A Very Big Comet is Getting Closer

The comet named C/2017 K2 (PanSTARRS) was first spotted by earth observation in 2017 at a spectacular distance of 1.5 billion miles from the sun. Five years later, as it approaches the sun, it will be closest to earth on July 14. The comet will still be several million miles away, but you can already see it with a small telescope. Even after it passes by, we should still be able to observe it from our backyards into September.

C/2017 K2 is big. The nucleus is believed to be at least 11 miles across, with some estimates putting it at 18 or more miles wide. However, the biggest comet we've ever seen is comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein, estimated to be 84 miles wide, but that one won't come nearly as close to earth. If you have a telescope and want to look for comet C/2017 K2, here's a viewing guide with star charts. -via Damn Interesting

(Image credit: Chuck Ayoub)

When Adam Sandler got Fired from Saturday Night Live

In 1995, Saturday Night Live saw a mass exodus in its cast. Most of the departures were voluntary, but Adam Sandler and Chris Farley were fired with no notice. Sandler, who had been with SNL for five years, had been laying out his plans for what he would do going forward on the show when he learned the truth. Farley went on to make movies, but then tragically died in 1997. Adam Sandler has been making movies ever since, and has brought in billions in box office dollars. He is now considered a talented dramatic actor as well as a comedy legend. What appeared to be a blow for Sandler's career at the time turned out to be a blessing in disguise. But was it the right thing for Saturday Night Live? Who knows what would have happened if things had gone differently. Nerdstalgic takes us back to 1995 for the story. -via Digg

A Strange International Stolen Goods Dispute

The bronze head shown above is a 700-year-old treasure of the Ife culture, part of the Yoruba Kingdom in what is now Nigeria. There are only 20 of these heads known to still exist. In 2017, one was presented to Woolley and Wallis auctioneers in London. The agent for the auction house said it would be worth around £20 million ($24.5 million), if it weren't stolen property.

The Jos Museum in Jos, Nigeria, had this head in their collection until 1987, when a gang of thieves made off with nine of the museum's most prized treasures. Most are still missing. However, this Ife head resurfaced in 2007 when an antiques collector bought it in Belgium at a confiscated art auction held by the Belgian police! The Belgians have no explanation for how that happened. The Ife head disappeared again until it turned up in London ten years later. Woolley and Wallace took the sculpture to British police, who have had custody of the head for five years now.

Nigerian authorities want to know why they can't have their bronze sculpture back. The sticking point seems to be the antiques collector, who insists he bought the head legally, and wants to be paid, at first €5 million, but now will settle for €39,000. Nigeria does not want to pay for its own stolen property. The ball appears to be in Britain's hands, but five years later there is no progress in the case. Read the weird story of the stolen head at BBC News.  -via Strange Company

The Pack Horse Library Initiative

How do you send a bookmobile around to places where there are no roads? In the 1930s, eastern Kentucky was full of tiny towns, coal camps, and isolated homesteads, but very few drivable roads to connect them. There were also few libraries, and they had few books. The Great Depression only made conditions worse. To fight illiteracy and help the small rural schools, the WPA launched a New Deal program called the Pack Horse Library Initiative, to deliver books to the most inaccessible Appalachian hollows by librarians or other "book women" riding horses or mules. These librarians and other volunteers had to supply their own horse, but they were paid a dollar a day, which was more than most people in the area were making at the time. They went above and beyond the call of duty, not only delivering books, but reading aloud and teaching classes. Local libraries and volunteers provided the books, and even made some books to share with people who otherwise wouldn't have any exposure to literature of any kind. -via Nag on the Lake   

Water Skiing Turns 100 Years Old

You probably never thought about how old the sport of water skiing is, but it couldn't have been much of a sport before personal motor boats were a thing. The man who invented water skiing was Ralph Samuelson, an avid snow skier, who wondered if it would be possible to ski on water. He was only 18, but this is exactly the kind of thing 18-year-old men do. He tried using snow skis and various homemade boards on Lake Pepin, and finally had to design and build his own water skis. He then had to work out the best procedure for getting on top of the water by trial and error.  

After many attempts, Samuelson was able to stand up on water skis in July 2, 1922, behind a boat his brother was piloting. The site of that accomplishment on Lake Pepin, and the town of Lake City, Minnesota, are also the locations of this weekend's 100th anniversary commemoration of the birth of water skiing. Sadly, Ralph Samuelson didn't patent water skis, and someone else did a few years later. But his place in water sports history is safe. Read about how water skiing came about 100 years ago at Smithsonian.

(Image credit: Scinauticando.com)

Watch These Cats Solve a Puzzle

Roy and Moss are Norwegian forest cats living in Switzerland. The puzzle they are confronted with is designed for dogs, but can be fun for cats, too, if they don't claw the treats out from the top or stick their face down in it like Roy does. I would imagine most cats would knock the whole thing over in a few minutes, and then fight with each other over the treats. But Moss, on the left, stumbles upon the solution once, then seems to remember it for a second attempt. The third level is baffling, though, as that handle is on Roy's side, and the cat is too polite to invade his brother's space. But he finally figures it out. You can almost see the gears going around in the cats' heads. Well, at least Moss's head. Roy is happy to let his brother do the heavy thinking. See more of Roy and Moss at Instagram.  

Chasing the Chocolate Dragon

Amaury Guichon is not just a master pastry chef and professor of the pastry arts, but also a top-tier artist. That expertise on full display with his latest creation. This chocolate dragon is so strong that he can mount it on the wall without any apparent internal supports aside from the chocolate itself. Watch this video of its creation and be wowed by his delicate sculpting of the eyes and scales, as well as the painting of the skin.

About one third of the way into the video, you may think that he’s sculpting something else. But that’s only because you have a dirty mind.

-via David Thompson

A Hip Hop Take on a Traditional Filipino Dance Called Tinikling

The dancers weave in and out of heavy bamboo poles that are rhythmically clapped together. They have to jump quickly and at just the right times, lest their ankles get hit.

This is tinikling, a traditional dance from the Philippines. It's named after a chicken-sized, long-legged bird of the same name. This bird is known for jumping up and down in rice paddies, deftly avoiding bamboo traps set for them.

Philstar News reports that this performance from last April shows members of the Filipino Student Association at the Georgia Tech University performing a modern, hip hop inspired version of the traditional dance.


This Love Story Saved A NYC Chocolate Shop

Power of love, indeed! 

Mark Libertini, Kellner Libertini, and their love story managed to save a 90-year-old chocolate shop in Queens. The two met at a tapas restaurant that he used to own, where they bonded over the idea of food being therapy. 

When they started dating, they moved to Queens, where Mark found Aigner Chocolates was closing down. Deciding that this must be a sign to take the business and make it his own, the couple signed a property contract and re-opened the shop in time for Halloween 2015. 

Ever since then, the shop has been donating to various causes and continuing to spread their love for each other through their passion for chocolate! "Our vision is to share our love for the art of making chocolate to make the world a better place," Kellner said, "and we created that vision statement seven years ago, not knowing what the last two years were going to bring."

Image credit: Lisa / Pexels

Are We Actually Fictional Characters?

Welcome to this week’s existential crisis moment: are we merely characters of our own creation? What if we are just merely living in a sci-fi-esque simulation as a random fictional character, subject to the whims of the writer of this story? 

Nick Chater believes this to be true. According to him, our moment-by-moment stream of consciousness is technically us writing our autobiography. He also cites modern scientific fields such as neuroscience, psychology, and AI as pushing toward this narrative. “The conclusion that the stories we tell ourselves about our motives, beliefs, and values are not merely unreliable in their specifics but are fictitious through and through. They are improvisations, created in retrospect by the astonishing story-spinner that is the human mind,” he explained further. 

Image credit: cottonbro

The Next Skyrim Port Is Coming, Apparently

Yep, another one. There are reports circulating that Bethesda’s highest-selling game is heading to the Nintendo Switch… again. 

But doesn’t the console already have this game? Well, not the Anniversary Edition! A digital game rating committee listed this edition as a title coming to the Switch real soon. 

For reference, the Skyrim Anniversary Edition includes the base game, all the DLC and mods, and other new bits of gameplay. Well, it seems that we can expect an announcement soon. 

Image credit: Bethesda 

Grand Canyon Tourists Are Suddenly Getting Sick

Oh, dear. 

The Grand Canyon National Park is currently experiencing an outbreak. It has affected over 118 people who visited the location. The sickness is a gastrointestinal illness that closely resembles norovirus, a disease that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, body aches, and mild fever.

To prevent the illness from spreading further, the park has been issuing alerts since May. “We haven’t seen something like this kind of outbreak in about 10 years,” Jan Balsom, chief of communications, partnerships, and external affairs at the Office of the Superintendent at Grand Canyon National Park, said.

Image credit: Josh Sorenson

Elden Ring On The Gameboy

If you don’t have a good PC or a PS5 to play FromSoftware’s latest Souls game, Elden Ring, worry no longer– you can now play a section of the game for free on any kind of computer. 

The only downside (if you call it that), is that the widely-playable version is a Game Boy remake of Elden Ring. Made by Shin and posted on itch.io, the game is turned into a top-down adventure, kind of like playing an old Zelda title. 

Check out the game here!

Image screenshot via Shin /itch.io 

The World's Oldest Pharmacy Still in Operation

The Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, or in English, the Perfume and Pharmaceutical Officine of Santa Maria Novella in Florance, Italy, is the oldest pharmacy still in business. It was established by the monks of the city who were growing and experimenting with medicinal herbs in the 13th century. One grateful and wealthy patient built them a chapel which became their laboratory for making medicines. In 1612, it opened to the public to sell concoctions like Seven Thieves Vinegar to ward off plague, ladybug liqueur, and the world's first alcohol-base perfumes.

The apothecary is still open to the public, but it's also a museum because it has changed little since the 16th century. You can still buy  Seven Thieves Vinegar under the name Aceto Aromatico. The pharmacy has other locations, too, and even a website to sell their products. Read a short history of the Santa Maria Novella pharmacy at Messy Nessy Chic.

Larry, Episode One

We knew that Auralnauts was planning a series about Larry, a previously obscure Star Wars character who looks a lot like Ewan McGregor. It appears they made their fundraising goal, because episode one is here! The first three minutes are a less-than explanatory montage setting up the story. Then Larry explains his party background to Luke Skywalker. They managed to take clips from many different Star Wars films plus Obi-Wan Kenobi and make it a lot of fun. The first episode mainly deals with Larry trying to borrow some cash. Auralnauts say there will be six episodes in all, just like Disney+'s Obi-Wan Kenobi miniseries. -via reddit

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