William Newman, a historian at Indiana University ... also works on chymistry re-creations—some of them with a furnace in his own garage. Considering that even the best post-Renaissance experimenters distilled phosphorus from urine, melted silver from whatever coins they might be carrying, and used inexact heat sources, their results were difficult, if not impossible, for them to reproduce. “You have to back-engineer to understand how the theory integrates with the practice,” Newman says. “There's no better way to do that than to do the experiments themselves.”
The other article of note in this issue is a genetic study that (purportedly) shows that the mutation responsible for the sooty variant of the British peppered moth -- that classic example of adaptation in the modern era -- happened exactly once (as opposed to happening independently on multiple occasions), possibly "emanating from a single point source in greater Manchester."