The Ancient Roots of Booze and Language

When archaeologists discovered the oldest winery yet -8,000 years old- in Georgia (the country, not the state), linguists weren't the least bit surprised. They had already traced the modern word "wine" back to the region and the era by reverse-engineering it, since it occurs in various forms in so many other languages, in a way that might remind you of prehistoric genetic research. Linguists are a clever bunch. But they believe mead, or honey wine, is even older for the same reasons. Some of our terms for alcoholic beverages are indeed ancient, while the origins of others are just a matter of deciphering the historical record. When our anicent ancestors invented language, and later figured out how to write things down, they wrote a lot about alcohol. Humans have always cherished their booze. PBS's Otherwords gives us a quick lesson in how alcoholic drinks got their names. I'll drink to that! -via Laughing Squid

Canadian Pianist Tony Ann Transforms The iPhone Alarm Tone To A Heartwarming Ballad

You hear the alarm ring amid your dream, and you realize it's time to wake up. Your hands fumble as you search blindly for your phone so you can free yourself from the annoying sound that signals the start of your day.

"Opening" is the iPhone's default ringtone, but you can also use it as an alarm sound.

Canadian pianist Tony Ann takes four notes from the ringtone's motif and repurposes them to create a stunningly beautiful ballad. The result is an inspirational and heartwarming melody.

Tony Ann is known for re-imagining familiar melodies. He also creates songs inspired by everyday life.

Via ClassicFM

(Video Credit: Tony Ann/ YouTube)

Bandai's New Gashapon Capsules Are A Challenge To Open

Gashapon capsules are meant to be opened. After all, you won't even know the toy inside the toy capsule unless you open it. But Bandai challenges us with their new capsule series called Zettai ni Akanai Gashapon (translated as "Gashapon Capsules That Absolutely Won't Open"). It seems the company wants to know how far their consumers will go just to open their capsule toys. And if there's a will, there's a way, and fortunately, you can open these Gashapon capsules, but only if you can solve it. The capsules can be disassembled by moving its part in the correct sequence.

Bandai's new Gashapon capsules has three levels of difficulty, with level one being the easiest and level three being the hardest to solve. But what is inside these capsules, you may ask? Well... there's nothing inside. Your prize is "the satisfaction of solving the puzzle." Yup. These are not really capsule toys but puzzle toys.

(Image Credit: Bandai via IT Media/ SoraNews24)

The Origins of The Jaws Theme and How It Represented the Invisible Shark

If you could instantly name a movie theme just by hearing the first two notes, that theme would most likely be the theme of Steven Spielberg's Jaws, composed by none other than the legend John Williams.

These two notes could now easily be associated with the film. It is one of the most memorable themes in movie history, after all. However, when Williams played it for Spielberg for the first time, the latter thought it was all a joke. But Williams was serious. And as it turned out, these two notes alone were powerful enough to announce the shark's presence, even when the large fish wasn't on screen. The theme also proved a helpful substitute for Bruce (the mechanical shark), as the latter wasn't working all the time.

For Spielberg, Williams became the shark, and the music made the film "a hell of a lot scarier and more suspenseful." Music, indeed, is a powerful tool.

Aside from the Jaws theme, Spielberg and Williams talk about other films and topics in music in this interview with Stephen Colbert.

Via Laughing Squid

(Video Credit: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert/ YouTube)

Navigators From The Marshall Islands Used Wave Charts To Guide Their Way

For the untrained eye, the sea only looks like a featureless expanse of water. But for master navigators of Oceania, the sea is full of signs and clues that could help them reach their destination — from driftwood, birds, and even the direction of the waves.

Navigators from the Marshall Islands use wave charts to travel through the small islands and atolls in the region. These charts, which capture the distinctive patterns of ocean swells, are a result of constant observation of the sea from land. But as these are not maps, they are not brought to sea. Instead, the sailors memorize these stick charts.

Wave charts have three types: the rebbelib, which show whole island chains; meddo, which represent ocean swell patterns in small areas; and mattang, which teach basic interactions between land and sea.

The wave charts have been a crucial element in making the Pacific Ocean trade routes possible. These routes stretched "at some points all the way from New Zealand to South America." Now that's bonkers!

(Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

This is NOT Doctor Rebecca Lee Crumpler

A few years ago, I posted a link to an article about Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, the first Black woman to become a medical doctor in the US. The post links to an article on a now-defunct site that displayed a picture of a woman who is not Dr. Crumpler.

Rebecca Lee Crumpler was a groundbreaking figure with an amazing story that's been posted in many places. She received her medical degree from the New England Female Medical College in 1864 and dedicated her career to the care of Black women and children who were denied medical treatment from white physicians. But there are no existing photographs of Dr. Crumpler.

The many photos purporting to be Dr. Crumpler attached to biographies, quotes, and memes are of other women, many who deserve to be lauded in their own right. The photo above is of Dr. Georgia E. Lee Patton Washington, who was born in 1864 and became the first Black woman to be a licensed doctor (and surgeon) in Tennessee. Fake History Hunter collected quite a few images attached to Dr. Crumpler and identifies who they really are. I'm sure you are disappointed that something on the internet turned out not to be true. -via Strange Company

The Witness Protection Program Explained

Witness protection is crucial for certain legal cases, when testifying against someone might endanger your life. So we have the federal Witness Security Program to make sure that doesn't happen, and that witnesses don't have to risk their lives to tell the truth. WITSEC has never lost a witness who complied with their rules. It's a lot more serious than what we saw in My Blue Heaven. Half as Interesting goes through how the process works. Going into witness protection is a pretty drastic life change, although for certain people, it's a great opportunity to start over. Although I doubt they would ever put anyone up in Aspen, Colorado, because that town is tiny, very expensive, full of rich and famous part-time residents, and requires altitude acclimation. And we find out that a My Blue Heaven situation actually happened at least once, in Orange County, California. The last minute of this video is an ad. -via Digg

Artificial Intelligence Tries to Eat Spaghetti

It's been said that you can tell that a photographic image was generated by artificial intelligence if the number of fingers or teeth are wrong. The industry is well aware of that, and recent updates have dramatically improved how many fingers humans have in such images. But they still have a way to go in understanding humans overall.

Dan Leveille has been experimenting with the March 16th update to the AI program Midjourney. While the people generated are more realistic than ever, Leveille noticed it has a real problem understanding spaghetti and how people in the real world eat it. It's as if spaghetti were specifically invented to make a mess. You can see more images at Geeks Are Sexy.

But let's consider how neural networks learn. They are given boatloads of publicly-available images from the internet. Considering that the 'net is a repository of the world's knowledge, that makes sense. But what kind of spaghetti-eating photographs do everyday people post on social media? The times it makes a mess. There is little entertainment value in posting a picture of someone eating spaghetti in a normal manner, and we don't really want to share pictures of ourselves eating. But we love to make other people laugh. Midjourney was most likely inundated with thousands of images of toddlers and drunk people trying to manage a plate of spaghetti with hilarious results. So this is what you get.  

The Largest Organism Is Slowly Being Eaten

It’s not us. Which is honestly something we’re grateful for. If something is slowly eating up humans, we’d probably gear up for an apocalypse-type scenario, and we’re honestly not ready for that. 

But enough about us. The single giant organism we’re talking about is Pando, a 106-acre stand of quaking aspen clones. Located in the Wasatch Mountains of the western United States, what looks like an entire forest of individual trees with white bark and small leaves is actually just one organism.

That entire woodland is just 47,000 genetically identical stems from an interconnected root network. Pando weighs around 6,000 metric tons, which makes it the largest single organism on Earth by mass. 

Pando has been around for 14,000 years and was able to support a whole ecosystem of 68 plant species and many animals. Now, its life is being threatened by multiple factors. One of them is the overgrazing by deer and elk. These animals are eating the younger parts of the tree, which means that Pando doesn’t really get to grow. 

The changing climate can also pose a threat to the organism. While there isn't a specific study that looks at aspen, reduced water, and warmer weather can make it hard for trees to form leaves, which has led to plant decline. Learn more about Pando here! 

Image credit: Lance Oditt/Friends of Pando

Why Do Artists Love Using Blue?

Well, there are other colors available of course. But we did notice how a lot of artworks incorporate blue into their paintings. It’s not just used to depict the sky or any objects that can be associated with the color. Depending on the theme and idea of the painter, it can be used to depict an emotion or any other theme. 

An exhibition in Galerie Koch, located in Hannover, Germany, aims to showcase and explain why and how these talented people use blue in their art. The event, Blau: Von farblichen Akzenten bis zur Monochromie V (Blue: From Color Accents to Monochrome V) shows 40 works by 26 international artists from the 20th and 21st centuries. Each of them, as the exhibition name suggests, features blue either as the only color in their work or applied to accents that are central to their composition.

Blue, according to the Gallery, is considered the color of vastness, longing, and internalization. “In the Romantic period, the color blue then became a symbol of ideal, spiritual ideas, in the art of the 20th and 21st centuries it finally became the expression of a metaphysical striving in art, as a metaphor for the spiritual. But it also serves as a means of expressive expression and thus as a carrier of meaning,” they wrote. 

Image credit: Galerie Koch via artnet 

New Ocean Forms As Africa Splits

Geologists have confirmed that the continent of Africa is slowly splitting apart. The lands are making way for a whole new ocean to run through the space being left by the continent. According to experts, Zambia and Uganda could one day have their own coastlines should the continent fully split. 

The crack in the continent, known as the East African Rift, was pinpointed to be on the borders of three tectonic plates, which are the African, Arabian, and Somali plates. Millions of years from now, the consistent movement of these plates would lead to a new body of water. The rift currently runs 35 miles long and appeared initially back in 2005. 

Geologists believe that the Arabian plate has been slowly moving away from the African continent for the past 30 million years. Ken Macdonald, a marine geophysicist and professor emeritus at the University of California explained that they were able to measure the rates of movement to a few millimeters per year thanks to GPS measurements. "The Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea will flood in over the Afar region and into the East African Rift Valley and become a new ocean, and that part of East Africa will become its own separate small continent," he confirmed.

Image credit:  Africa Infohub / YouTube

Optical Illusion At Theresianum Academy

No, this is not a magical portal into the feywilds or any other dimension outside of the place we’re living in. It does certainly have that vibe.

The photo of a gothic-looking gate was taken in a school in Vienna, Austria. It appears to extend much farther down the path, even though it’s actually smaller than how we might perceive it to be. This mind-bending gate leads to the Theresianum Academy, a private boarding and day school founded in 1746 by Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. 

Thanks to an optical illusion, the gate provides a good lesson in perspective for the students of the institution. It shows that only one point is needed to trick our eye into thinking that something is either larger or further away than it is. 

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Congratulations to the 2023 International Mollusc of the Year

Scientists nominated them, a jury narrowed them down to five finalists, and then the public voted. The overwhelming favorite was Concholepas concholepas, also known as the Chilean abalone, locally called locos. The Chilean abalone has been crowned the International Mollusc of the Year for 2023. This abalone, found in Chile and Peru, is a murex snail that develops a spectacular seashell. It is culturally significant, but is now endangered because it is also delicious.  

As the International Mollusc of the Year, the Chilean abalone has won an important prize. Its genome will be sequenced as an aid to studying these sea creatures and how they adapt to polluted ocean conditions. This will be particularly useful, as the abalone's haemocyanin (an alternative to hemoglobin that makes the abalone's blood change colors depending on oxygen level) contains properties that appear to fight cancer in humans.

Read more about the Chilean abalone, plus the four other finalists in the International Mollusc of the Year contest. They include a giant deep-sea oyster, a leopard slug, and two lovely nudibranchs. -via Metafilter

The 15-Year-Old Who Died in a Kissing Frenzy

The gravestone of George Spencer Millet tells a sad tale. The boy worked at the New York Metropolitan Life Building in Manhattan. On February 15, 1909, he mentioned to his co-workers that it was his 15th birthday. The young ladies in the office said they would give him kisses for his birthday. That wouldn't be proper during work hours, so they waited until the office closed at 4:30. Then at least six women descended on young Millet in a frenzy.

The problem was that Millet had an ink eraser in his pocket, a sharp instrument resembling a knife. As he was knocked down by the women set on kissing him, the ink eraser pierced his heart, and he died soon after. One of the women was arrested, but charges were dropped after the exact cause of death was determined. Read the story of the boy who was kissed to death at Amusing Planet.

Jean-Yves Blondeau's Roller Suit in Action

Jean-Yves Blondeau invented the roller suit, consisting of body protection and 32 wheels distributed over the body, as a design student. He introduced it to the world in 1995, and custom-builds them for skating enthusiasts ever since. As you might guess, they are very expensive. You may have seen these suits in movies, variety shows, or the occasional public relations stunt. Now you can not only learn the story behind the suit, but watch the Rollerman show it off. Yes, even at age 52, Blondeau takes the suit out buggyrollin. Make sure you watch at least until the night time version is shown, and the new self-propelled version. I would say something like "don't try this at home," but I don't know anyone who could afford to, much less be able to survive it. -via Nag on the Lake

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