January 1, 2024
2 min read
Deciphering a scorched scroll from ancient Herculaneum, unlikely flavors in climate-change-affected wine, an undiscovered ore found in China, and more in this month’s Quick Hits
Ice-penetrating radar has revealed a landscape of valleys and ridges hidden under nearly two miles of ice in East Antarctica. Before the continent froze over about 34 million years ago, the region might have hosted tropical-like forests and wildlife.
Geologists have discovered a new ore called niobobaotite near the city of Baotou in Inner Mongolia. The ore contains the rare-earth metal niobium, which is used in steel production and becomes a superconductor when cooled to low temperatures.
A child’s jawbone uncovered decades ago in the Ethiopian Highlands has been identified as a two-million-year-old Homo erectus fossil. Discovered more than 6,500 feet above sea level, the find suggests that larger-bodied H. erectus might have been better adapted to higher altitudes than other early hominins were.
Critics gave higher ratings to Bordeaux wine made in years with greater temperature extremes and a higher mean temperature. But the area’s climate might become too hot and too dry for grapes to grow at all, and vineyards are increasingly impacted by floods, wildfires, and other severe events.
Indonesians who survived the region’s devastating 2004 tsunami have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those who didn’t directly experience the disaster. This “hormonal burnout” demonstrates how traumatic events can affect people for decades afterward.
For the first time, an artificial-intelligence program has deciphered a word from a badly scorched scroll from Herculaneum, one of the cities buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius about 2,000 years ago. By distinguishing ink from the background of blackened papyrus, the technique uncovered the word “porphyras”—ancient Greek for “purple.”