Every day Document has an agenda: news from the under read corners of the world, and the web, that might not end up crossing your path. Discoveries, curiosities, essential cultural dispatches—with this information, go forth.



The World

There is a spa in the Czech Republic where patients bath in radioactive water.

The hills surrounding the Czech Republic town of Jáchymov are full of uranium. In the 1950s, there were 11 uranium mines working round the clock to extract the silvery-white radioactive metal to help build weapons for the Soviets. Now, the region is home to Radium Palace—a spa where visitors bath in radioactive water. Journalist Matthew Vickery visited the self-proclaimed palace for BBC Future to find out why doctors are convinced of its health benefits.

“Countless buildings lie abandoned, dilapidated, and falling apart in Jáchymov, yet one huge, pristine-white spa complex, Radium Palace, dominates the entrance of the village. Inside the building, which was opened in 1912, affluent patients wander on red carpets through grand hallways in white robes. Some of them here for a very alternative treatment—a bath in water radioactive with radon, a byproduct of uranium. For years, springs have run through these mines, flowing with this water.”


The Mind

Neuroforensics is the latest frontier in criminal justice.

Neurologists and ethicists are seeing a rise in the number of criminal cases where the crux of the defense relies on neurological evidence—psychological evaluations, behavioral tests or brain scans—to potentially mitigate punishment. In light of this, Scientific American looks at the new practice of “neuroforensics” and what it means for the justice system.

“Some defendants are now using the omission of neuroscience as grounds for questioning the competency of the defenses they received. In a bid to untangle the issue, Sanes, Farahany and other members of a committee of The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are meeting in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to discuss what they have dubbed ‘neuroforensics.’”


The Future

The Vatican wants to hack the world’s problems.

When Pope Francis laid out his faith’s agenda for the coming years, he decided to focus on social inclusion, migrants and refugees, and interfaith dialogue. Now, as The Guardian reports, a the three-day event called VHack is being organized by the Vatican, in partnership with some of the world’s biggest tech companies, including Google and Microsoft, and includes participants from across all faiths.

“‘The aim is to bring people with backgrounds in technology, business, civil society, and the humanities together to bring new perspectives to key global issues,’ said Father Eric Salobir, a Catholic priest and president of the research and innovation network Optic.”



Fendi is now one of the largest proponents of Italian art in the world.

The legendary Italian fashion house has become one of the largest patrons of Italian art in recent years, financing the restoration of Rome’s Trevi fountain, a series of Caravaggio exhibitions around the world, and another exhibition of the 17th-century sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Taking note of this support is The Week, who have profiled the fashion brand’s love of all things Rome and Roman to ask why this love is suddenly atop Fendi’s global agenda.

“The Caravaggio Research Institute is an ambitious project that wants to reintroduce within museums the most advanced research to make them producers of culture and not blockbuster exhibitions. We are proud that such an innovative and not easy project has had the trust of a large company such as Fendi; a company which has based its excellence on techniques and materials research.”



Origins of synesthesia revealed in genetic makeup.

Synesthesia is the perceptual phenomenon where people see sounds instead of color. The abstract expressionist Kandinsky was thought to have had the condition. Mondrian, despite not being a synesthete, spent his life trying to experiment with the correlation between sound and color. Now, it seems a genetic link that explains the correlation has been discovered by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, who have identified a telling molecular clue.

“The team took advantage of advances in genome sequencing, enabling them to identify genetic variants in the synesthesia families and track how they were passed on from one generation to the next. In particular, they focused attention on rare DNA changes that altered the way genes code for proteins, and that perfectly matched the inheritance of synesthesia in each of the three families. While the highlighted DNA variants differed between the three families, a common theme emerged to connect them: an enrichment for genes involved in axonogenesis and cell migration. Axonogenesis is a key process enabling brain cells to wire up to their correct partners.”



The New York Times puts the shrug emoji in a headline.

Times headlines have always been infamous, but their latest editorial move will live on in internet fame after the shrug emoji found its way into a metro news story headline. In this piece by journalism foundation Nieman Lab, the journalist behind the decision explains in depth how he managed to get the decisions passed the paper’s strict editorial process (that looks to be nothing much more than a Slack conversation).

“For the record, Nieman Lab is a huge fan of this decision. The decision was criticized in meteorology circles. We’re still not sure how much snow we’re going to get.”