The Science Behind Honey’s Eternal Shelf Life

By Natasha Geiling

Photos © Flood G.

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 begs the question–what exactly makes honey such a special food?

The answer is ascomplex 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.

To discover the secret behind honey’s infinite lifespan, read the full story on

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John Bohannon on Zhao Bowen, a 21-year-old leading genetic researcher on what makes some humans — like him — geniuses:

Zhao’s goal is to use those machines to examine the genetic underpinnings of genius like his own. He wants nothing less than to crack the code for intelligence by studying the genomes of thousands of prodigies, not just from China but around the world. He and his collaborators, a transnational group of intelligence researchers, fully expect they will succeed in identifying a genetic basis for IQ. They also expect that within a decade their research will be used to screen embryos during in vitro fertilization, boosting the IQ of unborn children by up to 20 points. In theory, that’s the difference between a kid who struggles through high school and one who sails into college.

Getting awfully close to Gattaca.


If parents use IVF to conceive, then a genetic test—an extension of the screening tests for genetic diseases that are already routinely done on embryos—could let them pick the smartest genome from a batch of, say, 20 embryos. “It’s almost like there are 20 parallel universes,” Hsu says. “These are all really your kids.” You’re just choosing the ones with the greatest genetic potential for intelligence. But effectively, you could be giving an unborn child a boost in IQ above their parents. As Hsu sees it, this is no Faustian bargain. “Aren’t we doing them a great service?” Over the long term, he proclaims, this would “improve the average IQ of the species by quite a bit.” He hopes governments will even provide it for free; Singapore, he predicts, would be the first to sign up.

Did I say “awfully close”? Nevermind. 

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Literary Birthday - 28 August

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 28 August 1749, died 22 March 1832


  1. As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.
  2. Patriotism ruins history.
  3. Everyone believes in his youth that the world really began with him, and that all merely exist for his sake.
  4. There is strong shadow where there is much light.
  5. All intelligent thoughts have already been thought; what is necessary is only to try to think them again.
  6. Common sense is the genius of humanity.
  7. Nothing is more terrible than to see ignorance in action.
  8. We can’t form our children on our own concepts; we must take them and love them as God gives them to us.
  9. Investigate what is, and not what pleases.
  10. Every day we should hear at least one little song, read one good poem, see one exquisite picture, and, if possible, speak a few sensible words.
  11. Instruction does much, but encouragement everything.
  12. Every author in some way portrays himself in his works, even if it be against his will.

Goethe was a German writer, artist, and politician. His work includes epic and lyric poetry; prose and verse dramas; memoirs; an autobiography; literary and aesthetic criticism; treatises on botany, anatomy, and colour; and four novels. 

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