Monthly Archive: February 2015

The Starvation Doctor Of Seattle

In the early 1900s, Linda Hazzard set up shop in Seattle as a starvation doctor. She wasn’t called that, of course. She was a less-threatening “fasting specialist,” but the result was the same—her patients died. After the death of the daughter of an officer in the English Army, she was eventually tried and convicted of manslaughter—but she had already gotten some of her patients to sign over their wealth.

Why Living In The Present Is Actually A Terrible Idea

According to researchers from Harvard and Virginia Universities, all of mankind is laboring under a sort of species-wide blind spot. We’re well aware that we’ve changed and evolved as individuals throughout our lives, but we’re almost completely incapable of realizing that in the future, we’ll be changing just as much. This denial of future change is likely a major contributing factor when it comes to making poor decisions that hurt us in the long run, and being aware of it can at least help us make those decisions a little bit better.

Your Credit Card Data Is Far From Anonymous

We’ve been told that our transaction records are “anonymized” by removing our names and other personal details before our credit card companies share the information with outside organizations. But researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have shown that the locations and dates of just four purchases are sufficient to correctly identify you with over 90 percent accuracy in a database of 1.1 million people with three months of information (even if the data is anonymized). The researchers only need three purchases to identify you if they have price information. In other words, you have little privacy regardless of what you’ve been told.

The ‘Secret Code’ Of The Underground Railroad

According to the popular story, slaves running north on the Underground Railroad were often sent secret messages through quilts. Conveniently and casually hung on a clothesline or over a railing, the pattern on the quilt would tell them valuable information, like whether or not it was safe to stop. Thing is, it hasn’t really been found to be true, and the earliest reference we have to the idea come from a 1999 book with a single source—a woman who, conveniently, sold quilts.

How Today’s Soldiers Might Solve The Mystery Of Shell Shock

Through autopsies, researchers discovered that improvised explosive devices (IEDs) may leave a lasting, distinctive pattern on the brains of combat veterans who survived attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan only to die later of other causes. In World War I, soldiers with similar injuries were described as suffering from “shell shock,” an antiquated term for their inexplicable difficulties with memory, reasoning, decision-making, and other executive brain functions. The honeycomb patterns of swollen and broken nerve fibers found in the brains of these recent veterans may finally solve the century-old mystery of the shell shock that plagued World War I veterans.

You Have To Turn On Your Memory To Make It Work

Many of us believe we’ll remember details of our experiences just because we pay attention to what we’re seeing and doing. However, according to psychologists from Penn State University, we have to make a conscious effort to turn on our memories, as though hitting the “record” button on a camcorder. Otherwise, we’ll suffer from “attribute amnesia,” the inability to remember a bit of information needed to complete a task, even if we just finished it a second earlier.

The Men Who Poisoned Themselves For Food Safety

We’ve heard the horror stories about unregulated foods and unscrupulous manufacturers that were slowly poisoning their consumers, and change came about in large part because of a pretty amazing group of young men called the Poison Squad. Organized by a doctor and chemist working for the Department of Agriculture, the Poison Squad spent several years eating food tainted with chemicals like sulfuric acid and borax—all things that manufacturers were using on a regular basis. The public outrage following the release of the findings led to the birth of the Pure Food and Drugs Act in 1906.

How The Russian Navy Saved The Union In The Civil War

A little-known alliance between the US and Tsarist Russia led to the Russian fleet showing up in force in New York and San Francisco. It arrived at a crucial time in 1863 when Britain and France were on the verge of intervening in the Civil War on the side of the Confederacy. An actual world war was on the horizon that would “wrap the world in flames” as Secretary of State William Seward put it. The mighty Russian presence deterred the Anglo-French from invading, and the Union was saved.