Best Of The Web
“When an academic makes a research breakthrough, two things can happen in the public consciousness: nothing, or something. It’s hard to know which is worse. Let’s say you’re a physicist who discovers a particle that isn’t affected by gravity. If nobody outside the physics world cares about your discovery, you sigh, shake your head, get back to the lab. If your story does hit the newspapers, on the other hand, you’ll have to adjust to a different kind of outrage: Your scrupulous research will be repurposed into some bad headline (“GRAVITY DISPROVEN”) designed to yank eyeballs, extract clicks, and generally trample over your precious academic principles.
Last week, the second thing happened. In a new article for Science Advances, Anita Radini, an archaeologist at Britain’s University of York, published evidence showing the presence of lapis lazuli—an ancient, rare, lovely blue stone pigment—on the teeth of a medieval German nun. The nun’s skeleton, named “B78,” dates from the 11th or early 12th century and was found in an unmarked grave in the German town of Dalheim. By working with tartar experts, microscopists, and medieval historians, Radini was able to conclude that this woman must have been a painter or scribe (or both) who illuminated manuscripts.
She must also have been a very good one, since lapis lazuli was an extremely expensive pigment only mined in Afghanistan. It was reserved for the hands of high-end professionals. The pigment probably got into her mouth directly from the paintbrush, over the course of many years of work.
The story is delightful, all by itself. There’s an element of chance to the findings—nobody was looking for lapis lazuli on these teeth—which lends them the charm of serendipity. The confluence of beautiful medieval art and chemistry has a poetry all of its own.”
JJ Editor's Daily Picks
"President Trump’s Iran policy over the weekend was both erratic and masterful. Doves and isolationists, panicked by what they see as the administration’s inexorable drift toward war, rejoiced when Mr. Trump announced that a military strike had..."
"This is the photo that encapsulates the cruelty of the Trump era: a father and daughter lying dead on the banks of the Rio Grande river, her tiny arm draped around his neck, drowned after an attempt to cross onto American soil and seek asylum..."
"Several months ago, a Palestine Liberation Organization body published an official document on the conflict. In its 37 pages, the organization put forth its views, with some readers seeing this as a clear endorsement of the two-state solution..."
"The first season of Big Little Lies was a clever trap. The show took what would have otherwise been an easily satirized narrative about affluent women and complicated it with their trauma; The Week's Lili Loofbourow succinctly called it "a kind..."
"There’s a story we like to tell about American capitalism. Ours is a country that prizes merit, rewards risk and stands apart in its commitment to the collective success of open markets and the free flow of capital. We are a nation of strivers..."
""IN THESE DAYS of anti-tech ire, it’s a popular cocktail hour topic: How much is Facebook making off my data? Last year, I spent a month trying to find out, hawking my personal data on blockchain-based marketplaces. I came away with $0.003. On..."
""At the end of May, TIAA, the financial services and investing giant, rolled out new gender-identity awareness guidelines for its client-facing consultants. The guidance included: “Never assume someone’s gender identity” and “Be aware that a..."
"An old saying goes that people become more conservative as they age. George Will’s new book, “The Conservative Sensibility,” shows that the opposite can be true. This book is not so much a brief for conservatism as it is a learned and lengthy..."
"Imagine if the dishes stopped getting done. Imagine if no one did the laundry, and it piled up, stained and mildewing in hampers and in piles on the floor. Imagine if no one fed the baby, or changed her, and imagine if no one made dinner..."
"In Japanese culture, kintsugi is the labor-intensive method of repairing broken pottery by reattaching pieces using a lacquer mixed with gold. The reconstructed item, glistening with golden “seams,” is in many ways more beautiful than it was..."
"The U.S. is currently experiencing the largest outbreak of measles since 1992. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been more than 1,000 confirmed cases since January. Scientific research overwhelmingly support..."
"Among those participating was Jason Greenblatt, Washington’s Mideast mediator and one of the architects of the “Peace to Prosperity” workshop taking place here. Aryeh Lightsone, a top aid to US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, gave a brief..."