Violence in the US Senate

It was on this day in history, May 22, 1856, that an assault took place on the floor of the US Senate. The spark, as you might have guessed, was the debate over slavery. Would the new state of Kansas be allowed to embrace slavery by a popular vote? Massachusetts senator and abolitionist Charles Sumner gave a speech opposing such a vote, in which he called out his Southern colleagues who had written the Kansas-Nebraska Act -and called them some rather unflattering names. The speech spilled into the next day, and anger among those legislators only grew afterward. When Sumner arrived on May 22, Representative Preston S. Brooks of South Carolina went for him. A witness gave an account of what happened.   

    “I saw Colonel Brooks lean on and over the desk of Senator Sumner, and seemingly say something to him, and instantly, while Senator Sumner was in the act of rising, Colonel Brooks struck him over the head with a dark-colored walking cane, which blow he repeated twice or three times, and with rapidity. I think several blows had been inflicted before Senator Sumner was fully in possession of his locomotion, and extricated from his desk, which was thrown over or broken from its fastenings…

    As soon as Senator Sumner was free from the desk he moved down the narrow passage way under the impetuous drive of his adversary, with his hands up as though to ward off the blows which were rained on his head with as much quickness as was possible for any man to use a cane on another whom he was intent on chastising.”

Read the story of the caning of Senator Sumner and its aftermath at Atlas Obscura.


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Royal Wedding Outtakes

(YouTube link)

The other day I mentioned that something goes wrong in almost every wedding. When Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer, they used all of Charles' names and Diana repeated them back in the wrong order during her vows. That was nothing compared to the ceremonial screwups in this version of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding! The flawless (ahem) remix is from BlendTV. -via The Daily Dot


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Roxy, the Long Island Railroad Dog

In 1901, a young dog later named Roxy was taken in by a conductor for the Long Island Railroad. Roxy made friends easily, and was soon traveling by train anywhere he wanted to go. He had favorite conductors, favorite passengers, and favorite stops across Queens. On Thursdays, he would go to Montauk Point for a seafood dinner, then spend the night at the Jamaica station. Other nights, he'd be at the YMCA or in Garden City with another conductor. He knew every train and its schedule, and how to get where he wanted to go.

The conductor would say, “President Peter’s orders are that Roxy has the privilege to occupy a seat in any car at any time.”

Sometimes he’d sit with the passengers, while other days he preferred riding in the baggage car or with the fireman. He was known to spring from the open cab while the train was going 40 miles an hour. But he could also sit patiently still on the platform while waiting for just the right train to bring him back to Jamaica or Long Island City.

On several occasions, Roxy traveled in a private car with President Roosevelt to Oyster Bay. Sometimes he’d visit the president’s home there. The Roosevelt children reportedly loved him.

We also know that he spent the Easter holidays in Merrick in 1905. Whomever he stayed with put a blue ribbon on his collar that read, “I spent Easter at Merrick and had a daisy time.” Perhaps this was Miss Elsie Hess, a school teacher who lived across the street from the Merrick station. Miss Hess always gave Roxy a drumstick at Christmas, and he’d also go to her house for care whenever he was ill. She even had a wicker basket just for him in case he stayed the night.

Then the day came in 1911 that Roxy got on the wrong train -for the first time ever- and ended up in Philadelphia! That adventure made the papers. Read about the life and times of Roxy the Long Island Railroad dog at The Hatching Cat.

Love cute animals? View more at Lifestyles of the Cute and Cuddly blog

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The Pits

(vimeo link)

A lonely avocado has an empty feeling in the pit of his stomach. No, wait, he is empty because his stomach doesn't have a pit. He's searching for his other half. This sweet short film by David Bizzaro was selected for more than 30 film festivals so far. -via The Kid Should See This


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Han Solo was Almost in Revenge of the Sith

The new movie Solo: A Star Wars Story will give us a backstory for the character Han Solo and it is guaranteed to be somewhat more believable than the one George Lucas envisioned. Lucas wanted to include Han as a minor character in Revenge of the Sith. In that scenario, Han was raised by Wookiees on the planet Kashyyyk, specifically by Chewbacca. That concept would have given a weird vibe to their later relationship, which is presented in the original trilogy as two friends who are also business partners. Would Han really call his father figure "Fuzzball"?

In the original Revenge of the Sith script from George Lucas, a 10-year-old Han would have found a transmitter on a smashed droid during the Battle of Kashyyyk. He would have presented it to Yoda, and the Wookiees would have traced that back to its source to find General Grievous. So in a way, we would have had Han to thank for Obi-Wan’s victory over the droid general. This would have also been a convoluted way to show how whip-smart and resourceful Han was even at such a young age. But making him a young orphan on Kashyyyk wouldn’t have made much sense at all, and the whole thing sounds like pointless fan service. Which is probably why the scene was cut from the script and never filmed.

And we're glad for that. Not everyone in the Skywalker saga has to have a meta backstory that circles around to coincidental reappearances that strain credulity. It's a bigger universe than that. Chewbacca's existence in the prequels was bad enough. Read more about Lucas' plans for Han at Inverse.  -via Uproxx


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24 Wildly Inappropriate Official Movie Tie-In Products



Movie merchandising can be a gold mine if people like the movie. If it's a hit, you can bet that manufacturers will take every possible opportunity to milk that popularity. That can lead to some merchandising tie-ins that just don't make a lot of sense.



Some are overly adult, some are contrary to the idea of the film, and some are just plain stupid.



Although the title says they are, I have my doubts about whether all of these products were officially licensed. Check out 24 of the most inappropriate movie merchandising ideas at Cracked.


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The First Trailer for Mowgli

(YouTube link)

Although he's been kept busy appearing several blockbuster movies, Andy Serkis has been working on his movie Mowgli for the past five years. It is based on Rudyard Kipling's story of a feral child raised by wolves The Jungle Book, but is very different from either Disney version: it's closer to Kipling's original, there's no singing, and the story continues after Mowgli joins a community of people. Serkis also put his extensive motion-capture experience to work to film the animals in a new way.

We very carefully, in a long development period, designed the animals to fit the actor’s faces. So, the way we approached it was, if you take it on the left side, you’ve got an image of Christian Bale’s face, and then on the right hand side, you’ve got an image of a panther. We morphed Christian’s face over a series of images, backwards from the panther and towards Christian until we reached a sweet spot where somewhere along that spectrum you could actually see both. So, it was in the design of the animals. That was where the secret lies. And then, having the actors just play with Rohan Chand—this extraordinary young actor who plays Mowgli—to actually have them in the same space connecting with each other and emotionally finding the scenes together. So that really was something. that was the big difference. And I think when you see it, you won’t question whether these things feel alive.

You can read the rest of the interview with Serkis at io9. Mowgli, starring Serkis, Christian Bale, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Cate Blanchett as various animals, opens October 19.


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The Five Stages of Watching A Star Wars Movie

(YouTube link)

Did you know there's a new Star Wars movie opening Friday? Yeah, sure it's a "Star Wars Story," but fans are looking forward to Solo while trying to reserve judgment before they see it. When you go to the theater, see how many of these five stages illustrated by How It Should Have Ended are really true. -via Tastefully Offensive


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Having Babies on Mars Is Going to Be a ‘Titanic Challenge’

Although travel to Mars is still years away, scientists are already contemplating the possibilities of colonizing the red planet. The main process of sustaining a civilization, reproduction, may be the most difficult part of the entire scheme. A new paper lists cosmic radiation, microgravity, and stress as the leading, but not the only, dangers in trying to have a baby on Mars. We might not have a choice. Lead author and cognitive scientist Konrad Szocik says, “Of course, we should remember that when people will be able to live on Mars and reproduce on it, perhaps living on Earth will not be possible any more.”

Szocik thinks that there is only one way that humans could potentially have healthy babies on Mars immediately: Genetic engineering—which bring with it its own set of challenges.

“We should do that now, on Earth, to improve our chances of survival in space,” Szocik proposed. “We did not evolve to live in space. We should do [our] best to modify humans before sending them to space.” Szocik realizes that genetically modifying humans for spaceflight and space life is a Herculean task, and one for which our technology isn’t quite yet there. The concept surely raises ethical questions, as well. “Perhaps we should just leave Earthly ethics on Earth,” he said.

So when you hear the meme that quotes the TV show Futurama, "I don’t want to live on this planet anymore," be aware that other planets are thought to be more of an escape hatch than an improvement. Read more about the challenges of reproduction on Mars at The Daily Beast. -via Digg  

(Image credit: Kelly Caminero/The Daily Beast)
 


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Lucas the Spider is a Giant

(YouTube link)

Lucas the Spider, from animator Joshua Slice, is a tiny but adorable little arachnid. He has seen a few adventures in the great big world. But now he has an opportunity to be a giant spider when he finds a cute little miniature village! Lucas soon learns that being a giant isn't any easier than being tiny, especially when you are young and inexperienced. -via Laughing Squid


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The Guardians



Hey, isn't this a great group of cosplayers? They look just like the cast of Guardians of the Galaxy! But no, these aren't cosplayers. In fact, you've seen these people in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. They are stunt doubles. From left, Amy Lynn Tuttle as Nebula, Boni Yanagisawa as Mantis, Lee-Anne Telford as Gamora, Tony McFarr as Star-Lord, and at the bottom, Rob de Groot as Drax. The picture is from a collection of images of Avengers and other Marvel movie characters in costume with their stunt doubles that you can see at Bored Panda.


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The X-Men Movies You Never Saw

Deadpool 2 is ruling the box office this weekend. It is the 11th movie in the X-Men series. That's not quite as many as in the 19-movie Avengers series, but there could have been many more. Filmmakers have been trying to get X-Men projects to the screen for almost three decades now, but many of those ideas fell by the wayside for a variety of reasons.  

This isn't intended to be a comprehensive or exhaustive listing of every unproduced X-Men screenplay. Instead, I've focused on a series of drafts that had the best chance of getting made. Not included are re-writes of existing X-Men films (like Joss Whedon's discarded overhaul of the first X-Men movie and other early drafts that essentially just became the first film) and only slightly different drafts of movies that got made with some changes (David Benioff and Skip Woods' Deadpool-less X-Men Origins: Wolverine for example).

Fans of the comic books will be dismayed at what might have been, but some of those projects could be resurrected still. Read about six X-Men films that never made it to the screen (and one that finally did) at Den of Geek.


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Brainstorm or Green Needle?

(YouTube link)

The question in the title sounds like we are going to name a new superhero. No, this is another audio illusion that might freak you out a bit. A toy says "brainstorm." Or maybe it says "green needle." You need to decide which one it is before you play the video. Then play it again, thinking about the other option. Keep your finger on the replay button (bottom left on the video), and you'll find that this toy says what you expect it to say, even if you change your mind between plays. Some people hear "green storm" or "brain needle," but that's because they chose to hear it. For some science behind the phenomena, and the actual answer to what this toy is saying, go to HuffPo. -via Geekologie


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Arthropoda Iconicus: Insects Inspired by Star Wars



Richard Wilkinson is working on a series of insect illustrations based on pop culture characters. Star Wars fans will recognize who inspired each of these insects, but non-Star Wars fans will be forgiven if they take them as real species.

The first book of the series, working title: “Arthropoda Iconicus Volume I: Insects From A Far Away Galaxy”, is a collection of insects that bear a subtle yet uncanny resemblance to characters and vehicles from the worlds favourite space opera.

It is pegged for release in the late summer of this year.



The series will eventually have 60 insect illustrations, of which some will be available as prints. See an overview of them at Wilkonson's website and even more at Instagram. If you find one that stumps you, check out the Instagram hashtags. -via Geeks Are Sexy


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The Open Floor Plan House

American architecture introduced the open floor plan home around the turn of the 20th century, and now it is pretty much expected in new homes, where one large room combines the functions a kitchen, living room, and dining room. First, the kitchen and dining room were combined. By mid-century, open floor plans became synonymous with modern home architecture, bringing families together, facilitating supervision, and besides, it was great for entertaining.

Prosperity rose during the 1960s. The housing industry became more powerful, and many families had enough money to trade up from their wartime houses—especially white, middle-class families who had been able to build wealth through home equity. They developed greater ambition and wanted more space. As the small, modernist middle-class home of the 1930s through 1950s gave way to larger designs of the late 1960s and onward, the great room emerged, often with a vaulted ceiling exposed to high windows or a second-floor gallery. And so, the total space and activity the open-plan homeowner had to manage from behind the kitchen increased ever further. The kitchen became like a ship’s bridge, but absent the personnel to run the vessel.

Openness and continuity might have been modernist aspirations for the spirit as much as the body, but just as the open-plan office created the oppression of constant oversight in the name of collaboration, so the open-plan home merged the duties of hostess, butler, cook, and childcare provider. And despite its promise of relaxation and conversation, open-plan living has actually combined leisure with labor. When the two fuse, work wins in the end, converting recreation back into obligation. The dinner party entails its preparation and cleanup; meal-prep also involves child oversight or homework help; television-viewing takes place during dishwasher-unloading. Overall, domestic life becomes an exercise in multitasking. And so, even when it expands freedom, the open kitchen constantly reminds its users of that freedom’s limits.

Do the benefits of an open floor plan outweigh the disadvantages? An entire family can be together in a great room without actually interacting with each other, but proximity does encourage interaction. Open floor plans are a great boon to those susceptible to claustrophobia. And it does make bringing food to the table easier. But it also enables dirt to spread through the house easier. Kitchen smells, heat, and grease are no longer confined to the kitchen. A sinkful of dirty dishes makes the entire living space look messy. You can't control which spaces are heated or cooled separately. And what busy cook wants to be reminded that every other family member is relaxing in front of the TV? Read about the rise of the open floor plan and the backlash against it at The Atlantic. -via Metafilter, where you'll find more links on the subject.

(Image credit: Flickr user Steve Bennett)

Do you prefer an open floor plan or separate rooms?






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The Real Reason Peppers are Spicy

(YouTube link)

Why did peppers develop their heat? Scientists once assumed that pepper plants produce capsaicin to deter animals from eating them. But that explanation doesn't quite hold up in nature. Birds aren't affected by capsaicin, which is why you should put pepper seeds in the birdseed to keep squirrels out of it. Hank Green tells us what we know so far about pepper evolution in this SciShow video. -via Digg


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Josiah Henson, the Real Inspiration for Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe set the US on fire with her bestselling 1852 novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, as it described the horrors of slavery. For many people in the north, the book was their first encounter with the everyday lives of enslaved people. To proponents of slavery, Uncle Tom's Cabin was dangerous propaganda that had to be discredited. Where did Stowe get her information? She eventually named names, including that of Josiah Henson, who escaped slavery and settled in Ontario. In 1849, Henson had published The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself. In a later edition of the memoir, Henson wrote:

“I was in the vicinity of Andover, Mass., in the year 1849, where Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe resided. She sent for me and my travelling companion, Mr. George Clark, a white gentleman, who had a fine voice for singing, and usually sang at my meetings to add to their interest. We went to Mrs. Stowe’s house, and she was deeply interested in the story of my life and misfortunes, and had me narrate its details to her. She said she was glad it had been published, and hoped it would be of great service, and would open the eyes of the people to the enormity of the crime of holding men in bondage. She manifested so much interest in me, that I told her about the peculiarities of many slaveholders, and the slaves in the region where I had lived for forty-two years. My experiences had been more varied than those of the majority of slaves...”

The fictional experiences of Uncle Tom were strikingly similar to the Henson's real-life experiences, although Henson gained his freedom and lived to the age of 93. Other characters in Stowe's novel were based on people Henson knew. Read a short version of the life of Josiah Henson, and the story of how Uncle Tom's Cabin influenced American history, at Smithsonian.


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Henri Le Chat Noir Says Oh, Revoir

(YouTube link)

After ten years of sharing his ennui and nihilism, Henri is retiring from making videos. He says he's retiring, but his farewell video makes it clear that he has given up on sharing his existential philosophy because no one one listened anyway. From Facebook:

Well, the time has come. My final video with the annoying thieving filmmaker is here. Now, I will finally be able to officially retire in peace and work on my philosophy without interruptions. I plan on writing the great feline-american novel. I thank all of you for your support and adulation.

See more of Henri in previous posts. -via Tastefully Offensive

Love cute animals? View more at Lifestyles of the Cute and Cuddly blog

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Why Do Cats Blep?



Even if you don't know what a "blep" is, you've probably seen it. That's when a cat, particularly one that normally carries himself like royalty, lets his mouth go slack and his tongue hang out. The cat, not paying a bit of attention, can stay like that for quite some time, giving cat photographers an opportunity to preserve them at their silliest. Dogs do it, too, but we don't consider it odd when dogs blep. What causes a cat to do that? It turns out there are quite a few reasons, and possibly more we don't understand yet. Mental Floss goes over those reasons from veterinarians and cat experts for why your cat bleps, and none of them involve communicating rudeness.

Love cute animals? View more at Lifestyles of the Cute and Cuddly blog

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Magnet Collisions

(YouTube link

This is a very "attractive" video. Let's see what happens when a large magnet meets a group of smaller magnets -in slow motion. It's fascinating to see the different reactions depending on the size and configurations of the magnets. And the slow motion is crucial, because in real time it happens in the blink of an eye, which is no fun. We get a glimpse of that at the end. -via Laughing Squid


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Wedding Fails

It's a rare wedding where something doesn't go wrong, but the size of the failure is the difference between a slight bump and a lifetime memory. Earlier this week, Jimmy Fallon asked people to tell what went wrong at their wedding on Twitter. I don't know if he's done a segment about them on The Tonight Show yet, but people are still contributing with the hashtag #weddingfail.

Some them were dredged up from many years ago, the kind of stories that families tell during every holiday gathering.

NBC has a gallery of the funniest Tweets here. -via Bored Panda


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How Black Panther Should Have Ended

(YouTube link)

The busy minds at How It Should Have Ended found some of the plot holes in Black Panther and applied real-world logic to them. That kind of thing can make a superhero movie dangerously short. It's a good thing they threw in some other superheroes to make things interesting: Captain America (at least I think that's him -he wears a star) and a couple others you wouldn't expect in a Marvel movie. -via Tastefully Offensive


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The Army’s First Black Nurses Were Relegated to Caring for Nazi Prisoners of War

During World War II, more than 40,000 nurses served in the US military. Only about 500 of them over the entire course of the war were black nurses, and they had to fight to be admitted. Elinor Powell was one of them, an officer in the US Army Nurse Corps. Powell's father had served in World War I and an ancestor had fought with the Union in the Civil War. Yet even in uniform, she was subject to Jim Crow laws.

Elinor’s cohort of newly trained Army nurses soon received shocking news: There had been too much fraternization between white nurses and German POWs at Camp Florence. So the Army was bringing in black nurses as replacements.

POW camps would become an ongoing assignment for the majority of African-American nurses. The remainder were stationed at segregated bases with black soldiers, who mostly performed maintenance and menial jobs during the war, and understood what it meant to wear a U.S. military uniform and still be treated like a second-class citizen.

Life for a black army nurse at a POW camp could be lonely and isolated. The camps in the South and Southwest, in particular, strictly enforced Jim Crow. The list of complaints from black nurses included being routinely left out of officer meetings and social functions, and being forced to eat in segregated dining halls. The trips to nearby towns were also degrading because of establishments that either relegated blacks to subpar seating and service or barred them from entering altogether.

Interactions between the German POWs and the nurses was problematic, too, since the enemy soldiers had not only been shipped in from a culture that lauded Aryan purity, but also were treated as superior to the black nurses in America. Meanwhile, there was a shortage of nurses to care for wounded American veterans. Read the story of black nurses in World War II at Smithsonian.

Read what happened to Elinor Powell after the war at the New York Times.

(Image courtesy of Chris Albert)


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Star Wars Puppeteer David Barclay

(YouTube link)

In the original Star Wars trilogy, aliens were puppets and animatronics instead of CGI. Dave Barclay was a puppeteer in those movies, starting with assisting Frank Oz with Yoda. He was also inside Jabba the Hutt. Here he talks about bringing the aliens to life, including the touching story of copping a feel on Princess Leia. -via Laughing Squid


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24 Things Princesses At Disney Parks Would Never Tell You

Many little girls have a fantasy of growing up to be a princess just like in the Disney movies they watch. A few make their dreams come true by becoming a princess character at one of the Disney parks. The job isn't easy, or lucrative. It can be fun, but just getting your foot in the door is a lot hard work.

1. When auditioning, you don't audition for a certain character.

2. And you have a better chance of being hired if you look like the other actors, rather than the character herself.

So if you want to be a Disneyland Cinderella, you're better off if you look like the women already hired to play her, rather than the actual Cinderella we know and love.

3. Not everyone gets hired the first time around.

Some girls have to audition four or five times before getting accepted. This is because Disneyland is looking for different princesses at different times. You might be a perfect Pocahontas, but your first audition might be when they're casting only Alice or Belle.

Once you get the job, you go through training and learn to be a fictional princess, with all that entails. And there are strict rules for maintaining the fantasy. Read some of the secrets of the women who portry Disney Princesses at Buzzfeed.

(Image credit: mydisneyadventures)


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True Facts: Ant Mutualism

(YouTube link)

When Ze Frank took several years off from his True Facts series, he was apparently stockpiling scripts for his return. This is his third video in the past month! And it's quite interesting, even past the snarky comedy. Leafcutter ants are farmers. They use plants to grow fungus to feed animals. This benefits both the ants and the fungus (but maybe not the tree so much) in an example of mutualism. Other ants use various insects in other mutualism schemes, some of which can be pretty gross.    


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Strangest Things: The Golden Mysteries

(YouTube link)

Trying to appeal to a young core audience, Stephen Colbert brainstormed with a bunch of children to come up with the perfect new TV show. The brainstorming session combines things you know they fed to the kids, like the Beatles and Brooke Shields, plus their own ideas, like the penguin curse. I'd watch it. Strangest Things: The Golden Mysteries stars Brooke Shields, Jason Segel, Kathryn Hahn, Michael Shannon, Hugh Laurie, John Oliver, David Tennant, Willem Dafoe, and Whoopi Goldberg.

See more about baby and kids at NeatoBambino

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How North American Bison Ended Up in the Swiss Alps

If you were to travel the countryside around Geneva, Switzerland, say, between the city and the airport, you might be surprised to see a herd of buffalo. American buffalo. There are quite a few herds around Geneva, high in the Alps, and they are all descended from the initial imports of one Swiss farmer.  

Years ago, a young man from a Swiss farming family, Laurent Girardet, ventured to Alberta, Canada. He went to participate in an exchange program, work on a farm, and learn English. During his time there, he unexpectedly fell in love with the bison (the term “buffalo” is often used interchangeably, but in Switzerland they are known as bison, as their scientific name is Bison bison). “I always liked big spaces and everything related to bison,” Girardet says.

He also liked the idea of raising animals naturally—that is, on pasturelands rather than in enclosures, and on a grass diet rather than one bolstered by antibiotic supplements. Compared to Switzerland’s domesticated cows, bison were robust and healthy, too. So he resolved to raise them instead. “We decided to walk away from traditional dairy cattle, to turn ourselves to something more natural and extensive,” he adds.

Bison adapted well to life in the Alps, but getting them there was a real challenge. Swiss farmers and officials thought Girardet was crazy. Read the story of how American bison made their home in the Alps at Atlas Obscura.

(Image credit: Micha L. Rieser)


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How Squids Outsmart Their Predators

(YouTube link)

Cephalopods are weird. Squids get less publicity than octopuses, but they are really weird as well. The sea creatures have developed so many strategies for evading predators in the sea that we must marvel at how undersea life is totally different from the way land animals go through life. Ink! Jet propulsion! Chromatophores! Disconnected sensory systems! And squids have even more "superpowers" in this TED-Ed video. -via Digg


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16 Fashion Rules the Royal Family Lives By

Dressing as the Queen of England isn't easy- one is expected to look perfect at all times. But it's even harder being a member of the royal family under the rule of the queen. Queen Elizabeth II sets the rules and enforces them in the family, whether by example or by a stern talking-to. Most of the royal dress code is unwritten, so new members like American Meghan Markle are expected to learn the hard way after a few faux pas. No bare legs, no bright nails, wear a hat, and keep your coat on. Other rules depend on the occasion, and some cover men and even little children. Read about the dos and don'ts of dressing as a royal at Mental Floss.

(Image credit: Mark Jones)


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