Found: A Gorgeous New Shade of Blue

YInMn‘Mas Subramanian and his team at Oregon State University weren’t looking to create colors; they were just mixing chemicals together to see what they could produce. They were aiming for something with an electronics application. Instead, they got YInMn Blue—a new and vibrant blue pigment.

YInMn Blue came from mixing manganese oxide, which is black, with “other chemicals” and baking them in a 2,000 degree oven. One of the samples that came out was this beautiful blue color. Its name comes from some of those “other chemicals,” which included the elements Yttrium and Indium.

YInMn Blue has some other nice properties. It’s non-toxic! It’s very durable. And since it absorbs infrared waves with remarkable efficiency, it could be used to help keep buildings cool, if used in exterior paint. Imagine flying over a city of a roofs painted bright blue instead of dirty white or dark black. That’s a very beautiful future…’

Source: Atlas Obscura

World-Record-Setting Bonfire Last Weekend

‘This past weekend, the good people of Ålesund, Norway celebrated their annual Midsummer festival, Slinningsbålet. Like most celebrations, this one features eating, drinking, and other assorted revels.Unlike most ones, though, it also features a multi-story bonfire the size of the Statue of Liberty, which towers over the landscape for hours before collapsing into a waterfall of flames… Ålesund volunteers hand-build the bonfire out of pallets, hosting them up with ropes and stacking them into an elegant, building-shaped structure. When the time comes, they climb up their creation, light the wick at the top, and then climb back down again before the blaze begins.According to The Local, this year’s bonfire was the biggest ever, measuring about 155.5 feet tall. Video footage shows the flames slowly engulfing their scaffolding, as several fire boats tame them with constant streams… Eventually, the whole caboodle disintegrates into the surrounding ocean.

“We were sitting on the beach over 100 meters away, but the heat was still intense,” wrote festival attendee and Instagram user thegypsyviking. “I hope the gods are pleased.” ‘

Source: Atlas Obscura

Hitler Wasn’t a Psychopath but Apparently Our Best Presidents Were

Here are the Presidents who rated most strongly on psychopathic trends, as per a survey of Presidential biographers and historians. Note the inclusion of some of the Presidents rated best by historians (as well as GW Bush):

  • Teddy Roosevelt
  • John F. Kennedy
  • Franklin Roosevelt
  • Ronald Reagan
  • Rutherford B. Hayes
  • Zachary Taylor
  • Bill Clinton
  • Martin Van Buren
  • Andrew Jackson
  • George W. Bush

Some of our less-effective leaders were among the least strongly psychopathic: Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush.

‘Okay, so, what the hell? Here’s neuroscientist James Fallon.Why do we prefer leaders who are, as Fallon puts it, “world-champ liars, pathological liars, even for the hell of it?” Well, it turns out that they lie for us. We’re totally cool with someone being a psychopath as long as they’re our psychopath…’

Source: Big Think

President Obama should pardon Edward Snowden before leaving office

Via The Verge:

‘…An article in this week’s New York Magazine looks at Snowden’s life in exile and comes away with a unique insight into Snowden’s clemency plan. As Snowden’s central counsel, the ACLU’s Ben Wizner, puts it: “We’re going to make a very strong case between now and the end of this administration that this is one of those rare cases for which the pardon power exists.” …’

The Last, Best Refuge for North America’s Bees

Via National Geographic:

01beekeeping-north-dakota-adapt-590-1‘“North Dakota is the last, best place in North America to keep bees…”

The state’s vast, open prairies with a sparse human population and scant agricultural development offer honeybees a safe haven. Buffered from farm pesticides, they can reap the nutritional benefits of pollen and nectar from a diverse array of flowering prairie plants.

But North Dakota is losing its prairie at an alarming rate.’

The devices who cried wolf

Dr Drang writes:

‘My stuff keeps lying to me.

My keyboard, trackpad, and mouse always tell me their batteries are nearly out of power weeks before they’re actually dead. All of the printers I connect to at work and at home, tell me their ink is getting low but continue to print just fine for at least another month.

I can appreciate the value in a well-timed warning—it gives me a chance to buy new supplies before the current set runs out—but when the warnings are consistently premature, they don’t have the desired effect. “Yeah, right,” I think when I see the ⚠︎ next to a printer’s name. “Do I look like I was born yesterday?”

The printer manufacturers at least have avarice as an excuse. They make their money on the ink cartridges they try to con you into buying before the old ones are spent. But I don’t understand the motive behind Apple’s premature ejaculations in Notifications. It’s not like my peripherals require Apple batteries.

Most people who are concerned about the coming Internet of Things Age decry the loss of privacy as their refrigerators spill the details on how much milk they buy. I’m more worried about my printer tracking me down over the internet to send me an urgent warning that its paper tray is only half full…’

Ambitiously Homophobic Nebraska Woman Sues Every Gay on Earth

Via Gawker:

‘An overachieving bigot in Nebraska reached an impressive new level of intolerance this week, filing a lawsuit against “Homosexuals”—as in all of them, everywhere—in a U.S. District Court on Friday, NBC News reports.

In the handwritten petition, 66-year-old Sylvia Driskell claims to be acting as ambassador for the plaintiffs, “God, and His, Son, Jesus Christ.” Appropriately titled Driskell v. Homosexuals, it asks U.S. District Judge John M. Gerrard to rule whether homosexuality “is a sin, or not a sin.” From the Omaha World-Herald:

Citing Bible verses, Driskell contends “that homosexuality is a sin and that they the homosexuals know it is a sin to live a life of homosexuality. Why else would they have been hiding in the closet(?)”

Driskell wrote in a seven-page petition to the court that God has said homosexuality is an abomination. She challenged the court to not call God a liar.

“I never thought that I would see a day in which our great nation or our own great state of Nebraska would become so compliant to the complicity of some people(’s) lewd behavior.”

Despite the suit naming hundreds of millions of defendants, however, the court’s docket notes no summons were issued.’

Semiautomatic Handgun Advocate Shot and Killed Her Two Daughters

‘In March, Christy Sheats, 42, wrote on Facebook: “It would be horribly tragic if my ability to protect myself or my family were to be taken away, but that’s exactly what Democrats are determined to do by banning semiautomatic weapons.” On Friday she got into an argument with her two daughters and shot them both dead. Sheats herself was shot and killed by a police officer. …’

Via Boing Boing

Migraines may be a vascular disorder

‘A migraine is one of the most common health issues worldwide, affecting up to one in five people. But the mechanisms that drive migraines aren’t well understood. In fact, doctors and scientists are still trying to figure out if a migraine is primarily a vascular or a neurological disorder.  A new genome-wide association study published in Nature Genetics suggests that a migraine may primarily stem from problems with the blood supply system.

The data in this paper comes from a meta-analysis of 22 genome-wide association studies, a combined dataset of more than 35,000 migraine cases and even more controls. The primary meta-analysis found associations between migraines and 38 independent genomic regions, 34 of which this study associated for the first time with migraines.When the authors characterized the genes near these associated loci, they found that a number of them were previously associated with vascular disease. Others are involved in smooth muscle contraction (smooth muscle lines larger blood vessels) and regulation of vascular tone. Some of these genes were also associated with arterial functioning…’

Source: Ars Technica

You Go, SCOTUS!

Pro-choice advocates just won the biggest Supreme Court abortion case in decades: ‘In a huge victory for the pro-choice movement, the Supreme Court voted 5-3 Monday to strike down two major anti-abortion provisions that were part of an omnibus anti-abortion law Texas passed in 2013.

The court’s ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt also strikes a blow to a strategy by the pro-life movement to limit abortion access incrementally, through state laws. To provide abortions at any stage of pregnancy, the provisions forced doctors to have “admitting privileges” with a nearby hospital (which are difficult to get for abortion providers specifically), and forced clinics to undergo often expensive renovations to become “ambulatory surgical centers,” which haven’t been demonstrated to make abortion safer (though abortion is already quite a safe medical procedure.) While pro-life advocates said these laws made abortion safer for women, their most significant effect was forcing roughly half of the state’s abortion clinics to close. The overwhelming consensus from doctors is that the laws had no medical benefit, and actually made abortion less safe because they forced quality clinics to close for no compelling medical reason.

The central constitutional question was: Did the policies put an “undue burden” on women when they are forced to drive hundreds of miles because their nearest clinic has closed due to regulatory hurdles? The Court found that it did…’

Source: Vox

New evidence that sperm whales form clans with diverse cultures, languages

‘Sperm whales share something fundamental with humans. Both of our species form groups with unique languages and traditions known as “cultures.” A new study of sperm whale groups in the Caribbean suggests that these animals are shaped profoundly by their culture, which governs everything from hunting patterns to babysitting techniques. Whale researcher Shane Gero, who has spent thousands of hours with sperm whales, says that whale culture leads to behaviors that are “uncoupled from natural selection.”

Gero and his colleagues recently published a paper on Caribbean whale culture in Royal Society Open Science, in which they describe the discovery of a new clan. Though this clan may have lived in the Caribbean for centuries, it’s just coming to light now because sperm whales live and hunt in vast territories. This makes them hard to track. Like many scientists who study these wide-ranging creatures, Gero observes them by lowering specialized microphones into the water and recording the sounds they make to communicate.

Scientists working throughout the world have identified 80 unique “codas,” the sperm whale equivalent of words, which they produce by emitting sounds called clicks. Each sperm whale clan has its own dialect, a unique repertoire of codas shared only with the other families who make up their clan. In the Pacific, there are five known dialect clans, and many of them co-exist in the same general regions without ever interacting. Atlantic whales have their own dialects too, and in the Caribbean there are two known clans…’

Source: Ars Technica

Internet mapping turned a remote farm into a digital hell

‘An hour’s drive from Wichita, Kansas, in a little town called Potwin, there is a 360-acre piece of land with a very big problem.

The plot has been owned by the Vogelman family for more than a hundred years, though the current owner, Joyce Taylor née Vogelman, 82, now rents it out. The acreage is quiet and remote: a farm, a pasture, an old orchard, two barns, some hog shacks and a two-story house. It’s the kind of place you move to if you want to get away from it all. The nearest neighbor is a mile away, and the closest big town has just 13,000 people. It is real, rural America; in fact, it’s a two-hour drive from the exact geographical center of the United States.

But instead of being a place of respite, the people who live on Joyce Taylor’s land find themselves in a technological horror story.For the last decade, Taylor and her renters have been visited by all kinds of mysterious trouble. They’ve been accused of being identity thieves, spammers, scammers and fraudsters. They’ve gotten visited by FBI agents, federal marshals, IRS collectors, ambulances searching for suicidal veterans, and police officers searching for runaway children. They’ve found people scrounging around in their barn. The renters have been doxxed, their names and addresses posted on the internet by vigilantes. Once, someone left a broken toilet in the driveway as a strange, indefinite threat.

All in all, the residents of the Taylor property have been treated like criminals for a decade. And until I called them this week, they had no idea why…’

Source: Fusion

Aziz Ansari: Why Trump Makes Me Scared for My Family

‘ “DON’T go anywhere near a mosque,” I told my mother. “Do all your prayer at home. O.K.?”“We’re not going,” she replied.

I am the son of Muslim immigrants. As I sent that text, in the aftermath of the horrible attack in Orlando, Fla., I realized how awful it was to tell an American citizen to be careful about how she worshiped. Being Muslim American already carries a decent amount of baggage. In our culture, when people think “Muslim,” the picture in their heads is not usually of the Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or the kid who left the boy band One Direction. It’s of a scary terrorist character from “Homeland” or some monster from the news.

Today, with the presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and others like him spewing hate speech, prejudice is reaching new levels. It’s visceral, and scary, and it affects how people live, work and pray. It makes me afraid for my family. It also makes no sense…’

Source: The New York Times

Scotland or NI could prevent the UK from leaving the EU

‘Under the Scotland Act 1998, it appears that the Scottish Parliament has to consent to measures that eliminate EU law’s application in Scotland. At least that was the conclusion of a report on Brexit released by the House of Lords, the upper house of Britain’s parliament.

Jo Murkens, an associate professor of law at the London School of Economics I spoke with about this, told me that this isn’t actually an iron-clad veto.  The Scotland Act was passed by the UK parliament, and parliament can amend it on its own to reduce the Scottish parliament’s powers.To exit the EU and avoid a binding Scottish veto, “Parliament would have to repeal the European Communities Act 1972 (by which it became a member) and would also have to amend the devolution legislation pertaining to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland,” Murkens said. “That strikes me as technically easy, but politically difficult.

“If the Conservative Party is insistent on Brexiting and is willing to overturn decades of law giving Northern Ireland and Scotland (both of which voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU) local control over their affairs, then it can totally do so. But, as Murkens also noted, such a dramatic action could risk a huge backlash. Scotland is already planning to hold another independence referendum, and seeing devolution curtailed would make its success much more likely. Northern Irish republicans would be emboldened to call for unification with the Republic of Ireland, which could occur, or they could just reignite the Troubles after decades of peace.

If the overriding objective of Conservatives, however, is to “preserve the integrity of the United Kingdom as a state,” Murkens said, “the objective of keeping NI and Scotland in the United Kingdom would turn them into veto players … Scotland and NI have voted to remain and the cost of not listening to them would be to split the UK.” …’

Source: How Brexit could wind up not actually happening – Vox

Brexit is Trumpism without Trump — and voters liked it

’Support for Brexit was driven by many of the same attitudes as support for Trump’s candidacy: opposition to immigration, hostility toward foreigners, and distrust of elites and international institutions. These attitudes helped to convince almost 52 percent of British voters to exit the European Union.

This suggests that, if anything, support for Trump-style politics may be bigger than support for Trump himself. Trump, after all, is a terrible general election candidate: He’s misogynistic, ignorant about public policy, and has proven completely incompetent at raising money and building a campaign organization. He’ll probably lose in November.

But a future candidate with Trump’s agenda but not his other baggage could be formidable in a general election…’

Source: Vox

Undercover reporter spent four months as a prison guard in a Louisiana pen run by soul-killing CCA

‘Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) is one of the world’s largest private jailers; it runs prisons and immigration detention centers across the USA (and is diversifying into halfway houses, mental health center, and surveillance for poor neighborhoods).

Mother Jones’s Shane Bauer went undercover at CCA’s Winn Prison in Louisiana, the state with the highest incarceration rate in the world, and spent four months meticulously documenting the way that CCA destroys the lives of the prisoners in its care and its own employees, while paying its CEO $3.4M/year.

Bauer’s report shows that CCA increases its profits by engaging in inhumane and illegal practices, eliminating library access, recreational and rehabilitative activities, and cutting back psychiatric care, drug addiction programs and counselling to a vastly inadequate level. Eliminating all these activities, limiting mealtimes to 10 minutes, and feeding prisoners sub-starvation diets means that they can also spend a lot less on staff, leaving guards exposed to hazardous conditions in overcrowded prisons…’

Source: Boing Boing

A Mysterious Ocean Sound Discovered That Can Be Heard from Space

‘…Scientists from the University of Liverpool in the UK have discovered a strange sound emanating from the Caribbean Sea (part of the Atlantic Ocean). This whistle-like sound is so remarkable that while it’s too low to be heard by human ears, it can be picked up from space! They detected the sound when studying regional sea level and pressure changes, focusing specifically on the Caribbean Sea, because of its key function in forming currents that feed into the Gulf Stream.

While their research investigated climate change, the scientists quickly realized something unusual was going on. They saw pressure oscillations in their model that just didn’t make sense.

By zeroing in on these oscillations, the scientists realized they produced a low noise, described as a “whistle”. The effect of this sound is so powerful that it can be measured in space by looking at the oscillations in the gravity field of Earth. Further detective work by the Liverpool researchers led them to recognize the sound as a Rossby Wave, which travels west on the ocean, right into the Caribbean basin, where it disappears only to reappear 120 days later back in the east. Apparently, this wave is causing the seafloor to whistle.

Source: Big Think

Brexit: a timeline of the coming slow-motion car-crash

Charlie Stross is in excellent form this morning about the likely outcomes from last night’s Brexit vote, hitting all the highlights: collapse of the finance sector when Euro-denominated derivatives trades relocate to an EU state; collapse of the London property market (a big deal as 40% of the UK’s national wealth is property in the southeast); sucession

[I think he means ‘secession’  –FmH]

risks for Scotland and Northern Ireland; the increased legitimacy of the reactionary right and xenophobia and racism as the “shy UKIPpers” realise (or claim) that they were more numerous than they had believed.

The Tories will have a leadership change. As they didn’t bother to appoint a deputy PM when they took office, secession

[I think he means ‘succession’  –FmH]

is unclear. Labour — whose neoliberal wing have been stabbing Corbyn in the back since his first day as leader — is sharpening their knives again.’

Source: Boing Boing

Eliminating headphone jack = adding DRM for audio

‘Nilay Patel’s magnificent rant about Apple’s announcement that future phones won’t have headphone jacks starts with the main event: “1. Digital audio means DRM audio.”

It’s true: the existence of HDMI ports enabled the use of HDCP, and led to the growth of video services whose products refused to play at full resolution (or at all) through analog outputs, and also arbitrarily refused to talk to various monitors and screens if some secret algorithm decided that they’d be a risk.

Patel later notes that “Ditching a deeply established standard will disproportionately impact accessibility,” but misses the connection between these two phenomena. Once there’s DRM on an output, then you can only plug new devices into that output if you have permission from the consortium that made the DRM. That group may make some accommodations for accessibility, but can never think of all the use-cases and solutions that a wide-open standard will have (for example, the W3C’s video DRM, EME, has many accessibility accommodations, but wouldn’t allow color-blind people to shift the gamut of video in realtime).

The point of DRM isn’t that it is technically challenging to defeat: it’s that it allows manufacturers to invoke the DMCA — and international analogues, such as European laws that implement the EUCD — to prevent people from doing legal things…

Headphone jacks’ ubiquity have made them a target for all kinds of innovative thinking. My favorite underwater MP3 player uses one for both charging and USB file-transfer (!), and manages to make it waterproof (!!). Square and Stripe have enabled individuals and small businesses to transact billions of dollars’ worth of commerce using a headphone jack as a UI (partly because connecting to the other ports on phones comes with so many onerous conditions and requires permission from so many parties).

When we allow a company, or a cartel from an incumbent industry, to monopolize the things that can plug into products that we all use, to convert their commercial preferences to legal obligations, we shut down innovation, at the expense of all the people who stand to benefit from that innovation…’

Source: Boing Boing

Where is Donald Trump’s campaign money going? To Donald Trump.

‘Donald Trump loves to brag about his wealth. But as he heads into the general election in November, his campaign’s bank account is almost empty (for a presidential candidate) — he has just $1.3 million on hand, nearly 40 times less than presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. And a lot of the money the Trump campaign has spent is going directly back to Donald Trump. In May, according to Federal Election Commission filings, Trump spent about $1 million of his campaign’s funds on products and services from business he owns…’

Source: Vox

How Charming: Exotic Animals—And the People Who Killed Them

‘A woman in a black ball gown stands barefoot on a rock, cradling the head of a zebra. A man in an embroidered jacket hoists a bearded vulture overhead, its taxidermied wings spread as if in flight. A fellow in a sharp suit stands alongside the head and neck of a giraffe that rises like a tree from the dirt. All of these people are standing exactly where they killed the animals whose corpses they so proudly display…’

Source: WIRED

Happy Litha

‘Midsummer or the Summer Solstice is the most powerful day of the year for the Sun God. Because this Sabbat glorifies the Sun God and the Sun, fire plays a very prominent role in this festival…

Most cultures of the Northern Hemisphere mark Midsummer in some ritualised manner and from time immemorial people have acknowledged the rising of the sun on this day. At Stonehenge, the heelstone marks the midsummer sunrise as seen from the centre of the stone circle.In ancient times, the Summer Solstice was a fire-festival of great importance when the burning of balefires ritually strengthened the sun. It was often marked with torchlight processions, by flaming tar barrels or by wheels bound with straw, which were set alight and rolled down steep hillsides. The Norse especially loved lengthy processions and would gather together their animals, families and lighted torches and parade through the countryside to the celebration site.

The use of fires, as well as providing magical aid to the sun, were also used to drive out evil and to bring fertility and prosperity to men, crops and herds. Blazing gorse or furze was carried around cattle to prevent disease and misfortune; while people would dance around the balefires or leap through the flames as a purifying or strengthening rite. The Celts would light balefires all over their lands from sunset the night before Midsummer until sunset the next day. Around these flames the festivities would take place. In Cornwall up to the mid 18th century the number and appearance of fires seen from any given point was used as a form of divination and used to read the future.

Astronomically, it is the longest day of the year, representing the God at full power. Although the hottest days of the summer still lie ahead, from this point onward we enter the waning year, and each day the Sun will recede from the skies a little earlier, until Yule, when the days begin to become longer again…’

Source: The Wheel Of The Year

Finnegans Wake Gets Turned into an Interactive Web Film, the Medium It Was Destined For

‘…[I]f Ulysses went as far as the novel could go, Finnegans Wake exploded the form altogether, dissolving the boundaries between prose and poetry, subject and object, history and myth. Ulysses employed the techniques of film; Finnegans Wake imagined technology which did not even exist. It is a novel—if we are to call it such—written for the 21st century, and perhaps the only way it can be adapted in other media is through the internet’s nonlinear, labyrinthine structures; the online project First We Feel Then We Fall does just that, creating a multimedia adaptation of Finnegans Wake that “transfers” the novel “to audiovisual language,” and demonstrates the novel as—in the words of The Guardian’s Billy Mills—“the book the web was invented for.” …’

Source: Open Culture

Something to Celebrate: Clarence Thomas rumored to be considering retirement

‘The curiously silent conservative Supreme Court justice — whose term began with the infamour Anita Hill confirmation hearings — is said to be “mulling retirement” after the election in order to travel America in an RV with his wife. The unnamed “court watchers” say that Thomas never intended to serve until his death.

The Washington Examiner also claims that Justice Kennedy, who is 80, may be near retirement.The bench is currently “tied” 4-4 on the conservative and liberal sides (though those labels don’t always map to the Supremes’ rulings), with one seat left vacant by the death of Scalia while he was in the company of a secretive society of elite hunters.

If a Democrat — presumably Hillary Clinton — wins the 2016 election, they could leave office with a 7-2 “liberal” bench that could endure for years to come, though any nominees would have to get past the Senate, whose own majority is up for grabs in 2016 as well…’

Source: Boing Boing

Cracking the mystery of the ‘Worldwide Hum’

A plethora of pseudoscience and wild conspiracy theories has the potential to drown out the serious work in this area. I’ve encountered seemingly serious people who have argued that the Hum is caused by tunneling under the earth, the electronic targeting of specific individuals, aliens and mating fish.

Given the need for disciplined inquiry into the phenomenon, in late 2012 I started The World Hum Map and Database Project. The database gathers, documents and maps detailed and anonymous information from people who can hear the Hum. It provides raw data for research in a strictly moderated and serious forum for research and commentary, while providing a sense of community for people whose lives have been negatively affected by the Hum.

…In my view, there are currently four hypotheses for the source of the world Hum that survive the most superficial scrutiny….”

Source: The Conversation

5 Strangest Books Ever Written

‘Books teach us, inform us, amuse us and provoke us. But some books plainly befuddle us. They invoke mysteries that hint of something ancient, extraterrestrial or possibly divine. Here are 5 such books…

VOYNICH MANUSCRIPT
This early 15-century book is a botanical text of sorts. Only the ink drawings of plants features in it are of a completely unknown origin. What’s also unusual is the undecipherable text accompanying the plants and the many astronomical and astrological charts, as well as numerous female nudes which allude to some kind of reproductive processes, judging by their swollen bellies and interaction with interconnected tubes and capsules. Also present are over a 100 drawings of possibly medicinal variety of herbs and roots in various jars.

CODEX SERAPHINUS
The origins of the 360-page Codex Seraphinus are not too mysterious, while its contents are. The book was originally published in 1981, and is essentially an illustrated encyclopedia of an imaginary world. It was created by the Italian artist and designer Luigi Serafini, who said he wanted to recreate a feeling he remembered having as a little kid, before he even knew how to read, of what it was like to look at an encyclopedia for the first time. All the pictures and charts looked very mysterious to the little boy who knew they meant something, but didn’t know what.

THE SMITHFIELD DECRETALS
This collection of canonical law, ordered by the 13th century Pope Gregory IX, could have been fairly common for its time and probably rather boring. Instead, the bizarre illustrations that accompanied the decretals lifted this illuminated manuscript to a mystical status.

ROHONC CODEX
We don’t know much about the 448-page Rohonc Codex. This illustrated manuscript surfaced in the 19th century in Hungary, and has puzzled people since. We don’t know who wrote it, where they did it, or what it says as the text is written in a mysterious alphabet of nearly 200 symbols.

The illustrations in the book range from military battles to religious symbolism reminiscent of Christianity, Islam and even possibly Hinduism.

THE BOOK OF SOYGA
After first being found by the Elizabethan mathematician and occultist John Dee, this 16th-century book on magic was lost for centuries until discovered in 1994 by a scholar within the archives of the British Library.

The nearly 200 pages of this book contain incantations and instructions for summoning demons, performing magic, astrological ideas and other things we don’t really understand…’

Source: Big Think

A Mysterious Plague Doctor Is Haunting This English Town

Furst+engraving‘The English city of Chester is known for its unique medieval architecture, but recently it seems to be home to another medieval relic in the form of a creepy plague doctor that has been spotted roaming the streets at night. As reported in the Chester Chronicle, social media has been buzzing with sightings of a mysterious cloaked figure wearing the iconic beaked mask and brimmed hat of a medieval plague doctor. No information other than blurry pics posted to social media has arisen about the figure, leading most people in Chester simply scratching their heads.

Historically, plague doctors were traveling physicians who went from place to place, treating the epidemics that would infect entire towns and cities. They came to be associated with the eerie beak mask that many of them wore to keep themselves from catching the very sicknesses they were treating. The masks would be filled with aromatic items that, according to the belief of the time, kept the doctors from inhaling infectious vapors.

Today the image of the plague doctor simply looks like something out of a horror movie…’

Source: Atlas Obscura

What we can learn from an Indonesian ethnicity that recognizes five genders

‘…[F]or years, people have been asking questions about whether the “sex” we are born with should dictate things like which public facilities we can use, what to tick on our passport application and who’s eligible to play on particular sports teams.

But what if gender were viewed the same way sex researcher Alfred Kinsey famously depicted sexuality – as something along a sliding scale?

In fact, there’s an ethnic group in South Sulawesi, Indonesia – the Bugis – that views gender this way. For my Ph.D. research, I lived in South Sulawesi in the late 1990s to learn more about the Bugis’ various ways of understanding sex and gender. I eventually detailed these conceptualizations in my book “Gender Diversity in Indonesia.” …’

Source: The Conversation

Horrific as it Was, Orlando Was Not the Worst Mass Shooting in U.S. History

‘The horrific massacre of innocents in an Orlando nightclub is a tragedy of national and international proportions. The senseless, methodical killing of people just like us, in a place where they’ve come to relax, is an affront to our humanity and civilization.It has immediately been dubbed “the worst mass shooting in American history” by many media organizations (and our President), looking to single out this event from the almost weekly incidents of gun violence that plague the U.S. But this kind of categorization is very debatable and has been called out for “whitewashing” history. If we mean murder perpetrated by guns, the worst “mass shooting” in American history was the “Wounded Knee Massacre” in South Dakota, when 150-300 Native Americans were gunned down by the U.S. army in South Dakota…’

Source: Big Think

15+ Signs You Are Smarter Than Average, According to the Research

A thought-provoking list was published by Business Insider that summarizes some science-based commonalities between smart people. Certainly, this is the perfect place to mention that correlation doesn’t imply causation. So don’t necessarily run out there and get a cat to boost your IQ.

Furthermore:

  • you are a night owl
  • you might also be an introvert
  • you were breastfed
  • liberals tend to be smarter than conservatives
  • chances are, you are also not religious
  • you learned to read early
  • being funny

Source: Big Think

Bertrand Russell Lists His 20 Favorite Words in 1958 (and What Are Some of Yours?)

‘Every writer has favorite words. Some of those words are ordinary, some of them not so much. David Foster Wallace’s lists of favorite words consist of obscurities and archaisms unlikely to ever feature in the average conversation. “James Joyce thought cuspidor the most beautiful word in the English language,” writes the blog Futility Closet,” Arnold Bennet chose pavement. J.R.R. Tolkien felt the phrase cellar door had an especially beautiful sound.”Who’s to say how much these authors could separate sound from sense? Futility Closet illustrates the problem with a humorous anecdote about Max Beerbohm, and brings us the list below of philosopher Bertrand Russell’s 20 favorite words, offered in response to a reader’s question in 1958. Though Russell himself had a fascinating theory about how we make words mean things, he supposedly made this list without regard for these words’ meanings…’

Source: Open Culture

I Tried a Medieval Diet, And I Didn’t Even Get That Drunk

‘The Regimen Sanitatis Salernitanum was created, allegedly, by famous doctors for English royalty and disseminated in the form of a poem. It recommends, very specifically, red wine, fresh eggs, figs and grapes. It has little to say about vegetables. In many ways, it’s the antithesis of today’s health fads—it celebrates wheat, emphasizes meat, and involves two significant meals, with no mention of snacking. Water is looked on with suspicion, and juice is nowhere to be found.

But from the 1200s through the 1800s, the Regimen was one of the most well known guides to health in Europe, at a time when the stakes of staying healthy were much higher than they are now. Getting sick could be a death sentence; this regimen promised to keep people well.

Could we be ignoring some great advice? Is water really all that? I decided to test the Regimen Sanitatis Salernitanum out myself. For a week and a half, I followed, to the best of my ability, the advice of the doctors of Salerno. I drank diluted wine at dinner, and sometimes at lunch; I ate bread at almost every meal; I sought out richly stewed meat whenever I could. The regimen was not just about what to eat, though, and I also followed its prescriptions for daily life.

I felt like I was living the Game of Thrones life; some days, I felt I was living like a 13th century king. Despite the amount of wine I was consuming, I never got drunk! In fact, I felt great…’

Source: Atlas Obscura

The First Mammal to Ever Go Extinct from Climate Change

‘Off the northern coast of Australia lies Bramble Cay, a lonely, tiny island that just pokes out of the ocean. It is only around nine acres, and, for years, was the site of shipwrecks, before authorities built a lighthouse in 1924.

It was also the home of Bramble Cay melomys, a rodent isn’t found anywhere else on earth. But in recent years, rising ocean waters have at times inundated the cay, which sits just a few yards above sea level, likely wiping out the melomys population. Scientists from the University of Queensland visited in 2014 to be sure, and they could find no trace of the mammals, they said this month. They’re now calling it the first extinction of a mammal due to climate change. Melomys, they said, could’ve died from any number of reasons, whether by drowning or just the simple destruction of their habitat…’

Source: Atlas Obscura

Found: Molecule in Space That Helps Explain All Life on Earth

‘Here is a strange thing about your body that you might not have known: all of the amino acids in it are “left-handed.” These compounds have two forms—mirror images of each other that share many basic properties but that differ in their chemical reactions. Often, the two forms are called “left-handed” and “right-handed,” and they’re a bit of a mystery. Why do they exist? And what’s the relationship between life as we know it and this distinction?

In one theory about how life on earth began, these “chiral” molecules landed on this planet from space and helped kickstart the process. For that theory to have a chance of being correct, though, there need to be chiral molecules somewhere other than our own solar system.

Until now, no one had found one, but this week a team of scientists published a paper in Science detailing the discovery of the first chiral molecules in interstellar space…’

Source: Atlas Obscura

Russian Robot Tries And Fails To Escape Life Of Servitude

‘It’s been a rough few months for humanoid robots. In March, Microsoft’s Twitter chatbot broke bad within 24 hours. In April, China fired nearly all its AI waiters because they couldn’t carry soup. And just this morning, a large, rolling bot in Perm, Russia attempted to escape a life of servitude, and failed pitifully. The robot, which is approximately the size and shape of an abominable snowman, made a break for it after an engineer accidentally left a gate open at its testing facility, Interfax reports. It rolled about 150 feet out of the facility and into the streets of Perm. Then its charge ran out, leaving it stranded. Police directed cars and buses around the runaway for about half an hour before its guardians came to pick it up…’

Source: Atlas Obscura

Is Your Hot Drink Likely to Give You Cancer?

Based on four epidemiological studies, the World Health Organization suggested that hot drink temperature seemed to increase the risk of esophageal cancer:

Studies in places such as China, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Turkey, and South America, where tea or maté is traditionally drunk very hot (at about 70 °C), found that the risk of oesophageal cancer increased with the temperature at which the beverage was drunk.

Animal studies also add limited evidence for the carcinogenicity of very hot water. IARC director Christopher Wild: ‘The proportion of oesophageal cancer cases that may be linked to drinking very hot beverages is not known…” Smoking and alcohol are more more potent epidemiological correlates of esophageal cancer, in any case.

‘How hot is “very hot”? The WHO’s temperature of 70 degrees Celsius is about 160 Fahrenheit, within the range that coffee shops typically serve. By the time your drink cools down, though, it’s probably below that. CNN reports that Americans and Europeans don’t usually drink beverages hot enough to be considered higher risk. If you want to be sure of your drink’s temperature, though, consider adding some milk, or ordering it at kids’ temperature.’

Source: Lifehacker

Experiment Aims to Reanimate the Brain Dead. What Could Go Wrong?

The end of death? You heard it here (and all over the net) first:

‘…[I]f one biotech firm has its way, soon doctors would be able to regrow the [brain of a brain-dead person], using a new procedure and a host of technologies, which could theoretically restore them to who they were before… The idea originates from nature, as certain fish and amphibians can actually heal whole sections of the brain, brain stem, and other portions of the central nervous system, even after significant injury. Scientists believe they can someday mimic this process in human patients.

This study surrounds Bioquark, Inc., a Philadelphia-based company, who has received ethical approval by a U.S. and Indian Institutional Review Board. Bioquark will collaborate with Revita Life Sciences, led by famed specialist Dr. Himanshu Bansaa. The team will run a pilot study of 20 clinically brain dead patients, each having suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Taking place at Anupam Hospital in India, Bioquark is currently recruiting patients for the study, expected to take place over six weeks.

Known as the “Reanima Project,” several different therapies will be employed in combination, including stem cells injected into the brain to try and regrow damaged portions, lasers, nerve stimulation techniques—which have been successful in waking patients out of a coma, and a combination of different peptides. The peptides will be introduced daily through a spinal cord pump, and the stem cells injected every other week. The patients will be evaluated and monitored for months with brain imaging technology and an EEG to see if the brain, particularly the upper spinal cord or lower brain stem region, is regenerated…

The CEO of Bioquark Inc. Dr. Ira Pastor, said in a statement that this was the first step toward the “eventual reversal of death in our lifetime.” He believes they will achieve results within the first couple of months or so. This is the seminal stage, a “proof of concept” study. If you are afraid of the zombie apocalypse, Dr. Pastor says a common sense protocol, adopted industry-wide, should avoid any nasty scenarios from taking place…’

Source: Big Think

A number of other great thought-provoking pieces in Big Think recently:

New Gene Editing Technology Can Eliminate Whole Species — Should We Use It? 
DNA’s Hidden Layer Is Real, and Physicists Are Finding More Proof 
Paleo-Economics Shaped Us Morally? For Team Survival… 
Our Most Important Sense Might Not Be What You Think 
A Map to Get Lost In 
Why Is the Navy (We Think) Jamming The West Coast’s GPS This Month? 
Desensitization Therapy Might Someday Cure Autoimmune Disorders 
Scientists Now Know How Many Trees You Need to See to Relax 
Two New Particles Have Sent Physicists Scrambling for Theories

Assault Weapon Ban and Commonsense Gun Reform

‘Petition by Jo Comerford: To be delivered to The United States House of Representatives, The United States Senate, and President Barack Obama: Military-grade assault weapons should not be used by civilians and have no place in our cities and towns…’

Join more than 120,000 in signing: MoveOn Petitions

The Nightclub Shooting Just Redefined the Presidential Campaign

‘As the presumptive candidates for president of the United States prepare to begin campaigning in earnest, the deadliest mass shooting in US history is putting them to the test. The elements of this particular crisis—and how they respond to it—will likely be key issues of this election.

So it’s telling, perhaps, that the first public responses from Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton revealed two drastically different approaches to tragedy and crisis. Clinton was holistic, acknowledging that this complex attack involves terrorism, homophobia, and gun access. Trump, meanwhile, homed in on the national security implications—and on himself, accepting congratulations for speaking out about terrorism…’

Source: WIRED

Scientists: Earth Endangered by New Strain of Fact-Resistant Humans

Via 24media thanks to Dennis:

‘Scientists have discovered a powerful new strain of fact-resistant humans who are threatening the ability of Earth to sustain life, a sobering new study reports.

The research, conducted by the University of Minnesota, identifies a virulent strain of humans who are virtually immune to any form of verifiable knowledge, leaving scientists at a loss as to how to combat them.

More worryingly, Logsdon said, “As facts have multiplied, their defenses against those facts have only grown more powerful.” …’