View Full Version : Now I Know

27-06-12, 12:00 PM
1 will post 1 item per week day...


27-06-12, 12:05 PM
Now I Know - Turning off Niagara Falls


Niagara Falls is a set of three waterfalls on the United States/Canada border. Collectively, they have the highest flow rate of any waterfall in the world, with over 2,400 cubic meters (or about 600,000 gallons) of water going over the edge every second. Horseshoe Falls, pictured right in the above photograph, is the largest of the three, while American Falls and the relatively small Bridal Veils Falls are the ones on the left. (Bridal Falls is the smaller, somewhat isolated waterfall to the right of the larger American Falls.) In the late 1960s, American Falls was exhibiting some rock building at its base, caused by decades if not centuries or millennia of rockslides. Officials were concerned that a rock buildup could cause American Falls to turn into rapids, as the upper shelf's floor tumbled below. But surveying the erosion was impossible given the massive amount of water flowing over the edge every second. So the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers needed a work-around.

Their solution? Shut off American Falls.


American Falls doesn't have an "off" switch, of course, so the task force did the next best thing, and built a dam upstream of the falls, diverting the water toward Canada and ultimately to Horseshoe Falls. As pictured above (via this io9.com article), American Falls was bone dry. In was so dry, in fact, that the engineering team needed to pipe water back into the falls -- albeit only a little bit -- in order to keep the river bed irrigated and moist. And it also made for a neat, once-in-a-lifetime tourist opportunity, as for a short period during cleanup, visitors were allowed to walk onto part of the temporarily dry river bed. (At the top, of course.)

The Army Corps of Engineers finished the cleanup work by November and, to get the water flowing and falling again, simply (okay, not so simply) blew up the temporary dam. A few months later, the authorities who ordered the survey of the dry waterbed opted against restructuring the rock bed. Instead, they decided to let nature take its course -- in this case, both literally and figuratively.

Bonus fact:
Earlier this year, aerialist Nik Wallenda crossed Niagara Falls on a high wire suspended nearly 200 feet (60 meters) above the water's surface. The walk took about 25 minutes and covered a distance of 1,800 feet (about half a kilometer). And while Wallenda's distance was the longest traversed by a Niagara-bound tightrope walker, his feat was not the first. In 1859, Charles Blondin successfully made a 1,100 foot walk across a wire suspended about 160 feet above the water. And he'd return to do it again, a few times. As Blondin's Wikipedia entry notes - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Blondin, he did so "with different theatrical variations: blindfolded, in a sack, trundling a wheelbarrow, on stilts, carrying a man (his manager, Harry Colcord) on his back, sitting down midway while he cooked and ate an omelet and standing on a chair with only one chair leg on the rope."

28-06-12, 12:01 PM
Now I Know - Fordlandia


Before World War II, most automobile tires were made from natural rubber -- latex collected from rubber trees. But by 1942, the United States found itself in a bind. Japan had taken control of Asia, which happened to be where the most abundant amount of readily-available rubber trees were. And the war effort required rubber. To counter this, the U.S. took a multi-pronged approach. First, it ramped up research into synthetic rubber (which not only proved ultimately successful, but has become the main source for rubber in tires). Second, the government pushed citizens to donate used tires in hopes of recycling them -- a failed idea as recycling rubber is something we still can't do. And finally, the government instituted gasoline rations and pushed pro-carpooling propaganda, as seen above, all in an effort to reduce driving and, therefore, rubber use. Reducing gasoline use was not nearly as important -- in fact, synthetic rubber is made from petroleum.

But all of this may have been averted -- or at least limited -- had Henry Ford been able to better execute on an idea: a town in Brazil focused on cultivating rubber trees.

While most rubber tree plantations are now in South and Southeast Asia -- as they were in World War II -- the rubber tree is actually indigenous to the Amazon rainforest and specifically, Brazil. Nevertheless, by 1928, commercial cultivation of rubber had already moved to Malaysia, and the Ford Motor Company was dependant on rubber from there (then a British colony), and Mr. Ford saw this reliance as a threat to his company. To counteract this, he set up a prefabricated industrialized town called Fordlandia, located in the middle of the rainforest.

Map Here: - https://maps.google.com/maps?q=-3.831389,-55.4975&ll=-11.005904,-55.019531&spn=48.814393,71.015625&t=m&z=4

The premise was simple -- grow rubber trees where they were supposed to be grown -- but the execution doomed the project. The trees were planted closely together much like they were in Malay plantations, but this alignment proved disastrous in the rainforest ecosystem, as natural predators feasted on the trees. The terrain -- hilly and rocky -- wasn't conducive to planting the trees in the first place. Even human resources issues were mismanaged, as employees from local villages were expected to Americanize. Instead, at one point in 1930, they revolted, and management literally fled into the jungles. (The Brazilian Army ended up being called in to quell the rebellion.)

The promise of rubber trees unfulfilled, Fordlandia managed to putter along for another decade and a half -- failing to live up to its promise the whole time. With synthetic rubber well established by 1945, Ford sold Fordlandia at a $20 million loss, according to mental_floss. Today, the town is abandoned and left in ruins.

Bonus fact:
Fordlandia was a failure, but the Dearborn Inn was a success. The inn ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dearborn_Inn ) was also the brainchild of Henry Ford. Mr. Ford realized that when visitors came to the Detroit area via Ford Airport in Dearborn, Michigan, they did so without a place to stay -- so Mr. Ford had the inn constructed to fix that. The Dearborn Inn is considered to be the world's first airport hotel.

28-06-12, 12:43 PM
This is a fantastic idea Wato, love the first two articles already.

29-06-12, 12:06 PM
Now I Know - The WOW Plague


When we think of pandemics, we think of the Black Death, yellow fever, typhoid, or, in more recent times, the flu. Each one of these shares a few common traits. They start off from a single source and then spread from person to person. The contagion spreads rapidly until most areas around the world are affected.

Just ask anyone who played World of Warcraft in the Autumn of 2005.

With millions of players around the world -- the real world, that is -- World of Warcraft is easily one of the biggest successes in computer gaming history. Players control avatars in the fictional world of Azeroth, fighting off monsters while improving these characters at the same time. Players also receive quests, typically from in-game guides ("non-player characters," for those familiar with the lingo), and completing a quest typically yields their characters a reward -- and often involves defeating an enemy with a special, sometimes unique trait.

On September 13, 2005, Blizzard -- the makers of World of Warcraft -- released an update to the game.
The update contained a new dungeon and with it, a new quest, which culminated in an assault on a boss named Hakkar. When characters attacked Hakkar, he cast a spell on them called "Corrupted Blood" which slowly drained the life of anyone so inflicted.
Corrupted Blood was designed to be contagious -- anyone coming into contact with anyone infected with it would, in turn, also become infected. However, it was designed to only last a few minutes and, importantly, only have an effect within the dungeon containing Hakkar.

Before encountering Hakkar, players did not know exactly how the Corrupted Blood spell worked -- intended or otherwise. Those who suddenly found their character's health falling did what anyone would do: they ran away.
Some even teleported out of the dungeon, expecting to find safety in town. And if Corrupted Blood had worked as it was designed, these characters would have been magically cured upon their successful exit from the dungeon.
Unfortunately, the spell did not work as designed. The characters remained infected and, even worse, began to spread the disease to unsuspecting characters near them. Corrupted Blood began to spread throughout the area.

Even though a character's death in World of Warcraft is not permanent, players still reacted as if it were a big deal. Many fled cities, realizing that the high population density was a death sentence. Others helped direct the uninfected to safe areas. And many of those with high level healing powers tried (in vain) to stave off the spread of the disease. (And of course, virtual versions of Typhoid Marys helped spread the curse -- intentionally.)
In fact, real-life health officials have studied the Corrupted Blood plague as a model for pandemic reactions by actual, flesh-and-blood people.

As for the virtual plague? At first, Blizzard tried to fight it in the same manner that their real world counterparts would have, issuing quarantine orders -- while hoping to correct the programming bug at the same time. But when this failed, Blizzard pulled out an option not available to those of us outside of Azeroth.
They reset the servers and restarted with a new, fixed version.

Bonus fact:
Google uses search volume to help fight the flu. The company has put together a flu-tracking map, available here - http://www.google.org/flutrends/ , which hopes to catch an increase in flu outbreaks before they become epidemics.

29-06-12, 12:57 PM
That's class! I can only imagine the wide spread terror the geeky tits felt. :lol:

29-06-12, 01:02 PM
I dont get this :S

30-06-12, 12:26 AM
Wato you should guest on QI with material like this. Very curious things indeed! I'm definitely using these articles at the dinner table in future. Thanks! :tup:

01-07-12, 12:54 PM
:lol: me too

02-07-12, 12:41 PM
Now I Know - Born on the 2nd July... Or August...


"In Congress, July 4, 1776," begins the Declaration of Independence, pictured above, "a declaration by the representatives of the United States of America, in general congress assesembled." From this document began the United States, and from that line comes Independence Day, celebrated annually in the U.S. on the fourth of July.

But some believe that July 4, 1776, is not truly America's indepedence day. That honor should fall to either July 2, 1776, or August 2, 1776.

On June 11, 1776, the Continental Congress created a sub-committee of five delegates -- Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman -- empowered to write a first draft of a declaration of independence. Jefferson took the lead and the quintet delivered their draft on June 28th. After a few days of debates and revisions, the Congress voted to declare independence -- on July 2nd, not July 4th.

The next day -- July 3rd -- Adams wrote a letter to his wife, Abigail, discussing the Declaration and its significance. In part, Adams wrote:

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

While Adams appropriately described the revelry, he whiffed on the date. Instead, Americans celebrate independence on the 4th, the day the Continental Congress ratified the text of the document.

Ratified -- but not signed. According to National Geographic, many of those who signed the famous piece of parchment simply were not present on the 4th of July and the document was not signed until August 2nd. This belief is buttressed by the journals of the Continental Congress itself; as stated by the National Archives, "on August 2, the journal of the Continental Congress records that 'The declaration of independence being engrossed and compared at the table was signed.' One of the most widely held misconceptions about the Declaration is that it was signed on July 4, 1776, by all the delegates in attendance."

While the July 4th date is, probably, the least relevant of the three, it does lend itself to a fantastic coincidence. Of the five drafters of the Declaration, Adams and Jefferson would go on to become President of the United States. And both Adams and Jefferson share something else in common: both died on July 4, 1826 -- fifty years to the day the Declaration was ratified.

Bonus fact:
July 2nd is a special day for another reason. In non-leap years, it is the midpoint of the year -- there are 182 days before it and 182 days after it.

03-07-12, 12:11 PM
Now I Know - Seeing Eye Mini-Horse


Guide dogs -- sometimes referred to as seeing eye dogs -- have been assisting disabled people for at least 100 years, with references to them dating back perhaps centuries. The first U.S. school for guide dog training, named The Seeing Eye, opened its doors in 1929 and has been in business since. (The colloquial use of the term "seeing eye dogs" is actually a reference to the school's trademark and brand.) But not all people like dogs, and this includes some of the visually impaired and those with other disabilities which call for a service animal. So what other options are out there?

Meet the guide mini-horse.

Pictured above, the guide mini-horse acts much like its sibling service animal the guide dog. Much like the guide dogs, guide mini-horses act as trusted aides for those in need, helping them navigate through the world. And both take about a year to 18 months to train. But there are some major differences. The Guide Horse Foundation ( http://www.guidehorse.com ) in North Carolina notes that guide horses are useful for about thirty years compared to around a dozen for dogs, making them arguably more cost effective over their useful lifespan. But there are downsides. The miniature horses need to live outside and require a lot more space than a guide dog, which can live in a small apartment without much difficulty. They also have the need to relieve themselves more often than dogs, making themselves much more cumbersome. And while they can be incredibly cute, this has its downside, as a guide animal isn't supposed to be petted by others while on duty.

For some, however, a guide dog simply isn't an option. The most likely scenario is due to an allergy to dog dander, but there are other reasons. Take, for example, the case of Mona Ramouni, a young Muslim woman in Michigan. Born blind, she was an excellent candidate for a guide dog -- except that she came from a devout Muslim family. Dogs are considered unclean under Muslim law, and cannot be kept as pets -- but horses can. Ms. Ramouni received Cali the mini-horse, and has since been able to navigate the world without help from friends and family -- unless one counts Cali as a friend.

While guide horses may be a second choice after dogs, the demand for them has been, per the Guide Horse Foundation, "overwhelming." The foundation has stopped taking random applications for horses.

Bonus fact:

On September 11, 2001, two guide dogs were in the World Trade Center with their owners when the buildings were attacked. The two dogs, named Salty and Roselle, successfully navigated an escape route for their owners. Both were given a Dickin Medal, given by the United Kingdom for "gallantry or devotion to duty while serving," for their heroic acts.

See the Interesting Wiki page for that story....

04-07-12, 04:48 PM
Now I Know - E.T ? No Going Home


The Solar System is, in the greater scheme of things, really, really tiny. You may not be able to see it from the image above, but just above the block of text, a bit to the left, is a small shaded area. (Here is a really large version of it - http://xkcd.com/1071/large ).

The circles within that box represent our Solar System. The Earth is just a pale blue dot. And as we humans explore the galaxy, there's a chance that we could come into some sort of alien... well, something. Maybe it's an intelligent life form, maybe it's some sort of compound which is a toxin to humans, maybe it's something in between.
In any event, introducing the interstellar equivalent of kudzu ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kudzu_in_the_United_States ) is probably a bad idea.

So in 1969, NASA did just that. In anticipation of the Apollo 11 mission aiming to land the first humans on the moon, NASA promulgated the Extra-Terrestrial Exposure Law (14 CFR Part 1211, for those interested).
Any astronaut who was on a mission in which something came in contact with any other "celestial body" was, under the E.T. Exposure Law, required to be quarantined upon his or her return to Earth.
For Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, their return to Earth from their successful moon landing qualified -- the moon, after all, is a foreign celestial body.
As TIME magazine reported in mid-July of 1969, the three astronauts were "treated -- literally -- as if they had the plague."
The stated purpose: "to guard against the remote possiblity that they are harboring unknown lunar organisms which might endager life on Earth," per TIME.


Even though the astronauts splashed down into the Pacific Ocean on July 24th, they were not released from quarantine until August 10th. For part of the time, they were confined to a trailer which is now on display at the Smithsonian. But as seen above, even that did not prevent them from meeting President Nixon. Nixon visited the trio just a few days after splashdown, and, more formally, hosted them at a state dinner in Los Angeles three days -- and three parades -- after their release from quarantine.

NASA stopped quarantining astronauts in 1977, and the Extra-Terrestrial Exposure Law was removed from the books in 1991.

Bonus fact:

Are there lunar organisms on the moon? Not exactly -- but there are human ashes. An American geologist named Eugene Shoemaker (who, among other things, discovered a comet which ended up colliding with Jupiter) helped train Apollo mission astronauts for their moon walks. After Shoemaker died in a car accident in 1997, NASA honored him by taking some of his ashes, putting them in a space probe which was designed to map the moon's surface and look for potential polar ice deposits.
The space probe was intentionally crashed into a crater near the south pole of the moon, making Shoemaker, in some sense, the first (and to date, only) man buried on the moon.

05-07-12, 02:31 PM
Now I Know - D-Day's Doomed Dry Run

http://gallery.mailchimp.com/2889002ad89d45ca21f50ba46/images/640px_Sherman_tank_at_memorial_for_those_killed_in _Operation_Tiger.jpg
http://gallery.mailchimp.com/2889002ad89d45ca21f50ba46/images/613px_Plaque_commemorating_those_killed_in_Operati on_Tiger_crop.jpg

On June 6, 1944 -- D-Day -- the fate of World War II hung in the balance as Allied forces attempted to liberate Nazi-occupied France. Over 150,000 troops crossed the English Channel that day, aboard nearly 7,000 ships supported by 12,000 planes, landing on a series of beaches in Normandy, France.
By the end of August, there were more than three million Allied troops in France. D-Day and the larger Battle of Normandy was a decisive victory for the Allies and on August 25, 1944, the Germans surrendered control of Paris back to the French.

But D-Day almost never happened.

American General Dwight D. Eisenhower was the commander of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, and led the US and UK troops in northwest Europe. In this role, he assumed command of the planned D-Day invasion. And he wanted to do everything possible to make sure it would work. So he ordered a practice called Exercise Tiger. A beach in the south of Great Britain, then called Slapton was to be the staging ground for a faux invasion, with the assault coming from across Lyme Bay directly to Slapton's east. The roughly 3,000 people living in the area were evacuated and on the evening of April 26, 1944, Allied troops began their "assault" on the beach. It did not go so well.

The plan was to make the dry run "invasion" as realistic as possible, so gunships were to shell the test beach starting at 6:30 a.m. on the 27th for thirty minutes. At 7:30 a.m., landing ships would drop off the soldiers and tanks. At that point, the artillery would fire live ammunition well over the heads of the troops landing, much like they would be during an actual invasion. However, some of the landing ships were delayed, which in turn delayed the artillery fire. The battle cruiser received the orders to wait until 7:30, but some of the landing parties were not similarly instructed to wait until 8:30 to disembark. Some Marines lost their lives as they raided the beach at 7:30, just as the cruiser opened fire.

And then it got worse. The next day, nine German E-boats happened upon Lyme Bay. British sentries detected these enemy fast assault ships but opted to let them through rather than give away the location and size of Allied fortifications in the area. Instead, the British commanders radioed ahead to the HMS Azalea, a warship escorting a convoy of nine American LSTs (landing ships carrying tanks) through the bay. But the American and British forces were using different radio frequencies. The HMS Azalea believed that the LSTs knew about the E-boats, but they didn't. The LSTs' lone escort was insufficient to repel the attack and the LSTs were, colloquially, sitting ducks. Two of the nine LSTs were sunk and another two were damaged before the other LSTs could effectively return fire and force the E-boats to retreat. Many soldiers jumped into the water but put on their life jackets incorrectly, which as a result worked more like anchors than floatation devices. All told, nearly 1,000 men were killed. Decades later, Steve Sadlon, a radio operator from the first LST attacked, described the carnage to MSNBC. He jumped off his ship, aflame, into the English Channel. He spent four hours in the cold water until he was rescued, unconscious from hypothermia. His memories of the day are harrowing:

It was an inferno. The fire was circling the ship. It was terrible. Guys were burning to death and screaming. Even to this day I remember it. Every time I go to bed, it pops into my head. I can't forget it. Guys were grabbing hold of us and we had to fight them off. Guys were screaming, 'Help, help, help' and then you wouldn't hear their voices anymore.

From a macro perspective, the E-boat attack caused a massive strategic problem. The actual D-Day invasion was supposed to be a surprise. Now, the military had to figure out how to keep the deaths of nearly 1,000 soldiers under wraps. This was done via threat of court martial. Subordinate soldiers were informed that families were being told that the dead were simply missing in action, and any discussion of the tragic two days prior were patently disallowed. But even this was not enough. Ten of the men who went missing due to the E-boat attacks knew details of the D-Day invasion plans. Initially, Eisenhower and the rest of Allied leadership decided to delay the actual invasion, fearing that if any of those ten men were captured by the Germans, the enemy could have therefore obtained intel about the otherwise secret plan. Not until their bodies were discovered did the D-Day plan go back into action -- with improved life jacket training and a singular radio frequency for both American and British forces.

For decades after Exercise Tiger, the story went mostly untold. Before D-Day it was a secret; after D-Day it was old news. But in 1984, a resident of the Slapton Beach area managed to raise a sunken tank from Lyme Bay and turn it into a war memorial, pictured above with the plaque describing the tragedy.

Bonus fact:

The only general to land at Normandy, by sea, with the first wave of troops was Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., the son of former president Teddy Roosevelt. He was also the only American to fight at Normandy alongside his son -- Theodore Jr. was 56, and his fourth child, Quentin Roosevelt II (named after his late uncle), was a 24 year-old captain at the invasion.

05-07-12, 11:25 PM
gaaaah this is weeeeeird

06-07-12, 11:58 AM
Now I Know - The Tales of the Prairie Dog


Constantine Slobodchikoff was born in China to Russian immigrants, and his family moved to San Francisco while he was still quite young. Given his likely exposure to three different languages using three different alphabets, it is no wonder that he took a liking to how we communicate verbally. Now a researcher at Northern Arizona University, Slobodchikoff has spent decades trying to better understand a language few people can comprehend.

Slobodchikoff tries to figure out what prairie dogs are saying to each other.

Prairie dogs are squirrel-like rodents native to North America and are particularly common prowling grassland areas in the United States west of the Mississippi River. They are social animals which build burrows clustered together in communities, typically comprising of their extended families. Prairie dogs are even known to make oral contact with family members -- kiss, as it were -- as seen here - http://factandaphoto.com/post/26459948160/prairie-dogs-sometimes-kiss-as-seen-above-they .
And, surmises Slobodchikoff, they talk to each other -- and in great detail.

Prairie dogs have keen vision which allows them to detect a would-be predator a long distance away. And when one does, it alerts the others in the area with an alarm call, a series of loud "chee" sounds made by contorting its body as seen above. To the untrained ear, these noises seem similar if not identical to each other. To Slobodochikoff and his team, they are anything but.

Slobodochikoff and his team hid among prairie dog habitats and recorded alarm calls, all while keeping a journal about the perceived threat to the rodent sounding the alarm. And what they discovered was that the prairie dogs did not have one singular alarm sound. The calls varied in frequency, tone, and modulation, with different patterns signifying different threats.
In a 2002 paper Slobodochikoff asserts that the variations in the noises told other prairie dogs about the size of the predator and how quickly it was approaching the community.

And then, the research team pushed the envelope further. As Slobodochikoff explained to NPR's Radiolab, he had his team don different shirts and pass through a prairie dog enclave. They tracked the different alarms based on the gender, build, and shirt color of the human intruder.

He found, to his delight, that the calls broke down into groups based on the color of the volunteer's shirt. "I was astounded," says Slobodchikoff. But what astounded him even more, was that further analysis revealed that the calls also clustered based on other characteristics, like the height of the human. "Essentially they were saying, 'Here comes the tall human in the blue,' versus, 'Here comes the short human in the yellow,' " says Slobodchikoff.

The one thing the prairie dogs could not determine? They did not differentiate between people based on gender.

Bonus fact:

While rodents, such as prairie dogs, are generally small, there are a few which grow to the size of small people. The largest rodent (excluding extinct species) is the capybara, vaguely resembling a hairy hippopotamus, as seen here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Capibara_1.jpg . They are indigenous to Brazil, and can reach lengths of nearly four and a half feet (134 cm) and weigh as much as 150 pounds (66 kg).

09-07-12, 12:31 PM
Now I Know - The Yellow Fleet


The Suez Canal, situated in Egypt, connects the Mediterranean and Red Seas, thereby providing a naval passageway between Europe and Asia without the need to circumnavigate Africa or risk icy conditions by passing through the Arctic Circle. It opened in late 1869 and has been in continuous use ever since, minus a few hiccups along the way. One of those hiccups inconvenienced the world for eight years, as the canal was closed to naval traffic entirely from 1967 to 1975.

Oh, and fifteen ships were trapped in the canal during that period, too.

In June of 1967, war broke out in the Middle East, with Israel at odds with Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. The war was short-lived -- the Israelis won a decisive victory within a week. (The war is now known as the "Six Day War.") Following the war, Israel took control of the Sinai Peninsula, the section of Egypt east of the Suez which connects Africa to Asia. Soon after, the Egyptians blockaded the Suez, as the waterway was set to become a main theater for Egyptian-Israeli fighting over the course of the next decade. Most naval traffic was already avoiding the area due to the political uncertainties caused by the Six Day War, but fifteen ships were already making their way through the canal when war broke out. And all fifteen were unable to leave the canal afterward.

The ships dropped anchor in Great Bitter Lake, a saltwater lake roughly 100 square miles (250 square kilometers) in surface area, which divides the north part of the Suez from the south. And there, they sat, until the Egyptians ended the blockade on June 5, 1975. In the interim, the ships -- four flying under the flag of the UK; two each from West Germany, the US, Sweden, and Poland; and one each from France, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia -- formed their own little community of pseudo-castaways called the "Great Bitter Lake Association" replete with unofficial postal service among them. Their crews gathered aboard one of the British ships to play soccer matches, screened movies on a Bulgarian one, set up church services on a West German one, and availed themselves of the pool on the Swedish ships. To coincide with the 1968 Summer Olympics, the stranded sailors had their own Bitter Lake Olympic Games, replete with life boat regatta races.

When the blockade finally came to a close, the ships were free to leave. But for these vessels now collectively known as the "Yellow Fleet" due to the amount of desert sand blown upon them during their near-decade of isolation, leaving was not so simple. Of the ships, only the two German ones were able leave the canal on their own power.

Bonus fact:

Since 2008, ship traffic through the Suez Canal has fallen off by 20% -- but only half of that is due to an overall drop off of sea traffic due to unfavorable global economic conditions. The other half is due to Somali pirates for whom the Red Sea is fertile waters for hijacking ships and their cargoes.

10-07-12, 11:56 AM
Now I Know - Meal Ticket


It's hard to find an urban area which does not have a significant homeless population. Be it New York, San Francisco, Tokyo, or Madrid, one is likely to encounter someone for whom life has dealt a bad hand. Some homeless have taken creative measures to adapt, finding ways to persevere in the concrete and asphalt wilderness around them. And in one city, this will to survive is not solely in the domain of the human homeless.

Meet the homeless, subway-riding dogs of Moscow.

There are about 35,000 homeless dogs in Russia's capital, some pictured above. Most of them are feral and eschew contact with people. But about 500 or so have done what many homeless people have done, and become semi-permanent denizens of the subways -- in this case, the Moscow Metro. The advantages are more than just a roof and associated shelter from the weather. The dogs can cozy up to riders in hopes of getting food tossed their way, or, if opportunity knocks, scare an unsuspecting train-goer into dropping his or her snack. Either way, this newfound meal is critical to the hungry subway-living dog.

For about two dozen or so dogs, though, the bark-and-eat gambit is merely a start. These advanced dogs have taken the subway game to the next level: they have become commuters. Areas with office buildings are crowded during the day but sparsely populated during the mornings and evenings; meanwhile, the opposite pattern is seen in residential neighborhoods. And therefore, it behooves a panhandler, canine and human alike, to be near the offices at lunch time and near people's homes at night. So, some Metro pups do exactly that -- as reported by both ABC News and the Sun - http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article2372125.ece , the dogs have figured out how to navigate the train network in hopes of optimizing their locations throughout the day.

And they do so in style. The dogs have figured out which trains offer more room, so they can curl up on a bench for an in-transit snooze.

Bonus fact:

Another thing oddly related to the subway? In New York, at least, the price of a slice of pizza fits the bill. In 1980, the New York Times reported that the typical price of a single slice of pizza matched, "with uncanny precision," the price of a single ride on New York's subway system since the 1960s. The Times revisited the strange correlation in 2002 and determined that it was still true.

10-07-12, 12:32 PM
This thread really is brilliant. Where are you getting these stories from Wato?

10-07-12, 12:52 PM
They are good little reads, keep them coming fella :ok:.

10-07-12, 01:27 PM
Shame i'm too lazy to read some of them :lol:

10-07-12, 02:57 PM
I read about the Moscow Dogs recently.
Did you not post something about the 9/11 dogs recently and I linked it from there?

Or was I just on a VERY random internet tangent that day!

EDIT: It was Derm in the Wiki thread.

11-07-12, 12:38 PM
Now I Know - Invisible Mothers


What you see above is a baby, calm, sitting in a chair. What you don't see above is how that was possible.

The photo above was most likely taken in the 19th century, in the early days of portrait photography. (For reference's sake, the first U.S. president to sit for a photograph while in office was William Henry Harrison in 1841.) It was a long and painstaking process, as the subject had to hold still for the exposure period, which, on the short end of things, could be a few minutes long. Babies aren't exactly known for their patience, so getting them to hold mostly still was, to say the least, tricky.

The solution: a creative frame and mat strategy combined with the one person most likely to keep the baby quiet -- the child's mother. While it appears, above, that the baby is lying on a floral print backdrop, that's only partially the case. The backdrop is not just some cushion -- it is actually his or her mom, sitting in a chair and hiding behind a blanket.


The photograph as taken would not be put on display without an appropriate frame and border, so to the untrained (or the polite) guest, the mother's presence would not be noticed. Many of the original tintypes survived the ruse, though, leading to a borderline absurd result where the outline of the mother is clear once outside the frame. A collection of more such photographs can be found here.

Bonus fact:

The first U.S. Presidential inauguration to be photographed was Abraham Lincoln's second, in 1865, and seen here.
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e6/Abraham_Lincoln_giving_his_second_Inaugural_Addres s_%284_March_1865%29.jpg/760px-Abraham_Lincoln_giving_his_second_Inaugural_Addres s_%284_March_1865%29.jpg
Weeks later, Lincoln would be assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Booth was also at Lincoln's inauguration, and is present in the afore-linked photograph. (Here is a version with the two men highlighted.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:LincolnJohn.jpg

16-07-12, 12:02 PM
Now I Know - Bridge Over Former Water


Zrenjanin, Serbia, is the sixth largest city in the country and home to 75,000 people and about a dozen bridges -- it is called the "City of Bridges" by some. One of those bridges, though, is patently unnecessary. You can walk over it -- it's a bridge, after all -- but you can also walk around it and under it as well. It's perfectly useless and has been for decades. And it probably is going to remain so for years to come.

Meet the aptly named Dry Bridge.

The Bega River runs for about 150 miles (250 km) from Romania into Serbia. For years, one of its small, meandering secondary bends split the city of Zrenjanin into two parts -- it formed a shallow, moat-like ring around the "Mala Amerika" ("Little America") neighborhood. But in 1962, the town built the foot bridge pictured above. It served its purpose, connecting pedestrians with the otherwise-isolated section of town. But in 1985, the city administrators had a better idea. They filled in some sections of the loop, allowing for natural-feeling footpaths to take shape, as seen on this aerial map. (The "A" marker shows the location of the bridge.) - https://maps.google.com/maps?q=45.381667,20.383611&ll=45.379342,20.385733&spn=0.017574,0.035191&t=h&z=15

Since 1985, the river bend comes up near the bridge but does not quite pass under it.
(The effect is obvious in this photograph. http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Europe/Serbia/North/Vojvodina/Zrenjanin/photo557193.htm )

In rendering it obsolete, many town officials wanted to also tear it down, instead replacing it with a sports complex. But area residents objected. Dry Bridge is the only bridge in the world which does not bypass a physical obstacle making it a bona fide tourist attraction.
(other than the incredibly small Trinity Bridge in Crowland, Linconshire, England,
seen here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Trinity_Bridge_%28Crowland%29.JPG )
As of 2008, the bridge is still intact -- albeit not very much in use.

Bonus fact:

Bridge, the card game, has nothing to do with the over-river passageways. Its rules come from another trick-taking card game called "biritch," believed to be Russian in origin. When English speakers pronounced "biritch," listeners heard it as "bridge" instead, and the more Anglo-sounding moniker stuck.

16-07-12, 03:40 PM
Now I Know - Mice Cold Soda


Seemingly frivolous litigation is a tongue-in-cheek hallmark of the American legal system. About two decades ago, a then-79 year old grandmother brought a suit against McDonalds when she burned her legs after spilling coffee on them, ushering in a chorus of critics of the legal system (even if, as explained in the bonus fact, the complaint wasn't so far off base). And of course, crazy lawsuits aren't only American. For example, in 2004, a driver in Spain struck and killed a 17 year old boy on a bicycle and then sued the boy's parents for the damage done by the bike to his car.

But sometimes, the complaint levied isn't so strange -- rather, the defense is.

In Autumn of 2009, an Illinois man named Ronald Ball claimed that he opened a can of Mountain Dew, took a gulp, and found a surprise inside -- a dead mouse. While disgusting, such an incident is not unheard of.
There have been allegations of a chicken head included in a box of wings at McDonalds, - http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=94840&page=1
an animal toe discovered in pre-packaged hummus, - http://gothamist.com/2012/03/01/animal_toe_found_in_artichoke_dip_f.php
a human finger in a roast beef sandwich at Arby's, - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/17/finger-arbys-sandwich_n_1524129.html
a dog tooth in a New York Chinese restaurant, http://newyork.grubstreet.com/2010/07/lawsuit_woman_found_dog_tooth.html
and certainly dozens of others.
Some are real, some are hoaxes, and determining which is which may prove to be a fool's errand. In Ball's case, he swore it was true, and filed suit seeking in excess of $300,000.

But Pepsi was determined to prove Ball's claim to be one of the hoaxes. As recounted by the Madison County Record, which covers the legal system of Madison, Illinois. http://www.madisonrecord.com/news/218815-swig-of-mountain-dew-included-dead-mouse-suit-claims
Ball claims that he took a sip of his allegedly tainted Mountain Dew, drank a bit, and immediately got sick. He then poured the remaining product into a Styrofoam cup and out came the soda and the dead mouse noted above. He called the toll-free phone number on the side of the can to levy his complaint, and an investigator got back to him, requesting that Ball send the soda and the mouse to the company so they could investigate. He obliged.

Pepsi came to court with pretty sound -- and rather vile -- evidence: the science behind what would happen if a mouse was sealed inside a can of Mountain Dew for days if not weeks at a time. Ball, by his own admission, claimed that he sent a nearly-full mouse to Pepsi -- which, of course, is why he was so disturbed. Pepsi claimed that the can was bottled a few months before Ball opened it, which neither side seemed to dispute. For the coup de grace, Pepsi then argued that had a mouse somehow gotten into a can of Mountain Dew in August, it would not have been much of a mouse in November. Pepsi's expert, a veterinarian, asserted that the acid in the soda would have melted away any recognizable features of the mouse: "after 30 days in the fluid, the mouse [would] have been transformed into a 'jelly-like' substance.'" - http://www.thesmokinggun.com/file/mountain-dew-mouse?page=1

As of this writing, the case is still pending.

Bonus fact:

The McDonalds' coffee lawsuit? It wasn't so frivolous after all. As mental_floss explained, at the time, Mackey D's served coffee "at temperatures ranging from 180 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit" while at-home coffee only reaches temperatures of about 140 degrees by comparison. The full mental_floss article goes into great detail, but the major takeaway is that "skin can burn quickly when contacted by liquids" at temperatures in the 180+ degree range -- which is probably why McDonalds received a few dozen burn complaints every year prior to the lawsuit.

Craig Forrest
16-07-12, 08:44 PM
There's a Canadian movie from the 80's (called Strange Brew) which basically starts with 2 brothers placing a live mouse in a beer bottle so they can blackmail the local brewery into giving them free beer... and they end up getting jobs in the factory and hilarity ensues..... :D

17-07-12, 12:02 PM
Now I Know - Gorilla Goggles


Bokito, pictured above, is a gorilla at the Diergaarde Blijdorp zoo in the Netherlands. In 2004, he escaped from his habitat in the zoo (a feat whcih is not unique)
and was returned without any further problems. The same, unfortunately, could not be said in 2007, when he attacked a zoo visitor. Bokito's Wikipedia entry sums it up: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bokito_%28gorilla%29

On May 18, 2007, Bokito jumped over the ditch that separated his Rotterdam enclosure from the public and violently attacked a woman, dragging her around for tens of metres and inflicting bone fractures as well as more than a hundred bite wounds. He subsequently entered the nearby restaurant, causing panic among the visitors. During this encounter, three more people were injured as a result of the panic. Bokito was eventually sedated with the help of a tranquilizer gun and placed back in his cage.

But the main victim here was no random zoo visitor. She had been visiting the zoo as often as four times a week, specifically to visit Bokito. And she'd look at him and smile and laugh. And that -- that is where she went wrong.

Zoo staff advised that she (and others) not make direct eye contact with Bokito while smiling at him, as apes often misinterpret that friendliness as aggression. The victim nevertheless continued, believing that Bokito was laughing back at her and that the two shared some special bond. She was, of course, wrong, and Bokito viciously attacked her. Bokito's strength became so well known in the Netherlands that the term "Bokitoproof," meaning "durable enough to resist the action of an enraged gorilla" became commonplace in Dutch usage.

And of course, the zoo needed to make their facilities Bokitoproof, too. Given the ape's 2004 escape -- which involved scaling a three meter high wall -- that was easier said that done. But a week later, the zoo came up with a simple, elegant, and somewhat creepy solution called BokitoKijkers, Dutch for "Bokito Viewers," as seen below. And on an Episode of QI......


These "viewers" are paper visors with false eyes, looking off to the upper-left. There are pin holes in the viewers allowing the wearer to look straight ahead while avoiding eye contact with Bokito. Attack-defraying paper, of a story.

While it's hard to say whether the BokitoKijkers have been effective, to date, Bokito has not attacked anyone else.

Bonus fact:

On April 23, 2005, one of YouTube's cofounders uploaded the website's first video ever. It is titled "Me at the zoo" (San Diego, not Diergaarde Biljdorp), and can be seen here.
It is 19 seconds long and there are elephants in the background -- no gorillas or funny glasses, sorry.

19-07-12, 09:17 AM
Now I Know - Alone in the Ocean


Whales -- particularly humpback whales like the one pictured above -- speak. Their language is not an articulate mix of sounds like we humans make, but some, such as the aforementioned humpbacks, have taken to making sounds akin to singing. It is widely believed by the relevant scientific communities that these sounds are how members of these species communicate with one another.

Which is why a whale dubbed the 52 Hertz whale is, forever, alone.

Most whale sounds occur in the 15 to 25 Hertz frequency range; you can listen to a humpback whale's call here.

But the 52 Hertz whale, uniquely (as far as we know) creates a sound at a much higher frequency, as heard here.

And unfortunately for the 52 Hertz whale, this massive difference in frequency means that it cannot communicate with the other whales in the ocean.

Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) have been tracking the whale since detecting its strange noise in 1992 using hydrophones, a series of underwater listening devices originally used to track submarine movements. The team was suprised, to say the least. As reported by the New York Times, "its sonic signature is clearly that of a whale, but nothing like the normal voice of the giant blue or the next biggest species, the fin, or any other whale for that matter".

Further, the WHOI team believes that the whale is in otherwise good health, noting that it would be extremely unlikely that a creature with compromised health could live in solitude for over a dozen years -- as the 52 Hertz whale has.

Its life of solitude is exhibited also by its odd migratory pattern. The 52 Hertz whale typically travels up and down the Pacific coast of Mexico, the United States and Canada, venturing into the Gulf of Alaska but not venturing further north. (Here's a map - http://www.whoi.edu/oceanus/viewImage.do?id=10079&aid=4721 )

According to the Alaska Dispatch, the gray whale migrates in a similar path, but ventures much further north to feed; the 52 Hertz whale never reaches that feeding ground and is therefore not likely part of that pack. As of January 2012, it was last detected south of Alaska, alone, as usual.

In fact, we don't know what species of whale the 52 Hertz is. While some believe it is a species in and of itself -- perhaps the last whale of its kind -- WHOI believes that is not the case. Rather, WHOI believes that it is simply a strange, unique member of something otherwise well known.

Bonus fact:

The blue whale is the world's largest animal. It is so large that its tongue alone weights about 3 tons (or about 2,700 kilograms). For comparison's sake, the largest land animal, the African bush elephant -- the whole thing, not just the tongue -- weighs about six tons.


19-07-12, 11:52 AM
Fantastic reads!

19-07-12, 12:20 PM
Now I Know - Unlawful Knowledge


Imagine the following: a man is charged with the brutal rape of an elderly woman. After rounds of interrogation, he finally cracks and confesses. During his trial, that confession is retold to the jury, and it is riddled with facts that only the attacker could have known: how he entered the home, where he struck his victim, etc. The jury, of course, convicts the accused.

In the matter of Eddie Lowery, something akin to the above happened. He was accused of -- and confessed to -- the rape of a 75 year old woman, recounting his bad acts in great detail. Lowery served a decade in prison for his crime. Or, rather, Lowery served a decade in prison for the crime of some other man. Because, despite what he somehow knew, Eddie Lowery was innocent.

As reported by the New York Times, (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/us/14confess.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all) Lowery was exonerated when DNA evidence demonstrated that someone else was the rapist, not Lowery. But that came well after his parole, ten years after his conviction. And it came after the trial, the confession, and, importantly, a seven hour interrogation by police. University of Virginia law professor Brandon L. Garrett -- who studied the stories of roughly 40 such innocents who confessed -- offered a likely theory to the Times centering upon these lengthy interrogations. The stress leaves the accused in poor mental shape, looking for any way to end the badgering by police. So they confess, perhaps in hopes that their weak grasp of salient facts will later demonstrate the confession to be an empty one.

But something else occurs during that interrogation, argue Garrett and others. The police, most likely unintentionally, make mention of these facts here and there, and the accused may remember them and, subconsciously, reintroduce them into their confessions. (Or, perhaps, the police "correct" the accused along the way.) So instead of being able to point to clear and convincing evidence that your "confession" was anything but, the accused unintentionally demonstrate their guilt -- falsely.

Lowery would find himself back in the legal system after this imbroglio -- he brought an action against the district which wrongly convicted him, and received a $7.5 million settlement.

Bonus fact:

The University of Michigan and Northwestern University, together, maintain a database of people who were convicted of felonies but later exonerated. As of this writing, their National Registry of the Exonerated lists over 900 people, seen here: (http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/browse.aspx)
(Eddie Lowery's entry can be read there.)

20-07-12, 11:54 AM
Now I Know - Exit Sandman

http://gallery.mailchimp.com/2889002ad89d45ca21f50ba46/images/640px_Joss_Bay_2C_Broadstairs_2C_England___Aug_200 8.jpeg

Thievery feels like part of the human condition: if someone owns something, chances are there is someone else out there who is willing to steal it. Almost every single one of us knows somebody who has had something stolen from them, be it a car, television, or sand.

Yes, sand. Or, more correctly, a beach.

In the spring of 2008, developers in Coral Springs, Jamaica were building a resort. Like any other Caribbean getaway, a focal point of the destination was its beach. But one day, its owners woke up to find it missing. Overnight, the beach -- an estimated 400 meters' worth, enough to fill roughly 500 truckloads -- was gone. Stolen. The theft effectively halted the further development of the $100 million (U.S.) resort, as the attraction's main feature was no longer.

Given the value of the sand, Jamaican officials investigated the theft intensely -- according to the BBC (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7678379.stm), Jamaica's Prime Minister at the time, Bruce Golding, insisted upon it. But unlike most large, expensive things stolen, finding a beach proved difficult if not impossible. After all, all one needs to do is have a predetermined smaller beach to dump it onto, and no one would be the wiser. The investigation continued for months, with police going so far as to take sand samples from other beaches to do a forensic analysis. But they came up empty.

It sounds like a perfect crime, but some believe that there's a more insidious explanation. The logistics of such a heist are extraordinary. Where does one get dozens if not hundreds of trucks, without anyone noticing? And no one noticed a caravan of sand-hauling trucks driving around? Even if that went unnoticed, how do you find enough laborers to load and unload the sand without one of them telling someone else? All these questions, left unanswered, indicated to some that there could be police officers involved in the theft and a subsequent cover-up.

But in any event, no charges were ever brought.

Bonus fact:

Ever wonder what sand looks like under a microscope? It's different depending on where it comes from (which is probably why the Jamaican police, above, were able to attempt some sort of forensic analysis), due to human elements, microscope creatures, and the surrounding environment. Via Discover Magazine, here (http://discovermagazine.com/photos/01-each-grain-of-sand-a-tiny-work-of-art/) is a slideshow of sand from around the world, magnified dozens of times.

20-07-12, 12:03 PM
Sounds a bit fishy to me


20-07-12, 02:13 PM
Zoom into that pic with www.zoomtits.com and choose the 3rd from right blue wind breaker u can see 3 pairs of tits :woot: :D

23-07-12, 12:53 PM
Now I Know - Juiced

http://gallery.mailchimp.com/2889002ad89d45ca21f50ba46/images/product_Tropicana_Pure_Premium_Orange_Juice_No_Pul p_1300664183.jpeg

Tropicana Pure Premium Orange Juice has one ingredient listed on its label: "100% Pure Natural Oranges." While that's accurate, it may also be misleading. Why? Because while the ingredients imply that oranges are cut, put into a juicer, and the resulting juice is then packaged, that's not quite right. The process is much more complicated -- and, seemingly, much less pure.

According to a 2003 report from the United States Department of Agriculture (pdf here (http://usda01.library.cornell.edu/usda/ers/FTS//2000s/2003/FTS-08-01-2003_Special_Report.pdf)), orange juice was the most popular juice in the United States, and easily so -- it was 2.5 times more popular than the number two on the list, apple juice. Per that report, in order to provide the demanded orange juice to American consumers, one would need about 70 pounds of oranges, per American, year year. And in order to provide that huge amount of orange juice to consumers, companies such as Tropicana go through a long process, one much more involved than simply squeezing a dozen or so oranges and sealing the juice into a box.

In 1963, the U.S. government added an optional but, from a brand quality perspective, hardly avoidable step -- pasteurization, which in part involves heating the juice to temperatures higher than one would typically want their juice served at. That year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began to requires that unpasteurized juice be labeled as such, replete with a warning that it may contain some pathogens which would have otherwise been removed in the heating process. So most of the orange juice made for sale in the U.S. has, in fact, been pasteurized, as the warnings would scare off most consumers otherwise.

But the pasteurization process removes more than just pathogens. It also reduces the flavor and aroma from the juice. This problem is exacerbated by how commercial juice companies store the juice -- something called aseptic processing (described here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aseptic_processing)),
which removes the oxygen from the product in order to keep it sterile for a long period of time. After the OJ has undergone all this, it does not taste or smell like the product you are used to drinking at breakfast.

To fix this, large orange juice manufacturers use something called "flavor packs" -- additives which are derived from oranges, and specifically from the orange oil excreted from inside the rind. These flavor packs are added to the juice toward the end of the process, and can even be customized to some degree in order to provide consistency between cartons (and perhaps some sort of taste- or smell-driven brand recognition). Food policy scholar Alissa Hamilton, who authored a book about the orange juice production process, told ABC News (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/orange-juice-moms-secret-ingredient-worries/story?id=15154617&page=2#.UAdjuStYtyc) that these flavor packs, that, while made from oranges (and only oranges), the companies "break [the oranges] down into individual chemicals." She further told the New Yorker (http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2009/05/ask-an-academic-orange-juice.html) that the companies "then reassemble the individual chemicals in configurations that resemble nothing found in nature."

The FDA states that flavor packs are regarded as safe, and when ABC News asked Hamilton if she believed the flavor packs were dangerous, she replied with "I don't know." (That said, Hamilton does not drink pre-packaged orange juice any more.) But that was not enough for some. Earlier this year, a California consumer by the name of Angelena Lewis (no relation) sued Tropicana (news report here (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/california-woman-sues-pepsicos-tropicana-alleging-deceptive-advertising/story?id=15394357#.UAdcOCtYtyd), legal filing here (http://www.scribd.com/doc/79722132/Complaint-Angelena-Lewis-v-Tropicana)), arguing that the undisclosed use of flavor packs ran afoul of California's false advertising laws.

Bonus fact:

Brush your teeth and then go drink some OJ, and you're in for a rude surprise -- the juice tastes downright awful. What causes that? Most toothpastes contain a compound called sodium laureth sulfate, which causes the foaming action when you brush. But it also blocks your tongue from being able to detect sweetness. So when you drink the juice, you're unable to taste the sweet aspects; instead, you only sense the bitter/sour parts.


23-07-12, 01:22 PM
Once watched on TV a giant ship sucking sand from deep water to make beach somewhere.

25-07-12, 12:11 PM
Now I Know - Pulling for Gold

On July 27, 2012, the Games of the XXX Olympiad -- the 2012 London Summer Olympics -- will officially begin. An estimated 10,000 athletes from over 200 countries will compete for gold, silver, and bronze in 26 sports. The diversity of the events is impressive: syncronized swimming, archery, slalom canoeing, beach volleyball, table tennis, and BMX bicycle racing all make this Games' list. Some critics may object, claiming that these are odd choices given the limited number of events (baseball and softball were both dropped for 2012 and golf, while suggested as a replacement, did not make the cut). But the truth is that the Olympics has a long history of including competitions which many would find curious.

You know, like tug of war.


Tug of war may, in present day, may be a game common mostly to younger kids, but for a long time, it was pretty serious business. It dates back to ancient China where hundreds of competitors would line up on either side of the rope and represent either the sun or the moon in a struggle for dominance over Earth. In more recent times, of course, the game has been relegated to summer camps, corporate team building exercises, and a comedic punchline in Revenge of the Nerds. But from 1900 until 1920, it was an Olympic sport.

Over the course of those five Olympiads (the 1916 Games were cancelled due to World War I), a total of 128 pullers from 10 different nations competed in tug of war. And it was, throughout, a comedy of errors:

# - In 1900, a team made up of three Danes and three Swedes triumphed over a French squad in the lone match of the Olympiad -- the only other team to sign up, an American one, did not compete because three of its pullers were in the hammer toss on the same day.

# - Four years later, in St. Louis, a quartet of American teams made their way into the semi-finals, and a team from Milwaukee beat one from New York in the gold medal match. But the New York team, for reasons unknown, did not show up for a silver or bronze medal match (both against teams from the host city of St. Louis).

# - In the 1908 London games, seven teams signed up but two -- from Greece and Germany -- did not show up. The Liverpool Police team faced off against an American team in the lone best two out of three preliminary match, with the winner advancing to the quarterfinals. The Liverpool team won the first pull but the Americans protested, arguing that the Liverpool team's choice of footwear -- service boots -- gave them an unfair advantage. When the Americans' grievance was denied, they forfeited.

# - Five teams signed up for the 1912 Games -- England (the London Police), Sweden (Stockholm Police), Austria, Bohemia, and Luxembourg -- and organizers had designed a ten match round-robin contest between them, with teams facing off against each other exactly once. The matches were supposed to take place from June 7 to June 12, but Bohemia and Austria did not show up for their first day of matches. England and Sweden were present on June 8th (as pictured above), and Sweden won the first pull. On the second, the London team sat down after a long struggle and was disqualified. When Luxembourg also failed to show up, organizers declared Sweden the winner and England the silver medalist -- after only one match.

The 1920 event went off smoothly, with eight pullers from five nations competing and with no disqualifications, as the London Police recaptured gold. Three members of the team -- Fredrick Humphreys, Edwin Mills, and John James Shepherd -- ended up with three medals (two gold, one silver) during tug of war's short run as an Olympic sport.

Bonus fact:

Tug of war has an international governing body called the "Tug of War International Federation," or "TWIF." The 2012 Tug of War World Championships will be held in Switzerland in early September. More information, including the official rules of the game and the anti-doping (!) regulations can be found here (http://www.tugofwar-twif.org/?p=rules&id=14&nav=1).


26-07-12, 12:13 PM
Now I Know - Accidentally Awesome


Chocolate chip cookies are beloved. Reports vary as to how popular they are, but it is safe so say that billions of these concoctions are consumed each year. A basic recipe appears on every package of Nestle's Toll House chocolate chips, and it is incredibly simple -- get the listed ingredients together, mix, dole out by the tablespoon, and bake for about 10 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

But while seemingly straightforward, the recipe turns out to be anything but -- historically speaking, that is. After all, why would someone ever think to put chunks of semi-sweet chocolate into cookie dough? In retrospect, it makes sense -- delicious sense -- but who knew? As it turns out, before 1930, no one. The creation of these gooey masterpieces was an accident -- the true story of which is still in debate.

Ruth Graves Wakefield was the owner of the Toll House Inn, then a well-known restaurant in Massachusetts. One day that year, she was making chocolate cookies, using a recipe which called for what we now know as chocolate chip cookies but with baking chocolate instead of chocolate chips. Unfortunately (or, perhaps, fortunately for us), Wakefield was all out of baking chocolate. So, according to Nestle (who ended up buying her recipe (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/original-nestle-toll-house-chocolate-chip-cookies/)) she came up with an interesting idea: use chocolate chips instead. But, as luck would have it, the chips retained their shape, and the rest is history.


George Boucher, a chef who once worked at the restaurant, claimed that Wakefield was too talented and too knowledgeable a chef herself to make what Boucher postured as a novice mistake. He offered an alternative theory (which, conveniently, gives him a center role). In his version of the story, Wakefield was making regular sugar cookies -- no chocolate involved, chips or otherwise -- but left the electric mixer uncapped. The vibrating mixer shook the cabinet above, causing a few bars of chocolate to fall in. Before Wakefield could stop, the mixer broke the bars into chips, which, in Wakefield's eyes (per Boucher) ruined the batter. Boucher claims that he convinced Wakefield to cook the dough anyway, and the pair created the tasty treats we now eat billions of each year.

In any event, two things are not in dispute: one, that Wakefield had a hand in the cookies' creation, and two, that she sold the recipe to Nestle -- in exchange for a lifetime supply of chocolate chips.

Bonus fact:

Oreos aren't chocolate chip cookies, but they are popular in their own right. Like anything else popular, there are plenty of Oreo copycats out there. Many may recall what is commonly believed to be one of them, a creme-filled chocolate sandwich cookie called Hydrox. But that belief is misplaced. Oreos debuted in 1912. Hydrox? 1908.

http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRTrsfY7Y41CXUbEXc17h2yhcszD5rsF GApUnxP0vu_bDvb4deSfQ http://d29s07588lfq8p.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/hydrox-cookie.jpg

And a sexy woman with Oreo's...


27-07-12, 05:00 AM

I think that is the best thing you have ever posted :D

30-07-12, 11:21 AM
Now I Know - Slinky Magic

Take a Slinky or a generic version thereof -- the bigger, the better. Find a balcony or window a few stories above ground, making sure that outside, there aren't any passersby coming. Dangle the Slinky out the window until it is mostly still. You'll want the other end of the Slinky to be about half way to the ground -- if it isn't, go up another few stories. If you have the required distance, count to five and let the Slinky go.

The top will fall. The bottom will wait until the top gets there.

Don't have a Slinky handy? Or can't get to a third story window? Watch the video below (or check out this animated gif (http://www.gifbin.com/985815)):

Falling slinky released from top, slow motion:


See? The top falls. The bottom waits.

What's going on here? The Slinky comes with a small, barely visible jet pack which allows-- no, wait. It's just physics, even if counterintuitively so.

Let's start with gravity. Drop something -- a ball, your mobile phone (which certainly happens all too often), a Slinky, or anything, and gravity will start to pull it down. That's pretty straightforward. It's why the top of the Slinky immediately falls once released, and it's why we expect the rest of the Slinky to fall as well. But that's not the only force acting on the Slinky. There's also the tension in the spring.

From the perspective of the Slinky's bottom, the tension is an upward force. Literally, the tension is pulling the bottom of the Slinky back up toward the top. When you are holding the top end of the Slinky, tension is what keeps it from unraveling entirely and falling to the ground as it stretches and dangles. When you drop it, the spring's tension doesn't just disappear, It's still there and, in this case, pulling up at the same rate that gravity is pulling it downward. So the bottom stays in place as the Slinky compresses.

But in the end, gravity wins. When the top and bottom meet, the tension goes to zero, and the bottom of the Slinky joins the top in its descent back to the ground.

Bonus fact:

The Slinky was created by accident. A naval engineer named Richard James was working with springs, hoping to find a way to counter the rough seas ships often encountered, which in turn caused their instruments to bounce around. A spring fell off a shelf and started tumbling around, "walking" from place to place, until it recoiled and came to rest. James tinkered with the tension until he created one which could walk down stairs.


30-07-12, 01:26 PM
Now I Know - Targeting Crime


If there's a Target near your town, and you need something, chances are they have it. Clothes, for sure. Diapers or toddler stuff? Toward the back, down the right side. Groceries? All the way left. Movies and video games? There's a whole section for that. Want a snack? That's in the front, past the registers.

Finding murderers? Yeah, Target does that too.

The first Target store opened in the U.S. in 1962. Today, there are over 1,700 locations throughout the United States and soon, the company will make its foray into Canada. Target typifies the discount retailer experience: a huge assortment of goods made available at lower than typical retail prices. Along the way, they had problems that many retailers -- especially retailers with their scale -- are certain to encounter: injuries and crimes. Specifically, Target found itself having to investigate things like slip-and-falls, shoplifting, theft by employees, and the like. To do so, they created a centralized investigation unit in their Minneapolis, Minnesota headquarters. And over time, this unit became more and more advanced. Today, it and a sibling outfit in Las Vegas are, combined, one of the more sophisticated crime labs out there, as described by Forbes (http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2008/0421/102.html).
And even that may be an understatement. In 2006, an FBI agent familiar with the labs told the Washington Post that "one of the nation's top forensics labs is located at Target's headquarters building in downtown Minneapolis. They have abilities and technology that far surpasses many law enforcement agencies in the country."

Thankfully, Target shares their facilities and abilities. About 70% of the labs' work is for Target. The other 30% of its time is donated by the corporation to law enforcement under the moniker "Target Forensic Services." Its speciality is in closed-circuit and surveillance video -- they have the technology to enhance it (although not to the absurd levels in many crime and sci-fi TV shows) and the people who work there have the experience to know what to look for and where. For example, a few years ago, a CNN correspondent (http://edition.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/anderson.cooper.360/blog/2006/02/target-sets-sights-on-hard-to-crack.html) visited the Minneapolis crime lab as they were assisting the local police in investigating a murder. The police provided a tape from a local convenience store, and from that, was able to identify the murderer's vehicle and developed a decent image of his face. Law enforcement was able to build off of that to identify the man and later get a conviction.

While Target does not advertise the availability of Target Forensic Services, it has become well enough known that demand well outstrips its ability to provide pro bono services. Per Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Target_Corporation#Target_Forensic_Services), Target now only offers its use to solve violent felonies.

Bonus fact:

Target tracks everything customers do and records these activities into a database -- so, if you're a Target customer, chances are you have a Target Guest ID number in their computer systems. Andrew Pole, a statistician for the company, explained the expansiveness of the program to the New York Times: "If you use a credit card or a coupon, or fill out a survey, or mail in a refund, or call the customer help line, or open an e-mail we’ve sent you or visit our Web site, we’ll record it and link it to your Guest ID. We want to know everything we can." They use that data, in part, to customize coupons which are mailed out to would-be shoppers. But sometimes that backfires. As Forbes noted, the company's algorithm once determined that a high schooler was a mother-to-be, and, dutifully, sent her a coupons for baby clothes -- which her father opened. A few days after receiving an irate phone call from the young woman's father, a customer service representative called back to apologize again, but the father ended up the one saying sorry: it turns out the algorithm was right. His daughter was pregnant but had not yet told him.


31-07-12, 12:06 PM
Now I Know - Blame Cuba


In April of 1961, roughly 1,500 American-trained Cuban exiles invaded their homeland in an attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro's government. That assault, now referred to as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, ended up in failure, as the Cuban militia proved too powerful, capturing 80% of the invaders while killing most of the other 20%. The political fallout in the United States was massive, and the desire of the typical American to further engage Cuba in battle was understandably low. Further, other nations questioned America's desire to attack a neighboring sovereign, especially one who had shown little in the way of aggression to the U.S. and was already the subject of American economic sanctions.

But the Cold War was in full force. The U.S. saw Cuba as subordinate to the Soviet Union and having a Soviet stronghold just 250 miles off Florida troubled the leadership of the American military. The Department of Defense (DoD) and the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) felt the need to revive civilian interest in overthrowing Castro and liberating Cuba. Absent a Cuban strike on Americans, though, this seemed unlikely. And no such Cuban strike was likely imminent.

So the DoD and JCS proposed to create such an attack themselves. A fake one, aimed at turning public opinion against Castro and in favor of continued military action against Cuba.

The plan, devised in 1962 and code named Operation Northwoods, had a simple yet striking goal: "to place the United States in the apparent position of suffering defensible grievances from a rash and irresponsible government of Cuba and to develop an international image of a Cuban threat to peace in the Western Hemisphere." The details, outlined in an appendix to an originally classified document titled "Pretexts to Justify U.S. Military Intervention in Cuba" (available starting here (http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/coldwar/documents/episode-10/02-03.htm)), included:

* Using friendly Cubans, pretending to be enemy fighters, to stage a fake (as in, there'd be no actual firearms discharge) attack on the U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, replete with mock funerals after. This item may have included blowing up grounded planes and/or igniting ammunition stores on base to suggest sabotage -- and of course, the fake saboteurs would be "captured."
* Blowing up a U.S. ship (again, unoccupied) somewhere near or within Cuban waters, blaming the assault on Cuba's air force or naval batteries.
* Creating a group of fake Cuban terrorist cells, targeting Cuban refugees in the United States. The plan allowed for some bodily harm to come to the targets "to the extent of wounding" and also called for "sinking a boatload of Cubans en route to Florida (real or simulated)."
* Painting U.S. fighter jets to look like Soviet MIGs and then harassing civilian flights with these planes -- potentially looping in the commercial pilots to help convince passengers of the ruse.
* Potentially shooting down an aircraft traveling from the U.S. to Central America, purportedly transporting college students (but actually empty), as it passed over Cuban air space.

In almost all cases, the plan was designed to avoid killing American civilians, although the same could not be said for "boatload[s] of Cubans" destined for Miami. Regardless, the total death toll from Operations Northwoods was zero. Then-President John F. Kennedy rejected the idea and removed its lead proponent, General Lyman Lemnitzer, from his position as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Bonus fact:

The U.S. embargo of Cuba dates back to 1958 and its reach has been adjusted a few times since. (In general, the restrictions have been tightened, but on July 16, 2012, a U.S-sanctioned ship carrying humanitarian goods from Cubans in Miami to their families sailed into Havana (http://www.aljazeera.com/news/americas/2012/07/20127147196482238.html).)

The ban on importing Cuban cigars was not among the original restrictions -- that was added in an executive order signed by President Kennedy in 1962. But JFK was, apparently, fond of the cigars. According to Pierre Salinger, then the President's press secretary, one evening that year, JFK asked him to pick up about 1,000 of them by "tomorrow morning." Salinger over-delivered, obtaining 1,200, and presented them to the President the next morning. As Salinger recounts: "Kennedy smiled, and opened up his desk. He took out a long paper which he immediately signed. It was the decree banning all Cuban products from the United States. Cuban cigars were now illegal in the USA."


01-08-12, 12:03 PM
Now I Know - A Ghostly Murder


Zona Shue, pictured above, was found dead in her home on January 23, 1897 in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, by an errand boy. By the time Dr. George Knapp, Mrs. Shue's physician-turned-coroner, arrived about an hour later, Shue's husband, Edward Shue, was already by her bedside. He was distraught and somewhat erratic, as one would expect from a man who came home to such a scene, and angered when Dr. Knapp tried to examine the corpse. Nevertheless, Dr. Knapp was able to pronounced Zora dead, with "childbirth" as the official cause of death. But to Zora's mother, Mary Jane Heaster, the doctor's pronouncement was just plain wrong. Mrs. Heaster was convinced that Edward murdered her daughter.

Mrs. Heaster was correct. Four weeks after Zora's funeral and burial, Mrs. Heaster received a message detailing how Edward snapped her daughter's neck, ending her life in her mid-20s. That messenger? Zora's ghost.

Even leading up to the funeral, there was plenty of reason to believe that not everything was as it seemed. Before Dr. Knapp arrived on the night of Zora's death, Edward dressed her corpse (which typically happened after pronouncement), placing her in a stiff collar and a veil. During the wake, he didn't allow people to come close to the body, and had placed her head between a pillow and a rolled-up sheet, ostensibly to keep her comfortable in the afterlife. Mrs. Heaster managed to grab the sheet before Zona was buried, and when she washed it, it turned the water red. But Zona's burial went forward without an autopsy.

About a month later, over the course of a few evenings, Zora's ghost appeared to Mrs. Heaster, according to the grieving mother herself. The ghost, she claimed, told her what had happened: Edward was an abusive husband who, having come home to find dinner not to his liking, snapped Zora's neck in a fit of rage, killing her. This explained his odd behavior and the sheet, but with the self-alleged victim now six feet under, there was little other evidence out there. So Mrs. Heaster told the district attorney about her supernatural visitor in hopes of having Zona's body exhumed and a proper autopsy performed. After other townspeople joined Mrs. Heaster's cause, the DA agreed. And the autopsy revealed that Zona's death was caused by a broken neck.

At trial, the prosecution called Mrs. Heaster as a witness -- to testify about the facts, not her ghost-sighting. She stuck to that, but on cross-examination, the defense asked her about her encounter with her dead daughter, asserting it was a dream. Mrs. Heaster, according to the West Virginia Division of Culture and History (http://www.wvculture.org/HiStory/notewv/ghost1.html), was unwavering; she "firmly insisted it was no dream and that she was as awake when her daughter appeared as she was then in the courtroom." The jury believed her. Edward was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Bonus fact:

The University of Virginia School of Medicine is one state over from where Zora Shue's ghost allegedly appeared, but perhaps the school would find her story interesting anyway. Why? Because it is home to a group of researchers -- the Division of Perceptual Studies (http://www.medicine.virginia.edu/clinical/departments/psychiatry/sections/cspp/dops/we_are-page) -- whose "researchers are dedicated to the use of scientific methodology in their investigation of a wide range of paranormal phenomena." In short, the division studies potential ghost sightings and other paranormal activity.


02-08-12, 12:00 PM
Now I Know - Operation Migration

The whooping crane is an endangered bird native to North America. Before Europeans settled in the New World, there were an estimated 10,000 of them. By the late 1800s, that number fell to about 1,500. In 1941, there were twenty-three -- two in captivity and just under two dozen in the wild.

Joe Duff wanted to fix that. To do so, he and his colleagues decided to dress up kind of like the whooping cranes they wanted to save.


Duff is the co-founder and CEO of a not-for-profit organization called Operation Migration (http://www.operationmigration.org/). The whooping crane population is at risk mostly due to habitat loss -- the areas they have been migrating to and from, for generations, have slowly been eroded away as people have moved in. Each subsequent generation of cranes learns the migratory path by following their parents, and unfortunately, the parents were going into a long-destroyed habitat, and many did not survive the season. Without parents to guide them, the younger cranes were lost, and they, too, perished.

To combat this, Operation Migration uses a development from the 1980s and 1990s. A Canadian ultralight aircraft enthusiast named Bill Lishman -- who would later become Duff's co-founder -- theorized that certain waterfowl could be trained to follow such a plane to a different migratory destination. In 1993, Lishman successfully lead a group sixteen of Canadian geese from Ontario to Virginia. Thirteen of the sixteen returned to Ontario the next year -- without needing a human guide.

Lishman's innovation centered on the fact that waterfowl, soon after their birth, imprint upon the first creature they see. Typically, this is their birth mother, but in a controlled environment, it could be basically any animal -- including a person, if conditions are right. Duff, in an interview with NPR's Talk of the Nation, explained: "Whooping cranes are hatched in the nest, in a marsh on the ground, basically, and they leave the nest almost immediately and follow their parents out to forage for food. And if they don't follow their parents, they're lost. So that natural instinct to imprint is there, and we just substitute parent for pilot and make sure they imprint on us." The pilots wear the above-seen costumes so that the whooping cranes, when reintroduced to the wild, are not familiar with humans. Duff does not want them to learn that other people they come across are going to coddle and care for them because, simply, they won't.

Once the cranes are able -- assuming they've learned to follow the pilot -- Operation Migration continues their conditioning, training them to follow the ultralight aircraft, as seen below.


According to an interview Duff did with VetStreet.com (http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/operation-migration-saves-endangered-whooping-cranes-by-teaching-them-to-fly), there are now roughly 500 whooping cranes in the wild -- a roughly twenty-fold increase in just a few generations, although there is a long way to go. And there are unexpected problems along the way. As reported by the Sierra Club (http://sierraclub.typepad.com/explore/2012/01/whooping-crane-migration-gets-the-faa-ok.html), toward the end of 2011 and into 2012, the Federal Aviation Administration temporarily grounded Operation Migration's aircraft due to an unclear rule requiring the organization to obtain a special waiver before they took flight again. They are working with the FAA on a permanent solution to allow the flights to go off without further problems.

Bonus fact:

For researchers and similar types, dressing up like the animals you are studying is not all that rare. In China, researchers transporting pandas into a wildlife reserve often don panda suits, as seen here (http://photos.mercurynews.com/2012/05/04/researchers-dressed-in-panda-costumes-transfer-giant-panda-to-a-new-living-environment-in-china/#name%20here).

And here is a sexy Panda

03-08-12, 11:54 AM
Now I Know - Fourteen Feet Deep

Puget Sound, the Strait of Georgia, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca make up part of the Pacific coasts of the American state of Washington and the Canadian province of British Columbia. Collectively, they make up the Salish Sea. Their beaches are like most other ones, with one disturbing feature:

For some reason, disembodied feet keep washing up on shore.

In August of 2007, a 12 year-old Washington girl was visiting British Columbia's Jedediah Island. As reported by CBC News (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2007/08/31/bc-feet.html), she found a black and white Adidas sneaker with a sock and foot still inside -- with no other body parts to be found. Later that month, a couple found a Reebok sneaker on nearby Gabriola Island -- again, with human remains somewhat preserved inside the shoe. Both shoes were size 12, men's, and right feet. Two different people meeting very similar fates.

And the feet just kept on coming. A third foot (http://www.canada.com/theprovince/news/story.html?id=d85218b4-8a98-4d16-ad7c-02daecd983d9) was found in February of 2008, again a male right foot. A fourth foot (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2008/05/22/bc-severed-foot-richmond.html) was discovered in May -- the first one of a woman -- and a fifth one (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2008/06/16/bc-fifth-foot-found.html) in June. The fifth foot, uniquely to this point, was a left foot, and DNA tests confirmed that it belonged to the same person as the first foot found. The locations of where the first six feet were found are flagged on the map below. Over the next four years, another eight feet would wash up on the shores of the Salish Sea. Fourteen total feet belonging to a dozen people.


No one is sure why the feet are washing up while the rest of the bodies never emerge. The most likely theory is that when submerged bodies decompose, the hands, feet, and head detach, as they are the parts most loosely connected to the rest of the body. In most cases, these detached parts would sink soon after, but in the case of the fourteen Salish Sea feet, the foot/sneaker combination has enough buoyancy to keep it afloat.

As for the identities of the people who once walked using the discovered feet? Investigators have used DNA tests of the human tissue and forensic analysis of the shoes to come up with answers. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done. The currents in the area draw from across the Pacific and the body fat in the feet forms a soap-like substance which interferes with scientific testing. With one exception, there are more questions than answers. In November of 2011, the Canadian Press reported (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/10/19/bc-feet-mystery-coroner_n_1020772.html) that two of the feet belonged to a woman who committed suicide by jumping off a bridge in New Westminster, British Columbia, seven years earlier. To date, the owners of the other dozen feet are unidentified.

Bonus fact:

According to a 1994 study (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8050406) of just under 1,200 men, the average adult male foot measures 26.3 centimeters -- or about 10.3 inches -- with a standard deviation of 1.2 centimeters (just under half an inch). In other words, the vast majority of human feet are not quite a foot long.


06-08-12, 12:52 PM
Now I Know - Boared

There are four million of them roaming around the United States as we speak. Collectively, according to the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/21/sports/othersports/21hogs.html?_r=2&hp), they cause roughly $800 million in property damage annually. But these animals are no ordinary pests -- they're not rats or termites or other such creatures which normally spring to mind as destructive nuisances.

They're pigs -- feral pigs. And they are, literally, out of control.


Feral pigs may look rather harmless -- like furry cousins of the incredible, friendly pig from Charlotte's Web. But that could not be further from the truth. Their voracious appetites combined with their willingness to eat almost anything mean that wherever they are, anything edible is certain to be consumed. They destroy the habitats of other wildlife, eating food other animals rely on. They ravage crops and shred other plants. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/70843.html), they even "consume the nests and eggs of ground nesting birds and reptiles." They know no boundaries, appear to have no fear, and reproduce rapidly. As the Times summarized, feral pigs are "capable of breaking through fences. They run pickup trucks off the road. They prey on young livestock and woodland creatures. They carry disease. They gestate in four months and deliver litters of a half dozen." The New York State DEC echoes that last sentence, noting that "A feral swine population can triple in one year."
They're a menace.

Hunting them is no easy feat, either. They have very sharp tusks and can be deceptively quick, especially when injured, cornered, or otherwise threatened. In July of 2011, for example, a Texas man tried to trap five of the pigs in a pen on his ranch, but one of the pigs speared him in the calf (http://www.khou.com/news/Texas-man-attacked-by-feral-pig-125490018.html). The rancher required more than 100 stitches. Another Texan, a hog hunter, told Environmental Graffiti (http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/ecology/us-pig-population-an-ecological-disaster/538) that feral pigs are "the poor man's grizzly . If you shoot at a hog, you'd better shoot straight, because if you don't kill it, he might try and kill you."

Given the feral pigs' proclivity and the economic harm they cause, some jurisdictions take a no-holds-barred approach to their eradication. Missouri, for example, goes to the extreme: "Hunters afield for other game are encouraged to shoot feral hogs on sight when they are encountered. In Missouri, feral hogs may be killed in any number throughout the year. During most of the year no permit is required and any method is allowed."

Bonus fact:

A typical feral pig weighs 100 to 200 pounds (50 to 90 kg) and, excluding its tail, can reach lengths of about six and a half feet (or about 200 cm). But in 2004, a feral pig was killed on a farm in Georgia which was about seven to eight feet long and weighed an estimated 800 pounds. That creature -- a hybrid of a wild boar and a domesticated pig, seen below -- earned the nickname Hogzilla. It was so large that news of its discovery and death was, originally, widely believed to be a hoax (http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/DNA-tests-to-reveal-if-possible-record-size-boar-2691605.php).



06-08-12, 01:13 PM
Lots of bacon there!

07-08-12, 12:23 PM
Now I Know - The Musical Savant

Derek Paravicini was born on July 26, 1979. He is autistic and, due to oxygen therapy received at birth -- which was required as he was born at only 25 weeks -- is blind and suffers from a variety of learning disabilities. He can, however, hear, which is incredibly important. Why?

Because Paravicini is a musical genius. He can play a piece of music on the piano after hearing it just once.

At only five years old, he started taking piano lessons at the Linden Lodge School for the Blind in London. By nine, he had his first public concert. And it wasn't just some recital by a grammar school kid. As seen in the video below, Paravicini is an incredibly gifted pianist -- the video, a promo of a segment from 60 Minutes, opens with him at the piano. But watch for even half a minute and you'll see that Paravicini's awe-inspiring piano playing abilities do not extend beyond that point. When host Leslie Stahl asks him to hold up three fingers, he can't.


Paravicini's piano abilities are not based on rote memorization alone. Rather, he has a highly adaptable understanding of music generally (most likely -- how he thinks is a mystery), and is able to combine elements from the vast library of music stored in his head. For example, in the same 60 Minutes segment, Stahl asks him to play the song YMCA by the Village People. He does, dutifully, and then Stahl changes the rules, asking him to transform the song into a "Russian dance." The result: as seen at the 1:17 mark here (http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4303465/derek_paravicini_on_60_minutes_autistic_savant/), exactly what Stahl asked for. Further, he is able to synthesize the musical output of entire ensembles and translate it into a playable (by him, at least) piano concerto.

Unfortunately, this gift is not enough to make Paravicini an independent, otherwise-functional adult. While he is capable of drawing an audience -- paying customers, at that -- he's unable to handle his own financial affairs, even now at age 33. His now-divorced parents still care for him in that regard.

Bonus fact:

One song Paravicini almost certainly cannot play? Circus Gallop, a song composed in the early 1990s to test electronic musical instrument software, requires 21 notes to be played simultaneously, and Paravicini simply does not have enough fingers to perform it. (Watch and hear it in action, on a player piano, here. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdUy70dh8LY&t=0m8s))


08-08-12, 11:58 AM
Now I Know - One's Trash, Another's Treasure

There's an old saying, "one man's trash is another man's treasure," the etymology of which has been lost to time. The meaning is not literal but, typically, a commentary on how there is no judging for taste -- what one person may think is worthless may be cherished by another. But in the case of one particular type of refuse, the literal meaning of the phrase rings true -- to the point of fueling organized crime in parts of the United States.

That product? Old cardboard boxes. While some people are trying to throw them out, others are stealing them before the waste haulers come by.


Cardboard boxes are recyclable. And as recyclables go, they make for some of the best garbage out there. They are easy to transport because they can be baled up, as seen above, and throw in the back of a truck, allowing tons of cardboard to carted for miles without much labor or fuel costs. The recycling process itself is centered around something called a hydropulper, which is basically a moving bath of warm water which mixes the bales until the cardboard turns into an oatmeal-like consistency of paper pulp. That pulp can be turned back into boxes or other products made of corrugated fiberboard.

Because cardboard boxes have a second life, they have value even after they are emptied of their contents and sent off with waste hauler. While municipalities and companies alike will pay such service providers to take their garbage and recyclables away, the haulers also make money by selling the bales of cardboard to recyclers. But others are aware of the cardboard's value -- approximately $100 a ton -- and grab it before the haulers can. Because the waste management companies have contractually agreed to take the trash (at a price lower than they would if the recyclable cardboard were not present), doing so is often considered theft.

One notable such crime spree involved three New Jersey men who, over the course of about four months, made off with over 900 tons of cardboard, as reported by Metro Philadephia. (http://www.metro.us/philadelphia/local/article/1148438--n-j-men-allegedly-stole-100k-worth-of-cardboard-through-large-scale-recycling-theft-ring)

While most illegal cardboard runners simply steal the boxes laying idle off the side of the road (which is typical in larger cities) or from behind large stores like Wal-Mart or Target, the New Jersey trio were more creative. They created a sham corporation called "Metro Paper, Inc." and rented trucks. Then, they monitored the pickup schedules at large stores which went through a high amount of boxes. Once they had the schedule down, they made sure they arrived before the legitimate haulers, picking up the boxes and moving on to their next target.

Seems like a waste of time -- or, a crime not worth the risk? According to Waste Recycling News (http://www.wasterecyclingnews.com/article/20120725/NEWS02/120729954/new-york-city-cardboard-recycling-theft-ring-broken-up-three-arrested), the group sold their treasure trove of used cardboard boxes for just north of $100,000.

Bonus fact:

What does society do with all those recycled boxes? In general, they're turned into more boxes, as noted above. But Israeli inventor Izhar Gafni, a bicycling enthusiast, decided to take his hobby and turn it into a challenge. As reported by Fast Company (http://www.usatoday.com/news/offbeat/2005-11-12-cardboard-box_x.htm), Gafni built a fully functional bike out of recycled cardboard boxes. The water-resistant bicycles use only $9 in materials.

http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTY48Bq5PhunalCJtZvpyq9KGvWk0atX bMviE5xh7nHr6Yc2djOKA

09-08-12, 12:11 PM
Now I Know - Three of a Kind


In 2005, Debbie and Kent Beasley of California had triplets -- kind of. All three children were conceived in 1992 and the older two children were born then, but the third one required thirteen more years -- the result of an ever-advancing world of science with an unintentional intentional assist from a crooked doctor. Meet Laina Beasley, the baby born from an embryo frozen for over a decade before her birth.

In the early 1990s, Laina's parents were hoping to start a family but had trouble getting pregnant. Like many have in recent decades, they turned toward in vitro fertilization, or IVF, a lengthy, potentially painful, and often expensive process where the mother's egg is fertilized by father's sperm outside the body and is then implanted into the woman's womb. Because of the costs and because the implantation does not always work, it is common for the doctors to extract many eggs at once -- a dozen or more, perhaps -- even though only four or so are implanted at a time. (UK law, for example, only allows two or three eggs to be implanted at a time, depending on the age of the would-be mother.)

In the case of the Beasleys, in 1992, Debbie had 12 eggs extracted and fertilized but only three implanted, two of which she was able to carry to term. The other nine sat in storage with her fertility doctor, Ricardo Asch, without an explained future use (if any) for them. Or so the Beasleys thought.

In 1995, Dr. Asch and others were accused of taking their patients' embryos -- including the Beasleys' -- and providing them to other women and to research institutions, without their patients' knowledge or consent. (These types of donations are not uncommon, but doing so without permission is as shocking as it sounds.) The clinic was shuttered and the Beasleys' embryos ended up across the country, at a university (unnamed) where they were to be used for medical research. Most likely, they would have been destroyed in the interim years, but due to Dr. Asch's apparently immoral act, eight of the nine remaining embryos were saved.

According to the BBC (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4655035.stm), in 2001, the Beasleys decided to try get pregnant again, using the remaining embryos. Of the now six remaining -- two were lost in an attempt gone bad in 1996, which almost cost Debbie her life -- four thawed properly and were viable. All four were implanted into Mrs. Beasley and one ended up making it through 35 weeks of the 40 week typical gestation period. In June of 2002, Laina Beasley was born, joining her brother and sister, thirteen years later.

Bonus fact:

Triplets occur naturally in about 1 in 7,900 pregnancies, and in almost all of those cases, at least one of the triplets is genetically different than the others. Identical triplets do occur, often caused when a fertilized egg splits and then one of the resulting two eggs splits again (or when both split but only three of the resulting four survive). The odds of a pregnancy resulting in identical triplets? According to MSNBC, they may be as rare as one in 200 million.


10-08-12, 12:30 PM
Now I Know - Les Horribles Cernettes


The image above is, from left to right, Angela Higney, Michele de Gennaro, Colette Marx-Neilsen, Lynn Veronneau, from 1992. Individually, they were administrative assistants and/or spouses of researchers at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (which is now home to the Higgs boson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higgs_boson)-researching Large Hadron Collider (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Large_Hadron_Collider)).

Collectively, they're part of a musical group of sorts called Los Horribles Cernettes (http://musiclub.web.cern.ch/MusiClub/bands/cernettes/), a joke band from CERN, with "hits" such as "My Sweetheart is a Nobel Prize" and "Daddy's Lab." The image is a photoshopped version of this photograph (http://www.viceland.com/viceblog/17500290firstphoto_original_smaller.jpg) and was originally intended to become a CD cover for the Cernettes' 1992 album. And if that is all that happened, the image would be not worth mentioning.

But as it turns out, that photoshopped picture of a half-joke musical act is special. About twenty years ago, it became the first photograph ever used on the World Wide Web.

When we think about the multimedia experience that the web is now today, we lose sight of its more humble beginnings. Originally conceived by British computer scientist and CERN research Tim Berners-Lee in 1989, the web made its debut on December 25, 1990. But that rudimentary system consisted of (and was defined as) a web browser, a single web server, and a few web pages -- and, more importantly, they were not publicly accessible. It would not be unveiled to the public until August of the following year when Berners-Lee and his student, Robert Cailliau, announced their "World Wide Web" project on an online newsgroup. And even then, the existing web pages were text documents (or more accurately, hypertext documents) which users could navigate through via links. There were no images.

That changed on July 18, 1992 or thereabouts. According to Silvano de Gennaro (http://musiclub.web.cern.ch/MusiClub/bands/cernettes/firstband.html), the photographer of the picture above (and later, the husband of one of the Cernettes), Berners-Lee asked him "for a few scanned photos of 'the CERN girls' to publish on some sort of information system he had just invented, called the 'World Wide Web.'" Not knowing the future levity of this "World Wide Web" thing, he happily obliged, scanning the photos in and sending them to Berners-Lee's machine. (And via FTP at that -- email attachments were only a few months old then.) Berners-Lee put the photograph on a web server and the rest is history.

The photograph is probably not the first picture uploaded to the web, as Berners-Lee was almost certainly testing before making this request of de Gennaro, but as de Gennaro originally noted (http://web.archive.org/web/20021011042441/http://musiclub.web.cern.ch/musiclub/bands/cernettes/firstband.html), it was a "historical milestone" -- "the first picture ever to be clicked on in a web browser." (De Genarro updated his page on the topic after a blog asserted (http://motherboard.vice.com/2012/7/10/crossdressing-compression-and-a-collider-the-first-photo-on-the-web) that Berners-Lee was a cross-dresser and wanted the photo in question because it somehow served that purpose; De Genarro also addressed that issue in this forcefully worded disclaimer. (http://musiclub.web.cern.ch/MusiClub/bands/cernettes/disclaimer.html)) Most if not all of the test images were vector graphics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vector_graphics), not photographs, so the above-displayed photoshopped picture is the web's first photograph.

Today, the Cernettes are still performing -- and, of course, using the web to do what most artists are doing: selling their music online (http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/leshorriblescernettes).

Bonus fact:

The first web server, seen here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:First_Web_Server.jpg), was a NeXT Computer which cost $6,500,in the late 1980s, or about $12,000 in today's dollars. Because turning it off would, in effect, turn off the entire web, Berners-Lee adorned with with a sticker which read "This machine is a server. DO NOT POWER IT DOWN!!"


13-08-12, 02:13 PM
Now I Know - Faster Than a Speeding Bullet


American swimmer Michael Phelps has 22 Olympic medals to his name -- 18 gold, two silver, and two bronze. In the 2008 Beijing Olympics alone, he set a record by winning eight gold medals, including the gold in the men's 100 meter butterfly over Milorad Cavic of Serbia, as seen above -- kind of. Phelps, on the left, touched the wall 0.01 seconds before Cavic, and to the naked eye, discerning that fact is impossible.

Even a frame-by-frame (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/multimedia/photo_gallery/0808/oly.phelps.sequence/content.1.html) look into the finish yields little in the way of certainty. And these slight margins are not limited to swimming. For example, in the 2004 Athens Olympics, the top four finishers in the men's 100 meters (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athletics_at_the_2004_Summer_Olympics_-_Men%27s_100_metres#Final) finished a total of 0.04 seconds apart, with times of 9.85, 9.86, 9.87, and 9.89 seconds, respectively.

With margins this thin, every factor may have an outcome on an Olympic race. Including the speed of sound.

At sea level, the speed of sound (at sea level) is about 340 meters per second. The men's 100 meters is an 8-man race, with each competitor in a roughly 1.22 meter wide lane. The runner in Lane 1 is, approximately, eight and half meters from the runner in Lane 8. If the starting pistol is fired next to Lane 1, the runner in that lane will hear it about 0.025 seconds before the runner in Lane 8. The same goes for swimming, and even more so. An Olympic pool is ten lanes long, with each lane spanning 2.5 meters. Assuming each swimmer is roughly in the middle of his or her lane, the swimmer in the first lane is about 22.5 meters away from the swimmer in the final lane. The time it takes for the sound to travel from Lane 1 to Lane 10? Six hundredths of a second. And when the gap between gold and silver (or bronze and not medaling) is less than that, there's a problem.

To solve for this, the Olympics (and other race organizers) have, for decades, wired the pistol to a microphone and relayed the sound to speakers situated behind each of those racing. The noise is relayed electronically and therefore moves much faster than the speed of sound, which should mitigate if not eliminate the problem. But going into the 2012 London Olympics, the organizers saw fit to improve upon the problem anyway. Why? In part, because some competitors were (perhaps subconsciously, to avoid false starts) unwilling to trust the electronically piped-in noise behind them and instead were "waiting" for the true sound to reach them.


The 2012 London Olympics fixed the problem. As reported by The Atlantic (http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/12/07/the-speed-of-sound-is-too-slow-for-olympic-athletes/260413/), the London Olympic Games Organizing Committee decided to use the starter originally tested in the 2010 Vancouver (Winter) Games -- an all-electronic "gun" by Omega, seen above. Gear Patrol explains how it works (http://gearpatrol.com/2012/07/24/timekeeping-omega-olympics/): "When the starter’s finger pulls the trigger, the classic “bang” is played through speakers behind each runner’s starting block [and only there], a visual flash is emitted and a pulse is sent electronically to the timing system. No smoke and the only drama is at the finish line."

And as an added bonus, you don't need a permit to carry it around.

Bonus fact:

Superman -- the comic book hero, not Michael Phelps -- is said to be "faster than a speeding bullet." How fast is that? Starting pistols typically fire blanks or caps, so there's no speeding bullet for Superman to outrace. For other handguns, it varies based on the gun as well as the bullet, but in general is in the range of 390 meters per second to about 460 m/s. In any case, they go -- and therefore, Superman can go -- faster than the speed of sound. So if Superman ever yells "watch out!," he's doing the person in danger a disservice, the sonic boom notwithstanding. He can get to the person faster than his voice can, assuming the sound of his voice isn't also super.


14-08-12, 12:18 PM
Now I Know - The Bat Bomb

http://gallery.mailchimp.com/2889002ad89d45ca21f50ba46/images/422px_Carlsbad_AAF_Fire_after_Bat_Bomb_Accident.jp eg

During the final days of World War II, the United States, apparently believing that Japan was unlikely to surrender otherwise, dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The death toll from these two bombs numbered as high as 250,000 when one factors in those who died up to four months later due to things like burns and radiation sickness. Research into the creation of an atomic bomb began in 1939 and the Manhattan Project, which developed the science behind the weapons in earnest, began in June of 1942. But in March of 1943, the United States was developing another weapon which would have potentially spared many thousands of lives.

Unless, that is, you count the lives of the millions or so bats which would have died in the process.

In the mid-1940s, many Japanese buildings were still constructed out of wood and paper, which, of course, were flammable. If the U.S. could figure out a way to start fires in a large number of buildings spread out over a wide area, the Japanese infrastructure and economy would suffer but the direct loss of life would be relatively smaller. But that seemed impossible. Napalm strikes could start fires everywhere in its path, but that wouldn't spread. And carpet bombing with many small warheads would increase the area of the strike, but most likely wouldn't cause many fires. And of course, the death toll from either of those routes could still be rather large.

But a few months before the Manhattan Project got underway, a dental surgeon named Lytle Adams came up with the idea to use bats -- the nocturnal flying mammals -- as part of the strategy. As he would later tell Air Force Magazine (http://www.airforce-magazine.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/1990/October%201990/1090bats.aspx), after seeing millions of bats flying around caves in Carlsbad Canyon, New Mexico, he immediately thought that they could be used as a way to spread firebombs throughout Japan. He collected a few of them himself, did a little research, and found that even tiny bats weighing well under a pound could carry three times their weight in explosives. He pitched his plan to the military (which apparently was not uncommon at the time) and the military agreed that there was something more to look into.

Adams' theory was straightforward. Collect a million of bats and strap timed incendiary devices to their backs while they hibernated. Stick a thousand of them each into a thousand bombs designed to open at high altitudes. Fly over Japan at night, drop the bombs, and then let the bats fly around. When daybreak comes, the theory went, the bats will hide in dark places -- and given where they are, the most common hiding place will be attics. The timer ticks down shortly after and, without obvious explanations, hundreds of thousands of Japanese buildings start to burn to the ground.

The idea was not just a theory, either. By March of 1943, the U.S. military had identified a suitable population of bats, having located a series of caves in Texas which was the home to millions of the flying critters. For the next year or so, at the expense of $2 million ($25 million in today's dollars), they tested Adams' theory. Except for one major problem -- at one point, some bats got loose resulting in a major fire at the base, as seen above -- the military believed that the bat bombs could actually work.
One report placed their effectiveness at ten to thirty times more effective (measured by the number of fires which would have started) than conventional incendiary devices.

But the final report on the bat bombs issues in mid-1944, while positive, noted that they would not be ready for combat for another year. Due to the slow time table, the military canceled the project before it could be fully developed.

Bonus fact:

Bats eat insects (among other things), including malaria-carrying mosquitoes. In the 1920s, a researcher named Charles Campbell proposed building "bat towers" which would provide a roost for bats during the day so they could feast on the mosquitoes at night. There's an active one at the University of Florida, as seen here (http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/bats/), but the most famous one is probably the Sugarloaf Key Bat Tower in the Florida Keys. The Sugarloaf tower was built in 1928 by a fish lodge owner named Richard Perky with much fanfare -- and with one big problem. According to Atlas Obscura (http://atlasobscura.com/place/sugarloaf-key-bat-tower), when Perky put the bats into the tower, they flew off to find some bugs to eat -- and never came back.


15-08-12, 12:02 PM
Now I Know - The Sound of Silence


Sometimes, one just needs a bit of peace and quiet. Not for serenity (well, that too), but for scientific research. If you want to measure how loud a consumer product is -- say, that of a cell phone's ring or the hum of a dishwasher -- you are better off doing so in an environment with little to no ambient noise. So many organizations -- Apple, Microsoft, and the U.S. military to name a few -- have built special rooms (http://www.fastcompany.com/1671022/chambers-super-silence-whats-inside-apples-100-million-iphone-radio-test-facility), called anechoic (read as "an-echoic," as in "echo free") chambers, to create such conditions.

Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Orfield Laboratories has one, too. And they rent it out so that others can test their products, much like Apple and others do in their own chambers. But Orfield does something additional: they let visitors sit in the room, alone and in the dark, to see how long they can last without going mad.

According to Minnesota Public Radio (http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2012/04/03/daily-circuit-quiet-room/), the typical quiet room -- such as your bedroom late at night -- has an ambient noise level of about 30 decibels, caused by the rustling of sheets, the hum of the air conditioner, and similar sources of white noise. Orfield's anechoic chamber has a noise level of -9 decibels -- yes, negative nine. According to Guinness World Records, it is the world's quietest room. The silence-producing design, according to the Deccan Chronicle (http://www.deccanchronicle.com/channels/sci-tech/others/worlds-quietest-room-absorbs-all-sound-601) and seen above, features a "trampoline"-like mesh floor, which prevents sounds from reflecting off of it; and walls with one meter-long pieces of soundproofing protruding outward, which absorb sound.

A trip inside may seem like a get-away from the tribulations of the rest of the world, but as Orfield Laboratories President Steve Orfield notes, anything could be further from the truth. He explained why to Minnesota Public Radio: "When you sit in any rooms a person normally sits in, you hear the sound and all its reflections. When you go into an anechoic chamber, there are zero reflections. So if you listen to me talk and hear my voice, you're hearing my voice exactly. And if I turn around and talk, the only thing you'll hear is the sound bending around my head." The body adapts to the massive sensory deprivation by finding whatever it can latch onto -- even its own noises. Quite literally, the mind starts focusing on the sounds of one's own heart beating and lungs expanding. It is enough to drive almost all people to hallucinate.

Orfield himself can only last about 30 minutes in the room before listening to his body parts (including, and especially, an artificial heart valve) is more than he can handle. But perhaps the word "only" there is improperly used. As reported by the Daily Mail (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2124581/The-worlds-quietest-place-chamber-Orfield-Laboratories.html), the longest anyone has lasted is 45 minutes.

Bonus fact:

Finding pure testing environments isn't unique to sound -- it also can be a problem for taste-testers such as John Harrison, who has the envious job of being the official taste-tester for Edy's ice cream. As Indianapolis Monthly reported (http://www.indianapolismonthly.com/dish/blogentry.aspx?BlogEntryID=10386980), Harrison uses a special utensil that, in his experience, does not leave an aftertaste. That utensil? A gold-plated spoon, as seen here. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/26820013@N03/2621175023/)

http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTnhR931y_2rLBwDIsDhz04Hqm7iefiP ra5LAJBbm82CYbjg1vihQ

15-08-12, 01:53 PM
Must be such a weird sensation.
Would love to try it.

The room btw, not the gold plated spoon. :lol:

15-08-12, 01:59 PM
Related Song:


15-08-12, 02:57 PM
Or even this


16-08-12, 11:52 AM
Now I Know - Monkey Island

Cayo Santiago is a small island about half a mile off the southeast coast of Puerto Rico. Shaped like an upside down L, the island is only about 140 square meters in area and has a population of zero.

Unless you count the 900 or so monkeys living there, that is. (And apparently, they bite.)


In 1938, a team of researchers relocated 409 Rhesus monkeys from India, hoping to build a wilderness preserve for them so that Western scientists could study the monkeys in something akin to their natural habitat. Nearly seventy-five years later, the experiment continues, successfully. Accounts vary, but there are currently between 850 and 950 monkeys, all descended from those imported in 1938, living in the wild on Cayo Santiago -- now, colloquially, also referred to as "Monkey Island."

Roughly a dozen researchers from mainland Puerto Rico visit the island daily, observing and interacting with the army of primates in hopes of gathering data and gleaning insight into their society. Some researchers -- ethologists -- observe the monkeys, staying out of sight if possible. But others look to interact with Cayo Santiago's residents. One of these researchers, Laurie Santos, is an evolutionary psychologist from Yale University. Her studies focus on the something called "theory of mind" -- how humans can infer what others are thinking based on their behavior, even if the people (or animals) being observed are not speaking. For example, our body language and facial expressions send signals which most other people can rely upon to figure out, with typically solid accuracy, what is going on in our brains. That skill, Santos believes, developed somewhere along the way, and the Cayo Santiago monkeys may have unique value. As she told Smithsonian magazine (http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/monkey-200801.html?c=y&story=fullstory), "if you see something in a primate, you can use it as a window into the evolutionary past of human beings." Being able to interact with a large number of monkeys has led Santos to conclude that "the gap between human and animal cognition, even a chimpanzee, is greater than the gap between a chimp and a beetle."

That cognitive gap probably explains why Monkey Island is closed to tourists. The monkeys can be vicious, lacking even the most basic regard for human visitors. Even the researchers need to take caution while visiting, eating their lunches in a chain-link fence-enclosed area to prevent the animals from stealing a snack. And as the sign above suggests, the primates are not ones to give much thought as to what they stick their teeth into.

Bonus fact:

Also from the Smithsonian article (http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/monkey-200801.html?c=y&story=fullstory), Santos shares another story. She has 11 capuchin monkeys in her lab back at Yale, and she gives them tokens they can use like money, exchanging them for food. The monkeys have figured out what humans value, and act accordingly in order to earn these tokens. But sometimes, things don't go quite right. As Smithsonian explains: "At times they would offer their feces in exchange for a token, behavior that baffled the researchers until a student pointed out that every morning someone comes into the cage and scoops out the droppings—which may have given them the idea that people value them."


17-08-12, 12:43 PM
Now I Know - Life in the Fast Lane


Speeding may earn you a ticket. And in most cases, it will cost you maybe $150 or 100 Euros. For many people, that could be the difference between making this months rent and being in arrears. For others, it's barely noticeable -- the equivalent of an unnoticed rounding error in their paycheck.

So Finland tried to fix it. Which is why, in 2001, Finland fined Anssi Vanjoki, a high-paid Nokia executive, over $100,000 -- for driving 75 kilometers per hour (47 miles per hour) in a 50 kph (31 mph) zone.

In 1921, Finland adopted a "day-fine" law which aimed to apply the equiminical effect of incarceration to petty violations such as littering, breaches of the peace, and of course, minor traffic violations like speeding. Finland noted that jail time hit the rich and poor roughly equally; for each day in prison, the convict lost a day of freedom, whether rich or poor. Fines, their leadership concluded, should follow a similar framework. Since that year, those infractions can cost a violator a whole day's pay -- be it fifty Euros or 50,000 Euros. And unlike other countries with day-fine laws on the books, Finland's has no maximum.

As reported by the BBC (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1759791.stm), for Vanjoki, this meant a bill of 116,000 Euros (at the time, about $103,000). In October of 2001, he was riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle 25 kilometers per hour over the speed limit and, when caught, was given a fine equal to 14 days of his annual income, which in most cases is exactly how the day-fine system should work. But Vanjoki's case had an odd wrinkle -- it was based on his income for the 1999 filing year, which, he claimed, was much higher than typical. Vanjoki appealed the fine, arguing that in 1999, he sold a number of stock options, boosting his income tremendously and, by 2001, he was making significantly less money because his equity stake in Nokia was worth much less (and he hadn't sold any more options). The courts ended up agreeing with him, cutting his fine by 95%. (http://www.mtv3.fi/uutiset/kotimaa.shtml/2002/02/102535/nokian-vanjoen-sakot-putosivat-murto-osaan)

And while the day-fine system seems more fair than the typical flat fine system most of the world uses, it has found its critics. England and Wales tested the waters with one in the early 1990s, but it was generally disliked -- as the BBC stated (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4173913.stm), it "was criticized for giving paltry fines to the poor and disproportionately large fines to the moderately wealthy." (The BBC noted one example of two men ticketed for fighting each other; the richer of the two was fined ten times that of the poorer.) And in 2002, American economist Steven Landsburgh took to the Wall Street Journal (http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB1013382956766135720,00.html) to assail the scheme by pointing out an absurd result: "If Mr. Vanjoki speeds while his chauffeur rides in the passenger seat, the price is $100,000. If they switch seats, the price drops to $50."

Bonus fact:

Another Finnish innovation? Meet the dish draining closet, seen here. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Astiankuivauskaappi-20060227.jpg)
The cupboards, situated above the kitchen sink, are designed to allow people to place recently washed dishes right back into the cabinet without drying them first -- the dish water drips down, slowly, into the sink below. Invented in the mid-1940s, the dish draining closet was named "one of the most important Finnish innovations of the millenium" per Wikipedia. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dish_draining_closet)


20-08-12, 12:16 PM
Now I Know - Kaninhoppning

There are many strange competitions in this world. There's extreme ironing (http://factandaphoto.com/post/21029864541/extreme-ironing-pictured-above-is-an-extreme), toe wrestling (http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/toe-much-to-handle-the-world-toewrestling-championship-takes-place-in-derby-on-saturday-lizo-mzimba-watched-the-competitors-final-nailtrimming-1419897.html), and the world beard and moustache championships (http://www.worldbeardchampionships.com/), for example. All strange, all very much real.

But none are as cute as the Swedish competition known as Kaninhoppning -- or, in English, rabbit show jumping.


Yes, that's a rabbit. And yes, he or she is jumping over a miniature version of a fence similar to one found in an equestrian competition.

Rabbit show jumping dates back to the late 1970s or early 1980s, and mimics equestrian in many ways -- not just by borrowing its fence design. The rabbits' owners guide them through an obstacle course (not on their back, of course, but rather by command or by leash -- you can see a blue one in the picture above) and the winning rabbit and owner is the one which completes the course with the least number of errors and, secondarily, in the shortest amount of time. The owners are allowed to redirect their rabbits a predetermined number of times (typically three) without incurring a penalty -- after all, it can be pretty hard to steer a rabbit.

But before you mock Kaninhoppning too much, rest assured that these rabbits really can jump. According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbit_show_jumping), there are official records for the longest and highest rabbit jumps in the competitions. Those records -- 3,000 mm long (about 9.8 feet) and 995 mm high (about 3.25 feet) -- are both owned by owners (and rabbits) from Denmark.

That makes sense: Kaninhoppning is most popular in Scandinavian nations and its international federation (http://www.skhrf.com/) is based in Sweden. But according to the Wall Street Journal (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204652904577196912649404638.html), it has caught on in the United Kingdom as well. And that's only the beginning. According to the Daily Mail (in an article which has lots of pictures of rabbits jumping over stuff) (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1381464/Bunny-rabbits-compete-jumping-course-Dressage-set-world-storm.html), rabbit show jumping competitions can be found throughout Europe, in the U.S. and Canada, and even in Japan. (The website for the U.S. federation is, unfortunately, no longer operational.)

Want to see it in action for yourself? This overproduced video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MuMDCexPYWM&feature=related) features about two dozen rabbits from the Canadian Rabbit Hopping Club as they leap over fences and through hoops, climb ramps, teeter on see-saws, and do other rabbity things on their quest for eternal glory.

Bonus fact:

What does sculpting a moose and the flag of Norway into your facial hair earn you? A world championship beard, as seen below, from 2011. (The 2012 championships will be held in Las Vegas in November.)


21-08-12, 11:59 AM
Now I Know - Winning Receipts


Government-run lotteries are not uncommon. Pass over a buck or two and you get a ticket, which, if you're extraordinarily lucky, may be worth thousands if not millions of dollars. The odds are against you, of course, but that's the point: the lotteries are there to help supplement taxes. After prize payouts, the lottery-licensing government comes away with a pretty penny -- according to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries (http://www.naspl.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=content&menuid=17&pageid=1025), U.S. and Canadian governments earned over $20 billion in 2010 alone.

But Taiwan has a different lottery, called the Uniform Invoice lottery. It, too, aims to increase the amount of money getting into government coffers. But unlike the traditional lottery, entries into this Taiwanese are free -- with the purchase of virtually anything.

Leading up to the 1950s, Taiwan had a tax problem. Sales tax was a large driver of government revenue but retailers could easily avoid it by simply underreporting their income. Consumers did not care -- whether the retailer paid the sales tax was immaterial to them. A cash economy further exacerbated the problem, as there was no record created of these grey market sales. After all, when was the last time you insisted on a receipt?

To combat this, Taiwan adopted the Uniform Invoice lottery on January 1, 1951. The rules were simple. Retailers had to give customers receipts (invoices), seen above. Each invoice, by law, included a government-provided lottery number. (The one in the picture above is 76757920.) Consumers were encouraged to ask for and keep these receipts via a special lottery. Every two months, on national television, there'd be a lottery drawing, with the grand prize winner holding the receipt with the lottery numbers which matched the ones drawn. The grand prize, by early 2012, was worth NT$10 million (about $340,000 US) with many smaller prizes also available. (And yes, foreigners can win, too (http://www.chinapost.com.tw/taiwan/arts-&-leisure/2011/06/14/306111/Foreigners-can.htm).) For Taiwan, that is a huge amount of money -- one person who came one digit away in February mused that (http://taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2012/02/03/2003524579) he may have been able to retire early had his luck been slightly different.

But the real winner is the Taiwan government. According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uniform_Invoice_lottery#cite_ref-hwai_0-0), in 1950, the year before the lottery, Taiwan collected NT$29 million in sales tax. In 1951? NT$51 million.

Bonus fact:

In Michigan and Nebraska, there is a lottery which you play by not paying -- for anything. The lottery, called Save to Win, aims to encourage savings. For every $25 a person deposits per month (up to $250) into a special Save to Win account with a participating credit union, that person receives a certificate which acts like a lottery ticket. There are monthly drawings for various small cash prizes, but at the end of the year, there's a grand prize -- a single $25,000 in Nebraska and one of ten $10,000 prizes in Michigan.

http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSR4qZBjgYHSR8GULXw4LkXHqPzYBF9r RZXpIKxpVbx2jo__ECq

22-08-12, 12:41 PM
Now I Know - South Korea's Reverse Gold Rush


In 1997, many countries in Asia's Pacific Rim suffered from a massive financial crisis which threatened to spread across the world. Foreign debt to GDP ratios exceeded 180% at the peak of the crisis.Six different nations felt the economic struggles as capital fled their countries, and the International Monetary Fund provided $40 billion (U.S.) to help keep South Korea, Thailand, and Indonesia afloat. As economies got more and more troubled, governments tried more and more ideas.

South Korea's idea? Recall gold.

In January of 1998, South Korea began a campaign called "Collect Gold for the Love of Korea." At the time, South Koreans, collectively, owned a total of 2,000 tons of gold then worth about $20 billion. That would have gone a long way to lessen the debt burden the country was suffering from. But gold, being hard to track and therefore hard to confiscate, could not simply be collected by edict and threat of force. (And even if it could, it was unlikely that the public would go for it.) So South Korea took another approach. The government simply asked its citizens to turn in their gold voluntarily.

On January 5, 1988, the program launched with the support of three major corporations (Samsung, Daewoo, and Hyundai) collecting and donating gold, thereby showing that this was not just the government getting involved. The BBC (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/analysis/47496.stm), as the program was in full swing, noted that "housewives gave up their wedding rings; athletes donated medals and trophies; many gave away gold 'luck' keys, a traditional present on the opening of a new business or a 60th birthday." Within the first two days of the program, per the AP (http://www.mndaily.com/1998/01/07/south-koreas-gold-collection-campaign-draws-public-support), over 100,000 South Koreans donated north of 20 tons of gold worth over $100 million. The response was so great that officials stopped announcing the results of the gold collection. Due to the amount of gold newly on the market, they feared too that the donations would soften international gold prices.

It is likely that, in total, roughly $150 to $200 million in gold was collected -- a small and probably meaningless dent in the country's debt, given that the country received a bailout in excess of $50 billion. But the symbolic aspect resonated, as Korean citizens realized the gravity of the crisis and rallied, showing a willingness to accept other efforts to help. By the end of 1999, South Korea believed the economic slowdown over.

Bonus fact:

American actor Laurence Tureaud, better known as Mr. T, has two parts to his trademark look -- one, his distinctive beard and haircut; and two, his gold chains. Or, more correctly, he had two parts to his trademark look. After Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf of Mexico, causing massive destruction particularly in the New Orleans region, Mr. T no longer wore his estimated $300,000 worth in gold. He told Sky News (http://news.sky.com/story/671658/mr-t-gives-up-his-gold-for-katrina-victims): "As a Christian, when I saw other people lose their lives and their land and property... I felt that it would be a sin before God for me to continue wearing my gold. I felt it would be unnecessary and disrespectful to the people who lost everything, so I stopped wearing my gold." (He kept his calling-card hair styling.)


23-08-12, 12:16 PM
Now I Know - Down the Rabbit Hole


The British colonization of Australia began in 1788 with the founding of New South Wales. In 1850, the population of Australians of European descent was at 400,000. By 1859, it had more than doubled, breaking the one million barrier. One of those people was a man named Thomas Austin, a 44 year old who had come over with his family in 1831. Austin and his wife, Elizabeth Phillips Harding, did their part to help the population expansion, having 11 children -- and causing the birth of about ten billion rabbits.

Yes, ten billion rabbits.

Rabbits are native to Spain, Portugal, Morocco, and Algeria, but by the time Europeans settled Australia, rabbits had also been introduced to the British Isles and through much of Western and Northern Europe. And around the time Europeans were colonizing Australia, efforts to introduce different animals to places around the world were kicking up steam through something called acclimatisation societies. The first such group was founded in Paris in 1854, but they quickly found activists among colonists in the Americas, Southeast Asia, and Australia. Thomas Austin was one such activist, importing partridges, blackbirds, and other animals into the Australian ecosystem.

In October of 1859, he added two dozen rabbits to that list. He wanted them for hunting purposes; when he lived in England as a teen, he had spent weekends rabbit hunting, but was unable to do so in Australia because there were no rabbits to hunt. So he did what any acclimatisation fan would do, and asked his nephew to send him some. According to a report (http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/43156/20040709-0000/agspsrv34.agric.wa.gov.au/programs/app/barrier/history.htm) by the Western Australia Department of Agricutlure and Food, Austin did not believe there would be any repercussions from this. He was quoted as saying "The introduction of a few rabbits could do little harm and might provide a touch of home, in addition to a spot of hunting."

He was, to say the least, wrong. Very, very wrong.

The rabbits did what rabbits do, and within a decade there were millions roaming throughout the area. The rabbits were bad for the local ecology -- an invasive species eating all sorts of native plant life, potentially destroying many species of flora before they were discovered and identified by researchers. Before the century was out, area governments were offering rewards to anyone who could come up with a way to eradicate the rabbit population, and in 1901, the crown created a royal commission to investigate options. In 1907, they built a rabbit-proof fence which stretched from the north to the south, separating the western part of the country from the rest, in hopes of keeping the rabbits from spreading eastward. The fence was a failure, as rabbits were able to both jump over it or burrow under it. As the Victoria Department of Primary Industries (http://www.dpi.vic.gov.au/agriculture/pests-diseases-and-weeds/pest-animals/lc0298-rabbits-and-their-impact) notes, by 1926, the rabbit population of Australia hit 10 billion of the critters.

In the 1950s, Australia turned to germ warfare. They tested and ultimately released the myxoma virus among the rabbit population, a virus which causes myxomatosis among the animals. (The virus has little to no effect on people.) Myxomatosis causes listlessness, loss of appetite, fever, and potentially blindness in rabbits and often leads to pneumonia as well. An infected rabbit typically dies within two weeks of exposure to the virus. By 1954, per the link above, 99.8% of the Australian rabbit population was eradicated.

The .2% which survived were naturally resistant to the virus and, of course, they continued to breed afterward. As of 1990, the rabbit population has rebounded to about 600 million.

Bonus fact:

As one would imagine, it is illegal to keep rabbits as housepets in most of Australia. The government of Queensland bars their ownership with a maximum penalty of $30,000, but does allow some exceptions. According to this government fact sheet (pdf) (http://www.daff.qld.gov.au/documents/Biosecurity_EnvironmentalPests/IPA-Keeping-Rabbits-As-Pets-PA15.pdf), permits are given to circus performers and magicians.

http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQut58ttEaGHodNwFAh6PjoiKJ9pKmTq lL560Fi05Hki0LZVuiFyA

29-08-12, 12:26 PM
Now I Know - Civil War


On November 17, 1810 Sweden declared war on the United Kingdom. The two sides were at odds for more than a year and a half, only finally reaching a peace accord in July of 1812, as formalized in the Treaty of Orebro. The Anglo-Swedish War, as it would later be known, had the lowest death toll in history: Zero.

How? Because the two sides never actually did any fighting.

Wars break out for all sorts of reasons -- invasions, assassinations, immigration policy, or various and sundry odd reasons (e.g. a hungry pig, almost (http://nowiknow.com/the-pig-war/)) which even in retrospect defy explanation. In the case of the Anglo-Swedish War, the cause was France. In 1803, Britian declared war on France, hoping to overthrow Napoleon Bonaparte from power. Napoleon, of course, was trying to create an imperial France overtaking much of Europe -- at its peak, almost all of Western and Northern Europe were under his Continental System (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continental_System) designed to harm Britian through a massive trade embargo. Over the course of the next dozen years, many European nation-states would join the UK in its struggle against Napoleon in a series of wars collectively called the Napoleonic Wars. In 1805, a coalition of Russia, the UK, the Holy Roman Empire, and others were in the throes of war.

At the time Sweden's involvement was minor. They controlled a small area of land then known as Swedish Pomerania, now on the Baltic coasts of Poland and Germany, and they leased the area to Great Britian, such that the UK could use the area as a military base against France. But, fearing French reprisals, Sweden did little else to help efforts to contain Napoleon's charges. That changed in August of 1805, as Russia promised that, if France invaded Sweden, the tzar would provide as many as 40,000 troops to its new Swedish ally. On October 31, 1805, Sweden declared war on France, starting what would later be known as the Pomeranian War. But France ended up defeating Russia, causing it to switch sides. Then, the Russians turned on Sweden. On January 6, 1801, the Swedes surrendered to France as the two sides signed the Treaty of Paris.

The Treaty required that Sweden join the Continetnal System and, therefore, no longer trade with Great Britian. For Sweden, that was untenable, causing significant economic harm, so trade occured through back channels for months. France would have none of it, and issued an ultimatum, requiring Sweden to seize all British products within their borders, take possession of all British ships within their waters, and declare war against Britian. If not, France would declare war on Sweden and, one assumes, invade. Sweden acceded to the French demands.

But "hey, you two, fight!" doesn't typically amount to much when the two people can just sit there and agree to be at war without throwing any punches. That is, not much changed. The British still used at least one Swedish port and neither side actually fought each other. Neither side lost a single soldier.

Unfortunately, there were some indirect deaths. Given the fickle political alliances and allegiances which marked the era, Sweden decided to conscript men into military service, in case Britian took the declaration of war seriously and decided to actually invade. In June of 1811, a group of farmers rioted in protest of the policy, and 140 soldiers were dispatched to quell the uprising. Thirty of the farmers were killed in the process.

Bonus fact:

The House of Bonaparte has continued to keep track of Napoleon's bloodline -- something which, compared to other imperial dynasties, is not all that strange (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_current_pretenders). (The person who would be the claimant of a throne if that family were still in power is called a "pretender" -- a term which is not a prejorative, as explained on its Wikipedia entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pretender).) But there is one oddity: there's a dispute over who is the rightful heir apparent. In 1997, Louis, Prince Napoleon, died, leaving his oldest son Charles as the would-be claimant of the throne. But in his will, Louis specified that his grandson (Charles' son) Jean-Christophe Napoleon, become the dynastic heir. According to the Independent (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/battle-rages-for-the-napoleonic-succession-1286493.html), Louis was upset because Charles "had divorced and re-married without his permission" and because Charles held political views (which were "republican and democratic" and not imperial) which his father held repugnant.


29-08-12, 12:58 PM
Now I Know - Knuckle Head


If you crack your knuckles, you'll develop arthritis -- or so the old wives' tale goes. But is it true? That is not the easiest thing to figure out. Asking arthritis sufferers if they were compulsive knuckle crackers may help, but it has its flaws. Correlation may hint at a causal connection, but there are plenty of other factors which could explain the data. Coming up with a clean test case is difficult because you would need to isolate a large amount of other factors and, because arthritis develops over a long period of time, do so over many years. Decades, really.

So Dr. Donald L. Unger of California, pictured above, did just that.

Unger, at a young age, was warned not to crack his knuckles, lest he harm himself in the future. Almost all of that advice was coming from laypeople, and the medical community did not yet have a grasp on whether it was true. So Unger tackled the problem himself.

For fifty years, Unger cracked the knuckles on his left hand "at least twice a day," as reported by Scientific American. But he did not, intentionally, do the same with his right hand. Over the course of those five decades, Unger estimates that he cracked the knuckles on his left hand over 36,000 more times than those on his right. He then wrote up his results. In 1998, it was published in a medical journal, Arthritis & Rheumatism, in an article titled "Does knuckle cracking lead to arthritis of the fingers?," which is available here. (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/1529-0131%28199805%2941:5%3C949::AID-ART36%3E3.0.CO;2-3/abstract) The short answer to his rhetorical question? No. "There were no arthritis in either hand, and no apparent difference between the two hands," he wrote in his paper.

For his trouble, Unger received an honor from the Annals of Improbable Research, a scientific humor magazine. The organization gives out ten "Ig Nobel Prizes" each year meant to highlight "research that makes people laugh, then think," per its official website (http://www.improbable.com/ig/). And, more importantly, his findings are probably correct. Over the course of his fifty years of investigation, others came up with more traditional tests -- drawing the same conclusion.

Bonus fact:

What causes the popping sound from a cracked knuckle or joint? We don't know. The most likely explanation is something called cavitation, which occurs when small bubbles form within liquids (in this case, synovial fluid) and for some reason, collapse rapidly. In this case, the theory goes, when you flex your fingers or other body parts, you create enough pressure to cause the bubble to collapse, leading to a snapping sound.

(I'd snap this)
http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcT4rY9lHLJ9b0PqO5c5wH4fMS0XiobYN bVIqeY1VkE583fMpK8r

29-08-12, 02:24 PM
Now I Know - Titanic's Star Wars


In 1997, Titanic made its box office debut -- and set a then-record lifetime gross domestic take of over $650 million per Box Office Mojo (http://boxofficemojo.com/alltime/domestic.htm).So it made sense, kind of, to re-release it fifteen years later, of course in 3-D. (Kind of, because the re-released movie only opened at number three in the box office, a minor embarrassment.) By and large, the movie was left unchanged, other than the 3-D enhancements.

The only thing redone? The sky.

Director James Cameron was, first and foremost, an explorer/adventurer. He would later admit (as noted briefly in this TED talk (http://www.ted.com/talks/james_cameron_before_avatar_a_curious_boy.html)) that his primary goal in making the movie was to get Hollywood to pay for him to visit the Titanic wreckage, under the guise of research: he wanted to make the movie as accurate as possible. And in the end, that attention to detail became a motivator of its own. Cameron told Eye for Film (http://www.eyeforfilm.co.uk/feature/2009-12-17-james-cameron-talks-about-avatar-aliens-and-his-titanic-career-feature-story-by-maria-realf) that his efforts to make the movie as close to real as possible consumed him: "I read everything I could. I created an extremely detailed timeline of the ship’s few days and a very detailed timeline of the last night of its life. And I worked within that to write the script, and I got some historical experts to analyse what I’d written and comment on it, and I adjusted it." Some early reviews of the films lauded Cameron's attention to detail.

But Cameron got one detail wrong. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, noticed that in the scene when the ship sank, the night sky showed a star pattern much different than what was really there on that night. And, as he recounted in this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8B6jSfRuptY), it rubbed him the wrong way. If diving to the bottom of the ocean was Cameron's all-consuming goal, getting Cameron to acknowledge this error became Tyson's. He wrote Cameron a letter which went unanswered, met him at an event to no avail, and pestered him a third time at a dinner both were invited to.

And somewhere along the way, Cameron decided to do something about it. Accounts vary, though. Tyson, in the video, states that someone who works in post-production at Cameron's studio called him up to tell him about an anniversary re-release and that "he [Cameron] tells me you have a sky he can use" (and then, in the video, Tyson does a happy dance). Cameron, for his part, claims (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/9179446/Wrong-stars-force-Titanic-3D-scene-to-be-reshot.html)that he himself said "all right, send me the right stars for that exact time and I'll put it in the movie."

Either way, the sky in the newer version of Titanic is, now, accurate.

Bonus fact:

Before Titanic hit the silver screen, the top grossing film (again, domestic receipts) was Star Wars, which came out twenty years earlier. To mark the feat, Star Wars' director George Lucas took out a full page ad in Variety, seen above (larger version here (http://i.imgur.com/dqLfi.jpg)), congratulating Cameron on the achievement.


30-08-12, 11:32 AM
Now I Know - What's Your Beef?


Pictured above is a cut of Kobe beef, which if you're a food aficionado at all (or, simply cognizant of that world), you have certainly heard of. Some of you may have gone out to dinner and even ordered it, paying a premium for this high-quality Japanese delicacy and entree du jour.

But, unless you ordered it in Japan, chances are you haven't eaten it.

There are black cattle in Japan called Wagyu, whose meat is known for its exceptional taste. The meat has a larger than typical percentage of unsaturated fat, as evidenced by the marbling seen above, as well as containing more omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Altogether, Wagyu meat is considered more tender and flavorful than most meat, which in turn allows its cultivators to demand higher prices.

Kobe beef comes from a breed of Wagyu cattle called Tajima, which are found only in Hyogo Prefecture (the red region on this map (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Map_of_Japan_with_highlight_on_28_Hyogo_prefe cture.svg)) in Japan. Tajima cattle have been in that area for centuries, perhaps dating back to the second century when they were brought into the region to help in the rice fields. Because of the mountainous terrain in the area, the cattle inbred, keeping the gene pool non-diverse and hyper-localized. And if beef is not from Tajima cattle, it's not, officially, Kobe beef. In fact, even that is not enough. To be branded Kobe beef in Japan, there are several conditions that must be fulfilled, as mandated by the Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association, as seen here (http://www.kobe-niku.jp/english/contents/pu/pu_b.html). According to Forbes (http://www.forbes.com/sites/larryolmsted/2012/04/12/foods-biggest-scam-the-great-kobe-beef-lie/), the Association has certified only three thousand cattle as eligible to become Kobe beef.

And the official Kobe beef is almost never exported from Japan. The Association also mandates where the beef can be sent, and before 2012, it was not exported at all -- and even now, it is only to Macau and Hong Kong. (To give an idea of how recently this change occurred, Hong Kong received its first shipment of Kobe beef in July (http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/business/2012-07/18/c_131723802.htm).) Other areas have never received a shipment of true Kobe beef. In the case of the U.S., that's partially due to the American government, which banned beef from Japan back in 2010 (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-05-20/u-s-bans-japanese-beef-imports-after-foot-and-mouth-outbreak-in-miyazaki.html) after a foot-and-mouth outbreak there.

So, again, unless your Kobe steak was eaten in Japan, it wasn't an official Kobe steak. Instead, you're eating a "Kobe-style" steak, one which (in the U.S., at least) is typically from a non-Tajima Wagyu cattle cross-bred with an Angus. But many of the cattle-raising techniques are kept the same. For example, the cattle's diet is mostly grass, and, in the U.S. and U.K., the cattle are often fed beer (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/cornwall/6345289.stm), much like the ones in Japan often are.

Whether the "official" aspects matter is up for debate, of course, so far as taste is concerned. But in some jurisdictions, there's no debate when it comes to labeling. In Florida, for example, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation has stated that using the term "Kobe beef," without further clarifying the cattle's lineage, is "misrepresentation."

Bonus fact:

Kobe beef isn't the only food whose origin matters. Champagne also makes the list. In order for something to be properly called champagne, its grapes must be exclusively from the Champagne region in France. (Some jurisdictions allow for the term to be used to describe sparkling wine generally, but that is only true in a minority of places.)

(my bird drinking Champagne...)
http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSQSIQcL4UQaW5LxQXn_ZK0keg9iA67b Oauk0xWU4ARQ9Pp6KBXsA

30-08-12, 12:10 PM
Now I Know - Unmixed


On the fourth of July, 2010, a man named Kent Smith was on a cruise in the Gulf of Alaska. He started watching the water, as many cruise-goers are bound to do, and, in his words (http://www.flickr.com/photos/kentsmith9/4955772693/), noticed something strange: "I had been on the deck for quite some time when I noticed what appeared to be a shadow cast by clouds over the ocean about 5 miles in front of the ship. As we approached the shadow I realized it was something different." That something different turned into the picture seen above (larger version here). (http://www.flickr.com/photos/kentsmith9/4955772693/sizes/o/in/photostream/)

In the middle of the gulf, there were two bodies of ocean water, unmixed.

What's going on there? The lighter water (left) are coastal waters while the darker waters are much typically further out in the gulf. They're kept mostly separate due to the formation of large eddies -- swirling water caused by currents collide into each other. The lighter water is made up of glacial runoff which is carried by the Alaska Stream. The Alaska Stream runs, roughly, from Kodiak Island down the Alaskan Peninsula (from A to B on this map (https://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=Kodiak+Island,+AK&daddr=Surveyor+Bay,+Aleutians+West,+AK&hl=en&sll=53.395613,-167.772217&sspn=0.4774,1.123352&geocode=Fe1uaQMdvlXQ9im9vNv1WAvrVjHKhbdFIPZ8rA%3B&oq=Surveyor+Bay&mra=ls&t=m&z=6)). The darker water comes up to the gulf via the Alaska Current, which starts in the Pacific and then turns up the coast of British Columbia and into the gulf. The Alaska Current causes water in the Gulf of Alaska to run counter-clockwise, but when it hits the Alaska Stream, clockwise flowing eddies form. Ken Bruland, a researcher at the University of California at Santa Cruz, created an image of sea surface chlorophyll in the region, below (originally from here (http://es.ucsc.edu/~kbruland/Research/GulfAlaska/kwbResProjGulfAk2.html)), which helps map out the eddies. (The light green region is where the eddies are.)


But eddies, while not terribly common, also are not so obvious to the naked eye. For that, Bruland and researchers associated with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have an easy answer (http://soundwaves.usgs.gov/2008/03/): iron. The coastal waters have a high amount of iron in it while the darker water has very little. The iron encourages plankton growth, which is most likely why there is a clear, visible difference between the two sides.

Bonus fact:

What happens when two rivers come together? They mix -- but not right away. In 2006, astronauts above the International Space Station took this photograph of the Ohio River (right, and brown) merging into the Mississippi at Cairo, Illinois. Per NASA (http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view.php?id=75245), the photo shows an area about three to four miles downstream after the rivers converge, and as you can see, they are not yet mixed.


31-08-12, 12:27 PM
Now I Know - Greetings


Craig Shergold was a typical nine year-old living in the UK when, in 1988, he started complaining of ear aches. But his ear problems were not the typical ones suffered by young children. Shergold's were caused by brain tumors believed to be terminal at the time -- he was expected to live only a few months. In 1989, Shergold's friends and relatives, looking to accomplish the amazing during his short time left on Earth, decided that he should break a world record. They wanted Shergold to receive the most greeting cards -- ever.

A few decades later, Shergold is still alive, having undergone a successful experimental operation in the U.S. in 1991. And he has that world record, too. He has received an estimated 350 million greeting cards in the last twenty-plus years.

The people closest to Shergold started a chain letter, asking the recipients to send Craig a greeting card, explicitly to get his name into the Guinness Book of World Records. The efforts picked up steam quickly, with the Children's Wish Foundation International, an organization which aims to fulfill the wishes of terminally ill children, helping solicit greeting cards (http://web.archive.org/web/20100529224617/http://www.childrenswish.org/PressRelease-craigshergold.php). (Children's Wish claims to have done so not via chain letter, but by other, less controversial means.) Whether Children's Wish's efforts or the chain letter's were the driving force behind this early success is unknown. But by May of 1990, Shergold's supporters had met their goal. Shergold has received over 16 million greeting cards, an accomplishment noted by Guinness. And a year later, Guinness updated the record, as Shergold, still alive, hit 33 million.

The attention never stopped. The chain letters, which began as paper-and-ink messages requiring a stamp, merged quickly into email, where it spread even faster. By 1998 -- seven years after Shergold's tumors were surgically removed -- he had received over 250 million cards, and the postal service gave his childhood home its own postal code in order to handle the volume of mail. And as About.com notes, Shergold's efforts have now flipped. Instead of asking for more greeting cards, he has asked that people stop -- but to no avail.

Since then, Shergold's family has moved out of the home to which the greeting cards are still being sent. Where do all the cards end up? According to the Make a Wish Foundation (http://www.wish.org/about/fraud_alerts) (which was not involved in Shergold's campaigns), they go right to a nearby recycling center, most likely unopened.

Bonus fact:

Both the Care Bears (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Care_Bears) and Strawberry Shortcake (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strawberry_Shortcake) were originally greeting card art.


31-08-12, 06:03 PM
These are really really good to read and sell in drinking tables. Thank you man :ok:

03-09-12, 02:31 PM
Now I Know - Invisible Ink


The pens read "SKILCRAFT-U.S. GOVERNMENT." And if you have worked for an American government institution, you know that they are everywhere. At roughly 50 cents each (http://www.ontimesupplies.com/nsn9357135-7520009357135-us-government-ballpoint-retractable-pen-black-ink-fine-dozen.html) (if you qualify for government pricing), the pens are the only ones you will see, officially speaking, at most government institutions.

Which makes you different than the people manufacturing the pens themselves. Skilcraft pens are manufactured by blind workers.

In 1938, the United States was still in the midst of the Great Depression. Given that the economy was still incredibly soft, and that blind workers were already at a competitive disadvantage, the government stepped in. Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed into law the Wagner-O'Day Act, which aimed at providing upward economic mobility for the blind by requiring that when the federal government purchased specific goods, those goods were manufactured by blind Americans. The law, codified at 41 U.S.C. 46, soon included pens.

The Skilcraft brand came to be a decade or so later, in 1952. Today, the company employs over 5,000 blind workers in 44 states, producing a full arsenal of office supplies, janitorial equipment, etc., with the pens being produced in factories in Wisconsin or North Carolina. As reported by the Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/17/AR2010041701297.html?hpid=topnews), the pens must be made to the specifications outlined by a sixteen page document which was first promulgated over fifty years ago. Among the requirements? The pens "must be able to write continuously for a mile and in temperatures up to 160 degrees and down to 40 degrees below zero."

In all, the U.S. government orders $5 million worth of these pens a year (with 60% going to the military) -- a small part of the spending under the Wagner-O'Day (now Javitz-Wagner-O'Day) Act. The Act, which was revised in 1971 to include people with "significant disabilities" as eligible for the program, is administered through an organization called AbilityOne (http://www.abilityone.org/), and helps to employ over 40,000 such people. In total, the government spends over $650 million (as recently as 2009) annually on AbilityOne goods and services.

Bonus fact:

The U.S. space program does not use Skilcraft pens. They use a special pen, one which can write at any angle -- important in the vacuum of space, and where there is no gravity. The pen, called the Fisher Space Pen after Paul C. Fisher, whose company created it, will work even in extreme temperatures. And unlike pencils (or even most pens), they are designed to be incredibly durable, as to avoid a breakage which could result in floating shrapnel. Rumors that the Soviets used pencils while the Americans invested millions to create this pen are untrue (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=fact-or-fiction-nasa-spen), both for that reason, and because the Fisher Space Pen was developed using private funding, and only recouped its investment when NASA and other nations' space programs -- including the Soviets -- began purchasing them.


04-09-12, 12:49 PM
Now I Know - Bacteriotherapy


When a person is taking antibiotics, many of the helpful bacteria in that person's stomach get temporarily wiped out. Other bacteria may remain, however. One of those, clostridium difficile, can live outside the body for a long time, and therefore can spread pretty easily in hospitals. It can cause something called clostridium difficile infection, or CDI, which in turn causes diarrhea and colitis, at times leading to death (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/story/2011/07/24/tor-c-difficile-death-stcatharines623.html). That's the bad news. The good news? It's treatable, perhaps with as high as a 90% success rate, with something called bacteriotherapy.

What's bacteriotherapy? A feces transplant.


In 2010, the New York Times interviewed a physician, Dr. Alexander Khoruts, who had treated a CDI patient by employing bacteriotherapy. Dr. Khoruts' patient had lost sixty pounds over eight months due to the infection, and antibiotics were unable to rid his patient of it. So he took another approach. Instead of trying to wipe out the clostridium difficile, he instead decided to introduce some of the good bacteria (like the bit seen above, magnified 10,000 times) back into his patient's gut. Doing so, he hoped, would restore the balance in her digestive system, and end her seemingly chronic diarrhea. The Times described the process:

Dr. Khoruts decided his patient needed a transplant. But he didn’t give her a piece of someone else’s intestines, or a stomach, or any other organ. Instead, he gave her some of her husband’s bacteria. [He] mixed a small sample of her husband’s stool with saline solution and delivered it into her colon.

The transplant was a success -- the patient's diarrhea cleared up within a day and did not return. But more importantly -- from the perspective of everyone other than the patient, that is -- Dr. Khortus and his team were able to map the genetic makeup of the transferred bacteria and then, later on, was able to determine that the new, good bacteria in his patient's gut was entirely made up of the types from the patient's husband. Khortus was able to demonstrate that we can move colonies of microorganisms from one person to another.

With an estimated 10,000 different species (http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/06/13/154913334/finally-a-map-of-all-the-microbes-on-your-body) of bacteria living in our bodies, and with bacteria outnumbering cells (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080603085914.htm) ten to one, this discovery may have implications for health care more generally. And if the fecal transplant treatment is any indicator, it could lead to fewer doctors' visits, too. Why is that? Because as this scientific study notes (http://www.cghjournal.org/article/S1542-3565%2810%2900069-8/abstract), bacteriotherapy for CDI can be done at home.

Bonus fact:

Cows' digestive systems produce methane. When cows get rid of the methane, they are emitting a greenhouse gas (http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/blame-bovine-belching-changing-cows-diet-could-cut-emissions-a-493611.html). Kangaroos have a diet similar to cows but their stomachs do not produce methane. Researchers believe that there is a type of bacteria found in kangaroos' guts which is not present in cows', and are exploring ways of introducing (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/discoblog/2007/12/19/kangaroo-ifying-cows-to-fight-global-warming/) these bacteria into cows in hopes of obtaining the same effect.


05-09-12, 12:47 PM
Now I Know - Unreal Money


Brazilian currency is called the real, which is the Portuguese word for the homographic English word "real." Brazilian reals have been in circulation since July 1, 1994. But they were also in use from March 1994 until then -- kind of. For those three months, the real was anything but real. It was, rather, pretend -- entirely non-existant. The hope was that by creating a monetary system which did not have any currency representing it, they could save the Brazilian economy.

And by most measures, it worked.

Inflation was running rampant in Brazil in the early 1980s, climbing with no end in sight throgh the beginning of the decade, as seen by the first graph below. And then, things went from horrible to unimaginable -- it spiked to over 6,000% (annualized) in January of 1990, as seen in the second graph, dwarfing the problems of the decade prior. The rate of increase slowed down soon after but was still very high, until July of 1994, when it spiked again. But after that spike, it quickly leveled off, and within a year, inflation was down to rates one would see in a typical, generally economically healthy country.


The rampant inflation, in part, was caused by an economic term of art called "inflationary expectations." NPR's Planet Money explains (http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2010/10/04/130329523/how-fake-money-saved-brazil) how quickly things were going downhill, and why:

[In 1992], Brazil's inflation rate hit 80 percent per month. At that rate, if eggs cost $1 one day, they'll cost $2 a month later. If it keeps up for a year, they'll cost $1,000.

In practice, this meant stores had to change their prices every day. The guy in the grocery store would walk the aisles putting new price stickers on the food. Shoppers would run ahead of him, so they could buy their food at the previous day’s price.

In March of 1994, Brazil's inflation rate was nearly 45% a month. With consumers now expecting prices to increase on a day-to-day basis, inflation became a beast onto itself. To stop this, the government decided to try and reprogram consumers' brains into thinking that prices were, somehow, stable. The currency of the time, called the cruzeiro real, was rapidly losing value, so they introduced a new one called the unidade real de valor, or URV, which translated to "real value unit." Wages and taxes were stated in terms of URV. As the Los Angeles Times reported (http://articles.latimes.com/1994-03-30/business/fi-40121_1_finance-minister), wholesalers and retailers were advised to display each product's price in URV. They were further asked to keep products' URV price relatively constant. What changed, instead, was the amount of cruzeiro real each URV was worth. All transactions, from buying milk to paying one's taxes, were conducted using cruzeiro real, not URV.

Why? Because the URV never existed, at least not in currency form. Edmar Bacha, an economist who helped come up with the URV concept, told NPR that the URV was "virtual -- it didn't exist in fact." No bills, no coins, nothing. URV was a non-currency reference point aimed at demonstrating some sort of price stability to a population which no longer believed such things were possible.

About three months after the URV system was implemtened, it and the cruzeiro real were replaced. On July 1, 1994, Brazil announced a new currency -- the real now used by Brazil, with the real's value pegged to one URV. As seen by second graph above, the rapid rise in inflation abated soon after, and Brazil's economy recovered.

Bonus fact:

In 2006, Gregor Smith, a professor of Economics at Queens University in Ontario, Canada, published a working paper plotting Japan's employment rate (negative) on the X-axis and its inflation rate on the Y-axis. His findings? The graph looks like Japan.



06-09-12, 12:28 PM
Now I Know - Saved by the Wind


Here's a crass joke: A man is at a dinner party in a 40th floor apartment. He announces to the rest, "You know, the wind out there is so strong, that if you jump out the window, it will blow you all around the building and right back in!" The other guests laughs at the absurdity of such an assertion, but the man persists: "I'll prove it!" He jumps out the window and, sure enough, he ends up floating around the building and re-entering, safely, in the window he defenestrated himself out of just moments earlier. Another guest, wanting the thrill of a lifetime, quickly jumped out the window before anyone else could stop him -- and plummeted to his death.

The bartender then pointed at the first guest: "You can be a real jerk when you're drunk, Superman."

Again, that's a joke. But on December 2, 1979, Elvita Adams showed that sometimes, even normal, everyday people can be a little bit super.

That evening, Adams, then age 29 and living in the Bronx, decided to take her own life. The reasons are unclear, but most likely, Adams was suffering from severe depression and in a fight with her landlord and about to be evicted. She went to the Empire State Building in midtown Manhattan to the observatory on the 86th floor. She scaled a seven foot fence (replete with steel spikes) and jumped.

That, in and of itself, is nothing terribly peculiar. A few dozen people have jumped to their deaths off the Empire State Building, the first occurring before the building was even completed when a laid-off worker took his own life that way. In 1947, a 23 year-old jumped, leaving a crossed-out suicide note about how an unnamed man would be "much better off without [her]" and that she would not have made a very good wife. Her body was found on a limousine at the building's base, and LIFE magazine ran a picture of her body, so situated, as seen here (http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=ZEgEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA43&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false). And just a few years ago, a 54 year-old Manhattan woman took her life in similar fashion (http://www.nypost.com/p/news/regional/manhattan/item_C6YcfnSza3ezY1OVwFCvKK;jsessionid=D827325CEAE D24883635BB29592C4D6D).

But Adams, pictured above, did something none of the others can claim to have done. She survived. A wind gust -- a very strong one, certainly -- caught hold of her and blew her back toward the building, albeit one floor down. She landed on a ledge on the 85th floor very much alive, where a security guard found her before she could make another attempt. The only damage to her body? A fractured hip.

Adams was taken to a mental institution to recuperate, both mentally and physically. Her current whereabouts are not publicly known.

Bonus fact:

If Adams is Superwoman, Jeb Corliss is her not-so-super alter-ego. On April 27, 2006, Corliss -- who, at the time, hosted the Discovery Channel's Stunt Junkies -- tried to parachute off the side of the Empire State Building from the 86th floor observatory. He was unsuccessful. While he was able to get to the observatory deck (he wore a fat suit to obscure the parachute), when he began to climb the fence, security guards took note and went after him. Corliss scaled the fence successfully but before he could jump, the security guards grabbed him and held on until others could reel him in. (Here's a video showing most of that (http://www.break.com/usercontent/2008/1/Man-Tries-To-Jump-Off-Empire-State-Building-434794) -- it cuts off before he's brought back in.) Corliss was arrested and charged with reckless endangerment (http://articles.nydailynews.com/2008-03-04/local/29430370_1_appeals-judges-appeals-court-indictment) and fired from his Stunt Junkies gig, but Corliss shot back with a lawsuit of his own, suing the city, demanding that it issue permits for such jumps (http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/empire-state-building-jump-nut-chutes-city-permit-article-1.295705). He lost. And then he lost again: Corliss was later sued by the building for $12 million (http://articles.nydailynews.com/2011-05-31/local/29624020_1_parachute-jump-observation-deck-empire-state-building); the two sides settled. And finally, he lost a third time. In 2012, he jumped out of an airplane in a flying squirrel suit in southern Africa, but crashed into a mountain and broke both his legs. (http://articles.nydailynews.com/2012-02-23/news/31093114_1_phony-fu-manchu-mustache-daredevil-jeb-corliss-86th-floor)


06-09-12, 03:45 PM
That picture from LIFE magazine is eerily awesome

06-09-12, 04:13 PM
yes, i thought that...

didnt wana look, but found myself deep

06-09-12, 05:06 PM
Couldn't get away with printing a pic like that these days.

07-09-12, 11:57 AM
Now I Know - Lakefront Property

Lake Titicaca, located in the Andes between Peru and Bolivia, is South America's largest freshwater lake and a punchline for English-speaking grammar school students around the world. At an elevation of about 3,800 feet, it is considered by many to be the world's highest navigable lake, although some smaller lakes are navigable by small commercial ships.

It is also home to roughly four dozen floating, inhabited islands made of nothing more than reeds, as seen below.


The islands are the creation of a group of people known as the Uros, whose history dates back to pre-Incan times. They live primarily on the Peruvian coast of the lake and on the islands they have created. The island (and their huts and boats) are made up of totora reeds, a tall, thick, grass-like plant which grows in the marshland there. When dried, totora reeds can be weaved together to create a rope-like material which holds up well when placed in water -- and can act as a base for an island, the structure of a boat, or even the walls of home. An island of totora reeds can lasts twenty to thirty years. As the totora's strength wanes, the Uru simply add more to the island's floor.

The reason for the floating islands has been lost to antiquity, but the most common belief is that they are defensive structures intended to protect the Uru from invading Incans. The Incans would enslave any Uru they captured, so the Uru may have built the islands either as lookout stations (there is a watchtower on one of the larger islands) or perhaps as a place to make a safe retreat. Today, there is no such need -- the area is part of Peru's Titicaca National Reserve, and the Uros' homes and culture are protected under that umbrella. (Their language and many of their traditions have been lost for centuries, due to intermarriage with another group in the area called the Aymara.)

Today, about ten Uru families live on each island. The unique character and composition of the islands has allowed for close living even when families quarrel. There's an easy solution. As the Financial Times notes (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/196de0ee-06f7-11e1-90de-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1dD5bzYTK), "should there be disputes between families living on the same island it is easy to cut a single home off and float it to another island."

More photos of the Uru and their islands can be found here (http://behm.lu/blog/en/news/ruta-panamericana-news/the-uru-and-their-floating-islands/). (Mental)

Bonus fact:

Totora grows in two places. It is native to Peru but also is found at Easter Island, 2,600 miles away. Easter Island, home of the well-known rock sculptures known as moai (these (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Moai_Rano_raraku.jpg)), is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world. Early researchers believed that the presence of totora explained how people got there; as the thesis went, early South Americans made boats of dried totora reeds and set into the Pacific, landing on the island and then cultivating more totora there. But that thesis is almost certainly untrue. According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter_Island#Ecology), a pollen analysis of the island shows that the totora has been on the island for 30,000 years, and was most likely brought there by migrating birds.


10-09-12, 11:57 AM
Now I Know - Feeling Buzzed


You're sitting at your desk, standing in the kitchen, watching TV, etc. All of a sudden, your cell phone vibrates, informing you that you have a new text message, phone call, or email. You reach into your pocket and check, only to find no such message -- and, perhaps, that your phone is not even in your pocket in the first place. The vibration felt real, but maybe it wasn't. Regardless, it was not caused by your cell phone.

If this has happened to you, rest assured you are not alone.

In 2010, a team of researchers from Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts asked 232 of their colleagues to answer a questionnaire about phantom vibrations from their cell phone (or, more correctly, from the area where their cell phones usually are). Of the 176 who responded, 115 -- 69% -- stated that yes, they experienced the disconcerting fake alerts like the type described above. The researcher's plain-as-day conclusion (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21159761): "Phantom vibration syndrome is common among those who use electronic devices."

What causes it? There are a lot of theories. Discovery News (http://news.discovery.com/tech/phantom-vibration-syndrome-120710.html) suggested that "[i]t could be because cell phones produce electrical signals that transmit the feeling of vibration directly to a person's nerves or simply because of the mental anticipation of alerts." Mental Floss explains (http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/130633) how the first of the two theories would work, likening it to "a physical stimulation similar to what happens when your phone is near a speaker and you hear that weird buzzing sound as it does a 'hand shake' with a cell tower and gives off some electromagnetic interference." And the anticipation aspect is not dissimilar from any other sort of psychological conditioning -- we are so used to our phones vibrating that our brains make it feel like it is happening when we "want," not when it actually does.

There's some newer evidence suggesting that it's all in our heads. In July of 2012, researchers published a study (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563212000799) on the phantom vibration phenomenon after speaking with undergraduate students about the fake shakes. The vast majority experienced the vibrations, but, as Slate (http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2012/07/11/phantom_cellphone_vibrations_you_re_not_the_only_o ne_who_feels_them.html) explains, the study found that extroverts and neurotics had it happen more often than the others:

Extroverts, the theory goes, check their phones a lot because keeping in touch with friends is a big part of their lives. Neurotics, meanwhile, worry a lot about the status of their relationships—so while they may not get as many text messages, they care a lot about what they say.

In any event, most researchers think that the fake vibrations are harmless (albeit annoying) -- although there has been very little research into that, too.

Bonus fact:

The 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing is a favorite of conspiracy theorists who assert that the landing was faked, and rather filmed on a sound stage. In September 2002, one such conspiracy theorist physically accosted the second man on the moon, Buzz Aldrin (whose mother's maiden name was Moon!), demanding he swear upon a Bible (that the conspiracy theorist brought with him) that the landing was faked. Instead, Aldrin punched the guy. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/2272321.stm) Authorities declined to press charges against Aldrin.


10-09-12, 01:41 PM
Often get the phantom text message through my leg!

10-09-12, 01:52 PM
Ditto! Happens a few times to me as well!

10-09-12, 02:02 PM

a few times to me..

thought it was always my phone playing up.

All in my head..

now I know..

(See what i did there)

11-09-12, 12:06 PM
Now I Know - Dennis the Coincidence


Dennis the Menace, pictured above, is a comic strip which was first published in the United States on March 12, 1951. It features the protagonist, Dennis Mitchell, and his penchant for causing trouble in ways both hilarious and disconcerting -- and often with his dog, Ruff. Dennis the Menace has been in production for the half-century since its debut, and the franchise has expanded well outside of just paper-and-ink comics. There was a live action television series and three different animated ones; a few Dennis the Menace movies; a video game; and even a playground/park (http://www.yelp.com/biz/dennis-the-menace-park-monterey-2). To those of us in the United States, the blond kid with the red overalls covering a striped shirt is a cultural icon.

And to those in the UK, he's an accidental imposter.

Dennis the Menace, pictured below, is a comic strip which was first published in the United Kingdom on March 17, 1951, five days after the U.S. version, in the Beano, a children's comic book. The British Dennis is very similar to his American pseudo-cousin. He has a similar itch for mischief (although with somewhat of a malevolent bent) and, of course, the sidekick dog -- in his case, it's Gnasher, not Ruff. This Dennis has also made its way into television, movies, and (as a character) in a video game -- and appeared as a regular character at a theme park (http://i.imgur.com/Y3hdb.jpg). (Close enough.) In the UK, he, too, is a cultural icon. But the other similarities end at the striped shirt -- the UK Dennis doesn't wear overalls and has black hair.


So who copied whom? Most likely, neither Dennis is inspired by the other -- it's simply an odd coincidence.

The U.S. Dennis was created by cartoonist Hank Ketcham. Ketcham used his own family as inspiration for the strip -- his real-life son's name was Dennis and the fictional Dennis Mitchell's parents were Henry and Alice. Hank's real first name was Henry and Alice was his first wife and mother of the real Dennis. (Alice died in 1959 due to a drug overdose.) According to the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2001/06/02/arts/hank-ketcham-father-of-dennis-the-menace-dies-at-81.html) in Ketcham's obituary:

Mr. Ketcham was pursuing a career as a freelance cartoonist in October 1950, when his first wife, the former Alice Mahar, burst into his studio to complain that their 4-year-old, Dennis, who was supposed to be napping, had instead wrecked his bedroom. ''Your son is a menace,'' she shouted.

The UK Dennis, on the other hand, has a less personal history -- he is the byproduct of a doodle by the then-publisher of the Beano, Ian Chisholm, during a discussion with the strip's eventual artist, David Law. However, there is one major salient fact which demonstrates that the British Menace is not a copy of the American one. While it appeared in the issue of the Beano dated March 17th, the publication went to press at least ten days before that date, meaning that the UK comic was drawn and published without any way of knowing about the American comic.

While this coincidence is almost certainly innocent, it has led to some problems. In 1993, the U.S. franchise came out with a movie, titled "Dennis the Menace" in most of the English-speaking world, but, because of intellectual property questions (as well as confusion generally), the title was shorted to merely "Dennis" in the UK.
And currently, the British Dennis the Menace strip goes instead by the title Dennis and Gnasher, a title originally adopted for non-UK publications as to avoid confusion with the American comic. But the protagonist, is still known as Dennis the Menace.

Bonus fact:

The U.S. Dennis is a blond, not a blonde. Per Merriam-Webster (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/blond), "Blond" refers to the color, generally, but it is also used to refer to a man with hair of that color. When referring to a woman with blond hair, it is acceptable -- albeit sometimes regarded as sexist, per Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blonde#cite_ref-AHBEU_4-0) -- to use "blonde," with an "e" at the end.


12-09-12, 12:21 PM
Now I Know - Naked at Harvard and Yale


The following people are -- or, perhaps more correctly, were -- members of an elite and unique club: President George H.W. Bush, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, journalists Bob Woodward and Diane Sawyer, actress Meryl Streep, and television executive Brandon Tartikoff. Yes, each was (or is) a titan in his or her field. And each one is probably a household name, or close to it. But they have one other thing in common.

Most likely, each of the above once posed nude.

Starting in the 1940s, a group of upper-echelon colleges and universities in the northeast United States ran a program originally aimed to study the human posture. These schools -- Harvard, Mount Holyoke, Princeton, Radcliffe (before it became part of Harvard), Smith, Swarthmore, Vassar, Wellesley, and Yale -- were all members of the Ivy League or the Seven Sisters, each a group of well-regarded institutions of higher learning. A researcher named William H. Sheldon convinced these schools to compel incoming freshman into posing nude for his photographer, under the pretense of studying things like scoliosis and rickets. But in reality, Sheldon was studying something else, a theory he called "constitutional psychology," or the correlation between a person's body shape and their intelligence.

Body types, Sheldon believe, could show more than just a person's physical traits. He developed three categories of body types, which he coined "somatotypes," each of which he believed had different, distinct psychological traits including differences in intelligence. While the basis for this theory was not entirely ahistoric -- philosophers dating back to ancient Greece (notably Plato) had noted a fundamental difference in body types -- the association with intelligence was more junk than science; as the New York Times noted (http://www.nytimes.com/1995/01/21/us/nude-photos-are-sealed-at-smithsonian.html), "his work has long been dismissed by most scientists as quackery." Another New York Times (http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/02/last-nude-column-for-now-at-least/) writer noted that there was a racial bias built into Sheldon's work, as Sheldon believed that "Negro and Hispanic brains stop developing early."

Most of the colleges destroyed most of the photos soon after the study ended. Unfortunately, many of the photos survived into the 1990s, when the Times story hit. The photos had made their way to the Smithsonian which, in response to the Times article, sealed the archive from public viewing (http://www.nytimes.com/1995/01/21/us/nude-photos-are-sealed-at-smithsonian.html) (but made it available to researchers). A week or so later, the Smithsonian shredded photos from Yale students, (http://www.nytimes.com/1995/01/29/us/nude-photos-of-yale-graduates-are-shredded.html) on request from that university, and noted that it would do the same for other schools which so requested. To date, it is unclear if any of them have done so.

Bonus fact:

In 1968, Paramount Pictures released an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet starring Leonard Whiting as Romeo and Olivia Hussey as Juliet. Hussey, then age 15, appeared nude in the film; she was the only actor or actress to do so. Because of the nude scene, children under the age of 18 were not allowed to attend the premiere of the movie in London. According to her IMDb biography, (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001377/bio)this ban included Hussey, who would have only been exposed to her own image.


13-09-12, 11:55 AM
Now I Know - The Agony of the Feet


Flip-flops are popular summertime footwear with an onomatopoeic name derived from the sound they make when one walks wearing them. And beyond that sound, there is not a lot to them. Each pair is nothing more than a two pieces of shoe soles held in place on the appropriate foot by a typically y-shaped strap anchored between the first and second toe. Their simplicity is, probably, their greatest appeal.

And also the reason why the cause tens of millions of dollars in injuries each year -- in the UK alone.

In 2010, the UK's Daily Mail reported (http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2008-06-01-flip-flops-study_N.htm) that England's National Health Service (NHS) attributed roughly 200,000 doctors and emergency room visits to injuries "caused by wearing [flip-flops]." The total cost of those visits? 40 million pounds, or about $63.5 million. While that number includes all sorts of injuries not directly related to foot care, it speaks volumes to the size of the potential ills caused by the shoes.

In 2008, a doctoral student in biomechanics at Auburn University conducted a study (http://education.auburn.edu/news/2008/june/flipflop.html) using 39 college-age men and women. The participants in the study were asked to walk across a board -- twice -- which measured vertical force while a camera monitored their foot and leg movements. One of the two treks was made using flip-flops; the other was while wearing "traditional athletic shoes." As reported by USA Today (http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2008-06-01-flip-flops-study_N.htm), the study found that "[w]hen participants [in the study] wore flip-flops, they took shorter strides and their heels hit the ground with less vertical force than when they wore their sneakers." This change in the wearer's gait can lead to foot and lower leg pain. Further, the study found that while wearing the flip-flops, participants "did not bring their toes up as much" as they typically would, perhaps because the toes were busy gripping the flip-flops. A review of the same study by CNN noted that (http://edition.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/08/06/health.concern.flip.flops/index.html) this "seemed to result in problems from the foot up into the hips." Flip-flop use has been linked to sprained ankles, pronation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pronation#Pronation_of_the_foot) and misalignment of the foot and legs, flat feet, tendonitis, blisters, and more.

And those in the know practice what they preach. The executive director of the U.S.-based Institute for Preventative Foot Health (http://www.ipfh.org/), Bob Thompson, told CNN (in a separate story two years later) that flip-flops are so bad for your feet that he does not own a single pair. (http://edition.cnn.com/2012/07/18/health/flip-flops-hurting-feet/index.html)

Bonus fact:

Flip-flops have a history dating back to ancient Egypt, but the ones commonly worn in the U.S. and Europe are probably originally from Japan. Per Wikipedia: "The modern flip-flop descends from the Japanese zōri, which became popular after World War II when soldiers returning to the United States brought them back." Zori were often considered formalwear for Japanese women of the time.

http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSxhZAX4JXGwcont8AT6S7fG2ZQesTM5 UTuwNKB8KxlZgYypnsNTw

14-09-12, 11:55 AM
Now I Know - Embargo Elixir


Fanta, the fruity flavored soda, is sold in more than fifty countries. There are nearly 100 different flavors available, ranging from Lychee (http://i.imgur.com/RJgEB.png) (in Cambodia and formerly in Thailand) and Lactic White Grape (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Taiwanfantawhitegrape.jpg) (Taiwan) to Watermelon Splash (http://i.imgur.com/9GDAt.jpg) (parts unknown) and something called Shokata (http://i.imgur.com/2axAr.jpg) (Maldives). Its original flavor, created in 1940, was orange and for years, was only available in Europe. But it has taken the world by storm since.

And it probably would not have happened but for a Nazi embargo.

Coca-Cola, which now owns Fanta, had a large bottling and distribution business in Germany in the 1930s. But it was soon at risk. Few tactics were ruled out as Europe entered into war in the late 1930s, and economic restrictions were certainly among those used. Germany disallowed the importation of goods from Western Europe, and the Coca-Cola plants were unable to import the ingredients used to make the world-famous cola. So Max Keith, a German-born executive in charge of Coke's German footprint, made due with what was available. Pickings were slim. According to Snopes (http://www.snopes.com/cokelore/fanta.asp), Keith took whatever he could get -- apple fibers left over from cider making; whey, a cheese byproduct; beet sugar (as cane sugar was highly rationed); and certainly a litany of other things which us Westerners would be horrified to know our grandparents probably imbibed. (According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fanta#History), Keith later called the ingredients the "leftovers of the leftovers.")

Despite the rank poor ingredients, the drink was, somehow, popular. Some suggest that the fact that Fanta was sweet was enough, as bakers and housewives used it as a sugar substitute due to the above-mentioned rations. Others simply believed the beverage tasted good -- a fruity and bubbly escape from a world at war. In any event, the soft drink -- and therefore, Coca-Cola's German infrastructure -- survived the war.

And the world has a hundred or so fruity flavors to thank for it.

Bonus fact:

Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger was born in Germany in 1927 and turned 13 years old in 1940 -- and, therefore, came of age in the early days of Fanta. Now known better as Pope Benedict XVI, Ratzinger's love of the orange soda perseveres. In 2008, the Daily Mail reported (http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/pope-is-secret-fanta-fan-967929) that the Pope drinks four cans of Fanta a day.

http://t0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRrod82SUkMyZmtjuYP6nT9VjEsg7Rix OLI55UzajV3B9LeLXvULA

14-09-12, 12:47 PM
That snopes.com is a good site!!
Quite a good read!

14-09-12, 12:54 PM
Just found this..



19-09-12, 12:13 PM
Now I Know - Tastes Great, Can't Buy It


Ask a community of beer aficionados which beer is the best, and chances are they're not going to shoot back with Pabst Blue Ribbon or Milwaukee's Best. Ask BeerAdvocate.com and you'll get a top two of Pliny the Younger, a Russian brew, or Westvleteren 12. Go to RateBeer.com (http://www.ratebeer.com/RateBeerBest/bestbeers_012012.asp) and you'll see a similar name in that top spot, as Westvleteren 12 makes a repeat appearance. (Pliny the Younger comes it at #7.) Both rating sites give Westvleteran a 100 (http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/313/1545), their highest possible scores.

But buying a bottle of Westvleteren 12? That's a bit tricky.

The Belgian municipality of Vleteren is in the northwestern part of the country, closer to both the North Sea and the French border than it is from Brussels. (Here's a map. (https://maps.google.com/maps?q=50.933333,2.733333&hl=en&ll=50.930738,2.735596&spn=2.018394,4.42749&sll=50.909961,2.664185&sspn=2.019295,4.42749&t=m&z=8)) Roughly 3,500 Belgians live in the area, about two dozen of whom are Trappists, an order of monks, who live at St. Sixtus' Abbey. Ten of these monks, with the help of three secular employees, make Westvleteren 12 (the yellow-capped bottle pictured above) and two other types of beer. But buying Westveletern 12 is hard because the monks produce so little of it. The monks brew beer for only about 10 weeks a year, eschewing any desire to increase production. And they produce only 125,000 gallons (475,000 liters) of beer per year across all three beer types. That results in about 15,000 to 25,000 cases of Westvleteren 12.

The brewery, which has been around in some capacity since 1838 (but was upgraded two decades ago), was originally established to fund the construction and completion of the abbey itself. According to the Independent (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/monks-who-make-worlds-best-beer-pray-for-quiet-life-502172.html), the monks started brewing beer because "the workers who built the monastery were entitled to two glasses of beer a day," and crafting it themselves seemed like a good way to pay the bills. Today, the brewery is the main source of revenue for the Trappist monks at St. Sixtus'. But, given the limited production of the beer, the brewery is obviously not a traditional business. This is by design. As the Father Abbot stated when the new brewery opened in 1992 (as recapped on the Abbey's website (http://www.sintsixtus.be/eng/brouwen.htm)):

"This must be strange for business people and difficult to understand that we do not exploit our commercial assets as much as we can. We are no brewers. We are monks. We brew beer to be able to afford being monks."

The monks sell 24 bottle cases of the beer for about $35, or $1.50 a bottle. The low price point combined with the scarcity drives the first-come, first-served demand to a fever pitch. Customers can find out when the beer goes on sale by calling a hotline colloquially referred to as the "beer phone," but, as USA Today (http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/2005-10-03-beer-usat_x.htm) reports, the lines get crazy, and quickly:

On the first day the beer goes on sale, cars start lining up at the abbey at 5:15 a.m., says Brother Joris. The gates open at 10 a.m., and buyers are limited to two cases per car. "Not to be resold" is stamped on the receipts, but customers regularly disregard the monks' wish, and the coveted beer is exported, unlabeled and without permission, to America and elsewhere.

And reselling is a very profitable endeavor. The beer can easily fetch prices north of $15 per bottle, ten times what the monks themselves sell it at. The monks have tried to limit resellers -- per the Wall Street Journal (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119628388037006909.html), often it takes nothing more than an email asking resellers to cease doing so -- but there are always some out there unwilling to cooperate. One site, BelgianBeer.com, currently resells the bottles at $40 a pop (http://shop.belgianshop.com/acatalog/Trappist_beers.html#aBB22003), for example.

Better than waiting in line, at least.

Bonus fact:

A fraternity is not a monastery. That may seem obvious, but it was the topic of a recent case in Illinois. A Chicago homeowner wanted to rent his house to the Loyola University chapter of the Sigma Chi fraternity, but area zoning laws disallowed such a rental. There was an exception available, however, for monasteries, convents, and the like. The homeowner brought an action against the city claiming that the fraternity members took an oath -- "in the Service of God and Man" -- and were, therefore, a religious group analogous to monks in a monastery. The court (decision here, pdf (http://www.courthousenews.com/2012/09/14/fraternity.pdf), via Volokh Conspiracy (http://www.volokh.com/2012/09/16/a-fraternity-is-not-a-monastery/)) disagreed.

http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcT45IcWqcnwf3p_lrS4RFLAhFabABb0a SHEtzO_lAqDPNLjYjIj

20-09-12, 12:04 PM
Now I Know - The Last Straw


The rule of thumb, in the United States at least, is that one does not wear white after Labor Day. That tradition dates back to the 1800s but, as mental_floss (http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/140464)explains, the origins of it are definitively known. But it is not the only odd fashion tradition in the United States. In the early 1900s, wearing another piece of clothing verboten after the close of summer: straw hats.

And in one case, this informal ban led, dramatically, to violence.

In the mid-1800s, a portion of lower Manhattan then known as the Five Points became a breeding ground for organized crime and slums. The working-class gangs -- portrayed in fiction in the movie Gangs of New York -- operated outside and often above the law, and would later become the breeding grounds for famous Prohibition-era crime bosses such as Al Capone in their early days as gangsters. And some of their criminal activity was just plain weird -- idle maliciousness more than anything else. The best example of this may be the Straw Hat Riots of 1922.

For years, the fashion culture dictated that men wear hats. But not all hats were acceptable at all times. After September 15th, straw hats were simply not to be worn. Why is anyone's guess, and why that date in particular doubly so. Regardless, the date permeated the culture, creeping forward from what appears to be an original "last day" of September 1st. As noted by Put This On (http://putthison.com/post/31464781718/on-this-day-in-history-this-saturday-september), many newspapers printed warnings about the informal deadline. For example, on September 14, 1912, the Lawrence (Kansas) Daily Journal-World (http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2012/sep/14/100-years-ago-reminder-fashion-conscious-men-no-st/)warned men that "the man who ventures out on the streets after tonight with a straw hat on is in danger of being hauled before the bar of judgment and made to explain his conduct." It is not likely that many (if any) men actually were imprisoned for wearing straw hats toward the end of September, but some certainly took the restrictions seriously.

On September 13, 1922, some gang members from the Five Points area decided to get a head start on the straw hat ban. They went to a local factory, took the straw hats from workers there, and smashed them. Then they took aim at dock workers on the East River (separating Manhattan from Brooklyn), but unlike the factory workers, the dock workers fought back. The ensuing riot was so bad that traffic over the Manhattan Bridge came to a halt until police arrived. As the New York Times reported (http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=F30C13F73B5D1A7A93C6A81782D85F468285F9) the next day, hat-smashers were threatened with arrest:

The inalienable right of a man to wear a straw hat in a snowstorm, if he so desires, is to be upheld in this city by both police and the Magistrates, and a warning was sent to all straw hat smashers last night that jail terms on assault charges awaited them if they started any such carnival today [September 14th].

They continued nonetheless. Armed with sticks, often adorned with nails, the rioters -- perhaps numbering as many as 1,000, per an Associated Press repor (http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=OaoxAAAAIBAJ&sjid=bNwFAAAAIBAJ&pg=5556,1489569&dq=straw-hat+riot&hl=en)t -- mashed more and more hats, well outpacing any police intervention. (It is likely that the first police on the scene were off-duty officers who were, at first, victims -- men who had their straw hats destroyed by rioters.) It took police until the 15th to quell the riots.

Straw hat riots would return in subsequent Septembers for a few years, even claiming the life of a straw hat-clad man who tried to defend his hat for some reason. Over time, the social requirement that men don hats relaxed, and the smashing habit went away, too.

Bonus fact:

Straw hats may not be the only headgear out there which causes pandemonium. In 1797, an English haberdasher by the name of John Hetherington took to wearing an early version of the top hat -- with ridiculous results. According to Hetherington's Wikipedia entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Hetherington), citing Hatters Gazette, the silk band on the hat was "calculated to frighten timid people" and resulted in exactly that ill: "several women fainted at the unusual sight, while children screamed, dogs yelped and a younger son of Cordwainer Thomas was thrown down by the crowd which collected and had his right arm broke." For his "crime," Hetherington was charged with breach of the peace and inciting a riot, and released on a bond of 500 pounds.

http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSkjjjpdabd1NNjiMCFSvmRoDWi3u_7S x-D9JuArh1_mGlwnuO_4w

21-09-12, 12:02 PM
Now I Know - Swing and a Miss


When World War II came to America, baseball was one of the early victims. Many Major League players were in their early 20s and, therefore, subject to the draft. Ted Williams, for example, missed three seasons -- 1943 to 1945 -- due to military service. Then commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis wrote to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to ask if the league should suspend operations altogether; FDR wrote a famous letter (here) (http://www.baseball-almanac.com/prz_lfr2.shtml)giving the league the "green light" to continue playing. But with rosters tight, baseball had to find other avenues to stay in the public eye. In 1944, the Cincinnati Reds brought a 15 year old kid (http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/n/nuxhajo01.shtml) in to pitch (who, in the Reds' defense, would later have a lengthy career). And most notably, the owner of the Cubs, Philip K. Wrigley (of chewing gum fame) started the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in 1943.

While many know about the AAGPBL due to the 1992 movie A League of Their Own, few realize that women played professional, minor league baseball until 1931. That year, a young woman named Jackie Mitchell ended women's hopes of breaking into the big leagues. How?

By striking out Babe Ruth. And, for good measure, she struck out Lou Gehrig too.

Ruth and Gehrig (pictured center and right, respectively, above) are widely regarded as two of the best batters in baseball history. Baseball Reference (http://www.baseball-reference.com/friv/ratings.cgi#ratings) rates Ruth as the top batter of all time and places Gehrig number 11, and a casual poll of baseball fans would certainly yield similar results. In 1931, Ruth, then 36 years old and on the downside of his career, led the league in home runs with 46 -- but it was a tie. The other guy to also hit 46 homers was Gehrig, a 28 year old first baseman, and Ruth's teammate on the New York Yankees.

In 1931, Jackie Mitchell (pictured left, above) was a 17 year old pitcher for the Chattanooga Lookouts, an AA team (the second best level of minor league teams) comprised almost entirely of men -- Mitchell was an exception. On April 2nd of that year, the Lookouts played the Yankees in a pre-season exhibition. The Yankees got out to a great start, getting a double and a single from the first two batters, respectively. With Ruth coming up to the plate, the Lookouts manager made a quick call to the bullpen, bringing in Mitchell.

Mitchell was no stranger to pitching. Growing up, her next door neighbor was a man named Dazzy Vance, a future Hall of Fame pitcher in his own right. Vance taught Mitchell how to pitch and, despite her physical disadvantages against much larger and more experienced male ballplayers, Mitchell was able to hold her own. She struck out Ruth on four pitches -- a ball, two swinging strikes, and then a called third strike -- and then followed up by getting three swinging strikes against Gehrig. This was a rare feat for an All-Star caliber Major League pitcher to pull off, and Mitchell was a high school aged girl. (Nevertheless, the Yankees won, 14-4.)

While modern commissioners would probably note such an occurrence with wide-eyed optimism for an egalitarian future, then-commissioner Landis did the exact opposite. As noted by mental_floss (via CNN) (http://edition.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/worklife/05/27/mf.women.who.beat.guys/index.html), "Landis was sufficiently threatened by the tiny female dynamo that he had her contract voided, stating that baseball was 'too strenuous' for women." And that was a harbinger of things to come. In June of 1952, MLB officially barred its teams (and their minor league affiliates) from signing women to contracts, a ban which lasted until 1992, when the White Sox drafted a pitcher named Carey Schueler -- the daughter of the team's general manager.

To date, no women have played in the Major Leagues.

Bonus fact:

While women baseball players have not made their way to the Major League field, they've bested their male counterparts at the box office. According to Box Office Mojo (http://boxofficemojo.com/genres/chart/?id=baseball.htm), A League of Their Own is the top grossing baseball movie ever, with a total domestic take of over $107 million. The movie easily outpaces the second-highest grossing baseball movie, Moneyball, which has earned just over $75 million to date to go with its six Academy Award nominations.

http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSNd_hxOH5hh2AlmWjJEutr7GOmNfxkN iMogpnZinzNyc00BcbU1g

24-09-12, 12:16 PM
Now I Know - Münchausen by Internet


On August 10, 2000, the New York Times ran an article (here (http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/00/08/circuits/articles/10dorm.html)) looking into a new item that college kids were bringing to campus with them -- computers. Computers, the Times noted, were fast becoming the most important item on a would-be freshman's checklist -- the machines were replacing stereos (this was the before iPods and smart phones), answering machines, and to some degree, even televisions. As part of the article, the Times interviewed, by phone, a high school senior named Kaycee Swenson, who was active on an early social network (under the name Kaycee Nicole, with Nicole being her middle name) called CollegeClub.com:

Kaycee Swenson, a high school senior in Wichita, Kan., who took several courses at her local college last year, said she talked to people online every day, most of whom were not at her campus. But she said she also hung out with friends in the physical world, listening to music and playing basketball. "You have to balance it," she said.

Kaycee was an easy choice for the Times to include in its profile -- she was ahead of the curve, living an active life online. Beyond her activity on CollegeClub.com, Kaycee was an early blogger. At around the same time the Times article hit, she told an online friend, Randall van der Woning, that she was a leukemia survivor. Soon after, the cancer came back, and van der Woning, even further ahead of the curve, set her up with a blog (lost to time) so she could document her battle with leukemia.

For months, Kaycee -- with the help of her mother Debbie -- told her story via a series of typically daily blog posts. Over the course of about two years, she amassed "millions" of visitors to her site, per the Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2001/may/28/internetnews.mondaymediasection). She received untold numbers of get well cards from well-wishers, and spent time talking to online friends over the phone (including talking to van der Woning a number of times). But on May 15, 2001, Kaycee's battle with leukemia officially ended. That day, Debbie Swenson, in tears, called van der Woning to tell him that her daughter had died, unexpectedly from a ruptured aneurysm, the day before. Kaycee Nicole, as she was known online, would not make it to college after all.

But, as it turns out, she wouldn't have anyway. Because Kaycee Nicole never had cancer. Or even a computer. Kaycee Nicole never existed -- she was a figment of her mother's imagination, carried out online.

A few days after Kaycee's final blog post hit the Web, the skepticism followed, as odd inconsistencies came to light. Followers of Kaycee's plight, many using the community weblog MetaFilter, wanted to send condolence cards, flowers, etc., to her family, but Debbie informed them that there was no valid address to send stuff to. This was particularly strange because Kaycee was able to receive (and in fact, responded to) mail sent to her before her death. The MetaFilter community started piecing together more details in a discussion thread (http://www.metafilter.com/7819/Is-it-possible-that-Kaycee-did-not-exist#84429) and other online communities and publications joined in. Some protested, most notably van der Woning, who emphatically asked the community to stop (http://www.metafilter.com/7819/Is-it-possible-that-Kaycee-did-not-exist#84451) and assured the community Kaycee was real. But momentum had taken over.

Collectively, they noted that Debbie told the world that Kaycee was cremated and her memorial service came and went, both within just two or three days after her apparent death. While many had spoken to Kaycee over the phone, no one could find one of her followers who had ever met her in person. And the above-quoted Times article provided another clue -- her last name. Except for that article, Kaycee was only known by her online moniker of Kaycee Nicole, never "Kaycee Swenson."

Emboldened, the Kaycee Nicole skeptics worked together in hopes of finding something definitive. They succeeded. A now-defunct FAQ (archived here (http://web.archive.org/web/20010629212706/http://rootnode.org/article.php?sid=26)) of the Kaycee Nicole hoax summed up the critical piece of evidence:

[A] live chat room for discussing developments was set up. Work was very collaborative and productive in this environment. Additional Kaycee web pages were found. These pages had more photos. One of these photos clearly showed the school mascot and that Kaycee was #10 on the basketball team. By putting together the mascot in the photo with the city the Swensons were originally from, the school where the photos originated was tracked down. A women's basketball roster for the school in 1999 listed #10 as Julie . Someone immediately typed the full name into google, and the first link returned was quite eerie. It was Julie's player profile from the college she attends. And clear as day was a picture of "Kaycee Nicole" staring back from the screen.

Soon after, Debbie Swenson came clean. On May 19th, she called van der Woning and admitted that the entire story was a lie. Kaycee had been created years earlier by her daughter, and when Debbie found out, instead of shutting down the fake child's account, she adopted it as her own. Massive outrage ensued and van der Woning, who was perhaps the greatest victim of the duping, deleted Kaycee's blog. The FBI briefly investigated (http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2001-05-31-internet-hoax-fbi.htm) the matter, but concluded that "it would hard to prove that a crime had occurred."

In the end, Debbie Swenson explained that she crafted Kaycee out of three people she had met, each of whom died from cancer. But she never explained why she created this fake daughter many others grew to care for.

Bonus fact:

The history of the Internet is filled with hoaxes, but the so-called "Microsoft Hoax" is widely regarded to be the first highly successful one. In 1994, a fake Associated Press story travelled through the tubes, asserting that Microsoft (which was a few years from being on the wrong end of anti-trust litigation (http://seattletimes.com/html/microsoftpri0/2015034153_timeline_microsofts_antitrust_history.h tml)) was acquiring a controlling stake in the Catholic Church. The article, available here, (http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/msft.html) argued that the combined "company" would be able to "make religion easier and more fun for a broader range of people," according to a faux quote from Bill Gates. Due to calls from confused consumers, Microsoft issued a formal statement denying the merger on December 16, 1994.


New Feature - Related Film:

http://ia.media-imdb.com/images/M/MV5BNjgyNjI2NzIwNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzI3MTE3Mw@@._ V1._SY317_CR0,0,214,317_.jpg

Young filmmakers document their colleague's budding online friendship with a young woman and her family which leads to an unexpected series of discoveries.

26-09-12, 11:33 AM
Now I Know - Leopards and Tigers and Corbetts


In the late 1800s, a Bengal tiger known as the Champawat Tiger was terrorizing Nepal. While tigers, typically, do not attack people unprovoked, the Champawat Tiger was the grand exception to this rule of thumb. Before the century was out, this particular tiger would kill at least 200 people. The Nepalese army drove it out of the country and into what is present-day India, where it continued on its rampage, killing at least another 200. Together, the Champawat Tiger was responsible for 430 known deaths.

In the end, the Champawat Tiger met its match -- a man named Jim Corbett, pictured above, standing over the aforementioned tiger. Corbett was not simply lucky, though. Corbett was a specialist -- the guy you called when you needed to kill a man-eating tiger or leopard.

The Nepal/India region of the late-1800s/early-1900s was fertile ground for man-eating cats. The Champawat Tiger was the most successful in that regard -- her 430 kills is regarded as a record. But she was not alone. Take, for example, the Leopard of Panar. After feasting for years on the corpses of people struck by various epidemics, the Panar Leopard found its food supply wane as those epidemics passed. So it began to hunt -- for people. It is credited with killing roughly 400 people in the early 20th century in Northern India. Similarly, the Rudraprayag Leopard menaced a roughly 25 mile (40 km) path between the Indian villages of Kedarnath and Badrinath, each a home to holy shrines to Hindus. And similarly, he is believed to have developed the taste for human flesh due to the prevalance of corpses in and around his habitat.

Like the Champawat Tiger, these two leopards met their fate at the hands of Corbett. Add a couple dozen other man-eaters to his count, and Corbett is credited with eliminating 33 tigers and leopards who, combined, killed over 1,200 people over the course of 30 or so years.

Corbett's methods were robust, a biproduct of his unique mix of skills. He was familiar with navigating the jungles of India and Nepal from a young age, being born and coming of age in the region. He had decades of experience hunting tigers -- he worked with an illegal poacher as a teen. And he was a marksman to boot. As Damn Interesting describes (http://www.damninteresting.com/a-large-hearted-gentleman/), these skills, combined, allowed him to succeed where all others failed:

After months of stalking, Corbett marked one of the leopard’s favorite trails, set a goat as bait, and climbed into a mango tree. There Corbett spent ten nights, with only the anxious murmurs of the landscape hinting at the leopard’s proximity. Just before midnight on the eleventh evening, he heard the distinct clamor of the goat’s bell, and snapped on his weak flashlight. The beam caught a flash of pale fur, and a single shot rang out from the mango tree. The leopard disappeared into the gloom. Five hours later, when the clouds broke, Corbett left the safety of his tree to investigate. There in the silver light of the moon, he found the man-eating Rudraprayag Leopard dead.

Corbett believed that the tigers and leopards only attacked people as a last resort. The animals he killed all had one thing in common -- they were significantly injured, and likely unable hunt their typical prey. The Champawat Tiger, for example, had two broken canine teeth. The Rudraprayag Leopard exhibited similar problems, as old age and gum disease had robbed it of a few teeth as well. Another tiger, known as the Chowgarh Tigress, had many undissolved porcupine quills in her leg, causing muscle and bone decay. In each case, these felines had to go after easier targets -- and people, without any natural defense from tigers, were as good of a target as any.

To his credit, Corbett acted on this belief in later years. He devoted the end of his life to documenting the lives of the animals he previously hunted -- the non-man-eating ones, at least -- via photography, and helped establish a nature preserve in the region. He passed away in 1955 and, two years later, the nature preserve whose creation he spearheaded was renamed after him.

Bonus fact:

According to the World Wildlife Fund (http://worldwildlife.org/species/tiger), there are only about 3,200 tigers in the wild today, worldwide. As noted by National Geographic (http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2010/10/21/americas_5000_backyard_tigers/), as recently as 2005, there may be as many as 5,000 tigers living in captivity in the U.S., and most are kept as pets -- "by private individuals, not zoos." Note that in many cases, private ownership of tigers is not illegal. More than half of the U.S states -- 31 of them (http://www.bornfreeusa.org/b4a2_exotic_animals_summary.php) -- allow private citizens to keep wild animals as pets (and only 15 of those require that the tiger owner obtain license to do so).


New Feature - Related Film:

http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTraXr3BHbd7nCuNa0DfdYpr3iPt1EAB UgmqzUXiOM_oQf6waC9ng


Eye of the Tiger.......

A small time boxer gets a once in a lifetime chance to fight the heavyweight champ in a bout in which he strives to go the distance for his self-respect.

27-09-12, 12:22 PM
Well.. I hope you are hooked..

I'm bombing this off now..

http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSYFHrlMXIs1ssUPeWErgDqEBVr9eBP6 MJWaVzvxBNTMqELYWTY

So join the mailing list to get a daily email...