The Baghdad Battery is believed to be 2,000 years old, and is made of clay with an asphalt stopper. It may have been a practical container for wine or other liquids. But more recently researchers have filled the jars with vinegar and found that they produce a little over a volt of electricity. Was the Baghdad battery the the first example of a conductor?
Before sending rovers to Mars, NASA scientists had to make sure that their cameras and information gathering devices would be able to see through the planet's high UV atmosphere. Regular glass wouldn't cut it. So they used stained glass, the kind in cathedrals, which were historically mixed with other particles to protect against light degradation.
In parts of India, temperatures can get so unbearably hot that conventional air condition is both non-effective and cost prohibitive. An alternative being used today is one taken from the ancients who built baori, which were these stair-like structures but filled with water. As water evaporates, it cools down the air around it, offering visitors a respite from the heat.
Before modern telecommunications, carrier pigeons were trained to relay messages between parties. But they went out of style with the telegram, the phone, and then the internet. However, China is revitalizing the fad in the event that country-wide power goes down for whatever reason and they still need get important memos back and forth. Now, they're training 10,000 carrier pigeons for such a scenario.
Egyptian Blue pigment was the first pigment ever created, and, as its name suggests, the discovery was made in Egypt five thousand years ago. Today, modern researchers have discovered that the pigment's infrared frequency is such that it allows them to see through a person's skin better than any other pigment, and does no damage. That means that using the pigment medical scientists could scan a person's body cheaply, safely, and quickly.
Dang, that's dark. In fact, it's dark soil. Ancients were aware that dark soil was much more nutritious and fecund than regular soil. Why? Because it was laden with human excrement. Nowadays, dark soil can be used to triple crop yield, limiting land usage, and, if we make more of it, it will actually help trap carbon rather than release it.
Chinese inventor Zheng Heng is known as the Leonardi Da Vinci of Ancient China, and he invented the first seismoscope for measuring earthquakes about 2000 years ago. Although the inspiration for his seismoscope was faulty (the ancients believed that the cause of earthquakes were air and wind), the device he created was remarkably effective. Using balls to measure the seismic wave, the machine could accurately predict the direction in which the quake was heading.