The long and strange journey of Einstein's brain

The long and strange journey of Einstein's brain

From NPR: "The strange journey of Einstein's brain began on the evening of April 17, 1955, when the seventy-six-year-old physicist was admitted to Princeton Hospital complaining of chest pains. He died early the next morning of a burst aortic aneurysm. As in the cases of Carl Gauss and Walt Whitman, the issue of permission to perform an autopsy is clouded by subsequent testimony. Thomas Harvey, the pathologist on call that evening, would later say, "I just knew we had permission to do an autopsy, and I assumed that we were going to study the brain." As reporters soon discovered, Harvey did not have permission. And not only did Harvey take the brain, he also removed the physicist's eyeballs and gave them to Henry Abrams, Einstein's eye doctor."

A former mobster came out of retirement to steal Dorothy's ruby red slippers

From Josh Funk for AP News: "An aging reformed mobster admitted stealing a pair of the ruby red slippers that Judy Garland wore in The Wizard of Oz, saying he gave into the temptation of one last score after an old mob associate led him to believe the famous shoes must be adorned with real jewels to justify their $1 million insured value. Terry Jon Martin’s defense attorney finally revealed the 76-year-old’s motive for the 2005 theft from the Judy Garland Museum in the late actor’s hometown of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, in a new memo filed ahead of his Jan. 29 sentencing in Duluth, Minnesota. The FBI recovered the shoes in 2018 when someone else tried to claim an insurance reward on them, but Martin wasn’t charged with stealing them until last year."

Two giant broods of cicadas are emerging this year for the first time in over 200 years

From Aimee Ortiz for the NYT: "This spring, for the first time since 1803, two cicada groups known as Brood XIX, or the Great Southern Brood, and Brood XIII, or the Northern Illinois Brood, are set to appear at the same time, in what is known as a dual emergence. The last time the Northern Illinois Brood’s 17-year cycle aligned with the Great Southern Brood’s 13-year period, Thomas Jefferson was president. After this spring, it’ll be another 221 years before the broods, which are geographically adjacent, appear together again. “Nobody alive today will see it happen again,” said Floyd W. Shockley, an entomologist and collections manager at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. “That’s really rather humbling.”

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The great Red Delicious apple bailout

From Dan Lewis at Now I Know: "The Red Delicious is larger and redder than most other apples, which is a large part of the reason it is so popular. It’s the iconic stand-in for the entire set of varieties, and it’s probably what you envision when you picture an apple in your mind’s eye. At some point in the 1950s or so, someone realized that consumers can’t really judge apples by their taste, at least not on the individual apple level. Now, imagine an apple that is larger than the rest, has a deep red color, and has thick skin. That sounds like an apple that consumers would gladly purchase by the dozen — as a result, orchardists made sure that their Red Delicious apples grew to those standards. Unfortunately, Red Delicious apples don’t taste that good when at that stage."

A US teenager who doesn't speak Scottish faked almost half of Scottish Wikipedia

Discover the climate and geography of Scotland

From Libby Brooks for The Guardian: "The Scots Wikipedia entry on the Canada goosewas at first honest about its provenance. A tag warned: “The ‘Scots’ that wis uised in this airticle wis written bi a body that’s mither tongue isna Scots. Please impruive this airticle gin ye can.” But, as the author grew in confidence, so he removed the caveat, and continued on his Scots-writing spree. Eventually, an American teenager who does not speak Scots was revealed as being responsible for almost half of the entries on the Scots language version of Wikipedia. “I think this person has possibly done more damage to the Scots language than anyone else in history,” a Reddit user wrote. "They engaged in cultural vandalism on a hitherto unprecedented scale.”

My parents don't believe the Earth is round

From James Fisher: "Flat Earth theory entered my life around October 2015, when I received a Facebook message from Dad linking me to a YouTube video called “Flat Earth? Could it be? Very Likely!”. The video argues that the universe is a flat ice sheet capped by a great dome, just like a snow globe. In the twentieth century, governments discovered vast coal deposits in Antarctica. Eager to harvest these resources without our interference, the governments conspired to make the rest of us believe in a round Earth, so we would have no desire to explore its uninteresting South Pole. To distract us from the true outside world beyond the ice wall, NASA hoaxes explorations of a fake outside world, “space”. But, dear viewer, the conspiracy is hidden in plain sight: it is flaunted in the UN’s very logo, which shows the Flat Earth!"

Scientists captured the moment when the brain forms a memory

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, 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.