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Pompeii victims ‘killed by heat not suffocation’

When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 70 AD, temperatures shot up to 600 degrees Celsius, killing residents instantly within a span of ten seconds, a study has revealed.

“Contrary to what was thought, the victims didn’t suffer a prolonged agony from suffocation, but rather died instantaneously from the exposure to high temperatures,” Vancouver Sun quoted the team of volcanologists and anthropologists from Naples as stating.

“Our findings reveal that neither asphyxia nor impact force, but heat, caused the deaths,” they added. Red-hot clouds of gas and fine ash known as pyroclastic density currents flowed down the slopes of Vesuvius, engulfing Pompeii’s frescoed villas, shops, public baths and brothels, where explicit erotic paintings and the customers’ graffiti can still be seen. “Our results show that exposure to at least 250 C hot surges at a distance of 10 kilometres from the vent was sufficient to cause instant death.”

The plaster casts of the victims’ contorted bodies at the moment they died, clinging to each other or burying their heads in their hands in a futile attempt to withstand the calamity, can still be seen today.

‘Blues’ could help people overcome depression

A new research suggests that a dose of the “blues” could help people overcome depression and other mood disorders. A team from the University of Liege in Belgium, found that exposure to blue light boosts activity in the parts of the brain that handle emotions.

Blue wavelengths within the spectral rainbow that makes up white light appear to be chiefly responsible for the effect, the research shows. In the experiment, 17 healthy volunteers aged 20 to 26 listened to angry and “neutral” actors’ voices while having their brains scanned. At the same time, the group was also exposed to alternating 40-second periods of blue or green ambient light, separated by 15 to 25 seconds of darkness.

The functional magnetic resonance imaging scans showed that “circuits” in their brains, which dealt with emotions, were more sensitive to shorter, wavelength-blue light.

Now, a gel that could replace the pill

The day may not be far when all you have to do is rub some gel on your body to avoid getting pregnant, for New York scientists claim they have developed a body cream that works exactly like the pill.

So far, it has proved to be just as effective but has showed no side effects that affect 40 per cent of those who take the pill. The cream, called Nestorone Estradial, may also be used by breastfeeding mothers. The cream contains a combination of the sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone - the chemicals found in most forms of the pill. But it contains a different type of progesterone - called Nestorone, which in early trials caused far fewer side effects.

The cream has been developed at the Population Council Research Centre in New York and is expected to be widely available in the next few years.  Early trials on 18 women in their 20s and 30s over a three-month period have shown that it was just as effective as the pill in preventing pregnancy, said Dr Ruth Merkatz, from the Population Council.

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