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Weird Stuff Found in Bogs

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For my money, whether you call 'em bogs, tarns, mires or moors, bogs are one of the strangest ecosystems on earth. Long before Emily Bronte and Arthur Conan Doyle exploited the bog as a setting for the atmospheric goings-on of their Gothic horror stories, bogs were creeping people out with bursts of ghostly-looking green fire (spontaneous combustion of outgassed methane), releasing millennia-old corpses that looked like they died last week, trapping people in its quicksand-like muck and generally stinking up the place. Let's take a look at some of the weirder things you might find in a bog.

Dead people

The acidic, anaerobic environment under the water of northern European bogs is one in which even bacteria cannot thrive, and thus don't get a chance to decompose whatever bio-matter might fall in. Over the last 5,000 years ago this has included people unfortunate enough to drown in bogs accidentally (they're usually found clutching weeds and sticks in their hands, evidence of futile attempts to cling to the not-solid surface), iron-age people brutally killed and tossed in (heads knocked in, choked with leather straps, disemboweled; the works) and medieval folk who ended up in bogs because for whatever reason church rules wouldn't allow them to be buried on consecrated ground. The endlessly fascinating thing about these "bog people" is that, aside from the intense brown tan their skins have acquired from the tannic water and the fact that the acid in the water dissolves their bones, they look look more or less the way they did when they died. The Tollund Man, for instance, found in a Danish bog near the town of Tollund, wears a famously serene expression on his murdered face (see above). Irish poet Seamus Heaney wrote about him in his poem "The Tollund Man":

Some day I will go to Aarhus
To see his peat-brown head,
The mild pods of his eye-lids,
His pointed skin cap.

In the flat country near by
Where they dug him out,
His last gruel of winter seeds
Caked in his stomach,

Naked except for
The cap, noose and girdle,
I will stand a long time.
Bridegroom to the goddess,

She tightened her torc on him
And opened her fen,
Those dark juices working
Him to a saint's kept body,

Trove of the turfcutters'
Honeycombed workings.
Now his stained face
Reposes at Aarhus.

Alive people

People venture into bogs for all sorts of reasons: to cut and dry the peat into bricks which can be burned for fuel (and which famously gives Scotch whisky much of its smoky flavor), to catalog the flora and butterflies which thrive in them during spring and summer months, and most recently, to snorkel. That's right -- the newest extreme sport in Wales is called bog snorkeling, which consists of competitors completing two consecutive lengths of a 60-yard water filled trench cut through a peat bog, in the shortest time possible. The annual Bog Snorkeling Championships have been held in the dense Waen Rhydd peat bog, near Llanwrtyd Wells in mid Wales, since 1985. Contestants are encouraged to wear funny costumes, as you'll see if you watch this video:


bogbutter.jpgWhat is "bog butter?" For a long time, scientists weren't completely sure, and many thought it was literally that -- butter. People have long been finding mysterious, ancient wooden kegs and buckets in bogs filled with a semi-preserved, waxy substance that looked a bit like butter, though few were brave enough to taste it and find out. The prevailing wisdom is that the preservative qualities of bogs may have acted as primitive refrigerators for the ancient people of Ireland and the UK, where most examples of bog butter have been found. But recent tests suggest that while some of these "butters" were in fact dairy, some were meat-based. The practice of preserving meat and dairy in bogs dates back to at least the 2nd century AD.

Really old books

In this case, a Psalter, or Book of Psalms, was discovered by a man operating a backhoe in an Irish peat bog in 2006. The book, its writing still legible, had been buried more more than a thousand years, and a leather carrying pouch for the book was found nearby. Other satchels as well as wooden vessels have been found in the same bog over the years.

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images
6 Radiant Facts About Irène Joliot-Curie
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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Though her accomplishments are often overshadowed by those of her parents, the elder daughter of Marie and Pierre Curie was a brilliant researcher in her own right.


A black and white photo of Irene and Marie Curie in the laboratory in 1925.
Irène and Marie in the laboratory, 1925.
Wellcome Images, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 4.0

Irène’s birth in Paris in 1897 launched what would become a world-changing scientific dynasty. A restless Marie rejoined her loving husband in the laboratory shortly after the baby’s arrival. Over the next 10 years, the Curies discovered radium and polonium, founded the science of radioactivity, welcomed a second daughter, Eve, and won a Nobel Prize in Physics. The Curies expected their daughters to excel in their education and their work. And excel they did; by 1925, Irène had a doctorate in chemistry and was working in her mother’s laboratory.


Like her mother, Irène fell in love in the lab—both with her work and with another scientist. Frédéric Joliot joined the Curie team as an assistant. He and Irène quickly bonded over shared interests in sports, the arts, and human rights. The two began collaborating on research and soon married, equitably combining their names and signing their work Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie.


Black and white photo of Irène and Fréderic Joliot-Curie working side by side in their laboratory.
Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Their passion for exploration drove them ever onward into exciting new territory. A decade of experimentation yielded advances in several disciplines. They learned how the thyroid gland absorbs radioiodine and how the body metabolizes radioactive phosphates. They found ways to coax radioactive isotopes from ordinarily non-radioactive materials—a discovery that would eventually enable both nuclear power and atomic weaponry, and one that earned them the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935.


The humanist principles that initially drew Irène and Frédéric together only deepened as they grew older. Both were proud members of the Socialist Party and the Comité de Vigilance des Intellectuels Antifascistes (Vigilance Committee of Anti-Fascist Intellectuals). They took great pains to keep atomic research out of Nazi hands, sealing and hiding their research as Germany occupied their country, Irène also served as undersecretary of state for scientific research of the Popular Front government.


Irène eventually scaled back her time in the lab to raise her children Hélène and Pierre. But she never slowed down, nor did she stop fighting for equality and freedom for all. Especially active in women’s rights groups, she became a member of the Comité National de l'Union des Femmes Françaises and the World Peace Council.


Irène’s extraordinary life was a mirror of her mother’s. Tragically, her death was, too. Years of watching radiation poisoning and cancer taking their toll on Marie never dissuaded Irène from her work. In 1956, dying of leukemia, she entered the Curie Hospital, where she followed her mother’s luminous footsteps into the great beyond.

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Live Smarter
You Can Now Order Food Through Facebook
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After a bit of controversy over its way of aggregating news feeds and some questionable content censoring policies, it’s nice to have Facebook roll out a feature everyone can agree on: allowing you to order food without leaving the social media site.

According to a press release, Facebook says that the company decided to begin offering food delivery options after realizing that many of its users come to the social media hub to rate and discuss local eateries. Rather than hop from Facebook to the restaurant or a delivery service, you’ll be able to stay within the app and select from a menu of food choices. Just click “Order Food” from the Explore menu on a desktop interface or under the “More” option on Android or iOS devices. There, you’ll be presented with options that will accept takeout or delivery orders, as well as businesses participating with services like or EatStreet.

If you need to sign up and create an account with or Jimmy John’s, for example, you can do that without leaving Facebook. The feature is expected to be available nationally, effective immediately.

[h/t Forbes]


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