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Typos, Tricks and Misprints

English, as she is spoken, is as simple or difficult to learn as most other languages. But English as she is written is really weird. We've seen many examples of strange English spelling, such as "ough," used in thought, drought, tough, cough, through, and though, which are all pronounced differently. How did English spelling become so disengaged from pronunciation? Linguist Arika Orent (previously at Neatorama) takes us through a history of written English to explain how it happened. There was a period of several hundred years after the Norman Conquest when English wasn't written down much at all. And as England was struggling out of that confusion, the movable type printing press came along. Typesetters had plenty of choices, but no strict guides.

Some standards did spread and crystallise over time, as more books were printed and literacy rates climbed. The printing profession played a key role in these emergent norms. Printing houses developed habits for spelling frequent words, often based on what made setting type more efficient. In a manuscript, hadde might be replaced with had; thankefull with thankful. When it came to spelling, the primary objective wasn’t to faithfully represent the author’s spelling, nor to uphold some standard idea of ‘correct’ English – it was to produce texts that people could read and, more importantly, that they would buy. Habits and tricks became standards, as typesetters learned their trade by apprenticing to other typesetters. They then often moved around as journeymen workers, which entailed dispersing their own habits or picking up those of the printing houses they worked in.

Standard-setting was only partly in the hands of the people setting the type. Even more so, it was down to a growing reading public. The more texts there were, the more reading there was, and the greater the sensibility about what looks right. Once that sense develops, it can be a very powerful enforcer of norms. These norms in the literacy of English speakers today are so well entrenched that simple adjustments are very jarring. If ai trai tu repreezent mai akshuel pronownseeayshun in raiteeng, yu kan reed it, but its difikelt and disterbeeng tu du soh. It just looks wrong, and that feeling of wrongness interrupts the flow of reading. The fluency of reading depends on the speed with which you visually identify the words, and the speed of identification increases with exposure. The more we see a word, the more quickly we recognise it, even if its spelling doesn’t match the sound.

Some spellings got entrenched this way, by being printed over and over again in widely distributed texts, very early on.

Once spelling was standardized in printed text, it tended to stick even when pronunciation changed. There's a lot more to it, which you can read at Aeon. -via Metafilter

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Basketball Training Aid Obscures Your Vision

This is a clever invention. The HandInYoFace places a hand-shaped obstruction in front of a player's eyes to simulate the obscured vision of a player trying to shoot and pass while blocked.

I'm struggling to find the origin of this product and video, the latter of which appears to be a TikTok account. Hopefully we can see the training aid in sporting goods stores soon.

-via Super Punch

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Bikini Bottom in Real Life

Christopher Mah is a marine biologist who works for NOAA and for the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. He was aboard NOAAS Okeanos Explorer ship watching a feed from the ROV when he saw a familiar image: Spongebob Squarepants and his best friend Patrick Star! He was quite surprised, as the depictions of the creatures in Spongebob Squarepants aren't realistic.

Very few of them resemble SpongeBob's boxy shape.

But the SpongeBob-like sponge in the image, Mah said, belongs to the genus Hertwigia. He was surprised by its bright yellow color, which is unusual for the deep sea. That far down, most things are orange or white to help them camouflage in the dimly lit environment.

The sea star nearby, known as Chondraster, has five arms covered with tiny suckers. Those allow it to creep across the ocean floor and attach itself to rocks and other organisms. Chondraster stars can be dark pink, light pink, or white.

This star's color "was a bright pink that strongly evoked Patrick," Mah said.

Another deviation from the TV show is that sea stars are liable to eat sponges. Read about the unusual scene from the ocean floor at Insider. -via Smithsonian

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Cassie the Robot Runs a 5K

Cassie is a walking and running robot inspired by the biomechanics of the ostrich. The robot from Agility Robotics looks a bit like an ostrich, too, if the bird could operate without a head. Cassie harnesses machine learning to negotiate a route and stay on track. In this video, see how she runs a 5K course in 53 minutes on a single battery charge. She's no Olympic sprinter, but my battery would have run down much sooner. -via Laughing Squid 

See also: Digit, the somewhat more human-shaped robot from the same company.

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The Moon Is Here Somewhere

The Moon is here in this picture. Yep. It’s fully visible. But if you can’t find it, that’s all right. The photographer couldn’t find it, either, so you’re not alone. It is only thanks to the long exposure of the camera that we can see it. Let me give you a hint: You can find the Moon in the blue sky. The question is, why is it so difficult to find?

For one reason, this photograph was taken during a total lunar eclipse, when the Earth's shadow made the Moon much dimmer than a normal full Moon. For another, the image, taken in Colorado, USA, was captured just before sunrise. With the Moon on the exact opposite side of the sky from the Sun, this meant that the Sun was just below the horizon, but still slightly illuminating the sky. Last, as the Moon was only about two degrees above the horizon, the large volume of air between the camera and the horizon scattered a lot of light away from the background Moon.

Have you found the Moon? If you did, then congratulations!

(Image Credit: Jimmy Westlake (Colorado Mountain College)/ NASA)

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Perceiving The World In The Eyes of A Newly Born Mammal

Before a newborn mammal opens its eyes, its retinal waves are already active, and its brain is already anticipating its environment. By the time that this newborn mammal opens its eyes, it has already made visual sense of the world, and is “prepared to respond immediately to environmental threats.” At least this is true for mice, as this study led by graduate students from Yale only focused on these mammals. 

"At eye opening, mammals are capable of pretty sophisticated behavior," said Crair, senior author of the study, who is also vice provost for research at Yale." But how do the circuits form that allow us to perceive motion and navigate the world? It turns out we are born capable of many of these behaviors, at least in rudimentary form."
Mice, of course, differ from humans in their ability to quickly navigate their environment soon after birth. However, human babies are also able to immediately detect objects and identify motion, such as a finger moving across their field of vision, suggesting that their visual system was also primed before birth.


(Image Credit: Rama/ Wikimedia Commons)

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It’s An Ancient Egyptian Warship!

Archaeologists in the Abu Qir Bay in the Mediterranean Sea stumbled upon an interesting piece of history when they scanned the bottom of the bay using a sub-bottom profiler. Buried beneath some five meters of clay and debris was a ship that had a 25-meter-long hull. Archaeologists believe that this wrecked ship was once an Egyptian warship, built with speed in mind over capacity and agility.

“Finds of fast galleys from this period remain extremely rare,” said IEASM archaeologist Frank Goddio, who led the project. The Abu Qir Bay ship is only the second warship ever found from the last few centuries BCE—the Ptolemaic Period in Egypt and the era of the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage.

Learn more about the sunken ship, as well as the ancient Egyptian port city, over at Ars Technica.

(Image Credit: Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities/ Ars Technica)

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Nope. Your Dog Will Not Share Its Food With You

Dogs help us in many ways. They can be a source of comfort for us when we’re stressed, anxious, or depressed. They can also be a source of encouragement for us to stay fit. But dogs do more than help us psychologically; they can also help us in potentially life-threatening situations. 

We've all heard the cliche of the dog rescuing humans from a burning building, but it's been demonstrated experimentally, too: Dogs will help a trapped human, particularly when that human expresses distress.

However, when it comes to food, don’t expect your dog to share one bit of it to you, even if you’re the one who gave it to him. This was what animal researchers found out on their study (which is now published over at the journal PLOS One).

Learn more about this over at ScienceAlert.

(Image Credit: SNGPhotography/ Pixabay)

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The Antique Tools That Keep This 345-Year Old Hat Shop in Business

For more than three centuries, Lock & Co. Hatters in London has produced the finest hats for the most prestigious people, including Lord Nelson, Winston Churchill, Princess Diana, and Charlie Chaplin. And although some its hatmaking methods have changed over the years, many have not. They even use head measuring devices from past times, such as this 150-year old conformer to precisely measure the customer's head.

Lock & Co. has been open since 1676, with the exception of the recent pandemic. Not even getting bombed during the Blitz stopped it. This video by Business Insider traces the long history of the shop and explores its methods for making the world's most sought-after hats.

-via Core77

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These Are The Only People In History To Die Somewhere Other Than Earth

We will never forget Apollo 1, in which three astronauts died during space training, the shuttle Challenger which exploded during launch, and the space shuttle Columbia, which disintegrated during re-entry. But of all the fatalities involving space flight, only three people have actually died while in space. In July of 1971, the Soviet mission Soyuz 11 ended when the cosmonauts' capsule deployed its parachute and landed in Kazakhstan.

As the Soviet retrieval team approached the Soyuz 7K-OKS ship on the ground, nothing appeared amiss. They knocked on the side of the capsule; a tradition used to greet the waiting cosmonauts. But there was no reply to the traditional knock.

When they opened up the capsule, they discovered a tragedy. All three crew members were dead. The discovery of the bodies was a surprise as the ship had no external damage, and the reentry went smoothly. Yet, the entire crew appeared to have been killed by asphyxiation.

The crew members were Georgy Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov, and Viktor Patsayev. These are the only three men to ever die in space.

The crew had been aboard Soyuz 11 for 22 days, and had completed their planned activities. So what went wrong? Read the account of what the Soviet space program gleaned from the evidence at Medium. -via Strange Company

(Image credit: USSR Post)

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An Analysis of The Age of Empires II Intro Chess Game

If you’ve played Age of Empires II back in the early 2000s, then you will definitely recognize this video of two kings having a chess match by the fireplace, as this was the intro video for the game. The intro video cuts back and forth from the chess match and the “real soldiers represented by the chess pieces.” But what is really happening in the chess match? Who is winning and who is losing? Using multiple angles from the intro video as reference, YouTuber Spirit of the Law recreates the board setup and analyzes the game through a chess engine.

(Image Credit: Spirit of the Law/ YouTube)

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Dancing Orca Music Box

Redditor dilettantetaun is no dilettante at woodworking. He's a master of his craft. Inspired by the wooden whale automaton made by another redditor, dilettantetaun rendered this extraordinarily refined and fully functional music box. It's made of walnut, oak, maple, basswood, and magic.

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Largest Megaripples Found Hidden In Louisiana

Megaripples are large ripple-like features that have wavelengths greater than one meter or a ripple height greater than ten centimeters. These geological sand waves are also called subaqueous dunes. The largest known megaripples were found hidden deep under Louisiana, and experts believe that they were formed after the asteroid crash that killed the non-avian dinosaurs, as Space details: 

The 52-foot-tall (16 meters) megaripples are about 5,000 feet (1,500 m) under the Iatt Lake area, in north central Louisiana, and date to the end of the Cretaceous period 66 million years ago, when that part of the state was underwater, the researchers said. The megaripples' size and orientation suggest that they formed after the giant space rock, known as the Chicxulub asteroid, slammed into the Yucatán Peninsula, leading to the Chicxulub impact tsunami, whose waves then rushed into shallower waters and created the megaripple marks on the seafloor, the researchers said. 
The occurrence of "ripples of that size means something very big had to disturb the water column," study lead researcher Gary Kinsland, a professor in the School of Geosciences at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, told Live Science. "This is just further evidence that the Chicxulub impact ended the Cretaceous period."

Image credit: wikimedia commons 

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Hobbyist Discovers New Jupiter Moon

Uh, surprise? Amateur astronomer Kai Ly discovered a new moon for the planet Jupiter. Ly managed to identify the new moon by scanning datasets from 2003. While new moons are being discovered periodically, the hobbyist also managed to identify and recover 5 lost Jovian moons

Ly started examining images taken in February, 2003, in early June of this year. While they initially tracked 3 potential moons, there wasn't enough data to recover 2 of them. They were able to confirm that the third, designated EJc0061, was bound to Jupiter. In all 76 observations gathered from an observation period spanning 15.26 years was enough for Ly to conclude that the orbit of this new moon was secured for decades.
This new moon, discovered by Ly, may have company in the coming years. Last year, Edward Ashton, Matthew Beaudoin, and Brett J. Gladman spotted around 4 dozen objects, as small as 800 meters, in Jupiter's orbit. While they didn't prove these objects were Jovian moons, the group suggests that there is a possibility of up to 600 satellites. The development of more sophisticated telescopes in the coming years will help astronomers confirm these possibilities.

Image credit: NASA

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Gmail Mass Delete Trick

It’s very easy to lose track of the emails you receive every day. While there’s no harm in just letting unimportant emails stay in your inbox, hoarding a lot of them in the long run can cause problems when you’re using Gmail’s mobile application. When you have thousands of emails (or more), the app’s search function can lag or crash. So how do we avoid this issue? Well, mass deletion, right? The issue here is that the application doesn’t have an easy way to let its users mass delete their emails. TechRepublic shares a handy trick to solve the issue. Check it here! 

Image credit: Stephen Phillips - (Unsplash) 

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