by Adrienne Mayor (Regular Contributor)
“All kinds of beings were changed to stone. We find their forms, sometimes large like the beings themselves, sometimes shriveled and distorted. We see among the rocks the shapes of many beings that live no longer. ” –Zuni elders, 1891
The Zuni creation story has strong ties to the landscape of volcanic mountains and deeply eroded canyons of the Colorado Plateau (Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico). Like many other Native cultures, the Zuni believed that our present era was preceded by a series of ages, each populated by different beings.
In Zuni myth, the new earth was flooded and wracked by earthquakes. Bizarre monsters ruled this dark, watery world, while small proto-humans with clammy skin, goggle eyes, bat ears, tails, and webbed feet crept along like salamanders, barely surviving in muddy island caves. To keep these “unfinished” humans from succumbing to the great monsters of the deep, the Twin Children of the Sun realized that the world needed to be dried out and solidified. With a magical rain-bow and cosmic lightning arrows, the Twin Heroes set tremendous conflagration over the face of the earth, scorching it dry and hardening the ground. Proto-humans emerged into the sunlight and began to become “finished” human beings.
But now, on dry land, huge predators with powerful claws and teeth multiplied and devoured the still-weak human beings. The Twin Heroes stalked across the world, blasting with lightning all the land monsters—gigantic bears, enormous lions, and other immense creatures. Instantly immolated, the dangerous beasts shriveled and became stone.
The Role of Material Objects in Myth Making
The Zuni interpreted the fossilized skeletons of dinosaurs and other extinct creatures that continually weather out of the Southwestern desert as the forms of the old monsters. Large animals transformed to stone were the original We-ma-we, fetishes with “hearts of power,” but they were too big to carry, so the Zuni gathered smaller teeth, claws, and fossil bones as amulets. Zuni carvers, aware of the links between fossils and We-ma-we, have recently begun to make small fetishes in dinosaur shapes.
Extensive exposures of Cretaceous sediments lie in Zuni territory. As Zunis gathered bentonite clay, salt, jet, gems, and minerals they came across the remains of large marine reptiles and dinosaurs with bizarre, horned skulls and huge teeth and talons trapped in rock. It was very good fortune to discover powerful relics from the “days of the new.” Among the most impressive dinosaur fossils in Zuni lands is a ceratopsian theropod with terrible claws, named Zuniceratops. Some 90 million years ago, razor-toothed raptor dinosaurs, duck-billed hadrosaurs, flying pterosaurs, giant centipedes, and tropical trees flourished on the fluctuating western shores of the inland sea that bisected North America, wetlands teeming with prehistoric crocodiles, giant sharks, and immense marine reptiles called mosasaurs. That ecology corresponds to the “days of the new” in Zuni mythology.
The Science Beneath the Stories
The dry climate and exposed topography make the Southwest a veritable textbook of geology. Millions years of geological events have left strong traces for scientists to piece together. The Zuni saw the presence of stone clams, ammonites, fish, large marine fossils, and impressions of ripples and mud cracks on the receding shorelines as proof that a sea had long ago covered the desert. Geological and paleontological clues led the Zuni to perceive that, eons ago, the arid desert was a watery world populated by monsters that no longer exist, followed by a fiery period marked by gigantic land predators that were transformed to stone. Volcanic evidence and lava flows—and living memories of eruptions—supported the Zuni idea of a great conflagration that dried out the young earth.
Some scientists propose that mass extinctions of Permian marine species 250 million years ago may have been caused by underwater explosion of gases, which could have been ignited by a single lightning bolt to set the earth aflame–a scenario remarkably reminiscent of Zuni myth. Paleontologists have discovered evidence of vast prehistoric fires that raged across the land, leaving burnt, petrified stumps, more stark evidence for the Zuni scenario, which also imagined the first humans as evolving from lower lifeforms. Concepts of evolution, extinction, climate change, deep time, geology, and fossils–all contained in one elegant Zuni myth!
Image: Walter Meyers
Adrienne Mayor is the author of Fossil Legends of the First Americans (2005), The First Fossil Hunters (2000, 2011), The Poison King (2010), and The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World (2014).
What’s the history of this wreck site captured in the photo above?
The wrecks of Truk Lagoon were sunk as part of Operation Hailstorm, a coordinated effort by U.S. forces to destroy the Japanese fleet based in Chuuk, which took place February 17 and 18, 1944. A reconnaissance flight was seen by the Japanese two days previously, giving time to move many of their warships, but leaving many cargo ships containing supplies for the war effort mostly undefended.
The Fujikawa Maru (in the top photo) is one of the more famous dives of Truk. This is partly due to its accessibility; it lies in relatively shallow water, and upright. The holds have a number of artifacts inside, including the mostly intact fuselage of a Zero fighter. Both the Fujikawa Maru and Shinkoku Maru lie relatively close to islands, and the run-off from these have resulted in spectacular soft coral growth.
Tell us about your journey to this location.
Actually getting to Truk Lagoon is a hassle but not difficult per se. It was one of the more unfriendly flight schedules in the world, with many of the flights going there departing in the early hours of the morning; the main routes are via Manila or Guam, with some direct flights from Palau and Yap. Once there, diving is either via liveaboard, or from tenders run by the dive shops on shore. I did a mixture of both.
What can you tell us about the human remains and the wrecks you visited?
A few of the ships have human remains on board – someone has rather artistically arrayed a number of arm and leg bones on the operating table of the Shinkoku Maru. One of the more gruesome finds was from a few years back, on the Yamagiri Maru, where the skull of the engineer was discovered fused into the roof of the engine room, where the main explosion had taken place.
Has anyone died from diving there?
I’m not sure with regards to your question of deaths while diving in Truk. I’m sure there have been some, it’s a fairly common place for decompression illness due to the depths and repetitive diving. Other hazards include the overhead environment — it’s possible to penetrate several levels into unlit engine rooms — and unexploded ordnance, as well as sharp edges, etc.
Are you allowed to take any relics that you find?
It’s illegal to take any items from the wrecks. In the past, a lot of items have been removed, which has detracted form the diving today. Nowadays, a lot of the artifacts are hidden by the dive guides and brought out for dives, then put away again, to reduce the chances of theft.
How far down are the wrecks at this dive site? How much dive time is required to enjoy them?
The San Francisco Maru is one of the deepest wrecks in Truk Lagoon, and probably the deepest that is dived regularly. It’s known as the “Million Dollar Wreck”due to the number of artifacts on board. It’s 45m to the superstructure and 50m to the deck – 63m to the seabed but not many people go that deep! The most interesting parts are the tanks and guns on the deck, and then the holds (necessitating adding some extra depth dropping down next to the trucks etc). My total dive time was 65 minutes, of which 34 minutes was decompression time. When you include the time to get down, that doesn’t leave long on the wreck.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a Brit who moved to Australia in 2009 for work, and am here for the foreseeable future. My day job is medicine — I’m training to be an emergency physician. I first properly got into photography when I bought my first SLR in 2006 and got my first (compact) underwater housing in 2007. I didn’t graduate to underwater SLR photography until 2011 — there’s a lot to learn and you feel like a beginner again.
What gear do you use?
I’ve always used Canon cameras, purely through familiarity. I started with an Ixus, then moved on to the S95. Since 2011, I’ve been using a Canon 550D with Nauticam housing — Tokina 10-17mm for wide angle and Canon 60mm macro for close-up, with an Inon S2000 strobe. The entire lot was stolen in January. I’ll get a replacement from insurance, but still waiting on that. I still have my trusty old compact camera though!
Do you have any tips for shooting underwater?
I guess the first tip would be to wait until you’re comfortable in the water before you start taking photos. Before I started taking pictures, I’d been diving for a few years, and I felt like I had to relearn my buoyancy all over again. There’s no sense getting a great picture if you knock that beautiful coral off the wall 30 seconds later!
The other thing is to keep diving. The main teacher is experience — spending plenty of time underwater and observing. If you’re not there, you won’t get the shot!
What’s your favorite dive site?
There are lots of places in the world that are amazing, and I’m not sure I can pick a single favorite. In Australia, I’d pick two places — the Pipeline in Nelson Bay, which is a fantastic macro site, and Julian Rocks in Byron Bay (which actually consists of a dozen or so sites within the marine park). Both sites have a huge diversity that you don’t expect on your back door. The Pipeline has been rated as one of the best muck diving sites in the world — cruising along over a very uninspiring seabed, you can find all sorts of amazing creatures, especially nudibranchs (colorful sea slugs) and seahorses.
What diving moment was the most dangerous?
The photos you’d expect to be risky are actually not. None of the shark photos were risky – we were inside a cage observing the great whites. And the grey nurse sharks, while looking ferocious, are placid and timid. I’d say one of my most risky dives was in Truk Lagoon, on the San Francisco Maru – it’s a deep wreck. And while the dive was very well planned and executed, it’s important not to get carried away taking photos. At 52 meters, you experience nitrogen narcosis, a sensation of being drunk underwater, which like alcohol affects everyone differently. Having said that, the most challenging photos are actually the macro subjects, such as the pygmy seahorse, who are tiny and extremely camera shy. In a strong current it can be extremely difficult to see them, let alone get a decent shot!
Thank you, Catherine, for the interview.
Explore more photography in Catherine Marshall’s photostream.
NPR has an excellent piece on how the scientific concept of stress was massively promoted by tobacco companies who wanted an angle to market ‘relaxing’ cigarettes and a way for them to argue that it was stress, not cigarettes, that was to blame for heart disease and cancer.
They did this by funding, guiding and editing the work of renowned physiologist Hans Selye who essentially founded the modern concept of stress and whose links with Big Tobacco have been largely unknown.
For the past decade or so, [Public Health Professor Mark] Petticrew and a group of colleagues in London have been searching through millions of documents from the tobacco industry that were archived online in the late ’90s as part of a legal settlement with tobacco companies.
What they’ve discovered is that both Selye’s work and much of the work around Type A personality were profoundly influenced by cigarette manufacturers. They were interested in promoting the concept of stress because it allowed them to argue that it was stress — not cigarettes — that was to blame for heart disease and cancer.
“In the case of Selye they vetted … the content of the paper, they agreed the wording of papers,” says Petticrew, “tobacco industry lawyers actually influenced the content of his writings, they suggested to him things that he should comment on.”
They also, Petticrew says, spent a huge amount of money funding his research. All of this is significant, Petticrew says, because Selye’s influence over our ideas about stress are hard to overstate. It wasn’t just that Selye came up with the concept, but in his time he was a tremendously respected figure.
Despite the success of the campaign to associate smoking with stress relief, the idea that smoking alleviates anxiety is almost certainly wrong. It tends to just relieve anxiety-provoking withdrawal and quitting smoking reduces overall anxiety levels.
Although the NPR article focuses on Selye and his work on stress, another big name was recruited by Big Tobacco to promote their theories.
They paid for a lot of Eysenck’s research that tried to show that the relationship between lung cancer and smoking was not direct but was mediated by personality differences. There was also lots of other research arguing that a range of smoking related health problems were only present in certain personality types.
Tobacco companies wanted to fund this research to cite it in court cases where they were defending themselves against lung cancer sufferers. It was their personalities, rather than their 20-a-day habit, that was a key cause behind their imminent demise, they wanted to argue in court, and they needed ‘hard science’ to back it up. So they bought some.
However, the link between ‘father of stress’ Hans Seyle and psychologist Hans Eysenck was not just that they were funded by the same people.
A study by Petticrew uncovered documents showing that both Seyle and Eysenck appeared in a 1977 tobacco industry promotional film together where “the film’s message is quite clear without being obvious about it — a controversy exists concerning the etiologic role of cigarette smoking in cancer.”
The ‘false controversy’ PR tactic has now became solidified as a science-denier standard.
Look, making games is harder that you think, okay?
By Stephanie Cowell (Regular Contributor)
Mozart married at the age of 25 in Vienna’s Stephansdom Cathedral, where you can still go today and kneel near the spot where he knelt with his bride. He was a city man, and sophisticated, so he may not have participated in some of the usual wedding customs…but perhaps he did. Nevertheless, we do know that he set to work at once to get his bride between the sheets (what mattered in his eyes).
Good Fortune and Good Luck
For good fortune, the bride of the late eighteenth-century must not sew the last stitch of her wedding dress until it was time to leave for the church (we hope she remembered to remove the needle); once on her way, she must not look in a mirror. Brides on the way to marriage were considered susceptible to evil spirits. As they walked, her bridesmaids, often dressed in a similar way so that such spirits could not distinguish them from each other, clustered around her protectively. It was good luck to see a chimney sweep or a black cat. Wednesday was the most propitious day for marriages; Fridays and Saturdays were bad. If snow fell on her wedding day, it would bring fertility and wealth.
On leaving her house, the bride would step over piles of broken dishes. The night before the wedding was the Polterabend, where friends and family would small all chipped crockery or glass for good luck and hurl them out the windows.
Dressing for the Day
The wedding procession was led by a fiddler and, on the wedding morning, the bride was sent a morgen-gabe–a morning gift–from her groom. She in turn sent him a shirt she had sewn for the wedding day, which he was to keep all his life.
The bride’s dress was often white, which stood for joy, not purity; she often wore a blue band at her hem, representing purity. Her veil was another way to hide her from the spirits until safely in her husband’s care. But the first one to buy anything after the marriage would dominate the relationship; brides sometimes arranged to buy a pin from a bridesmaid. (This was before you could place an order by cell phone while walking back up the aisle.)
Weddings and Married Life
During the reception, the bride danced the wreath dance, sometimes called “dancing off the bridal crown,” the wreath which symbolized her maidenhood. Married women danced about her until their circle was broken by their fatigue or roughly intruding groomsmen, who then stole the wreath. Guests tried to take home a part of the broken wreath, which mean they would be married within the year. The bride then put a matron’s cap on her likely disheveled hair. Following the wedding, the best man would often steal the bride, leaving the groom to find her. Events could turn bawdy.
After marriage, a woman’s life would consist of kinder, kleider, kirche, and kuche–children, clothes, church, and cooking. Of course, for many women, there was much more than that.
While we may not know how many of these traditions Mozart and his wife engaged in, we do know that their marriage was a joyful one despite their being poor. His love letters during their married life are tender, bawdy, and filled with the greatest love.
This post originally appeared at Wonders & Marvels on 18 December 2008.
Wonders and Marvels
By Tom Stafford, University of Sheffield
Quiet contemplation is so awful that when deprived of the distractions of noise, crowds or smart phones, a bunch of students would rather give themselves electric shocks than sit and think.
What they actually did
Psychologists from the universities of Virginia and Harvard in the US carried out a series of 11 studies in which participants – including students and non-students – were left in an unadorned room for six to 15 minutes and asked to “spend time entertaining themselves with their thoughts.” Both groups, and men and women equally, were unable to enjoy this task. Most said they found it difficult to concentrate and that their minds wandered.
In one of the studies, participants were given the option to give themselves an electric shock, for no given reason or reward. Many did, including the majority of male participants, despite the fact that the vast majority of participants had previously rated the shocks as unpleasant and said they would pay to avoid them.
How plausible is this?
This is a clever, provocative piece of research. The results are almost certainly reliable; the authors, some of whom are extremely distinguished, discovered in the 11 studies the same basic effect – namely, that being asked to sit and think wasn’t enjoyable. The data from the studies is also freely available, so there’s no chance of statistical jiggery-pokery. This is a real effect. The questions, then, are over what exactly the finding means.
Contrary to what some reporters have implied, this result isn’t just about students – non-students also found being made to sit and think aversive, and there were no differences in this with age. And it isn’t just about men – women generally found the experience as unpleasant. The key result is that being made to sit and think is unpleasant so let’s look at this first before thinking about the shocks.
The results fit with research on sensory deprivation from 50 years ago. Paradoxically, when there are no distractions people find it hard to concentrate. It seems that for most of us, most of the time, our minds need to receive stimulus, interact with the environment, or at least have a task to function enjoyably. Thinking is an active process which involves the world – a far cry from some ideals of “pure thought”.
What the result certainly doesn’t mean, despite the interpretation given by some people – including one author of the study – is that people don’t like thinking. Rather, it’s fair to say that people don’t like being forced to do nothing but think.
It’s possible that there is a White Bear Effect here – also known as the ironic process theory. Famously, if you’re told to think of anything except a white bear, you can’t help but think about a white bear. If you imagine the circumstances of these studies, participants were told they had to sit in their chairs and just think. No singing, no exploring, no exercises. Wouldn’t that make you spend your time (unpleasantly) ruminating on what you couldn’t do?
In this context, are the shocks really so surprising? The shocks were very mild. The participants rated them as unpleasant when they were instructed to shock themselves, but we all know that there’s a big difference between having something done to you (or being told to do something) and choosing to do it yourself.
Although many participants chose to shock themselves I wouldn’t say they were avoiding thinking – rather they were thinking about what it would be like to get another shock. One participant shocked himself 190 times. Perhaps he was exploring how he could learn to cope with the discomfort. Curiosity and exploration are all hallmarks of thinking. It is only the very limited internally directed, stimulus-free kind of thinking to which we can apply the conclusion that it isn’t particular enjoyable.
The original paper: Just think: The challenges of the disengaged mind.
You can see the data over at the Open Science Framework.
By Jack El-Hai (Regular Contributor)
In 1953, students at Clinton Elementary School in Minneapolis began taking part in a strange ritual. As they stood in a line outside the music room, a man passed a fluoroscope tube over their clothing and shoes. He was testing for traces of a chemical called zinc cadmium sulfide.
Preparations and Chemical Mimesis
For several weeks that year, the U.S. Army sprayed this chemical into the air around the school in an attempt to mimic the effects of a biological warfare attack. Simple to track with air filtering devices and easy to spread by wind currents, zinc cadmium sulfide was a “tracer” that the Army used to simulate how living microbes would spread as biological invaders in cities.
From 1952 through 1969, the Army dropped thousands of pounds of zinc cadmium sulfide in nearly 300 secret experiments conducted in such places as Fort Wayne, Indiana (1964-66); St. Louis (1953, 1963-65); San Francisco (1964-68); Corpus Christi (1962); and Oceanside, California (1967). Remote areas were also targeted: During 1964 the Army dropped zinc cadmium sulfide on Minnesota’s Chippewa National Forest.
Millions of Americans who escaped these experiments received exposure to zinc cadmium sulfide in 1957-58 during the Army’s high-altitude scattering of the chemical from a cargo plane that flew from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic and from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border. In all of these tests, the military kept secret the purpose of the studies.
In Minneapolis, the Army’s tests took place over 195 square blocks of the city’s south side. Brigadier General William M. Creasey had earlier told the mayor, Eric Hoyer, that the purpose of the testing would be “to conduct certain meteorological studies regarding the smoke screening of cities from aerial operations.” This explanation was itself a smoke screen for the Army’s real intent to investigate how fake germs could scatter in a northern city whose climate and geography resembled that of many cities in the Soviet Union. These were, after all, some of the darkest days of the Cold War.
A few months later, unknown to Clinton Elementary students, teachers, and their families, machines mounted in trucks and on rooftops began systematically spraying zinc cadmium sulfide into the air of the school’s neighborhood, and about 80 collection boxes on the school’s grounds recorded residue levels.
In the volumes of paperwork from the testing that has surfaced in declassified documents since the 1990s, the Army’s experimenters raise no concerns over the wisdom of exposing countless people to zinc cadmium sulfide. Even so, Army staff conducting the tests in Minneapolis wore protective garb. One resident who lived in the test area in 1953 recalled workers scattering the chemical outside late at night. “They were wearing masks and operating what looked like a big fog machine,” he said. “I asked them what they were doing, and they said they were spraying for bugs…. It was blowing all over, and there was a residue left on the cars.”
In St. Louis, Army researchers mounted apparatus to spray zinc cadmium sulfide from atop the Pruitt-Igoe housing project, a residence for thousands of low-income people. In 2012, researcher Lisa Martino-Taylor presented evidence suggesting that the Army may have mixed radioactive particles with the zinc cadmium sulfide.
Government Assertions v. Scientific Studies
The Army has long maintained that zinc cadmium sulfide is an inert substance, harmless to humans in the concentrations sprayed in the air in Minneapolis, St. Louis, and the other test sites. But at least fifteen studies published before or during the Army’s testing established the danger to human health of one prominent ingredient, cadmium. One, published in the Journal of Industrial Hygiene in 1932, concluded that “cadmium, no matter how small the amount taken into the lungs, causes pathologic changes…. There is, therefore, no permissible amount of cadmium” safe for human exposure. Cadmium is now a suspected human carcinogen that causes kidney damage, and it also can contribute to liver disorders, nervous system problems, and perhaps reproductive health problems.
In 1995 a Toxicology Committee of the National Academy of Sciences, in a Congressionally ordered review of the Army’s testing, observed that research on potential dangers was scanty and based only on animal studies. It concluded, however, that the Army did not endanger the public through exposure to the zinc cadmium sulfide. Critics of that review, however, pointed out that the chemical can persist in the soil and in homes for a long time and that its resuspension by people’s activities and the wind may have lengthened exposure times long beyond what the Army expected.
More than 60 years after the experimentation began, the U.S. Army has not acknowledged the possibility of harm from the testing and has commissioned no follow-up studies.
Cole, Leonard. The Eleventh Plague: The Politics of Biological and Chemical Warfare. Holt, 1996.
LeBaron, Wayne. America’s Nuclear Legacy. Nova Science Publishers, 2013.
Subcommittee on Zinc Cadmium Sulfide, National Research Council, et. al. Toxicologic Assessment of the Army’s Zinc Cadmium Sulfide Dispersion Tests. National Academies Press, 1997.
By Eric Laursen (Regular Contributor)
A Bolshevik Utopia
A decade before the Bolshevik revolution, Aleksandr Bogdanov published Red Star: Novel-utopia (1908). Known as the “first Bolshevik utopia,” it chronicles an Earth-man’s journey to the planet Mars, where he is treated to a wondrous vision of a communist future, complete with flying cars and 3D color movies. As the Bolsheviks predicted, archaic institutions such as government and family have withered away, and the Earth-man is confronted with all his fondly held principles of equality and community come to life. Children are raised communally, all important decisions are made by a large council, and people are directed to fulfilling and creative work by a central economic agency that measures planet-wide needs. Men and women have become full equals, and they have evolved so that the Earthling cannot distinguish the sex of his large-eyed comrades, causing him to become increasingly anxious about his attraction to one of them. The Earthling is greatly relieved upon learning that he is a she.
The Martians have one world-wide society and one language. All dialect variation has faded, allowing instant communication between any two citizens. Moreover, since the Martians have achieved equality, the hierarchy implicit in language etiquette is missing, and, therefore, titles, greetings, and expressions of gratitude are noticeably absent. Gender is also absent from the Martian language. Most important, since the Martians have gained a conscious understanding of all of history—past, present, and future—their nouns are declined “temporally.” Bogdanov was a proponent of adopting a universal language, and suitably Red Star was published in Esperanto in 1929.
Trouble in (Communist) Paradise
Despite the many achievements of the Martians, there is trouble in communist paradise. Mars is a dying planet whose resources are too meager to continue to support life. The Martians are running out of fuel and must choose between Earth and Venus to find more. Both planets are closer to the sun’s life-giving energy and therefore more vigorous than aging Mars, a cold, dying desert planet. Yet each planet has its unique challenges. Though Venus has vicious dinosaurs and active volcanos, Earth has something even more dangerous: capitalism! In the end they choose Venus, bowing to the argument that Earth offers something that Mars lacks. The Martian men have grown cold along with their planet, and the two main Martian men that we meet cannot satisfy their wives sexually or provide them with the children they so desperately want. Moreover, they have developed their intellects at the expense of emotion and compassion, an imbalance that allows them to consider liquidating Earth’s population in order to get the resources Mars needs. The hot-blooded Earthling’s love affair with one of the frustrated Martian women signals a happy medium, a fusion of Earth’s revolutionary heat and Mars’s intellectual and physical cold that gives hope for the upward progress of life in the universe.
New Iterations for Red Star
After the 1917 revolution, Red Star came out in multiple editions and was adapted for the stage. Bogdanov was the founder of Proletkult, the Proletarian Cultural Organization that trained workers to become artists, writers, and scientists. He published multiple volumes of philosophy, and his “tectology” is often put forth as a precursor for systems theory. Although Bogdanov was an early contender for Party leadership, he soon lost political power after the revolution and returned to his scientific research on blood transfusion full-time. In Red Star, the Martians maintain youthful vitality through frequent exchange of blood. In 1926 Bogdanov attained his dream of founding an institute dedicated to the study of blood transfusion and died two years later while conducting a blood transfusion experiment on himself.
I've got this friend, Craig. He's not exactly an outlaw, but if the world needs something moved that is not supposed to be moved, he will move it anyway. Only in the interest of justice. Like Batman.
What he moved (or removed) was a small pot made by a Native American potter 700 or 800 years ago. It's what is called a seed jar, and he found it in a reading room. There were once thousands of these pots in the American Southwest, buried or stashed in nooks or graves where the Salado people used to roam, but the precious things have been mostly pillaged. First archaeologists, then private collectors, streamed across the desert, dug them up, and put them into private collections.
The museum world is now chock-full of Indian baskets and pots. The desert has almost none left.
Craig Childs' story can be found in his book Finders Keepers, A Tale of Archaeological Plunder and Obsession. We at Radiolab did the video with Henry to celebrate our current series on the nature of things, which started with a podcast, Things, a couple of weeks ago, and continues with our newest one, about the fragile state of the kilogram, just released.
Henry, by the way, has produced another Craig Childs story, this one for your ears, which can be found at Radiolab.org.
By Jack El-Hai (W&M Contributor)
When an elevator door slammed shut at the Minneapolis Auditorium on March 20, 1940, an era of American entertainment came to a bloody end. The door crushed the six-foot-long tail of Peter the Great, a famed boxing kangaroo, who was touring the U.S. and had just demonstrated his skills to a Minneapolis audience.
Peter’s owners and managers, Mr. and Mrs. Ted Elder, considered the injury minor and wrapped the marsupial’s tail with a bandage. They began driving Peter to his next engagement in Omaha, but it became obvious along the way that the kangaroo was in distress. The Elders rushed Peter back to the O.B. Morgan Dog and Cat Hospital in Minneapolis, and they were about to have the damaged body part amputated when the 160-pound kangaroo died.
Peter, a singularly famous boxing kangaroo, had made a notable impression on American popular culture. Less than a year before, he fought a boxing match with “Two Ton” Tony Galento, a pugilist who had once floored Joe Louis. During an exchange of blows, Peter dropped back on his tail and kicked Galento in the groin. The man-versus-beast match ended in a draw. A wave of publicity carried Peter to shows around the country.
If Peter had lived, he would have played a role in U.S. electoral politics. He was scheduled to appear with comedienne Gracie Allen and serve as the mascot for her 1940 mock run for the Presidency. Without Peter’s help, Allen’s Surprise Party never found traction, and Franklin Roosevelt won the 1940 election without a satirical opponent.
In a lawsuit they filed against the city of Minneapolis, the Elders claimed that Peter’s boxing and entertainment talents resulted from his special training. “Peter the Great,” Mrs. Elder testified, “was no ordinary kangaroo.” The city countered that swinging and kicking when threatened is instinctive behavior for his species. A jury sided with the city, and Peter’s owners did not receive the $75,000 they sought in compensation for their loss.
No other kangaroo rose to Peter’s level of fame after his death. As exploitations of stage animals began to smell of cruelty, boxing kangaroos disappeared except as cartoonish symbols of Australian resilience. Today we never encounter them in the flesh. Peter the Great’s fame and profession belong to the past.
“Jury Refuses Damages for Death of Kangaroo.” Milwaukee Journal, October 8, 1940.
“Peter, Boxing Kangaroo, Dies.” The New York Times, March 24, 1940.
Zahn, Thomas R. The Minneapolis Auditorium and Convention Center: The History. 1987.
Jack El-Hai is the author of The Lobotomist: A Maverick Medical Genius and his Tragic Quest to Rid the World of Mental Illness and the forthcoming book The Nazi and the Psychiatrist. He often writes about medicine and history.
This post first appeared at Wonders & Marvels on 6 August 2012.
Welcome to the tumblr feed of BACK. by Anthony and KC. We will be posting pages simultaneously on here as well on the main site, so choose whichever for your viewing pleasure. We update Wednesdays with 2 pages an update. For the occasion tho, here are the first 8 pages of the prologue. See you next week.
Damn! All of these pictures.
At the break of dawn, many of you are already up and busy shooting landscapes bathed in dramatic sunlight. There’s a staggering abundance of exceptional pictures from a “morning landscape” image search, and we can only highlight a portion of the ones we appreciate, including a few captions from the photographers:
“I’m lucky enough to live about 30 minutes away from Dockey Wood, which is well regarded as on of the finest bluebell woods in England. As part of the Ashridge Estate, it is owned and managed by the National Trust and offers clean and uncomplicated woodland views full of bluebells.” – Damian Ward
“A classic spot at Lake Constance. The Turmhof castle in Steckborn, Thurgau, Switzerland” – Philipp Häfeli
“This morning I finally managed to get back out there and experience the odd euphoria of having made it to the top of a hill at 5am as the sun rises, knowing that a world of more sensible people are still asleep. Bit of a mixed bag of conditions today so I didn’t quite get what I wanted, although this little burst of early light through the mist was kind of spectacular for a few minutes.”
“Squint and you can just make out Firle Tower amidst the furthest clump of trees, a squat little castle turret folly that was built as a gamekeepers watchtower in the 1800s. I think its now a house.” – Finn Hopson
Sunrise in Taiwan.
“After I took the long way from Buttermere to Crummock which involved scrabbling up the hillside to escape a herd of cows and calves who were unimpressed with my presence (cows can be scary), I finally emerged by Crummock Water as the morning light began to catch, revealing the ridges and rolls of the landscape, almost flowing down the hillside.” – Vemsteroo
National Carillon tower, Canberra, Australia.
“A day after my last post … couldn’t resist shooting again because of the denser layer of river mist.” – David Dean
“Last shot from the series I took a few weekends ago from the South Downs on a beautiful misty Spring morning.” – Richard Paterson
Morning mist in Gloucestershire, England.
“Cranes along the River Thames during sunrise.” – Dave Banbury
The programming language Chef, devised by David Morgan-Mar, is designed to make programs look like cooking recipes. Variables are represented by “ingredients,” input comes from the “refrigerator,” output is sent to “baking dishes,” and so on. The language’s design principles state that “program recipes should not only generate valid output, but be easy to prepare and delicious,” but many of them fall short of that goal — one program for soufflé correctly prints the words “Hello world!”, but the recipe requires 32 zucchinis, 101 eggs, and 111 cups of oil to be combined in a bowl and served to a single person. Mike Worth set out to write a working program that could also be read as an actual recipe. Here’s what he came up with:
Hello World Cake with Chocolate sauce. This prints hello world, while being tastier than Hello World Souffle. The main chef makes a " world!" cake, which he puts in the baking dish. When he gets the sous chef to make the "Hello" chocolate sauce, it gets put into the baking dish and then the whole thing is printed when he refrigerates the sauce. When actually cooking, I'm interpreting the chocolate sauce baking dish to be separate from the cake one and Liquify to mean either melt or blend depending on context. Ingredients. 33 g chocolate chips 100 g butter 54 ml double cream 2 pinches baking powder 114 g sugar 111 ml beaten eggs 119 g flour 32 g cocoa powder 0 g cake mixture Cooking time: 25 minutes. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Method. Put chocolate chips into the mixing bowl. Put butter into the mixing bowl. Put sugar into the mixing bowl. Put beaten eggs into the mixing bowl. Put flour into the mixing bowl. Put baking powder into the mixing bowl. Put cocoa powder into the mixing bowl. Stir the mixing bowl for 1 minute. Combine double cream into the mixing bowl. Stir the mixing bowl for 4 minutes. Liquify the contents of the mixing bowl. Pour contents of the mixing bowl into the baking dish. bake the cake mixture. Wait until baked. Serve with chocolate sauce. chocolate sauce. Ingredients. 111 g sugar 108 ml hot water 108 ml heated double cream 101 g dark chocolate 72 g milk chocolate Method. Clean the mixing bowl. Put sugar into the mixing bowl. Put hot water into the mixing bowl. Put heated double cream into the mixing bowl. dissolve the sugar. agitate the sugar until dissolved. Liquify the dark chocolate. Put dark chocolate into the mixing bowl. Liquify the milk chocolate. Put milk chocolate into the mixing bowl. Liquify contents of the mixing bowl. Pour contents of the mixing bowl into the baking dish. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Worth confirmed that this correctly prints the words “Hello world!”, and then he used the same instructions to bake a real cake. “It was surprisingly well received,” he writes. “The cake was slightly dry (although nowhere near as dry as cheap supermarket cakes), but this was complimented well by the sauce. My brother even asked me for the recipe!”
While we’re at it: Fibonacci Numbers With Caramel Sauce.
Around 350 million years ago, the sedimentary rock domes of the Bungle Bungle Range in Australia were formed. Their layering of orange and grey bands in beehive-like shapes make up a distinctive landscape in Purnululu National Park, which was declared a World Heritage Site in 2003.
Get your interview on!
By Adrienne Mayor (Wonders and Marvels contributor)
Cleopatra had a thousand ways of flattering Mark Antony, remarked Plutarch in his biography of the Egyptian queen’s Roman lover. With a raptor’s vigilance she monitored Antony’s moods day and night and was always ready with some new diversion or novel adventure to distract and charm him. Cleopatra was his drinking buddy and his gambling partner at dice; she accompanied him whenever he exercised, hunted, and practiced with his weapons. Dressed in disreputable disguises, the couple enjoyed rambling recklessly around town in the middle of the night like hooligans, pounding on people’s doors and shouting insults at their windows.
One day Cleopatra took Antony fishing on the Nile on her barge, accompanied by a flotilla of smaller fishing boats. Everyone pulled up a good number of Nile perch on their lines that day except Anthony. Feeling humiliated in front of his mistress and determined not to be skunked again, Anthony devised a plan. The next day he secretly paid several fishermen to dive underwater and place their own freshly caught fish on his hook. Over the next hour or so Antony drew up fish after fish. The Egyptians marveled at the heap of silvery blue fish on the deck and wondered at the speed at which the perch were taking the Roman’s bait.
Cleopatra immediately figured out Antony’s ruse but she feigned great admiration, crowing over what a natural fisherman he was. Boasting that his haul would be even more impressive tomorrow, she invited everyone back for another day of fishing.
The next day Cleopatra arranged her own trick. As soon as Anthony let down his line, she had her servants “dive down and affix a large salted fish from the Black Sea on Anthony’s hook.” Feeling the tugging on the line Anthony quickly landed the heavy fish. As everyone stared at his catch it was instantly obvious that he’d pulled up a big fish that was not only long dead but definitely not a denizen of the Nile. As Plutarch comments, you can imagine the guffaws and hoots that ensued. Cleopatra, giggling mischievously, diverted Antony’s irritation with flattery: “Better to leave fishing to us poor Egyptians—your game is conquering kingdoms.”
Nile perch (Lates niloticus) have a high fat content so they were preserved by smoking instead of drying and salting. Black Sea fisheries exported vast stores of salted fish around the ancient Mediterranean world. The large salt-cured fish from the Black Sea “caught” by Antony in the Nile was most likely a tuna. Great schools of Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) used to dominate the Black Sea but went extinct there in antiquity; today they are endangered in the Atlantic.
About the author: Adrienne Mayor is a Research Scholar in Classics and History of Science, Stanford University. She is the author of “The First Fossil Hunters: Dinosaurs, Mammoths, and Myths in Greek and Roman Times” (2011), “The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy,” a nonfiction finalist for the 2009 National Book Award, and “The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World” (fall 2014).
According to aquatilis.tv, Alexander Semenov has a wish “to grow gills so that he doesn’t have to leave the water and perform cumbersome tasks, such as changing oxygen tanks.” And when you take a look at the photography from his research, you’ll understand what his wish is all about.
As the Head of the Divers’ team at Moscow University’s White Sea Biological Station, he’s been a photographic contributor for the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and major magazines. His extraordinary photos of jellyfish and other fascinating organisms of Russia’s White Sea give us a glimpse of an underwater world that seems alien to us.
Alex is also the squad leader of the Aquatilis Expedition, a diving project to find and study the unknown creatures of the deep sea. The expedition has yet to begin because the required funding to launch the squad’s journey — a proposed 30,000 nautical miles in three years — hasn’t been acquired. He’s fundraising via Indiegogo and hopes to pursue soon what the expedition’s website states as the staggering 80% of marine life living in our oceans that have yet to be discovered.
These photos show only a small sample of what’s available from Alex. Take a gander at Alex’s underwater album to view nearly 1,000 outstanding shots of sea life.