Today's archival tidbit is the last one from Cocktail Party Cheat Sheets:
The Kama Sutra includes 40 kinds of kissing and 64 sexual positions—but the dirty-dirty only comprises about 20 percent of the total text. Most of it is a sort of ancient Indian Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. In exploring how to acquire a wife (or seduce another man's wife), Vatsyayana discusses the differences between men and women and how each gender experiences... READ ON
We're currently settling into our little cottage on Carriacou, the largest of the Grenadines, the island chain off Grenada. And by "large" I mean 13 square miles and a population under 5,000. The main cultural influences here are French, Amerindian, Carib, and British. This last has some very real consequences: The queen of England is also the queen of Grenada, and the village of Windward on Carriacou has a big population of Scottish and Irish boatbuilders. Also, according to Wikipedia,... READ ON
How on earth did I manage to miss this movie when it came out?
An aspiring composer of humble means, 23-year-old Anna Holtz (Diane Kruger) is seeking inspiration and career advancement in the world's music capital, Vienna.
A student at the music conservatory, she is recommended for a position at a venerated publisher, and, in a fortuitous turn of events, orchestrates an opportunity to work beside the greatest, most mercurial artist alive - Ludwig van Beethoven (Ed Harris).
When the skeptical... READ ON
Today's archival tidbit comes from Cocktail Party Cheat Sheets:
Soon after Catherine the Great's death, someone—probably her enemies in the Russian aristocracy—started floating the story that Catherine died of being crushed after attempting to have sex with a horse. It's just not true. Although Catherine did take many lovers and had a secret room built in her palace that she filled with raunchy paintings and sculptures, she did not die anywhere near a horse. But the... READ ON
And this is one you're going to be hearing about all next week, as I gloat take you with me on an Armchair Field Trip (or in my case, an actual trip) to Grenada. I got my wish! But don't worry, I'll still be checking in with you guys while I'm traveling, because I am an enormous dork.
A little trivia from Wikipedia and Grenada Explorer to get things started:
The recorded history of Grenada begins in 1498, when Christopher Columbus first sighted the island. The Amerindians called their island... READ ON
I know I just told you yesterday about a wonderful book featuring someone who was literally crazy-brilliant, but believe me, this one's even better:
When the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary put out a call during the late 19th century pleading for "men of letters" to provide help with their mammoth undertaking, hundreds of responses came forth. Some helpers, like Dr. W.C. Minor, provided literally thousands of entries to the editors. But Minor, an American expatriate in England and a Civil War... READ ON
This week's archival tidbits come from Cocktail Party Cheat Sheets:
Like Mickey Rooney, Lana Turner, and Elizabeth Taylor, Attila the Hun married more than six different... READ ON
I know I've blogged about his fantastic songs before, but I'm just sayin' "“ baby got... READ ON
While writing about evolution for our upcoming cover story on "Big Ideas," I was reminded of the sad story of George Price. Here's what I wrote:
"Don't forget to name-check Bill Hamilton. He's is best known for the idea of 'inclusive fitness,' which explains why selfish animals sometimes sacrifice their own lives for their relatives'. (Hint: it's not because they're nice.) You may also want to mention Hamilton's friend George Price. A self-taught mathematician, Price... READ ON
Today's archival tidbit comes from Cocktail Party Cheat Sheets:
Alexander the Great's epitaph is one of the most famous in history: "A tomb now suffices him for whom the whole world was not sufficient." But in all likelihood, Alexander's tomb does not contain Alexander himself. The emperor Ptolemy took Alexander's body and brought it to Alexandria, where it was on display for a long time. But the body was eventually lost, and its current whereabouts are... READ ON
I collect educational Atomic Age gewgaws "“ so far my menagerie includes a complete electric microscope set similar to the one at left, the famous "Piltdown Man" plastic skeleton, four museum-quality pre-human skulls (my favorite is Paranthropous boisei), and a whole lot of old doctor stuff inherited from various relatives. Reusable metal syringes "“ gotta love... READ ON
This one's for my friend Becky, the art history grad student -- I saw it Overheard in New York:
Kid: Mommy, why are there so many pictures of naked people?
Mother: Because lots of people went naked in history.
-- European art section, the... READ ON
This week's archival tidbits come from Cocktail Party Cheat Sheets:
Only a single original manuscript of Beowulf survives, and it was severely damaged in a fire in 1731 while in storage at a place called the "Ashburnham House." Just goes to show you that one ought not store a priceless, one-of-a-kind epic poem at a joint containing both the words "ash" and "burn" in its... READ ON
I'm sure this is out of my price range, but I love Carucci's photographs "“ something about her use of deep colors contrasted with very pale skin really speaks to me. I also like the series she did on bellydancing. In lieu of an actual print, I'm willing to settle for her most recent... READ ON
Okay, now I kind of wish we'd bought several turkeys and had even more leftovers, because we sure did get a lot of brilliant suggestions for what to do with our festering turkey carcass. (Mmm, yummy!) Maybe you can tell by what I just wrote, but I decided that we'd publish all the recipes next year; for the purposes of this contest, we're focusing on the more bizarre suggestions. Because, really, who wouldn't want:
A "meat helmet:" "Go to the local park and run around trying to avoid birds, dogs, fat... READ ON
With the holiday party season starting up in earnest, you'd better get ready "“ and we don't mean by putting on some fancy earrings and a Christmas sweater. You'll also need some intellectual ammunition, some tidbits and bon mots to dispense over champagne and cookies. So all month long, we'll be bringing you daily factlets for just such use, plucked from our collection of books, magazines, and other stuff. Today's archival tidbit comes from, appropriately, Cocktail... READ ON
All week long, I'll be dropping hints to my family telling you what I want for Christmas. Here goes....
Yes, it's a book about Bigfoot. No, I haven't lost my mind. I don't believe in the big guy, but as a biological anthropology major, I'm really curious to see what evidence author (and bio-anthro prof) Jeff Meldrum has to offer. He seems to have finagled a positive book-jacket blurb from Jane Goodall, who says the book "brings a much-needed level of scientific... READ ON
Gawker is running a poll to determine Time's Person of the Year. We thought we ought to step up and offer some of our own nominees:
ABBA: for tenacity in the face of adversity.
Zhang Zhihe (not to be confused with Zhang Ziyi): for saving the world, one panda at a time.
Harold and Kumar: for finally, inspiringly, completing their heroic quest.
Carl Smith and Dave Jones: for proving that indeed, there's always a bigger fish.
The inventor of Cabbage Patch Snacktime Kids: for demonstrating that... READ ON
Once again, I find myself wishing I lived in Britain, if only so I could watch BBC2 -- NDNL alerts us to a fascinating new documentary made for the channel:
Central to the programme was the new biomedical research lab at Oxford University and the protesters who oppose it"¦ and those who are in favour.
Enter Laurie Pycroft, a sixteen year old geek who started Pro-Test, an action group campaigning in favour of animal testing. And boy, is he quite the character. Whereas the protesters, grouped in... READ ON
This photo is floating around the Internet. (I saw it at Happyscrappy, who got it from Jameth, who... and so on.) I'd love to know who these geniuses are, and what the painting is, but honestly, I'm too busy laughing to really... READ ON
Yes, they're medieval; no, they're not instruments of torture (or dentistry). The... things at left are from Epact, "an electronic catalogue of medieval and renaissance scientific instruments from four European museums: the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, the Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza, Florence, the British Museum, London, and the Museum Boerhaave, Leiden." Since I don't often get to Leiden, it's nice to know I can look at all the gadgets and gizmos aplenty from the comfort of my... READ ON
Ain't It Cool News has the perfect gift for your local grinch and/or zombie fan:
"This is a post-apocalyptic tale where zombies and mutant hordes run rampant and the violence soon reaches the North Pole, resulting in the death of Mrs. Claus.
Santa slips into an alcoholic depression and tries to kill himself, only to find that he is immortal as long as one single child still believes in him. So, he goes out into the wastelands to kill that little #*&*$% so he can finally off himself. Twisted, no? This... READ ON
I guess the free market is one way to find out. Gerald Fraller is selling his own soul on his personal website. How much you wanna bet he tried eBay first?
You donate funds for a chance to win my soul. Each dollar donated gets one entry in the drawing. The proceeds go towards helping me change my life. I am also going to use a large portion of the money to start a foundation to try and help people that are suffering from depression. ... In return for your donations and support, I offer the winner certain... READ ON
Michelle Collins is pointing her readers to a site that lets you impose your text on famous images, like the Einstein-at-the-chalkboard photo we blogged about all the way back in March. I'm more amused by the fake dictionary entries (and judging by Michelle's take, so is... READ ON
Really. Joe Kissell at Interesting Thing of the Day says:
"During World War II, German submarines, known as U-boats, kept very busy blowing up allied ships in the Atlantic—particularly those bound for Europe with supplies from North America. The U-boats' operations had to be planned carefully and were in part dependent on weather conditions. In order to get the best data about weather systems approaching from the west, the Nazis devised an elaborate network of 21 automated weather stations... READ ON
Oh, yeah, baby, gimme some of that sweet, sweet video action. No, really -- apparently, the reason for the incredible panda baby boom of the last two years is, um, porn:
"It works," Zhang Zhihe, a leading Chinese expert, said about showing uninitiated males DVDs of fellow pandas mating.
It is one of many techniques tried over the decades to get captive pandas -- notoriously poor breeders -- to do it, and do it right. The efforts to understand and simulate conditions for mating have paid off in China,... READ ON
In the proud tradition of our upcoming "Mental Floss Presents: Medical School in a Box," my husband and I are proud to present "What We Did With Our Thanksgiving Leftovers," or, "The Turkey Anatomy Lesson." For the sake of the squeamish, most of the pictures are after the... READ ON
Take that, Google Earth! See ya, Microsoft Virtual Earth! I think this web toy of sorts is much cooler -- it lets you view the earth from pretty much any satellite of your choosing (that's this morning's view from ECHOSTAR 8 at left). The satellite thing isn't your speed? The same website also lets you check out the planet from the vantage point of the Sun, the Moon, the night side of the Earth, "above any location on the planet specified by latitude, longitude and altitude," or above various cities around... READ ON
The Babystuff blog is apparently dedicated to bringing you all things baby. And we do mean all things:
"Measuring the amount of oxygen in the blood of a fetus during labor has no bearing on whether a Caesarean section is performed and does not affect the health of the newborn baby, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found in a multicenter study.
South County residents may soon be able to get Chili's baby-back ribs.
Once charged with aggravated battery to a child in a... READ ON
Perhaps, in retrospect, an 11-pound turkey was a bit excessive for two people. (We're just glad we didn't go with the 22-pounder.) We're so sick of picking over the carcass that we're tempted to use it as a football. Got any better ideas? This week's contest takes a turn for the practical: What the heck are we supposed to do with all this leftover turkey? Answers can be practical (recipes), charitable (make sandwiches; give them to the homeless), whimsical (dress it up as a snowman), inadvisable (feed it... READ ON
Whenever I see a truly bizarre crime story, I immediately think "Pasco County, Florida." This is partly because I once worked as a crime reporter in Pasco -- where I reported on, among other things, a case of a hanged pet goat -- and partly because, well, there's a reason Fark has an entire category devoted to the state. So guess where this gruesome tale comes from?
NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. -- A woman's body was found wedged upside-down behind a bookcase in the home she shared with relatives who had spent... READ ON
My mother-in-law saw this in a magazine she was given on the Tokyo subway and sent it over. If she's trying to arouse a maternal instinct in me, it's... READ ON
There's no contest this week, since it's not really a week so much as three days. You can also gather from this that there will be no blogging on Thursday and Friday, as I personally plan to spend both days passed out on a tryptophan overdose. But check back next Monday for the opportunity to win free... READ ON
Here's everything you'll need to impress Uncle Phil at the dinner table tomorrow, courtesy of infoplease:
At one time, the turkey and the bald eagle were each considered as the national symbol of America. Benjamin Franklin was one of those who argued passionately on behalf of the turkey. Franklin felt the turkey, although "vain and silly", was a better choice than the bald eagle, whom he felt was "a coward".
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 45 million turkeys are cooked and... READ ON
I know I'm going a little overboard with the Amazing Animal Photos today, but check out these new pictures of an elephant in utero! These were taken at 6 and 12 months' gestation; the bun stays in the oven for two... READ ON
The following story has dolphins, music, and a superhero. There is absolutely nothing I can add that would make it any more sublime:
It turns out that dolphins have the capacity to sing sweet melodies. To demonstrate this, researchers taught a dolphin to sing the greatest musical composition of our age: the theme from "Batman." They trained an adult male bottlenose dolphin from Disney's Epcot Center, first rewarding him when he produced the correct rhythm, then when he vocalized the rhythm, and finally... READ ON
In astonishing footage for the BBC's Planet Earth series, the 12ft shark is seen swallowing its victim in virtually a single gulp. Such is the impact as it blasts through the surface from the deep that both hunter and prey fly six feet clear of the... READ ON
I was so, so excited when I got my first apartment with a dishwasher. But now I feel a little outdone:
Architect and design guru Zaha Hadid continues her non-stop ruling of all things craftable. This time, Hadid was commissioned by DuPont and Ernestomeda to design a futuristic kitchen for the Milan Furniture Fair. ... The Z. Island has two areas labeled "Fire" for cooking and "Water" for the washing area. Also incorporated is a special heating membrane, interactive technology features such as touch... READ ON
We've always thought that friend-of- mental-floss John Green has the best taste in music. Not only does his ringtone sound like the Super Mario theme, he has the best. cover. of "Baby Got Back." ever. on my his MySpace page.
Yeah, we're almost 30.
Anyway, the guy who sings that oh-so-wonderful reworked tribute to the gluteus maximus popped up on another friend-of-mental-floss website, bunnyshop, the other day. So we feel we can no longer ignore him. Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Jonathan Coulton.
As... READ ON
The husband just came across what may be the best misappropriation of language ever, ever: from Victor Davis Hanson's Ripples of Battle:
"The Okinawa landings may have been the most most ambitious amphibian assault in the history of warfare."
I know this is technically an okay use of the word, but I still find myself wondering how the attack on Okinawa compared to the story told in Across the Andes by... READ ON
Now that we've seen "Casino Royale," we're getting psyched for the next Bond movie, which according to winner #1, Sheldon Siegel, will have a title in keeping with the rest of the Bond catalogue: "Golden Shower."
Where is James going? gay bath house
What's his best throwaway line? "Now THAT'S what I call shaken, not stirred."
Who is he after (villains and love interests)?
Love Interest: Shees Hung
As for winner #2, who was supposed to take the idea... READ ON
We all know that real Champagne is from Champagne, and the rest is just (sniff!) sparkling wine. But if you're seeking to out-pedant your relatives this Thanksgiving, you'll need to go a bit further than that. Throwing around the following words, which I found in (of all places) the Amtrak in-ride magazine, may help:
Remueur: The individual responsible for turning and upending the bottles, enabling the yeast cells to make their way toward the neck of the bottle.
Degorgement: The process by which the... READ ON
We're still feeling a bit let down by Saturday's so-called "Game of the Century". Sure, it was a relatively close game, but we didn't see any mind-blowing plays or bone-crushing hits like we were hoping for. So for solace, we've turned to another Game of the Century. If we ever get our hands on a time machine we're going back for this one:
On October 7, 1916, Georgia Tech played Cumberland in Atlanta. Tech won 222 to 0, the worst walloping in the history of American college football. There was a worse... READ ON
Today's the big day for Casino Royale, and with our make-up-your-own-Bond-movie contest going strong (there's still time to enter!) we thought we'd do more of the same for our week in review. Here, some future Bond titles you might be seeing on screen:
For Your Ears Only
Never Say "Hairdo" AgainÂ
The Cell Who Loved Me
A View to aÂ CoolÂ Â
The Man with the Goldfish FaceÂ
Pollocks are Forever
You Only Surf Once (if you're Mark Twain, anyway)
Lynch andÂ Let... READ ON
We're getting an extra Bond post today, because presumably half our readership are women who are wondering how they, too, can convincingly pretend to be James Bond. Needless to say, The Book of Bond (1965) does not cover this. It does, however, have some advice for aspiring Bond girls:
* "It's possible to get by on only four outfits, though they must all be carefully chosen from near the top of the price range, and we're afriad they're unlikely to look very good on anybody over about thirty-five." The... READ ON
Specifically, Mike and Janet Huckabee, who are leaving office after years of being the First Family of Arkansas. Here's the problem with moving out of the governor's mansion: you can't take it with you. So the couple needs some serious housewarming gifts. Alas, there's a problem there too, as the governor can't accept gifts over $100, unless they're engagement or wedding gifts. So the Huckabees, who have been married for 32 years, quite logically created "wedding registries" at Dillard's and Target. (We... READ ON
And finally, for our aspiring Bonds, here's where to go (and where not to go) and how to get there:
* "Unless you have something like 5,000 pounds to throw around [editor's note: not adjusted for inflation], you'll have to stick to talking about your car but somehow never actually producing it -- because, for instance, it needs very thorough repairs after running into a carpet of steel spikes dropped in front of it by a Russian agent you were pursuing along a French road. However, whether you really... READ ON
No, it's not your alarm clock. Trever Cox, a professor at the University of Salford Acoustic Research Centre, wants you to listen to 30 awful audio clips and vote on which is the most headache-inducing:
Fingernails scraping down a blackboard... the scream of a baby... your neighbour's dog barking: what is the worst sound in the world? This is what this website is trying to find out.
Acoustic science is concerned with the production, transmission, manipulation and reception of sound, from... READ ON
Allow us to criticize your appearance for a minute, will you? If you're hoping to convince your friends and neighbors that you're a British secret agent in your spare time, you're going to need to take a hard look in the mirror. Luckily, Kingsley Amis and The Book of Bond have a few recommendations for you:
* "Our prototype is six foot tall and, whereas a few inches either way will make no vital difference, those under four foot six and over seven foot would be better advised to model themselves on one... READ ON
Emily Yoffe, who makes a living out of charmingly embarrassing herself on Slate, has a new quest -- to learn to add 2 and 2. Apparently when she starting writing this article (in which she takes a crazy-intense Japanese math course) she was at a first-grade level.
These results forced me to consider that the real reason for my abysmal math skills might be that I was profoundly stupid. Yet even the stupid are supposed to be helped by the Kumon method. Founded 50 years ago by Toru Kumon, a Japanese math... READ ON
The eye chart with the big "E" on top is called a Snellen Chart.