Thomas Edison Patents the Phonograph (1878)

Though his formal schooling was limited to just three months of instruction before he was ten years old, Edison was one of the most prolific inventors of his time. His work in improving telegraph technology—particularly his discovery of a method for recording telegraph messages—led Edison to suspect he could do similar things with sound. Within months, the first working model of his phonograph was ready. Why, according to Edison, was he “taken aback” when his invention worked on the first try? Discuss
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Star Clusters

A star cluster is a group of related stars usually held together by gravity. Globular clusters are densely packed groups of hundreds of thousands of very old stars. Open clusters are smaller, scattered groups of younger stars. Until recently, astronomers wrestled with a great cosmological mystery: according to theories of stellar evolution, it appeared that some globular clusters were actually older than the universe itself. How was this paradox resolved? Discuss
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Saidai-ji Eyo Hadaka Matsuri

Hadaka Matsuri means, literally, “naked festival”. The young men who participate are naked except for traditional white loincloths known as fundoshi. Sometimes the participants in Hadaka Matsuri immerse themselves in a river beforehand to purify themselves. Occasionally several semi-naked young men will carry a mikoshi, or portable shrine, in the form of a horse, rice bale, or sake barrel into the river with them. Discuss
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South Africa’s “Big Hole”

In 1866, a small, white pebble, which turned out to be a 21-carat diamond, was found on the banks of the Orange River in South Africa. When a second, larger diamond was found in 1871, a diamond rush brought miners to the area by the thousands. Eventually, five big holes were dug, and the largest, known as the “Big Hole,” yielded three tons of diamonds before it was closed in 1914. What company, founded during the rush, is now responsible for about 40 percent of the world’s diamond production? Discuss
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Ruth Barbara Rendell, Baroness Rendell of Babergh, CBE (1930)

Born in London, Rendell became an author of murder mysteries and psychological thrillers in the 1960s. She has since published dozens of award-winning novels—many featuring her Chief Inspector Wexford—and has been recognized for her sharp prose and psychological insight by both critics and audiences. Originally a journalist, Rendell was fired after writing about a society dinner she did not attend. What notable misfortune, which was absent from Rendell’s article, befell the speaker of the event? Discuss
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First Issue of Newsweek Magazine Is Published (1933)

Originally News-Week, the magazine debuted 10 years after Time, for which Newsweek founder Thomas J.C. Martyn had been an editor. It evolved into a full spectrum of news material, from breaking news and analysis to reviews and commentary. In 1961, it was purchased by Philip Graham, publisher of The Washington Post. In 2010, it was sold for $1 to American businessman Sidney Harman. Today, Newsweek is the second largest newsweekly in the US. What is the largest? Discuss
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kuebiko

n. a state of exhaustion inspired by an act of senseless violence, which forces you to revise your image of what can happen in this world—mending the fences of your expectations, weeding out invasive truths, cultivating the perennial good that’s buried under the surface—before propping yourself up in the middle of it like an old scarecrow, who’s bursting at the seams but powerless to do anything but stand there and watch.

lachesism

n. the desire to be struck by disaster—to survive a plane crash, to lose everything in a fire, to plunge over a waterfall—which would put a kink in the smooth arc of your life, and forge it into something hardened and flexible and sharp, not just a stiff prefabricated beam that barely covers the gap between one end of your life and the other.

Pierre Gassendi (1592)

As a priest and a professor, Gassendi lectured on theology in his native southeastern France. However, as a philosopher, scientist, and astronomer, he was compelled to try to reconcile his scientific beliefs with the teachings of the church. Dissatisfied with the teachings of Aristotle, he came to espouse empiricism and atomism, the belief that tiny, indestructible particles form the basic building blocks of the entire universe.

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