August 2011

We May Be Wrong About The Black Death

The Guardian has an interesting article about a new look at the Black Death which includes a study that "lets rats off the hook." The conventional wisdom is that the plague which wiped out 1 in 3 people in medieval Europe was the bubonic plague. As the story goes, the plague was brought into the overcrowded cities by rats, and fleas were the transmission route, as they bit infected rats and then passed the infection along to humans with a second bite.
But a new study by archeologist and historian Barney Sloane turns this model on its head. Sloane has been investigating the Black Death, both the human remains and the ephemera (like wills and accounts in diaries) which were left behind. It turns out there are several holes in the standard explanation for the Black Death.

Late Summer is Deadly Lake Amoeba Season

Every year, several people die from an infection by a water-borne amoeba Naegleria fowleri. Its latest victim is a 16 year-old girl who became infected after swimming in a Florida river. This amoeba likes warm, stagnant water, which is why cases often rise during late summer and early fall. The combination of warmer waters and more swimmers means that the risk of infection is far greater than during the rest of the year.

Antioxidants: Not Really A Thing

Turns out that antioxidants may not actually be able to prevent your death. Surprised? I think a lot of people will be. Not that facts ever stopped us. Frankly, I make non-fact-based purchases at the grocery store all the time. Why should this be any different?
The science of antioxidants has always seemed hinky to me. Scientists freely admit that we don't really understand very much about antioxidants and free radicals. It's a shaky base on which to build an empire of pomegranate-flavored juice drinks, wouldn't you think?