For the people of Olney, England, and Liberal, Kansas, Pancake Day is more than another name for Shrove Tuesday. The old custom of making pancakes on the Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday has survived in the form of a Pancake Race. Ladies of both towns run a 450-yard course, and participants must wear a skirt, an apron, and a headscarf, and must toss their pancakes in the air three times as they run. The winner of the Kansas race is announced by a phone call to Olney immediately after it is over. The Olney race dates back to…read more
The practice of drilling a hole into the skull to expose the dura mater surrounding the brain is an ancient surgical procedure dating back to prehistoric times. It is the oldest surgical procedure for which evidence (in the form of human remains) has been discovered. Modern physicians continue to perform trepanations, though the medical rationale surrounding the surgery has since evolved.
Which artist gained notoriety for performing a self-trepanation and then screening a film of the procedure?
XYY syndrome is a chromosomal anomaly characterized by the presence of one X-chromosome and two Y-chromosomes. Some medical geneticists question whether the term “syndrome” is appropriate for this sex-linked trisomy, because afflicted males are physically normal—though they tend to be above average in height—and the vast majority of those affected do not know that they possess the extra chromosome. About 1 in 1,000 boys are born with this condition.
This is a raucous salute in Bishop, California, to that workhorse of the ages, the mule. Mule Days was started in 1969 by mule-packers who wanted to have a good time and initiate their summer packing season. Now about 50,000 people show up in Bishop for the celebration. A highlight is the Saturday morning 250-unit parade, billed as the world’s largest non-motorized parade. Other events include mule-shoeing contests and such muleback cowboy events as steer roping and barrel racing. There are also mule shows and sales, western art, barbecues, and country dances. Discuss
A combination of the words “costume” and “play,” cosplay refers to a Japanese subculture in which participants dress as characters from anime, manga, video games, and other forms of entertainment.
Often seen at conventions or parties at nightclubs or amusement parks, cosplay is also publicly practiced in places like Tokyo’s Akihabara district, where costumed servers wait on patrons at many of the area’s cafés. How does cosplay in the US and UK differ from that in Japan?
In physics, space-time is a four-dimensional continuum consisting of three dimensions in space and one dimension in time. This mathematical model, which is an integral part of Einstein’s relativity theory, combines space and time into a single continuum that allows physicists to more uniformly describe the workings of the universe. The merger of space and time is often represented as a measure of distance expressed in units of time. What novelists have referenced the topic of space-time? Discuss
The saron is a musical instrument that features prominently in Indonesian musical ensembles. It typically consists of seven bronze bars placed on top of a resonating frame, called a rancak. Sarons typically come in a number of sizes, and each size is pitched differently. A seated performer strikes the instrument with a tabuh, or mallet, to produce a musical note and uses his free hand to then grasp the ringing key and dampen the sound.
Both DNA and plastic, two seemingly unrelated materials, are classified as polymers, compounds of usually high molecular weight consisting of a number of structural units linked together by covalent bonds. A diverse assortment of natural and synthetic materials comprises the class of polymers, including hair, polyester, and shellac. Polymers are even used in the production of microprocessor parts. What is the process that produces polymers called? Discuss
Characterized by the consumption of materials such as soil, chalk, and hair, pica is a disorder involving an appetite for non-nutritive substances or an abnormal compulsion to eat foodstuffs that are usually ingredients, such as flour or starch. Such eating behaviors have been observed in people of all ages but are only termed pica if they persist for more than one month in persons deemed developmentally able to determine whether an item is appropriate for consumption. How is pica treated? Discuss
“Weasel words” are words that are intended to, or have the effect of, softening the force of a potentially loaded or controversial statement. The term was coined by Stewart Chaplin in a 1900 short story and invokes the image of a sneaky weasel wriggling its way out of tight spaces in the same way that these words subtly redirect attention. One example of weasel words is the phrase “headcount reduction,” which is used in the corporate world as a euphemism for what distasteful course of action? Discuss
The weightlessness experienced by humans in space poses a number of challenges in the performance of day-to-day tasks. Early experts feared that weightless conditions would make food difficult to swallow, allowing it to collect dangerously in the throat. Scientists began developing bite-sized cubes, freeze-dried powders, and semiliquid space foods for astronaut use, but the space travelers found the foods unappetizing, difficult to rehydrate, and messy. How have these concerns been addressed?
An automat is a fast food restaurant where food and drinks are served by coin- and bill-operated vending machines. Joseph Horn and Frank Hardart opened the first automat in the US in 1902 and quickly popularized the notion of take-out food with their slogan “Less work for Mother.” The original automat machines, which had little windows containing the prepared meals, were filled from behind by workers who cooked the fresh food in an unseen kitchen. What led to the decline of automat dining? Discuss
“Reality is the murder of a beautiful theory by a gang of ugly facts.” –Robert Glass