In 1950, Johnny Cash was 18 years old. Looking for independence and a sense of purpose, Cash enlisted in the Air Force and was quickly shipped off to San Antonio, Texas, where he was stationed at the Lackland Air Force base. On March 5th, 1953, Staff Sgt Cash was manning his post when he intercepted an important communique from the Soviets. He hastily transcribed a message explaining that Joseph Stalin was in poor health. For the Americans, the health of the Soviet leader was of critical importance to both the military and intelligence services. Cash continued transcribing morse code messages until he received word that Stalin had been pronounced dead. He relayed the message to his superiors, who in turn relayed it to President Eisenhower.
Plutonium is the deadliest substance known to man. Or is it?
Plutonium is the most dangerous substance known to man. We know this because Walter Cronkite told us so. Cronkite was the dean of network broadcasters and one of the most trusted voices in America. Ralph Nader, a few years earlier, told us just how dangerous. Nader said in a speech at Lafayette College in 1975 that a pound of plutonium could kill eight billion people. But Galen Winsor worked at the US plutonium production plant at Hanford, Washington, for 15 years, and the staff there regularly carried around lumps of highly enriched plutonium in their lab coat pockets. What Nader and the other claimants almost always forget to mention is that plutonium is an alpha-particle emitter. Alpha is a form of radiation that has almost no penetrating power. Alpha particles will be stopped by a piece of paper or a few centimeters of air.
The phantoms of a high-seven, or why do our thumbs stick out?
A recent reevaluation of the stem tetrapod Ichthyostega predicts that its seven digits evolved from two different types of ancestral fin radials, pre-axial and post-axial. When the first tetrapods emerged from the water around 400 million years ago their hands and feet looked quite different from the ones seen in modern day species. Instead of the five fingers and toes characteristic for ourselves and most other extant tetrapods, the hands and feet of stem tetrapods such as Ichthyostega numbered up to seven or eight digits. For millions of years to follow, tetrapods had six digits until this changed to the canonical pentadactyl Bauplan at the end of the Devonian around 350 MYA (a period whose tetrapods remain poorly known due to fragmentation of the fossil record.
A tale of shipwreck, mutiny, and murder
Typhoons. Scurvy. Shipwreck. Mutiny. Cannibalism. A war over the truth and who gets to write history. It's the extraordinary saga of the officers and crew of the Wager, a British naval warship that wrecked off the Chilean coast of Patagonia, in 1741. The men, marooned on a desolate island, descended into murderous anarchy. Years later, several survivors made it back to England, where, facing a court-martial and desperate to save their own lives, they gave wildly conflicting versions of what had happened. They each attempted to shade a scandalous truth—to erase history. As did the British Empire. The philosophers Rousseau, Voltaire, and Montesquieu were influenced by reports of the expedition, and so, later, were Charles Darwin and two of the great novelists of the sea, Herman Melville and Patrick O’Brian.
'Havana syndrome' is not caused by a foreign enemy, intelligence report finds
For years, U.S. personnel believed the pain to be associated with possible energy attacks from Russia or other U.S. adversaries. However, the National Intelligence office ruled out that possibility in their interim findings last year. For the latest report, seven intelligence agencies reviewed roughly 1,000 cases of "anomalous health incidents." Five of those agencies said that it is "very unlikely" that a foreign adversary weaponizing energy waves was responsible for the incidents. A group of U.S. diplomats and spies first reported symptoms at the U.S. embassy in Havana in 2016. Since then, analysts have looked into whether cases had common links, but the latest report concludes that it is "very unlikely" or "unlikely" that an adversary deliberately targeted officials.
Who poisoned Pablo Neruda?
Ariel Dorfman writes: "Once in a while a story surfaces that is so startling, so malicious, so unheard of, that people are jolted out of their fatigue. Recent news about the mysterious 1973 death of Pablo Neruda, the Chilean Nobel Prize winner and one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, has created such an occasion. According to Neruda’s family, a new forensics report conducted by a group of international experts has concluded that he was poisoned while already gravely ill—a victim, most probably, of the Chilean military he had politically opposed. For many years, I believed that Neruda had died of prostate cancer in a Santiago hospital on September 23, 1973, 12 days after the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende. Neruda’s widow, Matilde Urrutia, had told me that this was the cause of his death."