The History of Premarital Blood Tests

If you are of a certain age, you remember when people had to undergo a blood test in order to get a marriage license. In my elementary school, kids who "knew" told us that it was to uncover possible Rh factor incompatibility, which was a thing at the time. Today, young people tell each other that it was a genetic test to make sure the bride and groom were not related to each other, which is demonstrably wrong, because DNA tests just weren't available back then. Eventually we all learned on our own that it was a test for syphilis, a part of a nationwide battle against the disease launched by U.S. Surgeon General Thomas Parran Jr. in the 1930s.

States took up the challenge with tests for people getting married until the majority of states required them. Some states later tested for other diseases, but then gradually dropped the requirement until the last premarital blood test was dropped 2019. Read about Parran's crusade and the results of these required tests at Mental Floss.

(Image credit: Library of Congress)

Remote Control Car Goes Shopping

Personal robots don't have to be super high tech to get the job done. Kael Schoerlin has a FPV RC car (a remote control car with a camera) with a transparent cargo bed and he's not afraid to use it. When he ran out of fish food, he sent the car to get it! The car doesn't have a speaker, but can communicate pretty well by opening its bed and tooting its horn. It also has a tiny "driver" wearing a cowboy hat that will nod its head by remote control. The employees at Petco were delighted to be visited by a toy buying food for a fish, and even more delighted when it responded to them in its own limited way.

The original video is at TikTok. The car also went to get a banana and negotiated a deal, delivered a donation to a food drive, and purchased candy.  -Thanks, WTM!

The Baffling Case of Honeycomb Patterns in Salt Deserts May Have Been Finally Solved

Salt deserts around the world are created differently. For some reason, however, they all seem to share a similarity — they form honeycomb-like patterns of ridges. This peculiar feature of salt deserts has baffled scientists for quite some time. Over the years, two theories have been offered in an attempt to explain the phenomenon. The first theory attributed the honeycomb shapes to cracks that formed as the ground surface dried. The second theory proposed that the edges of the cracks might have pushed upward to form the honeycomb ridges. Neither was able to explain the pattern's ubiquity and regularity. But this new theory, proposed by a team of researchers from Germany and England, could probably be the key to the truth.

The secret of the phenomenon lies beneath the dry crust. The process involves constant evaporation and turnover of salty and freshwater. This explains the regularity of the honeycomb-like patterns of the ridges. This property also seems to be present in all deserts.

While the study does not have an immediate application in the world, Jana Lasser, the physicist who led the study, says that she feels accomplished. She describes the study as "the purest form of research" and a "very, very satisfying experience."

(Image Credit: Anouchka Unel/ Wikimedia Commons)

The Meownooker Cat Toy Set Is A Mini-Pool Table for Cats

One requirement when taking care of cats is keeping them occupied so they won't be bored. One solution to this is giving them toys to play with. Another is buying them catnip to make them relaxed and happy. Or maybe you can do both using the Meownooker Cat Toy Set.

The set includes a miniature table with a felt top and felted billiard balls filled with catnip. It's very likely your cats won't be able to stop playing pool all day (if you can count it as a game of pool, that is).

The Meownooker Cat Toy Set is created by pet goods shop Vetreska and is available over at their site.

Via Technabob

(Image Credit: Vetreska via Technabob)

The Ghost Catfish Can Turn Rainbow Through Its Muscles

Many fish can achieve an iridescent glow through the tiny crystals in their skin or through their scales that can reflect light. The Kryptoterus vitreolus, however, achieves its iridescent glow using its muscles. A team of scientists led by physicist Qibin Zhao discovered the fish's characteristics in their recent investigation.

Zhao's interest in the fish began one day in an aquarium store when he noticed it in front of him. Then the freshwater fish became iridescent. Intrigued, Zhao decided to investigate the fish in the lab, examining it under different lighting conditions. Using a white laser to illuminate the animal's muscles and skin separately, the team found out that its muscles — specifically, its sarcomeres — were the ones responsible for its rainbow glow.

As light passes through the muscles, the sarcomeres' repeating bands bend it, separating and enhancing the light's wavelengths, which creates the rainbow look.

While the iridescent glow is pleasing to the eyes, scientists are unsure about its purpose, but they have a few theories. For one, the iridescence could help the fish visually coordinate movements when they travel in groups (as they live in murky water). It might also help them blend in shimmering water to avoid predators like birds.

(Image Credit: Nan Xi, Xiujun Fan and Genbao Wu via Science News)

Handy Tips from the 19th Century Could Get You Killed

Some people call them "life hacks" today, but in bygone years they were "handy tips" or just "advice." Today they can rack up TikTok views, just like in the old days when they filled magazines that people bought, but the safety and efficacy can range from useful to downright dangerous. Sure, it might have once been a good idea to set your mattress outside in the sun to fight mold and vermin, and lard can heal chapped skin. You can distinguish butter from margarine by burning it, as illustrated above, but wouldn't it be easier to just taste it? However, some of these tips worked on the same principle as hitting your toe with a hammer to get rid of a headache.

For example, a mixture of menthol, cocaine, and boric acid could be snorted to fight congestion. Whether it worked or not, boric acid is poisonous. So is leaving mercury out to fight bedbugs. A pinch of borax might make your expired milk last a little longer, but it is also poisonous.

These old-timey tips sometimes came with a hilarious bit of honesty. One columnist suggested that you use roast peas, grains, or bread crusts if you run out of coffee beans. She added, "None of these are very good." Read all 25 handy tips from way back when at Mental Floss.

(Image source: New York Public Library)

MIT Tackles the Best Way to Eat an Oreo Cookie

I heard my niece is entering the research phase of her PhD course, and had to make jokes about the poor grad students who spend all day counting people in public bathrooms or sifting tons of dirt looking for bone fragments just to be listed as et al in the final publication. However, Crystal Owens of MIT's mechanical engineering department got approval for a study of the physics of an Oreo cookie.

Owens aimed to discover if there is any way to twist open an Oreo and achieve creme sticking to both wafers. You are shaking your head no. At least now it's been scientifically proven. Owens and her team used a rheometer, a device that twists cookies open, to test different twisting speeds and different cookie flavors. This involved gluing the cookies to the rheometer's discs, which takes some of the magic out of the experiment. They tested more than 1,000 cookies, both by machine and with hand techniques. The results showed that 80% of the time, the cookies ended up with all the creme on one wafer, no matter how slowly the cookie was twisted or what method was used.

The researchers suggested that Oreo might turn the wafers over so that the printed side could grab the creme. That's not going to happen, because that's branding. It is evident that the creme is more cohesive than adhesive. If you want to eat an Oreo and have a consistent ratio of creme-to-wafer, you can always bite them like you would another kind of cookie. -via reddit

(Image credit: Jacek Halicki)

The Ancient Roots of Booze and Language

When archaeologists discovered the oldest winery yet -8,000 years old- in Georgia (the country, not the state), linguists weren't the least bit surprised. They had already traced the modern word "wine" back to the region and the era by reverse-engineering it, since it occurs in various forms in so many other languages, in a way that might remind you of prehistoric genetic research. Linguists are a clever bunch. But they believe mead, or honey wine, is even older for the same reasons. Some of our terms for alcoholic beverages are indeed ancient, while the origins of others are just a matter of deciphering the historical record. When our anicent ancestors invented language, and later figured out how to write things down, they wrote a lot about alcohol. Humans have always cherished their booze. PBS's Otherwords gives us a quick lesson in how alcoholic drinks got their names. I'll drink to that! -via Laughing Squid

Canadian Pianist Tony Ann Transforms The iPhone Alarm Tone To A Heartwarming Ballad

You hear the alarm ring amid your dream, and you realize it's time to wake up. Your hands fumble as you search blindly for your phone so you can free yourself from the annoying sound that signals the start of your day.

"Opening" is the iPhone's default ringtone, but you can also use it as an alarm sound.

Canadian pianist Tony Ann takes four notes from the ringtone's motif and repurposes them to create a stunningly beautiful ballad. The result is an inspirational and heartwarming melody.

Tony Ann is known for re-imagining familiar melodies. He also creates songs inspired by everyday life.

Via ClassicFM

(Video Credit: Tony Ann/ YouTube)

Bandai's New Gashapon Capsules Are A Challenge To Open

Gashapon capsules are meant to be opened. After all, you won't even know the toy inside the toy capsule unless you open it. But Bandai challenges us with their new capsule series called Zettai ni Akanai Gashapon (translated as "Gashapon Capsules That Absolutely Won't Open"). It seems the company wants to know how far their consumers will go just to open their capsule toys. And if there's a will, there's a way, and fortunately, you can open these Gashapon capsules, but only if you can solve it. The capsules can be disassembled by moving its part in the correct sequence.

Bandai's new Gashapon capsules has three levels of difficulty, with level one being the easiest and level three being the hardest to solve. But what is inside these capsules, you may ask? Well... there's nothing inside. Your prize is "the satisfaction of solving the puzzle." Yup. These are not really capsule toys but puzzle toys.

(Image Credit: Bandai via IT Media/ SoraNews24)

The Origins of The Jaws Theme and How It Represented the Invisible Shark

If you could instantly name a movie theme just by hearing the first two notes, that theme would most likely be the theme of Steven Spielberg's Jaws, composed by none other than the legend John Williams.

These two notes could now easily be associated with the film. It is one of the most memorable themes in movie history, after all. However, when Williams played it for Spielberg for the first time, the latter thought it was all a joke. But Williams was serious. And as it turned out, these two notes alone were powerful enough to announce the shark's presence, even when the large fish wasn't on screen. The theme also proved a helpful substitute for Bruce (the mechanical shark), as the latter wasn't working all the time.

For Spielberg, Williams became the shark, and the music made the film "a hell of a lot scarier and more suspenseful." Music, indeed, is a powerful tool.

Aside from the Jaws theme, Spielberg and Williams talk about other films and topics in music in this interview with Stephen Colbert.

Via Laughing Squid

(Video Credit: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert/ YouTube)

Navigators From The Marshall Islands Used Wave Charts To Guide Their Way

For the untrained eye, the sea only looks like a featureless expanse of water. But for master navigators of Oceania, the sea is full of signs and clues that could help them reach their destination — from driftwood, birds, and even the direction of the waves.

Navigators from the Marshall Islands use wave charts to travel through the small islands and atolls in the region. These charts, which capture the distinctive patterns of ocean swells, are a result of constant observation of the sea from land. But as these are not maps, they are not brought to sea. Instead, the sailors memorize these stick charts.

Wave charts have three types: the rebbelib, which show whole island chains; meddo, which represent ocean swell patterns in small areas; and mattang, which teach basic interactions between land and sea.

The wave charts have been a crucial element in making the Pacific Ocean trade routes possible. These routes stretched "at some points all the way from New Zealand to South America." Now that's bonkers!

(Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

This is NOT Doctor Rebecca Lee Crumpler

A few years ago, I posted a link to an article about Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, the first Black woman to become a medical doctor in the US. The post links to an article on a now-defunct site that displayed a picture of a woman who is not Dr. Crumpler.

Rebecca Lee Crumpler was a groundbreaking figure with an amazing story that's been posted in many places. She received her medical degree from the New England Female Medical College in 1864 and dedicated her career to the care of Black women and children who were denied medical treatment from white physicians. But there are no existing photographs of Dr. Crumpler.

The many photos purporting to be Dr. Crumpler attached to biographies, quotes, and memes are of other women, many who deserve to be lauded in their own right. The photo above is of Dr. Georgia E. Lee Patton Washington, who was born in 1864 and became the first Black woman to be a licensed doctor (and surgeon) in Tennessee. Fake History Hunter collected quite a few images attached to Dr. Crumpler and identifies who they really are. I'm sure you are disappointed that something on the internet turned out not to be true. -via Strange Company

The Witness Protection Program Explained

Witness protection is crucial for certain legal cases, when testifying against someone might endanger your life. So we have the federal Witness Security Program to make sure that doesn't happen, and that witnesses don't have to risk their lives to tell the truth. WITSEC has never lost a witness who complied with their rules. It's a lot more serious than what we saw in My Blue Heaven. Half as Interesting goes through how the process works. Going into witness protection is a pretty drastic life change, although for certain people, it's a great opportunity to start over. Although I doubt they would ever put anyone up in Aspen, Colorado, because that town is tiny, very expensive, full of rich and famous part-time residents, and requires altitude acclimation. And we find out that a My Blue Heaven situation actually happened at least once, in Orange County, California. The last minute of this video is an ad. -via Digg

Artificial Intelligence Tries to Eat Spaghetti

It's been said that you can tell that a photographic image was generated by artificial intelligence if the number of fingers or teeth are wrong. The industry is well aware of that, and recent updates have dramatically improved how many fingers humans have in such images. But they still have a way to go in understanding humans overall.

Dan Leveille has been experimenting with the March 16th update to the AI program Midjourney. While the people generated are more realistic than ever, Leveille noticed it has a real problem understanding spaghetti and how people in the real world eat it. It's as if spaghetti were specifically invented to make a mess. You can see more images at Geeks Are Sexy.

But let's consider how neural networks learn. They are given boatloads of publicly-available images from the internet. Considering that the 'net is a repository of the world's knowledge, that makes sense. But what kind of spaghetti-eating photographs do everyday people post on social media? The times it makes a mess. There is little entertainment value in posting a picture of someone eating spaghetti in a normal manner, and we don't really want to share pictures of ourselves eating. But we love to make other people laugh. Midjourney was most likely inundated with thousands of images of toddlers and drunk people trying to manage a plate of spaghetti with hilarious results. So this is what you get.  

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