yesterday morning.
He had had a lengthy illness and was in his
90th year. He was an old and esteemed resident
of Dillmanstown, Kumara.
Born at Stewart ’s Gully, Waimea, he was the
last of a family of pioneer settlers. After his
marriage to the late Mary Brown, he moved to
Dillmanstown where he resided for most of his
life, working firstly in goldmines and then in
sawmills until his retirement.
He is sur vived by four daughters, Mary Ann
(Mrs McEnaney, Kumara), Peg (Mrs Shannon,
Hokitika), Clare (Mrs W Hutchison, Kaniere)
and Doreen (Mrs T Hutchison, Kaniere); and
four sons, William and John (Sprat), Kumara,
Henry (Bennie), Paraparaumu, and Cecil
uFood for thought
Printed and published by the
Greymouth Evening Star Co Limited
3 Werita Street, PO Box 3, Greymouth
03 769 7900 (office)
769 7913 (editorial)
768 6205 (fax)
03 769 7913
03 755 8422
Sharon Begley and Caroline Humer
mazon.com Inc is in a race
against Google Inc to store
data on human DNA,
seeking both bragging
rights in helping scientists
make new medical
discoveries and market share in a business
that may be worth $1 billion a year by
Academic institutions and healthcare
companies are picking sides between their
cloud computing offerings — Google
Genomics or Amazon Web Services —
spurring the two to one-up each other as
they win high-profile genomics business,
according to inter views with researchers,
industry consultants and analysts.
That growth is being propelled by,
among other forces, the push for
personalised medicine, which aims to base
treatments on a patient ’s DNA profile.
Making that a reality will require enormous
quantities of data to reveal how particular
genetic profiles respond to different
Already, universities and drug
manufacturers are embarking on projects
to sequence the genomes of hundreds of
thousands of people. The human genome
is the full complement of DNA, or genetic
material, a copy of which is found in nearly
every cell of the body.
Clients view Google and Amazon
as doing a better job storing genomics
data than they can do using their own
computers, keeping it secure, controlling
costs and allowing it to be easily shared.
The cloud companies are going beyond
storage to offer analytical functions that
let scientists make sense of DNA data.
Microsoft Corporation and International
Business Machines are also competing for
a slice of the market. The ‘cloud ’ refers to
data or software that physically resides in
a server and is accessible via the internet,
which allows users to access it without
downloading it to their own computer.
Now an estimated $100m to $300m
business globally, the cloud genomics
market is expected to grow to $1b by
2018, said research analyst Daniel Ives of
investment bank FBR Capital. By that
time, the entire cloud market should have
$50b to $75b in annual revenue, up from
about $30b now.
“The cloud is the entire future of this
field,” Craig Venter, who led a private
effort to sequence the human genome
in the 1990s, said in an inter view. His
new company, San Diego-based Human
Longevity Inc, recently tried to import
genomic data from servers at the J Craig
Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland.
The transmission was so slow, scientists
had to resort to sending disks and thumb
drives by Fed Ex and human messengers, or
‘sneakernet,’ he said. The company now uses
Amazon Web Ser vices.
So does a collaboration between
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. and
Pennsylvania-based Geisinger Health
Systems to sequence 250,000 genomes.
Raw DNA data is uploaded to Amazon’s
cloud, where software from privately-held
DNAnexus assembles the millions of
chunks into the full, 3-billion-letter long
DNAnexus’s algorithms then determine
where an individual genome differs
from the ‘reference’ human genome,
the company ’s chief scientist Dr David
Shaywitz said, in hopes of identifying new
Showing how important Google and
Amazon view this business, and how they
hope to use existing customers to lure
future ones, each is hosting well-known
genomics datasets for free.
Neither company discloses the amount
of genomics data it holds, but based on
interviews with analysts and genomic
scientists, as well as the companies’ own
announcements of what customers they
have won, Amazon Web Services may be
Data from the “1000 Genomes Project,”
an international public-private effort that
identified genetic variations found in at
least 1% of humans, reside at both Amazon
and Google ‘without charge,’ said Kathy
Cravedi of the United States National
Institutes of Health, one of the project ’s
Other paying clients with a more specific
focus are picking sides.
Google, for instance, won a project from
the Autism Speaks foundation to collect
and analyse the genomes of 10,000 affected
children and their parents for clues to the
genetic basis of autism.
Another customer is Tute Genomics,
whose database of 8.5b human DNA
variants can be searched for how frequently
any given variant appears, what traits it is
and how people
with a certain
variant respond to
to collect complete-
and other data from
1000 patients to
identify new drug
targets. It also won
Project, which has
month to store one
full human genome,
and Google about
$3 to $5 a month.
also charge for
data transfers or
computing time, as
when scientists run
on stored data.
costs 25c an
hour or $1000
per terabyte per
year, the company
said. A terabyte is 1 trillion bytes, or 1000
gigabytes, about enough to hold 300 hours
of high-quality video.
Another part of the cloud services’ pitch
to would-be customers is that their analytic
tools can fish out genetic gold — a drug
target, say, or a DNA variant that strongly
predicts disease risk — from a sea of
data. Any discoveries made through such
searches belong to the owners of the
“On the local university ser ver it might
take months to run a computationally-
intense” analysis, said Alzheimer’s project
leader Dr Gerard Schellenberg of the
University of Pennsylvania. “On Amazon,
it ’s, ‘how fast do you need it done?’, and
they do it.”
Another selling point is security.
Universities are “generally pretty porous,”
said Ryan Permeh, chief scientist at cyber
security company Cylance Inc, of Irvine,
California, and the security of Federal
government computers is “not at the top of
While academic and pharmaceutical
research projects are the biggest customers
for genomics cloud ser vices, they will be
overtaken by clinical applications in the
next 10 years, said Google Genomics
director of engineering David Glazer.
Individual doctors will regularly access
a cloud ser vice to understand how a
patient ’s genetic profile affects his risk of
various diseases or his likely response to
“ We are at that transition point now,”
Matt Wood, general manager for Data
Science at Amazon Web Services, sees
cloud demand in genomics now as ‘a perfect
storm,’ as the amount of data being created,
the need for collaboration and the move of
genomics into clinical care accelerate.
Experts on DNA and data say without
access to the cloud, modern genomics
would grind to a halt.
Bioinformatics expert Dr Atul Butte of
the University of California, San Francisco,
said that now, when researchers at different
universities are jointly working on NIH
and other genomic data, they do not have
to figure out how to make their computers
talk to each other. In March, NIH cleared
the way for major research on the cloud
when it began allowing scientists to upload
important genomic data.
“My response was, it ’s about time,” Butte
said. — Reuters
“If the United States’
bottom line is that
China has to halt its
activities, then a US-
China war is inevitable
in the South China
Sea,” an editorial in
the Global Times said
recently. The Global
Times is an English-
language daily paper
specialising in international affairs that
is published by the People’s Daily, the
Chinese government ’s official newspaper.
So we should presumably take what it says
But really, a US-Chinese war in the
South China Sea? Over a bunch of reefs
that barely clear the water at high tide,
and some fishing rights and mineral rights
that might belong to China if it can bully,
persuade, or bribe the other claimants into
renouncing their claims? The GDP of the
United States is $16.8 trillion each year,
and China’s GDP is $9.2 trillion. All the
resources of the South China Sea would
not amount to $1 trillion over 50 years.
Great powers end up fighting great
wars. Counting a pre-war arms race, the
losses during the war (even assuming it
does not go nuclear), and a resumed arms
race after the war, the long-term cost of a
US-Chinese war over the South China Sea
could easily be $5 trillion. Are you sure this
is a good idea?
Yet stupid things do happen. Consider
the Falklands war. In 1982, Britain and
Argentina fought a quite serious little war
(more than 900 people were killed, ships
were sunk, etc) over a couple of islands in
the South Atlantic that had no strategic
and little economic value.
Maybe that is not relevant. After all,
Argentina had never been a great power,
and by 1982 Britain was no longer really
one either. The war in the Falklands was,
Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges
said, “a fight between two bald men over a
comb”. Yet it is a bit worrisome, is it not? It
did not make strategic or economic sense,
but they did it anyway.
Let us look at the question from another
angle. Who is the messenger that bears
such alarming news about a US-Chinese
war? The Global Times, although
published by the Chinese Communist
government, is a tabloid newspaper in
the style of the New York Post or the
Daily Mail in Britain: down-market,
sensationalist, and not necessarily accurate.
But it has never published anything
that the Chinese authorities did not want
published. So the question becomes: Why
did the Chinese authorities want this story
published? Presumably to frighten the US
enough to make it stop challenging the
Chinese claims in the South China Sea.
This is turning into a game of chicken, and
China has just thrown out the brakes.
Would Beijing really go to war if the
US does not stop flying over the reefs in
question and carrying out other activities
that treat the Chinese claim as unproven?
Probably even the bosses in Beijing do not
know the answer to that. But they really do
intend to control the South China Sea, and
the US and its local friends and allies (the
Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei,
and Taiwan) really will not accept that.
The Chinese claim truly is astonishingly
brazen. The ‘nine-dash line’, an official map
published by the Beijing government in
1949, claims practically all the uninhabited
reefs and tiny islands in the shallow sea
as Chinese territory, even ones that are
700km from the Chinese coast and 150km
from the Philippines or Vietnam.
Since the islands might all generate
Exclusive Economic Zones of 300km,
China may be planning to claim rights
over the entire sea up to an average of
about 100km off the coasts of the other
countries that surround the sea. It has not
actually stated the details of that claim
yet, but it is investing a lot in laying the
foundations for such a claim.
It is as if the the United States built some
reefs in the middle of the Caribbean Sea,
claimed them as sovereign territory, and
then said that the whole sea belonged to
the US except for narrow coastal strips for
Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, etc.
China is actually building islands as part
of this strategy: taking low-lying reefs
and building them up with enormous
quantities of sand, rock and cement to turn
them into (marginally) habitable places.
Then it acts astonished and offended when
other countries challenge this behaviour,
or even send reconnaissance flights to see
what the Chinese are up to.
The veiled threats and the bluster that
accompany this are intended to warn all
the other claimants off. It has been going
on for years, but it is getting much more
intense as the Chinese project for building
military bases all over the South China
Sea (it denies that that is what they are,
of course) nears completion. So now the
rhetoric steps up to actual warning of a
The Global Times is right, whether its
writers know it or not. If China keeps
acting as if its claims were universally
accepted and unilaterally expanding the
reefs to create large bases with airstrips
and ports, and the US and local powers go
on challenging China’s claims, then there
really could be a war. Later, not now, and
not necessarily ever, but it could happen.
Gwynne Dyer is an independent
journalist whose articles are published in
An aerial file photo shows the alleged ongoing land reclamation by China on Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South
China Sea, west of Palawan, Philippines.
WORLD IN FOCUS
with Gwynne Dyer
War in the South China Sea?
DNA in the cloud
PICTURE: New Zealand Herald
Staff at the Colosseum demonstrate the
moveable cage, rebuilt as it would have
been in ancient times.
Colosseum rebuilds wild animal cage in arena
Links Archive June 8th 2015 June 10th 2015 Navigation Previous Page Next Page