The Obsession with Mermaids in the Early 20th Century

The live-action version of The Little Mermaid has made $118 Million so far in its opening weekend. It may herald another bump in the popularity of mermaids, joining other periods of mermaid-mania from history, going back thousands of years. In ancient times, it was the allure of the mythological tales of beautiful and magical half-human-half-fish creatures among many terrifying terrifying sea monsters. In the more modern era, it is entertainment, feeding a fantasy of sexy women and the allure of the sea. In 1906, the show Neptune's Daughter debuted at New York's Hippodrome, featuring an 8,000-gallon tank full of underwater dancers, which proved both fascinating and charming to audiences. Mermaid mania got another kick when Champion swimmer Annette Kellerman starred in silent films about mermaids, and brought women's participation in swimming into the modern era. Read about the early entertainment media representations of mermaids at Smithsonian.

(Image credit: National Film and Sound Archive of Australia)

Historical Hairstyles From Around the World

Hair style, like clothing, go through trends and fads that sometimes make us look back and say, "What was I thinking?" I've had bangs, mullets, braids, Jheri curls, pixies, and purple hair, but all those pale in comparison to some of the hairstyle fads of history. Some were an attempt at beauty or cutting-edge fashion, while others signified status, either officially or unofficially. Long hair or elaborate 'dos indicated that the person wearing it could employ expert services and had plenty of free time. Short hair or shaved heads made a busy, difficult life more practical for working people, but you could always cut the hassle down by wearing a wig. Some hairstyles seem downright painful, while others were just silly. Weird History takes us on a ride through time by highlighting some of the more memorable or consequential hairstyles of various places and historical eras.  

Norwegians Really Love Hot Dogs

Norway takes its hot dogs seriously. You can get a great hot dog from restaurants, street vendors, airports, and even gas stations, because Norwegians would expect only the best. Like most European countries, sausages have always been a part of Norway's cuisine, but American hot dogs became extremely popular after World War II, back when anything American was considered chic.

But Norway had advanced the art of the hot dog and Norwegians put their own spin on it. They are often served wrapped in flatbread made of potato flour, and slathered with a wide variety of toppings, including potato salad or shrimp salad. The hot dogs themselves can be made from anything, from traditional pork to crocodile meat to vegan sausage. As the hot dog traveled from the US to Norway, their hot dog traditions have traveled back to America as well. Read how hot dogs became Norway's national snack at Atlas Obscura.  -via Strange Company

Hong Kong Sport: Climbing to the Top of a 60-Foot Tower of Buns

Cheung Chau is a small island off the coast of Hong Kong. Yahoo News reports that, prior to the pandemic, it would host an annual week-long festival to celebrate the Buddha's birthday. Now that the Chinese government has loosened COVID-related restrictions, that public celebration has resumed. The festivities include a contest to climb a 60-foot tall tower of buns.

As far as I can tell, the object of this competition is to climb to the top of tower and collect as many buns as possible within a minute.

You can see more photos of this festival at the New York Daily News.

-via Dave Barry

This Interactive Map Will Tell You Your Earthquake Risk

It's a good idea to be prepared for a variety of natural disasters that could suddenly strike your life, such as fires, floods, and glaciers. Are you at risk to experience an earthquake? If you live in the United States, consult this interactive map at CNN that compiles data from the US Geological Survey.

The lowest risk areas are marked in blue and the highest risk areas are marked in red. The entire West Coast and Alaska are obviously risky places, but so are the Big Island of Hawaii, the Ozarks, and the coast of South Carolina. Lubbock, Texas is, though completely safe and offers better barbeque.

-via Nag on the Lake

The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, Also Known as The Ghost Army

In World War II, the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops had a series of missions that were kept top secret for decades. They specialized in decoy operations, namely, fooling the Axis powers into thinking they knew what was going on when they didn't. We covered one aspect of the "Ghost Army's" activities, in constructing fake tanks, ships, and artillery to distract from the real troop movements in a previous post. But the Ghost Army involved a lot more.

While the artists in the unit built realistic but fake props for the enemy to see, 288 radio operators carried out communications in both English and in easily-cracked codes. The Germans who intercepted these transmissions sent reconnaissance to find the fake equipment. But that fake equipment would fool nobody without the sound designers who blasted recordings that sounded exactly like thousands of troops were on the way to battle. Some of the troops even impersonated officers to carry out these missions. As we head into Memorial Day, read about some of these decoy operations, the men who participated, and what happened to them after the war, at Find-a-Grave.  -Thanks, WTM!

The US Government Is Selling Four Lighthouses

Perhaps you're looking for the perfect Fathers' Day Gift. Perhaps you want to reenact the Willem Dafoe film The Lighthouse with a friend. Either way, you have a great opportunity coming up. The Associated Press reports that the US government is selling four historic lighthouses.

The US Coast Guard (which asborbed the US Lighthouse Service in 1939) maintains aids to navigation that use technologies more modern than lighthouses and no longer has a use for these historic structures. But the General Services Administration wants to make sure that they are preserved. So the GSA is selling these buildings to local governments and non-profit organizations that will maintain them.

These lighthouses include the Cleveland Harbor West Pierhead Light, which offers a scenic view of the Cleveland skyline, which I assume is lovely, especially when the river is on fire. It's also accessible only by boat, offering a secure shelter in uncertain times.

The auction begins at the end of June, so start pulling up couch cushions for the money that you'll need.

-via Dave Barry | Photo: Mtbangert

Vote for the Best Illusion of the Year

Every year, the Best Illusion of the Year contest blows our minds. The video above by Matt Pritchard is one of the finalists for 2023. You've seen this kind of illusion before, but this construction is very well done. It was clever to base it on Platform 9¾ from the Harry Potter stories. Is it the best? That's for you to decide. The competition is pretty stiff.

The ten finalists for the Best Illusion of the Year Contest have been selected by a panel of experts. Take a look at all ten of them. You can vote for your favorite, or rather, you are invited to rate each illusion on a scale from one to five stars, like a product review. The top three will be determined by these ratings. If history is any indicator, we will find out who will win the 2023 competition some time in the last three months of this year. -via Boing Boing

Be sure to check out some of the past winners, too.

Can the World's Oldest Joke Make You Laugh?

The oldest recorded joke we've found so far was common enough that it was recorded twice on ancient Sumerian tablets, going back 4,000 years. It's a real knee-slapper.

a dog walks into a bar, but he doesn’t see anything. And so he asks: shall I open one?

Yeah, I don't get it, either. I guess you had to be there. Or maybe jokes were invented before humor was. Some of the world's greatest minds have been working on this one. Has it been correctly translated? What was the context in the Sumerian culture? Can the "walks into a bar" structure really be that old? The joke has been interpreted several different ways, because language and cultural context was way different 4,000 years ago, but it's not something experts agree on. The joke possibly depends on assumptions that ancient Sumerians would have lived with, but we don't. Then again, maybe it really wasn't that funny back then, either. It was recorded in collections of proverbs and advice, although it really doesn't work in that context, either. Read the various explanations for the dog joke at Historic Mysteries. -via Strange Company

(Image credit: Applejuice)

School's Out, and it's a Big Deal for This Family

Matt Wilson of Perry Township, Indiana, has made it a habit over the years to prank his son into embarrassment when he gets off the bus on the last day of school each year. For Liam's last day in eighth grade, Wilson went all out. He arranged for his band, Union Suit Rally, to perform the Alice Cooper song "School's Out" as the bus pulled onto their street. It was a challenge to outdo last year's stunt, in which he greeted the bus wearing Speedos, flippers, and a snorkel mask.

Liam, however, is less embarrassed now than in previous years. He's now finished with eighth grade, and will no longer ride the bus next year when he's in high school. He also probably knows it's pretty cool to have an involved dad who's in a band. I would have loved coming home to such a concert. -via Fark

The Winners of the Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year Contest

The image above looks as if it could be an advertisement for the contest, but this tasty spread is from contestant Keiron George of the United Kingdom, the winner of the Food Stylist category of the Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year competition. The overall winner is Jon Enoch for the photo below, titled The Candy Man.

The Candy Man, which also won the Street Food category,  is part of a series taken in Mumbai. The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners plus honorable mentions in each category are presented in a gallery here. Want to see more winning food photography from all over the world? Take a look at some of the winning photographs and meet the photographers behind them at Design Milk. See the all finalists in the many categories, such as Food for Sale, Wedding Food, Moments of Joy, Innovation, Bring Home the Harvest, categories for younger photographers, and even videos, in this gallery. -via Nag on the Lake

When a Robot Dog Competes with Real Dogs

Advances in robotics have given us robots that act so real they are creepy. But how good are they, really? Could a consumer-grade robot ever fool anyone? No, but they can impress us in their own way. Zac Alsop got the idea to pit a computerized companion dog against real dogs in a competition, so he splurged on a Unitree Go1 robotic dog, although not the most expensive model. Even the bottom-line model is quite expensive. This robot is remote-controlled but also AI-enabled.

Anyway, Zac enlisted a dog trainer, a robot expert, and a dance instructor on his way to entering his "dog" in a canine freestyle (dancing) competition. But what starts out promising to be an epic experiment quickly turns into a comedy of errors, as Zac's failures along the way are rather funny and make the video what it is. He encounters a steep learning curve in "training" his robot and getting it into the competition. After all that, it really doesn't matter whether he wins or not, since nobody is taking him the least bit seriously.   

Future Residential Tower Will Allow Penthouse Residents To Drive Up Their Homes

Now they don’t need to worry about reaching the top of buildings to go home. A new venture of luxury residences by automotive brand Bugatti and developer Binghatti. The high-rise building will not just include beautiful and well-designed residential areas, but will also include car elevators. 

This will allow car owners to bring their vehicles right up to their penthouse suites. So far, that is the most interesting aspect of the building. Not much is also known about the edifice, actually. Aside from the car elevators, the developers have revealed that it will contain 171 Riviera Mansions residences and 11 Sky Mansion penthouses. Additionally, amenities such as a beach area, a private pool,  a jacuzzi spa, and a fitness club will be built for future residents. 

"Unmatched craftsmanship and exquisite finishes that set a new standard for opulence will be at the heart of the living spaces curated for Bugatti Residences, ensuring that the 'Art of Living' is reimagined for a contemporary defining era," the company explained in a press release. "Both penthouses and mansions offer spacious living areas adorned with the finest material selection the world has to offer. The Bugatti Residences carry a seamless blend of comfort, functionality, and elegance that reflect Bugatti and Binghatti’s pre-eminence in design."

Image credit: Bugatti

Sea Turtle With 3D Printed Shell Brace Is Still Doing Great

Way back in 2014, a loggerhead sea turtle was in a dire state after having a hole in her shell. When she was rescued near a power plant in New Jersey, the team from San Diego’s Birch Aquarium joined forces with the Digital Media Lab at UC San Diego Library to find a way to save her life and nurse her back to health. The team not only fed her and took care of her, but they also created the first ever 3D printed shell brace for sea creature care in 2017. 

This was done to cure the turtle of the abnormal curve in her spine and paralysis of her back flippers.  “We teamed up with the Digital Media Lab at Geisel Library to create a brace that will prevent the shell from curving further downward and will promote more normal growth. It’s our goal to prevent further complications and keep her as healthy and happy as possible,” said Jenn Nero Moffatt, senior director of animal care at the aquarium. 

The people at Digital Media Lab performed a blue light 3D scan of the turtle’s shell so the brace they made could fit perfectly, and would prevent further complications. Now, six years later, the loggerhead is living her best life. She is now about 3 feet long and more than 2.5 feet wide. Additionally, she now weighs 210 pounds, which is way more than 75.4 pounds, which was her weight when she was rescued.

Image credit: birchaquarium / Instagram

What Breakfast Cereals Have Contributed to Physics

The development of processed cold cereal made breakfast a lot easier for Americans on the go, and gave us plenty of late-night snacks, too. Grain extrusion can put your morning corn and oats into pretty much any shape you can imagine. But while most of us just read the box while eating, some physicists pondered the properties of those shapes and came up with ways to explain physics to us by using breakfast cereal as an example we can understand. Or if we don't, at least other physicists can.

Have you ever heard of the Cheerios Effect? The derivatives of position named snap, crackle, and pop? That time physicists compared the compression properties of Cocoa Puffs vs. Rice Krispies? Cereal has been a toy for physics experiments for some time. You can read about four ways cereal has advanced the science and the teaching of physics at Cracked.
(Image credit: Armando Olivo Martín del Campo)

Email This Post to a Friend

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More