Science Friday: The Science Behind Honey’s Eternal Shelf Life | What Exactly Was the Christmas Star?

A slew of factors—its acidity, its lack of water and the presence of hydrogen peroxide—work in perfect harmony, allowing the sticky treat to last forever
August 22, 2013

Modern archeologists, excavating ancient Egyptian tombs, have often found something unexpected amongst the tombs’ artifacts: pots of honey, thousands of years old, and yet still preserved. Through millennia, the archeologists discover, the food remains unspoiled, an unmistakable testament to the eternal shelf-life of honey.

There are a few other examples of foods that keep–indefinitely–in their raw state: salt, sugar, dried rice are a few. But there’s something about honey; it can remain preserved in a completely edible form, and while you wouldn’t want to chow down on raw rice or straight salt, one could ostensibly dip into a thousand year old jar of honey and enjoy it, without preparation, as if it were a day old. Moreover, honey’s longevity lends it other properties–mainly medicinal–that other resilient foods don’t have. Which raises the question–what exactly makes honey such a special food?

The answer is as complex as honey’s flavor–you don’t get a food source with no expiration date without a whole slew of factors working in perfect harmony.

The first comes from the chemical make-up of honey itself. Honey is, first and foremost, a sugar. Sugars are hygroscopic, a term that means they contain very little water in their natural state but can readily suck in moisture if left unsealed. As Amina Harris, executive director of the Honey and Pollination Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute at Univeristy of California, Davis explains, …

At the link

What Exactly Was the Christmas Star?

The Star of Bethlehem may not have actually been a star

During the Christmas season, it’s hard to go anywhere without seeing stars hanging from street lamps and perched  atop Christmas trees. Although the Star of Bethlehem appears just once in the Bible, in the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament, it has become one of the holiday’s most important and enduring symbols. Yet astronomers are still puzzled by whatever might have inspired that aspect of the Christmas story

As’s Larry Sessions writes, it’s clear to modern astronomers that the Star of Bethlehem behaved very oddly, if it existed at all. First of all, Jesus Christ almost certainly wasn’t born in December, so looking for its origins in the night sky this time of year isn’t the best place to start. Historians have long agreed that Christmas shares roots with the ancient Roman solstice holiday, Saturnalia, and that Jesus was most likely born in the spring when shepherds would be tending their flocks, Donna Vickroy writes for the Chicago Tribune. In fact, Christmas only takes place on December 25 because of the Roman Emperor Constantine, who moved the holiday in order to coincide with the shortest night of the year.





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