Chinese Magic Mirrors

During China’s Han dynasty, artisans began casting solid bronze mirrors with a perplexing property. The front of each mirror was a polished, reflective surface, and the back featured a design that had been cast into the bronze. But if light were cast from the mirrored side onto a wall, the design would appear there as if by magic.

The mirrors first came to the attention of the West in the early 19th century, and their secret eluded investigators for 100 years until British physicist William Bragg worked it out in 1932. Each mirror had been cast flat with the design on the reverse side, giving the disk a varying thickness. As the front was polished to produce a convex mirror, the thinner parts of the disk bulged outward slightly. These imperfections are invisible to direct inspection; as Bragg wrote, “Only the magnifying effect of reflection makes them plain.”

Joseph Needham, the historian of ancient Chinese science, calls this “the first step on the road to knowledge about the minute structure of metal surfaces.”


Link Dump!

This was painted by an artist that’s blind. He uses touch to feel his way across the canvas.

There’s a newly discovered substance found in chicken eyes that’s simultaneously a crystalline substance and a liquid.

How ants walk.

There’s a special rock called a trovant that resides in the small Romanian village of Costeti. These unique geological phenomenons grow when it rains and have been found to move themselves. The cause is still a mystery, but the most popular theory is that the rocks contain a special blend of minerals that cause the sand in the rock to expand, making them grow. You can read more here.

The Wax Tree, the national tree of Columbia, is also the world’s tallest palm species, with some reaching up to 200 ft.

This is my current favorite word: Quisquilian: adj., valueless, like trash. Some others unusual words:

v. to squeak like a rat

v. to bark like a dog

v. to cry like a quail

v. to utter an elephant’s cry

n. the noise made by peacocks

Above list from here.

It’s so fun knowing so many talented musicians. Here’s a song sung by one of my friends that lived on my dorm floor my first two years of college.

Last February (yes, these bookmarks are old!), researchers found an original copy of the Magna Carta in an old scrapbook in Kent, England.

We’ve all heard of outlandish Middle Age remedies that make no sense to the modern reader. But mixed with the strange humor-balancing concoctions was very effective medicine. Scientists looking into some of the old manuscripts (good for them!) discovered that an onion and garlic remedy for eye infections almost completely kills MRSA, a bacteria modern antibiotics is fast becoming useless against.

Father Thomas Byles was on his way to celebrate the wedding Mass for his brother when his ship, the Titanic, hit an iceberg on April 14th, 1912. Instead of climbing onto a lifeboat, he decided to remain on the ship until the end, hearing people’s confessions the whole way. Here’s his story.

“No, totally!” “Yes, no, I completely agree.” Wait, what? When did no become yes, and yes become no? What kind of English is this? Turns out it’s as complicated as you might expect. Feel free to delve into the depths of contranyms and antiologies.

This guy wants a full head transplant.

In exchange for helping seniors with shopping, games, eating, etc., these Dutch university students get free housing. There’s another article I read, although I don’t know if I bookmarked it, where a preschool holds weekly classes at a nursing home. Both parties love it, and the seniors are more than happy to help the children learn their numbers and colors. A win-win, if organized well.

A residential garden in York, England, has been hiding the skeletal remains of about 80 beheaded gladiators for the past 1,800 years. The bite marks of large carnivores and evidence of the markedly stronger right arms all provide insight into the ancient Roman sport. What I’d like to know is how they were buried. Neatly and in rows, or just thrown into a hole after they’d been defeated? I wouldn’t be surprised at the latter.

Well I think that’s enough for today.

A Bit About Vikings

In the 10th and 11th centuries, at the height of their reign, the Vikings often claimed that their swords were indestructible, and could cut a man in half in a single swing. Yet there is a mystery surrounding Viking swords that has been confounding historians for hundreds of years. For despite their oft-quoted claim to be indestructible, Viking swords are often found broken.

The Museum of Berlin contains an ancient sword that became the centerpiece that unraveled the mystery of why Viking swords are frequently found in pieces, despite their claim to be indestructible. The unbroken sword contained an eight-letter word that was eventually the key to solving the mystery: “Ulfberht”.

A team of historians did some research and discovered that Ulfberht was the name of a Viking foundry – in other words, it was essentially an ancient factory that produced metal castings used to create objects such as swords, axes, war hammers, and armor. The name of ‘Ulfberht’ was legendary among Viking warriors, and was well-known for producing the sharpest, strongest, and most versatile – and expensive – swords.

As it turned out, many lesser-known foundries attempted to pass off their poor quality – but less costly – swords as Ulfberht weapons by inscribing the name of Ulfberht onto their products. Unfortunate swordsmen then paid the ultimate price for their cheapness when they discovered too late in the heat of battle that their swords were prone to shattering upon impact. [x]


The Brontosaurus is a New Species Again

This is old news, but I’m trying to catch up on some (read as a lot) old bookmarks.

Emanuel Tschopp and his team at Nova University shows in a new analysis how the sauropod dinosaur should be recognized officially again. Excerpt from link below.

The Brontosaurus excelsus was reclassified as Apatosaurus excelsus in 1903 because of perceived similarities between the two dinosaurs, but the new study published in PeerJ provides evidence that the Brontosaurus is indeed its own distinct genus.

The study looked at 81 skeletons of Diplodocidae, and key differences in neck width, shoulders, and ankle bones led the team to the conclusion that after more than 100 years, the decision to classify Brontosaurus as an Apatosaurus is incorrect. Because there is currently no official procedure for reclassifying extinct species, the Brontosaurus‘ fate now relies on consensus within the scientific community.


Link Dump.

Mikemikemikemikemike! What time is it Mike! hahaha! Link dump time! woowoo! <—(in case you don’t get the silly reference.)

Okay, silliness over, on to particle detectors. (woowoo!) “A new ultra-precise particle detector is being developed to investigate the bizarre properties and behaviors of tiny elementary particles that seem to defy the laws of traditional physics.”

In 774 AD, a red crucifix was seen in the skies and noted on a British parchment. This, along with a mysterious spike of radioactive carbon-14 in Japanese tree rings, are both indications of a supernova or solar flare. However, scientists know of neither in that year. So what happened? It has to do with a red dust cloud and the Earth’s positioning with the Sun.

Archaeologists discovered a pot of 2,400 year old soup. Not exactly edible, perhaps, but impressive nevertheless. The soup, found in a tomb near the ancient city of Xian, was still liquid, and was found along with a vessel of wine.

Abraham Lincoln and his wife were extremely devoted to their sons. On February 20, 1862, William Wallace Lincoln died of typhoid at 11 years old. He was very similar to his father in character and intelligence, and the two were very close. So close, in fact, that Lincoln could not see his son buried, but rather embalmed him and kept him in his friend William Thomas Carroll’s family vault, where he visited his son often to talk to him.

If you never learned a language, can you think to yourself? When we think through a situation, or think in general, we unconsciously think using the language we have learned. But what if we never knew a language? How could we still work through a logic problem or anything if we can’t express it, even in our minds? If we can’t, then how did we create language in the first place? An interesting thought.

There’s lightning – and then there’s dark lightning; the lightning we can’t see, that contains high doses of radiation.

A demonstration of medieval armor’s flexibility. Armor was impressively heavy, to be sure, but there are so many images of knights needing cranes to get on a horse that push the idea that they completely restricted movement. The foot soldier’s armor, shown above, allows for surprising freedom of movement. The heavy armor for those on horseback were used more for those in jousting tournaments, and were not regularly used for hand to hand combat, for obvious reasons. Men that fell off their horse in that heavy armor often had difficulty getting back up and once down, were effectively dead.

How to turn your smartphone into a cosmic ray detector.

A new method of measuring magnetism atom by atom. Basically, scientists have realized they can distort an aberration corrector (typically used to enhance microscope images) to enhance the magnetic signal of an atom so it can be measured. Without this distortion, measuring an atom’s magnetism is basically impossible, which makes precise measurements of magnetism in larger experiments a whole lot harder.

Painters, builders, winemakers, chemists, housewives, plumbers, etc. all loved lead. Little did they know what they were doing to themselves. A short history of the fatal attraction of lead.

A theory on why we dance from the perspective of evolutionary psychology.  After all, we all have an innate urge to dance, despite our culture, religion, gender. But why do we?



Were Paleolithic Cave Paintings The First Films?

These blurred lines in France’s Chauvet Cave may not be mistakes or overlapped drawings due to a lack of space. These animals are actually sequential pieces that show one animals in different positions. A horse’s head may be drawn three times, moving toward the ground, or another’s legs move in a running motion. While just looking at the drawings may not make sense, these drawings make sense when viewed in the flickering light of a fire that was used when they were drawn, creating an illusion similar to the toy below that might be familiar to you.

Archaeologist Marc Azéma created a video that scanned and animated the cave drawings, showing just how they were probably seen and possibly used for storytelling purposes:



Photo of the Day


This incredible underwater city, trapped in time, is 1341 years old. Shicheng, or Lion City, is located in the Zhejiang province in eastern China. It was submerged in 1959 during the construction of the Xin’an River Hydropower Station. The water protects the city from wind and rain erosion, so it has remained sealed underwater in relatively good condition.