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Watch the Skull-Cutting Instructional Video Made for a Django Unchained Actor

Quentin Tarantino often takes liberties with history in his films, and his latest, Django Unchained, is no exception. But some aspects of the flick called for a bit of realism: For a scene where Leonardo DiCaptrio's character, Calvin Candie, saws off the top of a skull, the production turned to the Mütter Museum for help. Curator Anna Dhody sent the actor an instructional video, which you can watch below.

Dhody uses a saw from the 1850s and describes the proper technique, starting from the front of the skull and saving the back for last, because the occipital bone is "thick ... and if you're using a manual saw, it takes awhile [to cut through]."

It makes sense that the production would go to the Mütter for this information. The museum's collection began as a donation from Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter in 1858, and its initial purpose was medical research and teaching (Mütter was primarily interested in improving and reforming medical education). Today, the collection contains medical oddities, anatomical specimens, models, and antique equipment.

Why does DiCaprio's character need to saw open a skull? This is a spoiler-free zone, so you'll have to see Django to find out.

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History
The Queen of Code: Remembering Grace Hopper
By Lynn Gilbert, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Grace Hopper was a computing pioneer. She coined the term "computer bug" after finding a moth stuck inside Harvard's Mark II computer in 1947 (which in turn led to the term "debug," meaning solving problems in computer code). She did the foundational work that led to the COBOL programming language, used in mission-critical computing systems for decades (including today). She worked in World War II using very early computers to help end the war. When she retired from the U.S. Navy at age 79, she was the oldest active-duty commissioned officer in the service. Hopper, who was born on this day in 1906, is a hero of computing and a brilliant role model, but not many people know her story.

In this short documentary from FiveThirtyEight, directed by Gillian Jacobs, we learned about Grace Hopper from several biographers, archival photographs, and footage of her speaking in her later years. If you've never heard of Grace Hopper, or you're even vaguely interested in the history of computing or women in computing, this is a must-watch:

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science
Why Are Glaciers Blue?
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iStock

The bright azure blue sported by many glaciers is one of nature's most stunning hues. But how does it happen, when the snow we see is usually white? As Joe Hanson of It's Okay to Be Smart explains in the video below, the snow and ice we see mostly looks white, cloudy, or clear because all of the visible light striking its surface is reflected back to us. But glaciers have a totally different structure—their many layers of tightly compressed snow means light has to travel much further, and is scattered many times throughout the depths. As the light bounces around, the light at the red and yellow end of the spectrum gets absorbed thanks to the vibrations of the water molecules inside the ice, leaving only blue and green light behind. For the details of exactly why that happens, check out Hanson's trip to Alaska's beautiful (and endangered) Mendenhall Glacier below.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

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