We tend to picture people of the past as a bunch of bumbling cavemen to whom modern technology would seem frightening and confusing. And yet, some of their ancient technologies have turned out to be at least as good as, if not better than, the stuff our fancy-pants scientists today have developed. No, we're not talking about "fire" and "the wheel" -- we're talking about ...
6Medieval Glass Techniques Going to Mars
Humans have the technology to send machines to explore Mars, but apparently we have no idea what it looks like after we get there. Due to having almost no ozone layer, the Martian surface is constantly bathed in UV radiation, which on top of driving up the price of sunscreen also alters the photographs taken by the Mars rovers so that the colors are faded like we used some shitty cosmic Instagram filter.
We wanted a red planet. This is feces vindaloo.
To solve this problem, scientists needed to come up with a new form of glass that would stand up to the harsh ultraviolet bombardment of the Martian atmosphere. And by "new," we mean "new to us" -- but in reality, it's several centuries old. They've retrofitted the rovers' cameras with the type of stained glass found in medieval cathedral windows. Glass frescoes from medieval artists have been bombarded by the sun's rays over the ages, yet show little to no evidence of fading. That's because the glass made by artisans back in the day was mixed with gold and silver in such a way as to inadvertently block UV radiation, effectively forming what we would call "nanotechnology" now, but they probably called a "miracle" or "the devil's tinting."
Fact: No real vampires have ever survived medieval stained glass.
Now, instead of being used to create pictures of holy dudes getting stabbed by goat horns and such, medieval glass technology is helping us explore the red planet. So it's only a little inaccurate to say that we're sending Jesus to Mars.
5Ancient Chinese Medicine Teaching Western Doctors a Trick or Two
If you went to the doctor to cure your debilitating pain and he handed you a type of fungus found in the forests of China, you would probably stop visiting doctors who run their practice out of a cardboard box in the alley by Sears. But that's what's happening: doctors with all sorts of scientific credentials are looking to ancient Chinese medicine to succeed where modern equivalents have fallen on their asses.
At last! You have an excuse for all that tiger penis you've been chowing on.
For example, a new drug called fingolimod, which sounds like a hobbit that nobody likes, is the first oral medicine available for multiple sclerosis. It offers new treatment options for hundreds of thousands of sufferers, and yep, it's derived from a fungus used in Chinese medicine.
The corydalis yanhusuo plant has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries, and has recently given us a new painkiller that combats inflammatory and neuropathic pain. Not only that, it's the only thing that works -- no other modern drug has been found to alleviate neuron pain as well. It doesn't stop there, either: artemisinin is an anti-malaria drug that can trace its origins back to traditional sweet wormwood. The awesomely named thunder god vine is being developed as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, as well as to treat deficiencies in vitamin kickass. Even black bear bile, which is just about as close to a witch doctor cure as you can get without grinding up newts, has been shown to be effective against Type 2 diabetes. The only problem is getting it out of the bear when you're already so weakened by diabetes.
In fact, new research reckons that about 60 percent of the herbs used in Chinese medicine may be useful in developing new modern medicines. Also, fortune cookies are totally accurate and people can really run across lakes like in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Feng shui is probably still bullshit, though.