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Medieval Gospel Made of Sheep, Calves, Deer … and Goat?

Laura Geggel reports: During medieval times, bookmakers fashioned the pages and cover of a rare copy of the Gospel of Luke out of five different types of animals: calves, two species of deer, sheep and goat, according to new research.

In addition, one more type of animal left its mark on the cover of this 12th-century book: Beetle larvae likely chewed holes into the leather binding, the researchers said.

Now, researchers are learning unexpected secrets about the manuscript by noninvasively testing the proteins and DNA on the book’s pages, the researchers told Live Science.

Rare books — such as this copy of the Gospel of Luke — are difficult to study because they’re fragile, prompting many librarians to bar any research that would harm such manuscripts or their pages.

This rule is all too familiar to Matthew Collins, a biochemist at both the University of York in the United Kingdom and the University of Copenhagen. He wanted to sample parchments — documents made from animal skins — as a way to determine how people have managed livestock throughout history.

When Collins and Sarah Fiddyment, a postdoctoral fellow of archaeology at the University of York, approached librarians at the University of York’s Borthwick Institute for Archives, “we were told that we would not be allowed to physically sample any of the parchment documents, as they are too valuable as cultural-heritage objects,” Fiddyment told Live Science.

But Fiddyment didn’t give up. She spent several months learning how librarians conserve rare parchments, and, surprisingly, found a new method that allows scientists to study these specimens without disturbing them — one that involves an eraser.

Typically, librarians “dry clean” parchments by gently rubbing a polyvinyl chloride eraser against them. This technique pulls fibers off the page, and the resulting debris is usually thrown away.

But Fiddyment realized this debris held valuable clues about the book. By isolating proteins and other biological fragments within the debris, and examining them with a mass spectrometer — an instrument that identifies different compounds by their masses — researchers could learn all kinds of information about the manuscripts, she found.

“This was Sarah’s brilliant idea,” Collins told Live Science in an email. “Oddly enough, I think we relished the challenge.”

It wasn’t long before Fiddyment put this technique into action. A historian bought the aforementioned Gospel of Luke at a 2009 Southeby’s auction. An analysis of its “prickly” style of script indicated that scribes at St. Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury, in the United Kingdom, created it around A.D. 1120, Bruce Barker-Benfield, the curator of manuscripts at the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford, told the journal Science.

To learn more about the gospel, the historian contacted Collins. Using Fiddyment’s method, Collins and his colleagues learned that the book’s white leather cover came from the skin of a roe deer— a common species in the United Kingdom. The book’s strap came from a larger deer species — either a native red deer or a fallow deer, an invasive species likely brought from continental Europe after the Normans invaded in 1066. Read the rest of this entry »

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[VIDEO] Laura Kipnis: How Colleges Criminalized Sex 

Feminist author and Northwestern University professor Laura Kipnis wrote the recently released book, Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus, which details the insanity of regulating sex on college campuses with administrative tribunals and sexual conduct codes.

“The rules and the codes [on campuses] have been rewritten behind closed doors such that almost all sex can be charged as something criminal,” says feminist author and Northwestern University film professor Laura Kipnis. “It reinforces a traditional femininity that sees women as needing protection, sees women’s sexuality as something that is endangering to them.”

Kipnis’ new book is Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus, which explores the insanity of sexual conduct codes and attitudes at American universities. It grew out of Kipnis’ own experience of being investigated under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act at Northwestern for a 2015 essay she published in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Read the rest of this entry »


Nick Gillespie on College Kids Today: ‘Human Veal That Cannot Even Stand On Their Own Legs Or Face The Sunlight Without Having Their Eyeballs Burned Out’

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…So when ’60s-radical-turned-Reagan-fanboy David Horowitz shows up at University of North Carolina to equate Islam with terrorism for the thousandth time, the student body gets the vapors, tries to shut him down, and creates the hashtag #notsafeUNC.

“But really, what the fuck is wrong with kids these days and, more important, the supposed adults who look after them?”

When a student publication prints a story called “So You Want to Date a Teaching Assistant?” in a special satirical issue, the whole run gets pulped.

“They act as if they are raising human veal that cannot even stand on their own legs or face the sunlight without having their eyeballs burned out and their hearts broken by a single deep breath or uncomfortable moment.”

When Laura Kipnis, a feminist professor at Northwestern, publishes an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education extolling her experiences sleeping with professors while a student, two current undergrads lodge complaints with the university’s Title IX office.

What does it say about the state of the campus today that comedian Chris Rock says he skips college tours now because today’s students are too “conservative”? He doesn’t mean that in a political sense. He means “in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody.” Read the rest of this entry »


Wellesley students: Eeek! Trauma! Please Censor Art to Protect Our Feelings

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Robert Shibley  writes:  Wellesley College near Boston is suffering through a bout of controversy over, of all things, a sculpture. Artist Tony Matelli’s very realistic The Sleepwalker, whichdepicts a balding, slightly pudgy man in briefs sleepwalking outdoors, is evidently causing a stir on the elite women’s college campus. It’s even produced a Change.org petition (signed by more than 700 people as of this writing) asking the Wellesley administration to remove the sculpture on the basis that it is “a source of apprehension, fear, and triggering thoughts regarding sexual assault for some members of our campus community.”

 “the responses that this statue is invoking are largely ones of discomfort, anxiety, shock and disgust.”

As far as sexualized images on campus go, The Sleepwalker rates pretty close to the bottom of the pile. The University of Tennessee is about to host a Sex Week, and Harvard University (not far from Wellesley) has one too. Sex magazines featuring not-safe-for-work photos of college students have been present for years on campuses like WesleyanHarvardVassar, and Boston University. Northwestern University had an incident in which a professor invited his human sexuality class to stay after the scheduled time in order to watch a couple use a sexual device fashioned from an electric reciprocating saw on one another.

Read the rest of this entry »


New research on mass shootings shows the same thing all the other new research shows: assault weapon use rare, no epidemic

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 writes:  A recently completed study at Northeastern University finds that many of the ‘facts’ circulated by gun control groups about mass shootings in the US are far from it. In fact, the study contends that mass murders rarely use ‘assault weapons,’  cannot be prevented with background checks and gun bans, and that the rates of these shootings as well as their toll is not increasing.

The 22-page study, entitled  Mass Shootings in America: Moving Beyond Newtown was compiled by criminology professor James Alan Fox and Monica J. DeLateur. In the study, the two smash a number of gun myths through hard statistical work. Without taking funds from either side in the argument, the work is impartial.

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Harvard and Yale Condemn, Reject ASA Boycott of Israel

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William Bigelow writes:  The backlash against the American Studies Association’s academic boycott of Israel is growing among the top universities in the country. Both Harvard and Yale have now condemned and rejected the Association’s boycott.

Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust stated, “Academic boycotts subvert the academic freedoms and values necessary to the free flow of ideas, which is the lifeblood of the worldwide community of scholars. The recent resolution of the ASA proposing to boycott Israeli universities represents a direct threat to these ideals, ideals which universities and scholarly associations should be dedicated to defend.” He was joined by Yale President Peter Salovey, who asserted, “Any attempt to close off discussion or dialogue among scholars is antithetical to the fundamental values of scholarship and academic freedom. I stand with the Executive Committee of the Association of American Universities in my strong opposition to a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.”

Other high-ranking universities that have already condemned the boycott include PrincetonBrownCornellUniversity of ChicagoNorthwestern University and New York University.

Read the rest of this entry »


Spicy Food Tolerance in the Genes | Nature vs. Nurture

Are People Born With A Tolerance For Spicy Food?

Or is it an acquired taste?

By Agneeta Thacker

Fiery Peppers iStockphoto

Spice tolerance: Is it nature or nurture? As with most things, it’s a little bit of both.

To really understand how spice tolerance works, you have to know the basics of taste perception. “What people call taste is actually flavor,” explains Dr. Bruce Bryant of the Monell Chemical Senses Center. Flavor has three components: taste, olfactory sense, and trigeminal sense. The various tastes that the body senses are sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami, and possibly fattiness.

These work in conjunction with your olfactory senses to produce the sensations people mistake for one-dimensional taste. “A fruit is sweet and/or sour, but the inherent fruitiness is your nose smelling all the compounds,” Bryant says. “It’s your nose that allows you to tell the difference between eating an apple and a pear.”

What people call taste is actually flavor.
Your trigeminal system controls spice sensation. The system detects pain and irritation through nerve endings that are sensitive to touch, temperature, and pain. For instance, you have your trigeminal system to thank when you sense a rock in your food and know to spit it out. Plants have the ability to activate trigeminal receptors: Mint stimulates cool-sensitive nerves, while capsaicin, the compound in spicy food, triggers receptors in pain neurons.

Scientists speculate that some people are born with pain receptors that are less sensitive to capsaicin’s sting, but no thorough research exists on the subject as of yet. However, researchers know that exposing children to spicy food at a young age can desensitize nerve endings.

According to Bryant, Mexican parents give their children packets of sugar mixed with red chili powder, which they eat straight up, in order to build their spice tolerance. “We assume that continued exposure at a young age causes nerve endings to die off,” Bryant says.

But then how do you account for spice-lovers who started eating these foods at an older age?

To answer this question, researchers at Penn State University investigated the link between personality traits and affinity for spicy food. They found that “sensation seekers,” or people who enjoyed the thrills of roller coasters, gambling, and meeting new people, were generally more enthusiastic about piquant dishes. Others in the field criticize the study’s predominantly Caucasian test group. However, the researchers argue that homogeneity was essential to observing personality correlations.

Continued exposure to spicy food at a young age causes nerve endings to die off.
“We looked at a population that didn’t grow up eating spicy food but still likes it,” says Dr. John E. Hayes, Assistant Professor of Food Science at Penn State and the head researcher on the study. “If you were looking at a population where everyone eats spicy food, you might not find these traits, and they might not be applicable.”

Regardless of where you stand on the sensation-seeking scale, if you like your food spicy, you’re getting a thrill from what is technically a painful sensation. Yes, you are fully entitled to feel more macho right now. But if you try to show off and end up surpassing your spice tolerance, try chewing on some mint leaves–it will activate your cooling receptors (so you’ll stop sweating) and freshen your breath at the same time.

This story was produced in partnership with Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. For more FYIs, go here.

via Popular Science