Romans mixed concrete that lasted better than many modern-day batches

The majestic structures of ancient Rome have survived for millennia — a testament to the ingenuity of Roman engineers, who perfected the use of concrete.

But how did their construction materials help keep colossal buildings like the Pantheon (which has the world’s largest unreinforced dome) and the Colosseum standing for more than 2,000 years?

Roman concrete, in many cases, has proven to be longer-lasting than its modern equivalent, which can deteriorate within decades. Now, scientists behind a new study say they have uncovered the mystery ingredient that allowed the Romans to make their construction material so durable and build elaborate structures in challenging places such as docks, sewers and earthquake zones.

The study team, including researchers from the United States, Italy and Switzerland, analyzed 2,000-year-old concrete samples that were taken from a city wall at the archaeological site of Privernum, in central Italy, and are similar in composition to other concrete found throughout the Roman Empire.

They found that white chunks in the concrete, referred to as lime clasts, gave the concrete the ability to heal cracks that formed over time. The white chunks previously had been overlooked as evidence of sloppy mixing or poor-quality raw material.

That doesn’t mean that “old” is always better than new. Just that it can be. 🙂

Ice Pancakes!

Dozens of eerily perfect circles of slushy ice, known as “ice pancakes,” have been floating on the surface of a Scottish river after temperatures in the U.K. unexpectedly plummeted.

Callum Sinclair, project manager for the Scottish Invasive Species Initiative (SISI), spotted the stunning circular sheets of ice Dec. 9 on the River Bladnoch in Wigtownshire, Scotland.

A little maple syrup and we rock for breakfast afloat.

There’s a nationwide Sriracha shortage

Scott Olson/Getty

The company that makes Sriracha, Huy Fong Foods, wrote in an email to customers in late April that it will have to stop making the sauce for the next few months due to “severe weather conditions affecting the quality of chili peppers.”

The spicy sauce has something of a cult following, and so when the news filtered through, some fans took to social media to express their dismay and post about panic buying (with varying degrees of irony.)…

The shortage is due to a failed chili pepper harvest in northern Mexico, where all of the chilies used in Sriracha come from, according to National Autonomous University of Mexico’s Guillermo Murray Tortarolo, who studies climate and ecosystems.

“Sriracha is actually made from a very special type of pepper that only grows in the southern U.S. and northern Mexico,” Murray Tortarolo said. “These red jalapeños are only grown during the first four months of the year, and they need very controlled conditions, particularly constant irrigation.”…

“The already difficult conditions were pushed over the limit by two consecutive La Niña events. And the dry season has not only been intense, but also remarkably long,” Murray Tortarolo said.

As a result, the spring chili harvest was almost nonexistent this year. Murray Tortarolo thinks it’s very likely that climate change is a factor, although it requires further study to confirm.

Meanwhile, folks without a sufficient Sriracha stash better hop to it before everyone is sold out.

As for future seasoning at Lot 4? You better believe we’re ready with a couple of years worth of our favorite hotness,

Turning peas into tasty imitation cheese

Per capita, Danish people are the crème de la crème of Earth’s cheese consumers. According to the International Dairy Federation (IDF), Danes lead consumption globally with 28 kilos (about 61 pounds) of cheese consumed per capita in 2020…

“Pea proteins have shown promising results for plant-based cheese production. Peas and other legumes are rich in proteins and its production is sustainable and local, since they can be cultivated in Denmark,” says Carmen Masiá, an industrial PhD researcher at the food science department at the University of Copenhagen…

Masiá has succeeded in creating a “functional base for plant-based cheese” made from pea proteins that creates a foundation for cheese production. Simply put, the researchers have fermented this base and produced a prototype of a plant cheese based on yellow peas, which is a great starting point to further develop flavor on top of it.

OK by me. Ready to try ’em, tomorrow.

Coffee associated with lower mortality risk

Maura Losch/Axios

Adults who drank 1.5 to 3.5 cups of coffee daily were less likely to die during a seven-year follow-up period regardless of whether they added sugar, a study found.

Researchers used data from a previous questionnaire to evaluate the associations of consumption of sugar-sweetened, artificially sweetened, and unsweetened coffee with all-cause and cause-specific mortality. In the cohort, 171,616 participants from the U.K. with a mean age of 55.6 years and without known heart disease or cancer at baseline answered questions about diet and health to determine coffee consumption and were followed for seven years…

Compared with those who did not drink coffee, those who drank unsweetened coffee had lower risks for all-cause mortality after adjustment for lifestyle, sociodemographic, and clinical factors…adding 1 teaspoon of sugar resulted in even better numbers.

An accompanying editorial…noted…“Although we cannot definitively conclude that drinking coffee reduces mortality risk, the totality of the evidence does not suggest a need for most coffee drinkers—particularly those who drink it with no or modest amounts of sugar—to eliminate coffee,” the editorial concluded. “So drink up—but it would be prudent to avoid too many caramel macchiatos while more evidence brews.”

Since they didn’t incline towards artificial sweeteners increasing anything unhealthy, I’ll stick with the Truvia brand of Stevia, a natural ingredient I generally add to my 4th and final cuppa, every day. I don’t add sugar because who needs extra calories? Though I admit that 4th cuppa often gets an added teaspoon of pure unsweetened cocoa powder, as well.

Interested in Cockroach Sex?

When a male cockroach wants to mate with a female cockroach very much, he will scoot his butt toward her, open his wings and offer her a homemade meal — sugars and fats squished out of his tergal gland. As the lovely lady nibbles, the male locks onto her with one penis while another penis delivers a sperm package.

If everything goes smoothly, a roach’s romp can last around 90 minutes. But increasingly, cockroach coitus is going really, weirdly wrong, and is contributing to roach populations in some places that are more difficult to vanquish with conventional pesticides.

Back in 1993, scientists working at North Carolina State University discovered a trait in the German cockroach, a species that inhabits every continent except Antarctica. Specifically, these new cockroaches seemed to have no affection for a form of sugar called glucose, which was strange because — as anyone who has ever battled against a cockroach infestation knows — cockroaches normally cannot get enough of the sweet stuff.

So, where did these new, health-conscious cockroaches come from?

It seems we created them by accident, after decades of trying to kill their ancestors with sweet powders and liquids laced with poison. The cockroaches that craved sweets ate the poison and died, while cockroaches less keen on glucose avoided the death traps and survived long enough to breed, thus passing that trait down to the next cockroach generation.

But, wait, there’s more! We’ve not only introduced physiological changes; behavioral changes have expanded the need for re-examining the sex lives of these critters.

A “sweetener” that succeeds in convincing my palate it’s sugar!

Tried one or another artificial sweetener – for decades. They all sucked AFAIC…including many Stevias. Finally, found one that works. Not that I used sugar for anything, anyway. But, I always liked a touch in my 4th cuppa in the morning.

Now, I just open one of these wee packets and pour little granules into my coffee and “voila!”. Just the right flavor and sensation of sweetness for me.

Thank you, Truvia.