Today we’re doing what we should have done all along: we’re gonna GET THE LED OUT.

Lead is not one of our usual topics, since lead is extremely bad for us.

And while there are efforts to clear lead paint and lead water lines, lead is, unfortunately, a big part of our history, and one that lingers.

But for historians, that can be useful knowledge, as was proven by a group of scientists who used lead pollution from centuries ago to track the ups and downs of European monarchs.

The scientists drilled into glaciers in the Swiss Alps, and found traces of lead in the ice dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries.

Lead was mined and smelted back then, though not in the mountains.

It was actually done hundreds of miles away in England, and some of it was carried east by wind currents.

The scientists could tell which years saw lots of lead activity, and which were more lean.

The amazing thing is that they were able to match the ups and downs of lead in the samples to major historical events of the time.

Now we’re talking nearly a millennium ago, so none of this is absolutely certain.

But the record tracks with England’s economic and political fortunes.

When things were stable and calm, there was more mining, because kings were using the stuff to build castles and other structures.

When there was a war, or a transition from one king to another, there was less mining.

They could even see this in 1215, when English barons turned against King John and forced him to sign the Magna Carta.

That document guaranteed their rights and limited his powers.

During this period lead production sank.

That was probably a bad sign for the economy, but given how unhealthy lead was and is, maybe it was good news for the people who had to produce it.

And here’s a sandwich that’s making history, from a place called Oiri Kitchen in Japan.

The chef is so good with a knife that he can slice the bread, meat and vegetables into what he calls probably the world’s thinnest sandwich.

If you ever wanted to see a cucumber slice so thin you can see through it, this is your kind of place.

Lead pollution in ancient ice cores may track the rise and fall of medieval kings (Science)

Making the World’s Thinnest Sandwich (Laughing Squid)

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Photo by James Petts via Flickr/Creative Commons