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26 Fun Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Libraries

Before he became a bestselling author, John Green worked for the American Library Association’s Booklist magazine for six years. Now, the novelist and Mental Floss YouTube host is returning to the stacks once more, delivering bibliophiles over two dozen trivia bits about the free repositories of knowledge.

Since Clearchus—the ancient Greek ruler and student of the philosopher Plato—founded the first-known public library around 364 BCE, readers from around the world have rifled through sacred Buddhist manuscripts in Bhutan’s unique temple library; felt equal parts awed and overwhelmed upon entering the Library of Congress; and paid homage to Morocco’s gatekeepers of knowledge by visiting the world’s oldest still-operating library in Fez, which was founded by a woman named Fatima al-Fihri in 859 CE [PDF].

Learn more about these fascinating libraries—along with which famous children’s author was once a librarian, which president was guilty of having a library book that was 221 years overdue, which Francis Ford Coppola film may never have been made without a school librarian’s petition, and more—by watching the video above, or by subscribing to our YouTube channel.

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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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