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The fine art of whale disposal

In many respects, we the people of Earth are pretty savvy, technologically and otherwise. We can read genetic code, interpret the faintest glimmers of light from the night sky to learn about the makeup of unimaginably distant worlds ... and that iPhone is pretty cool, too! But we still, after all this time, haven't found the perfect way to dispose of a dead whale. The most infamous example of this is the legendary Exploding Whale incident which happened on the Oregon coast in 1970. (I was truly surprised to discover, after a quick search of the _floss archives, that we have never posted this video. Let me rectify that right now.)

So if you can't cut them up (too gross), bury them (tough to dig them deep enough) or blow them up (as established above), what can you do? Actually, explosives are still a common tool for whale deconstructors, but typically the carcass is hauled out to sea first, where the flying bits won't muck up the shore (or crush any parked cars ... see video). But even this doesn't always work, as evidenced by a failed attempt in Iceland in 2005, when after a controlled explosion split an out-to-sea whale carcass in two, the halves drifted right back to land. Worse still was an organic explosion, which occurred while whale necrologists were transporting a carcass through the Chinese city of Tainan, Taiwan in 2004.

Residents of Tainan learned a lesson in whale biology after the decomposing remains of a 60-ton sperm whale exploded on a busy street, showering nearby cars and shops with blood and organs and stopping traffic for hours. The 56-foot-long whale had been on a truck headed for a necropsy by researchers, when gases from internal decay caused its entrails to explode in the southern city of Tainan.

Obviously, we need some _floss-quality thought put into this. Anyone got any brilliant ideas?

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Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California
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History
The Concept of the American 'Backyard' is Newer Than You Think
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California

Backyards are as American as apple pie and baseball. If you live in a suburban or rural area, chances are good that you have a lawn, and maybe a pool, some patio furniture, and a grill to boot.

This wasn’t always the case, though. As Smithsonian Insider reports, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Americans began to consider the backyard an extension of the home, as well as a space for recreation and relaxation. After World War II, Americans started leaving the big cities and moving to suburban homes that came equipped with private backyards. Then, after the 40-hour work week was implemented and wages started to increase, families started spending more money on patios, pools, and well-kept lawns, which became a “symbol of prosperity” in the 1950s, according to a new Smithsonian Institution exhibit.

A man mows his lawn in the 1950s
In this photo from the Smithsonian Institution's exhibit, a man mows his lawn in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington
Library in San Marino, California

Entitled "Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Back Yard," the exhibition includes photographs, advertisements, and articles about backyards from the 1950s and 1960s. The traveling display is currently on view at the Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum in Temple, Texas, and from there it will head to Hartford, Connecticut, in December.

Prior to the 1950s, outdoor yards were primarily workspaces, MLive.com reports. Some families may have had a vegetable garden, but most yards were used to store tools, livestock, and other basic necessities.

The rise of the backyard was largely fueled by materials that were already on hand, but hadn’t been accessible to the average American during World War II. As Smithsonian Insider notes, companies that had manufactured aluminum and concrete for wartime efforts later switched to swimming pools, patio furniture, and even grilling utensils.

A family eats at a picnic table in the 1960s
A family in Mendham, New Jersey, in the 1960s
Molly Adams/Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Maida Babson Adams American Garden Collection

At the same time, DIY projects started to come into fashion. According to an exhibit caption of a Popular Mechanics article from the 1950s, “‘Doing-it-yourself’ was advertised as an enjoyable and affordable way for families to individualize their suburban homes.” The magazine wrote at the time that “patios, eating areas, places for play and relaxation are transforming back yards throughout the nation.”

The American backyard continues to grow to this day. As Bloomberg notes, data shows that the average backyard grew three years in a row, from 2015 to 2017. The average home last year had 7048 square feet of outdoor space—plenty of room for a sizable Memorial Day cookout.

[h/t Smithsonian Insider]

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