Mmm… Sugar Mayonnaise Glass & Dung Mites…

1 comment April 3rd, 2007at 06:45pm Posted by Eli

Fun with Science!

Candy-Glass:

Here’s another way [to make glass], as described by Carlos Co of the University of Cincinnati and colleagues in the journal Nature Materials: shake up some sugar, oil and a surfactant that attracts both materials, heat it to about 250 degrees without further mixing, and allow to dry out while cooling.

The new form of glass that results, the researchers report, is an emulsion – like mayonnaise or salad dressing, in a way. But because it contains sugar instead of water, it is solid and hard like candy, and remarkably clear. And it still contains more than 50 percent liquid oil, which can diffuse through it. It’s somewhat like a sponge, Dr. Co said, with continuous solid areas and continuous liquid ones.

The Mitey Incas:

Researchers now have another tiny tool in their arsenal: millimeter-long, dung-eating mites. Alex Chepstow-Lusty of the University of Montpellier in France and colleagues report in The Journal of Archaeological Science that by counting mites in sediment cores in a lake in the Peruvian Andes, they have been able to track socioeconomic changes in the Inca civilization over centuries.

The lake, which has a small pasture next to it, is only a few hundred feet from an Inca road that was a major trading route to and from Cuzco. It would have been a natural watering spot for long caravans of llamas. All those animals would have left behind a lot of dung, which would have been eaten by the mites. And rain and snow melt would have washed some of those mites into the lake.

(…)

[Dr. Chepstow-Lusty] and his colleagues compared mite counts from dated sections of the core with known phases of Inca history. They found large numbers of mites in the late 1400s and early 1500s, when the Incas were flourishing. Mite numbers crashed in sediments from the mid-1500s, when the Incas were nearly wiped out by diseases introduced by the Spanish conquerors. They also found spikes in mite numbers in the 1100s, a period of natural climate warming when activity around the lake might have increased as Incas moved to higher elevations.

Dr. Chepstow-Lusty said the technique might prove useful in studying other civilizations. “We have a new tool to play with,” he said. “One that links directly to domesticated animals used in trade.”

Mite spikes! Ain’t Science grand?

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Science,Weirdness

1 Comment

  • 1. Rob  |  April 3rd, 2007 at 7:42 pm

    There’s quite a bit of debate as to whether the Incas were devastated by diseases brought by the Spanish, or whether it was naturally occurring diseases that had hit them before.

    Everything else appears to be on-target, though.


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