Reindeer Change Eye Color for Winter

Is it true? I had to look it up. Yes, reindeer have developed a system for changing their eye color in order to see better during the dark winter months in the Arctic and cold northern regions. But it has nothing to do with the animal's irises, except for pupil dilation. A reindeer's irises are always brown, but you see much less of the iris in winter when the eyes are always dilated.

The part that changes color is actually on the back of the eyeball, a layer called the tapetum lucidum that lies underneath the retina. This layer reflects light back out of the eye. In summer, it is golden colored. In winter it turns blue, which reduces the amount of light reflected back out of the eye and enables the reindeer to see in low light. However, some vision sharpness may be sacrificed.

What causes the change is the light itself. When the sun goes away, the pupils dilate, which causes a pressure change in the eye. The collagen fibers that make up the tapetum lucidum become rearranged and the tissue turns blue. Now isn't that a neat adaptation for winter? Read more about reindeer eyes at LiveScience.  -via Nag on the Lake

Google's Year in Search 2021

What people search for on the internet tells us a lot about the state of humankind. The year 2021 was crammed with topics people wanted more information about, as if we all started paying attention after a year of dealing with the pandemic. Much of it points to people trying to determine what's important in life. However, there's some fun stuff in there. "Bernie Sander's mittens" was the top-searched meme in the US. There are some surprises, too. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who depends on Google to spell something right, but "How to pronounce Michael Jackson" is a little shocking.  

Google has calculated the most searched-for terms for 2021 and has compiled the results. US results are here. You can also see a timeline of search trends over the course of 2021, which you can change to dig deeper into categories listed at the top. Click on the images to read more about a topic.  

Dozens of Camels Kicked out of Saudi Beauty Pageant for Using Botox

There's no swimsuit component at this beauty pageant, but contestants are expected to be perfect specimens of physical beauty (sorry, but inner beauty doesn't count). Every year, Saudi Arabia holds the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival in Riyadh. This is the world's most prestigious beauty pageant for camels. Now, tragically, this contest has been wracked with scandal.

The Associated Press reports that pageant authorities have expelled more than 40 participants due to artificial enhancements, including hormones to increase muscle mass, botox to increase lip volume, and fillers to shape the camels' faces into relaxed expressions. These camels will be unable to compete and secure the $66 million in prize money.

Photo: AboutHer

Best Cosplays from the 2021 Comic Con Special Edition

After the regularly scheduled July Comic Con was cancelled in both 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus, the organizers were finally able to put together a "Special Edition" version of the event on Thanksgiving weekend. This special edition was also a bit of a "limited edition" since the con was dramatically smaller than the regular event, with far fewer exhibitors, attendees, events and everything else that makes the San Diego Comic Con so famous. That being said, there was still plenty to enjoy, including plenty of fantastic cosplayers like these.

All images by Zeon Santos or myself.

This Final Fantasy group cosplay looked fantastic together and made me want to start playing the game.

Similarly, this Yennifer cosplay by Sewpoke is loaded with absolutely breathtaking details.

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You're Not Gonna Believe What Else Viagra Can Do

The drug sildenafil was first prescribed to treat high blood pressure. Then a side effect emerged in that it caused erections in the men who were taking it to treat their high blood pressure. Under the brand name Viagra, it became a sensation for treating erectile dysfunction. And now it may be our newest weapon in the battle against Alzheimer's disease.

In a study involving over seven million people, the use of sildenafil was associated with a 69% reduced incidence of Alzheimer's. Feixiong Cheng of the Cleveland clinic is the lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Aging. His team combed data on 1600 drugs already in use to see what correlation these drugs had with Alzheimer's, and sildenafil showed the most promise of them all. Of course, correlation is not causation, so further study is needed. A new trial is already in the works to see if sildenafil has any effect in the early stages of Alzheimer's. Also, since most people who take Viagra now are men, gender studies will need to be done. Read more about this research at The Daily Beast. -via Damn Interesting

(Image credit: Flickr user Tim Reckmann)

Confusing Pictures That are Accidental Illusions

(Image source: Francis__99)

Look at this picture. The cat looks concerned that two people are pointing at his junk. Then you realize he is probably more concerned that the woman's hand is passing through his chest! The best I can figure out here is that the cat has turned to liquid. It's possible that the woman's shirt has fur cuffs. The only thing that's for sure is that the "hole" in the cat's chest is her sleeve cuff. This confusing picture was drawn from the subreddit Confusing Perspectives, where you'll find a never-ending supply of accidental illusions.  

(Image source: Tooleater)

What kind of ugly monkey is this? It's not a monkey at all; it's a capybara. Those are its nostrils, not eyes, because it's leaning its head back, showing off those long incisors. See a collection of 50 of the most confusing images at Bored Panda. If you can't figure them out, check the comments under each picture.  

Why is There a Shortage of Christmas Trees?

Supply chains issues have affected manufactured items both domestic and imported, due to pandemic shutdowns, labor shortages, unforeseen demands, and global logistics. The results are empty shelves and higher prices for a lot of items. But why would that affect Christmas trees? They grow in America, and in most places, you can even select and cut your own at local nurseries.

But here we are. Your local Christmas tree farm or neighborhood kiosk is liable to run out at any time, and the trees you can get will cost an arm and a leg. Curiously, the reason behind the shortage has nothing to do with the pandemic or with supply chain issues. See, an evergreen tree takes eight years to grow to the stabdard six feet, so producers must look into their crystal balls and predict the market for cut trees eight years into the future to decide how many to plant. Tree growers were burned in the 1990s when fewer people wanted to buy cut trees. It happened again during the 2008 recession. Read about the market's ups and down that contribute to Christmas trees costing 50% more this year at Popular Mechanics. If you're not a member, here's an alternate link.

People who use artificial trees aren't quite as impacted. The supply may be thin for a new tree, but you can always pull out that tree you've been using for years. -via Metafilter

(Image credit: Beyond My Ken

People Love to Pet This Dog in Prague

The Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic, was built between 1357 and 1402. In the middle of the bridge stands a bronze statue of Saint John of Nepomuk, who was a priest in Prague during the time the bridge was being built. John heard the confessions of the king's wife, and the king wanted to know all about it. John would not divulge the contents of a confession, so the king had him thrown off the bridge to his death in the Vltava River. The statue was installed in 1683.

At the base of the statue are two bronze plaques. One depicts the priest being thrown to his death in 1393. The other depicts a knight petting a dog, although no one really knows why. It has long been said that touching these plaques will bring good luck, but in the 20th century, visitors to the statue began focusing on touching the dog, as if to pet it. That's why this good boy shines brightly compared to the other imagery in both the plaques. Read more about this often-touched plaque at My Modern Met.  -via reddit

Stretch Armstrong: An Oral History of the Doll You Loved to Tear Apart

The doll we know as Stretch Armstrong is a man who could stretch his limbs and torso to ridiculous lengths. He's made of soft vinyl stuffed with corn syrup. This stretching ability made him the most sought after toy for boys from his debut in 1976 until around 1980. But as his popularity waxes and wanes, he's brought back every 10-15 years or so to impress a new generation of children. They just love to see how far they can stretch Stretch until he breaks.

Forty-five years later, Stretch Armstrong has fans that range from little kids to men in their late middle age. And he has an interesting story. I once thought that he was some comic book superhero that was made into a toy. No, the doll came first. Jesse D. Horowitz, who invented the toy, explains how the idea came about and was developed into a Christmas juggernaut. Various media producers tell how Stretch tried to make it in TV and movies, but it was an uphill struggle. Now Stretch is a star on YouTube, thanks to the generations of kids who fondly recall how much fun they had destroying their toy.

It's all part of an oral history of Stretch Armstrong at Mel magazine. The article is NSFW due to an image of a rare Stretch Armstrong doll that some might call "anatomically correct," although most would call that a stretch. Pun intended.

BART Basel: The Guerilla Art Show on San Francisco's Public Transit System

If the facility looks more like a train station than an art gallery, it's because the temporary and improvised art gallery is in a train station. This photo by Sara Scanlan is one of many displaying the artistic scene on BART, the public train system in San Francisco. These happy, creative people joined together for two hours on Saturday for BART Basil 2021, an unauthorized art celebration. Here's how participant and all-around Renaissance woman Danielle Baskin describes it:

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The World's Most Expensive Object by Weight

It doesn't take long for Tom Scott to unveil the most expensive object by weight, if that's what you are watching this for. And he tells us its history and the reasoning behind why it's so expensive. However, you might wonder how this thing was selected for that very specific title. It all goes into how you define each term. "Object" must be a non-fungible discrete unit. "Expensive" doesn't exactly mean value. You get the idea. I understand why defining every term one uses is so important, because any time I label something superlative in a simple manner, I hear from commenters about exceptions and stretches until, well, until I'm just wrong. An example is the post just before this one on the last public execution by guillotine. The word "public" is necessary since the French government continued to behead people long afterward. Tom is a lot better at explaining that than I am.

The Final Public Execution by Guillotine

The guillotine was a particularly French method of execution, made popular by the French Revolution and continuing until well into the 20th century. The guillotine offered the doomed convict a mercifully swift death relative to other execution methods, yet it was a gruesome spectacle. The crowds that gathered around a beheading were like those that attended a public hanging elsewhere in Europe and in the US, looking for something novel to see in the days when entertainment was hard to come by. But that wasn't quite the reason. Mass media arose with movies and radio around the turn of the 20th century, yet people still clamored to see an execution for reasons ranging from the morbidly curious to the downright bloodthirsty.

On June 17, 1939, around 600 hundred people gathered at 4 AM to watch the execution by guillotine of convicted serial killer Eugen Weidmann in Versailles. The crowd left satisfied after Weidmann's head was separated from his body. But there was a novel factor in this execution- a film crew had surreptitiously recorded it for posterity. Stills from the execution made the papers and caused an uproar in France.

Read the story of Eugen Weidmann's date with the guillotine and its fallout at Amusing Planet.

A Totally Different Trailer for Terminator 2: Judgement Day

Imagine you had seen The Terminator in 1984, and it's now 1991 and you hear they are doing a sequel. This is the trailer you see. It doesn't give away anything, yet it makes you want to see the movie. Contrast this with the actual 1991 movie trailer for Terminator 2: Judgement Day, which made us feel like we'd seen the entire movie already.

Michael Edwards edited this trailer to bring it more in line with a trailer you'd see in 2021 (what's known around YouTube as a "modern trailer"), and he focused more on Sarah Conner, which is what really impressed us when we saw Terminator 2. But this version leaves a lot to the imagination, and sets us up for surprises when we see the full movie. You can see the widescreen version at YouTube.  -via reddit

Montreal Comiccon: Holiday Edition Cosplayers

Montreal Comiccon Holiday Edition is back after being canceled in 2020. The weekend is just wrapping up, and Geeks Are Sexy gives us a look at the costumes that celebrate comic book characters, movie and TV characters, creative mashups, and festive Christmas wear. Where else would you see Superman in a Christmas sweater, or Santa Claus with a lightsaber?

Are these folks from The Santa Clause or from The Grinch? It doesn't matter, it's all one big happy North Pole family! See Vikings, aliens, superheros, villains, steampunks, warriors, and storybook characters all in their best fancy dress in a 55-image gallery from Montreal Comiccon at Geeks Are Sexy.

The First Woman to be Executed by Electric Chair

On March 20, 1899, Martha Place became the first woman to be executed by electric chair. It happened in New York under the governorship of Theodore Roosevelt, despite a campaign to stay the execution by women's rights advocate Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Place had been convicted of murder the previous year.

Widower William W. Place had a young daughter and was looking for a new wife to help raise the girl. In 1893 he hired a housekeeper named Martha who seemed to care deeply for his daughter. Place admired Martha's devotion and married her that same year. Having cemented her place in the household, Martha's true nature started to come out. The upshot is that she wasn't that great of a stepmother. It took five years for her murderous tendency to reveal itself, but when it did, the killing was quite gruesome. Read the story of the murder that landed Martha Place in the electric chair at Sing Sing Prison at Murder by Gaslight. -via Strange Company 

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