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News Currents: The Secret to Great Tomatoes, Tiniest Olympic Rings and Ancient Teeth

Tue, 2012-05-29 14:44 -- cnicolini
May 27 2012 - 3:45pm
By: Chris Gorski
Photo Credit: IBM Research - Zurich, University of Warwick, Royal Society of Chemistry

This week's links include stories about agriculture, the Olympics, and cavities.

This story in Wired discusses new research into the chemistry of the tomato. The researchers suggest that breeding for qualities prized by supermarkets are taking away crucial aromatic elements that provide that real tomato-y taste prized by home gardeners and connoisseurs. The research holds promise to agriculture, as they might be able to identify the genes that produce the best-tasting tomatoes and insert them into supermarket-friendly fruits.

Pictures of the Olympic rings will be unavoidable in the coming months, as the London games approach. Not like this, however. Above is a photo of the smallest possible set of five rings joined together. Collaborators from the Royal Society of Chemistry, the University of Warwick and IBM Research – Zurich worked together to create a structure 10,000 times thinner than a human hair. They call it Olympicene and it is made up of 19 atoms of Carbon and 12 of Hydrogen.
Finally, here's an interesting story from Science (behind a pay wall, but a summary is available) discussing the state of human teeth from ancient history until today. Diets have changed radically over time as agriculture and cheese doodles have taken over. We've also added fluoride to our water. We brush our teeth. But it turns out that wealth does not necessarily positively influence the health of teeth. A new study in the Yucatan peninsula found that "[y]oung adults in the town of Dzilam González had three times as many cavities as those who live in a poorer, more isolated village nearby where people can't afford soft drinks every day, according to a new study."
I was surprised to read that it is very rare to find cavities in ancient human teeth. But it makes some sense, given that, as stated in the story, today's oral environment is markedly different than when it evolved. My favorite nugget of info was from a pediatric dentist who indicated that before Alexander the Great brought sugar to Greece, fewer than 10% of people had cavities. 
*Stay tuned for a story coming next week from Inside Science News Service about ancient teeth and how anthropologists are using them to improve their knowledge of health and diets throughout history.


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