Weekend Coffee: December 28


While you rest and recover from all the holiday feasting, some links:

• The eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that buried the Roman city of Pompeii also buried another town, Herculaneum. One of the buildings that’s been unearthed was a rich Roman’s villa – including the library. The thousands of scrolls it contained were thought to be charred beyond recognition, but high-resolution CAT scans and multispectral imaging are finally making it possible to read the lost scrolls from the Villa of the Papyri, including a previously unknown work of Epicurus. Over the centuries, the ghosts of the authors whisper to us…

• Continuing the Roman theme, archaeologists and physicists are having a tug-of-war over reclaimed Roman lead. The archaeologists want to leave it as is for its historical value, while some physicists advocate melting down and reusing the Roman ingots, because their high purity and extremely low natural radioactivity make them ideal shielding for scientific experiments.

• Fanfic writers, start your motors: A U.S. judge has ruled that Sherlock Holmes is now a public-domain character.

• Just plain cool: An artist imagines redrawing the United States so all fifty states would have equal population.

• I previously wrote about the conviction of Catholic monsignor William Lynn for his role in covering up child rape. This week, a court overturned his conviction, not because he didn’t do what he was accused of, but because of a legal technicality in the wording of Pennsylvania’s child welfare law. The law has since been modified, so no one else will escape through this loophole.

• And I leave you with a heartwarmer: the Oklahoma atheist group that saved a young mother’s Christmas.

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