Maine Residents Celebrate the Inventor of Modern-Day Earmuffs


In addition to holidays like Christmas and Hanukkah, Maine residents celebrate the invention of earmuffs each December. Their appreciation for the winter wardrobe staple runs deeper than most, as Chester Greenwood—who is credited with inventing the modern-day earmuff at age 15—hailed from Farmington, Maine, according to the Associated Press.

In 1977, Maine's legislature designated December 21 (typically the first day of winter) as Chester Greenwood Day. The annual state holiday celebrates Greenwood and his snug ear coverings, which he first created in 1873.

As The Washington Post reports, Greenwood loved to ice skate, but hated the frostbite that plagued his sensitive ears. The teen was reportedly allergic to wool caps with earflaps, so he asked his grandma to sew either little flannel or fur pads onto the ends of a bent wire ring. Greenwood wore the contraption around his head, and it wasn’t long before his friends (who initially made fun of the headgear) had also adopted the look.

Greenwood tweaked his cold-weather accessory over the years, replacing the wire with bands and adding hinges to the ear pads, among other changes. In his mid-twenties, the inventor launched his own factory near Farmington, employing 11 workers who produced as many as 50,000 pairs of earmuffs in a single year. By the time Greenwood died in 1937, the number had skyrocketed to 400,000.

Some say that Greenwood technically didn’t pioneer the concept of earmuffs. He simply perfected the design by adding the earflap hinges that provide extra pressure, patent agents say. Still, the Farmington native would go on to invent nearly 100 other devices, five of which received patents.

Greenwood's earmuff factory closed in the wake of his 1937 death, but his legacy (and now-ubiquitous winter headgear) lives on, thanks in part to chilly Mainers. While the official holiday is December 21, Farmington residents follow the state legislature’s instructions “to observe [Chester Greenwood Day] in suitable places with appropriate ceremony and activity” on the first Saturday in December—closer to Greenwood's birthday of December 4—with parades and winter activities.

[h/t Associated Press]

There Could Be Hundreds of Frozen Corpses Buried Beneath Antarctica's Snow and Ice Images Images

Scientists and explorers take a number of risks when they travel to Antarctica. One of the more macabre gambles is that they'll perish during their mission, and their bodies will never be recovered. According to the BBC, hundreds of frozen corpses may be trapped beneath layers and layers of Antarctic snow and ice.

“Some are discovered decades or more than a century later,” Martha Henriques writes for the BBC series Frozen Continent. “But many that were lost will never be found, buried so deep in ice sheets or crevasses that they will never emerge—or they are headed out towards the sea within creeping glaciers and calving ice.”

In the world’s most extreme regions, this is not uncommon. For comparison, some estimates suggest that more than 200 bodies remain on Mt. Everest. Antarctica's icy terrain is rugged and dangerous. Massive crevasses—some concealed by snow—measure hundreds of feet deep and pose a particularly serious threat for anyone crossing them on foot or by dogsled. There’s also the extreme weather: Antarctica is the coldest, driest, and windiest place on Earth, yet scientists recently discovered hundreds of mummified penguins that they believe died centuries ago from unusually heavy snow and rain.

One of the most famous cases of a left-behind body on Antarctica dates back to the British Antarctic Expedition (also known as the Terra Nova Expedition) of 1910 to 1913. British explorer Robert Falcon Scott and his four-man team hoped to be the first ones to reach the South Pole in 1912, but were bitterly disappointed when they arrived and learned that the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen had beaten them to it.

On the return trip, Scott and his companions died of exposure and starvation while trapped by a blizzard in their tent, just 11 miles from a food depot. Two of those bodies were never found, but the others (including Scott’s) were located a few months after their deaths. Members of the search party covered their bodies in the tent with snow and left them there. The bodies have since travelled miles from their original location, as the ice grows and shifts around them.

Other evidence suggests people landed on Antarctica decades before Scott’s team did. A 175-year-old human skull and femur found on Antarctica’s Livingston Island were identified as the remains of a young indigenous Chilean woman. No one yet knows how she got there.

Accidents still happen: After coming close to completing the first solo, unaided traverse of Antarctica, British adventurer Henry Worsley died of organ failure following an airlift from the continent in 2016. Most modern-day polar visitors, however, have learned from past missteps.

[h/t BBC]

Dolly Parton, They Might Be Giants, and More Featured on New Album Inspired By the 27 Amendments

Valerie Macon, Getty Images
Valerie Macon, Getty Images

Since 2016, Radiolab's More Perfect podcast has taken what is typically viewed as a dry subject, the Supreme Court, and turned it into an engrossing podcast. Now, fans of the show have a whole new way to learn about the parts of U.S. history which textbooks tend to gloss over. 27, The Most Perfect Album, a new music compilation from Radiolab, features more than two dozen songs inspired by each of the 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, from freedom of religion to rules regulating changes to Congressional salaries.

More Perfect assembled an impressive roster of musical talents to compose and perform the tracklist. They Might Be Giants wrote the song for the Third Amendment, which prohibited the forced quartering of soldiers in people's homes. It goes, "But the presence of so many friendly strangers makes me nervous, and it does not mean that I'm not truly thankful for your service."

For the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, Dolly Parton sings, "We carried signs, we cursed the times, marched up and down the street. We had to fight for women's rights with blisters on our feet." Less sexy amendments, like the 12th Amendment, which revised presidential election procedures, and the 20th Amendment, which set commencement terms for congress and the president, are also featured. Torres, Caroline Shaw, Kash Doll, and Cherry Glazerr are just a handful of the other artists who contributed to the album.

The release of the compilation coincides with the premiere of More Perfect's third season, which will focus on the 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. You can check out the first episode of the new season today and download the companion album for free through WNYC.