We live in an era of 24-hour news in which we’re constantly bombarded by information from websites, social media, and television. Yet despite this deluge, there are still many fascinating news items that you are likely to have missed. Here are nine such events and discoveries from 2019 you may not have heard about.
1. A team of archaeologists uncovered the oldest known Christian church in sub-Saharan Africa. According to Smithsonian magazine, the church building dates from the fourth century, about the same time when Roman Emperor Constantine I legalized Christianity in AD 313. The discovery helps to confirm that the faith spread quickly through long-distance trading networks that linked the Mediterranean via the Red Sea with Africa and South Asia.
2. For about a thousand years we have assumed the earth had seven continents (Africa, Asia, Antarctica, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America). Geologists, though, group Europe and Asia into its own supercontinent—Eurasia—making for a total of six geologic continents. In 2017 a seventh geologic continent was discovered, called “Zealandia.” And this year scientists discovered an eighth continent—a lost continent dubbed “Greater Adria” hidden below southern Europe.
3. As the world’s population continues to rise, more children are surviving into adulthood, according to a study published in April. The journal JAMA Pediatrics found that from 1990 to 2017, global child and adolescent deaths decreased 51.7 percent, from 13.77 million in 1990 to 6.64 million in 2017. The number of children dying from pneumonia—the leading cause of child mortality—also decreased from 6,410 per day in 1990 to 2,216 per day in 2017.
4. A picture hung over a hot plate in the home of a 90-year-old woman turned out to be a rare Renaissance painting depicting a scene from Christ’s passion and crucifixion. The painting, titled Mocking of Christ, is by the 13th-century Florentine artist Cimabue, and depicts one of the stages of the Passion of Jesus. The work was discovered when the woman decided to sell her house and some of her belongings. The painting was sold at an auction in Paris for a record $26.8 million.
5. A 20-year-old Bangladeshi woman gave birth twice—to three children—within the span of a month. Arifa Sultana gave birth to a boy in late February. A few weeks later, she was admitted to another hospital after complaining of abdominal pains. Doctors performed an ultrasound and realized Sultana had two uteruses—and was pregnant with twins. Her first baby and the twins were conceived and grown in separate wombs, and the births came 26 days apart.
6. A biotechnology company is seeking FDA approval for a drug to treat Alzheimer’s disease. A study found that high doses of the drug aducanumab, when given to patients for an extended period, significantly slowed down cognitive decline. After 18 months of taking the drug, participants showed lowered cognitive decline (about 15 percent to 27 percent) on memory and cognitive ability tests compared to a placebo.
7. For the first time in history, scientists were able to capture an image of black hole—an event once considered unseeable. To capture the image, researchers linked up radio telescopes in Arizona, Spain, Mexico, Antarctica, and other places around the world, forming a virtual instrument the size of Earth. The project will allow scientists to help determine if Einstein’s theory of general relativity needs any revisions. If the observed silhouette matches the theory-informed simulations, “then Einstein was 100 percent right,” says Dimitrios Psaltis, an astronomy professor at the University of Arizona. “If the answer is no, then we have to tweak his theory in order to make it work with experiments. This is how science goes.”
8. Roughly 3.3 million Americans who have nut allergies, and about 150 die from allergy-related causes each year. But a new study from Stanford University found that with only one injection of an antibody treatment, people with severe peanut allergies were able to eat a nut’s worth of peanut protein two weeks later. “Although this is still in the experimental stages,” said the paper’s senior author, Kari Nadeau, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and of pediatrics at Stanford, “we’re delivering on the hope of testing a drug that won’t be for one food allergy but for many, and for other allergic diseases, too.”
9. The Gospel of Luke records two disciples met with the resurrected Jesus as they walked to Emmaus. Earlier this year, a team of archaeologists announced they may have stumbled into discovering the ancient city by accident.