Monthly Archive: September 2015

The German Typeface Debate

At the turn of the 16th century, Germany’s Emperor Maximilian I established Fraktur and a Gothic style of script as appropriate for printing German works. By the 19th century, it had faded from popularity elsewhere, in favor of a more modern, Roman-inspired typeface. But Germany hung on, continuing to print everything in old-school script from a desire to maintain what was clearly a German-based and superior font. Ironically, it was Hitler that put an end to the practice, outlawing the script on the basis that it was clearly a typographical plot created by the world’s first printers, the Jews.

China Is Cracking Down On Funeral ‘Entertainers’

In Taiwan and China, funerals may start off as sad occasions and then pivot into a rollicking good time. Some families hire professional mourners who are paid to give the eulogy, sing tortured songs of lament, and engage in professional wailing. Then they change tone and entertain the crowd with happy songs and skits. However, some rural communities like to spice it up a bit with live funeral strippers, supposedly for spiritual reasons. But the government has vowed to stop funeral stripping, with some professional mourners recently fined as much as $11,000 and detained for 15 days.

The Tragic Attempt To Explore The North Pole By Balloon

S.A. Andree and two companions made an ambitious attempt to cross over the North Pole in a rather non-traditional way: by hot air balloon. The team was never heard from again, but 33 years after they left, their remains were found by a team of geologists. Also found were their journals, detailing every day of their terrifying march across the ice floes in an attempt to reach a safety that remained just out of reach.

The Stinkiest City In The Pacific Northwest

For decades, it was known as the Aroma of Tacoma, a rotten egg smell that was the worst when the winds stopped and the tides were out, exposing the tideflats of Commencement Bay. Those tideflats weren’t so much sediment and dirt as they were decades of industrial waste, leaving ocean life deformed and mutated and visitors—including Bruce Springsteen—taking the first opportunity they could to get out of town. The entire area was declared a Superfund site and one of the most polluted in the country, helping to raise awareness of the consequences of our unchecked industrial growth.

The Strange Evolution Of The Different Kinds Of Introversion

For a long time, psychologists have debated about how to classify introversion, and throughout the 1990s, it was simply one classification that was more or less “not extroversion.” Researchers have now broken introverts down into four different categories, stressing that each person relates to each category with varying degrees. Reserved introverts start out shy and standoffish, but tend to open up and become more social once they know someone. Thinking introverts tend not to shy away from social situations, but spend those times watching rather than participating. Anxious introverts avoid socializing because it makes them uncomfortable, while social introverts prefer small, close-knit groups.

How An Electric Shock Might Increase Your Math Skills

It’s believed that about 20 percent of the population struggles with math to such a degree that it affects their ability to cope with everyday tasks such as managing money. Some kids are able to do math with a mental abacus. But for the rest of us, scientists found that a mild electrical shock to the brain increased a person’s ability to learn and retain basic mathematical skills. The boost in mathematical ability lasted at least six months, although it didn’t produce any Albert Einsteins. However, scientists are now experimenting with actual “thinking caps” to see if electrical stimulation of the brain will help general learning and memory.

The Many Different North Stars

Right now, Polaris is the North Star, but it’s technically not the only one. Recent technology has allowed us to finally get a glimpse at Polaris’s companion stars. While one can be seen with a regular telescope, another is so close that the Hubble only got a picture of it in 2006. There are technically more “North Stars” than Polaris, too. Around 5,000 years ago, the pole star was Thuban, now a star in the constellation Draco. Next, it’ll be Errai, and after that, it’ll be Alderamin. The constant change is due to the slightly unsteady rotation of Earth.

The 1952 Inter-Camp Olympics Deep Inside North Korea

During the Korean War, North Korea wanted to prove they weren’t torturing their prisoners of war (which they totally were). So in 1952, the DPRK launched the Inter-Camp Olympic Games, a weird propaganda event that involved hundreds of UN POWs playing games like baseball, soccer, and volleyball. Interestingly, the POWs were pretty much in charge of the whole show and saw it as a way to escape the oppression of the prison camps.

A Young British Officer’s Account Of The Awful Events At Scapa Flow

Amid the remote Orkney Islands of Scotland lies the massive natural anchorage called “Scapa Flow” that was used by the British Royal Navy in World War I. At the end of the war, it was here that a German admiral performed one last, grand act of defiance, giving the order to scuttle interned German ships as the Treaty of Versailles was being negotiated and signed. Until recently, we only had official reports of what had happened. But now, the letter of a young British sub-lieutenant has been published. He was at the scene, and his letter, filled with emotion, contemporaneously records the events of that time as he’s telling them to a family member.