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Philip K. Dick Never Saw Blade Runner and Ridley Scott Never Finished Reading the Novel it was Based on

You have probably heard of a movie that's been called the Bible of science fiction, Blade Runner.

Set in a dystopian Los Angeles of 2019, the movie centered on cops, known as Blade Runners, that specialize in tracking down replicants or genetically engineered organic robots made by powerful mega corporations. These replicants are used for dangerous, menial, or leisure work on off-world colonies, but are banned on Earth. Those that defy the ban are "retired" or hunted down.

The film became a cult hit when it was released over thirty years ago and continues to gain fans of all ages even to this day. Critics and fans alike have described it as a philosophical manifesto. Despite the popularity of the film, however, there are many facts about Blade Runner that remained unknown to most fans.

For example, did you know that Ridley Scott's inspiration for making Blade Runner was a novel that he never even finished reading? The novel was, of course, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick.

Or did you know that Dick never actualy watched Blade Runner, yet predicted with creepy accuracy that it would have a huge impact on future generations?

In October 1981, Philip K. Dick wrote a letter to Jeff Walker, the executive for The Ladd Company that produced Blade Runner, and mentioned among other things:

“The impact of Blade Runner is simply going to be overwhelming, both on the public and on creative people — and, I believe, on science fiction as a field. [ ... ] Nothing that we have done, individually or collectively, matches BLADE RUNNER. [ ... ] My life and creative work are justified and completed by BLADE RUNNER. Thank you...and it is going to be one hell of a commercial success. It will prove invincible.”

Five months after he wrote the letter, Philip K. Dick suffered a stroke and died without ever watching the movie. Blade Runner was released nearly three months after his death.

We do know that Dick saw a special effect test reel of the movie, and liked it instantly. "It was my own interior world. They caught it perfectly," he said.

Despite his prediction, Blade Runner wasn't a commerical success, but there's no denying that it has become an iconic science fiction masterpiece. Perhaps Philip K. Dick could really see the future after all.

This NeatoFacto was written by Theodoros II (@TheodorosII).


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Did You Know That Blockbuster Once Had a Chance to Buy Netflix for a Mere $50 Million?

You've probably heard that Blockbuster has closed its remaining 300 company-owned stores (what? They still had 300 stores?), which marks an end of an era of what used to be the dominant player in the video rental industry.

Blockbuster, which at its height had 9,100 stores around the world - more than half of that in the United States, became a dinosaur almost overnight. Its business of renting video tapes, then DVDs and video games, suffered from the rise of Netflix's rental-by-mail (which then evolved to streaming over the Internet) and cheaper competitors like RedBox.

But did you know that the once-mighty Blockbuster had a chance to buy Netflix for a mere $50 million but passed? And if you thought that was a bad decision, just wait till you find out what Blockbuster did instead. Boy, don't they wish they could rewind time.

Here's the story.

In 1997, Reed Hastings rented a copy of Apollo 13 in his local Blockbuster store. He returned it late and was socked with a $40 late fee. "It was six weeks late and I owed the video store $40. I had misplaced the cassette," Hastings said, "It was all my fault. I didn't want to tell my wife about it. And I said to myself, 'I'm going to compromise the integrity of my marriage over a late fee?'" Later, on his way to the gym, Hastings realized that there's a much better business model: a flat-rate rental service with unlimited due dates and no late fees, and Netflix was born.

Fast forward a couple of years. Hastings' fledling Netflix was growing but like many startups, it had cash flow problems. So it tried to sell itself to none other than Blockbuster. A former high-ranking Blockbuster executive told Jill Goldsmith of Variety, "We had the option to buy Netflix for $50 million and we didn't do it. They were losing money. They came around a few times."

And what did Blockbuster do instead of buying Netflix? In 2000, they signed a 20-year exclusive video-on-demand agreement with Enron, as the energy company tried to launch into telecom. Yes, that Enron that failed spectacularly because of the 2001 accounting scandal. Blockbuster canceled the pact after only 9 months.

Netflix solved its problems and went on to go public in 2002. It currently has over 36 million subscribers worldwide and is worth nearly $20 billion.

And Blockbuster?

You already know how that movie ends.

See also: Blockbuster's Very Last Movie Rental (and man, is it appropriate!)

Image: Chris Green / Shutterstock.com


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Why Disney Princesses Never Make Eye Contact With One Another

Look around any toy store and you'll see hundreds of Disney characters sold as action figures and stuffed toys, so it's quaint to think that there was actually a time when Disney had trouble selling stuff. But there was.

Back in 2000, Disney's consumer products division was overstretched and underfocused, according to Peggy Orenstein in her 2006 New York Times article "What's Wrong with Cinderella?"

Disney had mistakenly triggered price wars by granting multiple licenses for their core characters, and sales were dropping as much as 30 percent a year. Adding to their problem was the 1998 "A Bug's Life" movie had trouble translating to merchandising opportunities. "What child want[ed] to snuggle up with an ant?," wrote Orenstein.

A new Disney executive named Andy Mooney, who came over from Nike, was checking out his first "Disney on Ice" show in Phoenix, when he came to a solution that would save Disney from its woes.

"Standing in line in the arena, I was surrounded by little girls dressed head to toe as princesses," Mooney told Orenstein, "They weren't even Disney products. They were generic princess products they'd appended to a Halloween costume. And the light bulb went off. Clearly there was latent demand here. So the next morning I said to my team, 'O.K., let's establish standards and a color palette and talk to licensees and get as much product out there as we possibly can that allows these girls to do what they're doing anyway: projecting themselves into the characters from the classic movies.'"

Mooney and his team picked Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Mulan, and Pocahontas to be in the new Disney Princess line. It was the first time that Disney marketed characters separately from a movie release, and it was also the first time that different characters from different movies were lumped together.

Orenstein wrote that to "ensure the sanctity of what Mooney called their individual 'mythologies,' the princesses never make eye contact when they're grouped: each stare[d] off in a slightly different direction as if unaware of the others' presence."

What Mooney did worked: As of 2006, there were 25,000 Disney Princess items. Sales shot up from $300 million in 2001 to over $3 billion globally. And to this day, no Disney princess has ever looked at one other's eyes when they're displayed together as a group.


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The Real Life Inspiration for Sherlock Holmes

Did Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes out of thin air? Elementary, my dear Neatoramanauts, he did not. Meet the real life inspiration for Sherlock Holmes: Dr. Joseph Bell, a physician and lecturer at the medical school of the University of Edinburgh.

Conan Doyle met Bell in 1877 while he was studying to be a physician. Later, Bell would appoint Conan Doyle as his clerk, which allowed the author plenty of opportunities to learn about Bell's legendary deductive abilities (somewhat similar to playing Dr. Watson to Bell's Sherlock Holmes.)

Bell emphasized the importance of close observation when making medical diagnosis - to demonstrate this, he would often pick a stranger and deduce the man's occupation and recent activities by observation alone.

In the book Teller of Tales: The Life of Arthur Conan Doyle, author Daniel Stashower illustrated Bell's observation skills: Bell was able to tell that a man was an alcoholic by observing that he habitually carried a flask in the inside breast pocket of his coat, and that another man was a cobbler by seeing that the inside of the knee of the man's trousers was worn (that's where the man had rested the lapstone - a tool used by cobblers to condition leather). Bell was able to discern different accents to deduce a man's origin. He was also able to tell the difference between hand calluses of a carpenter from a mason, and the difference in the walking gait of a solider and a sailor.

Conan Doyle recounted this celebrated example of Bell's abilities when a patient whom Bell had never seen or talked to before came forward:

"Well, my man," Bell said, after a quick glance at the patient, "you've served in the army."

"Aye, sir," the patient replied.

"Not long discharged?"

"No, sir."

"A Highland regiment?"

"Aye, sir."

"A non-com officer?"

"Aye, sir."

"Stationed at Barbados?"

"Aye, sir."

Bell turned to his bewildered students. "You see, gentlemen," he explained, "the man was a respectful man but did not remove his hat. They do not in the army, but he would have learned civilians ways had he been long discharged. He has an air of authority and he is obviously Scottish. As to Barbados, his complaint is elephantiasis, which is West Indian and not British, and the Scottish regiments are at present in that particular island."

For Bell, observation skills are integral to become a great doctor. "In teaching the treatment of disease and accident," he said, "all careful teachers have first to show the students how to recognize accurately the case. The recognition depends in great measure on the accurate and rapid appreciation of small points in which the diseased differs from the healthy state. In fact, the student must be taught to observe."

Conan Doyle acknowledged Bell's influence in the creation of Sherlock Holmes, when he wrote a letter to his old university professor, "It is most certainly to you that I owe Sherlock Holmes ... round the centre of deduction and inference and observation which I have heard you inculcate I have tried to build up a man."


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Disney Imagineers Tested the Haunted Mansion Special Effects on the Unsuspecting Night Time Cleaning Crew

Note: We're happy to introduce a new experimental feature on Neatorama! Our NeatoFacto blog features self-contained "neat fact" graphics that's easily shareable on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

We hope you like it! And remember, please share it along!

It took twenty years for Walt Disney to create the Haunted Mansion. The whole thing actually began well before Disneyland came into being. Disney had always wanted a spooky haunted house attraction for the theme park (he even commissioned Disney Legend Harper Goff to draw some sketches), but Disneyland opened in 1955 without it.

Three years later, Disney decided to expand Disneyland and the effort to create the Haunted Mansion began in earnest. The first plan for the mansion called for an old New Orleans-style antebellum manor with boarded doors and windows and overgrown with weeds and dead trees. Disney, however, didn't like the idea of a run-down building in his park and said, "We'll take care of the outside and let the ghosts take care of the inside."

Neatorama Facts: Haunted Mansion

Disney put Imagineers Rolly Crump and Yale Gracey in charge of building the Haunted Mansion special effects. The two had plenty of ideas and apparently often left the special effects running all night long. The night cleaning crew were spooked and complained to the management, who in turn, asked Crump and Gracey not to scare them off.

But instead of leaving the lights on and the special effects off, Crump and Gracey decided to connect their "spectral effects" to a motion-detector switch. When the duo came in the morning, they found a broom hastily left in the middle of their studios. The Imagineers had to clean their studios by themselves from that point on, as management told them that the night cleaning crew were never coming back.

Bonus Fact: The Real Ghost that Visited Haunted Mansion Creator Yale Gracey

When they were working on the Haunted Mansion special effects, Crump asked Gracey whether he had any experience with the supernatural. "Oh yeah, I had a ghost read to me when I was 10 years old," Yale replied without hesitation, as reported by Disney History Institute.

Crump told the story, which went like this: When Gracey was a child, he and his mother went to visit relatives on the East Coast for the summer. They lived in a big old house, and Gracey and his cousins would sleep together in a large bedroom, with an old lady who lived in the closet. The lady would come out and read stories to the kids, under the condition that the children do not talk about the lady to the grownups or she'd disappear forever.

At the end of the summer, Gracey's mother asked him what he liked best about the vacation and the small boy replied, "The little lady that lives in the closet that reads to us every night." Gracey's mom was surprised and the children were mad at him, saying "No, no, Yale, she'll never come back."

Crump said that Gracey's mother was so concerned that she went to the local history society and found a photo of the woman who lived there. When she showed it to the kids, they said that she was the lady that lived in the closet.

Did Gracey make the whole thing up? Disney History Institute reported that Crump swore that this was exactly as Gracey had told him. "Yale would never make anything up. He was about as straight as they come," Crump added, "As far as I'm concerned it's true. It can't be any truer than that."


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5 Fun Facts: It's All Greek To Me

When an English speaker doesn't understand something, he would say "It's all Greek to me." But have you ever wondered about the origin of that phrase? Why Greek? Why not, say, Urdu or Aramaic?

1. The Origin of "It's All Greek To Me"

According to Harry Oliver's Flying by the Seat of Your Pants: Surprising Origins of Everyday Expressions, it comes from the latin phrase Graecum est, non legitur or Graecum est, non potest legi (It is Greek; it cannot be read). Medieval Latin scribes in monasteries would write that phrase if they had trouble translating Greek alphabet and language, which was dwindling in use by the Middle Ages.

The phrase probably entered modern English usage when William Shakespeare used it in his 1599 play The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. Here it is in Act 1 Scene 2:

Cassius: Did Cicero say any thing?
Casca: Ay, he spoke Greek.
Cassius: To what effect?
Casca: Nay, an I tell you that, I'll ne'er look you i' the face again: but those that understood him smiled at one another and shook their heads; but, for mine own part, it was Greek to me. I could tell you more news too: Marullus and Flavius, for pulling scarfs off Caesar's images, are put to silence. Fare you well. There was more foolery yet, if I could remember it.

In this context, an educated and wealthy aristocrat in the Roman Republic should be able to read and speak Greek. Casca, who speaks fluent Greek, is probably just playing dumb because he doesn't want to repeat a remark that is unflattering to Caesar.

2. Well, what do the Greeks say?

Obviously, when a Greek doesn't understand something, he doesn't say "It's all Greek to Me." Rather, he says, Αυτά μου φαίνονται κινέζικα, or "This strikes me as Chinese."

3. It's all ______ to me

That brings up an interesting question: what language is deemed the most incomprehensible and therefore most worthy of the phrase "It's all ______ to me" in various countries? Wikipedia and Omniglot have the list of the idioms.

Mark Liberman of Language Log distilled the info into this nifty graphic:

(Liberman has an updated version here)

4. From Greek to Gringo

The word "gringo," which is a Spanish slang to denote foreigners or non-native speakers of Spanish, comes from the phrase "hablar en griego" (or speaking in Greek). You can see how the phrase accusing someone of not being intelligible because he's speaking Greek eventually evolved into a slang for foreigners.

5. Coming Full Circle: Greeking ... in Latin!

When web or print designers create a mock up of a design with a block of text, they often put in place dummy text in the layout before the actual text is available. This process is called "greeking" and the most commonly used placeholder text is Lorem Ipsum, which is actually Latin, not Greek.


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5 Surprising Things That Have Cow Parts in Them


Image: Dudarev Mikhail/Shutterstock

So, you're a vegan and you're mad that you can't drink Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte. Well, maybe you want to skip this post because your day ain't going to get much better. You see, almost *everything* in the world contains something made from animal parts and by-products.

Don't believe us? Here are 5 things in the world that you wouldn't believe are made from or contain animal by-products or use them in the manufacturing process:

1. Car Tires

Yes, tires are made of rubber, which are plant products but the wheel on the bus goes round and round with a little help from stearic acid.

Stearic acid is a fatty acid with many industrial applications - and when we say many, we mean a bajillion. This chemical compound is used as a surfactant and softening agent. It is found in soaps, cosmetics, detergents, lubricants, candles, food, and even fireworks. Car tires manufacturers use stearic acid as an additive to help "cure" the rubber in the tires and make them strong enough to hold their shape while under steady friction yet flexible enough to grip the road.

Oh, and that "stearic" in stearic acid is derived from the Greek word "stear" which means tallow, a rendered form of beef or mutton fat.

2. Drywall

Unless you live in a brick or mud house, then chances are, your wall is made of drywall or sheetrock. These are gypsum plaster sheets used to make interior walls and ceilings. Then, unless you live in an unfinished garage, chances are your walls are painted. Well, both drywall and paint contain animal by-products.

Drywall is made by creating a slurry of gypsum with additives such as starch, paper pulp and fatty acids like stearic acid (ta-da!) and oleic acid (also made from animal fat) as emulsifier and thickener.

3. Paint

Many brands of paint (even latex-based paint) contain a binder called casein, a protein found in cow milk. Never heard of casein? You may not know it, but you are familiar with casein: in its coagulated form, casein is called cheese.

4. Sugar

Good ol' white sugar isn't white to begin with. Rather, large sugar manufacturers use a filter made from bone char - basically charred ash of animal bones (mostly from cattle) - to decolorize sugar cane to the desired white form.

Well, how about if I just use brown sugar, you say. Turns out most brown sugar is just white sugar with molasses added as brown colorant.

5. Asphalt

Yes, that black stuff used to pave roads and parking lots contain glycerin, a release agent that prevents it from sticking to the containers, as well as other animal by-product based additives to help the ease of mixing and paving as well as control rutting and cracking.


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5 Fascinating Facts: Echidna


Short-beaked echidna. Photo: Jeroen Visser/Shutterstock

Quick: what mammal is covered with spikes, lays eggs, has a four-headed penis, and no nipples?

The answer is the echidna, one of the strangest animals that exist on Earth today. And to celebrate this bit of mammalian weirdness, here are Neatorama's Five Fascinating Facts about Echidnas:

1. Echidnas Can Control Their Spines


Photo: Vmenkov/Wikipedia

Echidnas are covered with fur and spiky spines. These spines are modified hairs, similar to that of the porcupines. There are tiny muscle bundles connected to the base of each spine so the echidna can control the spine's movement and direction.


Short-beaked echidna curled up into a ball of spikes. Photo: Nachoman-au/Wikipedia

An echidna erects its spines for protection (like the picture above), to anchor itself against a log, to help it climb, and to help upright itself after it has fallen or placed on its back. It cannot, however, throw or eject its spines as the legend said.

2. Baby Echidnas is Called a Puggle and It's Incredibly Cute!


Photo: Anthony De Zoete-Baker/Australia Zoo - via ZooBorns

A mom echidna lays a single leathery egg in her pouch, then carries it for about ten days before it hatches. The baby echidna, called a puggle, is born hairless and spineless - but with formidable claws.

As the puggle grows, it develops its covering of fur and spines. After two months, its mom would evict it out of the pouch, because, you know, it's not fun carrying something with spiky spines in your pouch.

The cute puggle above is a 30-day-old echidna born in captivity at the Australia Zoo, to proud parents Tippy and Pickle. You can view more pics of the yet-to-be-named puggle over at ZooBorns.

More puggle cuteness: this one named Beau the orphaned echidna is from the Taronga Zoo:


Photo: Ben Gibson/Taronga Zoo - via ZooBorns

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The Curious Origin of Sarin Nerve Gas


Rabbit used to check for leaks at Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Colorado,
manufacturing plant that produces sarin gas. Source: Library of Congress/Wikipedia

As you know, President Obama is urging Congress to approve a strike against Syria for using chemical weapon. Earlier this week, Secretary of State John Kerry asserted forensic evidence pointed out that the Syrian government used the nerve gas sarin to kill more than 1,400 people (including more than 400 children).

But have you ever wondered how sarin came to be? Or even how it got its name?

Birth of a Nerve Gas

Here's the story: In 1936, a German scientist named Gerhard Schrader at Bayer (yes, that Bayer which made aspirin) and later the IG Farben factory (which also produced Zyklon B, the chemical agent used to gas millions of Jews and other "undesirables" to death during the Holocaust), was working on an insecticide designed to disrupt the insect's nervous system.

Schrader experimented with a class of chemical compounds called organophosphates to kill leaf lice or wooly aphids. He and his assistant had synthesized a compound called tabun when, accidentally, they were exposed to a drop of the colorless liquid which fell onto the lab bench. They became very dizzy and had severe difficulty seeing and breathing. It took them three weeks to recover fully.

Schrader has just discovered the first class of nerve agent known to man. Tabun or GA is the first in the G-series of nerve agents discovered by the "father of nerve gas."

Immediately, the Nazi government instructed Schrader to change the focus of his research from killing insects to humans. New factories dedicated to the production of tabun were built, and the Nazi stockpiled over 12,000 tons of tabun. In the following years, Schrader refined two more compounds in the G-series, sarin (or GB), soman (GD) and cyclosarin (GF), but the Germans stuck to tabun as their main chemical weapon.

How Sarin Got Its Name

Sarin, which was 500 times more toxic than cyanide, was named in honors of the people who first discovered it: Schrader, Otto Ambros, Rüdiger and Hermann Van der Linde.

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The Joking Disease

Did you hear about this one: Your dad constantly tell bad jokes in socially inappropriate situations. That's just dads being dads ... or is it? Maybe he's suffering from the Joking Disease.

No, it's not a joke: though rare, the Joking Disease or witzelsucht (derived from the German word witzeln meaning to joke and sucht meaning addiction) is quite real. The neurological disease is caused by damage to the frontal lobe of the brain. People with witzelsucht compulsively tell jokes and puns, but do not seem to "get" the humor - they don't laugh or smile, nor do they show any emotional reaction to jokes, either their own or other people's.


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The World's First E-Commerce Transaction Was a Drug Deal

According to John Markoff in his 2005 book What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry, the first online ecommerce transaction was a drug deal:

In 1971 or 1972, Stanford students using Arpanet accounts at Stanford University's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory engaged in a commercial transaction with their counterparts at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Before Amazon, before eBay, the seminal act of e-commerce was a drug deal. The students used the network to quietly arrange the sale of an undetermined amount of marijuana.

Mike Power of The Guardian has more: Link


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Brainteaser: Name That Heiress

Proving once again that the rich get richer while the rest of us get jealous, this person will get two pots of gold at the end of the rainbow -one from her family, and one through her own talent and hard work. The answer is not Audrey Hepburn -this just seemed like an appropriate image for the subject.

* She was born in New York; her father was born in Paris.

* Her grandfather was a hero in the French Resistance during World War II.

* Her father's name is Gerard, but he uses "William" in the United States, where he runs a business, because he thought his real name sounded too French.

* He is worth and estimated $3.4 billion.

* She moved to Washington, DC, when she was two, after her parents divorced.

* She studied acting at Northwest University, class of 1982.

* She never graduated.

* She got her first break in 1982, getting a part on a late-night TV comedy.

* She stands to inherit in the neighborhood of $500 million from her father, who is 75.

* She doesn't really need it- she made (and, thanks to syndication, still makes) millions of dollars a year from a TV show in which she co-starred.

* Her role wasn't part of the show's original plan, but after the first episode the producers felt they needed a woman to offset the male characters.

* One of her cousins owned the Adidas Shoe Company.

* Another (distant) cousin starred in The Goodbye Girl.

* After two bombs, she landed a successful TV show all her own.

Who is she? Continue reading to see the answer.

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FedEx Invented the Tracking Number

The tracking number, that string of digits that tell you where your package is and when it's going to be delivered, is so ubiquitous today that you'd probably never believe that there was a time before its existence.

Yet, this obvious piece of information didn't exist before FedEx (then Federal Express) created it forty years ago:

One of FedEx’s great contributions was the tracking number, which has become a standard in shipping. By entering a numeric string into FedEx.com, you can find out exactly where your package is as it works it way toward you. It’s immensely convenient, but that is but a pleasant side-effect. The tracking number was initially an internal process for quality control.

The system, launched in the late 1970s, was created to improve efficiencies. It worked so well that, in 1979, the system was offered to customers as COSMOS (Customers, Operations and Services Master Online System). When the system went online it included early prototypes of handheld computers that scanned package barcodes with wands. FedEx was aware that of the importance of all this data. FedEx founder Fred Smith is famous for saying, “The information about the package is as important as the package itself.”

Roberto Baldwin of Wired has the post: Link


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Medieval Fact: Bears Are Humans' Closest Relatives among Animals

bear and unicorn

I am currently reading The Bear: History of a Fallen King by Michel Pastoureau. It is a history of the bear as a symbol and as a living creature in Europe, especially medieval Europe.

Pastoureau describes how medieval intellectuals classified and described the European brown bear. It was deeply controversial to even contemplate that any animal was related to man, as this conflicted with the belief that man and man alone was made in the image of God. Nonetheless, some people considered three possible animals to be close to humanity: the monkey, the pig and the bear. Pastoureau writes:

For Aristotle and Pliny, the monkey was the closest to humans. This idea found support in some zoological learning in the High Middle Ages, but it considerably troubled Christian values, not only because man had been created in the image of God and any animal of any species was an imperfect creature that could not resemble him, but also because, for medieval sensibilities, the monkey no doubt represented everything that was most ugly, vile, and diabolical; it was an obscene and repugnant creature that it was impossible to associate with the human species [...] Scholasticism finally found a solution in the mid-thirteenth century; the monkey did not resemble man per naturam (by nature) but per imitationem (by imitation); it seemed to resemble man when it really did not resemble him at all. It "simulated," as the word for monkey in Latin indicated: simius. It therefore seemed even more demonic, because it tricked and deceived. [...]

Greek medicine considered the pig the animal closest to man because of its internal organization, notably with regard to the anatomy of the major organs and functioning of the digestive system [...] And medieval Christian medicine, the heir of both, also taught that the pig was "internally" the animal that most resembled man. Moreover, since the Church prohibited the dissection of the human body, at least up to the fourteenth century, human anatomy was often learned through the dissection of a sow or a boar. But that was not done without some reluctance: the pig was in no way an admirable animal. It was an impure creature, an emblem of dirtiness (sorditas) and gluttony (gula), sometimes of laziness (pigritia) and debauchery (luxuria); like the monkey, it found a place in the Devil's bestiary. This is why, although doctors knew that the pig was anatomically a cousin to man, they did not declare the fact too openly and allow clerics to assert that the animal that most resembled humans was neither the pig nor the monkey, but the bear (60-61).

Bears can stand up, grasp and throw objects, climb and dance. When they walk, they plant their entire foot on the ground. Bears are omnivorous. At least one medieval intellectual (William of Auvergne) claimed that bear meat tastes like human flesh. There were also widespread (but inaccurate) beliefs that ursine sexual practices resemble human sexual practices and that humans and bears are interfertile.

Image via Got Medieval


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How Fast Could You Travel Across the United States in 1800?

Thomas Jefferson imagined that what is now the continental United States would consist of three independent nations: from the Atlantic to the Mississippi River, from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains and from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific.

Well, of course, he did. When Jefferson died, railroads and electrical telegraphy were in their infancy. Almost all of the United States was a wilderness. Traversing, let along communicating across the vast continent was a monumental task.

In his 1932 Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States, the distinguished historian Charles O. Paullin showed how long it took to travel across the country from New York City. Look through his maps for 1800, 1830, 1857 and 1930.

Link -via Ace of Spades HQ


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John Wilkes Booth Dressed as Marc Antony

John Wilkes Booth and his brothers

A year before he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth (left) played Marc Antony in a production of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. His brother Junius (right) played Caesar and his other brother Edwin (center), played the traitor Brutus. This production on November 25, 1864 was the only time all three acting brothers starred together in a play.

Link


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After Winning the Nobel Prize in Physics, Niels Bohr Was Given a Perpetual Supply of Beer Piped Directly into His House


(Video Link)

The people of Denmark were justifiably proud when one of their own, Niels Bohr, won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. The famous Carlsberg brewery marked the occasion by giving him a house and piping fresh beer into it continuously, straight from the brewery. Inevitably, this inebriation led to ever greater discoveries by Bohr.

Skip ahead in the video to 2:55. And remember: when studying physics, use a designated driver.

Link -via Ace of Spades HQ


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The Thinnest Skin on Your Body

The thinnest skin is found on your eyelids.

It's a mere 0.05 mm (two thousandth of an inch) thick there. The thickest skin? That's found on the sole of your foot. It's 4 mm (about 5/32th of an inch) thick. That's an 80-fold difference in thickness between the thinnest and the thickest skin in different parts of your body.

Source: 50 Incredible Facts About Skin


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The Chamber Horse: A Nineteenth Century Exercise Machine

Chamber Horse

Before there were elliptical trainers and stairclimbers, wealthy people in Britain exercised on chamber horses:

[...] the user sat on the seat and bounced up and down on the concertina springs as if trotting on a horse. Horse riding was considered a form of healthy exercise.

Link | Photo: Christie's


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Eternal Flame Falls

Eternal Flame Falls

Eternal Flame Falls is not your typical waterfall. This geological oddity outside of Buffalo, New York has a channel of natural gas leading up to its base. When lit, you can see a plume of flame four to eight inches tall.

Link -via The Presurfer | Photo: Mpmajewski


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There Once was a Man Who was a Dwarf and Later a Giant

Neatorama presents a guest post from Today I Found Out, a website where you can learn interesting facts every day. Check 'em out today!


Photo courtesy of TheTallestMan.com - used with permission. Visit their website for more on Adam Rainer

The man was Adam Rainer born in Graz, Austria sometime in 1899 (the exact date isn't known). Rainer's parents were neither tall nor short for the time, with his father measuring in at 5 feet 8 inches (1.72 m) and his mother at 5 feet 5 inches (1.65 m). He even had a brother who matched his father's height at 5 feet 8 inches. This wasn't the case for Adam.

Thanks to the fact that Adam attempted to join the army when he was 18 to participate in WWI, we know that at that age Rainer had reached a height of just 4 feet 6.3 inches (1.38 m), and then at 19 he measured in at 4 feet 8.3 inches (1.43 m) when he tried to join up again. Both times he was considered too short and also too weak to be able to join the military. For reference, the cutoff for someone being classified as a dwarf is usually considered to be an adult height of less than 4 feet 10 inches (1.47 m).

While he was short, according to the medical report, he actually had exceptionally large feet for his height, with his shoes measuring in at a European size of 43 at the age of 18, which is about a size 10 in U.S. sizes. According to Rainier by the time he hit 21, while still barely
classified as a dwarf in height, his shoe size had gone up to a European size 53, which would be about a size 20 in the U.S. (for reference, Shaquille O'Neal wears a size 22-23).

Although his feet were continuing to grow at a remarkable pace, Rainer himself was staying at more or less the same height. That's when something even more bizarre than his clown-feet happened. For a reason unknown at the time, Adam started growing again... rapidly.

What must have initially seemed a blessing to the short Rainer, soon turned into a curse. From his 21st birthday to his 32nd, Rainer grew from just under 4 feet 10 inches tall to 7 feet 2 inches tall (1.47 m to 2.18 m). It should also be noted that his height would have been greater than this, except by his 26th birthday he started developing a severe spinal curve, which continued to progress as he grew. This, and later difficulty in eating, had the negative side effect of leaving Rainer bed ridden for the majority of the latter half of his life.

If that wasn't bad enough, he also went blind in his right eye and his vision diminished in his left. His hearing also started to go and he became deaf in his left ear.

So what caused this extreme shift in height? After a medical exam done by Doctors F. Windholz and A. Mandl, they discovered a tumor on his pituitary gland, which not only explained his rapid growth but his partial blindness as well. As far as the growth is concerned, this tumor resulted in a condition known as acromegaly, where the pituitary gland produces excessive
amounts of growth hormone during adulthood. His vision loss was due to the compression of his optic chiasm, which is where the right and left eye nerves cross near the pituitary gland.

To try to fix the problem, in 1930 doctors removed the tumor, but he still continued to grow, albeit at a much slower rate that seemed even slower than it was because of his spinal curvature continuing to increase. For instance, from December 1930 to May of 1931, his standing height stayed the same, but his spinal curvature increased.

Over the next and final 19 years of his life, Rainer's spinal curve would continue to increase and he'd grow another 6 inches, dying at the age of 51 in 1950 at a height of about 7 feet 8 inches (2.34 m), making him the only known person to spend time officially classified as a dwarf and then as a giant.

Bonus Fact: The word "giant" ultimately derives from the name of a Greek mythological race of giants defeated by the gods, with the help of Heracles, when the giants tried to free the Titans. This race were called "gigas" and were the children of Gaia and Uranus. They were produced when Kronus castrated Uranus, with Uranus' blood fertilizing Gaia. Once the giants were defeated, they were buried deep underground to imprison them. According to Greek mythology, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are caused by the race of giants struggling to free themselves from the depths of the Earth. The Greek word "gigas" evolved into the English word "giant" via Latin and then the Old French "geant", which by 1350 had been adopted into English as "giant". It was first used to describe a person who is exceptionally tall in 1559 and before that simply as an adjective to describe some attribute that a person had that was exceptional.

Check out more neat facts over at Today I Found Out.


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The World's Littlest Skyscraper


Image: Solomon Chaim/Wikimedia

The world's smallest skyscraper is a four-story Newby-McMahon Building in downtown Wichita Falls, Texas. It's only 40 feet (12 m) tall.

So, why is it called a skyscraper? The whole thing began with a scam.

In 1919, oil man and engineer J.D. McMahon claimed that he would build a highrise and courted people to invest. With just a simple blueprint, McMahon raised $200,000 (over $2,500,000 in today's dollar).

After the structure was built as a 40 feet building instead of a 480 feet one that people were expecting, McMahon calmly explained that it was his plan all along. The 480 figure in the blueprint was in inches - not feet! When he was sued, the judge threw out the lawsuit because the blueprint was technically correct. McMahon promptly fled Wichita.

The Newby-McMahon Building was an instant embarrassment to the city - it didn't even have stairs, so people had to use ladders to reach the upper floors! It was featured in a Ripley's Believe It or Not! column as "The World's Littlest Skyscraper" and the name stuck ever since. Today, the building is a Texas Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


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Monte Carlo Method was Named after the Inventor's Uncle who Loved to Gamble

If you've worked in science, engineering and economics, chances are you've used or heard of the Monte Carlo Method. It's a very useful computational algorithm that uses random numbers and probability statistics to examine a problem. But why was it named that way?

The Monte Carlo Method was thought up by mathematician Stanislaw Ulam, who was playing solitaire on his hospital bed while recovering from a surgery, and named it after his uncle, who had gone gambling to Monte Carlo.


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The Doomed Star Eta Carinae

Boom! You're looking at the doomed binary star Eta Carinae which looks like it's exploding. The two lobes are actually hot gaseous matters and dust which are moving outwards at about 1,500,000 mph. Each of those lobes is about the size of our solar system (Eta Carinae itself is about 100 more massive than our own Sun).

First catalogued by astronomer Edmond Halley (of the Halley's Comet fame), Eta Carinae is a very odd star. In the mid 1800s, the star brightened significantly like it was going supernova, but actually, it didn't really explode. Eta Carinae survived though probably not for long.

Astronomers surmise that because of its mass and stage of life, Eta Carianae is expected to explode in a supernova or even hypernova sometime in the future. How soon? Nobody knows. It could be next year or a hundred thousand years from today. In the meantime, enjoy the photos!

Via Neatorama Facebook Page, where we've got tons more neat stuff!


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The Phantom Town of Argleton

Argleton is a non-existent "phantom" town that appeared only on Google Maps and Google Earth.

It's an empty field in the middle of nowhere. Was Argleton a clever copyright trap used by mapmakers to see if their data are being copied by competitors or was it an honest mistake?

Google ain't telling, and since the town that didn't exist was discovered in 2008, it was erased from Google Maps.


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Indiana Pi Bill Declared the Value of Pi as 3.2

In 1897, the Indiana Pi Bill declared the value of pi as 3.2, a nice, round, but wrong number. It passed the Indiana Assembly unanimously 67 to 0.

It almost became law if not for a math professor who happened to be in the Statehouse lobbying for Purdue University's budget appropriation. Professor Clarence A. Waldo managed to convince Indiana Senators that passing the bill would bring ridicule to the Indiana State Legislature. They postponed the bill indefinitely.


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Scientifically Comparing Apples and Oranges


Photo: Shutterstock

Chemically, apples and oranges are actually quite similar.

Ever hear the terms "comparing apples to oranges"? Well, NASA scientists Scott Sandford compared the chemical compositions of apples and oranges using FTIR and found that the two fruits are actually quite similar to each other! (Source)


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Ghoti is Pronounced Fish in the English Language

Quick, say "ghoti." If you didn't say "fish" then obviously you don't know anything about English spelling.

Try this: pronounce gh as in tough, o as it women, and ti as in nation. That's right, you get "fish." (Wink and nod: ghotl' is the Klingon word for, you guessed it, fish).

Ghoti has been used by advocates of English spelling reform as far back as 1855 (it was later popularized by George Bernard Shaw), though obviously their efforts to simplify the spellings of English words have largely failed.


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Cosmic Latte: The Color of the Universe

Astronomers discovered that the universe has a color, a beigeish white called "cosmic latte."

In 2001, Johns Hopkins University astronomers Karl Glazebrook and Ivan Baldry averaged all of the colors from 200,000 galaxies and came up with ... beigeish white.

When they asked for suggestions for a name of the color in a Washington Post article, a reader named Peter Drum came up with Cosmic Latte. Other name suggestions that didn't get picked include Cappuccino Cosmico, Big Bang Beige, Cosmic Cream, Skyvory, Univeige, and Primordial Clam Chowder.


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ISO 3103: The Standardized Method For Brewing Tea

ISO 3103 is the standardized method for brewing tea.

Do you think you know how to brew a cup of tea? Here's how you should brew one, according to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

To maintain consistent results, the following are recommendations given by the standard:

  • The pot should be white porcelain or glazed earthenware and have a partly serrated edge. It should have a lid that fits loosely inside the pot.
  • If a large pot is used, it should hold a maximum of 310 ml (±8 ml) and must weigh 200 g (±10 g).
  • If a small pot is used, it should hold a maximum of 150 ml (±4 ml) and must weigh 118 g (±10 g).
  • 2 grams of tea (measured to ±2% accuracy) per 100 ml boiling water is placed into the pot.
  • Freshly boiling water is poured into the pot to within 4-6 mm of the brim.
  • The water should be similar to the drinking water where the tea will be consumed
  • Brewing time is six minutes.
  • The brewed tea is then poured into a white porcelain or glazed earthenware bowl.
  • If a large bowl is used, it must have a capacity of 380 ml and weigh 200 g (±20 g)
  • If a small bowl is used, it must have a capacity of 200 ml and weigh 105 g (±20 g)
  • If the test involves milk, then it can be added before or after pouring the infused tea.
  • Milk added after the pouring of tea is best tasted when the liquid is between 65 - 80 °C.
  • 5 ml of milk for the large bowl, or 2.5 ml for the small bowl, is used.

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