From the April 1, 1933, issue


Beer and bread have been companions on man’s tables since the remotest days of antiquity. The pharaohs of Egypt drank beer with their meals, and the kings of the Babylonian city-states maintained great brewing establishments in their palaces and temples, for the pay of their servants and the allowances of their harem ladies were partly in beer.

They had dozens of varieties of beer in Babylon, each with its own special name. The basic word for beer was “bi”; syllables were added to that to designate particular brands. Some of the names sounded like something gurgling from a jug; when Sargon told his cupbearer to bring a “dark one,” this is what he said: “Se-bar-bi-gig-dug-ga!”

Dr. E. Huber of Berlin, who has written a monograph on the making and use of beer in antiquity, believes the Babylonians invented beer and that the Egyptians learned the trick from them. However that may be, they did make it out of the same materials: specially baked loaves of bread, malted grain, barley, emmer, wheat, and water.

Drinking through a straw was a necessity in Babylonia, for their beer was served in crocks unfiltered, and you had to stick a drinking-tube through the junk floating on top to get the good beverage beneath. Several thirsty souls would have their tubes into the same vessel, so that the man with the best “pull” got the biggest drink. In Egypt, however, the clear beer was decanted into serving bottles and then poured into goblets. One fine Egyptian wall carving, reproduced on the cover of this week’s Science News Letter, shows a pharaoh enjoying a glass of beer with his wife. You know it’s his wife, because she is wearing a queen’s crown.


Farmers of the far future may keep pans of Penicillium instead of pens of pigs. Experimenters of the U.S. Bureau of Chemistry and Soils have found a species of mold, known botanically as Penicillium javanicum, that beats the hogs all hollow at the job of turning carbohydrates into fat. At the spring meeting of the American Chemical Society in Washington, D.C., G.E. Ward and L.B. Lockwood told of their researches on this and other fat-making molds.

They found several species of Penicillium that contained a good deal of fat when well fed on glucose, but the one called javanicum was the champion of the lot. Its matted mass of white threads, when dried, contained from 20 to 43 percent of fat, depending on culture conditions. It takes only 12 days for the mold to produce the maximum quantity of fat out of the glucose solution.


Solar prominences, great flames of hydrogen that shoot out of the sun’s surface, often to heights of hundreds of thousands of miles, have recently been photographed from the Meudon Observatory, near Paris, without waiting for an eclipse or using a spectroscope, which had been required hitherto. At a recent meeting of the Academy of Sciences, M.B. Lyot, astronomer at the observatory, described the methods that he had used to accomplish this result, which is considered of great scientific importance.

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