CLOSE
Original image

The Weekend Links

Original image

"¢ Jan from Atlanta (quickly becoming one of my favorite Flossers) has sent in these pictures of money being folded in ways that look like celebrities. Pretty darn cool.

"¢ Steve C has pointed out that we at mental_floss love us some parasites. If you can't get your fill, check out this article, with an amazing video at the bottom of an ant losing its head.

"¢ Apparently, listening to Sean Paul can give you seizures. I don't know about you guys, but I can think of a few other bands or artists that might be potential culprits. (Thanks Jaclyn)

"¢ In case you were wondering, here's a detailed explanation of how snow makers work. If your main concern is not ski trails but the economy, here's a detailed explanation of interest rates.

"¢ Not many of my close friends have gotten married, so I have thus far avoided the dreaded Bridesmaid Dress Debacle. Here are pictures of people who haven't been so lucky.

"¢ Dail from My Favorite Place (St. George Island, Florida) has sent in this little distraction regarding cow abduction. What really gets me are the pictures and information, i.e. the time some people have put into this faux cause. Like this site, which is one of my all-time favorites.

whywewrite.jpg
"¢ Another clip from the Why We Write series. This one is from Cindy Chupack, one of the writers of Sex and the City.

"¢ Certainly most of you have had trouble with things breaking down, and with repairmen who don't always know the best way to, well, repair. Kevin's friend had a similar problem, when a repairman fixed her lack of hot water by using an extension cord. In the shower.

"¢ I really love cheese. And I'm in good company "“ Ricky Gervais is known for eating hardly anything but cheese sandwiches. For those who can't get enough, behold! A drum-set made of cheese. Bonus points to anyone who can send in an mp3 of it being played. (Thanks to Edward, who was also the 19th person to send us a link, winning himself a free mental_floss t-shirt! We'll be in touch.)

"¢ If you have Seasonal Affective Disorder, you will not want to move to Barrow, Alaska, where the sun hides out for a full three months. Here's a video of the first glimpse of sun the other day, as well as an interview with a resident who claims it's really not all that bad.

"¢ According to MarketingForGood.net, Barry Diller has spent $140 million to convince you to switch from Google to Ask.com. I'm guessing you didn't. How would you have spent that $140 million more effectively?

"¢ Some things just shouldn't be said, some things just shouldn't be worn (see Bridesmaid link above), and some things just shouldn't be gummi. Have some dignity!

"¢ If you thought the ads I posted last weekend were scary, take a gander at this bad boy. Not really scary so much as awesome.

bears.jpg
"¢ Speaking of scary "“ Teddy Bears, inside out. Definitely not cool for anyone looking for childhood nostalgia time.

"¢ Now, if you're in the mood for some cute cuddly things, you need check out a blog dedicated to pictures of snoozing pupppies. Awww.

facebook1.jpg
"¢ Have you joined the "I Read Mental Floss" Facebook group? It's kind of a big deal.

"¢ NPR did a report on famous six-word memoirs (such as Hemingway's "For sale: baby shoes, never worn"). But, as Flossy reader Swapna points out, as good as the famous ones are, some of the reader comments are even better. Does anyone feel inspired to post their own?

"¢ And finally, Jason recently announced the "mental_floss reader photo of the week" contest. If you have a Flickr account, you can tag pics you think we should see (the tag: "flossphotos"). Looking through the submissions, I don't quite know what to think. Jason voted this photo his favorite:

archie-bunker.jpg
Courtesy of Old Man Musings, who also has a blog. Jason's runner-up is from regular commenter fixedgear (see it here). But you guys should take a look at the good (and really weird) submissions, and let us know who you think deserves the title. [Note: You can put links in the comments if you omit the 'http://www' part.]

Keep the links coming! Email me at flossylinks@gmail.com. Enjoy the weekend!

[Last Weekend's Links.]

arrow
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]

arrow
language
6 Eponyms Named After the Wrong Person
Original image
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."

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios