Ice Cream That Doesn't Melt, and More Amazing Discoveries

See dazzling developments spanning the world of science from archaeology to ecology to medicine.

These stories appear in the May 2018 issue of National Geographic magazine.
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No-Melt Ice Cream

Scientists have found a solution to sticky ice-cream hands—entirely by accident. After the 2011 tsunami damaged Japanese strawberry fields, the fruit was too unsightly to be sold whole. Pharmacy professor Tomihisa Ohta and his team at Kanazawa University thought they had a solution: They would make an extract from the strawberries—liquid polyphenol—that could be used as a new dessert topping. When they added polyphenol to cream, though, it solidified instantly, making it useless as a topping—but perfect as a binding agent. They’d inadvertently created a frozen dessert that doesn’t melt. Kanazawa ice-cream pops, which stay frozen for an hour at room temperature, are now sold throughout Japan. —Natasha Daly

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Clipped Vision

For a number of vision problems, the artificial intraocular lens (IOL) above may be the solution. Also called an iris clip, the ultrathin lens is attached to the eye’s iris using a tiny incision. This eye belongs to a 70-year-old man; after a cataract surgery failed, the IOL restored his vision almost fully. —Lori Cuthbert

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Stone Age Slugger

The “Thames beater,” a fourth-millennium B.C. wooden club unearthed in London (above, bottom) looks like it could crack a human skull. Archaeologists at Edinburgh University wanted to make sure. They acquired a fake human skull made of bonelike polyurethane, rubber “skin,” and gelatin to mimic human tissue. Then they smashed it with a replica wooden club (top). The result: The fractures on the fake skull matched those on a Neolithic skull found in Austria. It was the first time a blunt-force Stone Age weapon has been identified in Europe. “If we understand the violence of a time period, we can start to understand social interactions,” says Meaghan Dyer, author of the 2017 study in the journal Antiquity. Her next test: beatings with ancient tools made of antler and stone. —Nina Strochlic

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Limpets to the Rescue

A hungry algae-eater can protect an entire ecosystem from the effects of climate change, a study finds. Limpets—aquatic mollusks that graze on algae—kept microalgae from overtaking a rocky intertidal ecosystem and erasing its diversity. “If important consumers like these are lost, the ecosystem is more likely to be harmed by a warming climate,” says lead researcher Rebecca Kordas of the University of British Columbia. —Lori Cuthbert

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3,500-Year-Old Stone an Art Mystery

A battle scene etched on a 1.4-inch piece of agate is raising questions for historians: How was it carved? What legend does it depict? The answers may refine our knowledge of art from the ancients. —Lori Cuthbert