Miss Cellania's Blog Posts

The Newspaper Hoax that Shook the World

The following is an article from Uncle John's Giant 10th Anniversary Bathroom Reader.

The media's power to "create" news has become a hot topic in recent years. But it's nothing new. This true story, from a book called The Fabulous Rogues, by Alexander Klein, is an example of what's been going on for at least a century. It was sent to us by BRI reader Jim Morton.

Most journalistic hoaxes, no matter how ingenious, create only temporary excitement. But in 1899 four reporters in Denver, Colorado, concocted a fake story that, within a relatively short time, made news history -violent history at that. Here's how it happened.


One Saturday night the four reporters -from Denver's four newspaper, the Times, Post, Republican, and Rocky Mountain News- met by chance in the railroad station where they had each come hoping to spot an arriving celebrity around whom they could write a feature. Disgustedly, they confessed to one another that they hadn't picked up a newsworthy item all evening.

"I hate to go back to the city desk without something," one of the reporters, Jack Toumay, said.

"Me, too," agreed Al Stevens. "I don't know what you guys are going to do, but I'm going to fake. It won't hurt anybody, so what the devil."

They other three fell in with the idea and they all walked up Seventeenth Street to the Oxford Hotel, where, over beers, they began to cast about for four possible fabrications. John Lewis, who was known as "King" because of his tall, dignified bearing, interrupted one of the preliminary gambits for a point of strategy. Why dream up four lukewarm fakes, he asked. Why not concoct a sizzler which they would all use, and make it stick better by their solidarity.
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PubMed Goes to the Movies!

Why see the film when you can read the article?

by Robert E. Pyatt Ph.D.
Assistant Laboratory Director
Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Columbus, Ohio

This is a comparison of classic films and science articles that share the same name.

The movie facts come from the Internet Movie Database. Information about the science articles comes from the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s PubMed database.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)

Starring Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, and Lee Van Cleef. Directed by Sergio Leone.

Spaghetti Western set against the backdrop of the Civil War where 3 men, the good (Eastwood), the bad (Van Cleef), and the ugly (Wallach), race to uncover a hidden stash of Confederate gold.

“The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (with Apologies to Sergio Leone)”

M.V. Connelly, Facial Plastic Surgery Clinics of North America, vol. 16, no. 2, May 2008 pp. 179–82.

Tales of a plastic surgery practice set in a small city including the good (well informed patients who follow all pre and post-op instructions and are “thoroughly pleased with the postoperative results”), the bad (patients who “bring you grief and perhaps damage your reputation”), and the ugly (“disparaging remarks from another surgeon in your area”).

A Night at the Opera

A Night at the Opera (1935)

Starring the Marx Brothers and Kitty Carlisle. Directed by Sam Wood.

The Marx Brothers take on high society as the boys help two opera singers find fame and true love.

“A Night at the Opera”

[no author listed] Mental Health Today,October 2005, pp. 10-1. Touching and comedic tale of “Streetwise Opera,” a company which designs, stages, and performs operas with a combination of professional performers and homeless people.

Bambi Meets Godzilla

(YouTube link)

Bambi Meets Godzilla (1969)

Written and directed by Marv Newland.

Animated short featuring the first silver screen pairing of two of Hollywood’s most memorable creatures with the expected tragic consequences.

“Psychotherapy Research Evidence and Reimbursement Decisions: Bambi Meets Godzilla”

M.B. Parloff, American Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 139, no. 6, June 1986, pp.718–27.

Like a tender doe standing in a sunny forest glen, “policy guiding reimbursement issues for mental health care” faces off against the gargantuan “research evidence of psychotherapy outcome”. Eerily similar ending to its big screen counterpart.

Saturday Night Fever

Saturday Night Fever (1977)

Starring John Travolta and Karen Lynn Gorney. Directed by John Badham.

“The tribal rites of the new Saturday night.” Two New Yorkers, Tony (Travolta) and Stephanie (Gorney), discover passion, maturity, and themselves as they disco dance across Manhattan.

“Saturday Night Fever: A Common Source Outbreak of Rubella Among Adults in Hawaii”

J.S. Marks, M.K. Serdula, N.A. Halsey, M.V. Gunaratne, R.B. Craven, K.A. Murphy, G.Y. Kobayashi and N.H. Wiebenga, American Journal of Epidemiology, vol. 114,
no. 4, October 1981, pp. 574–83.

It’s a whole other kind of fever on this Saturday night as a rubella outbreak infects young adults, with the common place of exposure being a discotheque. Evidence suggests that the virus source was a piano player/singer at the club and that transmission was airborne, rather than person to person, and occurred during his singing.


The article above is from the September-October 2008 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift!

Visit their website for more research that makes people LAUGH and then THINK.

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This Week at Neatorama

Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Lucille Ball. Although Lucy died in 1989, she remains on TV 60 years after the debut of her series I Love Lucy. Why, Lucy pretty much invented the concept of syndicated reruns! Jill Harness explains how in the fascinating article What Do I Love Lucy & Star Trek Have In Common?

We featured a couple of projects from our readers this week. Vlogger Lindsay Boo Barrasse sent us pictures of her Princess Leia Costume Made of Duct Tape, and Nick McBride sent picture of his team's Mac Box Furniture.

Eddie Deezen contributed some historical speculation in Who Was the Real "Georgie Porgie"?

We learned The Poop on Dog Breeding from Uncle John's Bathroom Reader.

“What, Not How”: The Case of Specifications of the New York Bagel came to us from the Annals of Improbable Research.

Mental_floss magazine gave us 5 Foods People Die For.

At NeatoBambino, we had posts about back-to-school items, children's fashions, Comic-Con, the Tooth Fairy, and how to write a secret message on your child's lunch.

We launched another movie giveaway this week: The Transformers Treasure Hunt in collaboration with The Daily What Geek. Congratulations to the winners: terrrtle who got the Canned Unicorn Meat, weelau who got the Wolf Hat, sharbott who got the Sharp Act Knife Sharpener, and Izzalily7 who got the grand prize of the Ultimate Optimus Prime!

In this week's What Is It? game, the item in question is a tool that was used to make cavities in bullet molds during the Civil War, sometimes called a bullet mold cherry. Electronix and Winslow both knew the answer. One was a little earlier; the other was more specific, so we are giving t-shirts to both of them! The funniest answer came from rob, who said,"It happens to be part of an ancient game. Originally called Paleolithic Roulette, it's played much like today's version of Russian Roulette. It is spinned (like a dreidel) and whoever it lands on gets the pointed side rammed into their temporal lobe." For that, he also wins a t-shirt!

Want more? Be sure to check our Facebook page every day for extra content, contests, discussions, videos, and links you won't find here. Also, our Twitter feed will keep you updated on what's going around the web in real time.

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Accidentally Public Proposal

(YouTube link)

Josh Mullins asked Ashlee Baldwin to marry him as soon as she picked him up at the airport. Meanwhile, a local TV news crew was broadcasting just down the sidewalk. The crew spotted Josh and Ashlee in the background of the shot and knew what he was doing. The reporter then just had to talk to them. Link -via The Daily What

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A Tribute to Shark Week

In honor of Shark Week, I Can Has Cheezburger posted a collection of funny image macros featuring (what else) sharks! You could call them LOLsharks. This one is my personal favorite. You can see all seven at the site. Link

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Restaurant Apostrophes

For today's Lunchtime Quiz, the folks at mental_floss took a dozen restaurant names from a list of the top 100 US chains. The question is: does the name have an apostrophe or not? It's harder than you think! I only got half of them right -apparently I haven't paid enough attention. And I don't eat out. Link

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Purple Heart Arrives C.O.D.

You've heard the saying, "Freedom isn't free"? Apparently neither is a Purple Heart. Retired Sergeant Major Rob Dickerson was wounded by a rocket blast in Iraq in 2007. It took years of paperwork for the army to decide that Dickerson had, indeed, been wounded in war. His Purple Heart was delivered with a C.O.D. bill for $21. Dickerson was not pleased.
Dickerson says this is not about him, but other soldiers who may have the same thing happen to them. He says they should get better treatment from the United States Military, especially after laying their lives on the line while serving their country.

"I don't want you to think I'm whining and complaining, because I'm not, I really don't want this to happen to another soldier or any service member of the United States, it's degrading," Dickerson said.

Dickerson did get an apology and a money order for his out of pocket costs, but he says he couldn't cash it, because it was made out to Roy Dirksen, not Rob Dickerson.

Traditionally, the Purple Heart is awarded in a ceremony. Link -via Fark

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The 10 Most Beautiful Swamps on Earth

The words "swamp" and "beautiful" do not often appear in the same sentence. However, wetlands are a valuable part of the environment, and if you look past the mosquitoes, they can be quite fetching. See a collection of gorgeous photographs of swamps around the world at Environmental Graffiti. Pictured is the Pantanal, which spans the borders of Brazil, Paraguay, and Bolivia. Link

(Image credit: Flickr user miquitos)

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Tax-Free Weekends

There are 16 states that help with back-to-school shopping by declaring "tax-free weekends," meaning no state sales tax on certain items during certain days. States running the program this weekend include Alabama, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Iowa, Louisiana, and Arkansas, although exact dates vary.
Before you get too excited though, I should make note of the fact that most states place a dollar limit on what is tax-exempt. For example, Alabama’s tax holiday offers a tax break on any articles of clothing $100 or less. This means that a pair of jeans costing $125 would be taxed but a jacket for $99 would be tax-free, so be aware of any specific rules your state may have during tax holidays.

To help out, BargainJack has assembled a handy chart detailing the dates and limitations for each state, with links to government information. Link

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Rotate Your Owl for Science!

(YouTube link)

Jonti Picking recently found footage of a scientist demonstrating head stability in an owl in 1962 and wrote a little song about it. -via Arbroath

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Runaway Floating Island

An inflated sculpture named "Is Land" was deployed at the Secret Garden Party music festival in Cambridgeshire, England. The £9,000 helium-filled sculpture is seven meters wide and looks like a chunk of land with grass and trees on top. The island drifted off after someone cut the ropes tethering the balloon on July 24th and is now nowhere to be found. Anyone who sees the island is asked to report it to the project's website. Donations to the site will go toward getting a second sculpture ready for Burning Man. Link to story. Link to website. -via Fortean Times

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NASA Spacecraft Data Suggest Water Flowing on Mars

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is sending back data that may indicate that the red planet has some flowing water during part of the Martian year. The streams are small, short-lived, and must be salty -if it is what they think it is.
Dark, finger-like features appear and extend down some Martian slopes during late spring through summer, fade in winter, and return during the next spring. Repeated observations have tracked the seasonal changes in these recurring features on several steep slopes in the middle latitudes of Mars' southern hemisphere.

"The best explanation for these observations so far is the flow of briny water," said Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona, Tucson. McEwen is the principal investigator for the orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) and lead author of a report about the recurring flows published in Thursday's edition of the journal Science.

Some aspects of the observations still puzzle researchers, but flows of liquid brine fit the features' characteristics better than alternate hypotheses. Saltiness lowers the freezing temperature of water. Sites with active flows get warm enough, even in the shallow subsurface, to sustain liquid water that is about as salty as Earth's oceans, while pure water would freeze at the observed temperatures.

"These dark lineations are different from other types of features on Martian slopes," said Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project Scientist Richard Zurek of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "Repeated observations show they extend ever farther downhill with time during the warm season."

NASA has a multimedia presentation in which you can see how the images change over time. Link

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DIY Alien Abduction Lamp

This cool lamp gives an eerie glow as the tractor beam from a UFO finds an Earthling to beam up and study. You may have seen this type of alien abduction lamp for sale, in stores or on the internet, but you can make one yourself for about five dollars! The instructions are at Dollar Store Crafts. Link -via Nag on the Lake

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Minimalist British TV Posters

Stefanos Birbotsukis posted a series of eight minimalist posters for several British TV series. It took a while for Alex to figure out this Mr. Bean poster -and I still haven't, but I haven't seen much British TV, either. He also has posters for Doctor Who, Coupling, How Not to Live Your Life, and Little Britain. Link

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Eight People Kicked Off Planes for Ridiculous Reasons

It happens every once in a while, and over time we end up with a list like this. Air stewards have more power than ever to keep people from getting where they need to go. And some people just seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Like the passenger who was tossed for taking a photograph.
Remember the glory days when air stewardesses were pretty much angelic creatures? Okay so it might have been swayed by the fact that we were young and more angelic ourselves then. But after a passenger decided to photograph the name tag of a particularly rude employee, she was confronted and told to delete the photo. Even after she obliged, she was still considered a security risk and thrown off.

Read the other stories at ShortList. Link

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Mac Box Furniture

Nick McBride of Juniata College sent in pictures of some fun his department had with leftover Macintosh computer boxes. They made furniture out of them!
The couch that we put together can hold 2 or 3 people, has built in
cup holders, and would retail for $12,000 (if you purchased the Macs
to make it). We kept all the internal foam pieces to further reinforce
the sitting areas.

The easy chair was built the same way.

-Thanks, Nick!

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Hey, Grate Goat!

Hang this illusion plaque in your home and just go about your business. Sooner or later, a guest will freak out, and you'll have a laugh that's well worth the $30 this artwork cost. Designed by Brooklyn artist Dan Witz. Also available in human and Tazmanian Devil. Link -via Dangerous Minds

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Around the World in a Minute

(vimeo link)

This video is named Move. It's part of a trilogy of videos from director Rick Mereki, director/producer Tim White, and actor Andrew Lees. They traveled 38,000 miles to 11 countries in 44 days and produced three videos. The others in the trilogy are Eat and Learn. Click "more" to see them.

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Games of Thrones Visual Effects

(YouTube link)

If you've been following the HBO series Game of Thrones, you may be a bit unsettled to see how BlueBolt created that fantasy world through visual effects. I am impressed with the things they can do with green screen these days! May contain spoilers, but only the first season is on this video. -via Geeks Are Sexy

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Vote for the Best Science Fiction

NPR is trying to create a list of the best 100 science fiction books. Their audience suggested thousands of titles, which they narrowed to only several hundred, on which you are invited to vote.
Scrolling through the list of great science fiction and fantasy reads below will feel like a journey back in time for some of us, a voyage of discovery for others. But novice or veteran, everyone loves a contest. So, let the voting begin!

Here's how: Everyone gets 10 votes. Select your top 10 favorite titles, and then scroll down to the bottom of the poll and click "Submit." Feel free to lobby for your favorites in the comments. We'll be back in about 10 days with the results.

Even deciding on just ten will be difficult! Link -via Metafilter

(Image credit: Chris Silas Neal)

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The 10 Most Important Kisses in the Universe

Pucker up as we explore 10 smooches that changed religion, art, culture, and history.

1. The Kiss of Judas: A Betrayal or Just Misunderstood?

Nothing ends a good "bromance" quite like flagrant, murderous betrayal. A long time ago, a wandering preacher named Jesus was doing pretty well for himself—building up a following and promoting religious teachings—until one of his buddies sold him out to the authorities. In exchange for 30 pieces of silver, Judas Iscariot kissed Jesus on the cheek and, by doing so, identified him to Roman soldiers.

Although Judas double-crossed his best friend for a paltry sum, some scholars argue that Judas is the secret hero of Christianity. The claim is based on a recent translation of The Gospel of Judas, a text written by Jesus’ followers a couple hundred years after his death. In 1978, a farmer discovered the mysterious text in Egypt and sold it to an antiques dealer. Years later, a National Geographic Society team got hold of it. They restored and analyzed the document, and in 2006, they announced that the text painted Judas as a man of valor. According to their interpretation, he was actually Jesus’ most trusted friend, because he agreed to fake a betrayal so that Jesus could die a martyr and then be resurrected.

Soon after the National Geographic Society released its findings, other scholars started picking the interpretation apart. Chief among them was April D. DeConick, a Rice University biblical studies professor, who claimed the team made some critical errors, including translating several passages to mean the exact opposite of what they were intended to communicate. DeConick contends that the Gospel says Judas was a “demon” rather than a “spirit,” as interpreted by National Geographic, and that he was set apart “from the holy generation” rather than “for the holy generation.” With just a few tweaks in translation, Judas has gone right back to playing the bad guy.

2. The Kisses You Can Share with a Quaker

(Image credit: Wikipedia user Beatrice Murch)

The Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, is a small Christian sect best known for rejecting all forms of violence, embracing progressive politics, and dedicating themselves to simple, restrained living. They’ve promoted a more harmonious world by founding causes such as Amnesty International, not to mention lending their name to oatmeal.

So we were surprised to learn that when teenage Quakers get together, their favorite activity is a free-for-all kissing game that often ends in bruising and rug burn. Alternately known as Ratchet Screwdriver, Bloody Winkum, or Wink, the game dates back to the early 1900s. To play, participants divide themselves into girl/boy pairs with one boy left over to be the “Winker.” The pairs sit on the floor, with each boy hugging a girl from behind. When the Winker winks at a girl, she tries to scramble across the room to kiss him, while her male partner does his best to hold her back. Hilarity (and release of pent-up sexual frustration) ensues.

But not everyone finds this game so hilarious. In 2002, the Children & Young People’s Committee of the Quakers in Britain issued a statement discouraging the game at official functions. And while that may not seem surprising, the reasoning is. The committee frowns upon the game because younger children and adults don’t get to play, thus making it ageist. Due to their egalitarian values, Quakers seldom segregate by age at get-togethers, and the committee didn’t want the very young or the very old to feel left out.

3. The Kiss that Proved No Means No

Gentlemen, a word: When a lady rejects your advances, you’d do best to listen. Take, for example, the story of Thomas Saverland, an English gentleman who was at a party in 1837 and, as a joke, kissed Miss Caroline Newton by force. In response, she bit off a chunk of his nose.
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5 Foods People Die For

Gathering Iwatake at Kumano. Woodblock print by Hiroshige II.

When making soup requires scaling a cliff, and grabbing a few olives involves avoiding gunfire, it’s time to find some comfort food that’s a little more comfortable.

1. Iwatake

The annals of Arctic exploration are filled with accounts of frostbitten limbs and near starvation. In fact, many adventurers have reported being so hungry that they’ve scraped papery-crisp lichen off rocks and boiled it into passably edible food. One outdoorsman even claimed that if braised shoe leather was in a taste-test with lichen, the shoe leather would come out on top. And yet, this very same survival food is considered a delicacy in Japan. There, iwatake (iwa meaning rock, and take meaning mushroom) is so highly sought-after that harvesters are willing to rappel down cliff faces for the precious growths. (It takes about a century for the lichen to get to a worthwhile size.)

Needless to say, this is specialty work. As if the rappelling isn’t tricky enough, iwatake is best harvested in wet weather, because the moisture reduces the chance that the lichen will crumble as it’s pried off with a sharp knife. In its preferred preparation, the black and slimy raw material is transformed into a delicate tempura. And while iwatake in any form doesn’t taste like much, it’s esteemed for its associations with longevity. As for the harvesters? Their longevity’s more questionable. “Never give lodging to an iwatake hunter,” goes an old Japanese adage, “for he doesn’t always survive to pay rent.”

2. Bird’s Nest Soup

(Image credit: Flickr user SpirosK)

Cantilevered high off cave walls and cliffs along the seas of Southeast Asia are the nests of the white-nest swiftlet—a bird that’s managed to turn an embarrassing drool problem into a useful D.I.Y. project. The nests, sturdy constructions no bigger than the palm of your hand, are made from the birds’ spit. Yup, these swiftlets have specialized saliva glands powerful enough to turn their tongues into avian glue guns.

You’d think being stuck in caves high above the ground, and the fact that they’re birds’ nests, would protect them against humans—but no. Ever since sailors first brought the nests home for the Chinese emperor and his family in the first century CE, bird’s nest soup has been a favorite among the country’s elite. Never mind that it’s virtually tasteless; the dish is revered for health reasons.

Of course, acquiring the main ingredient is less healthy. Nest harvesters must stand on rickety bamboo scaffolding hundreds of feet off the ground in pitch darkness. They must also endure unbelievable heat and humidity as they try to avoid all the insects, birds, and bats that live in the caves. In addition, the extraordinary value of the nests means the zones are patrolled by machine-gun toting guards. Harvesting rights are multiyear, multimillion-dollar deals arranged with national governments, and poaching is ruthlessly prohibited. Unarmed fishermen have been shot dead after accidentally beaching in swiftlet territory, and local tour group operators pay exorbitant fees to avoid rifle-assisted leaks springing in their kayaks. It all underscores the fact that being a nest harvester is less of a career choice and more of a life sentence—especially considering that the skill is almost exclusively passed on from father to son.

3. West Bank Olives

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Stiff Fine for Illegal Parking in Vilnius

Arturas Zuokas, mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania, had enough. The mayor was so fed up with illegal parking that he took a spin in a Russian armored personnel carrier, crushing an illegally parked Mercedes along the way.
He said: ”I wanted to send a clear message that people with big and expensive cars can’t park wherever they feel like and ignore the rights of pedestrians and bike riders.

”It shows a lack of respect and won’t be tolerated. Of course, you have to have a sense of humour in my line of work and I thought this would be a way of drawing attention to the fact that the city intends to be proactive in its fight against illegal parking.”

That's at least one driver who won't be parking in the wrong place anymore. Link -via Arbroath

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A Special (Effects) Wedding Video

(YouTube link)

This Russian wedding video is very special to the couple in it, but it reminds me of a Geocities website. Oh, except for the part where they played Pong. That reminded me of Pong.  -via the Presurfer

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The Swedish Man Who Tried To Build A Nuclear Reactor In His Kitchen

An unnamed man in Angelholm, Sweden was arrested for attempting to build a nuclear reactor in his kitchen. He was later released. Authorities doubt he would have seen success, but you never know.
The 31-year-old tells the paper that he was able to buy radioactive waste from foreign companies and picked apart the components in a smoke detector (apparently older smoke detector contain nuclear material). He believes he spent between $5,000 and $6,000 on the project in total.

It was only later when the young man contacted Sweden's nuclear power agency that he realized his project was illegal. Police came to his apartment and confiscated the material. The young man was arrested but later released.

It is uncertain how the project went unnoticed, as the man kept a blog about his experiments. Link to story. Link to blog. -via Breakfast Links

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8-bit Breaking Bad

We've featured Andy Rash's iotacons before, but now he's outdone himself. These are the characters from the TV series Breaking Bad, all rendered in 8-bit iotacons. If you're a fan, you recognize who is who, but if you don't, the character names are at the Iotacon site. Link -via Buzzfeed

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Who Was the Real "Georgie Porgie"?

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website.

Georgie Porgie, pudding and pie,

Kissed the girls and made them cry.

When the boys came out to play,

Georgie Porgie ran away.

Most of us heard this little nursery rhyme when we were kids. Of course, Georgie Porgie, nowadays, would undoubtedly be sued in a class-action for sexual harassment by the ACLU. But who was the real "Georgie Porgie"?

There are two possible historical candidates. One was George Villiers (1592-1628), the handsome son of an insignificant nobleman who soon climbed his way into great favor with King James I.

Rumor has it that he and the king were more than just good friends. This would certainly explain why, within two years, Villiers was made an Earl and then a Marquess. Five years later, at just 31 years old, George became the first Duke of Buckingham. The nursery rhyme is said to ridicule both King James I and George Villiers over their open romantic interest in each other. In fact, the king even proclaimed openly that "You may be sure that I love the Duke of Buckingham more than I love anyone else and I wish not to have that thought to be a defect."

It is now believed by historians studying court diaries and correspondence that the pair were, indeed, lovers. But George Villiers liked to go both ways and also had many affairs with many young ladies of the court, as well as the wives and daughters of powerful Englishmen. This caused resentment all around, but his relationship with the king gave him a certain amount of immunity.

It has also been said that he forced his affections on other unwilling ladies of privileged position ("Georgie Porgie... kissed the girls and made them cry") while managing to avoid confrontation or retaliation ("When the boys came out to play, Georgie Porgie ran away").

The other candidate for "Georgie Porgie" is the Prince Regent (later King) George IV (1762-1830), the hapless son (said to have "half a brain") of mad King George III. Immensely fat ("Georgie Porgie, pudding and pie"), his corset wearing was a constant source of ridicule and satirical cartoons.

By 1797, his weight had reached 245 pounds, and by 1824, his corsets were being made for a waist of fifty inches. This George was unequivocally straight, but he took advantage of his position much like George Villiers had done.

He had a roving eye for the ladies; attractive female visitors who came to parties he gave were often advised not to be left alone with him. His checkered love life included several mistresses, illegitimate children, and even bigamy. George IV had an "official wife," Caroline of Brunswick, who he detested so much he even banned her from his coronation, and an "unofficial" wife, Maria Anne Fitzherbert. She was both a Catholic and a commoner, so their marriage was not formally recognized and remained a secret. He managed to make both women miserable, as well as many other women he forced himself on ("Kissed the girls and made them cry").

In addition to his crude, uncouth love life, George loved watching prizefighting (bare-knuckle boxing), which at the time was illegal. His own physical and emotional cowardice was legendary. This is illustrated by a story of the most infamous prizefight of the day, where one contestant died from his injuries. George was known to have been present at the fight, but when the man died, he ran away, terrified of being implicated in the fallout, and attempted to conceal his presence at the match. ("When the boys came out to play, Georgie Porgie ran away").

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How to Wipe Out a Disease

Smallpox was the first disease to be declared completely eradicated. Last year, we told you that rinderpest, a scourge of cattle and other cloven-hoofed animals, became the second disease completely wiped from the earth by human intervention. Now you can read the story of how it was done.
The long but little-known campaign to conquer rinderpest is a tribute to the skill and bravery of “big animal” veterinarians, who fought the disease in remote and sometimes war-torn areas — across arid stretches of Africa bigger than Europe, in the Arabian desert and on the Mongolian steppes.

“The role of veterinarians in protecting society is underappreciated,” said Dr. Juan Lubroth, chief veterinary officer of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, at whose headquarters Tuesday’s ceremony is being held. “We do more than just take care of fleas, bathe mascots and vaccinate Pooch.”

The victory is also proof that the conquest of smallpox was not just an unrepeatable fluke, a golden medical moment that will never be seen again. Since it was declared eradicated in 1980, several other diseases — like polio, Guinea worm, river blindness, elephantiasis, measles and iodine deficiency — have frustrated intensive, costly efforts to do the same to them. The eradication of rinderpest shows what can be done when field commanders combine scientific advances and new tactics.

The New York Times has the saga of rinderpest, from its effects on ancient civilizations to the successful (but long) eradication process. Link -via reddit

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The King of Hard Currency

Sea captain David O’Keefe spent 30 years on the islands of Yap in the western Pacific. In that time, he established a successful trading company, married two wives (with another waiting in America), introduced alcohol and firearms to the islanders, and gained a monopoly over the island's currency of giant stones called fei. Fei was a rare commodity, as it was quarried and carved on the island of Palau, 250 miles from Yap.
The Yapese may have been using fei as early as 1400, though the stones were so difficult to quarry with shell tools and then transport that they remained very rare as late as 1840. [Price p.76; Berg pp.151-4; Gillilland p.3]  Their existence was first detailed by one of O’Keefe’s predecessors, the German trader Alfred Tetens, who in 1865 traveled to Yap on a large ship ferrying “ten natives… who wished to return home with the big stones they had cut on Palau.” [Gillilland p.4]  It’s clear from this that the Yapese were eager to find alternatives to transportation by canoe, and O’Keefe fulfilled this demand. By 1882, he had 400 Yapese quarrying fei on Palau—nearly 10 percent of the population. [Berg p.150]

This trade had its disadvantages, not least the introduction of inflation, caused by the sudden increase in the stock of money. But it made huge sense for O’Keefe. The Yapese, after all, supplied the necessary labor, both to quarry the stones and to harvest coconuts on Yap. O’Keefe’s expenses, in the days of sail, were minimal,  just some supplies and the wages of his crewmen. In return, he reaped the benefits of thousands of man-hours of labor, building a trading company worth—estimates differ—anywhere from $500,000 to $9.5 million. [Evening Bulletin; Hezel]

Read O'Keefe's story at Smithsonian's Past Imperfect Blog. Link

(Image credit: Eric Guinther)

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