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Friday, May 6, 2016

2016 Audubon Photography Awards Winners

I've pasted a few of the winners below - go to for the whole set (larger!) and further information on each photo. The Grand Prize winner is quite extraordinary.

 Grand Prize Winner - Bonnie Block:

Bald Eagle and Great Blue Herons. Photo: Bonnie Block/Audubon Photography Awards
Professional Winner -  Dick Dickinson:

Osprey. Photo: Dick Dickinson/Audubon Photography Awards
Fine Art Winner - Barbara Driscoll:

Green Violetear. Photo: Barbara Driscoll/Audubon Photography Awards
Amateur Honorable Mention  - Colleen Gara:

Common Ravens. Photo: Colleen Gara/Audubon Photography Awards

Friday links

Roundup of Mother's Day links.

How a Wine and Cocaine Cocktail became Coca Cola.

Why You Accidentally Call Your Relatives by Your Dog's Name, But Not Your Cat's.

Why It’s Illegal to Use Milk Crates for Anything Besides Milk.

V.E. Day is this weekend: on May 8, 1945, World War 2 ended in Europe.

6 most bizarre traditional dishes from all over the world.

ICYMI, Thursday's links are here, and include Cinco do Mayo, colorized vintage photos of landmarks being built, phrases derived from obsolete technologies, medieval pet names, and the Doorway Effect: why we forget what we’re doing when we enter a room.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

How a Wine and Cocaine Cocktail became Coca Cola

Oh, for the good old days - at least when it comes to soft drinks.

Via one of my favorite websites, MessyNessyChic:

Click to embiggen
Most of us have heard the story about how Coco-Cola once contained a significant dose of cocaine (and 7-Up contained lithium) until it was removed from the recipe in 1903. Less well-known is the story about how Coca Cola originates from an alcoholic drink based on cocaine and wine, Bordeaux wine to be specific - a particular combination which made for a distinctly more toxic beverage, known as Coca Wine. 

Coca Wine was first developed in 1863 by a French-Corsican entrepreneur in Paris, Angelo Mariani. His advertising in Europe and the United States claimed the tonic would “cure melancholia … restore health, strength, energy, and vitality”. During the second half of the 19th century, everyone was drinking the stuff. Vin Mariani was a favorite amongst celebrities of the day including Thomas Edison, Jules Verne, Sarah Bernhardt, Ulysses S Grant and was even Queen Victoria’s drink of choice. Pope Leo XIII personally endorsed the wine, lending his face to the brand’s advertising campaign - he even awarded it the Vatican gold medal.

And, in fact, when alcohol and cocaine combine, they form a chemical they create a third unique drug called cocaethylene, which produces a feeling of euphoria more powerful and longer lasting than cocaine is capable of producing on its own.

There were copycats, of course. In the 1880s Dr. John Pemberton, a pharmacist in Georgia who was himself a morphine addict following an injury in the Civil War, set out to make his own version. He called it Pemberton's French Wine Coca and marketed it as a panacea. Among many fantastic claims, he called it "a most wonderful invigorator of sexual organs". 

When his home state passed Prohibition legislation in 1886 (many states passed their own versions prior to the 18th amendment in 1920), Pemberton scrambled to come up with a non-alcoholic version replacing the wine with a syrup and naming it Coca Cola. Cocaine remained the principle active ingredient of the new carbonated drink for nearly another two decades, although Pemberton added ingredients that Vin Mariani lacked, such as damiana (wiki), a reputed cure for impotence, as well as kola nut, a source of caffeine - both were later included in Coca-Cola. 

When Pemberton’s health began to fail in the late 1880’s, he sold his little company and the formula for Coke to the far more successful Atlanta druggist, Asa Candler, in 1888 for $2,300. Pemberton died later that year at age 57. Candler’s success didn’t go unnoticed - North Carolina businessman Caleb Bradham launched a copycat product in 1893, without the coca leaf extract. He called it Brad’s Drink. Five years later, looking for a name to convey its fizzy appeal, he rebranded it as Pepsi-Cola.

The Atlantic had a not-particularly well-sourced article a few years ago claiming that Coca Cola removed the cocaine because African Americans could get bottles of it:
During that time, racially oriented arguments about rape and other violence, and social effects more so than physical health concerns, came to shape the discussion. The same hypersexuality that was touted as a selling point during the short-lived glory days of Vin Mariani was now a crux of cocaine's bigoted indictment.
There was at that time a growing fear of drug abuse which made coca-based drinks less popular, and Pemberton’s successors preemptively took the cocaine out of his drink (at least most of it) in 1903. Eleven years later, in 1914, the drug was officially banned, forcing Vin Mariani and other Coca Wine brands out of business and off the menu forever.

The Coca-Cola we know today still contains coca -- but the ecgonine alkaloid is removed from it. Perfecting that extraction took until 1929, so before that there were still trace amounts of coca's psychoactive elements in Coca-Cola. As Dominic Streatfield describes in Cocaine: An Unauthorized Biography, the extraction is now done at a New Jersey chemical processing facility by a company called Stepan. In 2003, Stepan imported 175,000 kilograms of coca for Coca-Cola. That's enough to make more than $200 million worth of cocaine. They refer to the coca leaf extract simply as "Merchandise No. 5."

The facility is guarded.
Further reading:

The very first Coke? It was Bordeaux mixed with cocaine... and 23 other interesting facts about the world's best-known brand.

Thursday links

Happy Cinco do Mayo!

Medieval Pet Names.

ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, and include the physics of peacock feathers, Star Wars Day, a video compilation of small dogs trying to get onto or off of big couches, how your devices are spying on you, and the American who placed a $1 million bounty on Hitler the year before we entered WWII. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Wednesday links

Video compilation of Small Dogs vs. Big Couches.

Why You Never Heard About the Largest Disaster in Maritime History.

In addition to International Respect for Chickens Day, May the Fourth (be with you) is also Star Wars Day. Here's a nice collection of Star Wars propaganda posters and a bit of trivia - per, one of the earliest known records of “May the 4th” used in popular culture is in 1979:
“Margaret Thatcher has won the election and become Britain’s first woman prime minister. To celebrate their victory her party took a half page of advertising space in the London Evening News. This message, referring to the day of victory, was ‘May the Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations."
In 1940, before the U.S. entered WWII, an American citizen offered a $1 million bounty on Hitler.

Your Devices' Latest Feature? They Can Spy On Your Every Move.

ICYMI, Tuesday's links are here, and include the politics of the Louisiana Purchase, how spacecraft dashboards evolved, a 1909 scheme to whiten the Hawaiian populace by importing Siberian workers, and a video of Kung Fu physics brought to life by motion capture.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Tuesday links

Tomorrow is International Respect for Chickens Day: some chicken-related links to help you celebrate.

Extremely Cool: Kung Fu Physics brought to life (video).

How Spacecraft Dashboards Evolved.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include Duke Ellington's birthday, that time Eisenhower's presidential motorcade picked up hitchhikers, the plans for the Nazi super-cannon capable of hitting London from France, horoscopes for babies, and why making your bed is a total waste of time.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Cool: Kung Fu Physics brought to life (video)

German digital artist Tobias Gremmler decided to portray Kung Fu in an entirely new light through the use of motion capture.

Gremmier’s complex digital scan measures the fighter’s movements in terms of velocity, time, and space, altering the parameters of its visual manifest through a number of variations. It's fabric woven by time, velocity transformed into matter, expansion out of emptiness.