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21 Presidential Doodles

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For as long as boring meetings and pens have been around, man has doodled—and the bigwigs in the White House aren’t immune. Although we’d like to think that presidential meetings are grave and focused, the folks in charge of the Big Red Button are just as likely as we are to scribble the day away.

But according to a study in the Journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology, doodlers have an easier time recalling dull information than non-doodlers. (Actually, they remember 29 percent more information!) Researchers believe it’s because non-doodlers are more likely to daydream, which is a lot more taxing on the brain that you may think. Doodling, in comparison, doesn’t require as much mental effort. As John Cloud at TIME puts it, “Doodling forces your brain to expend just enough energy to stop it from daydreaming but not so much that you don’t pay attention.”

1. Thomas Jefferson

Macaroni was all the rage in 1780s Europe. When Jefferson visited Paris as the minister to France, he fell in love with the cuisine and commissioned his secretary to buy a macaroni machine in Italy. In 1787, he sketched the above design for a “maccaroni” machine.

2. Andrew Jackson

The 7th president passed the time by scribbling alligators and turtles.

3. James Garfield

We can only imagine President Garfield worked out his genealogy with hotdog art.

4. Theodore Roosevelt

This technically isn’t a doodle. Roosevelt wrote hundreds of letters to his children, and he liked adding pictures to the mix. In this he writes, “Ethel administers necessary discipline to Archie and Quentin.”

5. and 6. Warren G. Harding

Harding’s doodle reflect the times—it’s kind of art deco.

Traditionally ranked the worst president of all time, the least Harding could do was scratch out a peacock.

7. Calvin Coolidge

Abstract expressionism didn’t exist when Coolidge was around, but if it had, he might have been a fan.

8. Herbert Hoover

Hoover was a chronic doodler, and most of them were geometrical. A line of children’s clothing was actually patterned after some of his sketches.

9. and 10. Dwight D. Eisenhower

A sword splits the hilt of a knife.

Ike was a decent painter, and his sketches aren’t too shabby either (although he may have exaggerated his biceps here). Guatemala was clearly on his mind. The day before, the CIA deposed Guatemala’s president in the 1954 coup d’état.

11. and 12. John F. Kennedy

One thing was on JFK’s mind that day—Vietnam.

Kennedy rarely drew pictures, so the boat above is a gem. He usually inked words and repeated them over and over until there wasn’t any room left on the page. His last doodle reportedly was smothered with the word “poverty.” (Although some were more random. While at a cabinet meeting, he obsessively penned the words “unemployment,” “communism,” and “cheese.”)

13., 14., 15., and 16. Lyndon B. Johnson

Here’s a challenge, guys. In the comments, try to come up with the best title for all of LBJ’s pieces. Here the devil that breathes fire and destroys a UFO. In the background, a three-headed monster in a dress cheers it on.

Does anyone else think Johnson would have gotten along with Salvador Dali?

A smoking three-eyed octopus missing one tentacle (and wearing, it appears, a necklace.)

We give up. For more LBJ art, here’s an unflattering portrait of Bobby Kennedy.

17. and 18. Richard Nixon

Nixon had a thing for triangles. He scribbled the bottom doodle during his last year.

19. Ronald Reagan

Babies! Horses! Football players! Cowboys! At the bottom, Reagan wrote to Nancy, “There I was doodling away—then I began to think about you. Soooooo….”

20. Bill Clinton

Dammit, Bill.

21. Barack Obama

While Obama was a senator, he scribbled Harry Reid, Dianne Feinstein, Chuck Schumer and Ted Kennedy. But it was for a good cause. Part of “National Doodle Day,” the drawing sold for $2000 and raised money for a neurofibromatosis charity.

For more executive sketches, check out David Greenberg’s book Presidential Doodles: Two Centuries of Scribbles, Scratches, Squiggles, and Scrawls from the Oval Office.

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20th Century Fox
James Cameron is Making a Documentary to Reassess the Accuracy of Titanic
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20th Century Fox

While making the 1997 blockbuster Titanic, James Cameron was a stickler for the details. The writer-director wanted his homage to the tragic ocean liner to be as historically accurate as possible, so he organized dives to the site, solicited experts to analyze his script, and modeled the set off photographs and plans from the Titanic's builders. He even recreated the ocean liner’s original furnishings, right down to the light fixtures. Now, 20 years after the film’s release, E! News reports that Cameron will scrutinize the film’s authenticity in an upcoming National Geographic documentary.

Titanic: 20th Anniversary is slated to air in December 2017. It will feature Cameron and a team of experts who, together, will evaluate the film's accuracy using new historical and scientific insights about the ship's fateful sinking on April 15, 1912.

"When I wrote the film, and when I set out to direct it, I wanted every detail to be as accurate as I could make it, and every harrowing moment of the ship's final hours accounted for," Cameron said in a statement. "I was creating a living history; I had to get it right out of respect for the many who died and for their legacy. But did I really get it right? Now, with National Geographic and with the latest research, science, and technology, I'm going to reassess."

It's not the first time Cameron has revisited his Oscar-winning epic; in 2012, the director made some tweaks to the film for its 3-D re-release after receiving some criticism from renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

“Neil deGrasse Tyson sent me quite a snarky email saying that, at that time of year, in that position in the Atlantic in 1912, when Rose is lying on the piece of driftwood and staring up at the stars, that is not the star field she would have seen," Cameron explained. “And with my reputation as a perfectionist, I should have known that and I should have put the right star field in." So he changed it.

In the case of Titanic: 20th Anniversary, Cameron and his team will give viewers an updated interpretation of the Titanic’s sinking, and reexamine the wreck using new underwater footage, computer-generated simulation, and research. They’ll also scrutinize some of the film’s most famous scenes, and provide biographical context about the filming process.

We’re sure fans, historians, and, of course, Kate and Leo, will approve.

[h/t Mashable]

6 Eponyms Named After the Wrong Person
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Salmonella species growing on agar.

Having something named after you is the ultimate accomplishment for any inventor, mathematician, scientist, or researcher. Unfortunately, the credit for an invention or discovery does not always go to the correct person—senior colleagues sometimes snatch the glory, fakers pull the wool over people's eyes, or the fickle general public just latches onto the wrong name.


In 1885, while investigating common livestock diseases at the Bureau of Animal Industry in Washington, D.C., pathologist Theobald Smith first isolated the salmonella bacteria in pigs suffering from hog cholera. Smith’s research finally identified the bacteria responsible for one of the most common causes of food poisoning in humans. Unfortunately, Smith’s limelight-grabbing supervisor, Daniel E. Salmon, insisted on taking sole credit for the discovery. As a result, the bacteria was named after him. Don’t feel too sorry for Theobald Smith, though: He soon emerged from Salmon’s shadow, going on to make the important discovery that ticks could be a vector in the spread of disease, among other achievements.


An etching of Amerigo Vespucci
Henry Guttmann/Getty Images

Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci (1451–1512) claimed to have made numerous voyages to the New World, the first in 1497, before Columbus. Textual evidence suggests Vespucci did take part in a number of expeditions across the Atlantic, but generally does not support the idea that he set eyes on the New World before Columbus. Nevertheless, Vespucci’s accounts of his voyages—which today read as far-fetched—were hugely popular and translated into many languages. As a result, when German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller was drawing his map of the Novus Mundi (or New World) in 1507 he marked it with the name "America" in Vespucci’s honor. He later regretted the choice, omitting the name from future maps, but it was too late, and the name stuck.


A black and white image of young women wearing bloomers
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Dress reform became a big issue in mid-19th century America, when women were restricted by long, heavy skirts that dragged in the mud and made any sort of physical activity difficult. Women’s rights activist Elizabeth Smith Miller was inspired by traditional Turkish dress to begin wearing loose trousers gathered at the ankle underneath a shorter skirt. Miller’s new outfit immediately caused a splash, with some decrying it as scandalous and others inspired to adopt the garb.

Amelia Jenks Bloomer was editor of the women’s temperance journal The Lily, and she took to copying Miller’s style of dress. She was so impressed with the new freedom it gave her that she began promoting the “reform dress” in her magazine, printing patterns so others might make their own. Bloomer sported the dress when she spoke at events and soon the press began to associate the outfit with her, dubbing it “Bloomer’s costume.” The name stuck.


Execution machines had been known prior to the French Revolution, but they were refined after Paris physician and politician Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin suggested they might be a more humane form of execution than the usual methods (hanging, burning alive, etc.). The first guillotine was actually designed by Dr. Antoine Louis, Secretary of the Academy of Surgery, and was known as a louisette. The quick and efficient machine was quickly adopted as the main method of execution in revolutionary France, and as the bodies piled up the public began to refer to it as la guillotine, for the man who first suggested its use. Guillotin was very distressed at the association, and when he died in 1814 his family asked the French government to change the name of the hated machine. The government refused and so the family changed their name instead to escape the dreadful association.


Alison Bechdel
Alison Bechdel
Steve Jennings/Getty Images

The Bechdel Test is a tool to highlight gender inequality in film, television, and fiction. The idea is that in order to pass the test, the movie, show, or book in question must include at least one scene in which two women have a conversation that isn’t about a man. The test was popularized by the cartoonist Alison Bechdel in 1985 in her comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For,” and has since become known by her name. However, Bechdel asserts that the idea originated with her friend Lisa Wallace (and was also inspired by the writer Virginia Woolf), and she would prefer for it to be known as the Bechdel-Wallace test.


Influential sociologist Robert K. Merton suggested the idea of the “Matthew Effect” in a 1968 paper noting that senior colleagues who are already famous tend to get the credit for their junior colleagues’ discoveries. (Merton named his phenomenon [PDF] after the parable of talents in the Gospel of Matthew, in which wise servants invest money their master has given them.)

Merton was a well-respected academic, and when he was due to retire in 1979, a book of essays celebrating his work was proposed. One person who contributed an essay was University of Chicago professor of statistics Stephen Stigler, who had corresponded with Merton about his ideas. Stigler decided to pen an essay that celebrated and proved Merton’s theory. As a result, he took Merton’s idea and created Stigler’s Law of Eponymy, which states that “No scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer”—the joke being that Stigler himself was taking Merton’s own theory and naming it after himself. To further prove the rule, the “new” law has been adopted by the academic community, and a number of papers and articles have since been written on "Stigler’s Law."


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