Synesthesia

Posted on: July 31, 2017

Synesthesia is a neurological condition where one sensory pathway is joined with another sensory pathway so that when one is triggered the other is triggered involuntarily. For example, sounds could be experienced as colours. Some people experience words as tastes and smells. It is sometimes suggested as a source of genius and composers such as Chopin experienced sound as colour and would choose chord progressions based on the shades and the hue of colour they were playing.

Noted sufferers:

  • Tori Amos
  • Michael Jackson
  • Duke Ellington
  • Richard Feynmann
  • Marilyn Monroe
  • Vincent Van Gogh
  • Kanye West
  • Hans Zimmer


Grave of Frank Bostock with a stone lion resting on it

Frank C Bostock

Posted on: July 24, 2017

Frank C Bostock is credited with the discovery that lions are intimidated by chairs. He was a lion tamer and came to true prominence as the man who lost a lion in a sewer. He owned a menagerie of dangerous animals. He saw such a show in the US and thought to himself “yeah, don’t mind if I do!” So he came home and started to stockpile dangerous animals. A bit like Newt Scamander.

Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander

In Autumn of 1889, in Birmingham, he lost a lion. He was preparing for a show, and a lion (that had already killed one man) jumped over a keeper, and took off. It climbed into a sewer and, according to reports from Frank himself, he would stop at each manhole to roar up at people. Large crowds had gathered, and people were panicking. Bostock went into his menagerie and put a second lion into a cloth covered cage and then whipped it out announcing that he had caught the lion! His ‘actions in getting the lion from the sewer’ made him even more famous, as the man who lost and regained a lion from the sewer. The following afternoon the police visited Bostock and congratulated him on his bravery. He panicked and came clean to them. In his book, the Training of Wild Animals, Bostock remarked that he would never forget the face of that [police] man when he realised the lion was still in the sewer, saying “it was a wonderful study for any mind reader”. He went on, “At first he was inclined to blame me, but when I showed him I had probably stopped a panic and that my own liabilities in the matter were pretty grave possibilities to face, he sympathised with me and added that any help he could give me, I might have.”

Sources: BBC


Civil war era soldiers

Military Blunders

Posted on: July 10, 2017

Liechtenstein Army

During the Austro-Prussian Ware of 1866, 80 men went off to fight, but 81 came back with a foreign officer joining up with them on the way home. Soon after this, the army was disbanded.

Pig War of 1859

Started in 1846 when the Oregon Treaty was signed between the US and the British to put a long standing border issue to rest. It was quite hard to draw up the line for the border because of the set of islands involved. The border had to be through the middle of a channel, but the island positions made this difficult. In 1859 the British had a significant presence on the same island, as did a small group of US settlers (20-30 people). On June 15th, 1859, a pig belonging to the British accidentally wandered onto the land of Lyman Cutlar, an American farmer. When Cutlar noticed the pig eating some of his potatoes he became enraged and shot and killed the pig. The pig owner, Charles Griffin, confronted Cutlar, with the position that it was Cutlar’s responsibility to keep his potatoes out of his pig! Cutlar offered to pay $10 compensation, which was refused. Well, all hell broke loose. The two men couldn’t reach a settlement, so the British authorities threatened to arrest Cutlar. Cutlar then requested military assistance from the US. He got it. What?!

The Americans initially sent 66 soldiers to prevent the British from landing. The British sent three warships. By August 10, 1859, 461 Americans with 14 cannons were opposed by five British warships mounting 70 guns and carrying 2,140 men. British Rear Admiral Robert L. Baynes received orders to land marines on San Juan Island and engage the American soldiers under the command of Brigadier-General Harney. Baynes refused, deciding that “two great nations in a war over a squabble about a pig” was foolish. Local commanding officers on both sides had been given essentially the same orders: defend yourselves, but absolutely do not fire the first shot.

Eventually, the two nations agreed to retain joint military occupation of the island until a final settlement could be reached, reducing their presence to a token force of no more than 100 men. This state of affairs continued for the next 12 years. The dispute was peacefully resolved after more than a decade of confrontation and military bluster.

Sources: Wikipedia


Artimus Pyle

Artimus Pyle*

Posted on: July 3, 2017

Artimus Pyle was the drummer for band Lynyrd Skynyrd. In 1977 the band was flying from Greenville, South Carolina, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana and the plane ran out of fuel and crashed into a swamp. The plane had in fact been previously inspected by Aerosmith, who refused to fly in it. Several members of the band and crew died. Artimus Pyle, however, survived. He suffered injuries including broken ribs, but never lost consciousness during the crash. He crawled out of the wreckage, and was almost instantly attacked by a snake but fought it off. After some time wandering in search of help, he happened across a farmstead. The farmer came out and shot him, thinking he was trespassing. He survived all of that and lives to this day.

* This entry has an asterisk as he was accused of child sex offences in the early 90s and that is not the sort of person we endorse.


The carved face of Yuri Gagarin

Yuri Gagarin’s Head

Posted on: July 3, 2017

Yuri Gagarin is of course known as the first man (or woman) in space. This is obviously a great achievement and needs to be recognised as such. What better way to give recognition that to erect a monument, right? Well, on the south shores of lake Issyk-Kul in Barskoon, in the northeastern corner of Kyrgyzstan, is a giant face carved directly into a massive rock. Whose face is it? Why it is Yuri Gagarin.

The current sculpture is actually a reconstruction as during the fall of the USSR the original monument was concreted over.

Yuri Gagarin face sculpture

Sources: Atlas Obscura


Lightning

Human Lightning Conductor

Posted on: June 26, 2017

Roy Sullivan is a name that will no doubt mean absolutely nothing to you. No offence, Roy. He was a park ranger in the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, and between 1942 and 1977 was hit by lighting SEVEN times. He survived all of these strikes, and even managed to get himself in the Guinness World Records as the person struck by lightning more times than any other. Based on an average 80 year life you, the common person, have a 1 in 10,000 chance of being hit by lightning.

Later in life, Roy was avoided by people because they were worried about the possibility of being hit by lightning, they genuinely feared that he was a conductor for it and they might get caught by it themselves. The details of his passing are open for debate (the reasons anyway), having died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Sources:

We are the real encyclopedia, but Wiki has a nice summary


Bread clips

Kwik Lok

Posted on: June 26, 2017

The little bread bag tags that we have all used countless times in our lives, are almost exclusively produced by one company. The idea came to a man named Floyd Paxton during a flight in 1952. He was eating a packet of complimentary nuts (as was the norm at the time), and he wanted to save some for later so he whittled the first bread clip out of a piece of plastic.

Sources:

Kwik Lok


Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon

Buzz Aldrin Expenses Claim

Posted on: June 19, 2017

Buzz Aldrin was required to submit a travel expenses claim…for his trip to the moon. He submitted one for $33.31. The trip was from Houston, TX to the moon via Cape Kennedy, FL and then returning from the moon to the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii, and back to Houston. It was approved on August 26, 1969.

Sources:


Fig cut in half

Fig Wasps

Posted on: June 19, 2017

Fig wasps spend their larval stage inside wasps. Che? Yeah it’s mental, but it’s also true! The female wasp crawls in a hole that is so small her wings break off (showing some serious commitment) and so she becomes trapped inside the fig. Basically like a kid sticking their head through a railing and not being able to get it back out again. If the fig is male, she lays her eggs inside. Think about that for a minute. She might have got it wrong and now she’s just trapped inside a female fig with nothing to do! She still pollinates the fig, but then just tragically dies all on her lonesome, having laid no eggs. Assuming it is a male fig, the eggs that she lays hatch into larvae, burrow out and fly off as wasps, carrying fig pollen with them.

Apparently, the female fig produces an enzyme that digests the wasp completely, and in the male fig all of the baby wasps have flown away, but I have no information on what happens with the original mother wasp in the male fig. Hmm. But fear not, apparently we don’t eat those figs.

Sources:


Mike the headless chicken

Mike the Headless Chicken

Posted on: June 12, 2017

September 10, 1945, a day that shall live in infamy. Mike the headless chicken (still headed at this time) was pottering around in Fruita Colorado. Lloyd Olson was asked by his wife to go outside and kill a chicken for dinner. Lloyd grabbed Mike and swung his axe, chopping his head off. Mike did not die. Lloyd decided to keep Mike and look after him. He started feeding a mixture of milk and water from an eye dropper straight down Mike’s neck. He would also feed single grains of corn down his neck. He took Mike to the University of Utah, where they inspected Mike and it transpired the jugular vein was missed and a clot had prevented him from bleeding out. He had most of his brain stem and one ear remaining. So Mike was relatively healthy! Lloyd then got Mike into the sideshow circuit, and at the height of his fame he was earning the equivalent of $48,000 a month. Sadly, a grain of corn got stuck in his throat and he choked to death.

Mike the headless chicken

Mike the headless chicken…and his head

References:
Mike the Headless Chicken