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.
After years of speculation and wrangling over his remains, Kennewick Man turns out to be closely related to contemporary, local Native Americans after all. Discovered near Kennewick, Wash., in 1996, the skeleton ended up in a tug of war between tribes in the pacific northwest who wanted to bury the remains, and scientists who wanted […]
Our solar system is awesome.
The European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, has been releasing portions of its research to the public for years. This week’s massive 300 terabyte dump of Large Hadron Collider (LHC) data is the biggest yet by a long shot — and it’s all out there, open source, free for the exploration.
Isn’t it about time to stretch what your Mac can do? I mean, you’ve got plenty of great programs now…but don’t you think you could use some new tools to get your creative, analytical and organizational juices really flowing? It’s spring, so we cleaned up a whole bunch of super-cool apps lying around and packaged […]
In the world of app development, there’s no greater arena to find success than with Android users. About 80% of the smartphones in use today worldwide operate on the Android operating system, so if you build a great app that Android users love, you’re an international rock star. You’ll be able to make sure your […]
Unless you’re a programmer or webmaster, the term SQL probably doesn’t mean much to you. But for those looking to understand more about how and why the web works the way that it does, know this – SQL and its process of managing and presenting large data sets is everywhere…and it’s the most in-demand programming […]