How Lou Reed changed the course of Polish history
The Lou Reed-loving Czech rock group The Plastic People of the Universe may well be the only covers band to ever alter the course of history. After tanks from the Warsaw Pact countries rolled into Prague in 1968, curtailing the liberalising and reformist Alexander Dubček, bands were told to play on, but only if they didn't have long hair or sing in English. The Plastics, with their unshorn locks, bohemian ways and repertoire of Velvet Underground and Frank Zappa songs, proved to be a thorn in the side of the Soviets. Members and fans of the band were put on trial in 1976, leading playwright Václav Havel and others to write the Charter 77 manifesto and organise protests that shamed the government into lightening the band members' sentences. When Reed went to interview Havel for Rolling Stone in 1990, he was left stunned when the statesman said to him: "Did you know that I am president because of you?"
Does Albert Einstein's first wife deserve some credit for relativity?
While her husband, Albert Einstein is celebrated as perhaps the best physicist of the 20th century, one question about his career remains: How much did his first wife Mileva contribute to his groundbreaking science? While nobody has been able to credit her with any specific part of his work, their letters and numerous testimonies presented in the books dedicated to her provide substantial evidence on how they collaborated from the time they met in 1896 up to their separation in 1914. We will never know. But nobody made it clearer than Albert Einstein himself that they collaborated on special relativity when he wrote to Mileva on 27 March 1901: “How happy and proud I will be when the two of us together will have brought our work on relative motion to a victorious conclusion.”
The idea that wolf packs have an "alpha male" is a myth
If you’ve ever heard the term “alpha wolf,” you might imagine snapping fangs and fights to the death for dominance. The idea that wolf packs are led by a merciless dictator is pervasive, lending itself to a shorthand for a kind of dominant masculinity. many wildlife biologists, once used terms such as alpha and beta to describe the pecking order in wolf packs. But now they are decades out of date, he says. This terminology arose from research done on captive wolf packs in the mid-20th century—but captive packs are nothing like wild one. But it turns out that this is a myth, and in recent years wildlife biologists have largely dropped the term “alpha.” In the wild, researchers have found that most wolf packs are simply families, led by a breeding pair, and bloody duels for supremacy are rare.
How Tootsie Rolls saved US Marines in the Korean War
By November 1950, the Korean war was well underway. US Marines were based in the Chosin Resevoir Area. As the temperature hit -38°C the ground froze, roads became iced over, and tank fuel pipes froze over, cracking open in some places. With the situation looking dire, they made a request for more mortar shells, which were codenamed ‘Tootsie Rolls’. After the request went through the troops waited until the US were able to make air drops, and then they found actual Tootsie Rolls. But the Marines soon discovered that they would melt in the mouth, and if they were careful, they could soften up the sweets and put them to good use. Turning them into a sort of putty the softened tootsie rolls were then applied to the fuel pipes; acting as a seal. Surprisingly, this worked. It was so cold that the sweets then solidified around the pipes, resealing them.
Scientist who edited babies’ genes says he acted ‘too quickly’
The scientist at the heart of the scandal involving the world’s first gene-edited babies has said he moved “too quickly” by pressing ahead with the procedure. He Jiankui sent shock waves across the world of science when he announced in 2018 that he had edited the genes of twin girls, Lulu and Nana, before birth. He was subsequently sacked by his university in Shenzhen, received a three-year prison sentence, and was broadly condemned for having gone ahead with the risky, ethically contentious and medically unjustified procedure with inadequate consent from the families involved. Speaking to the Guardian in one of his first interviews since his public re-emergence last year, He said: “I’ve been thinking about what I’ve done in the past for a long time. To summarise it up in one sentence: I did it too quickly.” However, he stopped short of expressing regret or apologising, saying “I need more time to think about that” and “that’s a complicated question”.
The curse of the Bahia emerald a giant green rock that ruins lives
In a vault controlled by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, there sits a 752-pound emerald with no rightful owner. This gem is the size of a minifridge. It weighs as much as two sumo wrestlers. Estimates of its worth range from a hundred bucks to $925 million. Over the past 10 years, four lawsuits have been filed over the Bahia emerald. Fourteen individuals or entities, plus the nation of Brazil, have claimed the rock is theirs. A house burned down. Three people filed for bankruptcy. One man alleges having been kidnapped and held hostage. As Brian Brazeal, an anthropologist at California State University Chico, wrote in a paper entitled The Fetish and the Stone: A Moral Economy of Charlatans and Thieves, “Emeralds can take over the lives of well-meaning devotees and lead them down the road to perdition.”