Mastiha is a natural product mysteriously found only on an eastern Mediterranean volcanic island of Chios 3000 years ago. Known since antiquity for its healing effects, Mastiha has been used as an excellent digestive & multifunctional medicament. Harvesting is a very delicate procedure undertaken by experienced workers carriers of a long tradition from father to son. The name of the resin, whence the name of the drink, is derived from the Greek “to chew, to gnash the teeth”.

This explanation was rather hazy in specificity, so I did a bit of research on my own. Mastiha (the h is pronounced as a k) is the resin of a specific kind of evergreen bush found only on one side of the island of Chios. In its powdered form, it is used as a light spice and flavoring in traditional desserts, and is also found in local toothpastes, soaps, liqueurs, cosmetics, and other various common commodities. When found in edibles, it is typically mixed with either salt or fine sugar to keep the sticky resin from reforming into clumps. As mentioned above, it also has been used as a medicine for quite a while, specifically for ulcers and upper intestinal issues. At one time, it was considered to be such a delicacy that the word “masticate,” to chew, is derived from the resin.


(picture and original explanation via)

Photo of the Day

A native group of people living on the Soloman Islands northeast of Australia called Melanesians is famous for their beautiful dark skin and naturally blonde hair. the blonde Melanesians have blonde that is unique solely to them. According to the study in which scientists compared 43 blonde hair islanders to 42 dark hair islanders, blonde Melanesians have a variant of a native gene called TYRP1 that plays an important role in the melanin biosynthetic pathway. This variant is completely separate from what causes blonde hair in Europeans, and doesn’t even exist in the European genetic set.


Link Dump!

This was painted by an artist that’s blind. He uses touch to feel his way across the canvas.

There’s a newly discovered substance found in chicken eyes that’s simultaneously a crystalline substance and a liquid.

How ants walk.

There’s a special rock called a trovant that resides in the small Romanian village of Costeti. These unique geological phenomenons grow when it rains and have been found to move themselves. The cause is still a mystery, but the most popular theory is that the rocks contain a special blend of minerals that cause the sand in the rock to expand, making them grow. You can read more here.

The Wax Tree, the national tree of Columbia, is also the world’s tallest palm species, with some reaching up to 200 ft.

This is my current favorite word: Quisquilian: adj., valueless, like trash. Some others unusual words:

v. to squeak like a rat

v. to bark like a dog

v. to cry like a quail

v. to utter an elephant’s cry

n. the noise made by peacocks

Above list from here.

It’s so fun knowing so many talented musicians. Here’s a song sung by one of my friends that lived on my dorm floor my first two years of college.

Last February (yes, these bookmarks are old!), researchers found an original copy of the Magna Carta in an old scrapbook in Kent, England.

We’ve all heard of outlandish Middle Age remedies that make no sense to the modern reader. But mixed with the strange humor-balancing concoctions was very effective medicine. Scientists looking into some of the old manuscripts (good for them!) discovered that an onion and garlic remedy for eye infections almost completely kills MRSA, a bacteria modern antibiotics is fast becoming useless against.

Father Thomas Byles was on his way to celebrate the wedding Mass for his brother when his ship, the Titanic, hit an iceberg on April 14th, 1912. Instead of climbing onto a lifeboat, he decided to remain on the ship until the end, hearing people’s confessions the whole way. Here’s his story.

“No, totally!” “Yes, no, I completely agree.” Wait, what? When did no become yes, and yes become no? What kind of English is this? Turns out it’s as complicated as you might expect. Feel free to delve into the depths of contranyms and antiologies.

This guy wants a full head transplant.

In exchange for helping seniors with shopping, games, eating, etc., these Dutch university students get free housing. There’s another article I read, although I don’t know if I bookmarked it, where a preschool holds weekly classes at a nursing home. Both parties love it, and the seniors are more than happy to help the children learn their numbers and colors. A win-win, if organized well.

A residential garden in York, England, has been hiding the skeletal remains of about 80 beheaded gladiators for the past 1,800 years. The bite marks of large carnivores and evidence of the markedly stronger right arms all provide insight into the ancient Roman sport. What I’d like to know is how they were buried. Neatly and in rows, or just thrown into a hole after they’d been defeated? I wouldn’t be surprised at the latter.

Well I think that’s enough for today.

A Bit About Vikings

In the 10th and 11th centuries, at the height of their reign, the Vikings often claimed that their swords were indestructible, and could cut a man in half in a single swing. Yet there is a mystery surrounding Viking swords that has been confounding historians for hundreds of years. For despite their oft-quoted claim to be indestructible, Viking swords are often found broken.

The Museum of Berlin contains an ancient sword that became the centerpiece that unraveled the mystery of why Viking swords are frequently found in pieces, despite their claim to be indestructible. The unbroken sword contained an eight-letter word that was eventually the key to solving the mystery: “Ulfberht”.

A team of historians did some research and discovered that Ulfberht was the name of a Viking foundry – in other words, it was essentially an ancient factory that produced metal castings used to create objects such as swords, axes, war hammers, and armor. The name of ‘Ulfberht’ was legendary among Viking warriors, and was well-known for producing the sharpest, strongest, and most versatile – and expensive – swords.

As it turned out, many lesser-known foundries attempted to pass off their poor quality – but less costly – swords as Ulfberht weapons by inscribing the name of Ulfberht onto their products. Unfortunate swordsmen then paid the ultimate price for their cheapness when they discovered too late in the heat of battle that their swords were prone to shattering upon impact. [x]