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Friday, March 17, 2017

Friday links

Saint Patrick’s Day: origin, history, videos, and how to make your own green beer. Related: From Slave to Saint, The Story of Patrick 

An Interactive Map of New York’s Earliest Skyscrapers.

When Medieval Monks Couldn't Cure the Plague, They Launched a Luxe Skincare Line.

Fan of mushroom clouds? Dozens of nuclear test videos declassified, uploaded to YouTube.

The Forged ‘Ancient’ Statues That Fooled the Met’s Art Experts for Decades.


ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, and include intricately carved fruits and veggies, a video on the evolution of animation, how Russians In 1960 imagined the year 2017 would look, and the Ides of March. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Fan of mushroom clouds? Dozens of nuclear test videos declassified, uploaded to YouTube

On Tuesday, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a federally funded facility outside San Francisco that focuses on nuclear research, released 63 rare, restored and declassified films of nuclear testing that was done between 1945 and 1962

The films were uploaded to the lab’s YouTube account, and are part of a trove of some 10,000 that have been in storage since they were originally shot.

The initial release is just a fraction of about 750 that Greg Spriggs, a physicist at the lab who has worked on the project for five years, declassified on Tuesday. And even that number is small compared to some 6,500 films that have been found of the 10,000 that were estimated to have been shot at the height of the Cold War.

Here's Greg Spriggs discussing the films:



This explosion was named Harlem, and occurred off Kiribati in 1962 in a series of tests known as Operation Dominic:



This one is part of a series of tests at the Nevada Test Site that took place in 1955 that was known as Operation Teapot. This particular explosion was called Tesla:



More at Atlas Obscura and Business Insider.

Blowing up a watermelon with 20,000 volts of electricity, in slow motion

What happens when you pump 20,000 volts into a watermelon? Two words. Pink Mist

The Backyard Scientist wanted to find out what would happen when 20,000 volts of electricity are pumped into a watermelon. What he and his friends got was a big explosion with a fine, pink mist captured in slow motion. They also pumped 20,000 volts into a raw steak and a potato.


Kind of related: 



Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Wednesday links

Beware - It's the Ides of March. Related: when Julius Caesar was kidnapped by pirates, he insisted on a higher ransom.

The Evolution of Animation.

Two Irish villages claim that the skeleton of Napoleon’s horse belongs to them. But did the horse ever exist?

How Russians In 1960 Imagined the Year 2017.

After Social Security cards were introduced in 1936, some people had their number tattooed on their skin.


ICYMI, Tuesday's links are here, and include Pi Day, Britain’s ship made of ice, why some car gas tanks are on the right and some on the left, and, for Einstein's birthday, the story of the guy who kept his brain for 43 years,  

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

In which Thor tries to find the meaning of life in a Creamsicle

“I have feasted on the nectars of wild fruit in the land of the Norns.

I have dined in the exalted halls of the godly realms.

This day I am offered a Creamsicle.”


Apparently Thor is caught between gods and humans and feeling comfortable with neither.


more, and more context, at Flashbak

Tuesday links

Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879: here's a short bio, video, an explanation of gravitational waves, and the strange post-mortem saga of his brain.




National Geographic Infographics, A Pictorial History.


ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include Chuck Norris' 77th birthday, Japanese equipment for clearing a path through 60 feet of snow, Daylight Saving Time history (including Ben Franklin's proposal), how Mickey Mouse evades the public domain, and how to make prescription eyeglasses from scratch.

Monday, March 13, 2017

3/14 Happy Pi Day

March 14 (3/14) is celebrated annually as Pi Day because the date resembles the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter — 3.14159265359... or, rounded off, 3.1416. 2016, therefore, provided a particularly good reason to celebrate: 3/14/16. The year before (3.14.15) was significant because it matched the first four digits after the decimal point - now we're back to regular old Pi.

Archimedes (wiki) (circa 287–212 B.C.) is credited with doing the first calculation of Pi. British mathematician William Jones came up with the Greek letter and symbol for the figure in 1706, the use of which was later popularized by mathematician Leonhard Euler (wiki), beginning in 1737.

Here's Vi Hart on 2016 Pi Day:


And a good general explanation of Pi (kid-oriented, but that makes it straightforward):


And here's what Pi sounds like:

Beware - It's the Ides of March.


Today is the Ides of March - notionally, in the Roman lunar calendar, the day of the full moon that marked the midpoint of the month.* It was on this date in 44 B.C. that Julius Caesar (wiki) was assassinated by a conspiracy headed by Marcus Junius Brutus (wiki) and Quintus Cassius Longinus, who feared Caesar's growing power in the Roman Senate. 

The most famous portrayal of the events of that infamous day is found in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, based largely on Sir Thomas North's 1579 English translation of Plutarch's Lives** and likely first presented at the Globe in the summer of 1599. 

Julius Caesar:

Soothsayer: Caesar!

Caesar: Ha! who calls?

Casca: Bid every noise be still: peace yet again! 

Caesar: Who is it in the press that calls on me?

I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music, 

Cry "Caesar." Speak! Caesar is turned to hear. 

Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.

Caesar: What man is that?

Brutus: A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

Caesar: Set him before me; let me see his face.

Casca: Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.

Caesar: What sayst thou to me now? speak once again.

Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.

Caesar: He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass.

~ William Shakespeare (Julius Caesar, Act I, Sc. 2) 


Pulling Caesar’s toga was the signal to begin the attack

On the fateful day, Caesar encounters the soothsayer again:


Caesar: The ides of March are come.

Soothsayer: Ay, Caesar, but not gone.

~ Ibid., Act III, Sc. 1

Caesar: Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar!

~ Id.

The corpse was still lying where it had fallen, abased and stained with blood - that of a man who had marched west to the British Isles and the Ocean,and intended to march east to the thrones of Parthia and India, so that they too might be made subject to a single empire and all land and sea be governed from one capital; but no one dared to remain and recover his body. Those of his friends who were present had fled, those who were outside were hiding in their houses; or changed their clothes and departed for the countryside and the nearby towns. 

~ Nikolaus of Damascus (fl. ca. 40-20 B.C.)** (Universal History, fragment)

The Bard has Marc Antony saying:

"Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; 

I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.

The evil that men do lives after them,

The good is oft interrèd with their bones. 

So let it be with Caesar..." *** 

* In the Julian calendar (reformed in 46 B.C.), the ides were the 15th days of March, May, July, and October - and the 13th days of all the other months. From 222 until 154 B.C., the ides of March was the day on which the new consuls of the Roman Republic entered office. The Romans did not number days of a month sequentially from the first through the last day. Instead, they counted back from three fixed points of the month: the Nones (5th or 7th, depending on the length of the month), the Ides (13th or 15th), and the Kalends (1st) of the following month. The Ides occurred near the midpoint, on the 13th for most months, but on the 15th for March, May, July, and October. The Ides were supposed to be determined by the full moon, reflecting the lunar origin of the Roman calendar. On the earliest calendar, the Ides of March would have been the first full moon of the new year.

** According to Plutarch, Caesar was not killed in the Senate itself, but rather in the Theater of Pompey, as the main Senate building was being restored at the time, so the Theater was being used as a substitute. The actual death of Caesar appears to have gone something like this, (from Plutarch's Lives):
Casca gave him the first cut, in the neck, which was not mortal nor dangerous, as coming from one who at the beginning of such a bold action was probably very much disturbed. Caesar immediately turned about, and laid his hand upon the dagger and kept hold of it. And both of them at the same time cried out, he that received the blow, in Latin, “Vile Casca, what does this mean?” and he that gave it, in Greek, to his brother, “Brother, help!” Upon this first onset, those who were not privy to the design were astonished and their horror and amazement at what they saw were so great, that they durst not fly nor assist Caesar, nor so much as speak a word. But those who came prepared for the business enclosed him on every side, with their naked daggers in their hands. Which way soever he turned, he met with blows, and saw their swords leveled at his face and eyes, and was encompassed, like a wild beast in the toils, on every side. For it had been agreed they should each of them make a thrust at him, and flesh themselves with his blood; for which reason Brutus also gave him one stab in the groin. Some say that he fought and resisted all the rest, shifting his body to avoid the blows, and calling out for help, but that when he saw Brutus’s dagger drawn, he covered his face with his robe and submitted, letting himself fall, whether it were by chance, or that he was pushed in that direction by his murderers, at the foot of the pedestal on which Pompey’s statue stood, and which was thus wetted with his blood.
** Nikolaus of Damascus was a Greek historian who befriended Herod the Great and Augustus Caesar, Julius's nephew, heir, and later Roman emperor. This excerpt from his fragmentary Universal History is believed to be the earliest account of Caesar's murder.

*** After the Roman people were aroused against the conspirators by Marc Antony, Brutus and Cassius fled to Syria and in 42 B.C. were defeated by Antony and Octavian at the battle of Phillipi. This left the way open for Octavian to seize power and - as Caesar Augustus - become the first Roman emperor. 

Shakespeare's Julius Caesar summary: