From Alan Prendergast for WestWord: "Located a hundred miles southwest of Denver, just outside the high-desert town of Florence, ADX houses more than 300 terrorists, gang leaders, drug lords and other high-risk prisoners. Its guest list includes Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols and shoe bomber Richard Reid, and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski was housed there for decades until he committed suicide. And then are the two guys in The Suites, the most solitary of men. They are each entombed behind double doors in a seven-by-twelve-foot cell; the men are under scrutiny 24 hours a day, by cameras and listening devices in the cells. FBI agents read their mail and listen in on their phone calls."
Why did this New England college campus see a wave of student suicides?
From Jordan Kisner for the NYT: "The first death happened before the academic year began. In July 2021, an undergraduate student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute was reported dead. The administration sent a notice out over email, with the familiar, thoroughly vetted phrasing and appended resources. The week before the academic year began, a second student died. A rising senior in the computer-science department who loved horticulture took his own life. This brought an intimation of disaster. One student suicide is a tragedy; two might be the beginning of a cluster. Some faculty members began to feel a tinge of dread when they stepped onto campus. A third student died before September was up."
An Austrian heiress is asking 50 strangers to form a council to give away her wealth
From Niha Masih for the Washington Post: "Austrian heiress Marlene Engelhorn announced the formation of a citizen’s council in Austria that will receive 25 million euros, or $27.4 million, from her inheritance and decide on its redistribution. “I have this money because the government has failed to fulfill its mandate to ensure that wealth is distributed in society in such a way that it doesn’t end up unequally in my hands, just because I’m in this world in this particular family with this surname,” Engelhorn, 31, said. She is a descendant of Friedrich Engelhorn, who founded BASF in Germany in 1865, one of the world’s biggest chemical companies." It was not immediately clear how much of her fortune she will retain after giving away $27.4 million."
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Margarine was invented after Napoleon asked for a butter replacement
From TW Lim at Scope of Work: "Napoleon III had offered a prize to the person who could devise “a substitute product for ordinary butter, cheaper and which keeps well, for the navy and the less well-off classes,” which Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès, a French chemist, won with a mixture of tallow, water, skim milk, and sodium bicarbonate. So much comes together in this moment. The idea of mass luxury – that everyone, down to the lowliest swab in the French navy, deserved something unctuous on their bread; a food created to prop up a social structure that had pulled people off the land; an empire putting its weight behind the idea that one fat could be made into another. This wasn’t substitution, like using chicken fat when a recipe called for lard – this was transmutation."
Longest-running lab experiment in history started in 1927 and is still going
From Atlas Obscura: "To view the experiment that the University of Queensland's School of Maths and Physics boasts is "more exciting than watching grass grow," you'll need to go to the display cabinet at the school's foyer. There, beneath a glass dome, you will see a funnel filled with asphalt. It doesn't seem to be doing anything other than sitting there, but do not be deceived: You are looking at the world's longest continuously running lab experiment. The Pitch Drop Experiment began in 1927, the brainchild of UQ physics professor Thomas Parnell. His aim: to demonstrate that pitch—a term that includes substances such as asphalt—is not solid, but a highly viscous liquid."
This pay phone is free, but you can’t make a call. It only plays birdsongs
From Cathy Free for the Washington Post: "Hatib Joof sees elementary school students lined up at a pay phone outside of his restaurant in Takoma Park, Md., in suburban Washington, several times a week. “The phone attracts a lot of attention,” Joof said. “And it’s fascinating to watch people’s expressions when they use it.” It’s not just kids who are drawn to the phone, which has a canary yellow receiver. Adults stop by all day long for a little boost as well. The phone plays free birdsongs. Listeners push 1 to hear a yellow-crowned night heron, 7 to hear a pileated woodpecker’s call and 9 for the distinct scream of a red-tailed hawk. It was installed years ago, but it’s more popular than ever, said Joof."
The red and white stripes on a wind sock have a purpose
Acknowledgements: I find a lot of these links myself, but I also get some from other newsletters that I rely on as "serendipty engines," such as The Morning News from Rosecrans Baldwin and Andrew Womack, Jodi Ettenberg's Curious About Everything, Dan Lewis's Now I Know, Robert Cottrell and Caroline Crampton's The Browser, Clive Thompson's Linkfest, Noah Brier and Colin Nagy's Why Is This Interesting, Maria Popova's The Marginalian, Sheehan Quirke AKA The Cultural Tutor, the Smithsonian magazine, and JSTOR Daily. If you come across something interesting that you think should be included here, please feel free to email me.