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Trove Of Artifacts Found At A Site Of 19th Century Alabama Tavern

Now this is a surprise! Pottery, glass, and nails were discovered by archaeologists at the site of an inn and tavern in Florence, Alabama. The team from the University of Alabama’s Office of Archaeological Research excavated the site, now called Pope’s Tavern Museum, and unearthed artifacts dated to the 1830s, and some are even estimated to predate Alabama’s admission as an official state in 1819: 

During the Civil War, Union and Confederate forces occupied Florence at different times. Both sides used Pope’s Tavern as a hospital and command center, notes Florence-Lauderdale Tourism on its website.
Today, the museum houses a number of Civil War artifacts, including a rare Kennedy long rifle and a Confederate colonel’s uniform. Staff are currently preparing for an exhibition exploring slavery and cotton in the Florence area. Among the topics set to be covered is the role enslaved workers played in constructing some of the area’s significant buildings, including Wesleyan Hall at what’s now the University of North Alabama.
Excavations at the site began with measurement of the yard in May. Then, technicians scanned the ground for anomalies and used the data to determine where to dig test pits. In addition to the pottery and other small items, archaeologists found the remains of a brick structure that may have been a hearth, privy or outbuilding, reports the Associated Press (AP). Murphy says they’re conducting a microscopic analysis of the building materials.

Image credit: Jimmy Wayne via Flickr under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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Ancient War Tactic Found In Modern Mathematics

That’s nice. In order to keep troop counts a secret from enemies, ancient Chinese generals employed a mathematical technique that is very much alive in today’s modern mathematics. The ‘math trick’ involved the generals dividing their troops into different sections and rows until they had enough information to determine the total number of their soldiers without explicitly counting. In modern terms, this trick is now known as the Chinese remainder theorem:

The theorem allows you to find an unknown number if you know its remainders when it’s divided by certain numbers that are “pairwise coprime,” meaning they do not have any prime factors in common. Sun Tzu never proved this formally, but later the Indian mathematician and astronomer Aryabhata developed a process for solving any given instance of the theorem.
“The Chinese remainder theorem gives you an actual recipe for making a number,”said Daniel Litt of the University of Georgia.

To learn more about the theorem, check Quanta Magazine’s full piece here! 

Image credit: wikimedia commons 

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The Roman Colosseum’s Twin

The famous tourist destination and architectural marvel has a twin, and it’s not in Rome! The Amphitheater of El Jem is the largest and most well-preserved Roman structure in Africa. Located in the modern-day city of El Djem, Tunisia, the structure was designed to seat 35,000 people. The massive theater was modeled after the Roman Colosseum, as Open Culture details: 

Although the small city of El Jem hardly features on tours of the classical past, it was, in the time of the Amphitheater’s construction, a prominent site of struggle for control over the Empire. The year 238 “was particularly tumultuous,” Atlas Obscura explains, due to a “revolt by the population of Thysdrus (El Jem), who opposed the enormous taxation amounts being levied by the Emperor Maximinus’s local procurator.” A riot of 50,000 people led to the ascension of Gordian I, who ruled for 21 days during the “Year of the Six Emperors,” when “in just one year, six different people were proclaimed Emperors of Rome.”
From such fraught beginnings, the massive stone structure of the El Jem Amphitheater went on to serve as a fortress during invasions of Vandals and Arabs in the 5th-7th centuries. A thousand years after the Islamic conquest, El Jem became a fortress during the Revolutions of Tunis. Later centuries saw the amphitheater used for saltpetre manufacture, grain storage, and market stalls.

Image credit: wikimedia commons 

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These Transparent Solar Panels Last For Three Decades!

You’ve heard of transparent wood, now get ready for transparent solar panels! Engineers from the University of Michigan and other institutions developed a solar panel that has an estimated lifespan of 30 years! In addition to the device’s long life, it’s also transparent and highly efficient. According to the researchers, the solar panel could be used to create entire spaces by itself: 

Currently, the most efficient solar panels are made from silicon, but the material isn’t transparent. Two types of materials are used in solar cells known as “non-fullerene acceptors” and “fullerene acceptors.” The former is more robust but less efficient than the latter.
A typical solar cell created using non-fullerene acceptors can achieve an efficiency of 18 percent, near that of a silicon cell. However, they don’t last as long. In experiments, researchers on the project showed that without using methods to protect the material in the panel that converts sunlight to electricity, efficiency declined to less than 40 percent of the initial value within 12 weeks when exposed to the sun.
Engineers studied the degradation in the unprotected solar cell and discovered where they could improve the design. The improvements included blocking UV light by adding a zinc oxide layer to the sun-facing side of the glass. They also integrated a thinner zinc oxide layer adjacent to the region of the cell that absorbs light but also had to add a layer of material called IC-SAM made from carbon to prevent the zinc oxide from breaking down the light absorber. Finally, another layer was added consisting of a fullerene shaped like a soccer ball to protect the light absorber.

Image credit: Slash Gear

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Was This Celestial Object Really An Asteroid?

Oumuamua has been the subject of debate for astronomers for years. The cigar-shaped celestial object showed up in our sky in 2017, and was classified as an asteroid. However, some of its inexplicable properties are a source of discourse concerning its true classification. Some consider it to be an alien craft of some sort, while some hold ground that the Oumuamua is an asteroid: 

Now, there's a new chapter in the saga of this mysterious 650-foot-long tube-shaped object. Earlier this year, researchers at Arizona State University published a new study claiming to "resolve" the mystery surrounding 'Oumuamua (pronounced "oh moo ah moo ah").
Published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, the researchers stated in a pair of papers that 'Oumuamua was likely a nitrogen ice ball, perhaps from a planet like Pluto yet in another solar system — not an artificially made light-sail spacecraft, comet, or interstellar ball of dust, as some researchers have previously suggested. Nitrogen, the primary component of Earth's atmosphere, occurs primarily as a gas on our home planet; yet in very cold conditions, it can freeze and become solid or liquid. The frigid surface of Pluto, for instance, contains a substantial amount of nitrogen ice.
'Oumuamua's characteristics, the Arizona State University researchers argued, suggested the strange object bore similarities to the surface of Pluto.
"This research is exciting in that we've probably resolved the mystery of what 'Oumuamua is and we can reasonably identify it as a chunk of an 'exo-Pluto,' a Pluto-like planet in another solar system," said Steven Desch, an astrophysicist at Arizona State University and an author of the new study, in March 2021. "Until now, we've had no way to know if other solar systems have Pluto-like planets, but now we have seen a chunk of one pass by Earth."

Image credit: Getty Images/Aunt_Spray

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20 of the Hardest Jeopardy! Questions of All Time

Whether a Jeopardy! question is difficult or not all depends on whether you know the answer. If you know a bit of trivia that the three contestants on TV at the time don't know, that makes you a champion, right? Esquire gives us a second chance to outdo those contestants.

Below, we’ve rounded up 20 Jeopardy questions that fall in a rare and ignominious category called “triple stumpers”—a.k.a., legendarily hard questions. A triple stumper is a clue for which no correct response is given by any player. That can mean a few things: either some or all of the players buzz in incorrectly, or no one buzzes in at all.

Be warned that each answer is printed right below the question, so you should control your scrolling to avoid spoilers. I got about half of them, but whether I would be faster than the next contestant is unlikely. See all 20 questions here, and don't miss the video in which three intellectual contestants prove they know nothing about football. -via Digg

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Monsignor Martinez

Mike Judge made a pilot for a show called Monsignor Martinez (Las Dias Y Los Noches de Monsignor Martinez) and it's only 20 years later that we get to see it. Well, at least the live-action version. The animated version is a recurring bit in the show King of the Hill. Monsignor Martinez is a Catholic priest who kills drug smugglers. Yeah, it's an action series. I would watch this religiously! -via reddit

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The Weirdo American Who Invaded Mexico, Nicaragua, And Honduras (Without U.S. Permission)

The Filibuster Movement, or filibusterism, of the 19th century was an outgrowth of the idea of Manifest Destiny. There were many who believed that Americans were destined by their superiority to expand across the continent, or even further, to bring civilization to the New World. Filibusters were men who dared to pursue this by invading other nations with their own private forces independent of the US government. The most noted among them was William Walker. In 1853, Walker decided to claim some land in Mexico.

Now, invading a country with whom the U.S. was at peace may seem like it would be breaking laws, and that would be correct. It was a direct violation of the Neutrality Act. This did not stop Walker, though, who recruited a small group of adventure seekers (who were really just looking for opportunities after failing to get rich from the Gold Rush) and found a ship to sail from the Bay Area to Baja California in Mexico. His original ship was taken by the American military, which was cracking down on filibusters, but the ambitious Walker simply found another and snuck away with a makeshift army of fewer than 50 men.

On November 3, 1853, after landing in Baja California, Walker captured the state capital of La Paz and proclaimed the region the Republic of Lower California. The new country, which was never recognized as a country, needed a leader, and Walker was, naturally, made the president. This invasion may have been viewed as highly illegal by both American and Mexican authorities, but the American public loved it. Filibusters were cool. They embodied Manifest Destiny in a way that no one else did. Because of this support, people actually traveled to Mexico to join Walker’s territory.

Walker's adventures in Mexico ended when he overstepped his bounds, but he had more luck in Nicaragua, where he was recognized as president for a while. He also invaded Honduras. Read the story of William Walker and his temporary conquests at Cracked.

Image: The Costa Rica National Monument depicts five nations chasing William Walker out of Central America. Photo by Mariordo (Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz).

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Italy's Spectacular Abandoned Mountaintop Party Resort

On the side of a mountain in the north of Italy stood a small village named Consonno. It didn't even have a road leading to it, which is eventually important to the story. Wealthy entrepreneur Mario Bagno had a dream of building the ultimate resort, akin to Las Vegas, in Italy, so he set his sights on Consonno. Bagno built accommodations and entertainment facilities and opened the resort in 1967. Today, all that's left is an impressive collection of abandoned buildings, which we will take a video tour of while we learn the story of Consonno. -via Digg

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Colorado Man Finds Golden Ticket; Wins Candy Factory

A year ago, we told you about a real-life Willy Wonka scheme. David “Candyman” Klein hid golden tickets in each state for a treasure hunt that would lead up to awarding someone with a candy factory. That someone is Andrew Maas, who followed clues for a year and ultimately found the last golden ticket at a park in Kokomo, Indiana.   

Maas registered his find on the treasure hunt website. Twenty minutes later, Klein called him while he was still in Highland Park and told him he had won. He had just won the candy factory.

Maas was floored. He now owned the plant, which makes an edible sand-art treat called Sandy Candy, along with other sweet concoctions. But he knew he couldn’t pick up his wife and two kids and move them to Florida to run the business.

Instead, the two are now working on an agreement in which Klein gives him the factory and then buys it back from him. Maas said he’s fine with whatever the agreement turns out to be.

Maas said the excitement and adventure of the treasure hunt was the real draw, but he's glad to have the money. Read how Kokomo was chosen for the final destination, and how Maas solved the clues to find it at the Kokomo Tribune.  -via Fark 

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The House with a Built-in Skateboard Ramp

You may have seen people build skateboard ramps and pipes in their backyards. But Macu Bulgubure, an architect, has incorporated that convenience into the design of this house in Rosario, Argentina.

Continue reading

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Circassian Beauty in the American Sideshow

German theorist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach studied and wrote of racial hierarchies more than 200 years ago. He posited that the epitome of racial superiority were the people of the Caucasus Mountains, particularly the region of Circassia, which is why we use the word "Caucasian" today. In the US in the 19th century, putting the word Circassian in front of any beauty product meant it would sell well. In 1865, as Americans were dealing with issues of race at the end of the Civil War, P.T. Barnum debuted his first Circassian Beauty, a woman named Zalumma Agra.    

A staple of dime museums and traveling shows throughout the nineteenth century, Circassian beauties were alleged to be from the Caucasus Mountain region, and were famous for both their legendary looks and their large, seemingly Afro-textured hairstyles. The Circassian beauty was an attraction that required audiences to hold a number of ultimately unresolvable stereotypes in tension with each other. These women were presented as chaste, but were also billed as former harem slaves. They were supposedly of noble lineage but appeared as sideshow attractions. And they were displayed to predominantly white audiences for an exoticism that traded on hair associated with Black women, which came coupled with the paradoxical assurance that, being Caucasian, Circassian beauties represented the height of white racial “purity”.

Zalumma Agra came with a perfectly exotic backstory as a Circassian slave rescued from Turkey, but more likely she was a white performer who had super-curly hair. Or, as seen in later versions of the Circassian Beauty, she altered her hair to fit the part. But the fact that these acts lasted into the 20th century reveals the audience's fascination with race and the politics that surround it. Read the history of the sideshow Circassian Beauties at the Public Domain review. -via Nag on the Lake

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Bending Legos

This video is from the Youtube channel Brick bending. The unusual use of Lego constructions hovers between magic and art. I'm now waiting for the ASMR version and I'll be in paradise! :)

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Astronomy Photographer of the Year Awards 2021

Royal Museums Greenwich, home of the Royal Observatory, has announced the winners of their annual Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition. The grand prize goes to Shuchang Dong, who traveled to Tibet to get this image of the solar eclipse of 2020, titled The Golden Ring. To his dismay, it was a cloudy day, but the heavens opened up just long enough to get this picture of the corona.  

The winner in the Stars and Nebulae category is British photographer Terry Hancock for this image called California Dreamin' NGC 1499. See the winners in each of eight categories plus two other awards, with links to other photographs in the shortlist for each category.

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Invention from 1928: Shock Absorbers for the Breasts

Inventor Ralph Woltstem doesn't call them shock absorbers, but that's basically what he had in mind when he filed this patent in 1928. In order to provide breasts with the support that they need during vigorous movement (e.g. anime), he proposed installing springs that support each breast from the bottom:

Another object of the invention is to provide a breast supporting device in which the breast supporting member is normally held in a vertical position by equalizing springs which allow lateral movement to be imparted thereto upon side bending body movement of a wearer so that upon the return to an upright position, the said breast supporting member will automatically return to normal position, thus readily adapting itself to the said body movement of the wearer.

I see no historical evidence that Woltstem's invention entered mass production.

-via Weird Universe

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