From Dan Lewis: "The pink above is brighter than most computers can display. If you want to see just how bright the pinkest pink can get, you’ll have to see it with your own eyes. The good news is that you can buy some. For about $5, the maker of the pink, artist Stuart Semple, will sell you a 50-gram jar of it which you can turn into paint. Oh, but there’s a catch. Here’s the relevant text from the page: "*Note: By adding this product to your cart you confirm that you are not Anish Kapoor, you are in no way affiliated to Anish Kapoor, you are not purchasing this item on behalf of Anish Kapoor or an associate of Anish Kapoor." To understand why, you need to know about something called Vantablack, which Wikipedia describes as “the blackest artificial substance known, absorbing up to 99.965% of radiation in the visible spectrum.”
Why the story of George Orwell’s forgotten first wife still matters
Amanda Hooten writes for the Sydney Morning Herald: "Eileen O’Shaughnessy married Orwell in 1936 and became Eileen Blair (George Orwell’s real name was, rather prosaically, Eric Blair). But Funder found she was virtually missing from Orwell’s own, often deeply personal, writing about his life. This was odd, Funder thought – especially since, as she dug deeper, she discovered a woman who was, according to seemingly everyone who knew her, a truly remarkable person. Eileen Blair was a woman who won a scholarship to and earned an English degree from the University of Oxford, at a time when women were barely admitted to higher education. She was a woman who not only performed every skerrick of the domestic work in her life with Orwell, but also supported him financially for at least two years of their nine-year marriage."
Over the course of three decades, he turned his rented home into a work of art
From Max Olesker for Longreads: "When I walk into the room, it is the enormous minotaur head that first catches my eye—its vast gaping concrete mouth containing the grate of a fireplace, its wide eyes staring back at me. Above the minotaur, ancient Greek tragedians are painted on the wall—Euripides, Sophocles, Aeschylus. Surrounding the minotaur on one side is an array of handmade military paraphernalia: shields, tabards, helmets, and weapons. Dismembered human body parts sculpted from newspaper adorn the other, limbs, torsos, and heads all aimlessly scattered near the bay windows. Over the course of 33 years, Gittins painstakingly transformed almost every surface of this flat with a series of artworks in a variety of styles and mediums, from friezes on the walls of his living room to a Roman altar in his kitchen."
During the Feast of Fools in the 14th century, bishops would wear costumes and drink
From Jonny Thomson for Big Think: "Carnivals were about the inversion of values, a way of turning the world upside down. Bishops would dress in lewd clothes, kings as jesters, and local lords as grotesque monsters. The Feast of Fools was an event celebrated in France around the New Year, and it was all about satire and frivolity. It involved role reversal (where the lower clergy would dress as bishops and vice versa) and mock ceremonies. There was crossdressing and drunkenness. Often, a “Lord of Misrule” or “Fool’s Pope” was elected for the day. In 1445, the Theology Faculty of Paris sent an angry letter to the bishops of France about the practice of "priests and clerks wearing masks and monstrous visages at the hours of office. They dance in the choir dressed as women, panders [pimps], or minstrels. They sing wanton songs."
At the age of 21, he became a guard at the Auschwitz concentration camp
From Laurence Rees for Politico: "In 1942, Oskar Groening was posted to Auschwitz. He almost immediately witnessed a transport arriving at the ramp — the platform where the Jews disembarked. “I was standing at the ramp,” he says, “and my task was to be part of the group supervising the luggage from an incoming transport.” He watched while SS doctors first separated men from women and children, and then selected who was fit to work and who should be gassed immediately. “Sick people were lifted on to lorries,” says Groening. “Red Cross lorries — they always tried to create the impression that people had nothing to fear.” He estimates that between 80 and 90 percent of those on the first transport were selected to be murdered at once. Groening, according to his story, was so filled by “doubt and outrage” that he went to his superior officer."
Why did Renaissance artists include fake Arabic script in their paintings?
From Sheehan Quirke, also known as The Cultural Tutor: "At first glance this probably looks like a more or less ordinary Early Renaissance painting of the Madonna and Child. This is, in some sense, true. But there's more going on here. Look closer. What do you notice about the halo around Mary's head, and about the hem of her robe? Both are decorated with what looks like Arabic script. But it isn't; it's gibberish. They are a garbled imitation of Arabic rather than the real thing. What's going on here? It was common practice during the Italian Renaissance for artists to decorate the halos and robes of Mary and Jesus with something usually called "pseudo-Arabic." But why? Well, scholars have speculated that painters wanted to evoke the Holy Land, Mary's home and Christ's birthplace, which was under Islamic dominion at the time. So it was, possibly, an atmospheric and narrative decision. This may be true, but we cannot know for sure. A better question, perhaps, is how these artists were familiar with Arabic at all."
The strangler fig grows around its host until there's nothing left
From Science Girl on Twitter: The strangler fig's seeds have made their way into the canopy of a host tree and germinated. As the fig's roots grow, they cascade down the trunk,
Once they are in the ground it competes for nutrients and water with the host. Then It gradually tightens its grip around the host tree. This process hinders the flow of water and nutrients, causing the host tree to weaken and eventually die. Over time, the strangler fig takes over completely, once the process is complete, the original tree decomposes, a hollow centre is all that remains.