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The Weekend Links

How many of you Potterheads rushed out to see Half Blood Prince this weekend? (I did!) NY Mag does a great job of ranking the Harry Potter Movies From "˜Riddikulus' to Brilliant that is essential for the Potter-inclined.
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There has been some dismay among linguists and anthropologists about how hill whistling and other local sounds from isolated regions are becoming extinct with younger generations embracing modernity. Fear not though, yodeling is still apparently very popular, even among the young folk!
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More "Monster-ization" of Jane Austen: "Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters." If zombies are more your thing, you might like these promo shirts.
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If you can't get away this summer, you can at least dream about it with this picture post of beautiful beaches. For more pretty pics that can also double as summery desktop backgrounds, check out these scenic landscapes.
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Flossy faithful Dail tells us, "You think your last attempt at lasagna was a disaster?  Check out some real food disasters:  The Great London Beer Flood of 1847 and Boston's Great Molasses Flood of 1919.  All told, more than 40 people died in these two 'food mishaps.'"
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Tricia has sent in a really fun and addicting (and for me personally, incredibly confounding) game called Contraption. Feel free to post high scores / levels - I cannot compete because my brain apparently does not function in a way this game requires!
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Check out this rundown of America's most bizarre and amazing miniature golf courses.
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Yummy Nerd Cakes

From Jan, check out some outstanding photography. You may be surprised to find that it's done by Tipper Gore!

Feel better about your home when you see the recipient of the 'Housekeeper of the Year' award goes to... (warning: contains sarcasm)
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I've found that I own several soundtracks to movies that I never want to watch again, but love the music anyway. In that spirit, here are Ten Original Singles Way Better than the Movies they Came From.
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laptop1cassette-totelaptop29-5-laptop-sleevelaptop3nescontroller-bag

Stand out from the crowd with these unique laptop sleeves.
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From my friend Ryan: "Go to the last page and read from the bottom.  It's an amazing story of a tenant/landlord relationship. Be sure to watch the video slideshow." (warning: language!)
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Flossy reader Nicole says, "Here are two sites that make you ask, "Why?" You may recognize them as oldie-but-goodie classics: Ugliest Tattoos and Hot Chicks with D-bags.
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Incredible picture taken by an amateur of lightening striking a boat.
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For the fashionistas, vintage Vogue fashions collected by decade.
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News one can only find from Ananova: A motorcyclist received a caution from police officers in China ... for riding without arms.

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Hope everyone has a fantastic weekend! Keep sending in your links and findings to FlossyLinks@gmail.com, and for extra links and nonsense, I am on Twitter

[Last Weekend's Links]

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Penn Vet Working Dog Center
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
New Program Trains Dogs to Sniff Out Art Smugglers
Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

Soon, the dogs you see sniffing out contraband at airports may not be searching for drugs or smuggled Spanish ham. They might be looking for stolen treasures.

K-9 Artifact Finders, a new collaboration between New Hampshire-based cultural heritage law firm Red Arch and the University of Pennsylvania, is training dogs to root out stolen antiquities looted from archaeological sites and museums. The dogs would be stopping them at borders before the items can be sold elsewhere on the black market.

The illegal antiquities trade nets more than $3 billion per year around the world, and trafficking hits countries dealing with ongoing conflict, like Syria and Iraq today, particularly hard. By one estimate, around half a million artifacts were stolen from museums and archaeological sites throughout Iraq between 2003 and 2005 alone. (Famously, the craft-supply chain Hobby Lobby was fined $3 million in 2017 for buying thousands of ancient artifacts looted from Iraq.) In Syria, the Islamic State has been known to loot and sell ancient artifacts including statues, jewelry, and art to fund its operations.

But the problem spans across the world. Between 2007 and 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Control discovered more than 7800 cultural artifacts in the U.S. looted from 30 different countries.

A yellow Lab sniffs a metal cage designed to train dogs on scent detection.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

K-9 Artifact Finders is the brainchild of Rick St. Hilaire, the executive director of Red Arch. His non-profit firm researches cultural heritage property law and preservation policy, including studying archaeological site looting and antiquities trafficking. Back in 2015, St. Hilaire was reading an article about a working dog trained to sniff out electronics that was able to find USB drives, SD cards, and other data storage devices. He wondered, if dogs could be trained to identify the scents of inorganic materials that make up electronics, could they be trained to sniff out ancient pottery?

To find out, St. Hilaire tells Mental Floss, he contacted the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, a research and training center for detection dogs. In December 2017, Red Arch, the Working Dog Center, and the Penn Museum (which is providing the artifacts to train the dogs) launched K-9 Artifact Finders, and in late January 2018, the five dogs selected for the project began their training, starting with learning the distinct smell of ancient pottery.

“Our theory is, it is a porous material that’s going to have a lot more odor than, say, a metal,” says Cindy Otto, the executive director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and the project’s principal investigator.

As you might imagine, museum curators may not be keen on exposing fragile ancient materials to four Labrador retrievers and a German shepherd, and the Working Dog Center didn’t want to take any risks with the Penn Museum’s priceless artifacts. So instead of letting the dogs have free rein to sniff the materials themselves, the project is using cotton balls. The researchers seal the artifacts (broken shards of Syrian pottery) in airtight bags with a cotton ball for 72 hours, then ask the dogs to find the cotton balls in the lab. They’re being trained to disregard the smell of the cotton ball itself, the smell of the bag it was stored in, and ideally, the smell of modern-day pottery, eventually being able to zero in on the smell that distinguishes ancient pottery specifically.

A dog looks out over the metal "pinhweel" training mechanism.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

“The dogs are responding well,” Otto tells Mental Floss, explaining that the training program is at the stage of "exposing them to the odor and having them recognize it.”

The dogs involved in the project were chosen for their calm-but-curious demeanors and sensitive noses (one also works as a drug-detection dog when she’s not training on pottery). They had to be motivated enough to want to hunt down the cotton balls, but not aggressive or easily distracted.

Right now, the dogs train three days a week, and will continue to work on their pottery-detection skills for the first stage of the project, which the researchers expect will last for the next nine months. Depending on how the first phase of the training goes, the researchers hope to be able to then take the dogs out into the field to see if they can find the odor of ancient pottery in real-life situations, like in suitcases, rather than in a laboratory setting. Eventually, they also hope to train the dogs on other types of objects, and perhaps even pinpoint the chemical signatures that make artifacts smell distinct.

Pottery-sniffing dogs won’t be showing up at airport customs or on shipping docks soon, but one day, they could be as common as drug-sniffing canines. If dogs can detect low blood sugar or find a tiny USB drive hidden in a house, surely they can figure out if you’re smuggling a sculpture made thousands of years ago in your suitcase.

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