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Denazifying German Libraries after World War II

The term in Nazi ideology was "gleichschaltung." It meant that all aspects of German society and culture--even and especially children's literature--had to reflect the Nazi perspective. By the end of twelve years of Nazi rule, even Latin, physics, and algebra books in Germany were thoroughly Nazi.

The occupying powers were disinclined to engage in the book burning that characterized the Nazis, but ultimately decided that it was necessary to purge Germany of Nazi ideas and, specifically, literature. At Lapham's Quarterly, historian Kathy Peiss writes about how the occupiers rooted Nazism out of libraries:

Local army commanders closed libraries and ordered librarians to halt the circulation of objectionable works, although this effort was haphazard. New guidelines hammered out in June made clear that public libraries were to be brought into line with publishers and booksellers. They required that all forbidden materials be removed from open shelves and placed in secure rooms, available only with the express permission of the military govern­ment. Staff members filled out Fragebogen, detailed questionnaires in­tended to reveal Nazi affiliation or beliefs. Library directors were required to sign a certificate stating, “I fully understand that it is my responsibility to see that the library is completely denazified.” Applications to reopen a library certified that “no ardent Nazi will be employed” and no literature circulated that supported Nazi doctrines, militarism, or discrimination on the basis of race, nationality, creed or political opinion.

-via Debby Witt | Image from Frank Capra educational film Your Job in Germany.


My Journey to Scotland's Most Remote Pub

The Old Forge in Inverie, Scotland holds the Guinness World Record title of “the most remote pub on mainland Britain.” Inverie is a village of around 100 people on the Knoydart peninsula, accessible by ferry and by hiking through hills and bogs where there are no roads. It has long been the Holy Grail of British hikers. But things are changing in Inverie. A new owner took possession of the Old Forge in 2012, and the changes he is making to turn it into a more upscale destination have the locals rebelling. They've built a second, unofficial pub called The Table, which is little more than a shack with a disco ball.    

I talked to locals as the disco ball swung in the breeze. We discussed Brexit, wild-boar populations, that you can pee anywhere in Scotland (unlike England), and the bittersweet work of foresters on the peninsula, planting oaks that will only reach maturity once those same foresters are long dead. It seems that no one who lives on Knoydart today was born here: the majority came as visitors and were caught up in its wild embrace. That night at the Table, it was easy to understand, in the lick of flame, the lap of waves, the drumming of rain on the roof. Lastly, the subject turned to the dispute with the Old Forge.

“What was created before [at the Old Forge] was legendary,” says Patrick. “To shut it down [for the winter], to me, is a two fingers up to the community.”

The Table “is in protest to what we’ve lost,” said one local who asked not to be named. “A lot of folks who walked in every two years stopped coming, because they remember the pub how it was. If the pub was the beating heart of the community, this is the new left ventricle. We’re trying to fill the gap. It keeps us sane.”

It is easy to see how tempers flare when pubs are concerned. The pub is part of the soul of Scotland and the United Kingdom as a whole. Its meaning transcends a tavern or bar. Pub is an abbreviation of public house—a meeting place for all comers (children and dogs are admitted, too). In the Scottish climate, pubs were a place of shelter for wayfarers on the open road. For some hikers, the walk-in to Knoydart is a reenactment of this memory: of people coming in from the cold in an age before mechanized transport, when walking was a necessity. Or even an echo of an old story from a faraway land—of some people tired and lost in the wilderness, looking for a room at the inn.

Oliver Smith traveled to Inverie to check out the pub situation, which will soon include a third pub, as an actual brewery has opened on the peninsula. Read his fascinating travelogue at Outside Online. -via Metafilter

(Image credit: Ivan Hall / The Old Forge, Inverie, Knoydart / CC BY-SA 2.0)


The World's Largest Snickers Bar Weighs 2.4 Tons

For a week, the Promethean craftsmen at the Mars Wrigley factory in Waco, Texas labored to create the world's greatest Snickers bar. It measures 12 feet long and is the equivalent of 43,000 regular-sized Snickers bars, thus providing servings for 10 people.

This bar has secured a Guinness World Record. Mars Wrigley created it for a commercial that will air at the next Super Bowl on February 2.

You can watch a delicious news video about the creation of this Snickers at UPI.

-via Dave Barry | Photo: KXAN


Curling Hair in the 19th Century

Getting straight hair to curl is easier now than it has ever been thanks to modern electric curling irons, although the occasional disaster is still possible. Women also had curling irons in the 1800s, which were were not safe at all. Those curling irons were simple metal tongs that had been heated in a fire.    

Nevertheless, ladies continued to use hot tongs and crimping irons throughout the nineteenth century. According to Sylvia’s Book of the Toilet (1881), the safest method for using curling tongs was to wrap slightly dampened hair around a pair of hot tongs that had been wrapped in “thin brown paper.” Alternatively, paper could be wrapped directly around the hair before application of the tongs—as Jo wrapped Meg’s hair.

A paper barrier was meant to help protect the hair from being scorched. However, it was no protection against a pair of hot tongs that had been applied too long, or to hair that was fine and brittle.

Enterprising hair stylists came up with alternative methods, involving setting lotions and curlers to sleep in, which was an improvement in safety, but certainly not in convenience. Read about 19th-century curlers at Mimi Matthews' blog. -via Strange Company

(Image credit: Wellcome Images)


Hungry Cats Might Find Dead Bodies Yummy

Feral cats were caught on camera feasting on human corpses at a  decomposition research facility in Colorado. The two cats were reportedly looking for specific corpses to feed on, suggesting that they might have a preference. A study has tapped into this rare occurrence to document and analyze the cats’ behaviour, and try to explain their preference for specific corpses, as ScienceAlert detailed: 

It's actually pretty well established that house-cats (and dogs) will take a nibble of a deceased owner. And, well, it makes sense: if Tom Tildrum is locked in a house with a cornucopia of ripe meat, and no other food source, of course he will make do with what's available.
Generally, such pets go for soft, exposed bits. This can include (warning, very graphic images at next link) the lips and nose, or the hands and feet. The feral cats, notably, did not go near these regions, perhaps partially because the bodies were unclothed and other parts of the body were easier to access.
"In both cases reported here, the feral cats targeted areas where the skin had been previously penetrated," the researchers wrote.
"Both cats showed preference for bodies in relatively early decomposition. Scavenging began when the bodies showed early signs of decomposition and ended at the onset of moist decomposition. The cessation of scavenging at the onset of moist decomposition may be explained by felids' preference for fresh tissue."
Although it can be confronting to think of our furry pets merrily chowing down on our cooling flesh, the research is important for establishing scavenger behaviour profiles to aid forensic analysis.

image via wikimedia commons


It’s Better To Not Fake Your Emotions At Work, Study Shows

Faking a smile or a cheery positive attitude backfires when used on coworkers, as University of Arizona researchers led by Allison Gabriel found out in their study. From studying groups of people from different industries, such as education and manufacturing, the researchers discovered that employees who fake their emotions at work tend to feel more emotionally exhausted and inauthentic at work. EurekAlert has more details: 

While some managers Gabriel spoke to during the course of her research still believe emotions have little to do with the workplace, the study results suggest there is a benefit to displaying positive emotions during interactions at work, she said.
"I think the 'fake it until you make it' idea suggests a survival tactic at work," Gabriel said. "Maybe plastering on a smile to simply get out of an interaction is easier in the short run, but long term, it will undermine efforts to improve your health and the relationships you have at work."
"In many ways," Gabriel added, "it all boils down to, 'Let's be nice to each other.' Not only will people feel better, but people's performance and social relationships can also improve."

image via wikimedia commons


Google Maps Lets You Rate And Review Major Bodies Of Water

The Volga river in Russia is the highest-rated river in Google Maps, with over six thousand reviews. The Volga scored 4.7, defeating other major rivers such as Don (Russia) and Sao Francisco (Brazil). Isn’t it funny that the application lets you review a natural location on Earth as if it was a cafe or a product? Google said that it allows its users review these places so that it can be a basis of informed decisions, as Quartz detailed: 

The idea of rating rivers, as if they were coffee shop or dry cleaners, may strike some as peculiar. Why does Google allow it? “Generally speaking, we allow ratings and reviews on places that have an address or are open to the public, and that includes places like castles, beaches, rivers and even mountains,” a Google spokesperson told Quartz.

image via wikimedia commons


The EU Wants A Standard Charger For All Smartphones

The European Union (EU) wants to have a single standard charging port for all smartphones. Whether it’s an iPhone,  Samsung, or any type or brand of smartphone, the EU wants the hassle of finding the right charger for your phone gone. This goal is reducing electronic waste, and providing better consumer experience, as Interesting Engineering details: 

"More than 51,000 tonnes of electronic waste per year," happen because of old chargers being thrown out, stated the E.U.'s assessment. This may be reason enough to jump on the E.U.'s bandwagon for a standard charger. 
On top of that, the E.U. believes this would also improve the lives of consumers who would no longer have to go out and buy a new charger every time they upgrade their phone. 
It's not the first time we hear of the E.U. asking for such a change. Back in 2009 the European Commission had asked for harmonized charging systems. And 2014 saw the European Parliament create a new directive for single charger use. 

image via wikimedia commons


The Hype Is Now Wood For Sustainable Building

Wood is now seen as the material to replace steel and concrete, as it is said to reduce waste and create a more aesthetically-pleasing environment. The hype around replacing commonly-used building materials with wood is all thanks to structural timber (also known as massive timber). It involves sticking pieces of soft wood together like putting lego blocks together, as Vox detailed: 

Mass timber is a generic term that encompasses products of various sizes and functions, like glue-laminated (glulam) beams, laminated veneer lumber (LVL), nail-laminated timber (NLT), and dowel-laminated timber (DLT). But the most common and most familiar form of mass timber, the one that has opened up the most new architectural possibilities, is cross-laminated timber (CLT).
Slabs of wood this large can match or exceed the performance of concrete and steel. CLT can be used to make floors, walls, ceilings — entire buildings. The world’s tallest mass timber structure, at 18 stories and over 280 feet, was recently built in Norway; there’s an 80-story wooden tower proposed for Chicago.

image via Vox


The First Robot That Can Bend Its Wings Like A Real Bird

Pigeons may be regarded as the rats of the sky, but scientists have found a great use for these birds: their body structure could be a blueprint for a new generation of flying machines.

Birds can modify the shape of their wings by fanning out their feathers or shuffling them closer together. Those adjustments allow birds to cut through the sky more nimbly than rigid drones.

Using this knowledge of how pigeons’ joints control the spread of their wing feathers, researchers have built a robotic pigeon, called PigeonBot, which, like a real pigeon, can change the shape of its feathered wings.

This research paves the way for creating more agile aircraft, says Dario Floreano, a roboticist at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland not involved in the work.

(Image Credit: Lentink Lab/ Stanford University)


Check Out These Robotic Graspers

Traditional vacuum suction and vacuum suction devices don’t do well in rough surfaces due to vacuum leakage, which leads to suction failure. Scientists have addressed this problem and the result is this suction unit which can be used on rough surfaces no matter how textured. This could have applications in the development of climbing robots, as well as robotic arms with grasping capabilities.

Researchers Xin Li and Kaige Shi developed a zero-pressure difference (ZPD) method to enhance the development of vacuum suction units. Their method overcame leakage limitations by using a high-speed rotating water ring between the surface and suction cup to maintain the vacuum. They discuss their work in this week's Physics of Fluids, from AIP Publishing.
"There are many applications of our design, but we think the wall-climbing robot will be the most useful," said Li. "Compared to other wall-climbing robots, the robot with our ZPD-based suction unit achieves surprising improvement in performance."

The suction, however, consumes a lot of water and is connected to a supply, so the next step, according to Li, is to find a way to reduce the water consumption.

(Image Credit: Xin Li and Kaige Shi/ EurekAlert)


Fungi Considered To Help Build Lunar Bases and Mars Outposts

Fungus could be very much be with us once we humans settle on the moon and beyond, as NASA researchers investigate the potential of mycelia to help in constructing on the moon and Mars.

"Right now, traditional habitat designs for Mars are like a turtle — carrying our homes with us on our backs," project principal investigator Lynn Rothschild, of NASA's Ames Research Center in California, said in a statement.

While this may be a reliable plan, Rothschild states that this has huge energy costs. She suggests that we can “can harness mycelia to grow these habitats ourselves when we get there”.

More details about this over at Space.com.

(Image Credit: Lex vB/ Wikimedia Commons)


How Intimidating Is A Male Sparrow’s Voice To Other Male Sparrows?

It depends on the age. Similar to us humans, a sparrow’s voice changes as it reaches its sunset years. As elderly swamp sparrows no longer sound the same as when they were younger, they also do not strike the same fear in other males who hear them, according to research led by Duke University.

Humans are remarkably good at guessing a person's age just by hearing their voice. But this is the first time the phenomenon has been demonstrated in wild animals, said Duke biology professor and study co-author Steve Nowicki.
During the early spring, a male swamp sparrow stakes out a breeding territory and threatens any male who dares to trespass on his turf. If a potential rival enters another male's territory and starts to sing, the resident male says "Get out!" by singing back with a rapid weet-weet-weet and flying toward the intruder. Eventually, if all else fails, he attacks.

The same team have found out previously that male swamp sparrows reach their peak as vocalists at age two. As they age, their voices decline, which make them sing less frequently and less consistently.

Check out how the research team conducted their study over at PHYS.org.

(Image Credit: Cephas/ Wikimedia Commons)


Internet Explorer Bug To Be Fixed, Says Microsoft

A security flaw in Internet Explorer is currently being used by hackers, according to Microsoft. The tech company told TechCrunch that it was “working on a fix”. However, it was unlikely to release a patch until the next round of monthly security fixes, which is scheduled for February 11.

The aforementioned security flaw is believed to be similar to the one disclosed by Mozilla earlier this week.

More details over at the site.

(Image Credit: geralt/ Pixabay)


Finally, A Practical Guide for Roadside Wildflower Viewing

We've all have this experience on a road trip: you see some nice blooming flowers on the side of the highway, and you wonder what kind of flowers they are. But you don't have the time, or the authority, to pull over and get a leisurely look. You might have a field guide with you, but the plants in it do not look like what you see out the window. Chris Helzer of The Prairie Ecologist understands that experience, and has therefore written a book to remedy the situation. His new ebook, A Field Guide to Roadside Wildflowers at Full Speed is available for free.

The wildflowers in the book are arranged by both color and blooming date (within color classes), just as you’ll see in other field guides. However, in this guide, the flowers appear as they actually look when you see them from the road. This much more realistic portrayal of wildflowers will prevent the frustration that comes from staring bleakly at field guide photos that bear little resemblance to what you see out your car window.

Read about the book at The Prairie Ecologist, and read the full book here.

-via Metafilter

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