Discovered: Global warming could cause more lava flow; humans started popping pills ages ago; babies begin acquiring language in womb; Mars astronauts would be very sleepy.
Cloudy with a chance of lava. We know about the rising sea levels and increased incidence of superstorms associated with global warming. But here's another nasty side-effect of unrestrained climate change: more volcano eruptions. A new study from Germany's GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel finds that global warming could exacerbate Earth's igneous activity. By sifting through layers of volcanic ash at the bottom of Central American seabeds, the scientists reconstructed the timeline of eruptions stretching back over 460,000 years. "In times of global warming, the glaciers are melting on the continents relatively quickly," says GEOMAR geophysicist Marion Jegen. "At the same time, the sea level rises. The weight on the continents decreases, while the weight on the oceanic tectonic plates increases. Thus, the stress changes within the Earth to open more routes for ascending magma." [Scientific American]
Ancient pills treated sore eyes. Lest we think that self-medicating is something thoroughly modern, University of Pisa researchers have found that humans were popping pills as early as 140 BC. The place: ancient Rome. The affliction: sore eyes. The remedy: zinc carbonates hydrozincite and smithsonite, the same materials used in 21st century skin and eye treatments. "To our knowledge, these are the oldest medical tablets ever analysed," says lead researcher Erika Ribechini about the sampling of pills found on a wrecked cargo ship off the coast of Italy. "Findings of such ancient medicines are extremely rare, so preservation of the Pozzino tablets is a very lucky case." [New Scientist]