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Stamp out quackery!

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Medical quackery has a long history, but anyone who thinks that peddlers of snake oil and cure-alls are a thing of the past doesn't have an email account (or has the best spam filter ever made). The number of blatant come-ons I'm sent advertising "miracle" weight loss or sexual enhancement pills is so astounding -- the postmodern equivalent of the huckster shouting about his panacea powders on a street corner and skipping town as soon as he's sold a few bottles -- that I thought I'd delve into the history a bit. Turns out "quack" comes from the Dutch "quacksalver," meaning "boaster who applies a salve." (Sounds about right.)

Quack medicines (also known as "patent medicines") became popular in 17th century Britain, and were heavily imported to the US until the War of Independence (oh yeah, that thing we celebrated yesterday), when many British imports were curtailed. By the Civil War era, however, Americans had begun producing their own domestic cure-alls, which usually had no medicinal value and were sometimes even harmful to the user. William Radam's "Microbe Killer," which claimed to "cure all diseases," was actually a solution of dilute sulphuric acid and red wine. (Sounds like it might cure the user of his life right along with those diseases.) The quack business slowed down a lot in 1906 with the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act, which removed many of the most dangerous ingredients from these so-called "medicines." But sham doctors still had plenty to do between the passage of the act and the rise of quack spam today, as evidenced by this hilarious PSA from the 50s, Stamp Out Quackery!

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Space
Can’t See the Eclipse in Person? Watch NASA’s 360° Live Stream
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Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

Depending on where you live, the historic eclipse on August 21 might not look all that impressive from your vantage point. You may be far away from the path of totality, or stuck with heartbreakingly cloudy weather. Maybe you forgot to get your eclipse glasses before they sold out, or can't get away from your desk in the middle of the day.

But fear not. NASA has you covered. The space agency is live streaming a spectacular 4K-resolution 360° live video of the celestial phenomenon on Facebook. The livestream started at 12 p.m. Eastern Time and includes commentary from NASA experts based in South Carolina. It will run until about 4:15 ET.

You can watch it below, on NASA's Facebook page, or on the Facebook video app.

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Art
Cephalopod Fossil Sketch in Australia Can Be Seen From Space

Australia is home to some of the most singular creatures alive today, but a new piece of outdoor art pays homage to an organism that last inhabited the continent 65 million years ago. As the Townsville Bulletin reports, an etching of a prehistoric ammonite has appeared in a barren field in Queensland.

Ammonites are the ancestors of the cephalopods that currently populate the world’s oceans. They had sharp beaks, dexterous tentacles, and spiraling shells that could grow more than 3 feet in diameter. The inland sea where the ammonites once thrived has since dried up, leaving only fossils as evidence of their existence. The newly plowed dirt mural acts as a larger-than-life reminder of the ancient animals.

To make a drawing big enough to be seen from space, mathematician David Kennedy plotted the image into a path consisting of more than 600 “way points.” Then, using a former War World II airfield as his canvas, the property’s owner Rob Ievers plowed the massive 1230-foot-by-820-foot artwork into the ground with his tractor.

The project was funded by Soil Science Australia, an organization that uses soil art to raise awareness of the importance of farming. The sketch doubles as a paleotourist attraction for the local area, which is home to Australia's "dinosaur trail" of museums and other fossil-related attractions. But to see the craftsmanship in all its glory, visitors will need to find a way to view it from above.

[h/t Townsville Bulletin]

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