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The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Daily Drift

We got to have one ...!
Carolina Naturally is read in 197 countries around the world daily.   

Take the kid to the nursery ... !
Today is - Take Your Child To Work Day

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Today in History

858 St. Nicholas I begins his reign as Catholic Pope.
1519 Envoys of Montezuma II attend the first Easter mass in Central America.
1547 Charles V's troops defeat the Protestant League of Schmalkalden at the battle of Muhlburg.
1558 Mary, Queen of Scotland, marries the French dauphin, Francis.
1792 Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle composes "La Marseilles". It will become France's national anthem.
1800 The Library of Congress is established in Washington, D.C. with a $5,000 allocation.
1805 U.S. Marines attack and capture the town of Derna in Tripoli from the Barbary pirates.
1833 A patent is granted for first soda fountain.
1877 Russia declares war on the Ottoman Empire.
1884 Otto von Bismarck cables Cape Town, South Africa that it is now a German colony.
1898 Spain declares war on United States, rejecting an ultimatum to withdraw from Cuba.
1915 Turks of the Ottoman Empire begin massacring the Armenian minority in their country.
1916 Irish nationalists launch the Easter Uprising against British occupation.
1944 The first B-29 arrives in China, over the Hump of the Himalayas.
1948 The Berlin airlift begins to relieve surrounded city.
1953 Winston Churchill is knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.
1961 President John Kennedy accepts "sole responsibility" for the failed invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs.
1968 Leftist students take over Columbia University in protest over the Vietnam War.
1980 A rescue attempt of the U.S. hostages held in Iran fails when a plane collides with a helicopter in the Iranian desert.
1981 The IBM Personal Computer is introduced.
1989 Thousands of Chinese students strike in Beijing for more democratic reforms.

Non Sequitur


Tiananmen Square protests of 1989

The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, commonly known as the June Fourth Incident (六四事件) or more accurate language as '89 Democracy Movement (八九民运) in Chinese, were student-led popular demonstrations in Beijing which took place in the spring of 1989 and received broad support from city residents, exposing deep splits within China's political leadership. The protests were forcibly suppressed by hardline leaders who ordered the military to enforce martial law in the country's capital. The crackdown that initiated on June 3–4 became known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre or the June 4 Massacre as troops with assault rifles and tanks inflicted casualties on unarmed civilians trying to block the military's advance towards Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing, which student demonstrators had occupied for seven weeks. The scale of military mobilization and the resulting bloodshed were unprecedented in the history of Beijing, a city with a rich tradition of popular protests in the 20th century.
The Chinese government condemned the protests as a "counter-revolutionary riot", and has prohibited all forms of discussion or remembrance of the events since. Due to the lack of information from China, many aspects of the events remain unknown or unconfirmed. Estimates of the death toll range from a few hundred to the thousands.
The protests were triggered in April 1989 by the death of former Communist Party General Secretary, Hu Yaobang, a liberal reformer, who was deposed after losing a power struggle with hardliners over the direction of political and economic reform.University students who marched and gathered in Tiananmen Square to mourn. Hu also voiced grievances against inflation, limited career prospects, and corruption of the party elite. They called for government accountability, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and the restoration of workers' control over industry. At the height of the protests, about a million people assembled in the Square.
The government initially took a conciliatory stance toward the protesters. The student-led hunger strike galvanized support for the demonstrators around the country and the protests spread to 400 cities by mid-May. Ultimately, China's paramount leader Deng Xiaoping and other party elders resolved to use force. Party authorities declared martial law on May 20, and mobilized as many as 300,000 troops to Beijing.
In the aftermath of the crackdown, the government conducted widespread arrests of protesters and their supporters, cracked down on other protests around China, expelled foreign journalists and strictly controlled coverage of the events in the domestic press. The police and internal security forces were strengthened. Officials deemed sympathetic to the protests were demoted or purged. Zhao Ziyang was ousted in a party leadership reshuffle and replaced with Jiang Zemin. Political reforms were largely halted and economic reforms did not resume until Deng Xiaoping's 1992 southern tour. The Chinese government was widely condemned internationally for the use of force against the protesters. Western governments imposed economic sanctions and arms embargoes.
Read more here.
Looking at the photo above you can clearly make out 'Tank Man' bringing a battalion of tanks to a halt simply by standing in the middle of the road before the lead tank in a photo that was 'heard' around the world. Although the cropped close-up version is better remembered and can be seen below.

Iconic Historical Photos

'Tank Man' - The man who stopped the tanks from rolling into Tienanmen Square to force out the protesters if only for a moment but it was a moment seen and 'heard' around the world much to the dismay of those who sent the tanks in the first place

Race to unearth Civil War era artifacts before developer digs in

About a dozen archaeologists in downtown Columbia, S.C., are focused on a 165-acre sliver of land that was a prisoner of war camp during the Civil War. Last summer, the property was sold, and the group is trying to recover artifacts before a developer builds condos and shops there.
Archaeologist Chester DePratter stands by the site of Camp Asylum, a Civil War-era prison,in Columbia, S.C. 
The site will soon be cleared to make room for a mixed-use development 
"We're out here to salvage what we can in advance of that development," says Chester DePratter, a University of South Carolina archaeologist. Time is running out: DePratter and his team have a permit to excavate until April 30.
More than a thousand Union officers were imprisoned here during the winter of 1864. The site had been an exercise yard for patients at a mental health asylum, so the prison quickly became known as Camp Asylum.
Gen. Sherman was conducting a scorched-earth attack on the South, and DePratter says the Confederacy moved the prisoners around a lot to avoid Sherman's march. "When they were let in through the gates here on Dec. 12, 1864, most of them had just a single blanket," says DePratter. "Their only option to get out of the wind and the cold, for many of them, was just to dig a hole in the ground."
These holes are what DePratter and his team are looking for, hoping to find anything the Union officers left behind.
Archaeologist Heathley Johnson is about waist-deep in a hole that workers discovered a few days earlier.
"I found a lead bale seal for like a bale of cotton or goods. And I've found another little piece of lead that looked like it had been flattened and folded over," says Johnson. "So they were just either idly carving on it or perhaps making a gaming piece or a chess piece."
They've also found some buttons, some combs and a piece of bright blue uniform fabric.
About 56,000 soldiers died in prisons during the Civil War, but only one prisoner died at Camp Asylum. Joe Long, a curator at the South Carolina Relic Room and Military Museum, suspects that the time of year could have had something to do with the low death rate.
"It was winter and that definitely meant the danger of exposure and hypothermia. But disease did not spread quickly in those months," Long says. They did what they could to keep their spirits up, he says.
"There was a glee club at the camp," Long says. "The informal rule was you could sing all of the Federal or Yankee songs that you want, but you have to balance each one with a Confederate song."
Archaeologists have pored over diaries and letters from the prisoners, but most of them talk about the weather, lack of food and missing their families, rather than their possessions. There is very little information about what the Union prisoners might have left behind. So DePratter and his team dig. Sometimes the unexpected turns up.
"I just found this," says archaeologist Chris Parker, holding a small object in his hand, about 2 inches long. He's grinning.
"This is an interesting piece. It's not from the prison period," says DePratter. "This is a piece of flake stone, probably thousands of years old, from Indians who lived here on the site long before the prison was here. It's probably a knife."
There is no telling what these archaeologists might find, but by the end of April, this project will be over, developers will be in to build condos, stores and perhaps even a baseball stadium, and any artifacts remaining underground will be buried.

The Stars and Stripes

An old United States Flag 
The original design of Betsy Ross of thirteen stars in a circle on a azure field in the upper left quadrant overlaying a field of thirteen alternating read and white stripes

Bloody Ludlow

Sunday was the 100th anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre in the coal mining region of Colorado. In the fall of 1913, 11,000 miners went on strike, protesting dangerous work conditions and low pay. Evicted from company housing, they set up a tent city for months. The mining company, CF&I, responded by patrolling with an armored car with a mounted machine gun, shooting at the strikers occasionally. There was violence on both sides, with company officials and strikebreakers also fired upon. The National Guard was called in, to the relief of the strikers. But instead of providing protection from violence, the Guard was used to escort scabs into the mines and confiscate striker’s firearms. Matters came to a head on April 20, 1914.
No one knows who fired the first shot. Some soldiers would later testify that the strikers’ bullets were already whizzing at them when an officer set off the three explosive charges that had been prepared as a signal for battle. Others would recall hearing the explosions before any shots. Witnesses on both sides remember a lone figure, Louis Tikas, waving a white handkerchief and running frantically back to the tents, trying to head off disaster.

It was already too late. The militia opened fire on the men in the railroad cut. Linderfelt arrived, and the machine gun was installed on a slight rise overlooking the colony. As the day wore on, shots issued from the tents, and the militia returned fire. Officers would later testify that they’d seen women fleeing earlier and didn’t know there were any noncombatants left in the colony, but it seems hard to believe that the soldiers weren’t aware that the flimsy tents contained scores of the defenseless and unarmed.

As troops tried to close in on the shooters in the railroad cut, Private Alfred Martin was shot in the neck — the first and only militia fatality of the day. A passerby, trying to negotiate the road between the colony and the militia, was killed instantly. Eleven-year-old Frank Snyder, who’d left the protection of a cellar during a lull in the shooting, caught a bullet in the head as he sat in his family’s tent.
That night, the tent city burned, and two women and eleven children were found dead of suffocation in a cellar. In response, the miners went on a ten-day rampage, dynamiting mine facilities and shooting. Six strikers and 24 mine employees were killed during this period before President Wilson sent in federal troops. Somewhere between 69 and 199 people were killed over the course of the strike. Read an account of what happened at Ludlow at Westword.

Real or Not?

A court case surrounding the mysterious disappearance of the famous pilot claims that video of the supposed plane wreckage is not convincing.

Were you aware ...

That there we originally five Beatles and Ringo wasn't one of them.
Pictured left to right Pete Best, George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Stuart Sutciffe.
Stuart (a very close friend of John's) was the bass player and he died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Hamburg, Germany just before the band' popularity took off . Although he had quit the band to peruse art (he and John were art students together) it is believed John still hoped to get him back into the band at the time of his death barely into his twenties.
Pete was the original drummer and was with the band as their popularity began to rise but he was fired and replaced by Richard Starkey, aka, Ringo Starr just as their popularity began to rocket to the stars. Ringo had sat in with the band in their club days in Hamburg, Germany when he was with the band Roy Storm and the Hurricanes so he wasn't a total stranger to be rest of the band.

The Toxic History of Soda Pop

You probably know people who drink soda pop all day long, and they may even tell you they’re “addicted” to it. You might be one of those people yourself. In the modern age, we can find out all the ingredients in what we drink, and make our decisions accordingly. We all know those ingredients are not necessarily good for us. But once upon a time, soda pop was billed as a health tonic and there were often things in there that were far worse than sugar and carbonated water. Tristan Donovan, the author of Fizz: How Soda Shook Up the World, tells us about early soda drinks.
Besides booze, sodas of the 19th century also incorporated drugs with much stronger side effects, including ingredients now known as narcotics. Prior to the Pure Food & Drug Act of 1906, there were few legal restrictions on what could be put into soda-fountain beverages. Many customers came to soda fountains early in the morning to get a refreshing and “healthy” beverage to start their day off right: Terms like “bracer” and “pick-me-up” referred to the physical and mental stimulation sodas could provide, whether from caffeine or other addictive substances.

Pharmacists were soon making soda mixtures with stronger drugs known as “nervines,” a category that included strychnine, cannabis, morphine, opium, heroin, and a new miracle compound called cocaine, which was first isolated in 1855. “Cocaine was a wonder drug at the time when it was first discovered,” Donovan explains. “It was seen as this marvelous medicine that could do you no harm. Ingredients like cocaine or kola nuts or phosphoric acid were all viewed as something that really gave you an edge.

“Recipes I’ve seen suggest it was about 0.01 grams of cocaine used in fountain sodas. That’s about a tenth of a line of coke,” he says. “It’s hard to be sure, but I don’t think it would’ve given people a massive high. It would definitely be enough to have some kind of effect, probably stronger than coffee.” While the dosages were small, they were certainly habit-forming, and soda fountains stood to profit from such consistent customers.
That’s just part of the history of soda. How did they develop fizzy water in the first place? How did we eventually lose the drugs? And why did some sodas stick around while others faded? Learn the history of soda at Collectors Weekly.

The Origin of the Fork

Of the three eating utensils we normally use, only forks have a modern origin. Knives and spoons are prehistoric- but as recently as 1800, forks weren’t commonly used in America. Some food for thought…


Centuries ago, few people had ever heard of a “place setting.” When a large piece of meat was set on the table (sometimes on a platter, sometimes directly on the table), diners grabbed the whole thing with their free hand… then pulled out a knife and sliced off a piece with their other hand. Most eating was done with fingers: Common people ate with all five, while nobles -who understood sophisticated table manners- ate with only three (thumb, forefinger, and middle).

At that time, there were no utensils. In fact, most men owned just one multipurpose blade, which, in addition to carving food, was used for fighting, hunting, and butchering animals. But wealthy nobles had always been able to afford a different knife for each purpose, and by the Middle Ages, they had developed a setting of two knives, for very formal dining. One knife was thrust into a large piece of meat to hold it in place on a plate, while the second was used to cut off a smaller piece, which the eater speared and placed in is mouth.
One of the drawbacks of cutting a piece of meat while holding it in place with a knife is that the meat has a tendency to “rotate in place like a wheel on an axle,” Henry Petroski writes in The Evolution of Useful Things. “Frustration with knives, especially in their shortcoming in holding meat steady for cutting, eventually led to the development of the fork.” The name comes from furca, the Latin word for a farmer’s pitchfork.

The first fork commonly used in Europe was a miniature version of the big carving fork used to spear turkeys and roasts in the kitchen. It had only two “tines” or prongs, spaced far enough apart to hold meat in place while cutting it; but apparently it wasn’t something you stuck in your mouth and ate with -that was still the knife’s job.

Those first table forks probably originated at the royal courts of the Middle East, where they were in use as early as the seventh century. About 1100 AD they appeared in the Tuscany region of Italy, but they were considered “shocking novelties,” and were ridiculed and condemned by clergy, who insisted that “only human fingers, created by god, were worthy to touch god’s bounty.” Forks were “effeminate pieces of finery,” as one historian puts it, used by sinners and sissies but not by decent, God-fearing folk.

“An Italian historian recorded a dinner at which a Venetian noblewoman used a fork of her own design,” Charles Panati write in The Extraordinary Origins of Ordinary Things, “and incurred the rebuke of several clerics present for her ‘excessive sign of refinement.’ The woman died days after the meal, supposedly from the plague, but clergymen preached that her death was divine punishment, a warning to others contemplating the affectation of a fork.”

Early French Forks 
Thanks to these derogatory associations, more than 250 years passed before forks finally came into wide use in Italy. In the rest of Europe they were virtually unheard of. Catherine de Medici finally brought them to France in the 1500s when she became queen. And in 1608 an Englishman named Thomas Coryate traveled to Italy and saw people eating with forks; the sight was so peculiar that he made note of it in his book Crudities Hastily Gobbled Up in Five Months:
The Italians… do always at their meals use a little fork when they cut their meat… Should [anyone] unadvisedly touch the dish of meat with his fingers from which all at the table do cut, he will give occasion of offense unto the company, as having transgressed the laws of good manners, insomuch that for his error he shall be at least browbeaten if not reprehended in words… The Italian cannot by any means indure to have his dish touched with fingers, seeing all men’s fingers are not alike clean.
Coryate brought some forks with him to England and presented one to Queen Elizabeth, who was so thrilled by the utensil that she had additional ones made from gold, coral, and crystal. But they remained little more than a pretentious fad of the royal court.

Fork Use 1624

Forks became more popular during the late 17th century, but it wasn’t until the 18th century that they were widely used in continental Europe as a means of conveying food “from plate to mouth.” The reason: French nobles saw forks as a way to distinguish themselves from commoners. “The fork became a symbol of luxury, refinement, and status,” writes Charles Panati. “Suddenly, to touch food with even three bare fingers was gauche.” A new custom developed- when an invitation to dinner was received, a servant frequently was sent ahead with a fine leather case containing a knife, fork, and spoon to be used at dinner later.


Édouard Manet's Oysters 1862 
But before this revolution took place, the fork had to be redesigned. The first forks were completely useless when it came to scooping peas and other loose food into the mouth- the gap between the tines was too large. So cutlery makers began adding a third tine to their forks, and by the early 18th century, a fourth. “Four appears to have been the optimum [number],” Henry Petroski writes in The Evolution of Useful Things. “Four tines provide a relatively broad surface and yet do not feel too wide for the mouth. Nor does a four-tined fork have so many tines that it resembles a comb, or function like one when being pressed into a piece of meat.”
One of the last places the fork caught on in the Western world was colonial America. In fact, forks weren’t even commonly used until the time of the Civil War; until then, people just ate with knives or their fingers. In 1828, for example, the English writer Francis Trollope wrote of some general, colonels, and majors aboard a Mississippi steamboat who had “the rightful manner of feeding with their knives, tip the whole blade seemed the enter the mouth.” And as late as 1864, one etiquette manual complained that “many persons hold forks awkwardly, as if not accustomed to them.”

Millennia-old canoe discovered in museum hallway

A canoe found by the shores of Lake Minnetonka in 1934 is not 264 years old, as previously thought, but closer to 1000. It is in remarkably good condition and, until recently, sat in the corner of a hallway at the Western Hennepin County Pioneer Association museum.

Did you know ...

Precarious Platforms For Aristocratic Feet

These Chopines Weren't Made For Walking

How far would you go to reach the pinnacle of fashion? While the current craze for heel-less, 'anti-gravity' shoes might seem avant-garde, or even dangerous, women have worn challenging footwear for centuries. In fact, though most think Lady Gaga's stilted look started the latest anti-gravity trend, the pop star's platforms were actually inspired by elaborate 16th-century chopines.

Nearly 500 years ago, these sky-high platform shoes were designed to showcase familial wealth in parts of Spain and Italy, and were sometimes so tall they required two servants to help someone walk in them. Collectors Weekly spoke with Elizabeth Semmelhack, a curator at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, about the origins of the chopine trend and the lengths (or heights) humans go to showcase their status.
Here's a video of Semmelhack tracing the history and development of what she calls "one of the most extreme forms of footwear ever worn in Western dress."

The Fix Was in for Ancient Wrestling Match

Researchers have deciphered a Greek document that shows an ancient wrestling match was fixed.

France Gets Outraged Over an Affair

Art Trials

While today’s readers wouldn’t blush at the thought of steamy French literature, public opinion of the 19th century was a bit different. Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, the tragic tale of Emma Bovary’s extramarital dalliances serialized in La Revue de Paris in 1856, apparently crossed the line.
Almost immediately after publication, Flaubert was charged with outrage à la morale publique et religieuse et aux bonnes moeurs, or insulting public and religious morality. The problem? The book suggested that the titular character might have had reasons—a cloddish husband, for one—to disregard her marriage vows.
By early 1857, Flaubert was hauled into court on obscenity charges by imperial prosecutor Ernest Pinard, an unpopular bureaucrat among artists (he later went after the Modernist poet Charles Baudelaire). The case looked grim, but Flaubert hired Jules Sénard, a brilliant defense attorney. Sénard’s defense—since reprinted in most French editions of Madame Bovary—insisted that only through looking at vice could readers be educated about virtue.
THE VERDICT: Not only did the judges buy Sénard’s argument, but the trial brought Flaubert so much publicity that he was able to republish Madame Bovary as a book, which he dedicated to his lawyer.



Meet the 17th century's answer to Tesla

Cornelius Drebbel was a Dutch inventor who may have inspired Shakespeare's Prospero, was occasionally accused of witchcraft, and built submarines, telescopes, and feedback-control devices while simultaneously dabbling in alchemy.

10 Things You Didn't Know About Shakespeare

You’ll be hearing more and more about William Shakespeare as we approach his 450th birthday later this month. So you may as well arm yourself with some obscure trivia about the Bard, his personal life, and his works. Here’s a couple of tidbits from a list of ten.
6. Shakespeare's daughter was illiterate.
Of William and Anne Shakespeare's three children, two daughters survived: Susannah and Judith. While Susannah seems to have been able to sign her name, Judith could only make her mark. But in this period, literacy was a skill, useful in certain trades and professions, mainly male. Shakespeare was a man of his time, and his time didn't value literacy in women.

9. For two hundred years, the theatre made a dog's breakfast of Shakespeare.
Once the theatres reopened after the Commonwealth, they began a great tradition of doing whatever the hell they liked with Shakespeare's plays. They chopped them up and adapted them into musicals and pantomimes. Most notoriously, they got rid of the whole 'tragic' thing in the tragedies by giving them happy endings. (In 1681 Nahum Tate turned King Lear into a feelgood fest complete with a wedding for Cordelia and Edgar.) Reverence for 'The Bard' had to wait until the nineteenth century.

There's another meaning for "muggles"

"Muggles" is the title of a recording by Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra, recorded in Chicago on December 7, 1928.

The title refers to the use of the word "muggles" as a slang term for marijuana amongst jazz musicians of the 1920s and 1930s. Armstrong was an enthusiastic user of marijuana, which was legal in most American states at the time.
J. K. Rowling has indicated that she was unaware of this prior use of the term:
I was looking for a word that suggested both foolishness and loveability. The word 'mug' came to mind, for somebody gullible, and then I softened it. I think 'muggle' sounds quite cuddly. I didn't know that the word 'muggle' had been used as drug slang at that point... ah well.

Here's a bit of ironic historical trivia for you ...

Tabloid Strip Search, 1897

According to this site, in the run-up to the Spanish-American war there was a breathless account published in the New York Journal about a supposed provocation by the Spanish:
As the American steamship Olivette was about to leave Havana Harbor for the United States, it was boarded by Spanish police officers who searched three young Cuban women, one of whom was suspected of carrying messages from the rebels. The Journal ran the story with the headline, “Does Our Flag Protect Women?”
It was accompanied by a dramatic sketch by Frederic Remington across one half a page showing Spanish plainclothes men searching a nude woman. The Journal went on to editorialize, “War is a dreadful thing, but there are things more dreadful than even war, and one of them is dishonor.”
This caught my attention because the lurid sketch of the strip search is by none other than THE Frederick Remington, the same one whose Western-themed art and cowboy sculptures later beceme so iconic and evocative of the fantasy of the American west. Here’s a detail from the strip-search sketch (click the image for the full sketch):
Of course, the sketch is hopelessly lurid compared to the reality behind the tabloid account of the strip search:
Soon, however, the story unraveled. The World quickly produced one of the young women who contested the Journal’s version of the incident. Eventually the Journal was forced to correct the story. The search had been appropriately conducted by a police matron with no men present.

Old Folks Reprise Portraits From Their Younger Days

Nothing serves as a reminder of our past quite like a photograph- we can see the past come to life in those photographic images we collect in books and desktop folders, and taking a look back can sometimes make you feel quite nostalgiac.
Photographer Ana Oliveira has taken the concept of passing time to a unique place in a series of portraits she calls "Identities," which features older folks posing for updated versions of photos from their younger days.
It's an interesting way to see how the subject's physical appearance and fashion sense have changed over the years, and the images celebrate their lives while embracing the inevitable passage of time.

The Radical Victorian Lady behind an Essential Collection of Botanical Art

The Marianne North Gallery at Kew Gardens in London, England, is the only permanent solo exhibition of a female artist’s works in the Great Britain. It contains 833 botanical paintings and 246 specimens of wood from all over the world. The exhibit opened in 1882. It was designed by North herself, and the works remain today as she placed them.

Marianne North was an extraordinary woman who avoided marriage and loved to travel, but preferred to travel alone. When she discovered how much she loved painting at the age of 38, she decided to paint species of the world, right where they grew. And that she did, for the rest of her life. She lived and worked in six continents and produced over 1,000 pieces of art. 
North’s legacy was clear even in her own time. Sir Hooker proclaimed her collection to be an important record of soon-to-be extinct species, and Charles Darwin, a family friend, requested she document the flora of Australia, New Zealand, and Tanzania to fill out her collection (which she did, despite her failing health). Though her lifestyle was controversial in her time, her work continues to be one of the world’s most important collections of historic botanical art. Four species are named in her honor.
You can read about North’s life and see more of her art at Atlas Obscura.

Daily Comic Relief


Mummies With Copper Masks Pose a Mystery in Siberia

by Alan Boyle
Why were copper-masked mummies buried in shallow graves in the wastes of Siberia, just shy of the Arctic Circle? Why were they laid to rest alongside 11th-century bronze bowls from Persia, about 3,700 miles (6,000 kilometers) to the southwest? And why were their skulls smashed in?
Russian archaeologists are just beginning to unravel the mysteries surrounding the remains discovered more than 15 years ago at Zeleniy Yar. Last week, The Siberian Times published a status report on the investigation.
Scientists suspect that the mummies were well-preserved due to cold temperatures as well as all that copper, which prevented oxidation.
Image: Siberian mummy
The remains of a red-haired man was found at the Zeleniy Yar site, protected from chest to foot by copper plating.
Thirty-four graves were found in the region's sandy soil, starting in 1997, but the archaeological excavation was suspended in 2002 after the locals objected. Now the work has resumed.
"Nowhere in the world are there so many mummified remains found outside the permafrost or the marshes," Natalia Fyodorova of the Ural branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences told The Siberian Times.
Fyodorova and her colleagues believe that Zeleniy Yar was a crossroads for trade in medieval times. In addition to the Persian bowls and the copper masks, the scientists found an iron combat knife, an iron hatchet, a silver medallion, a bronze bird figurine and a bronze bear buckle. Some of the mummies were covered in reindeer, beaver, wolverine or bear fur.
Image: Copper-masked mummy 
This mummy was found at the Zeleniy Yar site with a copper mask covering the face.
All of the deceased, adults as well as children, were buried with their feet pointing toward the Gorny Poluy River. That hints at a set of burial rituals that are unknown to experts.
Fyodorova also suspects that the skull-smashing was done soon after death, "to render protection from mysterious spells believed to emanate from the deceased." Similar beliefs are thought to have been behind the "vampire graves" of Bulgaria.

Neanderthals and Cro-magnons did not coincide on the Iberian Peninsula

Neanderthals and Cro-magnons did not coincide on the Iberian Peninsula
The meeting between a Neanderthal and one of the first […]

With human ancestors, the devil is in the details

See the notches at the top of these two casts of ancient hominid mandibles?
If you were a paleoanthropologist, you would spend your days arguing about the shape of those notches and their deeper possible meanings.
In 2010, the scientists who found these jaw bones decided that the bones represented a previously unknown hominid species — Australopithecus sediba — whose characteristics blend those of our genus, Homo, with those of a much older genus, Australopithecus.
BUT, now, other scientists think they're wrong, arguing that the two bones don't even come from the same species. Instead, the top mandible in this picture could be straight up Homo, and the bottom classic Australopithecus, and the whole debate — which has implications for how we draw our human family tree — hinges on the shape of that, well, hinge.

Coming Tomorrow

Coming Tomorrow
  • This fish crawled out of the water ... and into creationists' nightmares
  • New fossil takes a bite out of theory that sharks barely evolved
  • Search for the world's 'loneliest whale' who has been singing to himself for 20 years
  • Bear left with a sore head after tree rescue didn't go as planned
And more ...
This whale shark is our Animal Picture, for today.