Yhyakh, the Summer Solstice New Year Celebration

While we are going into official summer with temperatures in the 90s, we might cool off a bit by thinking of Yakutsk, in the Yakutia region of Siberia. It's the coldest city in the world. But on the Summer Solstice, Yakutsk will double its population of 200,000 people as many others around the region join in celebrating Yhyakh, which marks the new year.

When we are celebrating a new year on January first, Yakutia only has a couple of hours of daylight and it's too cold to go anywhere. But in June, the Summer Solstice brings all-day sun and the couple hours of night aren't even all that dark. For hundreds of years, maybe even thousands, people of the Sakha culture mark Yhyakh as the new year, the start of the short summer season when laying in supplies for the winter has to be done in a hurry. People join together to sing, dance, light a fire, and make offerings to the gods. Yhyakh is also a time for young people to "meet, court, and marry." The revelry goes on all night and ends only with a sunrise celebration. Celebrating Yhyakh was forbidden during the Soviet era, but is making a comeback, both in Yakutia and in Sakha enclaves elsewhere. Read about this holiday at Atlas Obscura.

(Image credit: Dziulita05)


The Short That Made Hollywood Notice Fede Álvarez



If you saw the trailer for the upcoming movie Alien: Romulus directed by Fede Álvarez, you might have thought, "Who?"  Some are familiar with Álvarez' work on the movies Evil Dead and Don't Breathe, but the Uruguayan filmmaker was first noticed by the American film industry for the short Panic Attack! (Ataque de Pánico!), in which giant robots invade Montevideo. The short was made in 2009 on a reported budget of $300. A dollar must go further in Uruguay. Just a few weeks after Panic Attack! was shown at a film festival, Álvarez got a call from Ghost House Pictures and was soon on the slate to direct Evil Dead.

Álvarez remastered the short (less than four minutes if you don't count the credits) and re-uploaded it yesterday. He must have received a few requests since he was announced as the latest Alien director. Read more about Álvarez and his breakthrough film at Gizmodo.


The History Behind the Olympic Phryge

The Olympic mascot is usually some kind of animal, or more rarely, a pop culture character that means something to the host nation. For the 2024 Paris Olympics, the French went with a fashion statement. That seems appropriate for Paris, but the hat that is the branding image of this year's games is more than fashionable. It's a symbol of France's revolutionary history. The Olympic Phryge is designed to resemble the Phrygian cap, a conical cloth hat with a peak that could flop forward or back.

The design goes back thousands of years, and is recognizable in ancient art. Colonial Americans adopted the hat as a symbol of their struggle for freedom, called the "liberty cap," which gradually fell out of favor after the French Revolution. It was the French who made the Phrygian cap their own, in red wool, as a political symbol. They not only used it as a symbol in art and communication, but actually wore those hats when they stormed the palace.  

Using a hat for the Olympic mascot may seem strange at first, although no stranger than other Olympic mascots have been, but there is plenty of history behind the design, which you can read about at Smithsonian.


The Rubber Duck Store in the Train Station

Journalist James Ball shares this photo from Victoria Station in central London. Among the shops that tantalize busy commuters is Duck Depot.

It's not just a single store but an entire chain of stores called Duck World that sells collectible rubber ducks in a vast variety of forms, often inspired by pop culture. Duck World also offers custom ducks for your particular anatine needs, as well as sponsorship for rubber duck racing events.

There's a similar store in Spring, Texas that focuses on rubber ducks and bath products. It's across the street from a store that specializes in Dutch products. Train arrivals will not block your travels although parking is a chore.


40 Years of Boston Dynamics' Atlas Robot

We've been following the developments of Boston Dynamics' Atlas robot for years, but even I didn't know when that research began. It appears that that they have been working on the development of a walking humanoid robot for more than 40 years now! Maybe it's because Atlas doesn't develop grey hair or wrinkles, just more muscles. World Data Center put together a compilation of research videos showing Atlas starting out in 1983 and running through 2022. The video starts with a bouncing baby robot who later learns to walk on two legs, and gradually grows into a dancing, flipping athlete made of titanium and electronics. We shouldn't be verklempt about watching a robot grow up, but we feel like Atlas is a friend. He is, after all, friend-shaped. Besides that, he's taken a lot of abuse to get where he is today. Too bad it doesn't include the latest version, although that one is kind of creepy. -via Laughing Squid


Modern Humans Can Have Neanderthal DNA Anywhere, Except the Y Chromosome

The short version of the story is that a group of human ancestors left Africa and went to Europe, and later to the rest of the Old World. These were the Neanderthals. A half million years later, modern humans left Africa and settled all over the world. They interbred with Neanderthals for a few thousand years, and then the Neanderthals went extinct, except as a minor part of our Homo sapiens DNA. The only humans around today with no Neanderthal DNA are descended from the people who never left Sub-Saharan Africa.

Geneticists have found that snippets of Neanderthal DNA can be found in any part of our genome, except for the Y chromosome. What happened to the Neanderthal Y? Its demise could have been coincidental, or luck. Probably not, but that always needs to kept as a possibility. Or it could have been that it was always modern human men breeding with Neanderthal women, but since we haven't found any Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA in modern humans, which is only passed along by females, that doesn't seem likely. There are other scientific possibilities, which are explained at the Conversation.  -via Damn Interesting

(Image credit: Clemens Vasters)


Woman Pulls Off Horse Face Perfectly

She’s got Spirit
byu/1q8b infunny

For maximum enjoyment, watch the video first, before you read the description below. Let your suspension of disbelief take over!

When she's done up in this illusion face paint, artist Mariam Marks would not take it as an insult to be called a horse face. It's very deliberate. But this is not only an artful painting, it's performance art, too, as she lip-syncs to "Here I Am" by Bryan Adams, from the 2002 movie Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. Her exaggerated tooth exposure and tongue action lends so much realism to the singing horse, it's like watching a cartoon without a TV. You don't even have to be familiar with the movie to appreciate the performance (I have never seen it).   

See a lot more of Mariam Marks' face painting animations at Instagram and YouTube.

-via reddit


The Despicable Me 4 Popcorn Bucket

My fellow Americans, I see a great deal of popular concern about the state of innovation in the American economy. We feel that we have lost the plot of our national story and are no longer driving technological progress in the world.

Cast those fears aside. This is America: the nation that introduced to the world the Dune popcorn bucket.

The pace of technological development is only increasing with news of the popcorn bucket produced for the fourth Despicable Me film. It's inspired by the Baby Björn baby carrier and provides a conveniently hands-free popcorn option for fans on the move.

-via Brenden Gallagher


Zach Anner Does the Impossible

Zach Anner broke through onto the pop culture scene in 2010, and we posted plenty more of his riotously funny videos. But it's been a couple of years since he posted anything at YouTube, and even longer since he abandoned other social media outlets. He's still active on Facebook, and has been doing TV appearances and writing shows. Then, surprise! Today he came out of his YouTube "retirement" to tells us an important story. Yeah, there are funny parts to it.

Zach has spent his life doing things he was told were impossible for him (and even wrote a book about it). He's worked hard at overcoming muscle control issues to do all those things he wasn't supposed to be able to. But in this instance, even he didn't realize that he was the victim of assumptions. Sometimes, it's not a matter of ability at all; it's a matter of proper education.


250-year-old Preserved Cherries Found at George Washington's Estate



George Washington was associated with cherry trees from a young age, although that tale was completely fabricated. And the iconic cherry trees in Washington, DC, only came in 1912. But Mount Vernon, Washington's estate, had orchards and slaves, and apparently they packed cherries in bottles to preserve them. Archaeologists found two bottles of cherries under a brick floor, and months later found 35 bottles in the cellar. Twenty-nine of the bottles were still intact, and contained preserved cherries and berries.

You may wonder how these bottles were never found before, as Mount Vernon has always been a historic site. George Washington's father built the mansion on the estate in 1734. The president expanded the house twice, and no doubt performed several renovations. The 35 bottles of cherries were found in abandoned storage pits in the cellar, which may have been forgotten and then covered over when Washington left his home to command the Continental Army.

The cherries seem to be in pretty good shape, considering their age. Scientists are studying the bottles, the cherries (including stems and pits), and the preservation method. So far, there's no word on whether anyone has tasted them. Read more about this discovery at Smithsonian.   


Dad Invents Gadget to Transport 3 Strollers at Once

Jordan Flom is a content creator and, more importantly, father of triplet babies. He has been working on a logistical challenge: moving all three babies at the same time. He's worked with various workarounds, such as Home Depot lumber carts.

But his ultimate solution is a wooden frame that locks into the handles of the three strollers. The front one articulates, thus providing tight steering for this Voltron-like rig. Not shown in this video is Flom's toddler daughter, who is presumably necessary before the team can form Blazing Sword.

Note: the video appears to be staged, as the context of Flom's other videos indicates.

-via Laughing Squid


Why Psychotic Killers Target Summer Camps ...in Movies

In 1980, Camp Crystal Lake entered the public consciousness as a horror site, even though it was fictional. That was the summer that a crazed killer offed a group of teenage camp counselors one by one while we all watched in the darkness of a movie theater. The movie was Friday the 13th, a film that not only scared the pants off audiences, but went on to spawn more than a dozen sequels and spinoffs. It also established summer camp as the perfect place for a slasher to do his business. You know that because several more horror films were set in some type of summer camp in the 1980s.

Why is summer camp the perfect horror movie set? You know the answer, it came to you immediately. But whatever you're thinking is not the only reason, because there are a bunch of them. The line of slasher films set in a summer camp lasted through the 1980s for reasons detailed at Atlas Obscura.


Lion Brothers Recorded Swimming for Almost a Mile

Cats don't normally swim. Tigers will, and fishing cats swim a lot, but lions prefer to stay on dry ground whenever possible. The story of two lions in Uganda have researchers thinking about the pressures our modern world puts on wild animals, even in their own habitat. Jacob the African lion only has three complete legs after his rear foot was caught in a poacher's trap. He is accompanied by his brother Tibu. The two ventured out of their normal territory to find mates in another part of Queen Elizabeth National Park. They were rebuffed by other male lions, surviving at least two fights. To get back to their territory, they had to cross the Kazinga channel, a river populated with crocodiles and hippopotamus.

The lions turned back a couple of times, but then swam 1.5 kilometers, or .93 miles, across the dangerous waters at night. A team led by Griffith University scientist Alexander Braczkowski recorded the lions on a thermal camera carried by a drone as they swam the river. Those cats were desperate. Read about the recording and what it means at Gizmodo.

(Image credit: Dr. Alex Braczkowski)


Our Many Attempts to Communicate with Aliens

Humans have been looking for evidence that we are not alone in the universe ever since we started looking at the stars overhead. While most of the investigations have been speculation abut events and objects we don't understand, or else wishful thinking like science fiction, large scale projects like SETI are seriously scanning distance space to intercept any signals that might come from some cosmic intelligence. At the same time, we have beamed signals out into the cosmos, hoping that someday, intelligent extraterrestrials will find them. There have been at least a dozen such programs so far.

They started with the Soviet Union sending Morse code signals to Venus in 1962. It continued with the plaques on the Pioneer space probes and later the Voyager probes that are now in interstellar space. The image above is the Arecibo message, send from the (now defunct) Arecibo Telescope in Puerto Rico in 1974. The messages got more sophisticated over time, although no one knows if they will ever be found or deciphered by anyone. Even SETI is sending out signals now. Read about 12 projects that aim to communicate with extraterrestrials we don't yet know of at Amusing Planet.

(Image credit: Arne Nordmann (norro))


How a Volcano Turned a Rhino Into a Cave, and Other Weird Volcanic Fossils



The more we learn about volcanos, the more obvious it becomes that they had a big hand in shaping the world as it is.  They build mountains, they form rock, and they even preserve some of the wildlife they kill. Volcanic ash can bury and preserve animals hundreds of miles away from an eruption! Even those who survived the ash later had their footprints preserved as the ash hardened, and that gives us clues about those creatures' movements in life.

Closer to the volcano, pyroclastic flow, in addition to ash, can kill and create negative images of whatever it buried. The case of the Blue Lake Rhino is a further method of preservation, when a strange confluence of conditions left a rhino-shaped cave. Even stranger are dinosaur footprints that formed in magma underground! How did that happen? The story is a little complicated, but SciShow explains it in simple terms. Volcanos are crazy. -via Damn Interesting






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