From Joe Biel: "Kittie Knox is the reason that bicycling is more than just another leisure sport for the wealthy. As a Black teenager, she created the world that she wanted to see from the seat of her bike. Today, you can see the results of Kittie’s success in the hundreds of cities around the globe where a bicycle is used to have a happier commute, as a social galvanizer among disparate individuals, as a political leveraging tool, or for tall bike jousting. Much has been written of the bicycle as the great liberator of wealthy women from restrictive clothing. But as you will see here, it was working class women like Kittie who changed the paradigm and made the bicycle into an actual liberator of women. While the upper classes clung to long, awkward skirts and tried to prevent women from embracing social bicycling at all, Kittie was out there showing them how it was done; what the future would hold."
The 16th century "Florentine Codex" has been digitized and is available online
From Maya Pontone for Hyperallergic: "After centuries of remaining largely inaccessible to the public, a rare manuscript featuring 2,500 pages of detailed illustrations and text documenting the history and culture of 16th-century Mexico is now available online. The Digital Florentine Codex, a seven-year project by Los Angeles’s Getty Research Institute, features new transcriptions and translations, updated summaries, searchable texts and images, and more. Modeled after medieval European encyclopedias, the Florentine Codex is a three-volume, 12-book collection written in Spanish and Nahuatl documenting the daily life and customs of the Mexica (Aztec) people, as well as other information including astronomy, flora, and fauna, during the time of Spanish conquest. It was originally created by Bernardino de Sahagún, a Spanish Franciscan friar."
Why left-handed people are better at playing badminton than right-handers
From Chen Ly for New Scientist: "Professional badminton players use feather shuttlecocks, which are usually made from about 16 overlapping goose or duck feathers inserted into a cork base. This overlapping introduces an asymmetry that means a …shuttlecock naturally spins anticlockwise as it flies through the air, unlike a tennis ball, which will spin in either direction.To study if this anticlockwise spin affects left and right-handed players differently, Eric Collet at the University of Rennes in France recorded and analysed videos of three left-handed and three right-handed people playing badminton. He found a key difference in the players’ forehand slice shots, a common move where the racket brushes the shuttlecock to change its angle of travel."
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This might be most popular and highest-selling photograph in history. But why?
From David Segal for the New York Times: "Standing on a second-story fire escape, a photographer named Ormond Gigli is shouting instructions through a bullhorn. Forty models are posing in the window frames of brownstones across East 58th Street on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, a menagerie of colorful dresses and evening gowns. Nobody has hired Gigli, a 35-year-old freelance commercial photographer, to create “Girls in the Windows.” He wants to memorialize those buildings, which stand directly across the street from his home studio. What he doesn’t know is that the image will become one of the most collected photographs in the history of the medium. Over the last 30 years, roughly 600 signed and numbered copies have been sold, at prices that typically range between $15,000 and $30,000. Add up the prices of all the copies already sold and you end up with a number in the range of $12 million."
Contrary to popular misconceptions, people in the Middle Ages were fairly clean
From Magdalena Lanuszka for JSTOR Daily: "While the stereotype about the Middle Ages is that it was an era of darkness and filth, medieval art and literature suggest the opposite—it was a colorful epoch, even bright—during which people delighted in bathing and appreciated its medicinal value. Throughout history, both medical treatises and poems have been dedicated to the subject of good hygiene. Regimen Sanitatis Salernitanum, a Latin poem made up of more than 360 rhymes was likely first written in the eleventh century by someone familiar with the education provided by the medical school in Salerno. Later translated into various vernaculars, the popular poem offered common sense advice on how to keep well by, for example, washing hands and face in cold water in the morning, and taking care to keep warm after a bath. Indeed, an early German print of this poem featured a woodcut of a queen bathing."
In the 1600s, the British and Dutch fought a war over control of the world's nutmeg
From Miss Cellania for Neatorama: "By the time the Dutch East India company was formed in 1602, nutmeg was already the favored spice in Europe. Aside from adding flavor to food and drinks, its aromatic qualities worked wonders to disguise the stench of decay in poorly preserved meats, always a problem in the days before refrigeration. Doctors also believed that it could keep away the plagues, so everyone wanted it. Ten pounds of nutmeg had a London street value of 2 pounds, 10 shillings, or about 68,000 times its original cost. nutmeg so rare? The tree grew in only one place in the world: the Banda Islands of Indonesia. A tiny archipelago rising only a few meters above sea level. In 1621 the Dutch swept in and took over, but one of the Banda Islands was under control of the British. The little sliver of land was one of England's first colonial outposts, dating to 1603."
An Australian company has created glow-in-the-dark road markings
Acknowledgements: I find a lot of these links myself, through RSS feeds etc. But I also get some from other newsletters and blogs that I rely on as "serendipty engines." They include Today In Tabs, Clive Thompson's Linkfest, Maria Popova's website The Marginalian, The Morning News from Rosecrans Baldwin and Andrew Womack, Why Is This Interesting, Dan Lewis's Now I Know, Robert Cottrell and Caroline Crampton's The Browser, Sheehan Quirke AKA The Cultural Tutor, the Smithsonian magazine, and JSTOR Daily. If you come across something you think should be included here, feel free to email me.