Volunteering for cranial surgery in medieval Italy

Volunteering for cranial surgery in medieval Italy

Sometime in the period from the 6th to the 8th century, a woman willingly underwent surgery to scrape a hole into the top of her skull. The procedure must have gone well, at least well enough for her to survive and to try it several more times. A multinational group of researchers from the U.K., Spain, France, Italy and the U.S. discovered the unusual bone modifications while conducting detailed observations on remains excavated from the Longobard cemetery of Castel Trosino in central Italy. Tests showed she was a female, around age 50. Microscopic and CT scan analyses further revealed signs of at least two sets of scraping marks. Both healed and unhealed defects in the bone indicate that the woman received multiple distinct rounds of skull modification.

Why Laura Ingalls Wilder stopped writing

When Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of Little House on the Prairie, didn't start writing books until she was in her 60s, when she began writing down stories from her past with a pencil. With the help of her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, she ended up publishing nine books between 1932 and 1971. In the years since, there have been more than 60 million copies of her books sold. In a profile of the improbable author written for the Kansas City Star in 1949, she discussed the genesis of her late-to-the-game book series and what stopped her from writing even more. "The more I wrote the bigger my income tax got, so I stopped. Why should I go on at my age? Why, we don’t need it here anyway.”

The dystopian underworld of South Africa’s illegal gold mines

Welkom, South Africa was once the center of the world’s richest goldfields. There were close to fifty shafts in an area roughly the size of Brooklyn, but most of these mines had been shut down in the past three decades. A team of specialists lowered a camera down the shaft, and the footage shows a darkened tunnel, some thirty feet in diameter, with an internal frame of large steel girders. At around eight hundred feet, moving figures appear in the distance, travelling downward at almost the same speed. It is two men sliding down the girders. They have neither helmets nor ropes, and their forearms are protected by sawed-off gum boots. Twisted around the horizontal beams below them are corpses: the remains of men who have fallen to their deaths.

The gap between how old you are and how old you think you are

Jennifer Senior writes: "A friend, nearing 60, recently told me that whenever he looks in the mirror, he’s not so much unhappy with his appearance as startled by it, as if there’s been some sort of error (in his words). The most inspired paper I read about subjective age, from 2006, had 1,470 participants, and what the two authors discovered is that adults over 40 perceive themselves to be, on average, about 20 percent younger than their actual age. Rubin and Berntsen made a second intriguing discovery in their work on subjective age: People younger than 25 mainly said they felt older than they are, not younger. In Rubin and Berntsen’s 2006 study, socioeconomic status, gender, and education did not significantly affect their data.

Why Sir Francis Bacon didn't like the printing press

Bacon’s arguments against the printing press were not based on religious or political opposition, but on epistemological and ethical concerns about the quality, quantity, and authority of printed knowledge. Bacon discussed the printing press in his seminal work, The Advancement of Learning (1605), where he identified three inventions that had changed the world: gunpowder, the compass, and the printing press. He acknowledged that these inventions had enabled the expansion of human power, discovery, and communication, but he also warned that they had also introduced new dangers, errors, and corruptions.

Iraq dig uncovers 5,000 year old pub restaurant

Archaeologists in southern Iraq have uncovered the remains of a tavern dating back nearly 5,000 years they hope will illuminate the lives of ordinary people in the world's first cities. The US-Italian team made the find in the ruins of ancient Lagash, northeast of the modern city of Nasiriyah, which was already known to have been one of the first urban centres of the Sumerian civilisation of ancient Iraq. The joint team from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pisa discovered the remains of a primitive refrigeration system, a large oven, benches for diners and around 150 serving bowls. Fish and animal bones were found in the bowls, alongside evidence of beer drinking.

The courtship flight of two bald eagles