Chocolate Toothpaste, Paper-thin Batteries and the Resurgence of the Dodo (the bird, not your neighbor)?

A Toothpaste Cathy Would Love

Picture 21.pngI didn't think it could get any better than the day my dental hygienist told me that beer cleaned teeth (a fact I've never bothered to verify because I just don't want it to be wrong). But now it turns out that chocolate may be the best ingredient to add to toothpaste. A doctoral candidate at Tulane University has shown that cocoa extract is more effective at fighting cavities than fluoride, having done animal tests and developed a peppermint toothpaste with cocoa instead of fluoride. It could be another 2-4 years before the chocolate toothpaste is commercially available, and until then you should probably just stick to regular, foul-tasting paste; something tells me brushing with Hershey's and gargling with Yoo-hoo wasn't what he had in mind

Madly in Love

say anything.jpgWe've all heard that love makes us do crazy things, but we never realized how true that actually was. A scientist in Switzerland surveyed a group of adolescents and found that those who claimed to be in love actually exhibited signs of hypomania, a mild form of bipolar disorder. For example, the love-struck teens needed one hour less of sleep every night than their counterparts and were also twice as likely to say they had creative energy. The researchers concluded that adolescent love is a "psychopathologically prominent stage," and that psychologists should take this into account when treating teens. Anyone looking to study this subject more should look into the collected works of John Hughes.

Paper-thin Batteries

PaperBattery.jpgBatteries almost always make devices twice as heavy as they need to be. However, a group of scientists from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and MIT have created a new technique of creating batteries that results in paper-thin power cells. The process is mighty complex, but the crux of it is in carbon nanotubes. As of now, the batteries are pretty weak, but they are able to fit in unusual shapes and could be made bigger and better. If they get more powerful, just imagine how thin cell-phones can be.

MORE: Astronaut Stress Tests, life-extending wines and Dodos (who're squawking not to call it a comeback), all after the break!

Use Fossil Fuels, Save the Earth

Yes, you read that headline correctly. As strange as it seems, some scientists around the world are presenting evidence that using biofuels won't do a whole lot to save the environment. A representative of the International Energy Agency says that creating biofuels will require cutting down forests to grow more corn, so, in the end, the net carbon reduction will be negligent. Scientists at the University of Leeds in Britain agree, saying that we wouldn't see any different for 50-100 years, which is far too long to wait. Instead, they are arguing that governments focus on replanting forests and making fossil fuels more efficient.

Space-age Stress Balls

Since no one can hear you scream in space, it must be difficult to figure out how stressed people are. And unlike in the easy-going world I live in, where I can easily go back and edit out stress-induced errors, stress for astronauts can cause costly and life-threatening problems (see: Mir Space Station). That's why NASA has designed a handheld device with a three-minute test to alert astronauts when they're too stressed to perform tasks.. The psychomotor vigilance task tests how quickly the subject can react to a flashing light to test sleep deprivation and mental fatigue. It will replace the ten-minute, multi-part test that includes pattern matching and repeating numbers that, while it sounds more fun, hasn't been effectively validated.

Dodo's Making a Comeback

dodo.jpgThe dodo was a flightless bird that laid its eggs on the ground and went extinct 400 years ago. But now we have a chance at studying its DNA, thanks to a discovery on an island off of Africa. Scientists looking for cave cockroaches stumbled upon a skeleton of a dodo that had been preserved nicely because of the environment in the cave. The discoverers theorize that the dodo, which they have christened "Fred," ended up in the cave because it had been trying to escape a storm and fell down a hole. If my wildest dreams come true, that means we could soon have a lame, dodo-filled version of Jurassic Park, which will assuredly make a less exciting movie.

Is the Fountain of Youth filled with Red Wine?

A professor at Harvard is purporting to be a modern-day Ponce de Leon with his research in resveratrol, a chemical he says can slow aging. David Sinclair says that resveratrol, which is found in red wine, extended the life span of mice by 24 percent and other animals by 59 percent. There's an understandable amount of skepticism around his research, but Sinclair says he believes the chemical could work on humans and has gathered a good deal of funding. Even though the research sounds exciting, I can't help but feel shades of the immensely unsettling Tuck Everlasting.

Justin Tallis, AFP/Getty Images
Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
8 Cemeteries Unearthed at Construction Sites
Justin Tallis, AFP/Getty Images
Justin Tallis, AFP/Getty Images

The people who lived before us are often just beneath our feet, even if their tombs are sometimes forgotten. Lost under urban development, they are rediscovered when a subway, building, or other structure claims the ground for progress. Here are eight burial sites that came to light in this unconventional manner.


The construction of Rome's subway has unearthed everything from a 2nd-century home decorated with mosaics and frescos to a 2300-year-old aqueduct. The San Giovanni station, slated to open in 2018, will feature displays of artifacts found during its excavation, such as Renaissance ceramics and the remains of a 1st-century agricultural fountain.

Back in 2016, extension work on Line C ran into a 2nd-century military barracks with 39 rooms, likely used by Emperor Hadrian's army, as well as a mass grave of 13 skeletons. The dead may have been members of the elite Praetorian Guard, protectors of the Roman emperor. Investigations are ongoing, although officials have planned for the barracks to be incorporated into the station architecture. Its opening date remains in limbo as archaeological finds continue to slow its construction.


In 1991, construction of a federal office building revealed a colonial-era burial ground in Lower Manhattan. The graves, dating back to the 1690s, had been lost due to landfill and development, yet were identified as part of the African burial grounds that in the 17th century were located outside the old city.

Banned from interment in white cemeteries, free and enslaved Africans and African Americans had established a place to give respect to their dead, with an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 burials. Thanks to grassroots activism, including protests against continued construction, the site is now commemorated with the African Burial Ground National Monument, which opened in 2006.

It's not the sole black cemetery to be buried under development in New York: The Second African Burial Ground, dating from the 18th and 19th centuries, is located below today's Sarah D. Roosevelt Park on the Lower East Side; and in East Harlem, a 17th-century slave burial ground, discovered by construction workers at a bus depot, awaits a planned memorial.


Burrowing deep under London, the ongoing Crossrail commuter rail project has exposed obscure layers of the city's past—and a treasure trove of history. Along with medieval ice skates and a Tudor bowling ball, archaeologists have identified two mass graves. One has 13 skeletons of people who probably died in the 14th century of Black Death (with DNA on their teeth still holding the plague bacterium Yersinia pestis); a larger site has 42 skeletons of victims of the Great Plague of 1665. The study of the Great Plague skeletons, excavated in 2015 by Museum of London Archaeology, similarly showed traces of the disease in their old teeth. (Luckily the bacteria is no longer active, so no need to dust off your plague doctor beak mask.)

While such "plague pits" have long been rumored—some urban legends say the London Underground had to curve to avoid messy heaps of bodies—study of the sites indicated that there was in fact great care taken with the deceased. The bodies were placed in individual coffins, giving them some dignity even in this hasty mass burial.


Sometimes, to borrow a line from Poltergeist, people only move the headstones when relocating a cemetery, and stray bones and coffins are left behind (digging up the dead is generally unpleasant work). That seemed to be the case with a graveyard unearthed at a construction site on Arch Street in Philadelphia in March 2017. The dozens of coffins that were discovered are believed to be part of the First Baptist Church Burial Ground, established in 1707 and supposedly moved to Mount Moriah Cemetery in 1859. The Mütter Institute spearheaded a crowdfunding campaign for analysis and reinterment of the bones, and volunteer archaeologists convened at the site, racing against time to map the grounds and remove the burials of more than 100 people. Their remains were carefully analyzed.

Archaeologists subsequently found the remains of more than 400 people at the site as construction went on in other areas. Building at the site continues, as does the grassroots-funded research on the bones (you can follow the team's progress at the Arch Street Bones Project website).


In 2013, construction on a subway in Thessaloniki, Greece, turned up the grave of a woman buried around 2300 years ago. The Early Hellenistic lady was interred with a gold olive branch wreath.

Surprisingly, this wasn't the first such skeleton found during subway construction to be so regally crowned. In 2008, another Hellenistic woman was discovered with four gold wreaths and gold earrings in the shape of dogs' heads, all indicators of wealth and respectability—something marred a bit by the sewage pipe that had wrecked part of her grave.


While digging a trench in 2013 for a gas pipeline in Saskatchewan, Canada, a contractor noticed bone fragments in the soil that turned out to be 1000-year-old human remains.

Construction was halted so First Nations elders and archaeologists could examine the area. Ultimately, the pipeline company opted to tunnel deeper to avoid disturbing the ancient burials.

It was only one of many instances of massive infrastructure projects coming in contact with pre-colonial burial grounds. In 2017, for example, road construction in Duluth, Minnesota desecrated graves when the state's department of transportation failed to evaluate the area for artifacts prior to breaking ground.


Near Weymouth in Dorset, England, a mass grave of more than 50 young men was discovered in 2009 by archaeologists doing a survey before road construction began. All the victims had been killed brutally, at once, with multiple blows from a sharp weapon visible on their bones, and their heads had been severed. In 2010, researchers identified them as Vikings by radio-carbon dating the bones to 910 to 1030 CE, when the English clashed with Viking invaders. Analysis of the isotopes in the teeth indicated Scandinavian origins. Due to their lack of clothing and their similar manner of death, they were likely executed as captives. They're now part of the Dorset County Museum.


Among the roughly 38,000 people interred beneath a neighborhood on Chicago's Far Northwest Side are the impoverished inmates of the Cook County almshouse and patients from the county insane asylum. The area was known as Dunning, and its squalid institutions were so well known that a judge in 1889 declared them a "tomb for the living." The 20 acres of the site also included a potter's field for the indigent and unclaimed, and the burials of more than 100 unidentified dead from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

The potter's field was revealed in 1989 during construction on luxury homes. Sewer workers who were laying pipes also turned up a corpse that was so well-preserved his handlebar mustache was still visible. Bodies were relocated to a site now called Read-Dunning Memorial Park, giving these dead some recognition in the city for the first time.

Just Two Cans of Soda a Day May Double Your Risk of Death From Heart Disease

If you've been stocking your refrigerator full of carbonated corn syrup in anticipation of warmer weather, the American Heart Association has some bad news. The advocacy group on Wednesday released results of research that demonstrate a link between consumption of sugary drinks—including soda, fruit juices, and other sweetened beverages—and an increased risk of dying from heart disease.

Study participants who reported consuming 24 ounces or more of sugary drinks per day had twice the risk of death from coronary artery disease of those who averaged less than 1 ounce daily. There was also an increased risk of death overall, including from other cardiovascular conditions.

The study, led by Emory University professor Jean Welsh, examined data taken from a longitudinal study of 17,930 adults over the age of 45 with no previous history of heart disease, stroke, or diabetes. Researchers followed participants for six years, and examined death records to determine causes. They observed a greater risk of death associated with sugary drinks even when they controlled for other factors, including race, income, education, smoking habits, and physical activity. The study does not show cause and effect, the researchers said, but does illuminate a trend.

The study also noted that while it showed an increased risk of death from heart disease, consumption of sugary foods was not shown to carry similar risk. One possible explanation is that the body metabolizes the sugars differently: Solid foods carry other nutrients, like fat and protein, that slow metabolism, while sugary drinks provide an undiluted influx of carbohydrates that the body must process.

The news will likely prove troublesome for the beverage industry, which has long contended with concerns that sugary drinks contribute to type 2 diabetes and tooth decay. Some cities, including Seattle, have introduced controversial "soda tax" plans that raise the sales tax on the drinks in an effort to discourage consumption.


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