Science and Medicine

Shipwrecked 2,000-Year-Old Pills Give Clues to Ancient Medicine



A microscopic image shows the texture of tablets recovered from the second century B.C. shipwreck identified as the Relitto del Pozzino, near the Tuscany, Italy, coast.

Scientists are trying to unravel the mystery of whether pills found in a 2,000-year-old shipwreck were, in fact, created and used as effective plant-based medicines.

And the bigger question: Could the ingredients of these ancient tablets still work to help with modern illnesses?

Around 130 B.C., a ship, identified as the Relitto del Pozzino, sank off Tuscany, Italy. Among the artifacts found on board in 1989 were glass cups, a pitcher and ceramics, all of which suggested that the ship was sailing from the eastern Mediterranean area.

Its cargo also included a chest that contained various items related to the medical profession: a copper bleeding cup and 136 boxwood vials and tin containers.

Inside one of the tin vessels, archaeologists found several circular tablets, many still completely dry.

“They were less than an inch in diameter and about a third to a half inch thick,” said Robert Fleischer, an evolutionary geneticist with the Smithsonian’s Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics in Washington, D.C.

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$271 Million Telescope Buried Under South Pole Is Ready to Unearth Dark Matter



The IceCube Neutrino Observatory, built over a decade at a cost of $271 million, is buried under the South Pole... and longer than the world's tallest skyscrapers combined.

Late last week, construction of the IceCube Neutrino Observatory wrapped up at the National Science Foundation’s Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica. The team of international scientists behind the effort has come up with something truly remarkable in building the world’s largest neutrino observatory. The massive telescope, which is the size of a cubic kilometer and located 1,400 meters underground, took a decade to build and cost approximately $271 million. Oh, and if you lined up the world’s three tallest skyscrapers, their collective height would be shorter than this telescope.

IceCube is operated by the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the National Science Foundation, with funding provided by the United States, Belgium, Germany, and Sweden. Researchers from Barbados, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland and the United Kingdom are also involved in the project.

For IceCube, construction at the South Pole all came down to their scientific goals. The observatory is designed to find extremely high energy neutrinos—tiny subatomic particles—originating from supernova explosions, gamma-ray bursts and black holes, with an emphasis on expanding humankind’s knowledge of Dark Matter. Neutrinos, according to current scientific theory, play a crucial part in detecting Dark Matter.

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Woman With No Fear Intrigues Scientists



Traumatic events leave no emotional imprint on her brain

A 44-year-old woman who doesn’t experience fear has led to the discovery of where that fright factor lives in the human brain.

Researchers put out their best foot to try to scare the patient, who they refer to as “SM” in their write-up in the most recent issue of the journal Current Biology. Haunted houses, where monsters tried to evoke an avoidance reaction, instead evoked curiosity; spiders and snakes didn’t do the trick; and a battery of scary film clips entertained SM.

The patient has a rare condition called Urbach-Wiethe disease that has destroyed her amygdala, the almond-shaped structure located deep in the brain. Over the past 50 years studies have shown the amygdala plays a central role in generating fear responses in various animals from rats to monkeys.

The new study is the first to confirm that brain region is also responsible for experiencing fear in humans.

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