It’s not all tea, crumpets, and royal weddings in the United Kingdom. In fact, Britain is home to some downright bizarre and truly weird and wonderful festivals.
To some outsiders, the Brits may seem prim, proper, and a bit too serious at times. But a closer look will dispel that notion. From ancient pagan rites to modern-day oddities, this small island has the power to charm, amaze, and occasionally disgust. But it’s always entertaining.
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10Summer Solstice At Stonehenge
Each year, thousands gather at the ancient stone monument in Wiltshire to mark the summer solstice. As the Sun rises, it aligns perfectly with the Heel Stone, the ancient stone entrance to the monument, and casts rays of light across the revelers gathered there.
Stonehenge is considered to be a sacred site by Britain’s pagan and druid communities. Visitors are not normally permitted to approach and touch the stones, but an exception is made for the solstice celebrations. It is unknown how, when, or why this ancient monument was constructed. However, there are many theories, each more fantastic then the last.
9The Tar Barrels Of Ottery St. Mary
Each November 5, the usually quiet streets of Ottery St. Mary in Devon are lit up by the flickering light of flaming tar barrels. Men and women charge through the crowded streets while carrying these fiery barrels overhead. Each weighs as much as 30 kilograms (66 lb). Wearing thick gloves to protect their hands, the barrel carriers must have grit and courage to endure the heat.
Many generations of the same families appear as proud barrel rollers. However, the origins of the festival are unclear. Some believe that it has links to the famous gunpowder plot, while others think it is a pre-Christian pagan ritual intended to drive out evil spirits.
8Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival
The small town of Whittlesea in the east of England celebrates the harvestin a particularly unusual way. Known as the “straw bear,” a man covered from head to toe in straw is paraded through the streets. Accompanied by musicians and led by a “keeper” or “driver,” the bear dances in front of houses and inns for gifts of food, money, or beer.
The event briefly died out in 1909 when a local police inspector banned it as a form of begging. However, the custom was revived in 1980 by the Whittlesea Society and now takes place during the second weekend of January.
7Egg Throwing World Championships
Legend has it that the tradition of egg throwing in the English village of Swaton dates back to the 14th century. In an attempt to boost numbers at church, the abbot gave out free eggs to all who attended. In 1322, the river flooded and prevented locals from attending church. So monks threw eggs across the river, and the tradition was born.
The first Egg Throwing World Championship took place as a feature of the 2005 Swaton Vintage Day where the grand prize was scooped up by an “eggstatic” team from New Zealand. Teams of two compete for the prize by seeing who can pass the egg farthest without breaking it.
Additional events include the “Russian egg roulette” in which competitors take turns smashing eggs against their own heads. Of the six eggs available, five are hard-boiled and one is raw. The competitor who picks the raw egg loses and ends up with actual egg on his face.
6Burning The Clocks
The seaside town of Brighton marks the shortest day of the year with the “Burning the Clocks” festival. Thousands of individuals line the streets to watch a procession of people with homemade fire lanterns. After parading through the town, the people ceremoniously burn the lanterns on the town’s beach.
The event organizers explain, “Burning the clocks is an antidote to the excesses of the commercial Christmas. People gather together to make paper and willow lanterns to carry through their city and burn on the beach as a token of the end of the year.”
5Abbots Bromley Horn Dance
First performed in 1226, the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance is one of Britain’s oldest surviving traditions. Dancing through the town are six men dressed with reindeer antlers, two musicians, a man dressed as a woman, an archer, and a fool who hits anyone who comes too close with an inflated pig’s bladder.
The reasons behind this strange event have been obscured by the mists of time. Some suggest that it was performed to mark the opening of the hunting season and to ensure a successful year. Others speculate that it is connected to ancient fertility rites. One thing is for sure: This ancient tradition is downright strange!
4Maldon Mud Race
The Maldon Mud Race is held each year on the River Blackwater in Essex. At low tide, competitors race across the incredibly muddy riverbed and back with their footwear taped on firmly to prevent any lost shoes.
The event originated in 1973 when the landlord of the Queens Head pub was dared to serve a meal on the riverbank dressed in a tuxedo. The following year, a bar was opened on the riverbank for the day. About 20 people competed to dash across the river, drink a pint of beer, and return. The Maldon Mud Race was born.
Perhaps the oldest dance festival in the UK, the ‘Obby ‘Oss is celebrated every May 1 in the Cornish fishing village of Padstow. Thought to be connected to the ancient Celtic festival of Beltane, the main event begins when two parades accompanying male dancers dressed as hobby horses (hence ‘obby ‘oss) swing through the town.
The ‘Obby ‘Oss consists of a large oval frame wrapped in a black oilskin with a strange horse’s mask and snapping jaw. The ‘Oss is accompanied by other dancers and musicians and led through the town by a teaser who prods the ‘Oss with a painted club.
As he passes through the town, the ‘Oss will attempt to catch young maidens and drag them under his cloak. To be caught by the ‘Oss is considered good luck.
2World Toe Wrestling Championships
Established in Staffordshire in 1976, the World Toe Wrestling Championship is now held annually in the Bentley Brook Inn. Much like arm wrestling but with feet, contestants link toes and attempt to pin the other’s foot for three seconds. You’ll be pleased to know that the feet of all competitors are thoroughly checked by a podiatrist before they can compete.
First played in the 14th century, the Haxey Hood takes place on the 12th day of Christmas each year. Regulars from the town’s four pubs attempt to push the “hood” (a leather tube) to their pub, where it will remain until the following year.
Legend has it that in the 14th century, the wife of local landowner John de Mowbray was out riding when her hood was blown from her head. She was so amused by the efforts of the 13 farmhands who chased the hood across fields that she gifted the parish 13 acres of land on the condition that the chase be reenacted every year.
Said to be more about drinking than anything else, the game begins when the hood is thrown into the air and a large rugby-style scrum (known as the “sway”) converges on it.
There are no organized teams, and the only rules are that the hood cannot be thrown or run with. As many as 200 people can be playing at any point. The objective of the game is to move the hood to one of the local pubs. The game ends when the hood is touched by the pub’s landlord standing on his front step.
Vigilantes often think that they’re good people who take the law into their own hands to punish criminals that law enforcement can’t (or won’t) touch. In their own minds, they’re the heroes, doing what needs to be done and standing up for the little guy when no one else will.
The problem is that justice without due process can easily turn into plain violence, aimed at the nearest suspicious-looking person. And that’s when innocent people meet horrible fates. The victims in the following ten cases weren’t guilty of anything yet still paid for the misdeeds of others.
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10A Passing Electrician Is Lynched As A Thief
Muhammad al-Zahra was a 30-year-old Indonesian electric repair man from the suburbs of Jakarta. In 2017, a mob of angry men confronted him and accused him of being a thief. Even worse for al-Zahra, the items that he was accused of stealing were the amplifiers of a nearby prayer room. Although al-Zahra swore that he had done nothing wrong, the mob didn’t care. He was beaten to death on the spot, despite the fact that even his very last words were: “I’m not a thief.” Afterward, the mob set his body on fire and screamed triumphantly as it burned. Some sources say poor al-Zahra was still alive as he burned.
Fortunately, the attackers were caught. In court, they wept tears of regret and bowed their heads in shame. They couldn’t explain why they had treated al-Zahra so brutally. It is possible, however, that the incident is linked to the rise of vigilante culture in some parts of Indonesia: A lack of trust in the country’s police and justice system has led to people taking the law into their own hands. This sometimes leads to overkill, when mobs of citizens distribute swift and occasionally fatal justice to petty criminals.
9The Vigilante Vampire Hunters Of Malawi
In 2017, the country of Malawi started having troubles with vampires—or rather, with the people hunting them. Several vigilante mobs started stalking the country, searching for vampiric villains who drank blood as part of their black magic rituals. Whoever the vigilantes thought were vampires were stoned (or stoned and burned) to death. The mobs even set up roadblocks to screen possible bloodsuckers.
By October 24, the mobs had already killed nine people, and over 200 people had been arrested for participating in the vigilante movement. The situation had gotten so out of hand that the United Nations and the US Embassy declared parts of the country as no-go zones.
This is not the first vampire mob panic in the country—the last one was in 2002. It’s not clear what starts these vampire-hunting frenzies. Some suggest it is the result of the poor education standards in rural areas, combined with the country’s widespread belief in witchcraft. Others say that at least the latest vampire rumors may have spread to Malawi from neighboring countries.
8The Mysterious Lynching Of Hardel Haynes
Hardel Haynes is the second electrician to appear on this list, and he suffered the same fate as Muhammad al-Zahra. Haynes lived in Guyana, where it was not uncommon for vigilante citizens to capture and beat up thieves and other criminals. In response to this, local law enforcement instructed that any criminal captured by the citizens should be delivered to the police, preferably without injuries. Unfortunately for Haynes, this instruction came in the aftermath of the police mishandling his case.
In 2008, the badly injured Hardel Haynes was dropped in front of a Guyanese police station. Haynes’s wife happened to be a special constable attached to the Ministry of Home Affairs. When she found out about the situation, she had a difficult time finding out what her husband’s status was and where he was at all. The police station didn’t even pick up the phone at first. When she tried her husband’s cell phone, a man identifying himself as a police officer answered and told her to call the station. When she finally got through, people treated her rudely and refused to answer her questions directly. They said they couldn’t get the badly injured Haynes to a hospital because they didn’t have a car available. They said they hadn’t arrested the people who left him there because they didn’t have enough manpower. Occasionally, they hung up on her.
Haynes was eventually taken to a nearby hospital, where he died. A local newspaper later found out that the person who had left Haynes at the station was a retired senior police officer himself.
All of this may seem like a conspiracy: Clearly, the retired high-ranking officer beat up Haynes, and the other cops were covering his tracks. However, that’s not what really happened. Haynes had actually been riding his bicycle home late in the night. He was suddenly jumped by a mob of men who had mistaken him for a burglar who had stolen their neighbor’s TV. Two members of the mob were eventually charged with manslaughter. The retired police officer happened to be part of the neighbor mob, but he was not a killer—he was actually the one who told the others that they should get Haynes to the police.
7Whatsapp Vigilante Attacks
Social media rumors can be unpleasant, but they don’t usually end in tragedy and loss of life. In 2017, Central India became an exception to this rule, thanks to rumors circulating on WhatsApp. The malicious message came in the form of a viral video that showed a motorcycle rider abducting a child and warned of strangers who were abducting children in the area. In reality, the video was a clip from a Pakistani child safety awareness film, but that didn’t matter. As hysteria increased, angry crowds started forming. Mobs swelled to more than 500 people within hours. That’s when the killing started.
In two separate mob attacks, a total of seven “child abductors” were ruthlessly beaten to death. Sometimes, the police were present but merely looked on. At least one of the incidents was filmed and put on YouTube, possibly because someone thought that a campaign of terror that starts with a viral video needs to end with a viral video.
The seven mob victims were all completely innocent passersby who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrongest possible time. There were no records of child abductions in the area, and the police promptly started investigating who was behind the WhatsApp messages.
They soon found that it’s very difficult to fight social media and debunk popular rumors: Just one month later, a similar child abduction mob killed two men whose only crime was stopping in their village to ask for directions.
6The Tourist Who Was In The Wrong Place At The Wrong Time
Sebastian Judalet was a French bus driver and a father of one. In 2013, he went on a trip to Nosy Be, an island near Madagascar that he loved and often visited. He was probably expecting a relaxing holiday on an island paradise. Instead, he ended up in the middle of a nightmare when a crowd of several hundred locals surrounded him. They suspected that Judalet was the pedophile who had recently murdered and mutilated a eight-year-old local boy, and they were out for justice.
The moments of confusion and blind panic that led to Judalet’s death were actually caught on tape. “I am the victim of a conspiracy,” Judalet can be heard to cry as members of the crowd accuse and interrogate him. “I do not like children, absolutely not, and I don’t like people who have sex with children.” This comment may have sealed his doom, as a vigilante next asks him: “So you don’t like children?” A tearful Judalet responds: “I love children, yes, I have a little girl. I’m telling the truth, strictly the truth.” That was enough for the mob to come to a conclusion: They dragged poor Judalet to a nearby beach, where he was stripped naked, beaten, and burned alive. He pleaded innocence to his final breath. Two other equally innocent men shared his fate.
5Mob Mistakes Two Innocent Bystanders For Terrorists
In 2015, a Taliban-associated splinter terrorist group called Jamaat-ul-Ahrar sent two suicide bombers to attack Lahore, Pakistan. The bombers targeted two local churches in brutal attacks that killed 17 people and injured 80. Understandably, the locals were panicked and furious in the aftermath of the explosions. However, with the bombers dead and nowhere to target their fury, the younger members of the population formed a mob and started to search for people they felt were responsible for the attack.
The mob soon found two completely innocent bystanders who they decided to blame. They confronted garment worker Babar Noman and glass cutter Mohammad Saleem, beat them unconscious, and dragged them through the crowds. Then, their prone bodies were covered with wood that the mob had found in a nearby shop. The poor, innocent men were set on fire and burned while hundreds of men looked on and cheered.
You might wonder why the police didn’t stop the brutality. After all, they must have been present on the scene of terrorist attacks.
Well, they were. They were just so heavily outnumbered that they had no choice but to look on as the men were brutally murdered.
4The Man Who Was Found Innocent Nearly A Century Later
The year was 1906. Ed Johnson, a young African American man from Chattanooga, Tennessee, stood under a metal girder of the Walnut Street Bridge with a noose around his neck. He faced the town-sized mob of white men, women, and children and said: “God bless you all. I am innocent.” Then, they hanged him and riddled his body with bullets.
Johnson had been sentenced to death for raping a white woman. However, an air of suspicion lingered around the case. The victim could never identify Johnson properly, and a member of the all-white jury openly threatened him with violence. As a result, the Supreme Court felt that the verdict didn’t hold water and issued a stay on Johnson’s execution so that he could file an appeal for what was clearly a violation of his right to a fair trial. The residents of Chattanooga disagreed and took matters into their own hands.
It would be an understatement to say that the Supreme Court didn’t like this blatant disregard of their orders. They were so angry that they started the first and only criminal court case in their history, against the town’s sheriff, members of law enforcement, and assorted mob members. Several of them were found guilty of contempt of court.
As for poor Ed Johnson, he was an innocent victim of the time’s unfortunate habit of solving crimes by locating an African American man and quickly sentencing him. However, his official vindication didn’t come immediately. It wasn’t until 2000 that two (white) lawyers who had researched his case successfully cleared his name in court.
3The Rumor That Took Bijan Ebrahimi’s Life
The story of 44-year-old Bijan Ebrahimi is a textbook example of an ugly rumor with even uglier consequences. Ebrahimi lived in Bristol, UK. The people who knew him vouched that he was a gentle, caring man who lived for his garden. There was only one thing that annoyed him: Local kids who kept attacking his hanging baskets. So he devised a plan. He started taking pictures of the mischievous children as they attacked his precious garden. His intention was to take the photos to the police as evidence. Unfortunately, before he could do that, someone saw him with a camera . . . and told the police that Ebrahimi had been taking pictures of children.
The police took Ebrahimi in for questioning, and the local rumor mill immediately started spinning. Several neighbors were already chanting “Pedo! Pedo!” at Ebrahimi as he was taken away. The cops soon realized that he had done nothing wrong and released him, but the home he returned to was now a hostile place. Everyone in the neighborhood believed that the unemployed, disabled man was a child abuser. What’s worse, some of his neighbors were so furious that they were prepared to do something about it. Only two days after the incident, Ebrahimi’s 24-year-old neighbor Lee James (right above) attacked him at night. He beat Ebrahimi unconscious and dragged the helpless man into the street with his friend, Stephen Norely (left above). Then, he doused Ebrahimi in alcohol and burned him to death.
A subsequent investigation found that Ebrahimi had been harassed before, and both the council and the police had repeatedly sided with his abusers.
2The Mass Lynching Of Italian Americans
The history of the United States features many cases of mob brutality and lynchings. One of the most surprising targets of these hate crimes was an ethnic group that most people today don’t even think of as anything other than white: Italian immigrants. In the late 19th century, however, they were so hated that the victims of one of the largest mass lynchings in US history were Italian Americans.
In 1891, New Orleans police chief David Hennessy was murdered. Nine Italian immigrants were arrested and put on trial for the crime. The court found them not guilty, which didn’t please the outraged people of New Orleans. Soon after the verdict, a furious mob attacked the jail and dragged all nine men away, together with two other Italians who were held there for entirely different reasons. All 11 men were brutally lynched. Although the Los Angeles Chinese Massacre of 1871 had a higher body count (18 victims), the New Orleans attack was just the tip of the iceberg for the unfortunate Italian American population.
The attack sparked a huge torrent of hatred. There were mass arrests of Italians in the New Orleans area and nationwide attacks against them. Worst of all, the media narrative completely agreed with the attackers. The New York Times described the victims of the original mob attack as “sneaking and cowardly Sicilians, the descendants of bandits and assassins.” Meanwhile, the paper saw the people who murdered them as heroes, arguing that “lynch law was the only course open to the people of New Orleans.” Future president Theodore Roosevelt felt that the lynchings were “a rather good thing.” Perhaps worst of all: John Parker, who helped organize the mob, later became the governor of Louisiana, despite openly spewing hate against Italians as late as 1911.
1The Lynching Victim Who Became A Symbol For The Civil Rights Movement
In 1955, a 14-year-old African American boy named Emmett Till left his native Chicago and traveled to Mississippi to spend the summer with his cousins. He never returned home.
On August 4, Till and his cousins wrapped up a hard day of picking cotton, and Till decided to buy bubblegum at a store owned by Roy and Carolyn Bryant, a 20-something white couple. Carolyn was tending to the store alone when Till went in. Exactly what happened next is a mystery to this day. Carolyn Bryant claimed that Till flirted with her on a dare, but the details of her story kept changing. Till’s own cousin says that he heard Till whistle after Carolyn, but that’s about it. What we do know, however, is that Carolyn Bryant soon came out of the store, toward her car, where she kept her gun. Being from a comparatively safe Chicago neighborhood, Till didn’t realize the danger he was in, but his local cousins knew better and drove him away.
Unfortunately, danger followed. Four days later, Roy Bryant and his half-brother arrived at the door of the house Till was staying in. Announcing that they were looking for “the boy who did the talking,” they forced their way in at gunpoint and dragged Till into the night. His lifeless body was found three days later. It was so badly mutilated that they could only recognize him by the signet ring on his finger. His killers were found not guilty. Protected by double jeopardy, they happily smoked cigars and posed for photographs while boasting about the murder.
Till’s mother was understandably furious and wanted the world to see what had happened to her boy. She had Till’s remains returned to Chicago, where she arranged a massive open-coffin funeral. She left Till’s mangled, unembalmed body on display for four days. During that time, over 100,000 people came to see it, often leaving in tears.
Fortunately, many of them were also determined to make sure that no one else would have to suffer poor Emmett Till’s fate. In the end, the case touched so many people that Reverend Jesse Jackson later called it the “Big Bang” of the Civil Rights Movement.
+Brazil’s Vigilante Epidemic
In Brazil, lynch mobs are so common that they are described as an epidemic. According to a report by The Guardian, such mobs killed 173 people in 2016 alone. The accusations that led to their deaths varied from child assault to misdemeanors as petty as stealing a bicycle or even a mere pair of sandals.
The only common thread is that just an accusation is enough for a crowd to turn into judge, jury, and executioner. What’s more, as many as 57 percent of Brazilians agree that “a good criminal is a dead criminal.” Poor neighborhoods have been known to bear graffiti that says: “You steal, you die.” This reactive attitude makes it extremely likely that innocent people have been killed by the mobs.
Researchers have looked into Brazil’s tendency to deal vigilante justice wholesale. It appears to be a symptom of the extremely difficult period that the country is currently going through: Within just a few years, Brazil has seen the impeachment of a president, a Zika virus epidemic, the most massive corruption scandal in the country’s history, and, as a cherry on top of the terror cake, the worst economic recession in 80 years. According to Cesar Barreira, head of the Violence Studies Lab at the University of Ceara, the fear and hopelessness this creates is fertile ground for vigilante mobs: “A lynching is a communal act in response to a sense of impotence. It’s a hunt for an infection inside a social group.”
In Brazil’s case, it doesn’t hurt the mobs that vigilante justice isn’t written in the country’s penal code. As such, official data does not exist, and the government doesn’t really keep tabs on mob violence as a widespread phenomenon.
Great Sunday. 5th meeting of Toastmasters in 3rd Club of Bangalore. Young, vibrant crowd mixed with some bearded oldies and middle aged Techies.
- Love Birds Meaning: A pair of people who have a shared love for each other. No. did not happen. Day of course, began different.
Jaws of Death Meaning: Being in a dangerous or very deadly situation. No. Not really. Saw a Premier movie for a while but did not experience it 🙂
Two Down, One to Go Meaning: Two things have been completed, but there is one more that has yet to be finished. Yes. Today’s short walk left the Udemy course study unfinished for the day .
No Ifs, Ands, or Buts Meaning: Finishing a task without making any excuses. Experienced this later in the day with two Excuse Masters cleverly negotiating with each other.
Right Off the Bat Meaning: Immediately, done in a hurry; without delay. Yes. without any inhibition responded emails and gave guidance to even a mail marked FYI 🙂 🙂 . Lessons repeated in Communications.
Break The Ice Meaning: Breaking down a social stiffness. Great speeches by two youngsters and one International Humorist champs at Toastmasters. The breaking the ice speech was literally great.
A Chip on Your Shoulder Meaning: Being angry about something that happened in the past. Yes. I still carry one anger chip on my shoulder.
Shot In the Dark Meaning: An attempt that has little chance for success. no like hope taking shot in the dark is not part of my strategy.
Let Her Rip Meaning: Permission to start, or it could mean ‘go faster!’ If the brainfog is gone and wiser sense prevails – you don’t need any permission.
Wake Up Call Meaning: An occurance of sorts that brings a problem to somebody’s attention and they realize it needs fixing. Hmmm… will wait and watch though.
Keep Your Shirt On Meaning: Keeping calm. Usually said by someone who is trying to avoid making others upset. Yes. even while in an angry tone, try not to rant. 🙂
Morning Briefing (9 Min Reading Time)
Top news & stories of the startup ecosystem from India & around the world
Bengaluru-based online classifieds and services portal Quikr India Pvt Ltd is reportedly in talks to raise between $100 Mn and $150 Mn by keeping its record valuation of $1 Bn. If the company successfully manages to raise funds sustaining its $1Bn valuation, it would mark a turning point for the company.
Indian government-owned statutory body Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has reduced the scope of regulation for the proposed framework for the over-the-top applications (OTT) like WhatsApp, Skype, Netflix, Hotstar among others.
The first meeting of the recently formed ecommerce panel of secretaries was held on Thursday (September 14), during which issues related to the definition of ecommerce and grievances related to the industry were discussed. This committee is different from the inter-ministerial task force that is working on the draft ecommerce policy.
Amid rising data theft, breaches, and leaks in India, the Supreme Court had directed the Indian government to formulate a Data Protection Bill to ensure and strengthen people’s rights over personal data and the right to privacy. Accordingly, the Justice Sri Bn Krishna Committee was formed in July 2017 to deliberate on a data protection framework for the country.
SP-TBI is an initiative of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s Sardar Patel Institute of Technology and is affiliated with the Department of Science and Technology of the Indian government, which formally recognised it in 2015. With its core focus on enabling technology-based startups, the affiliation gives SP-TBI a definitive edge.
Inside Planet Labs’ New Satellite Manufacturing Site (TechCrunch)
Satellite imaging and analytics company Planet is taking the wraps off its new manufacturing space in San Francisco. Founded by ex-NASA employees, Planet is leveraging some of the $183 million in funding it’s amassed to expand.
Google is reportedly building a prototype system that would tie Chinese users’ Google searches to their personal phone numbers, as part of a new search service that would comply with the Chinese government’s censorship requirements.
For those not in the know, a DApp is a decentralized application built on a blockchain like Ethereum or EOS. You may be familiar with legitimate DApps such as Augur or CryptoKitties, but this is not a story about what honest programmers can create using the power of the blockchain.Start
Thin Slices of Anxiety: An Illustrated Meditation on What It’s Like to Live Enslaved by Worry and How to Break Free
A guided tour of this pernicious prison of the psyche, honest and assuring in its honesty.
BY MARIA POPOVA
Kierkegaard called anxiety “the dizziness of freedom” and believed that it serves to power rather than hinder creativity. For Darwin, it was a paralyzing lifelong struggle — he accomplished his breakthroughs not because of anxiety but despite it. “Anxiety,” Anaïs Nin wrote in her diary, “makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds on to you.”
Anxiety belongs to the broader complex relationship between creativity and mental illness, and although the causal direction of that relationship might forever evade us, it is strangely assuring to know that other minds — especially minds of above-average intelligence and creative ability — have been savaged by this blunt-toothed beast.
Such solidary consolation is what Montreal-based designer and illustrator Catherine Lepage offers in Thin Slices of Anxiety: Observations and Advice to Ease a Worried Mind (public library) — an illustrated meditation on what it’s like to live enslaved by one’s own worries and what one can do to break free.
Through a backdoor of disarming and almost lighthearted honesty, Lepage takes us on a guided tour of this heavyhearted prison of the psyche, its symptoms, and its side effects — from the trap of people-pleasing to the toxic allure of conformity to the sense of outsiderdom.
Reflecting on her lifelong on-again, off-again relationship with this cyclical companion, Lepage distills the common pattern and extracts from it the four habits most certain to set the Rube Goldberg machine of anxiety into action.
Laced with the meta-stressors familiar to anyone afflicted with anxiety — shame for being gripped by anxiety in the first place, self-blame for putting oneself in situations known to trigger it, exasperation upon realizing that its predictable trajectory of anguish is underway yet being unable to stop it — the book radiates a wistful yet warm assurance that these overwhelming emotional states, as all-consuming and singular as they seem, mark our membership in a larger fellowship of tribulation in which we are never as alone as we may feel.
Under the self-conscious heading “Cheesy Quotes to Remember” — for, lest we forget, self-consciousness is one of anxiety’s most persistent symptoms — Lepage offers a number of truths so helpful and true that we tend to dismiss them as truisms, bounced off the maladaptive psychological shield of our cynicism.
Complement the wonderful Thin Slices of Anxiety with Scott Stossel on the culture and costs of anxiety, Harvard social scientist Amy Cuddy on how to combat its causes, and philosopher Alan Watts on the antidote to our age of anxiety, then revisit artist Bobby Baker’s eleven-year visual diary of living with mental illness.
Artwork courtesy of Catherine Lepage / Chronicle Books
Romances between colleagues are increasingly common — 40% of us have engaged in an office romance at one point in our careers. And according to a new SimplyHired survey of 939 people, some of us are not only willing to risk our careers, but our current relationships for cupid’s arrow, engaging in office flings even if it means that one of us is cheating on our current partner to do it.
Survey: Education and finance are the biggest cheating industries
SimplyHired found that there are certain industries that have more infidelity among employees than others.
The field of education had the highest number of cheaters with 33% of respondents acknowledging that they had been in a workplace relationship that involved at least one cheating party. The finance and insurance industry came in second place at 30%.
A survey from dating site Illicit Encounters also listed teachers as the profession most likely to have an affair with a colleague. Christian Grant, a spokesman for the site, commented on the results: “Teaching is one of the most stressful and time-consuming jobs out there, so teachers are far too consumed by work throughout most of the year to notice the cracks appearing in their marriage.”
High-stress generally is known to be harmful to marriages, which could explain the presence of relatively high-stress jobs such as teaching, finance, and government at the top of the list.
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On the opposite spectrum, workers in the hospitality industry were the least likely to cheat on their partner with a coworker, with only 17% admitting that they had done it.
Should you risk it all for that water cooler romance? Maybe not. Many respondents said they felt regret about doing it. Women were more likely than men to say they regretted the experience with 45% of women expressing remorse compared to 30% of men.
Meanwhile, men were more likely than women to report that they would have a sexual relationship with a colleague for a raise or a promotion, at a rate of 10% versus 3% for women.
10 Lesser-Known Weird Facts About The Avocado
The avocado is potentially both the most loved and the most hated fruit of our time. (Yes, fruit—for those who may be late to the avo-craze. Technically, it’s a big berry with one large seed inside that’s known as a pit or stone. Bottom line, it’s not a vegetable.)
We love it on our toast, and we love it smashed with onions and cilantro on our tacos. But we sure hate it when we’ve had 18 conversations about avocados this week and it’s only Monday.
The average consumption of avocados in the US is projected to reach up to 22.7 million kilograms (50 million lb) per week by 2019. With that many avocados moving around us, there is a lot of talk about what they can do. Read on to discover more crazy and fascinating facts about this popular fruit.
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10Avocados Are Poisonous
The avocado contains a fungicidal toxin called persin that is completely harmless to humans. However, it is poisonous for many other animals. So, as much as we enjoy guacamole, we should not share it with our animal friends.
Persin—and therefore, avocado—is poisonous to birds, rabbits, cows, goats, horses, pigs, sheep, and fish. Avocado pits were even mixed with cheese to kill rodents according to a South American folk recipe for rat poison.
Rumors that avocados are poisonous for dogs have led to various studies of the effects on our furry pals. Unfortunately, the evidence has been inconclusive and conflicting.
Some reports claim that dogs and cats have upset stomachs after consuming persin, and others see no serious illnesses that result from eating it. Although modern research suggests that dogs can eat avocados and that their toxicity is a myth, the pits could be a choking hazard for your pet.
9They Belong In The Bathroom
It sounds a little gross, but lathering your hair in a mash of avocado can actually help your hair grow. As this superfood contains a lot of fatty amino acids, it can coat strands of your hair and really lock in moisture. Moisture retention will help smooth and soften your dry hair, which is good for keeping your hair strong and able to grow fast and healthy.
A variety of vitamins and minerals—such as copper, iron, and vitamins A, D, and E—are found in avocados and assist with hair growth. A healthy scalp is also important for hair growth. Avocados can soothe and stimulate dry scalps, keeping them nice and hydrated.
If you want to prevent hair loss or help your hair to grow long, shiny, and soft, keep avocados in your kitchen . . . and your bathroom.
8They Have A Long History
Although it seems logical that the avocado’s popularity occurred because it’s photogenic (thank you, Instagram), a long history led to our obsession with the green fruit. We all have to thank Rudolph Hass and his children, who created a new variety of avocado, the Hass avocado, in the early 1900s.
Mr. Hass grew the new avocado in his own backyard. Before this, it was enjoyed by many in Central and South America but not so much in the United States. It was referred to as ahuacate, which was too hard for Americans to pronounce and did not market well to them.
The Hass variety of the avocado—one of over 400—is smaller and has thicker skin than other types, is easier for farmers to cultivate, and has a good, nutty flavor. Mr. Hass’s high-quality avocado trees became more accepted throughout the decades. This allowed prices to decrease, which increased demand for the fruit.
Also contributing to its popularity was the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act, which brought more Latin Americans and their love for avocados to the United States. Now, thanks to marketing efforts and low prices, Mr. Hass’s avocado is in such high demand that our entire continent is experiencing shortages.
7They Are An Aphrodisiac Legend
Long ago, the avocado was enjoyed by many in Central and South America. They called it ahuacate, which means “testicle” in Aztec. If you’ve never thought of it before, you now realize that the shape of the avocado is somewhat phallic. As a result, the avocado was a legendary aphrodisiac.
Obviously, this was bad for the fruit’s marketing efforts in the early 20th century. Back then, most Americans were not inclined to purchase a fruit that had become so associated with being an aphrodisiac, legend or not. The current name was devised by California farmers and significantly improved the fruit’s appeal over the following years.
6When We Think Avocado, We Should Think Cartel
The Michoacan region of Mexico has the perfect conditions for growing avocados. The hot, rich soil produces more than half of the avocados served throughout the world. The large sales of this fruit make up 90 percent of the area’s revenue.
Over the last few years, many stories of the cartel kidnapping farmers and extorting landowners have gone beyond the cocaine trade to include the avocado business. Avocado farmers who have refused to give up part of their profits have found their lives threatened and their crops burned down. A report in 2014 even stated that an infamous gang made $152 million a year from frightened farmers in this area.
5It’s Actually An Alligator Pear, See It?
The avocado has an awesome nickname which is almost never used. According to legend, an early English word for the avocado was “avogado pear.” This most likely was a translation mishap or came from someone who didn’t know what to call it.
This name led to “alligator pear.” Although an accident, the nickname suits the fruit very well. Shaped like a pear, the avocado has skin that resembles that of a reptile, specifically an alligator.
4They Ripen Around Companions
If you really need your avocado ripe and ready to eat, there is a way to speed up the process. Some fruits—such as apples, bananas, apricots, nectarines, and plums—produce ethylene gas, which is a ripening agent.
Put your avocados inside a paper bag with any of these fruits, and the gaswill cause the avocado (and the other fruits involved) to ripen much faster. It is important to keep an eye on the fruit because it could be ready for consumption the next day.
Furthermore, the paper-bag-and-fruit methods can potentially alter the taste of the avocado. Depending on how you are using it, this could be either good or bad.
3A Multimillionaire Told Us To Stop Eating Them
Why did a multimillionaire tell us that we had to stop eating avocados? Because if we spend our money on them, we won’t be able to afford a house.
According to a study by HSBC, only 35 percent of millennials in the United States in 2017 were homeowners, with most of the others saying that they hadn’t saved enough to put down a deposit. During a 60 Minutes interview, property tycoon Tim Gurner, then 35, said that unnecessary spending on avocados is a big reason why people can’t afford a house.
Although lifestyle expectations are continuously changing and prices of homes seem to keep rising, this may be something we need to think about!
2Avocado Is Butter
Healthy bakers have discovered that avocados can be used as a butterreplacement in almost all muffin and cake recipes. While it may require a little bit of math to measure out the perfect amount, the benefits could be worth the trouble.
Even though it may change the taste a little, the trade-off adds protein and lowers cholesterol and saturated fat levels.
1Avocados May Have Antiaging Benefits
The avocado is considered a superfood because it contains numerous vitamins. It also has “good fats,” some protein, and antioxidants. Vitamins A and E, both found in avocados, help to keep skin nourished and moisturized and may assist with keeping cells healthy and young.
When we add avocados to our diet, we may be delaying the natural aging process of our cells. Eating avocados or using them as a face mask by mixing them with honey, yogurt, or oatmeal can give your skin a youthful glow.
Launching the new policy and guidelines, Suresh Prabhu, Minister of Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation, announced, “These regulations will enable the safe, commercial usage of drones starting December 1, 2018. It is intended to enable visual line-of-sight, daytime-only operations to a maximum altitude of 400 feet.”
Emerge ITP was aimed at startups and promised to enable companies to list and showcase their performance to lenders and potential investors — with or without an initial public offer (IPO) — but it never really took off. At present, Emerge ITP is on life support, which is to say that it is barely functioning, with no listings taking place after 2016.
Pranav, who’s an engineer by profession, started venture capital firm 3one4 Capital in 2016 along with his younger brother Siddarth Pai. Inc42 caught up with Pranav Pai and Siddarth Pai to know more about investment thesis, minimum investment size etc in this week’s Moneyball.
In the 22nd episode of Inc42 Ask Me Anything (AMA), we hosted Vishal Gondal, the founder-CEO of GOQii, who spoke to us about gaming, fitness, how GOQii is gamifying fitness, and a lot more. Gondal said 99% people fail at their goals while using fitness and weight loss apps because they lack human motivation.
The founders realised that the diminutive digital solutions available in the market to tackle counterfeiting are economically not viable for most manufacturers. This is what gave birth to NeuroTags. Read more to know how they are taking the counterfeit burden off manufacturers.
Economists: Second-longest economic boom in US history ends in 2020 … with a recession.
60 private-sector economists were recently surveyed by the Wall Street Journal, and their prediction is somewhat dire. 59% of them say the economic expansion that began in 2009 after the Great Recession of 2008 took the wind out of the world’s economic sails will end in 2020. Another 22% pegged the year 2021. What lies beyond that is probably another recession, the depths of which will likely become apparent as things progress — or, rather, regress.
“The current economic expansion is getting long in the tooth by historical standards, and more late-cycle signs are emerging,” said Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West, who was among those economists predicting a 2020 recession.
It’s worth noting that these kinds of things are very hard to predict, so a grain of salt is warranted. However, with a total of 81% of economists surveyed by the WSJ predicting that things will hit the fan by 2021, it seems likely that it’s coming.
The current “boom” is second only to the 1990 information technology economic bubble that lasted nearly 10 years and coincided almost exactly with the years Bill Clinton was President.
Interestingly, the same survey revealed that those same economists do not think the “tax breaks passed by Congress have anything to do with the current economic expansion.
That same expansion has left many people underemployed and earning less than before the Great Recession of 2008, as well as losing health insurance and retirement savings, which could mean when the next bust happens, poor and working-class people will be in much worse shape than ever. And that, coupled with the elimination of some social safety nets across many states in the U. S., means the future might be pretty bleak, indeed.
At least, for those without a pile of money to rely on.
10 Incredible Women Forgotten By History
History is a fickle thing. Sometimes, the simplest events are immortalized while major events are forgotten. But the beauty of the Internet is that we can bring forgotten accomplishments out of the shadows and shine a light on them again.
The achievements of these women are something that should not go uncredited or unknown. These women were trailblazers, renegades, geniuses, and just plain awesome.
Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman to venture into space in June 1963. Her training in parachuting made her an ideal candidate to become a Russian cosmonaut. She applied soon after women became eligible.
The USSR’s decision to put women into space was fueled by a desire to beat the USA to a “first” in the space race. Along with four other women, Tereshkova was put through the same rigorous training as her male counterparts. She spent a total of 70 hours and 50 minutes in space.
When she returned home, she received some of the most prestigious awards offered by the Soviet Union. This included the Hero of the Soviet Union medal, the highest award in the USSR. The United States would not send a female astronaut into space until 20 years later.
If not for Margaret Hamilton, the famous lines uttered by Neil Armstrong upon stepping onto the surface of the Moon would never have been said. She led the 400,000-strong team of software engineers that made Apollo 11 both possible and successful.
Hamilton had a rigorous approach to many tests. This attitude helped to preserve the mission when the guidance computer began to prioritize the Moon landing on its own. In 2016, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the US, by President Barack Obama.
Caroline Herschel laid the groundwork for Western women in science. Having been given an education by her father, she was well ahead of her time. An accomplished astronomer, she was the first woman in recorded history to discover a comet—and found eight overall.
Her more famous brother, William Herschel, was given a job as King George III’s personal astronomer. She followed as his assistant. By also receiving wages, she was the first woman to be recognized for scientific work.
After her brother’s death, Caroline Herschel mapped out the exact placement of their discoveries. The Royal Astronomical Society and the Royal Irish Academy made her the first female honorary member. Years later, she received the King of Prussia’s Gold Medal of Science.
7Andree de Jongh
Andree de Jongh was the head of a resistance group called the Comet Line. Her organization helped abandoned Allied soldiers escape Nazi-occupied countries and return to the safety of Allied lines. She also led many of these crusades from safe houses in Belgium through occupied France and finally to a neutral Spain.
De Jongh is estimated to have helped over 100 airmen to escape. She was eventually caught, and her father was executed. The disbelief that a person of her gender could lead this group kept her from torture and death. She was sent to prison, a women’s concentration camp, and a criminal labor camp.
6Bertha von Suttner
Bertha von Suttner was the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. She wrote Lay Down Your Arms (1889), one of the most influential books of the 1800s.
Von Suttner was a close friend of Alfred Nobel. They spoke for years on the subject of peace. She also became one of the leaders of the international peace movement and, in 1891, established the Austrian Peace Society. Von Suttner stood out as a radical and forceful leader among the group. She was referred to as the “generalissimo of the peace movement.”
5Truus And Freddie Oversteegen
When Truus Oversteegen was 16 and her sister, Freddie, was just 14, a resistance fighter asked their mother if the girls could join the Dutch resistance against the Nazis. Their mother allowed it.
The girls would flirt with Nazi officers and collaborators. Then, these young women would lead the men to the woods under the pretense of intimacy. Unknown to the men, another resistance fighter was lying in wait. The officer would be shot and the murder covered up while the sisters acted as lookouts.
4Dr. Mary Edwards Walker
Dr. Mary Edwards Walker was a nurse and surgeon during the Civil War as well as a women’s rights activist. When the Civil War started, she joined the Union effort as a nurse in DC and briefly as a surgeon in Ohio. For her work during the war, she was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
When her eligibility for the medal was called into question and her name taken off the list of awardees, she refused to give back the medal. The award was restored to her posthumously in 1977.
In the world of women’s rights, Walker chose to fight for female rights to a public professional role. She wore a Bloomer costume in protest of the unrealistic clothes required of working women. She also started to wear men’s clothes, which caused her to be arrested for impersonation several times.
However, Walker never let critics get her down. She held her head high for her accomplishments in her work.
With a confirmed 309 kills, Lyudmila Pavlichenko still holds the record as the deadliest female sniper in the world. As a young woman, she competed with the neighborhood boys in marksmanship and later attended snipers’ school to perfect her shooting skills. Even so, she studied to be a teacher and scholar at Kiev University.
Her goals changed in 1941 when the Germans invaded the Soviet Union. Eager to fight for her country, she managed to prove herself and secure a place in the Red Army’s 25th Chapayev Rifle Division. Her first battle had her paralyzed with fear until a young soldier was shot right next to her. That propelled her to make the first of her many kills.
One hundred of her kills were German officers. She would spend days in sniper battles and was so well-known by the enemy that they would call for her by name on radio loudspeakers to try to bribe her.
After being promoted, she was pulled from combat and toured the world. Pavlichenko became friends with Eleanor Roosevelt and received gifts wherever she went. On her tours, Pavlichenko would push aside sexist questions and instead promote support for the second (Western) front. She retired with the rank of major and was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
She was forgotten because her image was scrubbed from history by her own stepson.
Hatshepsut was the first women to attain the full powers of pharaoh. She began as a queen, the wife of her half-brother. When he died young, she assumed the role as regent until her infant stepson was of ruling age. She soon took full power, declaring herself a pharaoh.
She defended this move by reinventing how she was seen. Statues and paintings were commissioned that depicted her like a male pharaoh with a beard and muscles. Her achievements included construction of a temple at Deir el-Bahri, which is seen by many as the most beautiful temple in Egypt.
After she died and her stepson became ruler, he wiped her from history. Her images on temples and monuments were destroyed. The ancients believed that you would live eternally on the other side if you were remembered in life. But if you were forgotten, you ceased to be.
Accordingly, when the appropriate hieroglyphics were decoded in 1822, the revelations about Hatshepsut brought her back to her eternal life.
Zheng Shi (aka Ching Shih) achieved something that few ever managed to do—she won over the long term as a pirate. She started as a prostitute captured by pirates, and she was claimed by the pirate fleet’s admiral as his wife. Zheng Shi agreed on the terms that she was granted copartnership of command and half the admiral’s share of the loot.
When her husband, Zheng Yi, died, she quickly took control of the fleet. She was a ruthless pirate lord. She instituted a strict set of rules. Most punishments for breaking the rules involved execution. Loot was to be recorded and properly distributed, female prisoners were to be treated with civility, and deserters would have their ears cut off.
With an iron grip on her fleet, Zheng Shi created an empire that was unrivaled in its power and success. When met by a government armada, she sank 63 of their ships and sent the rest home in retreat.
Her might humiliated the three naval world powers of Britain, China, and Portugal. In a desperate attempt to end the pirate lord’s reign, the emperor offered amnesty for Zheng Shi and her fleet. She agreed and got to keep her loot. Zheng Shi retired, opened a gambling house, and died peacefully at 69 years old.
SCIENCE SALON # 32
Nina Teicholz — The Big Fat Surprise About Diet and Nutrition
In this fascinating conversation with Michael Shermer, the investigative journalist Nina Teicholz reviews the scientific literature on diet and nutrition, the link (or lack thereof) between dietary cholesterol and heart disease, the history of the government’s recommendation of what constitutes a healthy diet and why they got it so wrong, statins and heart disease, exercise and nutrition, an update on what has happened since her book, The Big Fat Surprise, was published in 2014, and most importantly what you should eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner tomorrow (hint: it’s okay to have meat, butter and cheese without feeling guilty).
Nina Teicholz is an investigative science journalist and author. Her international bestseller, The Big Fat Surprisehas upended the conventional wisdom on dietary fat—especially saturated fat. The executive editor of The Lancetwrote, “this is a disquieting book about…ruthless silencing of dissent that has shaped our lives for decades…researchers, clinicians, and health policy advisors should read this provocative book.” The Big Fat Surprise was named a 2014 Best Book by The Economist, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Mother Jones, and Library Journal. Teicholz is also the Executive Director of The Nutrition Coalition, a non-profit group that promotes evidence-based nutrition policy. She is a graduate of Stanford and Oxford Universities and previously served as associate director of the Center for Globalization and Sustainable Development at Columbia University. Teicholz now lives in New York city with her husband and two sons.
This remote Science Salon was recorded on July 19, 2018.
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THE GREAT DEBATE ON THE NATURE OF REALITY
Michael Shermer vs. Frank Turek
Does belief in God make sense of the world? Or does reality itself point to God’s absence? Is God real or is he a product of human minds? On Friday, August 24, watch Michael Shermer and Frank Turek debate “What better explains reality: Atheism or Theism?
MICHAEL SHERMER’S “SKEPTIC” COLUMN IN SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN
23 and We: Limitations of Personal Genome Service Testing
Like a lot of baby boomers, I find myself gravitating to newspaper obits, cross-checking ages and causes of death with my current health parameters, most notably heart disease (which felled my father and grandfather) and cancer (which slew my mother). And then there is Alzheimer’s disease, which a 2015 report by the Alzheimer’s Association projects will destroy the brains of more than 28 million baby boomers. Given the importance of family history and genetics for longevity, I plunked down $199 for a 23andMe Health + Ancestry Service kit, spit into the little plastic vial, opted in for every test available for disease gene variants and anxiously awaited my reports. How’d they do?
First, the company captured my ancestry well at 99.7 percent European, primarily French/German (29.9 percent), British/Irish (21.6 percent), Balkan/Greece (16.4 percent) and Scandinavian/ Sweden (5.5 percent). My maternal grandmother is German and grandfather Greek; my fraternal great-grandparents were from Sweden and Denmark. […]
10 Strange Beauty Secrets Of History’s Most Beautiful Women
Being pretty isn’t easy. The most beautiful women in history weren’t just born that way. They put hard work into it—and, sometimes, a few crushed bug guts, stewed birds, or dung.
It’s the dirty little secret behind glamour: No matter how fantastic someone looks, it never comes naturally. Behind every great beauty in history, there’s a dirty secret about all the work that went into looking that good.
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10Empress Elisabeth: A Face Mask Lined With Raw Veal
The most beautiful woman on earth, in the 19th century, was Empress Elisabeth of Austria. She was famous across Europe for her impeccable skin and the thick, chestnut hair that fell all the way down to her feet.
None of which came easy. To keep her skin beautiful, she would crush strawberries over her hands, face, and neck, bathe in warm olive oil, and sleep in what has only been described as a “mask lined inside with raw veal.”
It was the closest she came to eating food. Her favorite dish was pressed extract of chicken, partridge, venison, and beef—which isn’t so much a “food” as something you’d find in a spice cabinet. And even then, she’d wrap herself in a corset so tight that her waist only measured 49.5 centimeters (19.5 in) around.
She spent three hours each day getting her hair down, mainly because it was so long that it would get tied up in knots. And when it was put up in ribbons, her hair would get so heavy that it would give her headaches.
It meant that, more often than not, she was stuck indoors, too afraid to let the wind ruin her hair. But if you want to be beautiful, sometimes you have to give up on little luxuries, like ever leaving your house.
9Cleopatra: Bathing In Donkey Milk
Queen Cleopatra won the hearts of the most powerful men alive. Maybe it was her grace. Maybe it was her charm. Or maybe it was that sweet aroma of dung and insect guts.
Cleopatra, after all, almost certainly followed the usual beauty conventions of her time—and that meant wearing a lipstick made out of mashed-up beetle guts and putting powdered crocodile dung under her eyes.
But Cleopatra didn’t limit herself to a peasant’s beauty regimen. She was a queen, and that meant that she could afford the most luxurious treatment of all: bathing in sour donkey milk. Her servants would milk 700 donkeys each day so that they could fill a tub with their milk. Then, once it had gone bad, Cleopatra would bathe inside.
The theory was that it would reduce wrinkles—and it may actually have worked. Soured lactose turns into lactic acid, which can make the surface layer of skin on a woman’s body peel off, revealing the smoother, blemish-free skin underneath.
That was the real secret to her beauty: burning her flesh off.
8Nefertiti: Wearing Enough Makeup To Kill You
The Egyptian queen Nefertiti’s name meant “the beautiful one has come”—and she lived up to it. She was so beautiful that, in the early 20th century, a statue of her face caused an international sensation. More than 3,000 years after she died, her looks were still front-page news.
And no wonder. She put no small amount of work into looking good.
The queens of Nefertiti’s time would be buried with their makeup, and so, while they didn’t write many of their beauty secrets down, we’ve been able to find their methods left behind in their tombs. While her tomb has never been found, the tombs of her contemporaries give us a pretty good idea of how she did it.
Nefertiti was completely hairless. Her entire body was shaved from head to toe with a razor, including the hair on the top of her head. Instead, she topped her head with a wig and painted her eyes black with something called kohl.
Ancient Egyptian kohl, incidentally, was made out of the dark lead ore galena—which means that Nefertiti was slowly killing herself with lead poisoning every time she put on makeup.
But it’s highly unlikely that the lead killed her. There’s simply no way it could have finished her off before her lipstick. Her lipstick, after all, contained bromine mannite, another toxic substance that it’s generally believed would have poisoned her long before the lead she dabbed around her eyes.
7Queen Elizabeth I: Coating Your Skin In Lead
Poisoning yourself with lead is no passing fad. It’s been a great look for thousands of years. While Nefertiti may have dabbed a little lead around her eyes, it was nothing compared to Queen Elizabeth I.
During the Elizabethan era, the most popular skin product was something called “Venetian ceruse”—which, quite simply, was a mixture of lead and vinegar that women would put all over their skin to make them look porcelain white.
Nobody used more of it than Queen Elizabeth herself. When she was 29, Elizabeth contracted smallpox and was left with scars all over her skin. She was too humiliated to show her scars in public—and so, instead, she covered every inch of her flesh with the toxic white paint.
Queen Elizabeth used so much of it that she was completely unrecognizable without it. When one man, the Earl of Essex, accidentally peeked a sight of her without her makeup on, he went around joking that she’d hidden a “crooked carcass” underneath that thick veneer of Venetian ceruse.
6Marie Antoinette: Stewed Pigeon Water
The French queen Marie Antoinette didn’t exactly let herself eat cake. She had a reputation as a world-class beauty, and she was determined to keep it up.
Like Empress Elisabeth, she would go to bed with a face mask, but Antoinette’s—made of cognac, eggs, powdered milk, and lemon—sounds a little bit less like a beauty treatment and a little bit more like the catering menu at a birthday party.
She’d start the morning by washing her face with a facial cleanser made out of pigeons. In those days, that was a selling point: the product came proudly labeled with the mean “Eau Cosmetique de Pigeon” and a little ad promising every bottle had been made with “eight pigeons stewed.”
Then she would get dressed—for the first of three times each day. As queen of France, Marie Antoinette was expected to never wear the same thing twice. And so, each year, she would 120,000 livres on clothes, the equivalent to about $4 million today.
She may even have indulged in the popular French fashion of tracing her veins with a blue pencil. At the time, the women of France wanted to be so thin that they were translucent—so they’d draw the inner workings of their bodies, trying to convince the men that they had transparent skin.
5Mary, Queen Of Scots: Bathing In Wine
Mary, Queen of Scots, wasn’t a natural beauty. She was born with a nose a little large and a chin a little too sharp—but she was a queen, and she was determined to be beautiful.
To keep her skin as striking as possible, she had her servants fill a bathtub with a white wine. She would wade in it, convinced that the wine was improving her complexion.
It sounds decadent, but it’s actually something people still do today. Today, it’s called vinotherapy, and there are places all around the world where you can experience the Mary, Queen of Scots, treatment for yourself.
It’s hard to say exactly what the queen used, but the modern vinotherapists don’t actually pour drinkable, alcoholic wine. Instead, they use the leftover compost from the winemaking process; the “pips and pulps” of grapes that get left behind. So, no—you can’t get drunk off of it.
4Empress Zoe Porphyrogenita: Starting Your Own Cosmetics Lab
Empress Zoe Porphyrogenita was one of the most beautiful women in the Byzantine Empire. She didn’t just look good when she was young, though. Even when she was well into her sixties, it’s said, she still looked like a 20-year-old.
She certainly worked hard enough for it. After becoming the empress, Zoe Porphyrogenita had an entire laboratory dedicated to making her cosmeticsbuilt inside of the imperial palace. It was a real cosmetic factory, every bit as huge and expensive as the ones that supply whole countries. At this one, though, Zoe was the only customer.
It was expensive—but for the empress, blowing a small fortune was just all in a day’s work. It’s said that she was “the sort of woman who could exhaust a sea teaming with gold-dust in one day.”
But it’s also said that “like a well-baked chicken, every part of her was firm and in good condition.” This is definitive proof that it worked, because, clearly, Zoe looked so good that the men who saw her were so smitten that they couldn’t even form a sentence that didn’t make your skin crawl.
3Lucrezia Borgia: Spending Multiple Days Washing Your Hair
The poet Lord Byron once said that Lucrezia Borgia’s hair was “the prettiest and fairest imaginable.” He wasn’t just trying out a line for a new poem—he was in love, so much so, in fact, that he stole a strand of her hair and kept it by his bed.
It sounds one of those touching love stories that usually end with someone filing a restraining order. Lucrezia, though, probably appreciated it. She deserved a little recognition for the amount of work she put into that hair—because she would spend days washing it.
Lucrezia’s hair was bright and blonde, but that wasn’t nature. Everyone else in her family had dark hair. Lucrezia, though, made sure hers shined like the Sun by rinsing it in lye and lemon juice for hours, then drying it out in the sunlight for the better part of a day.
It took so much time that she repeatedly canceled trips to wash her hair. Multiple letters from Lucrezia’s attendants have survived to to this day. In them, she politely apologizes to people and explains that she will be a few days late because she has to “put her clothes in order and wash her head.”
2Helen Of Troy: Bathing In Vinegar
Helen of Troy had the face that launched 1,000 ships. She was a woman so beautiful that thousands of men died for her honor.
Well, either that, or else she was just a figment of an old Greek guy’s imagination. If Homer really did make her up, though, he had a remarkable understanding of women’s cosmetic care. Because packed deep in her legend is a beauty regimen that really works.
Helen of Troy, according to the Iliad, would bathe in vinegar. Every day, her attendants would prepare what, technically speaking, was a bathtub full of acid, and she would just dive right in.
Today, people tend to assume that she used apple cider vinegar or that she diluted it in water, simply because, otherwise, it sounds pretty horrible. After all, that’s something people still do today—bathe in a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water. And it actually works. The vinegar balances the body’s pH levels, which can have a cleansing effect.
But there’s nothing saying Helen of Troy ever added water. She may just have dived right into a bathtub filled to the brim with white vinegar. It would’ve hurt, and she would’ve smelled—but that’s what it takes to look good enough to start a war.
1Simonetta Vespucci: Arsenic, Leeches, And Human Urine
Even if you don’t know her name, you’ve seen Simonetta Vespucci’s face. She was the muse for some of the greatest painters of the Renaissance. She was even chosen to model for the goddess of love herself at the center of the painting The Birth of Venus.
In the Renaissance, everyone wanted to look like her. And so they copied her beauty regimen—leeches, poisons, and all.
To keep their skin pale, white, and beautiful, the women in Vespucci’s time would attach leeches to their ears. The leeches would drain the blood out of their faces, leaving them deathly pale.
Those who didn’t want to go that far, though, could always use a face mask. Renaissance women would mix bread crumbs and egg whites with vinegar and then apply it liberally on their faces—a beauty secret that, conveniently, doubles as a great recipe for fried chicken.
Eyebrow hair, at the time, had to be plucked, or, ideally, burned straight off. Women would remove their hairs with arsenic and rock alum and then sand it all down with gold.
But that was nothing compared to what they’d do to get that long, flowing, golden mane of hair on her head. For Vespucci, it just came naturally, but the poorer women who wanted to copy her found their own way. They bleached their hair in human urine.
Sure, it sounds gross—but every beautiful woman has to do a few things that just aren’t pretty.
Perspective to lift the blinders of our cultural moment.
BY MARIA POPOVA
It has been a difficult year — politically, personally. Through it all, I have found solace in taking a more telescopic view — not merely on the short human timescale of my own life, looking back on having lived through a Communist dictatorship and having seen poems composed and scientific advances made under such tyrannical circumstances, but on far vaster scales of space and time.
When I was growing up in Bulgaria, a great point of national pride — and we Bulgarians don’t have too many — was that an old Bulgarian folk song had sailed into space aboard the Voyagerspacecraft, the 1977 mission NASA launched with the scientific objective of photographing the planets of the outer solar system, which furnished the very first portrait of our cosmic neighborhood. Human eyes had never before been laid on the arresting aquamarine of Uranus, on Neptune’s stunning deep-blue orb, on the splendid fury of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot — a storm more than threefold the size of our entire planet, raging for three hundred years, the very existence of which dwarfs every earthly trouble.
But the Voyager also had another, more romantic mission. Aboard it was the Golden Record — a time-capsule of the human spirit encrypted in binary code on a twelve-inch gold-plated copper disc, containing greetings in the fifty-four most populist human languages and one from the humpback whales, 117 images of life on Earth, and a representative selection of our planet’s sounds, from an erupting volcano to a kiss to Bach — and that Bulgarian folk song.
Bulgaria is an old country — fourteen centuries old, five of which were spent under Ottoman yoke. This song, sung by generations of shepherdesses, encodes in its stunning vocal harmonies both the suffering and the hope with which people lived daily during those five centuries. You need not speak Bulgarian in order to receive its message, its essence, its poetic truth beyond the factual details of history, in the very marrow of your being.
Carl Sagan, who envisioned the Golden Record, had precisely that in mind — he saw the music selection as something that would say about us what no words or figures could ever say, for the stated objective of the Golden Record was to convey our essence as a civilization to some other civilization — one that surmounts the enormous improbabilities of finding this tiny spacecraft adrift amid the cosmic infinitude, of having the necessary technology to decode its message and the necessary consciousness to comprehend it.
But the record’s unstated objective, which I see as the far more important one, was to mirror what is best of humanity back to itself in the middle of the Cold War, at a time when we seemed to have forgotten who we are to each other and what it means to share this fragile, symphonic planet.
When the Voyager completed its exploratory mission and took the last photograph — of Neptune — NASA commanded that the cameras be shut off to conserve energy. But Carl Sagan had the idea of turning the spacecraft around and taking one final photograph — of Earth. Objections were raised — from so great a distance and at so low a resolution, the resulting image would have absolutely no scientific value. But Sagan saw the larger poetic worth — he took the request all the way up to NASA’s administrator and charmed his way into permission.
And so, on Valentine’s Day of 1990, just after Bulgaria’s Communist regime was finally defeated after nearly half a century of reign, the Voyager took the now-iconic image of Earth known as the “Pale Blue Dot” — a grainy pixel, “a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam,” as Sagan so poetically put it when he immortalized the photograph in his beautiful “Pale Blue Dot” monologue fromCosmos — that great masterwork of perspective, a timeless reminder that “everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was… every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician” lived out their lives on this pale blue dot. And every political conflict, every war we’ve ever fought, we have waged over a fraction of this grainy pixel barely perceptible against the cosmic backdrop of endless lonesome space.
In the cosmic blink of our present existence, as we stand on this increasingly fragmented pixel, it is worth keeping the Voyager in mind as we find our capacity for perspective constricted by the stranglehold of our cultural moment. It is worth questioning what proportion of the news this year, what imperceptible fraction, was devoted to the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, awarded for the landmark detection of gravitational waves — the single most significant astrophysical discovery since Galileo. After centuries of knowing the universe only by sight, only by looking, we can now listen to it and hear echoes of events that took place billions of lightyears away, billions of years ago — events that made the stardust that made us.
I don’t think it is possible to contribute to the present moment in any meaningful way while being wholly engulfed by it. It is only by stepping out of it, by taking a telescopic perspective, that we can then dip back in and do the work which our time asks of us.
After bringing its worldwide Prime Day sale to India, ecommerce giant Amazon now plans to add benefits to its Prime subscription services which will benefit its offline expansion and encourage frequent use of the programme in the country.
The Telangana government has raised concerns that the implementation of certain clauses, especially the one on data localisation, will isolate Indian startups and hurt investments in the state and the country. Telangana has attracted investments worth $11.5 Bn and is currently the country’s second highest contributor to IT exports.
Payback, a Gurugram-based multi-brand loyalty management company for retail enterprises, is planning to expand its reach to neighbourhood kirana stores with point of sale (PoS) terminals. The company is looking to join hands with local PoS solution providers.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is seeking to rework a proposal prepared by the department of heavy industry on an incentive fund of $759 Mn (INR 5,500 Cr) for EVs as it also wants to use the fund to encourage local manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries. Here’s a curated rundown of other important and related developments in the India and global EV Ecosystem this week.
Mumbai-based fintech startup Upwards Fintech has raised $5 Mn in a Series A round of funding led by Chinese venture fund Shunwei Capital. The round also witnessed participation from the startup’s existing seed investors, including Mumbai-based India Quotient and Mayfield.
Coworking spaces are being availed of not only by startups but also by professional freelancers, emerging businesses, and large corporates. But are coworking spaces startups themselves in a position to survive for long? This is what we have attempted to analyse in Inc42’s ongoing What The Financials [WTF] series.
Being an innovative e-governance project developed by the Rajasthan government’s Department of Information Technology and Communication (DoIT&C), Rajasthan Sampark now aims to empower the residents of the state by providing transparent and accountable means of grievance redressal.
This is the Brain Pickings midweek newsletter: Every Wednesday, I plunge into my twelve-year archive and choose something worth resurfacing and resavoring as a timeless pick-me-up for heart, mind, and spirit. (If you don’t yet subscribe to the standard Sunday newsletter of new pieces published each week, you can sign up here – it’s free.) If you missed last week’s archival piece – the great Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh on how to love and mastering the art of “interbeing” – you can read it here. And if you find any value and joy in my labor of love, please consider supporting it with a donation – over these twelve years, I have spent tens of thousands of hours and tremendous resources on Brain Pickings, and every little bit of support helps keep it going. If you already donate: THANK YOU.
One November night in the 1870s, legendary Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky (November 11, 1821–February 9, 1881) discovered the meaning of life in a dream — or, at least, the protagonist in his final short story did. The piece, which first appeared in the altogether revelatory A Writer’s Diary (public library) under the title “The Dream of a Queer Fellow” and was later published separately as The Dream of a Ridiculous Man, explores themes similar to those in Dostoyevsky’s 1864 novel Notes from the Underground, considered the first true existential novel. True to Stephen King’s assertion that “good fiction is the truth inside the lie,”the story sheds light on Dostoyevsky’s personal spiritual and philosophical bents with extraordinary clarity — perhaps more so than any of his other published works. The contemplation at its heart falls somewhere between Tolstoy’s tussle with the meaning of life and Philip K. Dick’s hallucinatory exegesis.
Portrait of Fyodor Dostoyevsky by Vasily Perov, 1871
The story begins with the narrator wandering the streets of St. Petersburg on “a gloomy night, the gloomiest night you can conceive,” dwelling on how others have ridiculed him all his life and slipping into nihilism with the “terrible anguish” of believing that nothing matters. He peers into the glum sky, gazes at a lone little star, and contemplates suicide; two months earlier, despite his destitution, he had bought an “excellent revolver” with the same intention, but the gun had remained in his drawer since. Suddenly, as he is staring at the star, a little girl of about eight, wearing ragged clothes and clearly in distress, grabs him by the arm and inarticulately begs his help. But the protagonist, disenchanted with life, shoos her away and returns to the squalid room he shares with a drunken old captain, furnished with “a sofa covered in American cloth, a table with some books, two chairs and an easy-chair, old, incredibly old, but still an easy-chair.”
As he sinks into the easy-chair to think about ending his life, he finds himself haunted by the image of the little girl, leading him to question his nihilistic disposition. Dostoyevsky writes:
I knew for certain that I would shoot myself that night, but how long I would sit by the table — that I did not know. I should certainly have shot myself, but for that little girl.
You see: though it was all the same to me, I felt pain, for instance. If any one were to strike me, I should feel pain. Exactly the same in the moral sense: if anything very pitiful happened, I would feel pity, just as I did before everything in life became all the same to me. I had felt pity just before: surely, I would have helped a child without fail. Why did I not help the little girl, then? It was because of an idea that came into my mind then. When she was pulling at me and calling to me, suddenly a question arose before me, which I could not answer. The question was an idle one; but it made me angry. I was angry because of my conclusion, that if I had already made up my mind that I would put an end to myself to-night, then now more than ever before everything in the world should be all the same to me. Why was it that I felt it was not all the same to me, and pitied the little girl? I remember I pitied her very much: so much that I felt a pain that was even strange and incredible in my situation…
It seemed clear that if I was a man and not a cipher yet, and until I was changed into a cipher, then I was alive and therefore could suffer, be angry and feel shame for my actions. Very well. But if I were to kill myself, for instance, in two hours from now, what is the girl to me, and what have I to do with shame or with anything on earth? I am going to be a cipher, an absolute zero. Could my consciousness that I would soon absolutely cease to exist, and that therefore nothing would exist, have not the least influence on my feeling of pity for the girl or on my sense of shame for the vileness I had committed?
From the moral, he veers into the existential:
It became clear to me that life and the world, as it were, depended upon me. I might even say that the world had existed for me alone. I should shoot myself, and then there would be no world at all, for me at least. Not to mention that perhaps there will really be nothing for any one after me, and the whole world, as soon as my consciousness is extinguished, will also be extinguished like a phantom, as part of my consciousness only, and be utterly abolished, since perhaps all this world and all these men are myself alone.
Beholding “these new, thronging questions,” he plunges into a contemplation of what free will really means. In a passage that calls to mind John Cage’s famous aphorism on the meaning of life — “No why. Just here.” — and George Lucas’s assertion that “life is beyond reason,” Dostoyevsky suggests through his protagonist that what gives meaning to life is life itself:
One strange consideration suddenly presented itself to me. If I had previously lived on the moon or in Mars, and I had there been dishonored and disgraced so utterly that one can only imagine it sometimes in a dream or a nightmare, and if I afterwards found myself on earth and still preserved a consciousness of what I had done on the other planet, and if I knew besides that I would never by any chance return, then, if I were to look at the moon from the earth — would it be all the same to me or not? Would I feel any shame for my action or not? The questions were idle and useless, for the revolver was already lying before me, and I knew with all my being that this thing would happen for certain: but the questions excited me to rage. I could not die now, without having solved this first. In a word, that little girl saved me, for my questions made me postpone pulling the trigger.
Just as he ponders this, the protagonist slips into sleep in the easy-chair, but it’s a sleep that has the quality of wakeful dreaming. In one of many wonderful semi-asides, Dostoyevsky peers at the eternal question of why we have dreams:
Dreams are extraordinarily strange. One thing appears with terrifying clarity, with the details finely set like jewels, while you leap over another, as though you did not notice it at all — space and time, for instance. It seems that dreams are the work not of mind but of desire, not of the head but of the heart… In a dream things quite incomprehensible come to pass. For instance, my brother died five years ago. Sometimes I see him in a dream: he takes part in my affairs, and we are very excited, while I, all the time my dream goes on, know and remember perfectly that my brother is dead and buried. Why am I not surprised that he, though dead, is still near me and busied about me? Why does my mind allow all that?
In this strange state, the protagonist dreams that he takes his revolver and points it at his heart — not his head, where he had originally intended to shoot himself. After waiting a second or two, his dream-self pulls the trigger quickly. Then something remarkable happens:
I felt no pain, but it seemed to me that with the report, everything in me was convulsed, and everything suddenly extinguished. It was terribly black all about me. I became as though blind and numb, and I lay on my back on something hard. I could see nothing, neither could I make any sound. People were walking and making a noise about me: the captain’s bass voice, the landlady’s screams… Suddenly there was a break. I am being carried in a closed coffin. I feel the coffin swinging and I think about that, and suddenly for the first time the idea strikes me that I am dead, quite dead. I know it and do not doubt it; I cannot see nor move, yet at the same time I feel and think. But I am soon reconciled to that, and as usual in a dream I accept the reality without a question.
Now I am being buried in the earth. Every one leaves me and I am alone, quite alone. I do not stir… I lay there and — strange to say — I expected nothing, accepting without question that a dead man has nothing to expect. But it was damp. I do not know how long passed — an hour, a few days, or many days. Suddenly, on my left eye which was closed, a drop of water fell, which had leaked through the top of the grave. In a minute fell another, then a third, and so on, every minute. Suddenly, deep indignation kindled in my heart and suddenly in my heart I felt physical pain. ‘It’s my wound,’ I thought. ‘It’s where I shot myself. The bullet is there.’ And all the while the water dripped straight on to my closed eye. Suddenly, I cried out, not with a voice, for I was motionless, but with all my being, to the arbiter of all that was being done to me.
“Whosoever thou art, if thou art, and if there exists a purpose more intelligent than the things which are now taking place, let it be present here also. But if thou dost take vengeance upon me for my foolish suicide, then know, by the indecency and absurdity of further existence, that no torture whatever that may befall me, can ever be compared to the contempt which I will silently feel, even through millions of years of martyrdom.”
I cried out and was silent. Deep silence lasted a whole minute. One more drop even fell. But I knew and believed, infinitely and steadfastly, that in a moment everything would infallibly change. Suddenly, my grave opened. I do not know whether it had been uncovered and opened, but I was taken by some dark being unknown to me, and we found ourselves in space. Suddenly, I saw. It was deep night; never, never had such darkness been! We were borne through space and were already far from the earth. I asked nothing of him who led me. I was proud and waited. I assured myself that I was not afraid, and my heart melted with rapture at the thought that I was not afraid. I do not remember how long we rushed through space, and I cannot imagine it. It happened as always in a dream when you leap over space and time and the laws of life and mind, and you stop only there where your heart delights.
The 1845 depiction of a galaxy that inspired Van Gogh’s ‘The Starry Night,’ from Michael Benson’s Cosmigraphics: Picturing Space Through Time
Through the thick darkness, he sees a star — the same little star he had seen before shooing the girl away. As the dream continues, the protagonist describes a sort of transcendence akin to what is experienced during psychedelic drug trips or in deep meditation states:
Suddenly a familiar yet most overwhelming emotion shook me through. I saw our sun. I knew that it could not be our sun, which had begotten our earth, and that we were an infinite distance away, but somehow all through me I recognized that it was exactly the same sun as ours, its copy and double. A sweet and moving delight echoed rapturously through my soul. The dear power of light, of that same light which had given me birth, touched my heart and revived it, and I felt life, the old life, for the first time since my death.
He finds himself in another world, Earthlike in every respect, except “everything seemed to be bright with holiday, with a great and sacred triumph, finally achieved” — a world populated by “children of the sun,” happy people whose eyes “shone with a bright radiance” and whose faces “gleamed with wisdom, and with a certain consciousness, consummated in tranquility.” The protagonist exclaims:
Oh, instantly, at the first glimpse of their faces I understood everything, everything!
Conceding that “it was only a dream,” he nonetheless asserts that “the sensation of the love of those beautiful and innocent people” was very much real and something he carried into wakeful life on Earth. Awaking in his easy-chair at dawn, he exclaims anew with rekindled gratitude for life:
Oh, now — life, life! I lifted my hands and called upon the eternal truth, not called, but wept. Rapture, ineffable rapture exalted all my being. Yes, to live…
Dostoyevsky concludes with his protagonist’s reflection on the shared essence of life, our common conquest of happiness and kindness:
All are tending to one and the same goal, at least all aspire to the same goal, from the wise man to the lowest murderer, but only by different ways. It is an old truth, but there is this new in it: I cannot go far astray. I saw the truth. I saw and know that men could be beautiful and happy, without losing the capacity to live upon the earth. I will not, I cannot believe that evil is the normal condition of men… I saw the truth, I did not invent it with my mind. I saw, saw, and her living image filled my soul for ever. I saw her in such consummate perfection that I cannot possibly believe that she was not among men. How can I then go astray? … The living image of what I saw will be with me always, and will correct and guide me always. Oh, I am strong and fresh, I can go on, go on, even for a thousand years.
And it is so simple… The one thing is — love thy neighbor as thyself — that is the one thing. That is all, nothing else is needed. You will instantly find how to live.
A century later, Jack Kerouac would echo this in his own magnificent meditation on kindness and the “Golden Eternity.”
A Writer’s Diary is a beautiful read in its entirety. Complement it with Tolstoy on finding meaning in a meaningless world and Margaret Mead’s dreamed epiphany about why life is like blue jelly.
NASSCOM Design4India Design Summit 2018
NASSCOM Design4India Design Summit 2018 will take place on 26th September 2018 at JW Marriott, Bengaluru. The 3rd edition aims to bring together industry experts from the design and tech community to network and discuss how emerging technologies, when aligned with design can create better user experiences.
Same taste, same flavour – that’s Haazri’s promise for your daily chai
Karan Shinghal, Arjun Midha, and Dhruv Agarwal have come up with a unique recipe, and process, so that your tea tastes the same, every time. That’s Haazri’s promise for your daily chai! Started in April 2016, Haazri’s tea is priced at Rs 20 a cup, and the team uses a standardised recipe across its five outlets, using tea leaves sourced from Dibrugarh.
Mumbai-based Agrahyah Technologies is riding the voice and vernacular wave on the internet
Founded in October 2016 by Sreeraman Thiagarajan, Uppal Shah, and Rushabh Vasa, Mumbai-based Agrahyah Technologies is riding the voice and vernacular wave on the internet. The software firm and content producer rolled into one is building a suite of apps, websites, content platforms, and voice-based products for India’s vernacular population.
“To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.”
BY MARIA POPOVA
“No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life,”wrote the thirty-year-old Nietzsche. “The true and durable path into and through experience,” Nobel-winning poet Seamus Heaney counseled the young more than a century later in his magnificent commencement address, “involves being true … to your own solitude, true to your own secret knowledge.”
Every generation believes that it must battle unprecedented pressures of conformity; that it must fight harder than any previous generation to protect that secret knowledge from which our integrity of selfhood springs. Some of this belief stems from the habitual conceit of a culture blinded by its own presentism bias, ignorant of the past’s contextual analogues. But much of it in the century and a half since Nietzsche, and especially in the years since Heaney, is an accurate reflection of the conditions we have created and continually reinforce in our present informational ecosystem — a Pavlovian system of constant feedback, in which the easiest and commonest opinions are most readily rewarded, and dissenting voices are most readily punished by the unthinking mob.
Few people in the two centuries since Emerson issued his exhortation to “trust thyself” have countered this culturally condoned blunting of individuality more courageously and consistently than E.E. Cummings (October 14, 1894–September 3, 1962) — an artist who never cowered from being his unconventional self because, in the words of his most incisive and competent biographer, he “despised fear, and his life was lived in defiance of all who ruled by it.”
A fortnight after the poet’s fifty-ninth birthday, a small Michigan newspaper published a short, enormous piece by Cummings under the title “A Poet’s Advice to Students,” radiating expansive wisdom on art, life, and the courage of being yourself. It went on to inspire Buckminster Fuller and was later included in E.E. Cummings: A Miscellany Revised (public library) — that wonderful out-of-print collection which the poet himself described as “a cluster of epigrams, forty-nine essays on various subjects, a poem dispraising dogmata, and several selections from unfinished plays,” and which gave us Cummings on what it really means to be an artist.
Addressing those who aspire to be poets — no doubt in that broadest Baldwinian sense of wakeful artists in any medium and courageous seers of human truth — Cummings echoes the poet Laura Riding’s exquisite letters to an eight-year-old girl about being oneself and writes:
A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feelings through words.
This may sound easy. It isn’t.
A lot of people think or believe or know they feel — but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And poetry is feeling — not knowing or believing or thinking.
Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.
To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
Cummings should know — just four years earlier, he had fought that hardest battle himself: When he was awarded the prestigious Academy of American Poets annual fellowship — the MacArthur of poetry — Cummings had to withstand harsh criticism from traditionalists who besieged him with hate for the bravery of breaking with tradition and being nobody-but-himself in his art. With an eye to that unassailable creative integrity buoyed by relentless work ethic, he adds:
As for expressing nobody-but-yourself in words, that means working just a little harder than anybody who isn’t a poet can possibly imagine. Why? Because nothing is quite as easy as using words like somebody else. We all of us do exactly this nearly all of the time — and whenever we do it, we’re not poets.
If, at the end of your first ten or fifteen years of fighting and working and feeling, you find you’ve written one line of one poem, you’ll be very lucky indeed.
And so my advice to all young people who wish to become poets is: do something easy, like learning how to blow up the world — unless you’re not only willing, but glad, to feel and work and fight till you die.
Does that sound dismal? It isn’t.
It’s the most wonderful life on earth.
Or so I feel.
Complement the thoroughly invigorating E.E. Cummings: A Miscellany Revised with a lovely illustrated celebration of Cummings’s creative bravery, then revisit Pulitzer-winning poet Robert Penn Warren on what it really means to find yourself and Janis Joplin on the courage of being what you find.
10 Viruses That Actually Help Humankind
Virus. The word is usually met with fear and understandably so. These microscopic collections of biological chemicals have been responsible for countless cases of death and sickness. The very mention of a deadly viral pandemic can send entire neighborhoods, cities, or even geographic zones into a state of sheer, frenzied panic.
Viruses are invisible to the naked eye, and they exist almost everywhere on Earth. They can infect fungi, plants, animals, and yes, humans. Some people have even speculated that viruses could pose a grave threat to the future of humanity.
However, not all viruses are bad. In fact, as we learn more about them, we are discovering that some viruses are actually quite beneficial. They have helped us in ways that we didn’t realize at first, and others pose interesting but positive possibilities for our future.
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Sponsored by Connatix
Bacteriophages are viruses that infect bacteria. They are found almost everywhere—in soil, in water, and even in the human body (mostly in our gut and mucus).
They were originally discovered in 1915 by Frederick Twort and have since become relatively famous in the field of microbiology as a therapeutic tool to help control bacterial infections.
While “phage therapy” is still under development, it is possible that it could be used in a number of different applications. It has already been used to treat some different types of ailments, and it shows great promise for the treatment of conditions ranging from cystic fibrosis to cancer. Some say that in our age of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, phage therapy also offers a viable replacement for traditional antibiotics.
9There Is A Virus That Gives Plants Extreme Heat Resistance
Tropical panic grass has always had the ability to grow in soil with an unusually high temperature. Researchers have since discovered that the cause behind this unique ability seems to be a virus. A fungal endophyte grows on this grass, and a virus that infects this fungus seems to be the source of this heat-resistant power.
Even more interesting, scientists attached the virus to other plants, giving them the same ability. The researchers even managed to grow tomatoes in soil as hot as 60 degrees Celsius (140 °F) without killing them.
But what happens if you remove the virus? They discovered that plants “cured” of the virus lost the ability to grow in extreme heat. Maybe that’s how the Human Torch does it.
8Vesicular Stomatitis Virus
Vesticular stomatitis virus (VSV) is a contagious disease that is best known for afflicting horses, although it can also infect other animals and even humans. It is not usually fatal or even particularly dangerous for humans, though it can cause flu-like symptoms. Some people even develop blisters in their mouths as a result of the virus, which is usually transmitted to humans through horses.
But this virus has also made headlines for its use in oncolytic virus (OV) therapy. Yes, VSV has shown promise as an emerging anticancer treatment. Apparently, one of the reasons that this virus is such a good fit for OV therapy is because it is “not pathogenic to humans.”
Who would have thought that a virus that caused mouth ulcers in horses would be the source of a groundbreaking new cancer treatment?
Adenoviruses are a group of fairly common viruses. They are extremely contagious, usually cause only mild symptoms, and generally go away within a few days.
Some of them are actually quite well known. Bronchitis, pneumonia, many stomach infections, colds, croup, and even meningitis can all be found within the adenovirus family.
But researchers have also learned that one particular strain of the virus, type 52 (HAdV-52), binds to a very specific type of carbohydrate found in cancer cells. This creates some interesting possibilities for virus-based cancer therapy.
There is obviously more studying to be done. But in the future, scientists might be able to arm viruses with genes to help fight cancer. They may also be able to use viruses to activate the body’s own immune system to fight the cancer itself.
Virologists have become especially interested in noroviruses. These particular micro life-forms are well known for their ability to cause epidemics of diarrhea on cruise ships. They are also infamous for their ability to ravage laboratory mice colonies with disease.
But as it turns out, some strains of the virus have proven useful—especially for their role in helping to “normalize” mice that have grown in sterile environments. These mice don’t make enough T cells, which hurts their gut bacteria and immune response.
To fix the problem, researchers have shown that giving bacteria to the mice can help to rebalance their immune cells, but adding a norovirus to the mix can actually solve the same problem. Researchers also found that some strains of the norovirus helped to lessen the effects of pathogens that usually cause weight loss, diarrhea, and other related symptoms in mice.
This makes for an exciting discovery as researchers unveil new ways to use viruses for good. Giving strains of the norovirus to humans to treat other diseases would be seen as highly controversial, but a lot of evidence says that it could actually help.
Ancient retroviruses may be the reason we don’t lay eggs.
Scientists have yet to unravel the entire part that ancient retroviruses have played in human development. But some of them, technically referred to as “endogenous retroviruses,” are believed to have helped in the evolution of the placenta in mammals.
To put it in super simple terms, some scientists believe that a primitive human ancestor contracted an endogenous retrovirus that caused mutations in the genetic code. This eventually led to mammals being capable of live birth.
The formation of the placenta was a huge step in the evolutionary process because it allowed mammals to give birth to live young. But when you take a really close look at the relationship between a mother and a fetus, it is not surprising that it shares many of the same characteristics that you would expect to see in the relationship between a host and a parasite.
The work is ongoing. But don’t be surprised if we discover someday that the reason human females give birth to live babies instead of laying eggs is thanks to an ancient virus that altered our DNA.
This one is fairly technical, but it is no less amazing.
The Gammaherpesvirinae is technically a subfamily of herpesviruses that includes a number of different viruses. There are actually many different types of herpes viruses, with the best-known examples probably being herpes simplex virus type 1 and herpes simplex virus type 2, which cause cold sores and genital herpes.
As it turns out, latent infection with one type of gammaherpesvirus (type MHV-68) has been shown to increase resistance to infection with Listeria monocytogenes—the bacteria best known for food poisoning.
Who would have thought that herpes would help to fight food poisoning?
This story actually begins with a dangerous virus called smallpox. Nobody is sure where it came from. But it is believed that even as early as the third century BC, it was afflicting the Egyptian empire. Records of it have been discovered in China from the fourth century, and it has basically shown up everywhere since.
It was a devastating disease that killed about 30 percent of infected people. Even those who survived were often left with terrible scars as a result of the ordeal.
But in 1796, an English doctor named Edward Jenner made a discovery. He noticed that milkmaids tended not to contract smallpox as often as everyone else. Soon, he realized that a similar virus called cowpox often spread from cows to the milkmaids and may have had something to do with it.
He tested his theory by inoculating a boy with material from a cowpox sore and then exposing him to smallpox. Although it may sound like a shocking experiment, it was actually successful. This led to the practice of vaccination that ended up eradicating the smallpox virus two centuries later.
HIV is probably one of the most terrifying and infamous viruses of the 21st century. Nevertheless, another virus, GBV-C, has been getting some attention from scientists for its effect on those who are HIV positive.
GBV-C is a member of the Flaviviridae family of viruses and can also be referred to as hepatitis G. The interesting aspect of this virus is its effect on the progression of HIV.
To put it simply, people who have both HIV and GBV-C tend to display a slower progression to AIDS and improved odds of survival—which is pretty amazing.
Who would have imagined that a virus as dangerous as HIV could possibly be slowed down by the existence of another virus?
1The Arc Gene
Did you know that human consciousness may have originally been caused by a virus? Yes, it is possible, and here is why.
Researchers believe that a virus attached itself to the genome of one of our ancestors long ago—probably even before we walked on two legs. But they also believe that a tiny bit of the genetic coding contained within the virus still exists within our brains today and may be responsible for some serious “brain power,” including consciousness itself.
The Arc gene is essential for the learning process in humans. Weirdly enough, it communicates by sending genetic material from one neuron to another using a process that is commonly seen in viruses.
Further research must be done to determine exactly what this means. But right now, it looks as though it is very possible that we inherited our ability to learn and form conscious thoughts from the genetic material of some ancient brain virus!
Yes, the universe is definitely a weird and mysterious place.
Some photos and videos are uploaded to the Internet and explode seemingly overnight. Feverish sharing transforms these bits of media into global sensations and starts new trends. Many feel encouraged to join in with the fun and keeping up with the cool kids.
Some of these trends entice us to do wonderful things for each other—but then there are others that have been known to result in real human stupidity. Collectively, the following Internet trends all resulted in serious injury, physical scarring, and even death. They are the ones to avoid or risk the chance of meeting the same fate.
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Momo is a terrifying Internet trend that has been linked to the suicides of two teenagers and one child. The twisted challenge-based game has been played across South America, Asia, Mexico, France, Germany, and the United States. Players are encouraged to text a number on WhatsApp that reaches “Momo,” and the creepy, wide-eyed horror character messages back with their next challenge. The challenges include self-harm, watching horror films, and waking up at unusual hours. Players are threatened that their personal information will be leaked if they do not commit to the tasks. The final challenge is to commit suicide.
In India, an 18-year-old boy was found hanging in a shed near his home in Kurseong in August 2018. The walls of the shed were covered in graffiti related to the game. It was also reported that in Barbosa, Colombia, in September 2018, a 16-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl had committed suicide, and investigators discovered activity linked to the game on their phones. Police are still working hard to see who is behind Momo.
9Blue Whale Challenge
In 2016, a social network phenomenon known as the Blue Whale Challenge went viral with tragic consequences. The sinister game begins with players following a social media account that assigns tasks to the players over a 50-day period. These tasks include self-harm and end with encouraged suicide. According to InfoSec Awareness Online, the game has been linked to 130 deaths in Russia.
In early 2018, the bodies of two half-sisters, 12-year-old Maria Vinogradova and 15-year-old Anastasia Svetozarova, were found in the snow outside their apartment in Izhevsk, Russia. It was believed they had both jumped from the ten-story rooftop and that their suicides were linked to the Blue Whale Challenge. Before her death, the younger sister posted a photo of her boyfriend to social media with the caption: “Forgive me, please. I love you so much. I know you will find somebody better than me.”
Planking is a craze that involves taking a photo of someone lying facedown with their arms by their sides to mimic a wooden board. In just a matter of weeks, everyone was doing it, which turned planking into an Internet phenomenon, and the more unusual the location, the better. The craze even saw news anchors planking on their desks in their studios. Although it was intended to be harmless fun, people were constantly trying to one-up each other and began moving into dangerous locations to carry out the stunt.
In 2011, the planking trend claimed a victim when 20-year-old Acton Beale of Queensland, Australia, fell from a high-rise balcony in Brisbane in an attempt at planking. On a Facebook page set up in his memory, one friend wrote: “Those who really knew Acton will remember him for a lot more than one small moment of misjudgment.”
Anyone with a mobile device has surely taken more selfies than they care to admit—only to quickly delete the evidence if they are not as appealing as imagined. Then there are those who took their selfie game to the extreme levels, and some of them ended up paying for it with their own lives. One study reported that between March 2014 and September 2016, there were 127 “selfie deaths” around the world. The study, titled “Me, Myself and My Killfile: Characterizing and Preventing Selfie Deaths,” also revealed that India was the country with the highest number of fatal selfies.
A teenager in Mumbai was killed when she was too distracted taking a selfie and didn’t notice the huge wave that crashed into her, carrying her out to sea. Indian police now have safety measures in place to stop people from taking selfies at dangerous points. The deputy commissioner of police said, “We deploy [police protection] at selfie points when the tide is high. When the weather is rough, we request people not to go near the sea to take selfies. The personnel are sufficiently briefed not to let people pull dangerous stunts.”
Slender Man started as a creepypasta meme and then soon became a global phenomenon that led to an attempted murder. Slender Man is a tall, featureless figure who stalks and abducts children. The creation was feared by many as terrifying stories and pictures circulated online.
Then, in 2014, Morgan Geyser (left above) and Anissa Weier (right above), both 12 years old at the time, lured their friend into the woods in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and stabbed her 19 times. The victim, who was also 12, was able to crawl to a roadside, where got help. She eventually recovered from her near-fatal wounds. After the stabbing, Geyser and Weier set off on foot to find Slender Man in a forest 500 kilometers (300 mi) away.
Both perpetrators were sent to mental institutions, and psychologists found that Weier presented “a diminished ability to determine what is real and what is not real.” The young girl had claimed that she feared had she not carried out the stabbing, then Slender Man would hurt her and her family. Both girls were found “not guilty by mental disease or defect.” They will, however, be institutionalized.
5Punch 4 Punch
In 2014, a 23-year-old father named Tommy Main collapsed and died following a lethal game of Punch 4 Punch. The tragic death came when videos circulated online of people taking part in the Fight Club-style game. Two players take turns hitting each other until one eventually asks to stop. The violent blows are meant to only make contact with the arm or shoulder; however, some players were taking hits to the face and stomach. Others have one arm tied behind their back. The loser then has to typically do a forfeit, which usually involves drinking alcohol. The earliest videos of the craze date back to 2009, though games like Punch 4 Punch have existed since long before the Internet.
One doctor explained, “This is like Fight Club online—it’s going back to the roots of masculinity and testing your strength in that way. There’s that gladiatorial test. When your body moves from that of a child to having the full strength of adulthood, there is a need to test out and compete with others to get a sense of your potency, your strength, your courage.”
One of the craziest trends on social media in recent years was the Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge. Inspired by the reality TV star’s plumped up lips, her followers had begun a trend where they attempted to achieve the same look by sucking on shot glasses, bottles, and jars. The suction-like effect would draw the blood to the lips, creating a “pillow-lipped” look. However, there were many injuries, and some were left permanently scarred. Photos of casualties from the challenge were shared on social media and showed that some people’s lips were even turning black.
Doctors warned that the suction causes micro-trauma to the vessels, scarring, hematoma (clotting), or fibrosis (thickening of the tissue), all of which can result in disfigurement. One doctor advised, “The practice of trying to engorge your lips by suctioning can be dangerous. It’s a traumatic injury when you’re suctioning anything.”
NekNominate was an Internet craze that began in 2014 and resulted in a number of deaths. The game involves people being nominated to down alcohol. The drinking is recorded and put online for others to view. Afterward, someone else is nominated. Often, players will attempt to outdo their friends’ drinking feats. Among those killed by the game was 20-year-old athlete Bradley Eames, who filmed himself downing two pints of gin—he died four days later. Also, 20-year-old Issac Richardson died after drinking a cocktail of wine, whisky, vodka, and beer as part of a NekNominate dare.
The UK’s Office for National Statistics warned, “It is possible in the future we will get a lot more these deaths because of games like NekNominate. We are also seeing deaths from liver disease increasing and we are seeing it appearing in younger people, which suggest they are starting to drink from a younger age and are drinking stronger alcohol.” The warning came after it was reported that accidental alcohol poisoning in England and Wales increased by 200 percent from 2004 to 2014.
Multiple injuries and deaths have been linked to tombstoning, which involves jumping into water from high up, with the body held in a rigid, vertical position. In recent years, teenagers and young adults have started filming each other leaping off a cliff edge known as Dead Man’s Cove in Devon, England. The 20-meter (65 ft) drop to the sea below proved deadly for a 39-year-old man, who fell to his death attempting the tombstoning stunt. A teenager broke his neck in three places, and a 25-year-old was left paralyzed after jumping from the same site.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency warned, “Jumping from piers, cliffs, rocks or other structures into the sea can be very dangerous. The depth of the water can dramatically change with the tide, and what was a deep pool at lunchtime might be a shallow puddle by teatime. [ . . . ] The shock of cold water may make it difficult to swim to safety and strong currents can quickly sweep people away.”
Another dangerous craze is subway surfing, which was once a popular stunt in the 1980s—but then people decided they wanted to live a longer life. The trend has now resurfaced, and New York City has seen a rise in the number of joyriders going where they’re not supposed to go. Local daredevils attempt to hang onto moving subway trains, either from the back on the moving car or on the rooftop.
In 2016, 25-year-old Christopher Serrano from the Bronx died while attempting subway surfing. He was killed as he tried to climb on top of an F train in Brooklyn sometime around 5:00 AM. Serrano was traveling with a female friend when he went between the two moving cars and climbed on top. Investigators believe Serrano may have been clipped by something as the train was moving, which knocked him off. He was pronounced dead at the scene. His death is a tragic reminder that nobody should attempt the same stunt on the subways.
“I don’t have time for professional development,”
Top 10 Surprising New Uses For Foam
In the world of laboratories, foam is not the froth that makes beer look crisp. Appearing as gels, solids, and even at the quantum level, foam is earmarked to improve the lives of humans in remarkable ways.
This flexible substance spawns innovation in combat, operating theaters, and robotics. It also fosters a safer environment for the public. At its most bizarre, foam lies at the heart of a mystery that questions the very nature of reality.
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10Deeper Submarine Exploration
Most vehicles, ships, and aircraft contain something called syntactic foam. The material is renowned for being lightweight, tough, and buoyant. This makes syntactic parts perfect for submarines, except for one thing. They tumble from injection molds as smaller parts needing to be fastened together, and any kind of seam is vulnerable to failure.
In 2018, scientists figured that 3-D printing would solve this by printing the entire part instead of sections. It was not easy. Syntactic foam consists of billions of hollow microspheres, made of glass or ceramic, inside plastic resin.
At first, they were either crushed while mixing the resin or they clogged the printer’s nozzle. Success came when the team changed to another plastic resin and replaced the spheres with balls of fly ash. Blending the two ingredients took great control because the balls could still flatten. However, in the end, the idea worked.
Using commercially available printers, the first intact syntactic foam parts were born. This holds special appeal for deep-sea submarines. Manufacturers can now entertain the idea of printing massive parts as a single unit, enabling submarines to brave the pressure of diving deeper than before.
At one time, asbestos was the material of choice to fireproof buildings. Made of magnesium and silicon oxides, it was both flame retardant and kept plaster from falling off the walls.
When the truth dawned that asbestos was a potent carcinogen, it had been in use for decades and widely installed in homes, offices, and schools. Removing the material took time and a deep wallet. Worse, when asbestos is torn from a wall, some fibers can float around in the air and be inhaled.
In recent years, a Florida fireproofing firm came up with a solution. They created a special foam made of fluoride ions and acids. When injected into a wall, the chemical froth broke down asbestos fibers into a harmless silicate. Not only does it save the homeowner the cost of a new wall and possible illness, but the material that stays behind remains fire resistant.
8First Soundproof Nanofoam
When the Russians and Koreans get together, things get interesting. In this case, the researchers whipped up the world’s first sound-absorbing nanofoam. It may not seem like much, but this groundbreaking material could save lives.
To use foam as a noise blocker is nothing new. Unfortunately, past attempts only blocked high frequencies and it is the lower range that is harmful to humans. Low frequencies such as infrasound can lead to scary health problems.
The new nanofoam is the closest that scientists have come to neutralizing the lower spectrum. It absorbed frequencies as low as 0.5–1.6 kHz. Researchers took sheets of everyday sound-absorbing foam and injected each with microscopic granules of silica and magnetite. The final steps included soaking the sheets in liquid nanopowder and performing ultrasonic treatment before being dried.
The resulting material was similar to the widely used aerogels but cheaper and more user-friendly. The future of nanofoam is aimed at one day helping to absorb large amounts of noise in a given area—from inside a car to an entire neighborhood.
7Gold That Floats
In 2015, Swiss scientists took precious metals to a bizarre new level—they turned gold into foam. Tiny fibers called amyloid fibrils were harvested from milk proteins and mixed into a gold saline solution. The result was a mass resembling a cross between strings and gel.
Air drying damaged the delicate structure, but the final step finally met with success when researchers figured out how to parch the mass with a carbon dioxide bath. The gold foam consisted of 98 percent air, enabling it to float on water.
Indistinguishable from normal gold, it might also be the next step for the metal in the jewelry business. Since the foam is a thousand times lighter than any gold alloy, a jeweler can shape the desired piece by hand.
The right color also makes some gold more wanted by the public than others. The foam’s manufacturing process can be tweaked to adjust the gold’s appearance. In particular, when reaction conditions are changed, the precious metal will turn dark red.
6Turning Cars Into Foam
When considering how cars pollute the world, most people only think of exhaust fumes. However, cars that are scrapped from service annually contribute millions of tons of waste to the planet.
In particular, two kind of plastic are hard to reprocess. Recycled polycarbonate (PC) and polyurethane (PUR) need a complex chemical treatment often not worth the trouble.
In 2017, researchers found a novel way to recycle these cars’ plastic parts—including PC and PUR. Using coconut oil and microwaves, the scientists turned these parts into a multipurpose foam.
At first, the plastic was recovered as waste into a usable form and then merged with existing foam. Previous attempts made the changed foam brittle, but the coconut-treated plastics had no such side effect. The new foam was stable and more fire resistant.
This recycling process turned two major sources of plastic waste into something with many new uses. Ranging from the mundane to the complex, the foam can stuff cushions or get used as insulation in the construction and automotive industries.
Afsaneh Rabiei, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, had a special love of composite metal foams (CMFs). After spending years developing this unusual line of the foam family, Rabiei announced some of their most remarkable qualities in 2015.
For one, the material is not afraid of an armor-piercing bullet. During trials, several bullets smashed to dust against the foam. As it is much lighter than metal plating, it offers soldiers and combat-zone vehicles more maneuverability and protection.
Another ability makes CMFs the darling of anyone who hates fire because they can withstand unholy temperatures. In addition, CMFs are particularly good at blocking dangerous rays, including neutron radiation, gamma rays, and X-rays. This makes metallic foam perfect for space travel or lugging nuclear waste safely from one place to another.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is known for inventing really nifty technology, but injecting huge amounts of foam into the stomach of a wounded soldier? That’s exactly what DARPA came up with (minus the soldier).
Using the next best thing, scientists took pigs and assessed the foam’s future as a tool for medics on the battlefield. In the field, internal bleeding is deadly. It needs treatment as soon as possible. But often, combat soldiers cannot reach the operating table for some time.
DARPA’s foam is injected as two liquids, and when they blend, the resulting hybrid polymer swells 30 times in volume. While it mushrooms, the foam closely hugs organs and tissue before hardening. This sealing effect slows the rate of abdominal bleeding. The presence of any excess blood does not interfere with the way the foam behaves, either.
Removal only required an incision, and about a minute later, the pig was foam free. The procedure dramatically spiked the animals’ survival rates, giving hope that the foam could keep human patients alive for long enough to reach the hospital.
3Robots With Melting Muscles
There’s a reason why surgeons, engineers, and DARPA dream of squishy robots. Shape-shifting machines can squeeze into tight spots and go deep into the debris of a disaster or behind a human liver.
In 2014, researchers at MIT managed to make a “muscle.” The discovery is the starting point for artificial dexterity that may one day rival the natural flexibility of an octopus.
Incredibly, this big step was achieved by using materials that anyone can pull off a craft store’s shelf—polyurethane foam and wax. The engineers placed a foam lattice in a container of melted wax. Wires ran an electrical current through the lattice and melted the wax. This caused the robotic muscle to soften.
To return it to a hardened state, the current was simply switched off and the wax was allowed to cool. Future evolution of the invention could replace the wax with robotic fluids that shift between solid and liquid under the influence of magnetic fields or electrical currents.
2A Working Heart
In 2015, a remarkable thing tumbled from a 3-D printer at Cornell University. It was an artificial human heart made of memory foam called poroelastic or elastomeric foam. What makes this synthetic ticker noteworthy is that it pumps like the real deal.
The cardiovascular device works with intuitive sensitivity to biological pressures and liquid flows—all thanks to the elastic foam cover. Effective blood circulation is not the only virtue of this strawberry-shaped wonder. In addition to the 3-D printer, the heart was shaped with a reusable mold—an economic advantage.
Should the foam heart ever get patented and make it to the operating room, it could make heart transplants an affordable procedure.
1Fabric Of Space Mystery
There’s evidence that the true reality of space is a chaotic froth. Physicists call these particles “space foam.” Truth be told, nobody has actually seen space foam because it is too small and, for now, exists as theoretical particles.
Space foam was predicted in 1947 by Dutch physicists who suggested that it could be observed by the force it exerted on two metal plates. Particlescreate waves. If space foam was real, only short waves could exist between the plates and eventually be crushed by longer, more powerful waves pushing the metal together from the outside. This so-called “Casimir Effect” was seen for the first time in 1997.
However, the quantum world is rarely that simple. Another test timed two photons expelled from a stellar explosion. If space foam exists, its density would slow one down and prevent both from arriving together at a given point.
Several studies of explosions had different results. Sometimes, photons arrived together, and at other times, one won the race. It was like space foam showed up for one experiment, and then it went completely missing for the next. Should this froth be confirmed, it would not only change how scientists view the very fabric of space but also that of reality.
Colombian drug lord Griselda Blanco was known as “La Madrina” (“The Godmother”) after she successfully pioneered a Miami-based cocaine drug trade for nearly five decades from the 1950s to the early 2000s. The murderous matriarch stood only 152 centimeters (5’0″) tall. But she was feared by many and even dubbed the “Female Tony Montana” due to her lavish lifestyle.
Blanco is remembered for many things—her power, her bloody tactics, her coldheartedness, and her ability to amass a staggering net worth of $2 billion in a field that has always been dominated by men.
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10She Committed Her First Murder At Age 11
Born in 1943 in Cartagena, Colombia, Blanco was surrounded by poverty from birth. The shantytown where she grew up had such a high murder rate that children would pass the time on the streets by digging holes for the bodies that littered the roads.
At age 11, she went with a group of friends to a nearby wealthy village and kidnapped a 10-year-old boy from a rich family. The boy was held hostage as Blanco tried to obtain ransom money from his family. When it was clear that the family was not willing to give up the cash, Blanco was handed a gun and she shot the boy between the eyes. Violence was present from the beginning of her life, and it followed her into adulthood.
DEA Agent Bob Palombo explained, “I don’t think the fact that she was a female trying to prove something had anything to do with her violent behavior; I just think it was inherent to Griselda Blanco. This goes back to her life, the way she was brought up. She was just a violent person.”
9She Was Making Around $80 Million A Month
Blanco ran away from home at age 14 to escape abuse at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend. She survived by earning money as a pickpocket and a prostitute. In the mid-1970s, she immigrated to Queens, New York, with her second husband, Alberto Bravo.
There, they started their own network of cocaine dealing. Her client list included Hollywood stars and top athletes. The huge success of their narcotics empire put her on the FBI’s radar, and eventually, she moved to Miami.
When Blanco hit Miami, the timing was just right and she soon had a monopoly. By the late 1970s, at the height of her game, she was earning around $80 million a month. Everyone wanted to work for her, and the DEA estimated that she had 600 people on her payroll.
DEA agent Bob Palombo told Maxim, “She mesmerized people. She could woo you with her acumen and make you a loyal follower.” Blanco was able to live a life of comfort and luxury. However, with great riches came powerful enemies.
8She Went To War With Her Rival Pablo Escobar
Business was going so well for Blanco that it was only a matter of time before her rivals started to invade her territory. One of those rivals was Pablo “The King of Cocaine” Escobar. He had become the biggest threat to her business even though she had given him a leg up from the start. Jennie Smith, author of Cocaine Cowgirl, explained, “[Escobar] wasn’t afraid of her. Everyone else was, but he wasn’t.”
In 1975, Blanco and Escobar were at war and they wanted each other dead. So began a deadly game of assassins as they both deployed members of their own drug cartels to kill the other.
In this drug war, Escobar had the upper hand. When the FBI was closing in on Blanco, Escobar was on his way up. It was just a waiting game until he would come out on top.
7She Was Believed To Be Responsible For More Than 200 Murders
The actual number of murders for which Blanco is responsible has been disputed over the years. Many have pegged the potential victim count as between 40 and 240, although she was only convicted of three murders. The details of the slayings that put her behind bars had all come from her former hit man Jorge Ayala.
One of the most shocking was the murder of two-year-old Johnny Castro who was in the car with his father Jesus “Chucho” Castro. Blanco had ordered the killing of Chucho because he had disrespected her son.
Ayala told the police, “At first, she was real mad ’cause we missed the father. But when she heard we had gotten the son by accident, she said she was glad, that they were even.”
In 1985, she was captured in Irvine, California, by the DEA and sentenced to three concurrent 20-year sentences. She would only have to serve 10 years as the case collapsed due to technicalities.
6She Named Her Son After A Character In The Godfather Movie
Blanco clearly loved her reputation as “The Godmother.” She even named her third son, Michael Corleone (pictured above), after the third son of Mafia don Vito Corleone in her favorite movie, The Godfather.
Blanco’s former hit man, who would later become a witness against her, revealed that he accepted a $50,000 payment for killing a man for her while three-year-old Michael was in the room with her. Blanco never hid her criminal ways from her sons. She was determined that they would follow in her footsteps and inherit her multibillion empire.
However, things didn’t work out as planned. Michael’s father and his older brothers were all killed before he reached his 16th birthday. It wasn’t long before his mother was sentenced to decades behind bars, so he was left in the care of his maternal grandmother and other legal guardians.
5She Allegedly Killed All Three Of Her Husbands
Blanco’s three husbands were all murdered. The blame was pointed in her direction, earning her the name “The Black Widow.” Her first husband was Carlos Trujillo, with whom she had three sons. They were all killed under suspicious circumstances after they were deported to Colombia following prison sentences in United States.
She then married Alberto Bravo, and the pair went into business together. In 1975, she confronted Bravo in a Bogota nightclub parking lot as she believed that he had stolen millions of dollars from the profits they had made in business together.
The married couple was locked in a deadly gun battle. She was holding a pistol, and he had an Uzi submachine gun. It ended with Bravo dead along with six of his bodyguards. Blanco walked away with only a minor gunshot wound to the abdomen.
Blanco’s third husband, Dario Sepulveda, was the father of her youngest son, Michael Corleone Blanco. In 1983, Sepulveda kidnapped Michael during a custody disagreement. Blanco then paid to have Sepulveda murdered in Colombia, and Michael was returned to her.
4She Invented Drug Smuggling Underwear
When you have to transport 1,540 kilograms (3,400 lb) of cocaine into the United States a month, it pays to be a bit creative to avoid detection. According to Miami New Times, “She revolutionized smuggling by developing her own line of underwear with secret compartments to stuff drugs into.”
She invented the underwear with hidden pockets so that her cocaine mules could get the drugs into the US. In Medellin, Colombia, she opened her own manufacturing facility that developed custom-made bras and girdles that were perfect for drug smuggling.
Another one of her inventions was deadly. In 1979, she coordinated a shoot-out at Dadeland Mall in Miami. Three gunmen drove up to the target in a fully equipped “war wagon” and sprayed 60 shots. Two men were killed, and a store clerk was injured. It was the first grisly drive-by of its kind, but it was copied by many cartels after Blanco died.
3She Planned To Kidnap John F. Kennedy Jr.
When they finally busted Blanco, it was a big deal for the DEA. Miami Attorney Sam Burstyn told Maxim, “She was our John Gotti.” Blanco was not happy about sitting behind bars, so she cooked up an elaborate plan to regain her freedom.
According to the New York Post, she intended to send her foot soldiers in the cartel to kidnap John F. Kennedy Jr. A promise of his safe return would be negotiated if she was allowed to walk free. Nothing ever came of Blanco’s elaborate plan. With her behind bars, it was business as usual—and then some—for her rivals on the outside.
The safest place for Blanco was behind bars. Miami homicide detective Nelson Andreu explained to the Miami Herald, “It’s surprising to all of us that she had not been killed sooner because she made a lot of enemies. When you kill so many and hurt so many people like she did, it’s only a matter of time before they find you and try to even the score.”
2She Avoided The Death Penalty Due To A Phone Sex Scandal
Most of the information about Blanco’s web of illegal drugs, murder, and extortion came from her former hit man Jorge Ayala who became the key witness in the investigation. Blanco was looking at the death sentence in the state of Florida if she were found guilty of murder.
But the case took a shocking U-turn that saved her life. Ayala had begun a phone sex relationship with two of the secretaries at the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office who also cashed money orders that he sent them.
The phone sex scandal brought Ayala’s credibility as a witness into question. With the key witness now useless, the state didn’t have enough evidence. It’s strongly believed that Ayala purposely sabotaged himself as a witness so that he wouldn’t be murdered by one of Blanco’s henchmen. Although one of her most loyal soldiers had turned against her, he had also saved her.
1She Was Murdered By Her Own Vicious Method
Blanco created the method of killing her enemies while on a motorcycle. Her henchmen would ride up on motorbikes, shoot the intended target, and then zoom off before anyone really knew what was going on. It was such a successful method of killing that many of her rivals also adopted the technique.
After Griselda Blanco was released from prison, her youngest son revealed that she had become a born-again Christian. Then, on September 3, 2012, Blanco went to the butcher’s shop in Medellin with her pregnant daughter-in-law. They bought $150 worth of meat.
A middle-aged man got off a motorbike, walked up to Blanco on the street, and shot her twice. Then he walked back to his motorbike and drove away. One witness at the scene said, “He was a professional. It was vengeance from the past.”
As Blanco lay dying on the ground, her daughter-in-law placed a Bible on her chest. Blanco was 69 when she died. She had finally fallen victim to the same fate that she had forced on so many others.
Founded by Monish Shah and Malhar Gala, TraveLibro enables users to build a global social network where they can capture their travel experiences in live ‘On-The-Go’ stories via photos, videos, reviews, and thoughts, chronologically.
Established in 2016, pi Ventures claims to be India’s first such venture fund that is focused on AI. It recently raised $6 Mn from the CDC Group UK. Here are the excerpts from this week’s Moneyball with Manish Singhal founding partner at pi Ventures where he talks to us about how their model is nott to spray and pray, his belief that in future, products will struggle to survive if they don’t use AI and machine learning in a meaningful way and much more…
Inc42, in the 21st episode of Ask Me Anything (AMA), hosted Siddharth Talwar, co-founder and partner of Venture capital firm Lightbox. He has been in the startup ecosystem for nearly two decades with hands-on-experience of being an entrepreneur and then an investor, supporting consumer technology startups.
Zoho, which enables enterprises to run their businesses smoothly with its suite of online productivity tools and SaaS applications, claims to have more than 35 Mn users worldwide. Even as Indian startups are going the IPO way, Vembu loves his freedom and has no plans to take Zoho public.
Online lending startup CASHe has developed a proprietary scoring system called ‘SLQ’ as an alternate to the current banking credit scoring system. The SLQ is independent of any bureau reports and generates its own scores based on the customer’s social behaviour data