Monthly Archive: November 2015

The Real Person Behind The Fat, Laughing Buddha

Siddhartha Gautama, the hedonist who turned to extreme asceticism to pursue the spiritual path before achieving Enlightenment to become the Buddha, is sometimes depicted in art as an emaciated, skeletal figure. Who then, is the fat and jolly Buddha whose statues Westerners are familiar with? It turns out that he is an actual historical person, an eccentric Chinese monk named Pu-Tai, and his story is a heartwarming one.

When Arsenic, Old Cemeteries And Drinking Water Come Together

Until 1910, arsenic was commonly used to preserve bodies before burial. When university professors started testing the water supply around Civil War–era graveyards 80 years later, they found that there was an unsafe level of arsenic leaking into the surrounding soil and, in turn, into the water system. While there hasn’t been much done about it, we knew about the danger long before the outlawing of the use of arsenic in 1910. In 1844, The Lancet published an article about the concerns of the arsenic content in the bodies of those who had died from poisoning, and it was found then that it did contaminate the surrounding soil.

What Makes Lucid Dreams Different From Others

In lucid dreams, we know we’re dreaming and we have some kind of control over our actions rather than just being along for the ride. Lucid dreaming is physically a very different state than regular dreaming, with brain activity often reaching levels that are very similar to what’s going on when we’re awake. Researchers at Harvard have found that with the application of electrical current to the scalp, the brain can be encouraged to operate at an increased level and to induce lucid dreaming.

The Failed Bioterror Plot Of The Confederacy

Bioterrorism is a specter modern science and technology has inadvertently unleashed upon the world. Yet the attempt to turn disease-carrying viruses and bacteria into weapons of mass destruction is nothing new. Medieval warfare saw corpses of plague victims thrown at the enemy to spread disease. White settlers sometimes deliberately infected Native Americans with smallpox. During the US Civil War, Confederate sympathizers hatched a plan for a massive biological attack on major cities of the Northern states. Only the rebels’ ignorance of the capabilities of their weapon of choice spared the North from what could have been an apocalyptic scenario.

The Guitar-Shaped Forest Inspired By A Lost Love

Memorials for lost loved ones can take many forms. But devoted farmers have the singular ability to create artistic tributes that can be seen only from the heavens. Hidden among trees in the English countryside, one man created a 6-acre memorial with the shape of a heart in the middle when his wife died suddenly after 33 years of marriage. But perhaps the most stunning image is the kilometer-long guitar forest in the lowlands of Argentina. Even visible from space, it’s a heartbroken husband’s living tribute to a young wife who died at just 25 years old in the late 1970s.

The Sad Side Of Darwin’s Discoveries About Inbreeding

Charles Darwin wrote an entire treatise on the impact of inbreeding in plants and animals. He noted their infertility problems, their tendency to be ill and weak, and their susceptibility to disease. His findings made him look at his own family and his own sickly children. Married to his first cousin, he had 10 children. Three died before the age of 10, and three left behind no children of their own. More research into his family tree has found a whole trend of cousins marrying cousins, and it’s likely Darwin’s family was suffering from the very thing that he was researching.

The Oldest Known Ritual Decapitation

For some time, the earliest known examples of decapitation in the Americas were remains found in Florida and along the Ohio River Valley, dating to around 4,500 years ago. The excavation of an oddly positioned skull and its two hands in the Lapo do Santo burial grounds of Brazil change that date, estimated to have been buried around 9,000 years ago. How and why the person was killed and why they were buried in such a peculiar method is the subject only of speculation.

The Mysterious Curse Tablet Found In The City Of David

A rolled lead tablet discovered in the City of David is one of the oldest recorded curses ever found. Calling on six gods from three different religions to curse one party in an active legal case, the tablet pre-dates two others by only about 100 years. The other two, left sitting in an Italian museum before being translated, call curses down on a Roman senator and a veterinarian and feature appeals to the gods asking for them to be crushed, killed, and strangled. (And in the case of the senator, the petitioner asked for his limbs to be dissolved.)

The Strange Mercury River In An Ancient Mexican Temple Complex

Although there are different theories, no one knows with certainty who built the mysterious, ancient city of Teotihuacan or how it was ruled. Recent excavations are focusing on a 1,800-year-old tunnel complex under the Temple of Quetzalcoatl in the center of the city. In the last couple years, archaeologists have found thousands of relics that could be funerary offerings. Recently, scientists discovered something even more exciting: large amounts of liquid mercury in a chamber near the end of the tunnel. With its mirror-like quality, the toxic metal may represent an underworld lake or river, making it more likely that archaeologists will find a tomb nearby, possibly of a king or lord who once ruled the city.

When The South Fought Against States’ Rights

In summer 2015, Texas quietly adopted a new set of textbooks to be taught in schools. Among other controversies, the textbooks claimed the Civil War was less about slavery than it was about states’ rights. The logic goes that the Southern states were defending their constitutional freedoms against an encroaching federal government. But a largely forgotten Supreme Court case tells a different story. After a slave escaped to Wisconsin, representatives from Southern states lined up to denounce Wisconsin for not following the federal Fugitive Slave Act. In one way, they were arguing against states’ rights.