The Quick 10: Winnie-the-Pooh Particulars

It was 83 years ago this week that A.A. Milne's classic Winnie-the-Pooh first hit bookshelves everywhere. Even if you think Disney's Pooh is passé (I myself am not a fan), you have to admit that the original story is a classic. Here are a few facts about one of the world's most famous bears.

pooh1. All of the animals portrayed in the story were inspired by Christopher Robin Milne's (A.A. Milne's son) stuffed animals, except for two: Owl and Rabbit, whom Milne and illustrator Ernest Shepard created to round out the menagerie. Sadly, Christopher Robin lost the Roo stuffed animal (the baby kangaroo) in an apple orchard in the 1930s, so it's not with the display of original plush dolls (pictured).
2. It's kind of surprising that as many of the stuffed animals lasted as long as they did "“ not only were they well-loved by Milne's son, but they were also apparently well-loved by the family dog. I can tell you that if my dachshunds had gotten a hold of those they would have ripped all of the stuffing out of them and then turned the "carcass" inside out, so we should be thankful that the Milnes didn't own wiener dogs.

3. There's been some speculation over the years that Pooh's last name is Sanders, as in "Winnie-the-Pooh Sanders," because he has the name "Sanders" written over the door of his house. As far as we know, this isn't true. After stating the Pooh lived under the name of Sanders, the book clarifies, "It means he had the name over the door in gold letters and Pooh lived under it." Most experts take this to mean that the previous resident was named Sanders and merely left his mark on the abode. We don't know who the mysterious Mr. Sanders was; however, there is one unconfirmed explanation: a real-life man by the name of Frank Sanders had a printing press that printed some of Milne's work and was a friend of the man who illustrated the Pooh books.

russia4. Winnie the Pooh is a pretty big deal in Russia "“ he starred in three animated short stories in the late "˜60s and early "˜70s - but he looks much different than both the animated Disney version and the version illustrated by Ernest Shepard. That's the Russian Pooh to the left.
5. Winnie-the-Pooh is the original spelling. Disney took out the hyphens when they made their animated series. Obviously those were huge successes, thus the spelling without the hyphens became more commonly known.

6. A first edition Winnie-the-Pooh book can go for anywhere from $700 for a book in decent condition to nearly $5,000 for a "presentation copy" signed book.

7. Hundred-Acre Wood is a real place in England. It's based on a place called Ashdown Forest in East Sussex. Many of the landmarks found in the Pooh books can be found there, including Poohsticks Bridget, Galleon's Lap (called Gill's Lap in real life), Roo's Sandpit and Heffalump Trap. In fact, in 2001, a 10-year-old boy took the "fake" map drawn by Ernest Shepard and navigated his way around Ashdown Forest for a documentary.

8. Winnie-the-Pooh has been released in many languages, including Esperanto and Latin. The Latin version (Winnie ille Pu) actually made it on to the New York Times bestseller list in 1960, making it the first-ever foreign language book to make it to the list. To this day, it's the only Latin book that has ever charted.

NPG x36166, Christopher Robin Milne9. The real Christopher Robin didn't much appreciate his fame. When he went away to school, his schoolmates taunted him and recited passages from his father's stories to him, which made the younger Milne quite embarrassed of his association with the tribe of stuffed animals. He later wrote an autobiography about how difficult his life was, saying, "It seemed to me almost that my father had got where he was by climbing on my infant shoulders, that he had filched from me my good name and left me nothing but empty fame". Maybe it's because my father has never written one of the most beloved children's books of all time about me, but to me, Christopher Robin's statement sounds a little, um"¦ selfish? Spoiled? Ungrateful? What do you think?

10. You can read about how Winnie-the-Pooh got his name here (and about a few other children's lit characters that had real-life counterparts). The original Pooh bear was purchased at Harrod's and was named Edward Bear.

Are you a fan? Or are you totally sick of the Pooh overload Disney has forced down everyone's throats in recent years? Whether you love the pudgy guy or would rather see him develop a nasty honey allergy, let us know in the comments.

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Nervous About Asking for a Job Referral? LinkedIn Can Now Do It for You

For most people, asking for a job referral can be daunting. What if the person being approached shoots you down? What if you ask the "wrong" way? LinkedIn, which has been aggressively establishing itself as a catch-all hub for employment opportunities, has a solution, as Mashable reports.

The company recently launched "Ask for a Referral," an option that will appear to those browsing job listings. When you click on a job listed by a business that also employs one of your LinkedIn first-degree connections, you'll have the opportunity to solicit a referral from that individual.

The default message that LinkedIn creates is somewhat generic, but it hits the main topics—namely, prompting you to explain how you and your connection know one another and why you'd be a good fit for the position. If you're the one being asked for a referral, the site will direct you to the job posting and offer three prompts for a response, ranging from "Sure…" to "Sorry…".

LinkedIn says the referral option may not be available for all posts or all users, as the feature is still being rolled out. If you do see the option, it will likely pay to take advantage of it: LinkedIn reports that recruiters who receive both a referral and a job application from a prospective hire are four times more likely to contact that individual.

[h/t Mashable]

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Essential Science
What Is a Scientific Theory?
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

In casual conversation, people often use the word theory to mean "hunch" or "guess": If you see the same man riding the northbound bus every morning, you might theorize that he has a job in the north end of the city; if you forget to put the bread in the breadbox and discover chunks have been taken out of it the next morning, you might theorize that you have mice in your kitchen.

In science, a theory is a stronger assertion. Typically, it's a claim about the relationship between various facts; a way of providing a concise explanation for what's been observed. The American Museum of Natural History puts it this way: "A theory is a well-substantiated explanation of an aspect of the natural world that can incorporate laws, hypotheses and facts."

For example, Newton's theory of gravity—also known as his law of universal gravitation—says that every object, anywhere in the universe, responds to the force of gravity in the same way. Observational data from the Moon's motion around the Earth, the motion of Jupiter's moons around Jupiter, and the downward fall of a dropped hammer are all consistent with Newton's theory. So Newton's theory provides a concise way of summarizing what we know about the motion of these objects—indeed, of any object responding to the force of gravity.

A scientific theory "organizes experience," James Robert Brown, a philosopher of science at the University of Toronto, tells Mental Floss. "It puts it into some kind of systematic form."


A theory's ability to account for already known facts lays a solid foundation for its acceptance. Let's take a closer look at Newton's theory of gravity as an example.

In the late 17th century, the planets were known to move in elliptical orbits around the Sun, but no one had a clear idea of why the orbits had to be shaped like ellipses. Similarly, the movement of falling objects had been well understood since the work of Galileo a half-century earlier; the Italian scientist had worked out a mathematical formula that describes how the speed of a falling object increases over time. Newton's great breakthrough was to tie all of this together. According to legend, his moment of insight came as he gazed upon a falling apple in his native Lincolnshire.

In Newton's theory, every object is attracted to every other object with a force that’s proportional to the masses of the objects, but inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. This is known as an “inverse square” law. For example, if the distance between the Sun and the Earth were doubled, the gravitational attraction between the Earth and the Sun would be cut to one-quarter of its current strength. Newton, using his theories and a bit of calculus, was able to show that the gravitational force between the Sun and the planets as they move through space meant that orbits had to be elliptical.

Newton's theory is powerful because it explains so much: the falling apple, the motion of the Moon around the Earth, and the motion of all of the planets—and even comets—around the Sun. All of it now made sense.


A theory gains even more support if it predicts new, observable phenomena. The English astronomer Edmond Halley used Newton's theory of gravity to calculate the orbit of the comet that now bears his name. Taking into account the gravitational pull of the Sun, Jupiter, and Saturn, in 1705, he predicted that the comet, which had last been seen in 1682, would return in 1758. Sure enough, it did, reappearing in December of that year. (Unfortunately, Halley didn't live to see it; he died in 1742.) The predicted return of Halley's Comet, Brown says, was "a spectacular triumph" of Newton's theory.

In the early 20th century, Newton's theory of gravity would itself be superseded—as physicists put it—by Einstein's, known as general relativity. (Where Newton envisioned gravity as a force acting between objects, Einstein described gravity as the result of a curving or warping of space itself.) General relativity was able to explain certain phenomena that Newton's theory couldn't account for, such as an anomaly in the orbit of Mercury, which slowly rotates—the technical term for this is "precession"—so that while each loop the planet takes around the Sun is an ellipse, over the years Mercury traces out a spiral path similar to one you may have made as a kid on a Spirograph.

Significantly, Einstein’s theory also made predictions that differed from Newton's. One was the idea that gravity can bend starlight, which was spectacularly confirmed during a solar eclipse in 1919 (and made Einstein an overnight celebrity). Nearly 100 years later, in 2016, the discovery of gravitational waves confirmed yet another prediction. In the century between, at least eight predictions of Einstein's theory have been confirmed.


And yet physicists believe that Einstein's theory will one day give way to a new, more complete theory. It already seems to conflict with quantum mechanics, the theory that provides our best description of the subatomic world. The way the two theories describe the world is very different. General relativity describes the universe as containing particles with definite positions and speeds, moving about in response to gravitational fields that permeate all of space. Quantum mechanics, in contrast, yields only the probability that each particle will be found in some particular location at some particular time.

What would a "unified theory of physics"—one that combines quantum mechanics and Einstein's theory of gravity—look like? Presumably it would combine the explanatory power of both theories, allowing scientists to make sense of both the very large and the very small in the universe.


Let's shift from physics to biology for a moment. It is precisely because of its vast explanatory power that biologists hold Darwin's theory of evolution—which allows scientists to make sense of data from genetics, physiology, biochemistry, paleontology, biogeography, and many other fields—in such high esteem. As the biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky put it in an influential essay in 1973, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."

Interestingly, the word evolution can be used to refer to both a theory and a fact—something Darwin himself realized. "Darwin, when he was talking about evolution, distinguished between the fact of evolution and the theory of evolution," Brown says. "The fact of evolution was that species had, in fact, evolved [i.e. changed over time]—and he had all sorts of evidence for this. The theory of evolution is an attempt to explain this evolutionary process." The explanation that Darwin eventually came up with was the idea of natural selection—roughly, the idea that an organism's offspring will vary, and that those offspring with more favorable traits will be more likely to survive, thus passing those traits on to the next generation.


Many theories are rock-solid: Scientists have just as much confidence in the theories of relativity, quantum mechanics, evolution, plate tectonics, and thermodynamics as they do in the statement that the Earth revolves around the Sun.

Other theories, closer to the cutting-edge of current research, are more tentative, like string theory (the idea that everything in the universe is made up of tiny, vibrating strings or loops of pure energy) or the various multiverse theories (the idea that our entire universe is just one of many). String theory and multiverse theories remain controversial because of the lack of direct experimental evidence for them, and some critics claim that multiverse theories aren't even testable in principle. They argue that there's no conceivable experiment that one could perform that would reveal the existence of these other universes.

Sometimes more than one theory is put forward to explain observations of natural phenomena; these theories might be said to "compete," with scientists judging which one provides the best explanation for the observations.

"That's how it should ideally work," Brown says. "You put forward your theory, I put forward my theory; we accumulate a lot of evidence. Eventually, one of our theories might prove to obviously be better than the other, over some period of time. At that point, the losing theory sort of falls away. And the winning theory will probably fight battles in the future."


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