Show & Tell: Rococo Microscope

The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

This Rococo Parisian microscope, created around 1751, is made of bronze, enamel, shagreen (untanned leather, sometimes coming from the skin of sharks), and glass. The J. Paul Getty Museum, which holds the item, writes that the microscope still works; “the case is fitted with a drawer filled with the necessary attachments such as tweezers, extra lenses, and slides of such items as geranium petals, hair, fly wings, and fleas.”

The microscope’s mechanism was designed by Michel-Ferdinand d’Albert d’Ailly, a French nobleman (the sixth duke of Chaulnes), who lived between 1714 and 1769. In a mid-19th-century biography, the English Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge described the duc de Chaulnes, a veteran of the Seven Years’ War, as “a zealous amateur of scientific pursuits.” He was also an honorary member of the French Royal Academy of Sciences and published several papers on optics, astronomy, and optical instruments.

This microscope, the Getty writes, was made for a man much like de Chaulnes—“an aristocratic amateur scientist,” who might have used it at home to explore his collection of natural specimens. During the 18th and 19th centuries, in Europe, such collections were often arranged as cabinets de curiosité—small in-home natural history museums holding exotic and interesting specimens, which doubled as displays of power and wealth for the people who owned them. This microscope’s gorgeous style would have added further to the owner’s image as an affluent person who cared about intellectual pursuits.

Jacques Caffieri, a bronze caster whose work in the Rococo style won him favor with King Louis XV and his family in the first half of the 18th century, apparently designed the microscope’s curvy mounts. The Getty has digitized a few images of Caffieri’s other pieces—a wall clock and a wall light—showing how he executed similar Rococo motifs for more purely decorative items. “A microscope of this same model belonged to Louis XV,” the Getty writes, “and was part of his observatory at the Château de la Muette.”

Header image via The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Afternoon Map
The Most Popular Infomercial Product in Each State

You don't have to pay $19.95 plus shipping and handling to discover the most popular infomercial product in each state: AT&T retailer All Home Connections is giving that information away for free via a handy map.

The map was compiled by cross-referencing the top-grossing infomercial products of all time with Google Trends search interest from the past calendar year. So, which crazy products do people order most from their TVs?

Folks in Arizona know that it's too hot there to wear layers; that's why they invest in the Cami Secret—a clip-on, mock top that gives them the look of a camisole without all the added fabric. No-nonsense New Yorkers are protecting themselves from identity theft with the RFID-blocking Aluma wallet. Delaware's priorities are all sorted out, because tons of its residents are still riding the Snuggie wave. Meanwhile, Vermont has figured out that Pajama Jeans are the way to go—because who needs real pants?

Unsurprisingly, the most popular product in many states has to do with fitness and weight loss, because when you're watching TV late enough to start seeing infomercials, you're probably also thinking to yourself: "I need to get my life together. I should get in shape." Seven states—Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Utah, and Wisconsin—have invested in the P90X home fitness system, while West Virginia and Arkansas prefer the gentler workout provided by the Shake Weight. The ThighMaster is still a thing in Illinois and Washington, while Total Gym and Bowflex were favored by South Dakota and Wyoming, respectively. 

Kitchen items are clearly another category ripe for impulse-buying: Alabama and North Dakota are all over the George Forman Grill; Alaska and Rhode Island are mixing things up with the Magic Bullet; and Floridians must be using their Slice-o-matics to chop up limes for their poolside margaritas.

Cleaning products like OxiClean (D.C. and Hawaii), Sani Sticks (North Carolina), and the infamous ShamWow (which claims the loyalty of Mainers) are also popular, but it's Proactiv that turned out to be the big winner. The beloved skin care system claimed the top spot in eight states—California, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas—making it the most popular item on the map.

Peep the full map above, or check out the full study from All Home Connections here.

A Florida Brewery Created Edible Six-Pack Rings to Protect Marine Animals

For tiny scraps of plastic, six-pack rings can pose a huge threat to marine life. Small enough and ubiquitous enough that they’re easy to discard and forget about, the little plastic webs all too often make their way to the ocean, where animals can ingest or become trapped in them. In order to combat that problem, Florida-based Saltwater Brewery has created what they say is the world’s first fully biodegradable, compostable, edible six-pack rings.

The edible rings are made of barley and wheat and are, if not necessarily tasty, at least safe for animals and humans to ingest. Saltwater Brewery started packaging their beers with the edible six-pack rings in 2016. They charge slightly more for their brews to offset the cost of the rings' production. They hope that customers will be willing to pay a bit more for the environmentally friendly beers and are encouraging other companies to adopt the edible six-pack rings in order to lower manufacturing prices and save more animals.

As Saltwater Brewery president Chris Gove says in the video above: “We want to influence the big guys and kind of inspire them to also get on board.”


More from mental floss studios