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Emma Morano, World’s Oldest Person, Dies at 117

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OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images

"My word, I’m as old as the hills."

Last May, that was Emma Morano’s response to learning that the Guinness World Record for Oldest Living Person had been passed on to her following the death of the previous record-holder, Susannah Mushatt Jones. On November 29, 2016, Morano celebrated her 117th birthday. Today, the Associated Press reports that Morano—the last living person who was born in the 19th century—has passed away.

“She didn’t suffer,” said Morano’s longtime doctor, Dr. Carlo Bava, who reported that she passed away very peacefully, while sitting in her rocking chair at home. “I’m happy she didn’t suffer but passed away that way, tranquilly,” he said.

While other centenarians have attributed their longevity to everything from exercise to lack of exercise, Morano claimed her secret to a long life was two raw eggs a day. Morano, who was born in the village of Civiasco in northern Italy, made a practice of eating raw eggs for nearly a century, ever since she was diagnosed with anemia at the age of 20.

Of course, genetics can't be overlooked: Though Morano, the oldest of eight children, outlived all of her siblings, several of her sisters lived to see their 100th birthdays (and her mother passed away at the age of 91).

Though Morano was only about three months older than Jamaica-born Violet Brown—who turned 117 last month, and now holds the title of oldest living person—Morano was "the world's last living link to the 19th century."

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Check Out This Online Database to See Which Chemicals Are in Your Tap Water
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One of the responsibilities of the Environmental Protection Agency is imposing limits on the amount of harmful chemicals allowed in tap water. But sometimes these regulations aren't enough: In many of parts of the country, Americans are drinking water that passes the legal test but could still pose a threat to their health. Fortunately, checking local water contamination levels is easy for anyone with web access.

As Fast Company reports, the Tap Water Database from the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit, non-partisan environmental health organization, provides the public with water-quality information on 50,000 utilities around the country. Visitors to the website can search for their local water facilities by state or zip code. Once they find those, they're directed to a list of chemicals that exceed the limits set by health professionals. Common contaminants like chloroform, nitrates, and trichloroacetic acid increase the drinker's risk of cancer if they're exposed to them over extended periods. Each report also includes chemicals that are present in the water supply but conform to the recommended health guidelines.

The tool is the only comprehensive and fully accessible database of its kind. Earlier in 2017, the website was updated for the first time in eight years with information collected from 2010 to 2015. But even if the data is a couple of years old, the resource is valuable to people who rely on their local utility for drinking water. This is especially true for people living in low-income neighborhoods where contamination levels tend to be highest.

Identifying the unwanted chemicals in your water can also help you get smart about purifying it at home. Different home purifiers are built to filter out different chemicals, which makes understanding the quality of your tap water before purchasing one essential. Here's our guide to picking the best water filter for your home.

[h/t Fast Company]

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
A Chinese Museum Is Offering Cash to Whoever Can Decipher These 3000-Year-Old Inscriptions

During the 19th century, farmers in China’s Henan Province began discovering oracle bones—engraved ox scapulae and tortoise shells used by Shang Dynasty leaders for record-keeping and divination purposes—while plowing their fields. More bones were excavated in subsequent years, and their inscriptions were revealed to be the earliest known form of systematic writing in East Asia. But over the decades, scholars still haven’t come close to cracking half of the mysterious script’s roughly 5000 characters—which is why one Chinese museum is asking member of the public for help, in exchange for a generous cash reward.

As Atlas Obscura reports, the National Museum of Chinese Writing in Anyang, Henan Province has offered to pay citizen researchers about $15,000 for each unknown character translated, and $7500 if they provide a disputed character’s definitive meaning. Submissions must be supported with evidence, and reviewed by at least two language specialists.

The museum began farming out their oracle bone translation efforts in Fall 2016. The costly ongoing project has hit a stalemate, and scholars hope that the public’s collective smarts—combined with new advances in technology, including cloud computing and big data—will yield new information and save them research money.

As of today, more than 200,000 oracle bones have been discovered—around 50,000 of which bear text—so scholars still have a lot to learn about the Shang Dynasty. Many of the ancient script's characters are difficult to verify, as they represent places and people from long ago. However, decoding even just one character could lead to a substantial breakthrough, experts say: "If we interpret a noun or a verb, it can bring many scripts on oracle bones to life, and we can understand ancient history better,” Chinese history professor Zhu Yanmin told the South China Morning Post.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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