Tuesday July 23, 2019

Archaeologist Zahi Hawass tests New scanner on the Great Pyramid of Giza to unravel hidden secrets

British Egyptologist Nicolas Reeves, feels that secret burial chambers could be hidden behind the walls of King Tutankhamun's tomb

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Great pyramid of Giza. Source: Wikipedia
  • Archaeologist Zahi Hawass and his team is testing a new scanner on the Great Pyramid of Giza
  • The new scanner uses subatomic particles known as muons to examine structures
  • Thermal scan in 2015, identified a major anomaly in the pyramid- three adjacent stones at its base which registered higher temperatures than others

CAIRO, EGYPT- Famous archaeologist Zahi Hawass accompanied by a team is testing a new scanner on the Great Pyramid of Giza on Thursday, June 2. The former antiquities minister and his team are hoping that use of modern technology might help in finding secrets buried beneath the stone.

The new scanner uses subatomic particles known as muons to examine structures; currently it is scanning the 4,500 year-old burial structure. It was set up at the site last year in 2015 and will complete its data collection in this month of June.

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“It’s running right now, and if it manages to detect one of the three chambers we already know exist inside, then we will continue the scans,” Hawass said. He has been appointed by the Antiquities Ministry to head the team that will review the scan results.

Thermal scan at the end of last year identified a major anomaly in the pyramid- three adjacent stones at its base which registered higher temperatures than others.

Former Antiquity Minister and Famous Archaeologist Zahi Hawass. Source : Wikipedia
Former Antiquity Minister and Famous Archaeologist Zahi Hawass. Source : Wikipedia

Hawass has in the past downplayed the usefulness of scans on ancient sites, saying that they have never found anything important. He has clashed publicly with British Egyptologist Nicolas Reeves, whose theory that secret burial chambers could be hidden behind the walls of King Tutankhamun’s tomb was both prompted and reinforced by scanning.

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For more than a decade Hawass was a celebrity starring in TV documentaries, eventually ruling the Antiquities Ministry like a pharaoh. He was dismissed from the post after Egypt’s 2011 uprising that toppled long time autocrat Hosni Mubarak and faced corruption charges, of which he was later cleared.

Following his new appointment, Hawass in his statement criticized scanning technologies and said they could be useful if directed by the right hands — such as his.

“You need Egyptologists to oversee all this, otherwise mistakes can be made,” he said. “I hope these scans will help us obtain accurate information,” he said, adding that he believed another burial chamber remains undiscovered inside.

-prepared by Bhaskar Raghavendran (with inputs from VOA), an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: bhaskar_ragha

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Egypt Turns to Moscow, Beijing to Modernize Electricity Infrastructure

Egyptian media reports the government is building the world's largest solar energy power station at Benban, with a capacity of 1,465 megawatts

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electricity infrastructure, egypt
With rates continuing to rise, Egyptian families often reduce costs by limiting lighting to one bulb for an entire room. (H. Elrasam/VOA)

In 2014, massive blackouts brought much of Egypt to a standstill and called attention to an outdated power grid dating to the 1950s when the Soviet Union supplied much of the technology.  Now, Egypt is again turning to Moscow – and to Beijing – as it embarks on a huge drive to modernize its electricity infrastructure.

Egypt has been building new electrical plants in order to avoid serious power cuts and brownouts that crimp industrial production and make life difficult for ordinary citizens.  Analysts say electricity demand is growing by five to seven percent a year, along with the population.

Energy and Electricity Minister Mohammed Shaker said Egypt was compelled to step up its electricity production after blackouts and power shortages during the summer of 2014.

electricity infrastructure
Power outages sometimes bring trains to a standstill, causing passengers to force open train doors and walk along the rails to the next station. VOA

He said that the experience was a catalyst to diversifying sources of power production, which traditionally relied on oil and gas for power production for about 90% of the country’s power needs.  Now, he said, Egypt is starting to move to solar, wind and nuclear power to generate electricity.

Egyptian media reports the government is building the world’s largest solar energy power station at Benban, with a capacity of 1,465 megawatts.

Egypt is also producing more electricity with a large wind farm along the coast of the Red Sea. The initial phase of the project has 120 turbines operating and is slated to increase to 300 by 2022. Experts at the plant tell Egyptian TV the region has strong and reliable winds.

electricity infrastructure, egypt
A rigged electricity meter in a Cairo apartment building shows how residents sometimes resort to stealing to save money on electric bills. (H. Elrasam/VOA)

He said that Egypt’s Gulf of Suez, along with the Gulf of Mexico, are two of the best regions in the world for wind speed, and the wind is stable throughout the year, without disruptions.

Nuclear power in Egypt dates back to cooperation with the former Soviet Union in the 1950s. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sissi signed an agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018 to develop the Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant in Marsa Matruoh.

President Sissi said despite turmoil in the region, Egypt has chosen the correct path and is working to build and develop the country.  Electricity, he said, is critical for this process and it must not be an obstacle to the building process.

electricity infrastructure, egypt
A Cairo apartment building is dotted with outdoor condenser units. For those who can afford the electricity, air conditioning is not a luxury but a necessity. (H. Elrasam/VOA)

Some experts, like Dr. Paul Sullivan at Georgetown University are concerned nuclear power will make Egypt and other countries in the region increasingly reliant on Russia, and even China, for their power needs.

“The Russians have made an agreement with Egypt to upfront 85% of the cost of the power plants in Dabaa.  There will be four of them; about 1.2 gigawatts, each.  Total costs will be about $28 to $35 billion … and the rest is going to be paid for by Egypt in installments. That gives Russia a lot of leverage,” he said.

Sullivan points out that Russian influence “could easily last up to 100 years,” given the period required to build the plant, run it for its expected 60 year life-span, and to decommission it, afterwards.  He notes the United States has in recent years been unable or unwilling to lend money for such projects, both in Egypt and elsewhere in Africa, leaving the door open to Russian and Chinese political expansion.

electricity infrastructure, egypt
The introduction in recent years of lower-consumption LED bulbs mean many Cairo residents, like patrons and this street café, can continue to enjoy bright lights on a summer’s eve. (H. Elrasam/VOA)

The former head of Egypt’s Nuclear Energy Association, Ali Islam, tells Egyptian TV nuclear power is extremely useful for Egypt in diversifying its power sources.

ALSO READ: Researchers Develop Way to Fight against Bacterial Infections using Electricity

Nuclear power is clean and non-polluting and is economical in the long term, since a nuclear power plant has a lifespan of 60 years.

Given Egypt’s rapidly increasing population, the country needs to invest heavily in infrastructure.  Power cuts during Egypt’s recent history of political turmoil also points up the strategic importance of reliable energy sources. (VOA)