Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is an interactive closeup of Saturn's rings. The image was taken by the Cassini probe in 2017. Now it's been sonified with harp sounds, with the pitch of each ring determined by its shade -the lighter rings have higher pitches. You can pluck the rings with your mouse, either individually with a click or drag your cursor across for a lovely sound. If you have a touch screen, you can try playing it like a piano keyboard. Or just toggle the automatic mode to watch the spacecraft play on its own. You can also shift to a minor key if you like. -via Metafilter
Dr. Joy Reidenberg has a unique job -she collects whale organs for research. That means that she has to be ready whenever a whale carcass is available, and she must move fast, because authorities do not want whale remains to stay on the beach for any length of time. In 1987, she was informed of a beached whale in New Jersey, but she only had an hour to get there before it would be hauled off.
There are many factors to consider once Reidenberg receives permission to dissect. Enough daylight to examine the specimen is one. Whale dissection is not an ideal night-time activity, but it can be done in the dark, with guts and all. Low tide and a potential storm are two other factors. It’s quite difficult working on a beached whale in knee-deep water while it’s raining. Will the whale lie belly up or down? Will there be construction equipment to move the heavy parts? Will it explode when opened due to gas build-up? These are the questions she grapples with. She could face all of these obstacles, some, or none at all. In the case of the Atlantic City sperm whale, there was one obstacle she didn’t factor in.
A police officer stopped her for speeding. Flustered, she stepped out of the vehicle in her white medical coat and complied with his instructions. He checked the back seat. “His face just turned ashen white, it was really weird,” says Reidenberg. A few moments before, she had heard on the radio that a body chopped to smithereens was discovered in plastic bags. Her rental car was filled with scalpels, hand knives, gloves, wood saws, and an array of gardening tools—equipment one would need to commit such butchery. The plastic bags in the back seat certainly did not help. She explained her situation and he decided to escort her to the stranded whale. Partly, just in case he was wrong.
That particular episode was worth the trouble, as she retrieved the whale's larynx and refuted earlier research about whale speech. You'll find out a lot more about the ins and outs of Reidenberg's work and whale dissection as a whole at Atlas Obscura. The article contains pictures of dead whales, but they are not grisly.
(Image courtesy of Dr. Joy Reidenberg)
Springtime in Nepal means that snow and ice are melting in certain elevations of the Himalayas, and the runoff will not be stopped by mere roads, even the infamously dangerous Besisahar-Chamé Road. The cascading water can take out what few guardrails there are. Meanwhile, people have places they gotta be, so a driver powers on through the treacherous path while a passenger films. Grab your armrests for this sequence. -via Laughing Squid
There have been 18 movies so far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with the 19th, Avengers: Infinity War, opening this weekend. It marks the tenth anniversary of the MCU, which began with Iron Man in 2008, and will be the second sequel to the 2012 film The Avengers. That film featured what is considered to be the biggest Marvel set piece ever, the Battle of New York.
When The Avengers premiered in 2012, there was nothing like "The Battle of New York," a nonstop, 30-minute finale fight between the super squad and an intergalactic battalion of Chitauri warriors, led by Thor's nefarious half-brother, Loki. Today, even with two Avengers sequels in the can, and a summer tentpole season that stretches from February to December, there's still nothing like The Battle of New York. After an hour-and-a-half of costumed group therapy, the kind of character-drama bedrock that risks losing the coveted popcorn-munching, action-junkie demographic, The Avengers crescendos without apprehension. Through BOOMS and ZAPS and POWS, the sequence -- part Independence Day, part Lord of the Rings, peppered with disaster-thriller vignettes, and bound with a New Yawk-movie spine -- exalts the heroes all while paying respect to the regular Joes on the ground. Scholars swore that comic-book moviemaking peaked with Christopher Nolan's lauded vision for The Dark Knight, yet here was an alternative, propulsive, prismatic, and thoughtful.
For a deep look into how the battle was filmed, Thrillist talked to a large contingent of professionals who worked on The Avengers: the writers, producer, director, illustrator, visual effects people, location manager, editors, and even the music composer about what went into making the Battle of New York for The Avengers. Any Marvel fan will be impressed with their efforts.
When we first heard of hand transplants, it raised the question of how organ transplants could be justified when they aren't necessary to save a patient's life. We've come a long way since then, with limb and face transplants to improve the quality of life. When the first penis transplants were done, doctors knew that such experimental surgery would be an important achievement in caring for those wounded in war. And in March, the first American veteran received a penis transplant during a 14-hour operation at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. The surgery was successful, and the penis is expected to achieve normal function within a few months. Researchers a the hospital developed a new technique to facilitate such reconstruction.
One of the challenges from this type of injury is that transplants typically require patients to take strong anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their lives. Those drugs pose a risk, which must be balanced against the benefit of surgery that is designed to improve quality of life but is not essential to health.
To address that, doctors at Hopkins have developed a method to minimize the drugs required for these patients. That involves infusing some blood cells from the donor, to prime the recipient's immune system to recognize the foreign tissue as "self." Doctors at Hopkins say they can then treat the patient with a single anti-rejection drug rather than the usual cocktail of three.
Unlike previous penis transplants, this surgery included the scrotum and some tissue from the lower abdomen, in order to reconstruct a large wound. The patient was injured by an improvised explosive device. He also lost his legs below the knee as a result of the IED attack.
Lee Ridley is a standup comic who doesn't speak. He has cerebral palsy and performs under the name Lost Voice Guy, even though he apparently never had one. Ridley's disability-themed routine is delivered by a synthetic voice machine. The machine itself, called a Lightwriter, is the focus for some of his jokes as he performed on Britain's Got Talent. -via Boing Boing
The vaudeville stage welcomed plenty of animal acts, but Don the Talking Dog was the tops in his time. Don was a well-known performer in his native Germany, where he displayed his ability to speak several German words. The dog show evoked curiosity in the US, and there was plenty of hype when Don finally crossed the Atlantic in 1912. Newspapers followed his every move, and crowds formed everywhere he performed.
With a vocabulary that ultimately reached eight words—all in German—Don had garnered attention in the United States as early as 1910, with breathless newspaper reports from Europe. According to some accounts, his first word was haben(“have” in English), followed by “Don,” kuchen(“cake”), and hunger (same word in English and German).
Theoretically, this allowed him to form the useful sentence: Don hunger, have cake—although most accounts say he typically spoke just one word at a time, and only when prompted by questions. He later added ja and nein (“yes” and “no”), as well as ruhe (“quiet” or “rest”) and “Haberland” (the name of his owner).
Don stayed in the US for two years, during which time he was treated as royalty, and made plenty of money, both from shows and from endorsing Milk-Bone dog biscuits. Scientists were interested in Don, too, and you can read about their conclusions at Smithsonian.
If you want to be good at skateboarding, you have to put in lots of practice. To survive lots of practice, you need to become good at falling. That involves tucking your head so that any body part besides the skull hits first. Also, curling your body into a ball will make you more likely to roll instead of splat. Na-Kel Smith has perfected the art of falling, no doubt with lots of practice. He is an ace skater, so he also harnesses his sense of momentum, gravity, and direction to not only minimize the pain of falling, but to recover on his feet. You can see more of Smith's skateboarding skills at Digg.
A cat walked into the deli-cat-tessen and admired the items on display at the meat counter. The clerk, who may be the butcher as well, went into his sales spiel and gave the cat a better look at a variety of offerings until the cat indicated what he most wanted. The cat probably thought he'd get away with not paying, but the deli got a viral video out of it.
In the latest "pictofacts" post at Cracked, people contributed the design features of everyday products that bother them the most. Some have perfectly reasonable explanations, like the beeps that seems extraneous but help visually-impaired people, and Pringles, which are packaged for shipping and storage, not eating out of the can. The mouse that can't be used while you charge it bothers me, yet I understand that you shouldn't use a device while recharging. But as an old person whose kid lost the remote, this one really bothers me.
My TV isn't a Samsung, and the buttons do have faint labels, but I must keep a flashlight near the TV to see them. See the rest of the pet peeves about product design at Cracked.
Black holes are pretty cool to study, not cool to get close to, but did you know that black holes spin? You never thought about it before, but since everything else in space spins, it makes sense. What's really cool is that we could theoretically harness this energy. In reality, we are nowhere near having the capability of approaching a black hole, much less surviving such an adventure. From that point, this video from Kurzgesagt takes the theoretical possibilities to the next level by explaining how to make the biggest bomb in the universe. We know the science, but we are far from being able to do it ...at the present time. -via reddit
Every once in a while, you come across a painting that creeps you out. Maybe it's because of the grim subject matter, or maybe it's because there's a face that seems to look right through you. It would be easy to become obsessed with such a painting, and if something bad then happens, you can connect the mishap with the painting, and you've got the beginning of an urban legend! These tales grow over time, until they are downright horrifying. Take the case of the painting above, titled The Dead Mother by Edvard Munch.
The painting is inspired from the death of the artist's own mother, on account of Tuberculosis, when he was just 5-years-old. Aside from the fact that the painting is said to make people eerily uncomfortable, it has also been said that the eyes of the little girl follow you around and that you can hear Mother's sheets rustle.
The steamship Fort St. George ferried fresh water and passengers from New York to Bermuda beginning in 1921. A cat named Minnie decided the ship was a good place to live. The ship's crew did not return the affection.
Minnie, the black-and-white cat of the Fort St. George, loved her home at sea, but she was also prone to flirting with the tom cats on Pier 95 in New York and at Hamilton Dock in Bermuda. In her years of service as the ship’s dedicated mouser, she was ejected from the ship at least 15 times. Not because she wasn’t loyal to her shipmates or good at catching rats, but because she gave birth to too many kittens.
Every time the sailors sent her packing with her kittens, she’d return as soon as her little ones were old enough to care for themselves.
One time a sailor reportedly took her all the way to Broadway and 72nd Street and bade her what he thought was a final farewell in front of the old Sherman Square Hotel. But when the ship entered Hamilton Harbor in Bermuda a few days later, Minnie miraculously appeared on deck. (My theory is that she hitched a ride to Bermuda on the sister ship, the Fort Victoria.)
Malaysian artist Eddie Putera creates wonderfully-detailed miniature dioramas of all kinds. And he's only been doing it for three years! Some of the scenes are from his childhood memory, and he also does custom-made dioramas to his customer's specifications. Others are completely fictional.
We posted about the TinyKittens birth watch webcam a couple of weeks ago, in which three feral cats awaited their litters of kittens. Black cat Ramona gave birth first, and now has four kittens. Rula, the other black cat, had three. Chloe, the ginger cat, just gets bigger every day.The cats have three private nest boxes to select from, plenty of toys, food, and even a TV to watch, but sometimes they crave each other's company. Here we see Ramona and her four kittens making a big fuss over Chloe earlier today. Is Ramona comforting Chloe? Is she trying to warn her what she's in for? Or is she just climbing on Chloe to get away from all those kittens? In a new video just posted, we see that they've settled down bit, and it appears that Ramona is comforting Chloe as her labor pains strengthen.
Check out the live webcam to follow Chloe's labor and imminent birth. The livestream will continue until all the kittens are adopted.
How long can you hold your breath? The Bajau people of Indonesia are sometimes called "Sea Nomads," because they spend so much time in the ocean, hunting the sea creatures they live on. Bajau divers can spend up to 13 minutes underwater without scuba equipment! Melissa Ilardo, an American at the University of Copenhagen, went to Indonesia to find out what made Bajau divers so good at staying underwater.
She took genetic samples and did ultrasound scans, which showed that Bajau had spleens about 50 percent larger than the Saluan.
Spleens are important in diving -- and are also enlarged in some seals -- because they release more oxygen into the blood when the body is under stress, or a person is holding their breath underwater.
Spleens were larger in the Balau people whether they were regular divers or not, and further analysis of their DNA revealed why.
Among the 25 genes that differed from other populations was one that regulates a thyroid hormone that controls spleen size. Read more about Ilardo's work at Yahoo. -via Boing Boing
(Image credit: Flickr user Austronesian Expeditions)
There's a royal wedding coming up, as Prince Harry will marry American actress Meghan Markle on May 19, and today Queen Elizabeth II turns 92 years old. Happy Birthday, Your Majesty! In honor of the occasion, we celebrate British culture with a compilation video from Great Big Story, in which we will learn about about swan uppers, beadles, jellied eels, the Queen's stand-in, the world's best taxi drivers, and the history of the British obsession with tea. The eels are last, so you can stop there if you're squeamish. I did.
The flapper culture of the Roaring Twenties was a revolt against the restrictions women lived under before World War I. Young women flaunted their sense of freedom by associating with men unchaperoned, riding in cars, drinking, smoking, and most of all, dancing. Fashions were adapted to the idea of freedom- and the corset was the garment women most wanted to shed. As trendsetters trotted out new clothing forms, a new beauty ideal took hold.
Lighter, shorter dresses became ever more fashionable after World War I, as did comfortable clothing and relaxed social mores. Restrictions on dating, dancing, and sex loosened. The cosmetic changes reflected changing opinions on femininity, and the person who most epitomized the new era was the corsetless, cosmetic-wearing, free-spirited flapper.
Yet other restrictions surfaced. Designers such as Coco Chanel popularized a slim silhouette. The bathroom scale (patented in 1916) became a household staple. Books, magazines, and the media began depicting fat as the result of insufficient willpower. While people have always dieted to fit their era’s beauty standards, the new female silhouette was a departure from previous buxom ideals. “Though the flapper image minimized breasts and hips, it radiated sensuality,” writes historian Margaret A. Lowe. The slender silhouette seemed modern. Female curves seemed old-fashioned.
So flappers tried all kinds of new diets, such as the Hollywood 18-Day Diet, but there were plenty of trendy plans to choose from. Read about the flappers' weight-loss regimens at Atlas Obscura.
(Image source: Library of Congress)
Charlie Eilhardt noticed a perfect example of a crash blossom in a headline in Thursday's Alameda Sun. You can just picture the City Manager and the District Attorney trying to walk around with their heads taped together, presumably with duct tape. What we have is two words in a row, "tapes" and "head," that are both used as either a noun or a verb, and figuring out which usage is meant depends on the context. What is really happening is that secret recordings will be given to the prosecutor. You can enlarge the picture to read the story here. -via Dave Barry
Witness me! It appears that Marty McFly accelerated to 88 mph and his time machine ended up in a post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland. Where's the "undo" button? The residents of Fury Road will like his car, all shiny and chrome. Well, stainless steel, but you get the idea. There's no sound to this video, because it was initially uploaded as a gif at reddit. -via Digg
Airlines are always looking for ways to make a few cents more, but the most lucrative way to do that is to squeeze more passengers into each plane. We're at the point now where average-size people are uncomfortable in economy class, even for short flights. How much smaller can airplane seats get? Okay, since you asked... let me introduce you to the Skyrider 2.0. It braces passengers and gives them something to lean against while they stand through the flight. I am not kidding.
Engineered by Italian aerospace interior design company Aviointeriors and introduced at Hamburg’s Airplane Interiors Expo in earl April, the seat positions a willing passenger almost completely upright on a polyester saddle and back support. It seems well thought out, it’s reportedly very functional, and it even looks good. But I’ll still never sit on one.
Airlines can stack these only 23 inches apart, which means in the future, we may have to board with a lot more fellow travelers. Read more about this abomination at FastCo Design. -via Digg
(Image credit: Avio Interiors)
BBC2 is presenting a three-part documentary entitled My Year with the Tribe. One episode has already aired, and now British viewers are looking forward to the other two episodes, wondering where it could possible go from what was revealed already. The premise is that Will Millard went to Western Papua in Indonesia to spend an entire year living with the Korowai people. They are a primitive society that was untouched by the outside world until they were discovered in the 1970s. Millard knew there had been plenty of documentaries made in the years since, and his idea of spending a year in the rain forest was his way of doing something different. But when he traveled to the remote Korowai location, he got the impression that things were not as he expected.
Even so, the penny didn’t really drop until the two men reached their destination, where another Korowai family were sitting naked in a treehouse. Initially, these neighbours gamely tried to pretend this was how they passed an average day. But once they realised that this particular day might go unpaid, the truth started to emerge. ‘This is not our home,’ pointed out a family member. ‘These houses were commissioned by Canadians for filming.’ ‘I was told we should be here with our clothes off,’ added one of the two wives.
Her husband, meanwhile, helpfully laid out the business plan of which this was a crucial part. ‘I lie around until there are guests,’ he told Millard. ‘And then I get naked and they photograph me.’ He also provided a handy price list, ranging from £5 for a basic photo to £50 for the full insect-grub hunt.
A log cabin is more than a sturdy shelter- it has become the symbol of the pioneering spirit of America. It wasn't always that way. Despite the pictures you've seen in history books, the earliest English settlers in America did not build log cabins. The structure arose out of necessity later on, because it was relatively easy to put together from available materials when you don't have a sawmill. A log cabin was a step up from a dugout or sod house. Still, log cabins did not have a great reputation, and were often considered a temporary shelter until a proper house could be built.
Benjamin Franklin wrote that there were only two sorts of people, "those who are well dress'd and live comfortably in good houses," and those who "are poor, and dirty, and ragged and ignorant, and vicious and live in miserable cabins or garrets." Dr. Benjamin Rush, Surgeon General of the Middle Department of the Continental Army and a signatory to the Declaration of Independence, said the cabin dweller was “generally a man who has out-lived his credit or fortune in the cultivated parts."
As for cabins themselves, they were generally seen as “rude” and “miserable,” and no self-respecting American would deign to live in one. Not permanently, at least. Cabins back then were temporary stepping stones meant to be abandoned once something better could be afforded; barring that good fortune, they were to be covered with clapboard and added to as the cornerstone for a finer home.
The log cabin became the symbol it is today due to the way it illustrates the rise from a difficult life of poverty, as in Abraham Lincoln's story. But it wasn't because of Lincoln- it was an earlier political figure that make the log cabin an icon, in a story you can read at Mental Floss.
Prince originally wrote "Nothing Compares 2 U" for his side project The Family. The song was purportedly about Susannah Melvoin. After the release of one album in 1984, the members of The Family were reorganized into Prince & The Revolution. The song was later a global hit for Sinéad O'Connor in 1990. To coincide with the two-year anniversary of Prince's death tomorrow, his estate has released the original studio recording, accompanied by video footage of Prince & The Revolution's rehearsal sessions from 1984. -via Uproxx
You've probably been using the same deviled egg recipe your entire life; now its time to try something different! Tye Lombardi at the Necro Nom-nom-nomicon has a spicy, colorful recipe for pickled basilisk eggs. You will need:
6-8 basilisk eggs.
1 fireproof suit and gloves.
Oh, wait, that's the recipe for immortals. For the rest of us, it's a matter of pickling your eggs for a few days with brine colored with beet juice, then deviling the yolks with with wasabi and avocado filling. That's where the fuchsia and chartreuse color scheme comes from. Bone appetit!
Have you ever gone to a restaurant and immediately wanted to leave because it was so loud? Or you had a problem hearing the waiter? It's not your imagination- restaurants have been getting demonstrably louder over the past couple of decades. Changes in architecture, decor, and management have contributed to noise levels reaching the range that can damage your hearing. Some of the increase is on purpose, as proprietors want to create an ambiance of "buzz" and "energy," so they crank the music up. That only forces people to talk louder. Vox gives us five reasons restaurants are so noisy, and tips on what we can do it about it.
(Image credit: Flickr user Kyle Mahan)
Jordan Watson gave us two lessons on the difference between Australia and New Zealand, because he is from New Zealand and people thought he was from Australia. He must have gotten some feedback from Americans -probably confused Americans. So now he brings us a lesson on the differences between the States and New Zealand, as if we needed that. But he is, as always, entertaining. I honestly saw "Howdy" coming a mile away, and then expected him to go from "chilly bin" to the "chili bun," which is a Southern US thing. -via Tastefully Offensive
There are variety of possible reasons for the ancient practice of trepanation, or drilling holes in a person's skull, but whatever you call it, it was brain surgery. What is surprising is how good ancient practitioners were at it, and how similar trepanations were around the world. A new science paper may have a clue as to how that happened. In 1999, a 5,000-year old cow skull was unearthed at an archaeological dig in France. It had a hole in it. Researchers assumed the hole was a gore from another cow's horn, and put it away. A more recent examination shows that it was surgery.
Physical analysis of the hole, which measures 64.5 mm long and 46.5 mm wide, shows no trace of fracturing or splintering, which means it wasn’t caused by a powerful blow, such as goring from another cow or a puncture inflicted by a stone tool. At the same time, the hole shows the characteristic signs of trepanation, namely a square-like shape and cut marks made around the gap. No marks exist on the skull to indicate that pressure was applied by an external force. This hole, the researchers argue, was cut—quite literally—with surgical precision.
The hole exhibits no sign of healing, which means the procedure was performed on a dead cow, or the cow did not survive the surgery.
This is the earliest concrete example we have of veterinary surgery, but we don't know the reason. It's possible, but unlikely, that they were trying to save the cow. Or, whether the cow was dead or alive going into the procedure, it could have been surgeons practicing for human trepanation. Read about the ancient cow surgery at Gizmodo.
(Image credit: Fernando Ramirez Rozzi)
We've seen before how people turned art into music by playing it through a midi program. John Keats did that with a map of the world, and the results are surprisingly pleasant. Well, maybe it shouldn't be too surprising, since a talented programmer/musician would adjust those pixels to avoid the most dissonant notes. But it's nice to see our world sounding this good!
Keats' musical map of Europe is way more discordant, his musical map of Africa is more dramatic, and his musical map of France is experimental, since he used the sounds of different musical instruments. You can see more of Keats' musical midi maps at YouTube. -via b3ta