The History and Science Behind Your Terrible Breath

After the defeat of Cleopatra’s forces by Octavian (later Augustus, emperor of Rome), the Egyptian queen and her lover Marc Antony fled to Egypt. In Shakespeare’s imagining, one of Cleopatra’s greatest fears was the the horrid breath of the Romans. Shown here: “The Death of Cleopatra” by Reginald Arthur, 1892. (Wikimedia Commons)

Persistent mouth-stink has been dousing the flames of passion for millennia. Why haven’t we come up with a cure?

By Brian Handwerk

In The Art of Love, the Roman poet Ovid offers some words of advice to the amorous. To attract the opposite sex, he writes, a seductive woman must learn to dance, hide her bodily blemishes and refrain from laughing if she has a black tooth. But above all, she must not smell foul.

“She whose breath is tainted should never speak before eating,” Ovid instructs, “and she should always stand at a distance from her lover’s face.”

Though the quality of this advice is questionable, the dilemma it describes remains all too familiar. Ancient peoples around the world spent centuries experimenting with so-called cures for bad breath; scientists today continue to puzzle over the factors that lay behind it. Yet stinky breath continues to mystify us, haunting our most intimate moments and following us around like a green stench cloud.

Why is this scourge so persistent? The answer requires a 2,000-year detour through history, and might say more about our own social neuroses than about the scientific causes of this condition.

Listerine ads promised to kill germs instantly and stop bad breath. They also played off consumers’ fear of social rejection—like this one, from a campaign that began in the 1930s.(Kilmer House / Johnson & Johnson)

Our efforts to battle bad breath showcase a history of human inventiveness. The ancient Egyptians, for instance, appear to have invented the breath mint some 3,000 years ago. They created concoctions of boiled herbs and spices—frankincense, myrrh and cinnamon were popular flavorings—mixed with honey to make sweets that could be chewed or sucked. In the 15th century, the Chinese invented the first bristle toothbrushes, made by harvesting hairs from pigs’ necks. More than 5,000 years ago, Babylonians began trying to brush away bad breath with twigs.

Talmudic scholars report that the Torah decried bad breath as a “major disability,” meaning it could be grounds for a wife to seek divorce or could prevent priests from carrying out their duties. Fortunately, the Talmud also suggests some remedies, including rinsing with a mouthwash of oil and water, or the chewing of a mastic gum made from tree resin. This resin, which has since been shown to have antibacterial properties, is still used as gum in Greece and Turkey today.

In Pliny the Elder’s early encyclopedia Natural Historypenned a few years before he was killed in the Vesuvius eruption, the Roman philosopher offered this advice: “To impart sweetness to the breath, it is recommended to rub the teeth with ashes of burnt mouse-dung and honey.” Pliny added that picking one’s teeth with a porcupine quill was recommended, while a vulture’s feather actually soured the breath. While many of these efforts no doubt freshened the breath temporarily, it seems that none provided a lasting fix.

Literary references from around the world confirm that bad breath has long been regarded as the enemy of romance. In the poet Firdawsi’s 10th-century Persian epic, the Shahnama, persistent mouth-stink dramatically changes the course of history. The tale tells of how King Darab’s young bride Nahid was sent home to Macedonia because of her intolerable bad breath. Unbeknown to her either her husband or father, King Phillip, she was already pregnant with a baby boy.

Her son would grow up to be none other than Iskander—better known as Alexander the Great. That meant that, in Firdawsi’s tale, Alexander was not a foreigner but a legitimate king of Persian blood reclaiming his throne.

In Geoffrey Chaucer’s classic Canterbury Tales, the “jolly lover” Absalon prepares for a kiss by scenting his breath with cardamom and licorice. (Unfortunately, the object of his attentions ends up presenting him with her naked rear-end rather than her lips.) In describing the horrors of Rome, William Shakespeare’s Cleopatra laments that “in their thick breaths, / Rank of gross diet, shall we be enclouded, / And forced to drink their vapour.” In Mucho Ado About Nothing, Benedick muses, “If her breath were as terrible as her terminations, there were no living near her; she would infect to the north star.”

Jane Austen’s elegant novels don’t dwell on topics like bad breath. But the author was more candid in her personal correspondence. In a letter to her sister Cassandra, she once complained of some neighbors: “I was as civil to them as their bad breath would allow me.”…

Read more:
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12!
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter



What is osteoarthritis and why is it so hard to diagnose?

Retired NBA player Shaquille O’Neal had surgery on a big toe to treat osteoarthritis in 2002.

A degenerative joint disease or ‘wear and tear’ arthritis, osteoarthritis can be largely asymptomatic until it’s too late. Wren Greene explains.

When I was 28 years old, I was diagnosed with advanced stage osteoarthritis in my knee. I had injured it playing soccer as a teenager but, after surgery, it felt fine for years. The pain was hardly noticeable at first, just a little tenderness after a run or a long hike. But within a year or two, my knee was swelling up just from standing too long.

And I’m not alone. According to the Arthritis Foundation, about one in two people are affected by osteoarthritis at some point in life.

What has always surprised me – and what started me down the road to researching joint lubrication and arthritis – was how rapidly my condition progressed and how few treatment options were available.

For all intents and purposes, osteoarthritis is the end result of a complete breakdown of cartilage’s natural lubrication system, which ameliorates friction and protects surfaces from damage. Although cartilage uses a number of different easing processes, one of the most important is known as ‘weeping’ or ‘biphasic’ lubrication.

The structure of cartilage is rather like a water-swollen sponge made up of a dense collection of collagen micro-fibres linked into one continuous network. This three-dimensional net of fibres forms pores so small that the fluid inside cannot easily flow between them.

Every time you take a step, cartilages on opposing bones press together. The fluid trapped in the collagen fibre network becomes pressurised.

In healthy cartilage, the fluid pressure can equal as much as 99% of the pressure pushing the surfaces together, so supports 99% of the weight. The collagen fibril network, therefore, only ‘feels’ 1% of the weight. In other words, the trapped fluid takes the burden off the tissue surface and so prevents damage.

Osteoarthritis is a disease of wear of the collagen fibril network – but not all types wear are the same. Most people are familiar with abrasive wear – the sort of damage done to wood when it’s rubbed with sandpaper. This is the kind of wear associated with a related disease known as gout, the main symptoms of which, pain and inflammation, are caused by the precipitation of crystals in the joint fluid and become obvious early on.

The kind of wear associated with osteoarthritis is different and less obvious. It has the characteristics of fatigue wear, a process in which repeated compression and shear of a material produces tiny defects below the surface. In cartilage, these take the form of breakages in the links between collagen fibres and result in small ‘holes’ in the interconnected network.

When these defects are few in number, there is no obvious change in the cartilage’s properties, and the damage cannot be assessed non-invasively by a doctor. Stiffness, thickness, density and how rapidly water diffuses inside are not affected by just a few breakages. Think of a fishing net: cutting a small number of links is not going to alter its strength, nor significantly change its ability to catch fish.

But these tiny anomalies concentrate stresses in the collagen fibre network every time it’s compressed, and this gradually creates more defects in the material. Eventually, as the damage accumulates, the breakages start to merge into larger tears – a process scientists call ‘percolation.’

At this point, the now large defects begin to radically change the properties of the tissue. The cartilage softens, its surface roughens and cracks, and most importantly, the collagen fibre network no longer retains water – just like a badly torn net can no longer trap any fish.

Since the water in the tissues flows more easily, the pressure in the fluid drops significantly when you take a step and cartilage is compressed. The reduced fluid pressure shifts more of the burden onto the compromised collagen network. So instead of supporting 99% of the weight, the fluid might only support 50% – or nearly none at all in severely damaged tissue – which in turn accelerates the rate of wear.

A coronal section MRI of a patient suffering osteoarthritis of the right knee. When the articular cartilage of the femur and tibia wear away, the bones begin to rub together. This bone-on-bone contact results in pain, impaired mobility or joint deformity. In this image, the cartilage of the joint on the medial side (right side of image) has worn away, damaging the ends of the femur and tibia.

In essence, cartilage’s main mechanism for lubrication and wear protection no longer functions effectively. Equally unfortunate is that it is typically at this point that an osteoarthritis sufferer will begin noticing pain and swelling in their joints, and treatment options are limited because the damage is already too severe




Why The Melted Fuel Under Fukushima Could Poison Our Planet With Nuclear Radiation For 1000s Of Years

Nuclear Danger Sign - Public Domain

The great cryptocurrency heist

Resultado de imagem para The great cryptocurrency heist

image edited by Web Invesigator

Blockchain enthusiasts crave a world without bankers, lawyers or fat-cat executives. There’s just one problem: trust

E J Spode writes on topics at the intersection of science, politics and popular culture. He has been published by 3:AM Magazine, which is currently serialising his novel The Oddity.

On 20 July 2016, something happened that was arguably the most philosophically interesting event to take place in your lifetime or mine. On that day, after much deliberation and hand-wringing, in the aftermath of a multimillion-dollar swindle from his automated, algorithm-driven, supposedly foolproof corporation, Vitalik Buterin, then 22 years old, announced the ‘hard fork’ of the cryptocurrency Ethereum. By making that announcement, Buterin shattered certain tightly held assumptions about the future of trust and the nature of many vital institutions that make modern life possible. He also really pissed off a lot of people.

How? Well, to understand all that, first we need to talk about trust and its place in the fabric of our lives. Trust seems to be in short supply these days, although we have no choice but to rely on it. We trust schools and babysitters to look after our children. We trust banks to hold our money and to transfer it safely for us. We trust insurance companies to pay us should we meet with some disaster. When we make a large purchase – such as a house – we trust our solicitors or an escrow company to hold the funds until the transaction is complete. We trust regulators and governments to make sure these institutions are doing what they are supposed to be doing.

Sometimes, however, our system of trust fails us. There are runs on banks. People lose faith in currencies issued by nation-states. People stop trusting their political institutions because of the chicanery, short-sightedness and general incompetence of the self-interested clowns running the show. The response to this widespread erosion of trust has been varied, ranging from Donald Trump’s (hypocritical) pledge to ‘drain the swamp’, to the promise of so-called ‘blockchain technology’ and its associated cryptocurrencies.

The blockchain is the key to understanding Buterin’s project. A good way to wrap our minds around the concept is to think of its most famous application: Bitcoin. And the best way to think about Bitcoin is not in terms of coins at all but rather as a giant ledger.

Imagine a world in which we didn’t exchange currency, but kept track of who had what on a huge public spreadsheet, distributed across the internet. Every 10 minutes, all the transactions that took place in that slice of time are fused together into a single block. Each block includes a chain linking it to previous blocks, hence the term ‘blockchain’. The end result is a universal record book that reliably logs everything that’s ever happened via a (theoretically) tamper-proof algorithm. We don’t need to trust human bankers to tell us who owns what, because we can all see what’s written in the mathematically verified blockchain.

But Bitcoin is just one version of the blockchain. The fundamental technology has the potential to replace a much wider range of human institutions in which we use trust to reach a consensus about a state of affairs. It could provide a definitive record for property transfers, from diamonds to Porsches to original Picassos. It could be used to record contracts, to certify the authenticity of valuable goods, or to securely store your health records (and keep track of anyone who’s ever accessed them).

But there’s a catch: what about the faithful ‘execution’ of a contract? Doesn’t that require trust as well? What good is an agreement, after all, if the text is there but people don’t respect it, and don’t follow through on their obligations? Which brings us back to the crucial matter of how Buterin managed to piss off so many people.

In the beginning, Buterin was a hero to the crusaders against trust. In late 2013, at the age of 19, he wrote a document, known as the ‘Ethereum White Paper’. In it, he observed that you could hypothetically use the blockchain to store and execute computer programs – hypothetically, any computer program. This gave rise to Ethereum: a blockchain-based platform that supported self-executing contracts. The commands to execute the contract were built into the contract itself, and the contract was sealed into the (supposedly) immutable and universally visible blockchain. No trust necessary. Or so the story went.

This had extraordinary implications – one of which was that entire corporations could be encoded in the blockchain in the form of ‘decentralised autonomous organisations’ (DAOs). None of the usual trusted business partners would be required: employees, managers, human resources officers, CFOs and CEOs would be rendered otiose. No longer would shareholders need to pay massive bonuses to hedge-fund executives ‘trusted’ to make decisions about our money. In theory, at least, those executives could be replaced by a bundle of transparent, pre-set instructions stored in the blockchain.

About 11,000 people ponied up a total of $150 million to take part. What had they purchased, exactly?

On the back of a wave of excitement, Ethereum’s currency, known as ‘ethers’, went up for pre-sale in the summer of 2014. Ethers would serve a dual function as both the ‘fuel’ that powered the computations on the network, and as a medium of exchange, like bitcoins. In short order, the value of ethers started to climb, and the platform reached a ‘market capitalisation’ of around $1 billion after the pre-sale. (Full disclosure: I participated as an investor at this initial stage but have since liquidated my holdings.)…






The Gender Ending Agenda of Anti-Creationists


by Julian Rose, Contributor, Waking Times

The Universe is sexual. Electric. Sexual-electric. Its electricity produced by a state of polarity. Polarity which causes friction. Friction as the fundamental life force. The life force which catalyzes birth. Birth: an act of procreation; ‘pro-creation’. A Divine act. The birthing of the Universe as Divine Action.

An action brought about by the mutual attraction existing between two interconnected, gravity enhanced polar opposites. Negative/positive; day/night; yin/yang; male/female. No life without duality. No duality without polarity. No birth without duality/polarity. No evolution without procreation, and no procreation without the sexes.

Sexuality is sacred, an eternal fountain of the profoundly creative: therefore, in a monotone world, where survival depends upon materialistic uniformity of thought and sterile conformity of inaction, sexuality is dangerous.

That danger has led to an attempt to neuter our electrically charged reality, and render obsolete the role of man, woman and even procreation itself, so as to make way for a robotic cyber race and subsequent trans-humanist take-over of this planet.

Let us explore this phenomenon further. Let us bring it to light of day so that all shall see, and cease to deny, what stands behind the glorious actuality of life, death and universal movement. And at the same time, to recognize the existence and manifestation of a cruel master-plan, to block and set in reverse, this great unfolding adventure: the evolution of Life.

To those who are entrained to oppose, repress and suffocate the life force which stands behind Creation, sexuality is indeed dangerous. Especially so, since it is aligned with the birth of new life, a vessel and messenger of universal spiritual creativity.

The forces that take fright from this energetic expression of creative freedom, are aligned with an opposing state of existence. One that, for the sake of this article, we will call ‘anti-creation’. A force that seeks to subsume creative energy and invert it into its opposite.

Such beings (and the entities that possess them) do not oppose the existence of electric energy per se. They do not wish to destroy that which provides them with the fuel needed to carry through their master-plan. But they do wish to gain control over it and use it for their own ends. Not for pro-creation, but for its opposite – anti-creation, a form of life abortion.

They wish to possess that which is pure, claiming unto themselves such untainted energies, and using them as ammunition within an unquenchable ambition for power, possession and absolute dominance.

This form of power comes without empathy, compassion or love. It is hard, cold and often ruthless. It can murder, maim and eviscerate life with seemingly cool disdain.

To warm, red-blooded humans, it seems almost inconceivable. Almost inconceivable that there could be an entity devoid of these instincts; one supported (worshipped) by human beings keen to emulate its cold, robotic machismo.

But amongst what are referred to as ‘the 1%’, such beings are indeed to be found. Those who practice pedophilia and child sacrifice, while holding high office in government, banking, law, media and other similar professions. In other words, those who run the day-to-day life of this planet.

It is within the ambition of such people, to support external and extra dimensional forces that wish to take control of human DNA, while confining humanity to playing-out a slavish role in support of the ‘anti-creation master plan’.

Great swathes of humanity cannot (or do not wish to) believe that such entities – and the earthly beings who emulate them – actually exist and engage in such heinous acts of violence on the young and innocent who walk amongst us. Most of the inhabitants of planet Earth cannot see that they are under the spell of a global indoctrination agenda. And that this agenda is the dominant controlling mechanism of this neo-liberal corporate era.

We are here to help change that situation.

Neutering, Crudifying and Sublimating Sexual Polarity

Let us draw breath a moment and ask: how is the subversion and inversion of natural sexuality actually achieved here on planet Earth?

Given that it is a key element of the anti-creation mission, what is the methodology being applied to ensure its widespread adoption?

Let me start the answer to this question by reminding us that the uncorrupted nature of human and universal sexuality is spiritual in nature. We are blessed with this power. The power of pro-creation.

Every male is in part, also female. Every female is in part, also male. We recognize these qualities in ourselves. They allow both sexes to empathise with each other. They are distinctive, yet entirely interconnected. Looked at dynamically, they are engaged in a Flamenco like dance of magnetic attraction within each one of us; just as they are between us. Love starts within.

As outlined at the beginning, sexuality (sex-duality) is the essential driving force of universal life. Of movement, change, evolution. Without the ‘friction’ stemming from the attraction of complementary opposites, living energy-matter would never have come into existence. The source of sexuality (sex-duality) is therefore sacred.

What the anti-creation doctrine aims to do, in order to achieve its goal, is to pry apart these two lovers and make them appear to be at odds with each other. To make natural duality appear to be a conflict rather than a resolution. Distorting and contorting that which is whole so that it seems like two opposing elements.

One ‘anti-creation’ solution would appear to be perfecting the watering down and morphing into each other of these two states, so that they no longer appear to be distinct, but indistinct and almost entirely lacking in definition. In effect, sterilising, homogenising and neutering them. Collapsing the divine natural polarity…


About the Author
Julian Rose is an early pioneer of UK organic farming, international activist and author. Contact Julian at to find out more. He is President of The International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside, and is the author of two books with some very powerful perspectives: Changing Course for Life and In Defence of Life.
Like Waking Times on Facebook. Follow Waking Times on Twitter.
This article (The Gender Ending Agenda of Anti-Creationists) was originally created and published by Julian Rose and is re-posted here with permission. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement.