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Masters of Their Domain

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The Master: Estonian "athlete" Margo Uusorg is probably the world's greatest wife carrier. At the annual Wife Carrying World Championship in Sonkajärvi, Finland (where first prize is the wife's weight in beer!), Uusorg has emerged victorious five out of the past seven years (his brother Madis won in 2004) . He's also the only man to have won with three different female partners (you don't have to carry your own wife, see). Uusorg and his fellow Estonians are so dominant in the sport, which involves sprinting with wifey across various surfaces and water obstacles, that their technique has come to be known as "the Estonian." So, what is the Estonian? A position that's definitely not in the Kama Sutra, it involves a spouse hanging upside down with her arms around her husband's waist while her legs are clutching for dear life to his neck.
angkor_wat_jump-rope.jpgThe Domain: World Records
The Master: Ashrita Furman currently holds 33 Guinness World Records, including the record for having the most Guinness World Records. In his record-setting career, which began after he dropped out of Columbia University in the mid-1970s, 51-year-old Furman has set or beaten more than 100 records, including longest continuous pogo sticking (23.11 miles), most completed hopscotch games in 24 hours (434), fastest 10 km sack race (1 hour, 22 minutes, 2 seconds), and the longest period of continuous juggling underwater (48 minutes and 36 seconds). And he's single, ladies! On the downside, Furman is a devoted follower of the Indian philosopher Sri Chinmoy, who preaches strict celibacy.
damone_roberts_eyebrow_seminar.jpgThe Domain: Eyebrow Plucking
The Master: Known as "The Eyebrow King," Damone Roberts has plucked and sculpted the world's most famous eyebrows, from Paula Abdul to Amanda Peet to the Backstreet Boys. A visit to Damone's Beverly Hills salon will cost you $60, but it's well worth the expense. After all, he's America's only eyebrow sculptor to have registered his own name as a trademark! Now that's classy.
Movies_Wordplay-Shortz_0625.jpgThe Domain: Enigmatology
The Master: Will Shortz. It's no contest, really, because Shortz is the only person in human history to graduate college with a degree in enigmatology (the study of puzzles). After receiving the honor from Indiana University in 1974, Shortz went on to a career in puzzles, and in 1993, he landed the best job in the business, editor of The New York Times crossword puzzle. His work there is legendary among crossword enthusiasts, as is Shortz's 20,000-strong collection of puzzle books and magazines. As historian of the National Puzzlers' League, Shortz goes by the nickname WILLz, which puzzlers will recognize as a rebus puzzle that translates to Will Short "˜z'.
250px-Various_AOL_CDs_with_packaging_removed.jpgThe Domain: Collecting AOL CDs (a surprisingly competitive field)
The Masters: Collectors of the infamous AOL "free hours" CDs are legion. In fact, there are dozens of "rare" AOL CDs auctioned on eBay every day. But the masters of the AOL CD collecting domain are undoubtedly Jim McKenna and John Lieberman, two Californians who started collecting the discs back in 2002. Since then, they've amassed more than 385,000. (By the way, if you stacked those suckers up, they'd be taller than the Empire State Building.) When they get to the 1 million mark, they plan on returning the whole lump sum to AOL and asking the company to stop mailing unsolicited CDs.
madmonday_wideweb__430x315.jpgThe Domain: Chessboxing
The Master: Bulgarian Tihomir Titschko is currently the European chessboxing champion—and, because the sport hasn't really spread to other continents, that makes him the de facto world champ. Chessboxing starts with a four-minute round of chess, followed by a two-minute round of boxing, and then it's back to the chess. A judge decides the winner after 11 rounds (six of chess and five of boxing), unless the match is stopped first by a knockout or checkmate. And if you're thinking Lennox Lewis could probably beat Bobby Fischer at chessboxing, you're right. While it's important to be not horrible at chess, it's more important to know how to survive in the ring.
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The Domain: High School Badminton
The Master: Miller Place High School in New York. Between 1973 and 2005, the Miller Place High School badminton team won 504 consecutive games. Sadly, the streak ended on April 12, 2005, when they were beaten 10-5 by Smithtown High School. But fret not, high school badminton fans! Miller Place is back to its winning ways and has already started racking up the trophies again.
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The Domain: Pitching Professionally While Under the Influence of Drugs
The Master: Dock Ellis was a pretty eccentric baseball player, which befits a man who now claims he never played a major league game sober. On May 1, 1974, for instance, Ellis attempted to hit every batter in the Cincinnati Reds' lineup. In the first inning alone, he pelted Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, and Dan Dreisen. Tony Perez dodged four pitches and walked, but after Johnny Bench was nearly beaned twice, Ellis was removed from the game. But by far, Ellis' oddest accomplishment came on June 12, 1970, when (per his autobiography) he became the only major league player ever to pitch a complete game no-hitter while tripping on acid. Luckily, Ellis sobered up after his retirement and now works as a drug treatment counselor.

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
A Chinese Museum Is Offering Cash to Whoever Can Decipher These 3000-Year-Old Inscriptions

During the 19th century, farmers in China’s Henan Province began discovering oracle bones—engraved ox scapulae and tortoise shells used by Shang Dynasty leaders for record-keeping and divination purposes—while plowing their fields. More bones were excavated in subsequent years, and their inscriptions were revealed to be the earliest known form of systematic writing in East Asia. But over the decades, scholars still haven’t come close to cracking half of the mysterious script’s roughly 5000 characters—which is why one Chinese museum is asking member of the public for help, in exchange for a generous cash reward.

As Atlas Obscura reports, the National Museum of Chinese Writing in Anyang, Henan Province has offered to pay citizen researchers about $15,000 for each unknown character translated, and $7500 if they provide a disputed character’s definitive meaning. Submissions must be supported with evidence, and reviewed by at least two language specialists.

The museum began farming out their oracle bone translation efforts in Fall 2016. The costly ongoing project has hit a stalemate, and scholars hope that the public’s collective smarts—combined with new advances in technology, including cloud computing and big data—will yield new information and save them research money.

As of today, more than 200,000 oracle bones have been discovered—around 50,000 of which bear text—so scholars still have a lot to learn about the Shang Dynasty. Many of the ancient script's characters are difficult to verify, as they represent places and people from long ago. However, decoding even just one character could lead to a substantial breakthrough, experts say: "If we interpret a noun or a verb, it can bring many scripts on oracle bones to life, and we can understand ancient history better,” Chinese history professor Zhu Yanmin told the South China Morning Post.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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6 Eponyms Named After the Wrong Person
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Salmonella species growing on agar.

Having something named after you is the ultimate accomplishment for any inventor, mathematician, scientist, or researcher. Unfortunately, the credit for an invention or discovery does not always go to the correct person—senior colleagues sometimes snatch the glory, fakers pull the wool over people's eyes, or the fickle general public just latches onto the wrong name.

1. SALMONELLA (OR SMITHELLA?)

In 1885, while investigating common livestock diseases at the Bureau of Animal Industry in Washington, D.C., pathologist Theobald Smith first isolated the salmonella bacteria in pigs suffering from hog cholera. Smith’s research finally identified the bacteria responsible for one of the most common causes of food poisoning in humans. Unfortunately, Smith’s limelight-grabbing supervisor, Daniel E. Salmon, insisted on taking sole credit for the discovery. As a result, the bacteria was named after him. Don’t feel too sorry for Theobald Smith, though: He soon emerged from Salmon’s shadow, going on to make the important discovery that ticks could be a vector in the spread of disease, among other achievements.

2. AMERICA (OR COLUMBIANA?)

An etching of Amerigo Vespucci
Henry Guttmann/Getty Images

Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci (1451–1512) claimed to have made numerous voyages to the New World, the first in 1497, before Columbus. Textual evidence suggests Vespucci did take part in a number of expeditions across the Atlantic, but generally does not support the idea that he set eyes on the New World before Columbus. Nevertheless, Vespucci’s accounts of his voyages—which today read as far-fetched—were hugely popular and translated into many languages. As a result, when German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller was drawing his map of the Novus Mundi (or New World) in 1507 he marked it with the name "America" in Vespucci’s honor. He later regretted the choice, omitting the name from future maps, but it was too late, and the name stuck.

3. BLOOMERS (OR MILLERS?)

A black and white image of young women wearing bloomers
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Dress reform became a big issue in mid-19th century America, when women were restricted by long, heavy skirts that dragged in the mud and made any sort of physical activity difficult. Women’s rights activist Elizabeth Smith Miller was inspired by traditional Turkish dress to begin wearing loose trousers gathered at the ankle underneath a shorter skirt. Miller’s new outfit immediately caused a splash, with some decrying it as scandalous and others inspired to adopt the garb.

Amelia Jenks Bloomer was editor of the women’s temperance journal The Lily, and she took to copying Miller’s style of dress. She was so impressed with the new freedom it gave her that she began promoting the “reform dress” in her magazine, printing patterns so others might make their own. Bloomer sported the dress when she spoke at events and soon the press began to associate the outfit with her, dubbing it “Bloomer’s costume.” The name stuck.

4. GUILLOTINE (OR LOUISETTE?)

Execution machines had been known prior to the French Revolution, but they were refined after Paris physician and politician Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin suggested they might be a more humane form of execution than the usual methods (hanging, burning alive, etc.). The first guillotine was actually designed by Dr. Antoine Louis, Secretary of the Academy of Surgery, and was known as a louisette. The quick and efficient machine was quickly adopted as the main method of execution in revolutionary France, and as the bodies piled up the public began to refer to it as la guillotine, for the man who first suggested its use. Guillotin was very distressed at the association, and when he died in 1814 his family asked the French government to change the name of the hated machine. The government refused and so the family changed their name instead to escape the dreadful association.

5. BECHDEL TEST (OR WALLACE TEST?)

Alison Bechdel
Alison Bechdel
Steve Jennings/Getty Images

The Bechdel Test is a tool to highlight gender inequality in film, television, and fiction. The idea is that in order to pass the test, the movie, show, or book in question must include at least one scene in which two women have a conversation that isn’t about a man. The test was popularized by the cartoonist Alison Bechdel in 1985 in her comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For,” and has since become known by her name. However, Bechdel asserts that the idea originated with her friend Lisa Wallace (and was also inspired by the writer Virginia Woolf), and she would prefer for it to be known as the Bechdel-Wallace test.

6. STIGLER’S LAW OF EPONYMY (OR MERTON’S LAW?)

Influential sociologist Robert K. Merton suggested the idea of the “Matthew Effect” in a 1968 paper noting that senior colleagues who are already famous tend to get the credit for their junior colleagues’ discoveries. (Merton named his phenomenon [PDF] after the parable of talents in the Gospel of Matthew, in which wise servants invest money their master has given them.)

Merton was a well-respected academic, and when he was due to retire in 1979, a book of essays celebrating his work was proposed. One person who contributed an essay was University of Chicago professor of statistics Stephen Stigler, who had corresponded with Merton about his ideas. Stigler decided to pen an essay that celebrated and proved Merton’s theory. As a result, he took Merton’s idea and created Stigler’s Law of Eponymy, which states that “No scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer”—the joke being that Stigler himself was taking Merton’s own theory and naming it after himself. To further prove the rule, the “new” law has been adopted by the academic community, and a number of papers and articles have since been written on "Stigler’s Law."

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