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The United States Redrawn with 50 Equal-Population States

This map is the creation of Neil Freeman, who noted that the current 50 states have populations ranging from a half million to 33 million.
This Electoral Reform Map redivides the territory of the United States into 50 bodies of equal size - 281,421,906 divided by 50 is 5,616,997. This map shows one possible way to redraw the fifty states... The map was laid out with no political orientation or wealth. As a result, states may be favor one or the other parties.

In a U.S. Senate based on this map, each Senator would represent the same number of constituents.

Link, via James Fallows.

Select a Book from the "Weird Books Room"

AbeBooks (U.K.) has a Weird Book Room, which they describe as...
"...the finest source of everything that's bizarre, odd and downright weird in books. We now have 101 crazy and strange titles about every oddball aspect of life you could possibly imagine and a few things you couldn't possibly imagine."

This assemblage is slightly different from the well-known Bookseller/Diagram Prize, which is awarded annually to the book with the most unusual title.  In the AbeBooks room, some of the selections have rather prosaic titles, but unusual subject matter.

The example shown is The Teach Your Chicken To Fly Training Manual, in which "Using careful instructions, detailed diagrams and specially designed exercises to build up wing strength, Weekes guides you in training your chickens to take to flight."

You can probably find something more to your liking.

Link, via Professor Hex.

Did Van Gogh Slash His Ear Because of the Letter in This Painting?

In December of 1888, Vincent Van Gogh cut off the lobe of his left ear with a razor.  Many explanations have been offered for this bizarre behavior.  Now a scholar claims to have found an explanation in the portrayal of a letter in Van Gogh's Still Life: Drawing Board, Pipe, Onions and Sealing-Wax, painted the following month.
Bailey concludes that this letter was written by [Van Gogh's brother] Theo from Paris in December 1888 and contained news of his engagement. This, he believes, tipped Vincent, who was already psychologically disturbed, into self-harm.  “Vincent was fearful that he might lose his brother’s emotional and financial support,"writes Bailey in the January edition of The Art Newspaper.

The postmark depicted on the letter corresponds to that which would have been used by Van Gogh's brother, and the date would agree with the transmital of the engagement news.

LinkImage credit.

Carl Sagan's Apple Pie Recipe

Preparation time:  12-20 billion years.


Million-dollar Silver Certificates

Two Germans have been apprehended in Austria after bringing $500 million in counterfeit million-dollar bills to a bank.
The Austrian National Analysis Center (NAC) examined the 493 banknotes Hölzen and B. had in their possession. Of those notes, 295 were originally $1 bills. Counterfeiters increased the face value of the bills to $1 million, simply by adding six zeros. The counterfeiting was done "very expensively and professionally," say the specialists.

The men - one of whom is an attorney - claim that they were not trying to pass counterfeit money because they thought the bills were genuine.  They now suspect that they may have been victims of a scam.


Control Population to Limit Climate Change

As the world looks to Copenhagen for solutions to a changing climate, China's vice-minister of the National Population and Family Planning Commission has expressed a viewpoint that has generally been overlooked or ignored - that it may be more effective to limit world population growth than to limit CO2 emissions per se.

As a result of the family planning policy, China has seen 400 million fewer births, which has resulted in 18 million fewer tons of CO2 emissions a year, Zhao said.

The UN report projected that if the global population would remain 8 billion by the year 2050 instead of a little more than 9 billion according to medium-growth scenario, "it might result in 1 billion to 2 billion fewer tons of carbon emissions".

Research at the London School of Economics has suggested that money expended on family planning reduces CO2 emissions more efficiently than money expended on hybrid vehicles or solar and wind power.


The Photorealism of Norman Rockwell Explained

This week a story at NPR discusses the extent to which Norman Rockwell used photography to capture images of models; he then traced these photographs onto canvas as an early step in the creation of his famous paintings.
Rockwell used photos, taken by a rotating cast of photographers, to make his illustrations... Rockwell never kept it a secret, but for some reason this little fact has been neglected in recent decades. Although he may not have clicked the shutter, Rockwell directed every facet of every composition.

A newly published book, Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera (Little, Brown and Company, 2009), and an exhibition at the Norman Rockwell Museum provide further insight into this process and offer acknowledgement to the photographers involved in the process.

Those who feel the lack of freehand drawing somehow diminishes Rockwell's status as an artist should be reminded that painters as famous as Vermeer and Caravaggio are thought to have used the camera obscura to compose their works.

NPR link, via Photo District News, via (ovo).  Photo credit Norman Rockwell Museum.

A Glass Bottle Will Disappear...

YouTube link

... if you fill it with glycerine and submerge it in glycerine, because glass and glycerine have similar refractive indices.

Nothing very special here, but the effect should be good enough to impress small children in your family.

Found at Reddit.

Vatican: Aliens May Be Free From Original Sin

Earlier this year the Vatican issued a statement acknowledging that Darwin's theory of evolution was compatible with Christian theology.  Now the Vatican's chief astronomer has postulated that extraterrestrial life is possible.
Writing in the Vatican newspaper, the astronomer, Father Gabriel Funes, said intelligent beings created by God could exist in outer space.  Father Funes, director of the Vatican Observatory near Rome, is a respected scientist who collaborates with universities around the world.  The search for forms of extraterrestrial life, he says, does not contradict belief in God.

Just as there are multiple forms of life on earth, so there could exist intelligent beings in outer space created by God. And some aliens could even be free from original sin, he speculates.

Link.  The photo does not depict an alien free from original sin - just a random chestbusting alien.

"Bloody Brain Shooters"

Apparently the key to creating "brain tissue" is to mix acidic lime juice with the vodka.  Then when you add the Bailey's Irish Cream via a straw, it curdles into cortical gyri.  A splash of grenadine provides the blood.  The ingredient list and instructions are at Folkinz.  Via Found Here. You will need a couple of these if you plan to eat any of Jill's brain cake...

A Visual History of Football Helmets

For the past ten years The Helmet Project has been assembling images of football helmets.  The current array includes professional teams (American, Canadian, Arena, and others) and NCAA divisions I, II, and III, and even NAIA and some junior colleges.  The time period covered goes back to 1960.
Please note that my interest lies only in the "helmet design", by which I basically mean the shell and faceguard colors, the logo decals (if any), and the stripes running over the top of the helmet (if any). No attempt is being made here to illustrate the physical variations of helmets produced by different manufacturers, or the many different styles of faceguards, nor do I intend to show changes in the physical structure of helmets over the decades (at least not in the near future); partially for these reasons, 1960 has been somewhat arbitrarily chosen as the cut-off date for all the historic helmets for now. I am also not attempting to display fine details like "award decals" that would not show up well in the image size I am using here, or those details that would not be visible from this perspective (such as numerals on the back of the helmet). It is not my intention to illustrate every variation worn by every individual football player on any of these teams, just whatever was "the" design for each team at a particular time.

Link, via Archaeoblog (!)

The Spirit of Ecstasy

The figure of a lady which has adorned the front of Rolls-Royce automobiles for the past century is modeled on a real woman - Eleanor Velasco Thornton, the lover of automotive pioneer John Walter Edward Scott-Montagu.  He commissioned artist Charles Robinson Sykes to design a mascot for the bonnet of his Silver Ghost.   In the original version - "The Whisper" - the lady was pressing a finger against her lips to symbolize the secret nature of a love affair which could not be publicized because of her lower social status.  Over the years "The Whisper" evolved to the current "Spirit of Ecstasy" (also known as "Ellie in her Nightie").

...Sykes called it "A graceful little goddess, the Spirit of Ecstasy, who has selected road travel as her supreme delight and alighted on the prow of a Rolls-Royce motor car to revel in the freshness of the air and the musical sound of her fluttering draperies."

Today's Spirit of Ecstasy stands at 3 inches and, for safety, is mounted on a spring-loaded mechanism designed to retract instantly into the radiator shell if struck from any direction. There is a button within the vehicle which can retract/extend the emblem when pressed. She can be made of highly polished stainless steel, sterling silver or 24-carat gold, the sterling silver and gold being optional extras.

Futher details about the ornament are available at Wikipedia and The Telegraph, via the New Shelton wet/dry (whence the photo).

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