Rats got a bad rap for the Black Death, scientists say


Researchers have thrown out the verdict against the rat, for centuries blamed as the primary carrier of the bubonic plague that struck Medieval Europe again and again with such ferocity.

The rat was wrongly accused, scientists report this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  Continue reading


Ebola was already here

Dr. Thomas Cairns, in the operating room in Africa decades ago. Photo courtesy of Dr. Cairns via NBC News

Dr. Thomas Cairns, in an operating room in Africa decades ago. Photo courtesy of Dr. Cairns via NBC News

Although there have been breathless reports over the last week about the first Americans to arrive in the country with Ebola, the virus itself is studied in U.S. labs, notes Tara C. Smith in the Aetiology blog, and there have been at least seven cases of Lassa virus, a similar African hemorrhagic fever, in the United States.

One of those Lassa cases was diagnosed in Philadelphia in 2010 when a 47-year-old returned from Liberia, the same country where healthcare workers Nancy Writebol and Dr. Kent Brantly caught Ebola in the latest outbreak of the highly infectious disease. Continue reading


Got low T? Welcome to civilization, study says


A composite image shows the facial differences between an ancient modern human with heavy brows and a large upper face — which can be directly traced to testosterone — and the more recent modern human who has softer features.  Photo courtesy of University of Utah biology graduate student Robert Cieri

We Homo sapiens have been around for 200,000 years.

So why did it take us 150,000 years to create the first art and advanced tools?

Testosterone, according to a study in the journal Current Anthropology.  Continue reading


USGS issues updated quake maps


Forty-two states “have a reasonable chance of experiencing damaging ground shaking from an earthquake in 50 years,” according to the USGS updated National Seismic Hazard Maps, and 16 of those states are at high risk.

Illinois and Missouri (in the New Madrid Seismic Zone) and South Carolina may be in for a shocker:




h/t National Geographic’s Daily News