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Easter Island’s Monoliths Made the Crops Grow

What we know of Easter Island is a story of environmental degradation fueled by human activity. The island had a varied ecosystem, including forests, before Polynesian sailors settled there around the year 1200. By the time the Dutch arrived 500 years later, the forests were gone, agriculture was difficult, and the human population of the island called Rapa Nui was in decline. The huge stone moai figures were fascinating, though, and posed a mystery as to their meaning. It took a couple more hundred years before anyone bothered to ask the islanders about their cultural legacy, and by then both the oral traditions and written language were fading away. However, even the soil on Rapa Nui can tell a tale.

A recent study by Van Tilburg and her archaeological team has helped fill in these gaps. By testing the soil of the area where moai rock was quarried, they found evidence that the statues not only symbolized prosperity, but that the very creation of the moai contributed to agricultural abundance.

Van Tilburg’s team has spent the past five years excavating Rano Raraku, a quarry in the island’s center whose rock accounts for 95 percent of the moai. The team was analyzing statues found in the area when geoarchaeologist Sarah Sherwood, more out of habit than anything else, tested the local soil. “When we got the chemistry results back, I did a double take,” Sherwood told UCLA’s Newsroom.

The team expected the quarry to just be a quarry. Instead, the analysis suggested that sweet potatoes and bananas had grown nearby, in soil rich in calcium and phosphorous. On an island with limited resources, where the rest of the soil had long since been depleted, the presence of such fertile soil was stunning.

Read about Sherwood's find and what it means to Easter Island's history at Atlas Obscura.

(Image credit: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen)


A Bobcat and His Castle

Big Cat Rescue (previously) took in a bobcat kitten named Flint last summer after he was attacked by hunting dogs. Flint has some bone deformities and was malnourished, and so became a permanent resident of the shelter in Florida.  

Chris Poole (previously) built and donated a cardboard castle to Big Cat Rescue, which they gave to Flint. The half-grown bobcat was delighted with it, and quickly found the cameras placed inside, which were obviously toys to play with!


Why Mashed Potatoes Are the Perfect Comfort Food

I totally agree with Chris Hallbeck of Maximumble. On a cold winter day, there's nothing like slipping into a tub of mashed potatoes. Honestly, it's even good when fully clothed--an option that my neighbors have enthusiastically endorsed.


Wearable Solutions to Hostile Architecture

Hostile architecture, also known as defensive architecture, is designed to subtly make a place an unwelcome place to stay for long periods of time. Spikes, armrests that prevent lying down, and snake pits are examples of this creative phenomenon.

Designers most commonly use these features in urban environments to discourage homeless people from staying too long. To mitigate them, artist Sarah Ross made clothing that allows the wearer to find comfort in deliberately uncomfortable places. She calls the outfits Archisuits. You can see them all here.

-via Design You Trust


Were Iron Maidens Ever Actually Used?

In verifying facts from the distant past, historians want more than one source, that is, corroborating evidence. One instance does not make a trend, or even a fact, because fiction was just as popular in days of yore as it is today. A painting could be a portrait or a fantasy, or something in between. A written account could be a chronicle or a retelling of a popular yarn. And so it is with the Iron Maiden, a medieval torture chamber shaped like a human body with spikes on the inside, in which a victim could be interred, leading to a slow, painful death. The first actual relic of this practice appeared in a museum in Nuermburg, Germany, in 1802.

This device was supposedly “discovered” in a German castle in the late 18th century. Not just a cask, this killing machine was roughly human shaped, made of iron, and even had a face, supposedly based on the face of the Virgin Mary, hence the torture instrument’s name- the Iron Maiden.

This probably first real Iron Maiden was sadly destroyed during WW2 by Allied bombers, but a copy created “as decoration for the ‘Gothic Hall’ of a patrician palace in Milan” in 1828 survived and currently resides in the Rothenburg, das Kriminalmuseum (Museum of Crime). From this copy, we can see that the device was certainly designed to cause unimaginable agony in its victims. Along with having strategically placed spikes designed to pierce approximately where a person’s vital organs and sensitive nether-region dangly bits are, the face of the Maiden did indeed have spikes designed to pierce a victim’s eyes upon closing, assuming the person wasn’t vertically challenged.

This copy did a lot to help popularize the idea of the Iron Maiden as a real thing thanks to its prominent display at the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 in Chicago, and subsequent tour across the United States to much fanfare.

However, there is no real evidence that an Iron Maiden was ever used in medieval times, or whether it actually existed. What we have are isolated accounts of similar torture that go back a lot earlier than the medieval period, which could easily be fiction. We also have real evidence of devices that may have inspired the stories of the Iron Maiden, although those real devices were not nearly as cruel. Strangely, the strongest evidence of the possible use of an Iron Maiden comes from the late 20th century! Read those accounts, and how they may have led to the myth of the Iron Maiden at Today I Found Out.

(Image credit: Lestat (Jan Mehlich))


What To Do When You Can’t Sleep

One of the first things that sleep specialist W. Christopher Winter, M.D., tells to professional sports organizations that are looking to build a nap room for players is to not call those rooms “nap rooms.”

“We try to get teams to call these rooms something that doesn’t have ‘sleep’ or ‘nap’ in the title — the ‘restoration room’ or the ‘regeneration room,’ for example,” explains Winter, who consults with the MLB, NHL, and NBA.

There are two reasons for this. One, it takes away the pressure that you have to sleep inside the room. The second reason is that it introduces the idea of “quiet wakefulness”, a powerful resting activity which is currently gaining traction among sleep doctors and health-conscious circles.

What is “quiet wakefulness?” It is defined simply as “resting with your eyes closed.”

 It’s compelling, in part, because it completely eliminates the stress surrounding sleep — particularly that I can’t fall asleep right now so my health is going to fall apart feeling that keeps you awake.
Stress and naps are a common yet unfortunate pairing, Dr. Winter explains. Many people can work themselves up so much about falling asleep that they struggle to actually do it.
Of course, that’s normal. “Most people don’t have complete control over their sleep,” Dr. Winter acknowledges. It would be strange, he says, to meet somebody who says, I have never had any trouble sleeping whatsoever. Having occasional sleep problems is to be expected.
But while you might not be able to fully control exactly when you fall asleep, you can control when you rest — and that’s one of quiet wakefulness’ biggest benefits.

More details about this one over at Medium.

(Image Credit: Pixabay)


The Rise of the Extreme Baby Boy Name

Parents have always felt free to get creative with names for baby girls. They can be named for relatives or Biblical characters, but they can also be named for flowers, gems, places, or virtues -basically anything can be a girl's name. Boy's names tend to be more traditional and generic, until recently. While extreme names are in the minority, there's a growing number of parents who will give a baby boy "doer" names that imply action, often a rather masculine action.

Angler, Camper, Tracker, Trapper, Catcher, Driver, Fielder, Racer, Sailor, Striker, Wheeler — deep breath — Breaker, Roper, Trotter, Wrangler — still going — Lancer, Shooter, Slayer, Soldier, Tracer, Trooper — wait, “Slayer”? — Blazer, Brewer, Charger, Dodger, Laker, Pacer, Packer, Raider, Ranger, Steeler, Warrior — kill me — Dreamer, Jester and — wait for it — Rocker.

What's behind this trend? Mel magazine takes a look into the rise of extreme names for baby boys.

Mel magazine has a series of articles about names this week, about men who select a new name as they transition, people who drop their father's name because of a difficult relationship, selecting names for TV characters, and how code names are chosen.


An Honest Trailer for Every Quentin Tarantino Movie

Quentin Tarantino movies vary widely in setting and somewhat in their basic premise, but they have enough in common with each other that Screen Junkies can critique all of them at once. Since I've only seen one of them, I guess I'm caught up.


Things You Might Not Know About The Illuminati

The Illuminati is perhaps the most talked about secret society in the world. It is, according to conspiracy theories, a secret organization that has covert control of the banks, the entertainment industry, and even the government, as well as historically important events. Celebrities such as Jay-Z and Beyonce are rumored to be part of this secret society. But what exactly is The Illuminati? Mental Floss lists ten facts about the organization. Why don’t you check it out?

(Image Credit: Quintendp099/ Wikimedia Commons)


Jennifer Kirkeby, the DIY Fashionista

Jennifer Kirkeby makes herself into celebrities, memes, and fashion models. The fashion runway cosplay is hilarious, mainly because her targets already start out as quite ridiculous. She uses whatever is at hand that will work, like chicken wire and Christmas ornaments to recreate the high-fashion hat you see above. But if combat boots are all you have, that will work, too.

Sometimes it's hard to tell the original runway image from the spoof, so you need to look closely to spot the added humor.

It's not just hats, either. See more of her glorious recreations at Instagram. -via reddit


This Dog Is Protesting About Annoying Everyday Things


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Baboy (@dogwithsign) on Dec 27, 2019 at 8:03am PST

If only dogs could talk, they wouldn’t need someone to speak up, or rather, write signs, for them. Thankfully, they have Dog With Sign to speak up for them.

Check out some of his best chuckle-worthy photos over at Bored Panda.

(Image Credit: dogwithsign/ Instagram)


What Is In Makeup Bags

Researchers have recently tested 467 makeup products which were donated by people in the UK, for bacterial and fungal contamination. What they found out next was alarming: 90% of them contained potentially deadly germs which could pose a significant health risk to its users.

We found E coli and Staphylococci in used eyeliner and mascara. These bacteria can cause irritation and conjunctivitis (pink eye). Although the symptoms of conjunctivitis tend to be mild – itchy, watery eyes – in extreme cases it can lead to sight loss. And the germs causing conjunctivitis can spread to other parts of the body, which can trigger a more serious secondary infection.
The lipsticks and lip gloss in our sample contained Staphylococci and various bacteria associated with faecal matter. These bacteria could cause redness, swelling and inflammation of the lips, which can be treated with antibiotics or antibacterial creams. But if the germs spread to the blood or deeper tissues of the body, the infection can become life threatening.

More about this study over at The Conversation.

(Image Credit: Pixabay)


Elastic Time

What happens when you place one clock at the top of the mountain, and place another on the beach? Each clock will eventually tell a different time. This is because time moves slower as you get closer to Earth.

… as Einstein posited in his theory of general relativity, the gravity of a large mass, like Earth, warps the space and time around it.
Scientists first observed this "time dilation" effect on the cosmic scale, such as when a star passes near a black hole. Then, in 2010, researchers observed the same effect on a much smaller scale, using two extremely precise atomic clocks, one placed 33 centimeters higher than the other. Again, time moved slower for the clock closer to Earth.

These findings imply that absolute time does not exist.

For each clock in the world, and for each of us, time passes slightly differently.

(Image Credit: obpia30/ Pixabay)


The Curious Case of the Notebook from State Lunatic Asylum No.3

A dumpster-diving teenager found a notebook in 1970 and kept it for many years. It was full of varied and detailed illustrations, but the artist was not named. The only clue as to its provenance was the fact that it was a decades-old billing pad for State Hospital #3 in Nevada, Missouri -a mental asylum.

These drawings weren’t an afterthought. They were 300 pages of someone’s life. The dumpster-digging teen who’d made the discovery waited more than three decades before he decided to sell the book on eBay in 2006, when a collector in St. Louis didn’t hesitate to snatch them up for $10,000. Today, a single page fetches around $16K at auction.

Who was the artist – or, artists? The element of mystery only added to public intrigue. The St. Louis collector in turn sold the notebook on to New York City collector Henry Diamant, who decided to call the mystery artist “The Electric Pencil” due to the letters “ECT” on some of the drawing – electro-convulsive therapy.

Dark things had been happening inside the hospital, which was long gone by the time Diamant was investigating the Electric Pencil Artist. Today, we know that it was underfunded, understaffed, and a breeding ground for caretaker and patient abuse. The colourful notebook was likely one patient’s coping mechanism. Compiling a nameless portfolio of wide-eyed Victorians and baby blue rivers; circus animals and steamboats, the notebook was both impeccable, and troubling.

The identity of the artist was eventually revealed, but the inspiration for his art remains mysterious. Read about the notebook and see a sampling of the artwork at Messy Nessy Chic.


Thoughtful McDonald's Restaurant Playing Loud Bagpipe Music 24 Hours a Day

It is a truth universally acknowledged that all things are improved with the addition of bagpipes. Thus it is right and meet that managers of a McDonald's restaurant in Sacramento, California are bringing joy to their neighborhood by playing bagpipe music 24 hours a day over loud speakers. CBS 13 News reports on the delighted responses of neighbors:

“The first couple of days they had it on 24/7. If we wouldn’t have said anything or reported it to the police, they would have had that thing going on still,” Arnold Phillips said.
Phillips lives across the street and says it’s making him crazy.
“It actually penetrates through the walls. We can hear it [when] I’m trying to watch TV or whatever and it’s going through that,” Phillips said.
The music is intended to drive the homeless away and doesn’t appear to be working. [...]
“It sticks in your head when you’re going somewhere else not even in this neighborhood because you’ve heard it for so long,” Phillips said.

The pipes do have that effect on people, as they sing from the collective unconscious of humanity. Even when bagpipes are not actually playing, they still play upon and from our psychic need for melody within our souls.

-via Dave Barry | Unrelated photo by Flickr member Kevin Walsh

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