The Origin of "The Rainbow Bridge"

When a pet owner tells you that Fluffy has crossed the Rainbow Bridge, you know in an instant what that means. It is a reference to a poem that has been posted and reposted for thirty years, since Dear Abby published it in 1994. She did not have the author's name, and it remained a mystery for decades. But the first sentence in this post, while in common usage, doesn't fit with the source. If you read the full poem, a pet does not cross the Rainbow Bridge to heaven immediately, but enjoys playing with other pets, all in good health, until the person who loves them joins them to cross the bridge together. If you are tearing up thinking about it, you are not alone.

It was only last year that author and historian Paul Koudounaris tracked down the author and the real story behind "The Rainbow Bridge," which was originally written in 1959! Read how the tear-jerking poem came about at Mental Floss.

The Summer Solstice in 2024 Will be the Earliest Since 1796

Summer officially begins, astronomically, with the summer solstice, which this year will occur on June 20, at 20:51 UTC (4:51 PM EDT). Yes, we are used to the solstice being on June 21st, but not this year. In fact, the last time the solstice was this early was when George Washington was the US president!

An explanation of this phenomena starts out pretty dense and confusing, but it's actually pretty simple. First, we get an explanation of the solstice as it pertains to earth's orbit. Then there is an explanation of how calendars work, with a history that we've covered here at Neatorama a few times. It all boils down to leap years, when we add an extra day to the year to make our calendars fall more in line with the earth's orbit around the sun. An actual year is 365.242189 days, so we add an extra day every four years to straighten it up. Every leap year makes the solstice earlier, but then non-leap years make it later again. But you can see by that fraction of a day that more adjustments were needed after a few hundred years.

In the late 16th century, more rules about leap years were added, so that century years (1800, 1900, etc) are not leap years, unless that century year is divisible by 400. The year 2000 was a century year divisible by 400, so it was a leap year, the first century leap year since the Gregorian calendar was finalized. Therefore, we have now had a long string of leap years every four years, making the solstice earlier than ever. This is all explained mathematically at Big Think.

(Image credit: Jfishburn)

Explaining the Lyrics of "I Am The Walrus"

This video contains NSFW language.

My high school math teacher once offered a bonus question for extra credit on a test. It was "I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. Explain." I think I was the only one who bothered to answer it. I just wrote "I Am the Walrus." That 1967 song from the Beatles was hard to memorize because the lyrics didn't make any sense, and most of us chalked it up to the band's drug use. Did John Lennon really write the lyrics to deliberately be nonsensical, or was there a hidden meaning underneath? Noah Lefevre of Polyphonic takes a deep dive into how the song was constructed, which has more to do with a potpourri of rhymes designed to illustrate the melody than any one idea or theme. However, there were ideas behind some of the lyrics. The video is only eight minutes long, the rest is promotional -via Laughing Squid

Why Do Bears Look So Friendly and Cuddly?

The actual title of the article is ‘If Not Friend, Why Friend-Shaped?’ which speaks to the quirkiness of human perception. Have we been influenced by Paddington Bear, Yogi Bear, Winnie-the-Pooh, and Smokey Bear? Maybe, but the reason bears have been turned into so many pop culture characters is because they look so friendly in the first place. Experts were asked why we look at bears this way, and have a few ideas. Bears resemble dogs, which are man's best friend. Bears remind us of humans, too, since they live where we do, eat like we do (anything from honey to pic-a-nic baskets), and sometimes even walk like we do. Also, they tend to appear rotund, which signals harmlessness to humans who aren't that familiar with real bears. Bear cubs are adorable for their own reasons, and grow up to retain some of the baby features we find attractive. And there is at least one kind of bear that isn't all that dangerous and is also infinitely cute- the vegetarian giant panda bear. Read about the factors that make bears "friend-shaped" at Scientific American.  -via Metafilter

Skiing While Juggling

The Teton Juggler gets his name from his famous videos showing him juggling while skiing. He's a "flow artist" who does impressive tricks while on the powder, including throwing a pin around a tree while he skis next to it (0:07) and balancing a pin on another while in motion (0:25).

But he can do a lot more than just ski and juggle! The Teton Juggler also has videos showing juggling on a tightrope, mountain biking, mountain unicycling, and riding a horse. My favorite performance is when he does a back flip while skiing and doesn't miss a single pin.

-via Massimo

Patton and Eisenhower Met at the Bells of Peover Pub to Plan the D-Day Invasion

On June 6, 1944, Allied forces landed on the shores of Normandy in what was called D-Day. The 80th anniversary of the invasion that turned the tide of World War II is being celebrated in France by dozens of world leaders and surviving veterans from all over. In Lower Peover, Cheshire, UK, the commemoration is quieter, but the people are proud of the part their village played in the operation. General George Patton and General Dwight Eisenhower spent two days eating at the local pub called the Bells of Peover, and used the time to finalize plans for the Normandy invasion in the pub's dining room. A diary from an unknown soldier was later found in the pub, and is framed, open to entries for the dates of June 5th and 6th, 1944. A map of the invasion is also on the wall. British and American flags are displayed at the front door.

The citizens of Lower Peover still talk about the Americans who were based there during World War II, and about the villagers who proudly served in the war, including those who participated in the D-Day invasion. Read about the Bells of Peover and its place in history at BBC.  -via Damn Interesting

(Image credit: Dave.Dunford)

How Star Trek's Lame Final Episode Changed Sci-Fi Fandom Forever

The original Star Trek TV series ran for three years and was canceled. The final episode aired on June 3, 1969. That episode, “Turnabout Intruder,” was not written as a finale, since back then that's not how TV worked, especially when a series was canceled. It was the one where Captain Kirk was the victim of a body-switching scheme launched by a vengeful ex-girlfriend. Inverse explains how that episode didn't live up to Star Trek standards, which weren't all that high to begin with. While Star Trek was notably progressive in most areas, it was still quite sexist.

But then we find out that the plot of the final episode wasn't what saved "the fandom and the franchise" at all. That had to do with the person who was on set while the episode was filming, and spent the next few years making Star Trek into something more than a short-lived science fiction series. Fifty-five years later, read about "Turnabout Intruder" and what it led to at Inverse.

(Image credit: CBS/Paramount)

Chet Phillips' New Deck of Cards is the Cat's Meow

Chet Phillips (previously at Neatorama) has created a plastic-coated poker-size deck of cards that features 58 different illustrations of cats. The cats include stereotypical themes like "crazy cat lady" and "scaredy cat," but others are puns like "cat call" and "catalyst." There are pop culture cats, too, like "Dracatula" and "Clockwork tabby." The royal cards are illustrated as cats see themselves -as regal. Wait, 58 cards? That's a standard deck plus two jokers and four extra wild cards, because Phillips apparently had that much inspiration. I can see these being repurposed as a tarot deck for some people. Let's see a few closeups.

Caution: when playing a game with this deck, keep your eye on the values in the corner. Laughing at the illustrations can distract you into losing the game, and prolong play to a ridiculous degree. That goes double when you are playing a card game with children. The Cat's Meow deck can be ordered at Phillips' website for $15. -via Laughing Squid

Those Facehuggers are Back in Alien: Romulus

The seventh movie in the Alien franchise is coming. Alien: Romulus is set between the 1979 movie Alien and the 1986 movie Aliens. A spaceship crew is exploring a derelict space station and finds that there is life aboard, just not any life form they understand. Here, the only people familiar with the alien creatures are the audience, so the crew learns what is going on the hard way. Fede Alvarez directed this film, and takes it back to the gradually unfolding terror of the original movie. He also insisted that the trailer not show too much monster, but what they show us is plenty. We don't know what "Romulus" is, but I suspect it may be the name of the space ship or the abandoned space station. This trailer contains NSFW language. Alien: Romulus was originally slated to go straight to Hulu, but the finished product was judged worthy of a theatrical run, so it will be released in theaters on August 16.

George Washington's Plan to Kidnap A British Prince

They say that all's fair in love and war. Or they used to, because we know better now. But back in 1781, as the American colonies were fighting the British Empire for their freedom, there were few tactics the ill-equipped Americans wouldn't try. Both sides had occasionally staged a kidnapping of high-profile hostages already. Then word came of the first member of the British royal family setting foot in America. Colonel Matthias Ogden of the Continental Army discovered this through his spies, and wrote to Commander-in-Chief General George Washington, recommending the kidnapping of a British Admiral and a 17-year-old midshipman- who happened the be King George III's third son.

Washington approved the plan for taking the two from the HMS Prince George, and laid out how Prince William Henry was to be treated. They were not to offer "insult or indignity" to the prince nor the admiral, but they could order them around as needed. Circumstances of the war meant that the royal kidnapping was never carried out, but you have to wonder how later relations with the British could have been affected if it had happened. Read the story of the revolutionary kidnapping plan at Mental Floss.

(Image source: Brown University Library)

The Head Transplant of 1970

A couple of weeks ago, we learned of a startup trying to perfect a brain transplant, or more specifically, a body transplant. You might be surprised to learn it's been done before -but not on a human being. A spinal cord can not yet be connected to a brain in a manner that would make the body controllable, but 54 years ago, Dr. Robert White thought that paralysis might be a worthwhile price to pay for continued life. He put his extensive neuroscience research to work on transplanting a monkey's head to the body of another monkey. And it worked -for a few days. You don't want to think too much about that monkey's quality of life for those few days. All these years later, there are still doctors and scientists willing to try body transplants, despite the major ethical concerns. You can read more about Dr. White's career here.

The Most Valuable Vintage Toy in the World

You can peg the rarest thing, or the most expensive thing, by numbers. But how do you measure a thing's value? I was always told that something is worth exactly what someone is willing to pay for it. By that measure, this rocket-firing Boba Fett action figure from 1979 is the most valuable vintage toy ever. It recently went up for sale by Heritage Auctions and sold for $525,000. That's more than a half-million dollars!

See, the rocket firing Boba Fett was never sold in stores. Kenner scrubbed the model because it was a choking hazard. But there were about 30 prototypes made, in various stages of the design process. One was listed for sale for $365,000 in 2019, but it apparently did not sell for that price, because the record amount paid for a Star Wars toy was $236,000 for a rocket-firing Boba Fett in 2022. That is, until now. This particular Boba Fett was hand-painted, making it one of only three that exist in the world. Read more about this ultra-rare action figure that set a new record at Gizmodo.

(Image credit:Heritage Auctions/

The Sci-Fi Animation of The Last Seed

A robot rummaging through a desolate planet finds a seed, a cute little sidekick that looks like a plant but moves like an animal. The beginning of this cartoon short may remind you of Wall-E, but in this story, the planet is populated by huge alien predators (I thought of purple people eaters) that swoop in like raptors and target the robot. The first thing they do to the robot is tear off his arm, which seems like a callback to the Star Wars universe, in which everyone loses an arm sooner or later. You have to wonder what the monsters want with the robot, since he's a robot and won't provide much nutrition. Maybe they are really after something else. The Last Seed was an animation class project at 3is International Institute for Image and Sound in France by Christopher Woods, Doryan Beauvillard, and an entire team working together.

Florence Lawrence, the First Movie Star

In the early days of cinema, actors in movies weren't credited at all, mainly because film studios were afraid they would demand higher salaries if they became well known. That was the way it was for Florence Lawrence, who acted in dozens of silent films for Vitagraph and then Biograph, where she became so recognizable that she was known as "the Biograph girl." Still, Lawrence's name didn't get screen credit until 1910 when she joined Carl Laemmle's movie company, the Independent Moving Pictures Company. Laemmle thought crediting his best actress would be a boon to his studio, and he was right. Lawrence's name alone could draw crowds to see a movie.

But Florence Lawrence was more than a movie star. She did her own stunts. She produced and directed movies. She invented devices that were the precursor to the turn signal and the brake light, for which she also got no credit. Read about the amazing career of Florence Lawrence, the first American movie star, at Messy Nessy Chic.

Louis Cardozo and His Flying Piano

Talk about soaring music! For his song "Fly," musician Louis Cardozo imagined a video that went with the theme of the lyrics. What better way to illustrate it than by flying? With the piano he's playing? There are no computer-generated effects in this video. He really went paragliding while playing a grand piano. How did he do it? The project was years in the making, and since nobody would believe it was real, Cardozo and his crew documented it. Here's the making-of video.

No harness? Well, I guess falling from the sky may be a bit better than having a grand piano fall on you. It's good to have family with a bit of experience in ridiculous stunts like this. Don't miss the hilarious footage of a test flight that went wrong at about 3:30. Cardozo himself is no stranger to paragliding. See him do it while playing guitar at Laughing Squid.

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