Her name was Rossa Matilda Richter, but she was known as Zazel, the human cannonball. Zazel was a trapeze performer and walked a tightrope, but became famous for performing a new stunt on April 2, 1877, at the Royal Aquarium in London. The 14-year-old performer climbed into the business end of a huge cannon, which was then lit, and she was suddenly launched across the arena and into a net. The cannon act brought Zazel worldwide fame.
“We listen to the loud report which follows its application to the powder and lo! our vision is startled by the sight of the living Miss – we mean missile – flying through space, and alighting safe and sound in the huge net spread to receive her. It is Zazel. There she stands, bowing her acknowledgments of the thunders of applause which greet her. Before the smoke has cleared from the vast mouth of the cannon whence she had come she has made her away along the net, and is found again bowing and smiling upon the stage, and the spectators, almost bewildered as well as delighted, are turning to each other with astonishment plainly written upon their faces, and upon their lips the query, ‘Is it possible?’”
But life wasn't a bowl of cherries for Zazel. She was cheated out of proper compensation by her handlers, and suffered injuries quite a few times, including a horrific injury that ended her career in 1891. Read about the life of the first human cannonball at Geri Walton's blog. -via Strange Company
The best animal videos are either adorable, funny, or strange. Many of the best are all three! The Pet Collective has compiled the best pet videos from 2018 into one rather enjoyable collection, yet they labeled it "part one." That means there are more coming. -via Tastefully Offensive
Fifty years ago this week, NASA launched the Apollo 8 mission. It was mankind's first adventure outside low Earth orbit, the first trip around the moon, and the first time anyone got to see Earth as a distant object, a blue marble in space. And it wasn't even supposed to happen.
Astronauts Frank Borman, Bill Anders and Lovell were not supposed to visit the moon at all. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration had assigned these men to Apollo 9, a fairly routine test of the lunar excursion module (LEM) in Earth’s orbit. But during the summer of 1968, U.S. officials feared an unexpected Soviet jaunt to the moon, so just 16 weeks before the scheduled liftoff, they reassigned the astronauts to an incredibly ambitious and dangerous flight. This decision was essential “to put us on the right timeline for Apollo 11,” says Teasel Muir-Harmony, a curator at the National Air and Space Museum and author of the new book, Apollo to the Moon: A History in 50 Objects.
Flight Director Christopher Kraft told Borman’s wife Susan that the odds of her husband’s return were fifty-fifty. As launch day arrived on December 21, 1968, many “engineers and scientists at NASA question[ed] whether the crew” would ever return.
One of the reasons for those low odds was because the Saturn V missile had only been used twice, and one of those times was a complete failure. Another was the crucial rocket burn that had to be performed on the far side of the moon, when the astronauts would be completely out of touch with Darth. But the decade was running out, and America was dead set on reaching the moon. What the public recalls about the mission was the Christmas Eve broadcast from the astronauts. You can read the rest of the story of Apollo 8 at Smithsonian.
You have to admit the first trailer for Avengers: Endgame is sad and serious. But what if Deadpool joined in to lighten the mood? In this recut trailer by Mightyraccoon! all the superheroes are replaced by Deadpool. This turns the super-serious superhero saga into an R-rated comedy. Contains NSFW language. -via io9
Animator David Li created a web toy for Adult Swim that's a virtual choir you control, sort of. Your job is to pull the lips open, which is all it takes to make the virtual mouth sing. The other lips will follow suit. The further you pull, the higher the note. It's creepy and fun at the same time. They can hold a note longer than you can! -via Laughing Squid
You've never thought of wolves as fish eaters, but there is now evidence that they catch and eat freshwater fish. The Voyageurs Wolf Project has established that wolves in Minnesota eat fish as a substantial part of their diet. The project studies GPS-collared wolves from 15 different packs in the Voyageurs National Park area of Minnesota.
Researcher Tom Gable first noticed the wolf-fish interaction in April, 2017, when he hiked to a creek where GPS data showed one of the collared wolves was spending a lot of time.
“As I approached the area, I briefly saw a wolf trying to catch a fish before it ran into the woods,” Gable said. He then found fish remains and wolf tracks scattered along the creek.
In the following month the team found the two GPS-collared wolves in the Bowman Bay pack, south of Lake Kabetogama, spent 43 to 63 percent of their time hunting fish around this creek.
Camera traps eventually captured concrete evidence of wolf fishing. The project has determined that wolves will leave deer and moose alone if they can catch beavers. Fish -and blueberries- help to round out their diet when other foods are not available. -via TYWKIWDBI
What we learn about the aftermath of the American Civil War in history class is usually the Reconstruction era. What happened to the individuals who drove the war? Lincoln was assassinated, his successor Andrew Johnson was impeached (but not convicted), and U.S. Grant became president. What about the leaders of the Confederacy? Considering the lack of history class mentions, you'd think they faded into obscurity, but that was not the case- at least immediately after the war.
Alexander Stephens, the vice president of the Confederacy, was arrested and held in prison at George’s Island in Boston until October, 1865. He was released from indemnity by Andrew Johnson, a pro-slavery, anti-Black President. He was elected to the Senate, which refused to allow him to sit; was elected to Congress; and became the governor of Georgia. Stephens was a rabid anti-Black racist who wrote the “Cornerstone Speech” stating the the Civil War was all about slavery and that Blacks would never be the equals of Whites.
Read about the post-Civil War lives of Confederate president Jefferson Davis and the generals who led the Confederate army at Mental Floss.
Longyearbyen, Norway, is the northernmost city in the world. It is said that it is illegal to die in Longyearbyen, despite the polar bears, dangerous cold, and occasional diseases. Yes, people can die there, but if you do, it gets complicated.
But for more than 70 years, not a single person has been buried in Longyearbyen. That’s due to the region’s year-round sub-zero temperatures: Bodies don’t decompose, but are preserved, as if mummified, in the permafrost. Should anyone die there, the government of Svalbard requires that the body is flown or shipped to mainland Norway to be interred.
But strange things are happening to the permafrost in this town as the climate changes. Take a short trip to Longyearbyen from the comfort of your home in this documentary from David Freid. Read more at The Atlantic.
Vinyl record albums are grooved in a coil that ends in a circle at the end of a side. That circle is still a groove, and can be recorded on. In 1982, I worked at a radio station that played album cuts, and played the very last long on Def Leppard's High and Dry album, not knowing that that the circle had been recorded onto, and the song ends with an endless loop of the lyrics "No no!" It was a complete surprise to everyone, and it went on for far too long while we figured out what was happening, so I eventually faded it out. There are plenty of examples of albums (and 45rpm singles) that were recorded that way, with a locked groove containing audio. "Muskrat Love" by The Captain and Tenille, Monty Python's album Another Monty Python Record, and certain pressings of Sgt. Pepper. In fact, Discogs has a list of 1251 such records. You might even have one in your collection! -via Metafilter
(Image credit: cogdogblog)
In 1949, King Features Syndicate produced a giveaway book, sort of a quasi-comic, to explain how nuclear fission works. It starred Dagwood and his wife Blonde, with appearances by other King Features comic characters: Popeye, the Katzenjammer Kids, the Little King, and others. The science gets explained by Mandrake the Magician! It's only 36 pages long, and they are all scanned and enlargeable at The Ephemerist. Be warned, there's a quiz at the end. -Thanks, Tim!
Psst! Wanna watch glass shatter at 28,500 frames a second? The Slow Mo Guys have you covered! The idea here is to see how fast a crack will move through glass, and you need a rather powerful camera to measure that. They have to do it more than once to get the technique right, but the speed of a crack turns out to be pretty darn fast. I wonder if thicker glass would crack at the same speed- but that would be another video.
Street artist David Zinn (previously at Neatorama) of Ann Arbor, Michigan, often decorates public spaces with temporary chalk and charcoal art, incorporating the landscape itself.
Cracks in the sidewalk, plants, and architectural features become the inspiration for, and part of the art. Imagine happening upon any of these images while walking through town, and you just have to smile.
See more of Zinn's creations at Instagram. You can purchase his artwork and books through his online store. -via Laughing Squid
The new DC superhero movie Aquaman premiered Wednesday night in Los Angeles. No red carpet, but a blue one this time. Aquaman star Jason Momoa did more than interviews; he performed the traditional Maori haka “Ka Mate,” accompanied by his children and co-stars. Aquaman opens nationwide today. -via the A.V. Club
Denver resident Susan Potter made specific plans for the fate of her remains after death, 15 years before she died in 2015 at age 87. She had already decided to donate her body to science, specifically to medical education. The National Library of Medicine’s Visible Human Project, begun in 1991, seeks to digitize the structures of the human body for anatomy education. The process involves milling a frozen human cadaver in increments of only microns and imaging each slice to create a 3D model that can be studied as a whole or piece by piece. Potter met Vic Spitzer, director of the Center for Human Simulation, and volunteered to be one of those cadavers when the time came.
Spitzer wanted to videotape her while she was living and record her talking about her life, her health, her medical history. Your pathology isn’t that interesting to the project, Spitzer told Potter. But if I could capture you talking to medical students, when they’re looking at slices of your body, you could tell them about your spine—why you didn’t want the surgery, what kind of pain the surgery caused, and what kind of life you led after the surgery. That would be fascinating.
“They’ll see her body while they’re hearing her stories,” he explained, adding that video and audio of her would make her more real and introduce the element of emotion to students. Instead of an anonymous cadaver, this “visible human” would be capable of delivering a medical narrative suffused with the recollection of frustration, pain, and disappointment. The images of Potter, like those of the Visible Humans, would be on the internet, available anywhere, anytime.
Potter took the idea very seriously, and was in constant contact with Spitzer for all those years before her death. She even demanded to see the laboratory where her body would be processed.
The bargain Potter made with the man who would cut her into 27,000 slices undoubtedly added meaning to her last years. In fact, it probably added years to her life. I was led to believe she was going to die within a year because of her multiple health problems. She lived for another decade.
Dan Hubbert of Cottingham, UK, strung lots of flashing Christmas light in his yard. Apparently one neighbor did not appreciate the display. She came in the middle of the night and cut the lights with a knife! Hubbert posted the security footage on Facebook, and asked readers whether he should contact the police. Hubbert said she could have come around and asked him to turn off the lights at night.
“Everyone wants me to ring the police on her,” he said. “She should pay for them. If it was youths I would’ve been straight on the blower to the police but she’s old. You can’t start going across the road and chopping down lights.”
While Mr Hubbert said he was thinking about contacting the police to ask them to speak to the woman, he admitted he and his children saw the funny side of the incident.
Read the story at the Independent. Article contains autoplay ads.
For his Christmas greeting, The Flippist (previously at Neatorama) made a flip book of all the booby traps that Kevin sprung on the home invaders in the movie Home Alone. It will remind you of how ridiculously violent that film was- like the Three Stooges on steroids.
The booby trap scene from Home Alone already feels like a cartoon, so turning it into a flipbook was natural! It especially works great with the amazing sound effects. This took over a month to draw/color, but has always been one of my favorite movies so I had a lot of fun making it. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all! Thanks for watching :)
-via Boing Boing
The theremin was the first all-electronic musical instrument, played by moving one's hand through the electromagnetic field generated by two oscillators. It was invented by Leon Theremin (Lev Sergeyevich Termen) in 1920. That "accidental" invention set Theremin on a profoundly peculiar life journey.
Leon was a young physicist under the Soviet regime when he accidentally invented his instrument while working on government-sponsored research into proximity sensors. As a Bolshevik, he was honoured when he discovered that Lenin was impressed by the instrument. The Soviet leader actually took lessons from him, and is believed to have had quite a knack for it. Leon was thus sent around the world to showcase the finest of Soviet technology.
Theremin settled in the US, where he patented his theremin, married a prima ballerina from the American Negro Ballet Company, and was suspected of sending American scientific intelligence back to Russia. But Theremin suddenly and mysteriously disappeared in 1938. Read what happened to Theremin and the impact of his later inventions at Messy Messy Chic.
The Miss Universe parade of national costumes, sometimes called "the cosplay of the nations," happened in Bangkok on Sunday. Many of the costumes would make a Vegas showgirl tired, but there were quite a few that were clever, surprising, or just beautiful. Above, Miss Puerto Rico pays homage to those who helped the island after hurricane Maria.
Instead of a traditional kimono, Miss Japan represented her country as Sailor Moon. Miss India carried her own throne. Miss United Kingdom illustrated women's suffrage, while Miss Vietnam pretended to eat part of her costume. Miss Laos was accompanied by a couple of life-size puppets, a display that could have doubled as a performance in the talent competition, but Miss Universe doesn't have one.
See all the costumes from 94 nations in alphabetical order at ONTD. You can see a video of the entire parade as well. The Miss Universe pageant will be held Sunday night. -via Metafilter
Some folks consider "luck" to be the result of supernatural forces that work for us or against us, while others look at luck as random occurrences that have nothing to do with who we are. The former can either guide our decisions or cause us to rebel against the very idea. The latter robs us of agency, as people are loathe to believe that randomness in the universe has anything to do with our lives. A previous post pointed to research about the role of luck in our successes and failures. This video from The School of Life looks at why we are not likely to accept the findings that random luck plays a big part in how our lives turn out. -via Laughing Squid
You know how family traditions start: you do something fun one year, and the kids want to do it again next year. Before you know it, they think it's important to do it every year. Some of these traditions evolve into strange and weird things your family does that no one else does- and you may not have known it until you were an adult.
You might not even realize how strange your family traditions are until someone new confronts them for the first time. Or maybe you were the outsider, dumbfounded at what was normal in that family.
Read all 18 pictofacts about weird family holiday traditions at Cracked. And feel free to tell us your stories about what your family does for the holidays.
National Geographic has announced the winners in their 2018 photo contest. The Grand Prize went to Jassen Todorov for an aerial image of thousands of recalled Volkswagens and Audis retired to the Mojave desert after the company was caught cheating on emissions tests.
This photograph by Pim Volkers won first place in the wildlife category.
It was early morning when I saw the wildebeests crossing Tanzania’s Mara River. The layering of dust, shade, and sun over the chaos of wildebeests kicking up water gives this picture a sense of mystique and allure. It’s almost like an old painting—I’m still compelled to search the detail of the image to absorb the unreal scene.
You can see the winners in all the categories at National Geographic.
Kids can be cold and calculating. Most children who are disappointed in not getting a pony just stop believing in Santa. One kid not only got revenge, but he's on to extortion now. Jim Benton drew this comic some time ago. This year, he pulled it out, added more color, and printed it on his Christmas cards. -via reddit
The 2018 movie mashup that you've been waiting for is here! Sleepy Skunk has been working all year to produce a seamless music video made of clips from the biggest films of 2018. It starts out as a thrill ride, morphs into an ethereal dream, then into action sequences, and ends with uplifting dramatic clips. Contains NSFW language at 2:50 only. You'll find a list of the movies used, with timestamps and quotes, here. -Thanks, Louis!
See also: Sleepy Skunk's mix of movies from 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.
As with most headlines that pose a question, the answer is "no." The story of the African princess refers to Sarah Forbes Bonetta, who was brought to England from the kingdom of Dahomey (now Benin) by Captain Frederick E. Forbes. King Ghezo welcomed Forbes as a diplomat in 1850, and they exchanged gifts as was the custom. One of the gifts was a seven-year-old girl.
Forbes was part of the Royal Navy's antislavery squadron that patrolled and captured slave ships off West Africa. Though Great Britain had been a prominent force in the transatlantic slave trade, by 1838, under Queen Victoria, parliament had abolished slavery throughout the empire.
It may seem ironic that a man opposed to slavery would accept a human as a gift, which Walter Dean Myers, in his young reader book At Her Majesty's Request: An African Princess in Victorian England, calls “a present from the King of the blacks to the Queen of the whites.” But as Forbes wrote in his journals, to refuse her would be to sign "her death-warrant.” He believed that, "in consideration of the nature of the service I had performed, the government would consider her as the property of the Crown," so the government would take responsibility for her care. And, he was immediately impressed by her brightness and charm, calling her "a perfect genius.” He renamed and baptized the young girl after himself and his ship, the HMS Bonetta. From that moment forward, she was known as Sarah Forbes Bonetta.
Sarah was not a princess, and she was not raised by Queen Victoria. But she was the property of the Queen, who felt a special fondness for the girl. Read about the unique life of Sarah Forbes Bonetta at Mental Floss.
Matt Daniels presents a heat map of population density around New York. But as you scroll down, it changes to a different angle and shows you what the population of the cities look like stacked as a 3D graph. That's a population mountain. Every city has a differently-shaped "mountain" that gives you a feel for how dense it is. Daniels goes on to compare some of the mega-cities around the world. Above you see London, England, on the left. It is an old city with nine million people, surrounded by suburbs and other nearby cities. On the right is Kinshasa, DRC, with 13.1 million people. It is a fast-growing city surrounded by empty space and few suburbs. Both are impressive, but do not compare at all with the mega-cities of Asia. Read about Daniels' population mountains around the world, and then you can explore on your own with his interactive world map. -via Metafilter
Screen Junkies takes a left turn back to Japan of the 1970s, when Spider-Man was on television. The bargain basement production values, the practical effects, the overacting, and the recurring tropes all make this a delightful romp into unintentional comedy. My favorite part is the montage of dummies being thrown off cliffs. -via Geeks Are Sexy
Time magazine has announced their Person of the Year, and it's a group of people. The title of the report is called "The Guardians and the War on Truth," but we can describe the group as journalists, particularly journalists who paid a steep price. The magazine features four different cover photos of journalists:
Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who was murdered in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul; the staff of the Capital Gazette newspaper, who kept working after their Annapolis headquarters were targeted by a mass shooter; Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone, Reuters reporters jailed in Myanmar after their reporting on the Rohingya atrocities; and Maria Ressa, whose news site Rappler has reported on the Philippines' brutal drug war President Rodrigo Duterte and now faces tax evasion charges from his administration
Read what Time has to say about these journalists, and why they were selected.
We've discovered what Henry Hill's problem was: the mobster-turned-informant was suffering from nicotine withdrawal! You've seen the Ray Liotta Chantix ad; it's all over YouTube. Joseph Lindquist re-edited it with footage from the 1990 movie Goodfellas that illustrates all the legally-required warnings in the ad. -via Laughing Squid
Arguing about whether a hot dog is a sandwich makes as much sense as arguing whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable. The answer always depends on the larger context. Classifying food combinations may be a fool's errand in the long run, as dishes from around the world exist along an amazing spectrum, but we still try. The question that rules over food classification is, do we define food by its structure, or its ingredients?
The reality is, a vanilla soy latte is a type of three-bean soup.— Lockwood DeWitt (@lockwooddewitt) August 8, 2017
Er, maybe ingredients don't work so well. Enter the Cube Rule of Food, which classifies combination foods by the location of the starch. The classifications are toast, sandwich, taco, sushi, quiche, and calzone. Most of what we eat regularly belongs in one of those categories. Since structure matters and ingredients don't in this system, you find that Pop Tarts are calzones, pigs in a blanket are sushi, and a hot dog is a taco. It makes perfect sense. Pie? Pie can exist in several categories, depending on how it is made and how it is sliced. There is an extra category for foods with no starch, meaning that steak is classified as salad. That's just the beginning of the weirdness you'll find in the Cube Rule. -via Metafilter
(Image credit: @Phosphatide)
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