There's fandom and then there's FANDOM. Some may devote a Facebook page to a personal interest of theirs, or maybe even create a dedicated website, but you've probably never seen the like of what Tolkien scholar Mark Fisher has created concerning the works of J.R.R. Tolkien - The Encyclopedia of Arda.
This site is comprehensive in its coverage of Tolkien's fantasy world of Middle-Earth; no topic is too obscure and no detail is too small. It is an immense reference and repository of knowledge that should interest any devotee of Tolkien's works and I find myself referring to it on a regular basis. Go on, name anything concerning Middle-Earth and see if it cannot be found therein - I dare you.
The team from EVNautilus are back, watching the bottom of the ocean for interesting creatures. And here they've found one with their remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) in the deep sea at Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. At first, they don't recognize a gulper eel (Eurypharynx pelecanoides) because they are rarely seen alive and gulping. -via reddit
Meet the 558-million-year-old fossil of Dickinsonia, a type of Ediacaran organism, that may just be the first animal species on Earth:
The first large complex organisms – known as the Ediacarans – appear in the fossil record about 570 million years ago, just before the Cambrian explosion of modern animal life. Their alien body shapes have created confusion over whether they were primitive animals, other complex lifeforms like lichen or giant amoebas, or failed experiments of evolution.
Now, Jochen Brocks at Australian National University and his colleagues have found fat molecules in 558 million-year-old fossils of Dickinsonia – a type of Ediacaran – that confirms it was an early animal.
The researchers collected the fossils from sandstone cliffs in a remote area of the White Sea region of Russia. The cholesterol-like molecules preserved in them are found in almost all of today’s animals, but have low abundance in other lifeforms like bacteria, lichen and amoebas. “It tells us this creature in fact was our earliest ancestor,” says Brocks.
Readers have been enjoying the short stories and poetry of Edgar Allan Poe for almost 200 years. What makes his literature so relatable over time? Scott Peeples dives into that question in this TED-Ed animation. -via Boing Boing
A post shared by Golf Digest (@golfdigest) on Sep 19, 2018 at 3:44pm PDT
Valentino Dixon loves golf, although he's never played a game in his life. As a young man, he was convicted of murder and sent to prison in 1991, on a 39-year-to-life sentence. He developed a habit of drawing and over the years became a notable sketch artist. A prison employee commissioned him to draw a golf course landscape, and brought a picture to work from. Dixon became fascinated with the scene, and began to focus his art on golf courses from around the country. His reputation for drawing bucolic golf courses spread, and eventually got the attention of the sport's premiere magazine.
It took about a hundred drawings before Golf Digest noticed, but when we did, we also noticed his conviction seemed flimsy. So we investigated the case and raised the question of his innocence.
The case is complicated, but on the surface it involves shoddy police work, zero physical evidence linking Dixon, conflicting testimony of unreliable witnesses, the videotaped confession to the crime by another man, a public defender who didn’t call a witness at trial, and perjury charges against those who said Dixon didn’t do it. All together, a fairly clear instance of local officials hastily railroading a young black man with a prior criminal record into jail. Dixon’s past wasn’t spotless, he had sold some cocaine, but that didn’t make him a murderer.
Golf Digest published an article about Dixon in 2012, and the publicity led to the dominos of Dixon's murder case falling, one by one, over the next six years. Wednesday, the conviction was vacated, and Valentino Dixon walked out of prison, an innocent man, ready to resume his life at age 48. Read how it all happened at Golf Digest. -via Metafilter
University of Washington conservationist Samuel Wasser noticed that elephant tusks from ivory seizures have been getting smaller. That means that poachers are running out of adult elephants to kill and are targeting younger pachyderms. It also means his research in the fight against poachers is becoming more important by the day.
Elephant poaching really took off during the last decade, and it’s estimated that 111,000 individuals—up to a fifth of the full African population—have been killed since 2006. The slaughter is a local problem, but it eventually ties into organized crime networks that ship the plundered ivory around in huge containers that weigh half a ton or more. Once they leave port, these shipments are very hard to find. “There are so many containers on cargo ships that even the most sophisticated ports can inspect just 1 to 2 percent of them,” Wasser says. “If you’re a transnational criminal, you really just have to get your contraband into a container on a ship, and there’s a very low chance someone will find it in a search. We need to stop the trade before it enters into transit.”
To do that, Wasser first needed to find out where the ivory is coming from—and he began with poop. By collecting elephant dung from across Africa, and extracting DNA from them, he and his colleagues created a genetic map of the continent’s pachyderms. By cross-referencing the DNA from an unknown tusk to this map, Wasser can pinpoint the tooth’s source to within 200 miles. In this way, he showed that almost all the ivory that’s been seized in the last decade has come from just two poaching hotspots—one that includes Gabon and the Congo, and another centered in Tanzania.
When a whirlwind sucks up flames from a fire, you have a "firenado." The British Columbia Wildfire Service found out how powerful a firenado can be when one took the firehose they were using and sucked it up in the air!
Fire tornado destroyed our line. It threw burning logs across our guard for 45 minutes and pulled our hose 100 plus ft in the air before melting it. That’s definitely a first. It got over 200ft tall but the smoke was too think to see it clearly on video.
The forces of nature are definitely seeking revenge on us mere humans. -via Laughing Squid
Some folks like to watch bad movies just to laugh at them, but most of us don't want to sit through the whole thing. That's why this supercut is a treasure- only the most outstanding, inexplicable, badly-acted scenes are here to laugh at. Watch actors who've never taken an acting class ham it up in drawn-out death scenes! Watch clueless extras try to interact with special effects that won't be added until later! Watch terribly-written lines delivered in terrible ways! All without having to sit through any exposition or interminable pauses. Note that this video contains NSFW language. -via Tastefully Offensive
Usually, when you know how an illusion works, it stops being an illusion.
But not the Ames Window illusion. In this YouTube clip by CuriosityShow, they show you exactly how the Ames Window illusion works ... and your brain will still insist that you're seeing the impossible.
Back in 2008, archaeologists discovered a set of rounded stones in the high desert near the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. They thought that the stone tools were used to grind nuts and seeds - but intriguingly, the stones didn't have the right grinding marks.
Fast forward a decade, when archaeologist Marilyn Martorano identified them as something else completely ... they're actually musical instruments!
The stones were clearly shaped by human hands but didn’t have the right wear marks around the edges to indicate they’d been used for grinding. So she set out to find a better explanation. About a decade later, Martorano believes she’s identified some of the earliest musical instruments ever played in Colorado.
“You really have to hear them,” said Martorano, who grew up in the San Luis Valley where the dunes sit. “That’s when you believe it.”
Fred Rogers was all about love and gentleness on his TV show Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. But Rogers could get angry, and the thing that made him the angriest was adults who would mislead young children. This is why Rogers hated the concept of superheroes. The subject came up as he and David Newell (Mr. McFeely) were traveling in the late '70s.
In a taxi to the speaking engagement, Rogers was lost in thought about his upcoming speech. Newell recalls: “In the newspaper, I came across this little blurb that a child had jumped off a roof with a towel — the Superman thing.”
Newell interrupted Rogers’s reverie to tell him the shocking news that a little boy who’d watched Superman on television had decided he would try to fly, and was terribly injured falling from a rooftop. One of the few things that could raise anger — real, intense anger — in Mister Rogers was willfully misleading innocent, impressionable children. To him, it was immoral and completely unacceptable.
Rogers had never used characters with super powers on his show before, but in this era of the series, he wanted to tackle difficult subjects on a child's level. This led to a week-long series of shows on superheroes, aired in February 1980, in which Mister Rogers explained the dangers of believing one can have super powers. They even went behind-the-scenes of the TV show The Incredible Hulk to explain how those stories are constructed. Read how Fred Rogers dealt with superheroes, and how that fit in with his philosophy of education, at Longreads. -via Digg
Akeno the greater one-horned rhino was born at the Chester Zoo in England back in May. He's reached the age where he's full of energy and wants to play all the time! That means even when his mother is exhausted and just wants to rest. It's the same for moms of many species. -via Laughing Squid
When considering an all-you-can-eat buffet, diners calculate not only whether the experience is worth the price, but other factors such as accommodating the tastes of a group. Restaurant owners, who often operate a razor-thin margin, must calculate the total cost of food and service against the aggregate appetite of everyone who walks in the door. How do they deal with people who eat several times what the proprietor calculates?
Born in midcentury Las Vegas, the American all-you-can-eat (or AYCE) buffet was all about excess from the start. The phrase itself can be an issue for proprietors, insofar as it sounds like a challenge. Someone might level the place just to prove a point, not because they’re actually that hungry. To that end, owners might include “within reason” in the fine print or style the offer as “all you care to eat” to instill a sense of moderation — that’s on top of various other tricks for getting you to leave before you do too much damage, like uncomfortable seating, not clearing your dirty plates right away and enticing you to fill up on bread and beverages instead of more expensive items.
Every buffet restaurant has a story about someone who ate more than should be humanly possible, but dealing with them is a delicate balance of economics and reputation. Read about the many ways it's been handled, for individual cases and as policy, at Mel magazine. -via Digg
They made a movie about a theme park on a remote island that has real dinosaurs! And then they made that movie again! And Again! The fifth installment of the Jurassic Park franchise, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, was released on home video today. Screen Junkies was ready, with an Honest Trailer to help you decide whether to buy it. As they make painfully clear, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is just like all the other Jurassic Park movies, a safe way to sell gazillions of movie tickets, and probably gazillions of DVDs and Blu-rays. Whether you enjoyed the film or not, you'll get a kick out of seeing the evidence gathered in this Honest Trailer.
Both men and women have gone to extraordinary lengths to lose weight, sometimes with no method too bizarre to try, but men alone have had to contend with trying various baldness cures of questionable efficacy. Listverse has compiled a list (naturally) of the top ten quack methods for curing baldness throughout the centuries. Bonus: NOW we know why Julius Caesar wore that laurel wreath.
The Muppets Bert and Ernie have been roommates on Sesame Street for 49 years now, and some have speculated that they are a gay couple. Mark Saltzman has written for stage, screen, and TV, including a 15-year stint at Sesame Street. Bert and Ernie were already an integral part of the Sesame Street cast when Saltzman, who is openly gay, began to write their skits in 1984. He talks about the characters in an interview, in which he admits that his writing for the two was inspired by his relationship with his late partner Arnold Glassman.
I remember one time that a column from The San Francisco Chronicle, a preschooler in the city turned to mom and asked “are Bert & Ernie lovers?” And that, coming from a preschooler was fun. And that got passed around, and everyone had their chuckle and went back to it. And I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert & Ernie, they were. I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them. The other thing was, more than one person referred to Arnie & I as “Bert & Ernie.”
That interview went viral, and Sesame Workshop responded with a now-deleted Tweet, repeating their official stance on the matter.
As we have always said, Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves. Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits (as most Sesame Street Muppets™ do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.
A few hours later, they updated and softened their statement.
So, Bert and Ernie are not sexual because they are puppets on a show meant for preschoolers, but they love each other, because otherwise how could they live together despite driving each other crazy? If they were real people, it would be none of our business. As they are fictional characters, it appears that the exact nature of their relationship lies in the viewers' imagination.
The United States Constitution is a framework for how our government operates. As democracy was an experiment at the time, it was our second attempt at enshrining the basics on paper. The Articles of Confederation, drafted during wartime, proved to be so inadequate that the whole thing was scrapped and replaced during the Constitutional Convention in 1789. It was not a simple task.
1. MAKING THE CONSTITUTION WAS A SWEATY, SMELLY AFFAIR.
The Constitution was drafted in Philadelphia in 1787 over the course of a humid summer. The windows of Independence Hall were shut to discourage eavesdroppers, and many delegates, who were mostly from out of town, wore and re-wore the same thick woolen garments day after day. Many framers stayed at the same boarding houses and shared rooms that, we can only imagine, reeked with a distinct eau du freedom.
Tidbits like that glimpse into history are fun, but this list also has important information about the formation of the Constitution itself.
11. THE FIRST AMENDMENT WAS ORIGINALLY THIRD.
When the Bill of Rights was drafted, James Madison proposed 19 amendments (the House sent 17 of them to the Senate, which were consolidated into the 12 amendments that went to the states). The first two, however, were not ratified immediately. The first amendment set "out a detailed formula for the number of House members, based on each decennial census," writes Andrew Glass at Politico. "Scholars have calculated that had the amendment, which is still pending, been adopted, today's House would have either 800 or 5000 representatives." (It currently has 435.) The second amendment regulated Congressional compensation. That amendment was not ratified for another 203 years: Originally the second, it became the 27th amendment.
Neutron stars, formed when dying stars collapse into itself, are small and incredibly dense. About a kilometer below the surface of this type of star, atomic nuclei are squeezed together until they merge into a clump of matter thought to be shaped like blobs, tubes or sheets - which physicists lovingly referred to according to their pasta equivalents: gnocchi, spaghetti and lasagna.
Turns out, this nuclear pasta is incredibly dense: about 100 trillion times the density of water and is incredibly strong - breaking a nuclear pasta would require 10 billion times the force required to crack steel.
(Photo: Casey Reed/Penn State University/Wikimedia Commons)
The Italian Ministry of Culture tweeted the excavation of a strange stone urn at the site of the former Teatro Cressoni in the town of Como. Inside the vessel are hundreds of 5th century gold coins - all in mint condition!
Alaska-based artist Ryota Kajita took some amazing photos of natural ice formations in the waters of Fairbanks, Alaska. The alien-like structures are formed as rivers and lakes freeze from the surface down, trapping bubbles that formed in the water.
Gold has been valued for its rarity and beauty since antiquity, and regarded highly for its stability. It does not corrode like other metals. That led to the logical assumption that ingesting gold could imbue the human body with its anti-corrosiveness, and stop the aging process.
According to Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen’s book Quackery, gold-drinking evolved from curiosity to downright fervor during the medieval era, when an alchemist figured out how to dissolve solid gold into a liquid. Aurum potabile (sometimes known as aurum potable), as drinkable gold was known around the 16th century, was advertised as a cure-all for everything from epilepsy to mania.
Gold-imbued recipes made their way into chemistry manuals by the likes of French medical professionals Jean Beguin and Christophe Glaser, and even the short-lived Portuguese Pope John XXI. In 1578, he wrote a laborious recipe for a gold-laced, youth-preserving water. It involved taking gold, silver, iron, copper, iron, steel, and lead filings, then placing that mixture “in the urine of a virgin child on the first day,” then white wine, fennel juice, egg whites, in a nursing woman’s milk, in red wine, then again in egg whites, in that order, for the following six days.
Barbaric or not, people loved the guillotine. When the Reign of Terror began taking heads on an average of 46 per day, including Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, the terrifying instrument of swift death became part of everyday life. It was the subject of art, music, and fashion.
“It was depicted, recounted, and bandied about by popular songs with their series of refrains on ‘the widow,’ ‘the national razor,’ ‘the patriotic haircut,’ ‘the sword of equality,’ and ‘the altar of the nation,'” says Murat. “People no longer referred to ‘being guillotined’ but spoke of ‘sticking your head through the cat-flap,’ ‘poking through the window,’ or ‘sneezing into the basket.'”
“Like tricolor skirts and nosegays, or jewelry set with chunks from the Bastille,” Jane Merrill and Chris Filstrup write in I Love Those Earrings, “the guillotines testified to a person’s daring (unmistakably they were symbols of castration) and being on the winning side.”
Some people like to dress up when they travel, and other people like to dress for comfort. German artist Menja Stevenson, on the other hand, decided to coordinate her clothes with her mode of transportation.
“I couldn’t believe that many people didn’t realise the connection seeing me and the seats together,” Stevenson says. “Did they think that it was sheer coincidence? Some curious people at least talked to me, and a very few laughed, but most passengers would look shyly at me and quickly look the other way again.”