Ancient Gladiator School Discovered in Austria

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Ancient Gladiator School Discovered in Austria

By by Megan Gannon, News Editor20 hours ago

Gladiator school

Credit: © Michael Klein
An ancient Roman gladiator school has been discovered in Austria, complete with cell blocks, a training arena and a bath complex, archaeologists say. Theburied remains of the school — at the site of Carnuntum, near Vienna — were detected not through excavations but through remote-sensing techniques. Based on these findings, researchers reconstructed the gladiator center in virtual 3D models.

An ancient Roman gladiator school has been discovered in Austria, complete with cell blocks, a training arena and a bath complex, archaeologists say.

The buried remains of the school — at the site of Carnuntum, near Vienna, which thrived some 1,700 years ago — were detected not through excavations but through remote-sensing techniques. Based on these findings, researchers reconstructed the gladiator center in virtual 3D models.

Archaeologists have been studying Carnuntum, which is on the south bank of the River Danube, for more than 100 years. Previous excavations at the ancient military city had revealed parts of the civilian town, the legionary fortress and an amphitheater.

Footprint of gladiators

Credit: Video Screengrab, graphic by Wolfgang Neubauer and Alois Hinterleitner.
Radargrams visualized as horizontal depth-slices produced from ground-penetrating radar data reveal the ancient gladiator school/courtyard. Within the courtyard a circular structure can be seen (62 feet, or 19 meters, in diameter) interpreted as the training arena of the gladiators. 

The newly discovered gladiator school, or ludus, covers 30,138 square feet (2,800 square meters), and the building complex is arranged around a central courtyard.

“The most prominent feature inside the courtyard is a free-standing circular structure 19 m [62 feet] in diameter, which could be interpreted as the training arena for the gladiators,” the authors write in the journal Antiquity.

The researchers, led by archaeologist Wolfgang Neubauer of the University of Vienna, say this arena would have been surrounded by wooden spectator stands set on stone foundations, which were clearly visible in the ground-penetrating radar data. These measurements also revealed something like a post-hole in the middle of the arena.


Credit: Video Screengrab, graphic by Wolfgang Neubauer and Alois Hinterleitner.
This magnetogram shows the western area around the municipal amphitheater, revealing the remains of the ancient gladiatorial school and its surroundings. The prominent winding linear feature indicates a ditch dug for the installation of an aqueduct. As the building complex clearly respects this ditch, it is assumed to predate the construction of the gladiatorial school. An extended refuse dump obvious in the magnetic and radar data at the southern corner of the building proves that the ditch in Roman times was a distinct depression separating the gladiatorial school from the surrounding area of the amphitheater.  

“This might be the foundation of the palus, a wooden pole used for exercising blows with the sword and body slams with the shield,” Neubauer and colleagues wrote.

In the southern wing of the building complex, the researchers detected cell blocks that each covered only 32 to 75 square feet (3 to 7 square meters). Cells of a similar design have been found at the barracks at the ludus magnus, the gladiatorial school close to the Flavian amphitheater in Rome, the archaeologists wrote.

Other rooms along the western wing at Carnuntum were more spacious and were perhaps even decorated with tile floors. The researchers wrote that these chambers “were most likely reserved for the highest rankinggladiators or the instructors, many of whom probably were drawn from the ranks of senior and ex-gladiators.”


Credit: Video Screengrab, graphics by Wolfgang Neubauer.
In this image of the civilian town of Carnuntum, the amphitheater and remains of the gladiator school are visible. To the north the street system and the main fortification of the municipium show up as faint vegetation marks in the grassland. 

The site also contains evidence of the living quarters of the school’s owner, or the lanista, and a bath complex, where the gladiators could recover from their harsh training, the report says.

The archaeologists found the outline for the gladiator school over the last few years using non-invasive techniques like aerial photography, ground-penetrating radar and magnetometer surveys. The team also analyzed the area using an electromagnetic induction (EMI) sensor attached to a four-wheeler ATV. This method allows researchers to transmit an electromagnetic field to create currents in the soil. By determining the soil’s electrical conductivity and its magnetic susceptibility, scientists can find out if the earth underneath has ever been heated, revealing the location of hidden bricks (which are made by heating clay).

Archaeologist’s toolbox

Credit: LBI ArchPro
Geophysical measurement systems used in the detection of the gladiatorial school at Carnuntum: A) the MALA ̊ Imaging Radar Array (MIRA) with 16 × 400MHz channels spaced at 8cm. The RTK-GPS receiver is situated centrally above the GPR antenna box. The system is hydraulically mounted in front of a small tractor.  

Drawing on this data, the archaeologists built a 3D models demonstrating what the site might have looked like in ancient times, as this YouTube video shows.

Archaeological interpretation

Credit: Video Screengrab, graphics by Wolfgang Neubauer
GIS-based archaeological interpretation map of the gladiatorial school at Carnuntum derived from the ground-penetrating radar and magnetic data combined with the topographic model derived from airborne laser scanning.

Virtual Reconstruction

Credit: M.Klein / 7reasons
A virtual reconstruction model of the school of gladiators at Carnuntum.

Huge School

Credit: M.Klein / 7reasons
The newly discovered gladiator school, or ludus, shown here in a virtual reconstruction, covers 30,138 square feet (2,800 square meters), and the building complex is arranged around a central courtyard.

Setting Sun

Credit: M.Klein / 7reasons
Here, a look at what the ludus, or gladiator school, would have looked like in the evening when active during the second century A.D.

The Basics

Credit: LBI ArchPro
A three-dimensional visualization of the gladiator school complex derived from the ground-penetrating radar depth-slices.

Follow Megan Gannon on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescienceFacebook Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Copyright 2014 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Experimental Psoriasis Treatment Shows Promise

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Experimental Psoriasis Treatment Shows Promise

By Jesse Emspak, Contributing writer   |   February 26, 2014 04:05pm ET

Credit: Christine Langer-p

The chronic skin condition psoriasis could be treated with a compound that targets a small piece of genetic material in cells, new research in animals suggests.

Researchers found that blocking a type of genetic material called micro-RNA lowered the inflammation in mice that were grafted with skin from people with psoriasis.

A drug that could be made from this compound is years away from being commercially available, the researchers said, and it is not clear whether the experiments in mice will translate to people.

Odd Cause of Humans’ Dark Skin Proposed

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Odd Cause of Humans’ Dark Skin Proposed

By Stephanie Pappas, Senior Writer   |   February 25, 2014 07:01pm ET
Black and white skin
White and black hands clasp.
Credit: Claus Mikosch Shutterstock

Skin cancer could have directly driven the evolution of dark skin in humans, a study on people with albinism in modern Africa suggests.

Albinism is an inherited disorder that prevents people from making melanin, a black or brown pigment. Albino people in sub-Saharan Africa almost universally die of skin cancer — and at young ages, according to a new paper published today (Feb. 25) in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

These modern tragedies point to a potential reason early humansevolved dark skin, said Mel Greaves, a cell biologist at the Institute of Cancer Research in the United Kingdom. [Can People Have Blue Skin?]

“Cancer has been dismissed by effectively all scientists in the past” as the reason for the evolution of black skin, Greaves told Live Science. “They did so believing that skin cancer cannot be a selective force acting on survival and reproductive success, because in present-day white-skinned people, it is usually benign or impacts too late in life.”

Color and cancer

There’s no doubt that dark skin protects people from the sun. Individuals with white skin are far more susceptible to skin cancer than are people with dark skin. Exact skin tone makes a difference, but in general, African America skin has a sun protection factor of 13.4, compared with 3.4 in white skin, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. [Fiery Folklore: 5 Dazzling Sun Myths]

When the first hominins (human ancestors) began hunting and gathering on the open savannah, they lost their body hair, likely to keep cool amid the strenuous exercise of their lifestyle. These early humans probably had pale skin, much like humans’ closest living relative, the chimpanzee, which is white under its fur. Around 1.2 million to 1.8 million years ago, early Homo sapiens evolved dark skin. But evolutionary biologists haven’t been convinced that skin cancer itself drove the evolutionary change. (Light skin evolved again after humans moved out of Africa to higher latitudes.)

That’s because skin cancer in the modern world tends to strike later in life, after the reproductive years. From an evolutionary perspective, this time not very important. What really matters is survival during the reproductive years in order to pass on genes to offspring.

Evolution of dark skin

So researchers have come up with alternative reasons that dark skin might promote survival. Possibilities include avoiding painful sunburns, which would prevent effective hunting and gathering; improving vision, because a lack of pigment comes with vision problems; protecting the sweat glands from sun damage; and protecting the body’s supply of folic acid, which is crucial for neural development and which can be damaged by excessive ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.

In addition, melanin may even protect against fungal infections in humid climates, according to a 2007 article in the journal Dermatologic Clinics.

While pigmentation offers clear benefits, Greaves believes that cancer alone could have done the trick in driving early humans’ dark skin. In modern sub-Saharan Africa, albinism is common, with about one case per every 5,000 people. In comparison, there is only one case per every 20,000 people in Europe and the United States.

Greaves reviewed published cases on albinism in Africa and found that almost all albino individuals developed skin cancer in their 20s. In the South African state of Soweto, the risk of developing skin cancer is 1,000 times greater for people with albinism than for people with dark pigmentation.

The prevalence of outdoor labor mean that lesions develop earlier among African people with albinism than among white-skinned Americans, Greaves found. In one study of people with albinism in Nigeria, 50 percent had skin cancer by age 26. In another study in Tanzania, 80 percent of the albino people studied developed skin cancer by age 30. Fewer than 10 percent of people with albinism in sub-Saharan Africa make it beyond age 40, Greaves wrote.

Similarly, outside of Africa, the Kuna people of Panama have an albinism rate of one in 150 people. Again, virtually all albino Kuna individuals have skin cancer by age 30.

These early cancers would have been a fact of life for pale humans living in sub-Saharan Africa without the benefit of medical knowledge or sunscreen, Greaves concluded. These cancers would have turned fatal, as they do today, after metastasizing to other areas or after ulcerating and becoming infected. As a result, paler people would have died more frequently at younger ages, leaving mostly darker-skinned individuals to pass on their genes.

The idea is speculative, Greaves said. But, he added, his analysis of albinism in Africa is “the first time that a plausible case has been made that cancer has influenced human evolution.”

Follow Stephanie Pappas on Twitter and Google+. Follow us@livescienceFacebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

How Do You Get Herpes?

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How Do You Get Herpes?

By Michael Dhar, Live Science Contributor   |   February 25, 2014 02:10pm ET
A cold sore on this patient’s lip was caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1).

Herpes, a very common viral infection, spreads by person-to-person contact.

The infection is caused by theherpes simplex virus (HSV), which comes in two forms: HSV-1, which usually results in oral herpes infections affecting the mouth and lips; and HSV-2, which usually causes genital herpes affecting the genitals and anus.

Both types of HSV spread primarily by physical contact with an infected person. Most people get HSV-2 during sexual intercourse (vaginal or anal). HSV-1 tends to spread to individuals in childhood, when an adult who carries the virus touches the child — for example, by pinching a baby’s cheeks. Among adults, HSV-1 usually spreads by kissing.

However, HSV-1 can also spread to the genitals during oral sex, while HSV-2 infections in the genitals can spread to the mouth during oral sex.

About 50 to 80 percent of U.S. adults carry HSV-1 (oral herpes), while 20 percent of people age 12 and older have HSV-2. In many cases, however, individuals with the virus don’t know they have it. In fact, an estimated 90 percent of people with HSV-2 don’t know they’re infected.

That’s because many people carry herpes without showing any signs of it. One symptom of a herpes infection is the presence of sores around the mouth, genitals or anus. These sores appear during a so-called herpes “outbreak” but usually clear up on their own.

The virus, however, never goes away — once you’ve been infected with herpes, it sticks with you forever. Most of that time, it will be dormant, living in your nerve cells (instead of in the skin cells, where it can cause sores).

People with dormant herpes virus can still pass it to others, though outbreaks of herpes sores make transmission more likely. Using barriers like condoms and dental dams during sex can lower your risk of getting herpes, but they are not 100 percent effective.

Follow Michael Dhar @michaeldhar. Follow Live Science @livescience. We’re also on Facebook & Google+.

It’s 3 a.m., Is that a Parasitic Worm in Your Cheek? (Op-Ed)

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It’s 3 a.m., Is that a Parasitic Worm in Your Cheek? (Op-Ed)

Jon Allen, College of William and Mary   |   February 25, 2014 01:12am ET
Buddy was removed intact and alive. Jon Allen rushed the nematode to his lab, preserved in a little jar of his own saliva.
Credit: Jon Allen, College of William and Mary.

Jonathan Allen is a professor in the Department of Biology at the College of William & Mary. His teaching, as well as his research, is directed at marine invertebrates and he participates in the William & Mary Marine Science minor. Allen contributed this article to Live Science’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

This is a story that just might keep you up at night. One night in September last year, I woke up at 3 a.m. with a feeling that something just wasn’t right. I am a scientist, and therefore not the kind of person who goes down the rabbit-hole looking to self-diagnose a rare disease, but there I was, night-surfing internet health sites trying to figure out what was behind the strange rough spot in my mouth.

Morning, as it often does, saw a return to normal in both mouth and outlook. But then, a couple days later, the bump came back. And it hadmoved.

As the roaming bump came and went from day to day, I grew increasingly concerned. Midnight conversations with my sleeping wife did little to address the issue. I began to wonder if some kind of parasite might explain the wandering rough patch in my mouth. Unfortunately for me, whatever was causing my symptoms liked to wander around in places I couldn’t see, and it would stay that way for three full months. This was starting to keep me up at night.

Buddy makes a rare appearance. In his wanderings around the biologist’s mouth, the worm was usually in the palate or cheek.
Credit: Jon Allen, College of William and Mary.

By training, I’m an invertebrate biologist. In my job as a biology professor at the College of William and Mary, I teach students about the 98 percent or so of animal species that don’t have a backbone. Many of these animals are charismatic, in their own spineless way: sea urchins, starfish, corals, jellyfish, etc. Those that aren’t charismatic are often tasty: crabs, lobsters, clams, oysters — you get the picture. Despite their inherent beauty and palatability, it can be challenging to engage students in these largely foreign animals — but I’ve found that lecturing about invertebrate parasites never fails to garner a rapt audience.

Invertebrates, or any organisms, that make humans their home are inherently of interest to people. In general, we know a great deal aboutthe organisms that make a living inside of us. In fact the symbol of the medical profession, the rod of Asclepius, is rumored to be an ancient symbol of a parasitic worm being spun out of the human body on a stick (a technique still used to this day to cure Guinea worm infections). You might therefore reasonably expect that parasites are both easily detected and widely known by medical professionals. You’d be wrong on both counts.

After three months of intermittent symptoms, I self-diagnosed myself in late December last year. It happened to be the day of the final exam for the Invertebrate Biology class I teach. The rough patch that had been migrating around my oral cavity for three months had moved to my lower lip. A few minutes in the bathroom with my camera confirmed my suspicions of a parasite. I could actually see the worm; it had moved, at last, into my lip. The sinusoidal shape of my parasite pal told me it was a nematode worm and a quick internet search (armed with the right information, those internet health websites switch from the refuge of hypochondriacs to the halls of modern medicine) suggested a likely candidate: Gongylonema pulchrum.

The only problem with my diagnosis is that G. pulchrum is exceedingly rare (we’re slipping back towards hypochondriac land) with fewer than 60 cases reported globally. Nonetheless, armed with photographs of the worm in my lip and a handful of recent case studies, I felt confident I could make the case to my doctor. The thought crossed my mind that if I got a medical professional to help me with the diagnosis, we might even write it up as a case study ourselves.

parasite nematode, Gongylonema pulchrum parasite

Jon Allen extracted Buddy alive and wriggling, preserving the head and tail, which allowed him to identify the worm as Gongylonema pulchrum.
Credit: Jon Allen, College of William and Mary.

My delusions of grandeur were quickly squashed when my primary care physician (or more accurately his answering service) told me he didn’t deal with something like this. A referral to an oral surgeon yielded no better results: my symptoms were simply normal discoloration of the oral mucosa, and in fact, he sees this sort of thing “all the time.”

Luckily for me, another cause of late night sleeplessness (a three-year-old learning to use the potty) gave me the opportunity for a little bit of self-surgery. The rough spot had moved to a place I could reach with some forceps.

I woke my wife and asked her to hold the flashlight in the bathroom mirror while I pulled the worm from my cheek. Once removed, I rushed to my research lab to document my find: an intact and very lively specimen of G. pulchrum. Like other Christmas presents, it came only when everyone else was asleep. And yes, I was still in my pajamas.

parasite nematode, Gongylonema pulchrum parasite, Jon Allen, Aurora Esquela-Kerscher

Jon Allen and his collaborator, Aurora Esquela-Kerscher, pose with Buddy, now preserved in a jar.
Credit: Jon Allen, College of William and Mary.

One last piece of serendipity: My neighbor, Aurora Esquela-Kerscher, is a biologist at Eastern Virginia Medical School, and she happens to be one of the few people in the world qualified to sequence DNA from a small worm like mine. With Aurora’s unique skill set, and my unique parasite, we teamed up to publish a case study in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. I wonder if my physician is a subscriber?

The publication of our case study opened up a world of opportunities to talk about my new friend (appropriately named ‘Buddy’). Buddy and I had the good fortune to be featured in a piece by a Pulitzer-prize winning writer, Deborah Blum, in her column at Wired. That piece was a gateway to even more attention, leading to a story and video segment on the Huffington Post and countless re-tellings of the stories on blogs and news websites across Europe, Asia and beyond. Aurora and I also got a grant to study the prevalence of Buddy-itis (if you will), which is largely asymptomatic.

Why were folks so interested in the story of Buddy? I think it struck a chord with people who can identify with that 3 a.m. health worry. The likelihood that Buddy wasacquired from ordinary food and water sources provides a bit of a horror-movie thrill, if no comfort. Add in a less-than-ideal interaction with medical professionals, and you have a perfect storm of cultural touchstones that transcends national borders.

parasite nematode, Gongylonema pulchrum parasite
As news of Jon Allen and his parasite pal got around William & Mary’s biology department, Gummi worms began appearing in his lab, allowing Allen and collaborator Aurora Esquela-Kerscher to stage a re-enactment.
Credit: Jon Allen, College of William and Mary.

What do I take away from this ordeal? As a patient, the saga of Buddy has eroded some of my faith in our health care system. If it takes more than a Ph.D., images of the parasite and a slew of research articles to get a correct diagnosis, what hope can most folks have?

As a professor, I’ve thought a great deal about what this means for how I train my students. At the collegiate level, its common to hear schools emphasize that we train people how to think and deal with the unpredictable problems of the future. My case study is an example of how that skill set is still too rare, even among highly educated medical professionals. I think the fundamental thing that this ordeal has convinced me of is that my job as an educator is more important now than ever.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This version of the article was originally published on Live Science.

Stethoscopes More Contaminated Than Doctors’ Hands

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Stethoscopes More Contaminated Than Doctors’ Hands

By Agata Blaszczak-Boxe, Staff Writer    |   February 27, 2014 04:05pm ET
Credit: medical school book via Shutterstock

Stethoscopes tend to be more contaminated than the palms of physicians’ hands, new research shows.

In a recent Swiss study, researchers discovered that more bacteria cover a stethoscope’s diaphragm (the part that’s held against a patient’s body) than all regions of a physician’s hands, except the fingertips.

The study also found a close correlation between the degree of the contamination of the diaphragm and that of the physician’s fingertips. There are no official guidelines that tell doctors how often they should clean their stethoscopes, the researchers said.

“The more you have bacteria on the fingertips, the more you find bacteria on the membrane of the stethoscope,” said study author Dr. Didier Pittet, director of infection control at the University of Geneva Hospitals. [10 Weird and Terrifying Medical Instruments from the Past]

In the study, 71 patients were examined by one of three physicians who used sterile gloves, and a sterile stethoscope. After the examination, the researchers checked the degree of bacterial contamination on two parts of the stethoscope — the tube and membrane ­­— and four regions of the physician’s hands — back, fingertips, the region near the base of the thumb and the region near the little finger.

Researchers found more contamination in the diaphragm than in all regions of the physician’s hand, except the fingertips. The tube of the stethoscope also showed more contamination than the back of the physician’s hand.

“What was relatively surprising is the degree of colonization, which is pretty high,” Pittet said.

The findings may have implications for patient safety regulations.

“It means that the stethoscope needs to be cleaned, some people say ‘decontaminated’ or ‘disinfected,’ after each single clinical use,” which is not routinely done, Pittet said.

There are currently no recognized guidelines for cleaning stethoscopes anywhere in the world, he said.

However, doctors do use a separate stethoscope for patients infected with bacteria that are resistant to drugs, Pittet said. The new research could lead to additional precautions, he said.

“So this paper would certainly push people to think about it and to evolve the guidelines,” Pittet said.

Follow Agata Blaszczak-Boxe on Twitter . Follow Live Science@livescienceFacebook Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Scientists pinpoint exotic new particle called quantum droplet

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Scientists pinpoint exotic new particle called quantum droplet


By Will Dunham6 hours ago

By Will Dunham

 A microscopic "quantum droplet" discovered by JILA physicists is pictured in this artist's conception
A microscopic “quantum droplet” – a new quasiparticle discovered by JILA physicists – is pictured in this artist’s conception obtained by Reuters February 26, 2014. REUTERS/Baxley/JILA/Handout

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In the field of quantum physics, you could call this a droplet in the bucket.

Physicists in Germany and the United States said on Wednesday they have discovered an exotic new type of particle that they call a quantum droplet, or dropleton.

Writing in the journal Nature, they said it behaves a bit like a liquid droplet and described it as a quasiparticle – an amalgamation of smaller types of particles.

The discovery, they added, could be useful in the development of nanotechnology, including the design of optoelectronic devices. These include things like the semiconductor lasers used in Blu-ray disc players.

The microscopic quantum droplet does not dawdle. In the physicists’ experiments using an ultra-fast laser emitting about 100 million pulses per second, the quantum droplet appeared for only about 2.5 billionths of a second.

That does not sound like much, but the scientists said it is stable enough for research on how light interacts with certain types of matter.

A previously known example of a quasiparticle is the exciton, a pairing of an electron and a “hole” – a place in the material’s energy structure where an electron could be located but is not.

The quantum droplet is made up of roughly five electrons and five holes. It possesses some characteristics of a liquid, like having ripples, the scientists said.

Quantum physics is a branch of physics that relates to events taking place on the tiniest scale. It is essential in describing the structure of atoms.

Particles are the basic building blocks of matter. They include things like subatomic entities such as electrons, protons, neutrons and quarks. Only rarely are new ones found.

The scientists in Germany worked with a team led by physicist Steven Cundiff at JILA, a joint physics institute of the University of Colorado at Boulder and the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology.

It was in Boulder where the laser experiments were performed using a semiconductor of the elements gallium and arsenic, revealing the new particle, albeit fleetingly.

“Even though this happens so rapidly, it is still useful to understand that it does happen,” Cundiff said by email.

The scientists foresee practical value in the discovery.

“The effects that give rise to the formation of dropletons also influence the electrons in optoelectronic devices such as laser diodes,” physicist Mackillo Kira of the University of Marburg in Germany, one of the researchers, said by email.

Examples of optoelectronic devices include LED lights and semiconductor lasers used in telecommunications and Blu-ray players.

“For example, the dropletons couple particularly strongly to quantum fluctuations of light, which should be extremely useful when designing lasers capable of encoding quantum information,” Kira added.

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Jan Paschal)