A tooth like this one, found in a 1,500-year-old grave site near Munich, harbored enough blood in the leftover bits of dental pulp that researchers were able to sequence the DNA. In that blood, they found not only human genetic material, but that of a bacterium — Yersinia pestis, aka the plague. The interesting thing here is that the plague of 6th-century Munich is not the same plague that swept through Europe in the 14th century under the nickname Black Death. The discovery means that Y. pestis jumped from rat to flea to human on more than one occasion, producing plagues that are genetically distinct.
The researchers are linking this earlier plague with the Plague of Justinian, a 6th century pandemic that killed millions. There's still debate over whether the Plague of Justinian was caused by the plague, as in Y. pestis, or by something else, largely because descriptions of symptoms don't totally match up with later plague outbreaks and the death toll is much larger than what we see in plague outbreaks today. (Those facts also apply to the Black Death, which was different from the Plague of Justinian and different from modern plague outbreaks.) Based on this evidence, we can't really say much about the Plague of Justinian, for certain. There's nothing directly linking the Munich bodies to it, specifically. But, if the Plague of Justinian was caused by Y. pestis, and there has been more than one time Y. pestis jumped to humans, then the differences between those strains could help explain the differences between the plagues attributed to the bacterium. So that's cool.
Scott Pruitt, the Trump administration’s top environmental official, privately met with the CEO of Dow Chemical just before reversing the EPA’s efforts to ban a widely used Dow pesticide. Multiple scientific studies showed chlorpyrifos can damage the brains of children. Today’s Associated Press story is a clear case for why the Environmental Protection Agency and […]
The YouTube channel HooplaKidzLab demonstrates some awesome science experiments you can try with your kids this summer. Here’s another video from the channel about how to make a robotic arm out of popsicle sticks:
Scientists discovered this new species of “glass frog” in Ecuador’s Amazon lowlands. Hyalinobatrachium yaku’s belly is so transparent that you can clearly see its kidneys, bladder, and beating heart. From Science News: Yaku means “water” in Kichwa, a language spoken in Ecuador and parts of Peru where H. yaku may also live. Glass frogs, like […]
Despite the upfront cost, electric toothbrushes are much better at removing plaque than those freebies from the dentist’s office. For those who struggle to fill the American Dental Association’s recommended two minutes of brushing time, or anyone with limited dexterity, a sonic toothbrush can give your oral care routine a boost.To keep your chops healthy […]
Learning a new language will give your resume an upgrade, sure, but it will also provide a huge cognitive boost for mental tasks outside of translation and conversation. Bilingual brains have been shown to be better at handling multiple concurrent tasks, and gaining fluency in a new tongue is an amazing way to improve memory, […]
If you struggle to get a good night’s rest, consider replacing your pillows before dropping hundreds on a new mattress. You can give your tired neck a break with a 2-pack of memory foam pillows, available now in the Boing Boing Store.Each of these pillows is stuffed with cooling polyurethane foam that molds to your […]