These just-unearthed ancient tablets show how little has changed in 2,000 years.

The most fascinating part of the 405 ancient Roman tablets recently unearthed in London is what's written on them.

Photo by Daniel Leal-Olivas/Getty Images.


They're not filled with abstract philosophy. Or enigmatic paeans to long-forgotten gods. Or even soul-deep wisdom of the ages.

Archeologist Luisa Duarte displays one of the tablets. Photo by Daniel Leal-Olivas/Getty Images.

They're filled with things like business advice, IOUs, and even a schoolchild's writing practice.

Photo by Daniel Leal-Olivas/Getty Images.

Oh yeah, and they include the oldest-ever written reference to the city of London.

Jolly old London. Photo by Colin/Wikimedia Commons.

The tablets were found almost by accident during an archeological survey to prepare for the construction of Bloomberg's new headquarters in Europe.

"I’ve been digging around in London for years and never quite imagined that in the late 1st century, there was a community of people who are very much like us," Sophie Jackson, the manager of the dig project, told New Scientist.

The reference to London was made sometime between 65 and 80 A.D., 40 years earlier than the city's previously known first written mention.

A model of Roman-era London. Photo by Stephen G. Johnson/Wikimedia Commons.

The inscription reads: "In London, to Mongontius" and is believed to be the beginning of a letter written by someone in the upstart city to an acquaintance elsewhere in the empire.

The tablets also contain writing like this:

"...because they are boasting through the whole market that you have lent them money. Therefore, I ask you in your own interest to not appear shabby. You will not thus favour your own affairs..."

In which someone is basically telling their buddy to dress like the big shot they've made themselves out to be.

And this:

"...I ask you by bread and salt that you send as soon as possible the 26 denarii in victoiriati and the 10 denarii of Paterio..."

In which someone invokes the time-honored tradition of hitting up a rich friend for money.

The tablets are incredible evidence that people 2,000 years ago lived in ways we can recognize today.

Painting by Gustave Boulanger/The Hermitage/Wikimedia Commons.

Two centuries ago, people weren't all sitting around writing impenetrable political treatises, fighting mummies, or speaking in obtuse, poetic dialects (though some, thankfully, did).

Like people today, they started businesses, they owed people money — and tried to get out of paying them back — and their children struggled to learn to read.

In that sense, the tablets are kind of soul-deep wisdom of the ages.

Photo by Daniel Leal-Olivas/Getty Images.

Technology advances. Cities transform. Empires rise and fall.

But through it all, we've always been human.

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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