Kushim, the Bad Accountant of 3,000 BC

A clay tablet from ancient Sumer tells quite a story. It is rare that records that old have any name attached to them, and when they do, it's usually royalty. Common people doing common work came and went, leaving no trace of who they were. But Kushim kept track of the barley trade in the city of Uruk, and he put his name on the receipts for shipments, signing them "administrator Kushim." That in itself makes the tablet, dated between 3,400 and 3,000 BC, an important artifact. But once translated, it shows that Kushim wasn't much of an accountant. The barley tallied on the front of the tablet should equal 3,910 bowls (a unit a bit bigger than a gallon). But the total Kushim etched on the back is 3,895 bowls.

Kushim was 15 bowls short. This could be a math error, indicating that he might have been in the wrong job. Or it could mean he was skimming some of the barley for himself. Either way, it's not the only math discrepancy in the ancient tablet, which you can read about at Historic Mysteries. One has to wonder if Kushim would have done anything different if he knew his work would be examined 5,000 years later. -via Strange Company

Amazing LEGO Domino-Stacking Machine

We know how much fun it is to topple a row of dominoes. What's not so fun is picking them up again, or even worse, stacking them upright again. Could someone design a machine that does that? That would be pretty complicated, because dominoes may fall in exact lines, but they end of on the floor in a jumbled mess. Grant Davis not only made a machine that can reset dominoes even when they misalign, he made it entirely out of LEGO parts! More than 4,000 LEGO pieces, which took him between 300 and 400 hours to conceive, design, and build. It picks up dominoes, stacks them in alignment, and topples them, too. -via Gizmodo

Her Mother is Also Her Uncle

A young girl underwent a DNA test to establish her paternity. The results that came back were so confusing that the science director of the genetic institute in Colombia, Juan Yunis, assumed the sample was contaminated and ordered the test done again. But the results were the same. Some parts of her genome excluded her mother as a parent, while others excluded her assumed father. Further tests found that the child's mother had XY chromosomes in her blood, which indicate a genetic male.

Further research showed that the girl's assumed father was, in fact, her biological father, but only when the mother's DNA was excluded. That drew Yunis' attention to more thoroughly test the mother. The mother had XY chromosomes in her blood and saliva, but her hair and cheek cells had XX chromosomes. Parts of the daughter's genome matched each kind of her mother's mismatched DNA. The daughter had inherited some DNA from her mother which originally belonged to her mother's fraternal twin brother, who was never born. That makes the mother a chimera, the result of an embryo that had absorbed and incorporated cells from a twin who had vanished before anyone knew he had existed. Read the convoluted way this all came about, and how it was found, at Grid. -via Digg

(Image credit: DimitrisSideridis)

The Glutton Charles Domery

After a nice Thanksgiving meal, you may feel like you've eaten too much. But you certainly haven't eaten as much as Charles Domery, and you don't do it every day like he did. Born around 1778, Domery began eating everything in sight when he became a teenager. People who watched him eat were astonished at the amount of food he would put away, and when the "food" ran out, he would eat other things like candles and grass. Domery ate raw meat by the pound, and would also consume dogs, cats, and rats. Once during battle, he tried to consume a man's severed leg before it was taken from him.

Domery served with the Polish army, but since there wasn't enough food, he switched to the French army. Captured by the British, he astonished his guards with his appetite until they were feeding him enough for ten prisoners. He still ate the prison cat. Doctors witnessed Domery's feats of eating, but could offer little help in the early 19th century. Today there are a variety of possible diagnoses for Domery's condition, but 200 years on, it's hard to know which one caused his excessive hunger. Read about the man who was known as "The Glutton" at Amusing Planet.

America's Favorite Thanksgiving Pies

A poll taken by YouGov tells us some of what we already know: Americans' favorite pie for Thanksgiving is pumpkin pie (followed by pecan, apple, and sweet potato). However, the devil is in the details. If you asked people about their favorite pie for the Fourth of July, few would select pumpkin. It's a traditional thing. The results showed that most people would enjoy any of the top-ranked Thanksgiving pies. In fact, 82% of Americans would really like an apple pie for Thanksgiving. Apple may not be their favorite overall, but it is a good pie to the most people.

I am an outlier. I used to make mincemeat pie for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, since mincemeat is sometimes available early enough. However, since I always ended up eating the whole thing myself, I am now limiting it to Christmas only. No one needs to eat two whole pies by themselves in a month's time. Mincemeat didn't even show up in the "other" category. Maybe it would be more popular if we renamed it cinnamon pie. -via Digg

Musical Notation Matters- Hear the Proof

You know the song, I know the song, even little schoolchildren know the song "Let It Snow." But just pretend for a moment that you've never heard it before, and you can read musical notation. How would you sing this song? If you don't read music, there are plenty of people who do, and this is what the above sounds like when sung as written.

Oh my ears! Her singing is wonderful, but the rhythm of the song is confounding. The Twitter thread has at least a dozen singers trying to follow the notation. This is from the Twitter account Threatening Music Notation, which deserves a good read.  -via Metafilter

World Record Goldfish Caught in France

Around twenty years ago, Jason Cowler released a small goldfish into the fishery he owned in Champagne, France. He thought it would be something different for his customers to fish for. The fish grew to be quite large, and was nicknamed "The Carrot" after some rare sightings over the years. Now one of those customers has finally caught the fish at the BlueWater Lakes fishery. British angler Andy Hackett needed 25 minutes to reel the goldfish in, which was weighed at 67 pounds and four ounces! That is almost twice as heavy as the biggest goldfish ever caught previously.

The Carrot is a hybrid goldfish, descended from both leather carp and koi carp. Hackett was happy to pose for pictures with his huge catch. Otherwise, who would believe it? After the weighing and the pictures, the Carrot was released back into the lake. Maybe he'll grow larger before someone else catches him.  -Thanks WTM!

Celebrities and Their Dangerous Pets

The lifestyles of the rich and famous sometimes include the ability to find and keep a dangerous wild animal as a pet. Sometimes these animals were more of a private zoo resident than a house pet, like the lions and elephants traded among royal families as gifts and tributes. But there have been plenty of folks who like to flaunt that they can afford to hire a handler and buy tons of raw meat for a creature that the rest of us can't even get near.

The animals include bears, venomous snakes, moose, and big cats of all kinds. Some of the celebrities in a pictofacts list of the 15 most extreme celebrity pets at Cracked are still around. We don't know whether their pets are.

What a Supernova Could Do to the Earth

A supernova is when a star explodes. If our sun were to go supernova, we wouldn't know what hit us. That's not going to happen in your lifetime. But what about a star outside our solar system? That's been happening since the early days of the universe. Supernova explosions are usually too far away to affect earth much, although they can leave evidence we find millions of years later. Kurzgesagt gives us various scenarios for stars at difference distances from Earth, and what would happen if they exploded into a supernova. As the theorectical distances get closer, the process of a star dying is pretty complicated for relatively nearby planets. There is a distance that's a "sweet spot" that will rain destruction on Earth over the course of centuries, leading to a future dystopia. Closer than that, well, that's it. The last two minutes of this video is an ad.

Designing a Better Urinal- with Science!

So you majored in physics and then got a graduate degree in fluid dynamics. What good does that do for the world? The next time someone asks, you can point them to the research that is leading us to a splashless urinal. Mechanical engineer Zhao Pan and his colleagues at the University of Waterloo in Canada (how appropriate) have designed a urinal that employs the same geometry as a nautilus shell, with a round inner surface that ensures a shallow angle to minimize splashing. The tall fixture also accommodates people of various heights. It is the urinal second from the right in the above image.

The team presented their urinal to attendees of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics meeting in Indianapolis today. If the meeting wraps up with a party featuring liberal libations, they may get a real-world beta test. -via Damn Interesting

(Image credit: M. Shi and Z. Pan/University of Waterloo)

A Variety of Effective Cat Traps

(Image credit: cervenit)

Longtime Neatorama readers know that you can trap a cat just by drawing a circle or a box on the floor. Bit if you want to know where your cat is, any number of traps can work. A cardboard box is extremely reliable for this, but other object will work, too, like a paper towel on the floor, or a sink, or a massive LEGO construction. You'll find an endless supply of cat trap images at the subreddit TheCatTrapIsWorking. As you might guess, the images are all of cats that have already been trapped, proving the utility of the materials used. Below, you'll see a child's first cat trap. She caught two cats in her first attempt!

(Image credit: Special-Ferret)

Yes, the possibilities are limitless, but nothing seems to work as often as the standard cardboard box. See 50 cat traps and the cats they caught in a roundup at Bored Panda.

The Amazing Variety of Thanksgiving Stuffing

Daniel Craig doesn't think much of turkey stuffing, but most of us love it. You don't have to stuff it into a turkey; in fact it's easier (and safer) to call it dressing and eat it as a side dish. But whether you call it stuffing or dressing, it is required for an American Thanksgiving feast. Food writer Erik Kim tells us about the astonishing ways that Americans have taken stuffing and made it every which way they can, incorporating their favorite flavors into Thanksgiving. He says you can call it stuffing because it has stuff in it. He grew up with boxed stuffing, but gradually tried out different ingredients to make a side dish to go with the turkey every year.

Kim did his research of recipes from all over the US, and came up with the "perfect" recipe of his own for the New York Times (non-paywalled link) that is very close to the dressing I make every year for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. (I skip the milk.)

Read how stuffing came about in the first place, and how it's different everywhere you go at Atlas Obscura. The article contains links to many different stuffing recipes.

The Purpose of a 65-foot Diving Board

Why would anyone need a diving board that is twice as tall as an Olympic diving platform? The Montreal Olympic Sports Centre has a 20-meter diving platform, to go along with their many other specialized swimming and diving facilities. It was cliff diver Lysanne Richard who talked them into adding the super-high platform. After all, they had room for it, and it's indoors where she can practice out of the cold. Tom Scott (who we know is afraid of heights) climbs up to the platform, but it's Richard who takes the plunge -after she sends her shoes down by zipline.

The 1950s: When Pizza was New and Exotic

The closest business to my house is a pizza place, and there's another pizza outlet next door to it. It's hard to believe there was ever a time when pizza wasn't ubiquitous in America, but when I was a child, the only pizza available was in a kit from Chef Boy-Ar-Dee. In the 1950s, Americans outside of major cities were mostly unfamiliar with pizza. Travelers wrote about it, and it was gradually introduced to the more rural parts of the country. However, to eat one back then, you has to make it yourself. That could go wildly off the rails in some cases. See more newspaper clippings and some advice for making this strange new food called pizza at Boing Boing.

Ryan Reynolds was Behind "The Walking Deadvertising"

If you watched the series finale of The Walking Dead last night, you might have noticed that there were plenty of ads that had zombies in them. While that seems appropriate, there was more to it. Look closer, and you'll see that those zombies were characters that had died along the way in the series.

First, there was Rodney, who was decapitated in season nine and his head left on a pike. Then there was Milton, the Governor's right hand man. And who could forget Gareth, the leader of the Terminus cannibals? Finally, there are two ads starring Andrea, one of the main characters in the first three seasons. All of these zombies were played by the original actors.

It was Ryan Reynolds who put this idea into motion through his Maximum Effort production company. Who knows how effective the ads were, but seeing them was a welcome and lighthearted break during an intense show. Sure, the project was a lot of work for a bunch of ads that would only be broadcast one night, but 1. Reynolds can afford the risk, and 2. they are sure to go viral today.

Update: YouTube has placed the video under an age restriction, although it is advertising from TV. You can watch it here.

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