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What You Don’t Know About Your Wine and OJ

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When the mood and time are right, nothing satisfies like a glass of wine. And when the mood and time are right earlier in the day, nothing satisfies like a glass of orange juice. The drinks, in their way, seem incredibly wholesome. They’re both fruit juices—one fermented, one fresh.

But both beverages—in their modern, mass-produced forms—are less natural than you think. The food conglomerates selling them aren’t keen to share the fact, but a lot of wine and orange juice depend on additives. The two flavorings involved aren’t unhealthy or bizarre, but knowing about them might make you rethink how "real" your favorite drinks are. So drink up, and let’s dive in.

Juicing orange juice 

The first additive is known as a "flavor pack," and it's added to virtually all "not from concentrate" orange juice. To ensure a consistent, year-round supply, OJ producers store their juice in giant tanks. To keep it from going bad, they take out all the oxygen. That also takes out a lot of the flavor. So the companies have turned to fragrance companies—the same ones that formulate perfumes—for a fix. The solution is a concentrated mixture of orange essences, or the flavor pack. Because it's made from orange peel and oil, it doesn't have to be listed separately on the orange juice label.

Orange juice companies actually admit to adding flavor packs, but they try to soft-pedal the issue, suggesting that they’re just adding “natural oils” back into the juice. 

Making wine “mega”

The second additive serves a similar purpose and is even more hidden: "Mega Purple." This concentrated grape juice product (and ones like it, such as Ultra Red) is used in many wines sold for less than $20 a bottle. It ensures a darker color, obscures unpleasant flavors, and makes the final product sweeter. 

Mega Purple is used in tiny amounts (usually less than half a percent), but most winemakers don't want to admit they use it—even though blending wines to ensure consistency has a long history in the field. But the concentrate keeps being made, and it likely goes into some 25 million bottles a year.

Like flavor packs, Mega Purple doesn’t have be listed on wine labels. After all, it’s made from grapes, just like wine. And some in the industry are skeptical that it makes much of a difference, at least compared with winemakers who add sugar or other substances to their output.

As natural as they may seem, wine and orange juice are mass-produced commodities. In the modern era, it’s probably futile to expect that anything produced on such a scale wouldn’t be massaged in some way. Drinkers want cheap wine that looks dark and smells fruity. Breakfasters want their favorite orange juice brand to taste the same throughout the year. So if you want to ensure you're getting something truly all-natural, pony up the money for a more expensive bottle of wine. Or buy some oranges and juice them yourself.

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Department Of Classics, University Of Cincinnati
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Ancient Poop Contains First Evidence of Parasites Described by Hippocrates
Department Of Classics, University Of Cincinnati
Department Of Classics, University Of Cincinnati

The long-held mystery of Hippocrates and the parasitic worms has finally been solved, and it’s all thanks to a few samples of ancient poop.

Researchers don’t know much about the parasites that plagued the Greeks thousands of years ago, and what they do know is largely from the Hippocratic Corpus, the medical texts that the father of medicine and his students put together between the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE. Modern historians have spent years trying to figure out which diseases and parasites Hippocrates and his followers were referring to in their writing, relying solely on their descriptions to guess at what ailments the ancient Greeks might have suffered from. Now, they finally have concrete evidence of the existence of some of the intestinal worms Hippocrates mentioned, Helmins strongyle and Ascaris.

As part of a study in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, an international group of researchers analyzed the ancient remains of feces in 25 prehistoric burials on the Greek island of Kea to determine what parasites the people were carrying when they died. Using microscopes, they looked at the soil (formed by the decomposed poop) found on the pelvic bones of skeletons dating back to the Neolithic, Bronze, and Roman periods.

A roundworm egg under the microscope
A roundworm egg
Elsevier

Around 16 percent of the burials they studied contained evidence of parasites. In these ancient fecal samples, they found the eggs of two different parasitic species. In the soil taken from the skeletons dating back to the Neolithic period, they found whipworm eggs, and in the soil taken from the Bronze Age skeletons, roundworm.

With this information, researchers deduced that what Hippocrates called the Helmins strongyle worm was probably what modern doctors would call roundworm. The Ascaris worm probably referred to two different parasites, they conclude, known today as pinworm (which was not found in this analysis) and whipworm (pictured below).

Whipworm under a microscope
A whipworm egg
Elsevier

Though historians already hypothesized that Hippocrates's patients on Kea had roundworm, the Ascaris finding comes as a particular surprise. Previous research based solely on Hippocrates’s writing rather than physical evidence suggested that what he called Ascaris was probably a pinworm, and another worm he mentioned, Helmins plateia, was probably a tapeworm. But the current research didn’t turn up any evidence of either of those two worms. Instead of pinworm eggs, the researchers found whipworm, another worm that’s similarly small and round. (Pinworms may very well have existed in ancient Greece, the researchers caution, since evidence of their fragile eggs could easily have been lost to time.) The soil analysis has already changed what we know about the intestinal woes of the ancient Greeks of Kea.

More importantly, this study provides the earliest evidence of ancient Greece’s parasitic worm population, proving yet again that ancient poop is one of the world’s most important scientific resources.

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Arctic Temperatures are Rising So Fast, They're Confusing the Hell Out of Computers
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This past year was a brutal one for northern Alaska, which saw temperatures that soared above what was normal month after month. But you wouldn't know that by looking at the numbers from the weather station at Utqiaġvik, Alaska. That's because the recent heat was so unusual for the area that computers marked the data as incorrect and failed to report it for the entirety of 2017, leaving a hole in the records of the Climate Monitoring group at the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), according to the Huffington Post.

The weather station in the northernmost tip of Alaska has been measuring temperatures for nearly a century. A computer system there is programed to recognize if the data has been influenced by artificial forces: Perhaps one of the instruments isn't working correctly, or something is making the immediate area unnaturally hot or cold. In these cases, the computer edits out the anomalies so they don't affect the rest of the data.

But climate change has complicated this failsafe. Temperatures have been so abnormally high that the Utqiaġvik station erroneously removed all its data for 2017 and part of 2016. A look at the region's weather history explains why the computers might have sensed a mistake: The average yearly temperature for the era between 2000 and 2017 has gone up by 1.9°F from that of the era between 1979 and 1999. Break it down by month and the numbers are even more alarming: The average temperature increase is 7.8°F for October, 6.9°F for November, and 4.7°F for December.

"In the context of a changing climate, the Arctic is changing more rapidly than the rest of the planet," Deke Arndt, chief of NOAA's Climate Monitoring Branch, wrote for climate.gov. The higher temperatures rise, the faster Arctic sea ice melts. Arctic sea ice acts as a mirror that reflects the Sun's rays back into space, and without that barrier, the sea absorbs more heat from the Sun and speeds up the warming process. “Utqiaġvik, as one of a precious few fairly long-term observing sites in the American Arctic, is often referenced as an embodiment of rapid Arctic change,” Arndt wrote.

As temperatures continue to grow faster than computers are used to, scientists will have to adjust their algorithms in response. The team at NCEI plans to have the Utqiaġvik station ready to record our changing climate once again within the next few months.

[h/t Huffington Post]

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