From Erik Wills for GQ magazine: "When he first alighted on the scene, Jason Belmonte – or Belmo, as he’s known to his fans – resembled an alien species: one that bowled with two hands. And not some granny shot, to be clear, but a kickass power move in which he uses two fingers (and no thumb) on his right hand, palms the front of the ball with his left, and then, on his approach, which is marked by a distinctive shuffle step, rocks the ball back before launching it with a liquid, athletic whip, his delivery producing an eye-popping hook, his ball striking the pins like a mini mortar explosion. Not everyone welcomed his arrival. He’s been called a cheat, told to go back to his native Australia; a PBA Hall of Famer once called the two-hander a “cancer to an already diseased sport.” He’s won 15 major titles, four more than anyone else in history, and seven Player of the Year awards, tied for the most all-time."
The Stradivarius Murders
Brent Crane writes for Bloomberg: "On October 22 of 2021, Bernard von Bredow was found lifeless in his compound in Paraguay, sprawled beside his living room table. He’d been shot in the neck, and his body bore signs of torture. Fourteen-year-old Loreena was found dead in the bathtub. She’d been shot in the abdomen. Blood was everywhere—on the carpet, in the hall, in the kitchen. Belongings had been tossed about, maybe from a struggle, a search or both. Missing from the property, the local police announced later, were four specimens of the world’s most expensive musical instrument, the Stradivarius violin. The roughly 600 remaining violins built in the 17th and 18th centuries by the Italian luthier Antonio Stradivari can fetch as much as $20 million each."
The hidden psychological depths of the rock-paper-scissors game
From Greg Costikyan for the MIT Press: "Unless you have lived in a Skinner box from an early age, you know that the outcome of tic-tac-toe is utterly certain. At first glance, rock-paper-scissors appears almost as bad. A four-year-old might think there’s some strategy to it, but isn’t it basically random? Indeed, people often turn to rock-paper-scissors as a way of making random, arbitrary decisions — choosing who’ll buy the first round of drinks, say. The reason rock-paper-scissors is not a purely arbitrary game, and the reason that an excellent player will win more often than chance would predict, is that human psychology is not random, and some behaviors are — not necessarily predictable, but likely to occur more often than chance would dictate."
How did professional eaters go from eating 10 hot dogs in 10 minutes to eating 76?
From Carson TerBush for the Washington Post: "On July 4, 2001, Takeru Kobayashi, a newcomer at the Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest, systematically swallowed 50 hot dogs and soggy buns in 12 minutes, doubling the contest’s previous record. Six years later, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut dethroned Kobayashi at the Coney Island showdown and in 2021, he set an all-time record of 76 hot dogs and buns in just 10 minutes. In the 20 years before Kobayashi’s debut, the average champion had to eat about 16 hot dogs and buns to win the contest’s “Mustard Belt” prize. Now, they have to eat more than that just to qualify — typically 20 dogs in 10 minutes — and at least triple that to have any hope of winning. So what makes a competitive eating champion? Is it a stretchy stomach, a specific training plan or exceptional willpower?"
When Jean-François Champollion deciphered the Rosetta Stone
From Allison Meier for JSTOR Daily: "Two hundred years ago, French scholar and polymath Jean-François Champollion announced he had deciphered the Rosetta Stone. His September 27, 1822, presentation to the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres in Paris would radically change the study of ancient Egypt. For the first time in centuries, Egyptian hieroglyphs could be understood, leading to a new wave of research into this lost language and the distant past it recorded. When the Rosetta Stone was inscribed, it wasn’t a singular object; rather it was one of many of its type. Its text praising the divine virtues of the pharaoh Ptolemy V (crowned in 196 BCE) was spread across Egypt through the erection of similar stelae (upright stones upon which commemorative or declaratory texts and images were inscribed). These particular stelae were raised during a tumultuous moment of uprisings against the Ptolemaic Kingdom."
Why do we sometimes feel as though there is someone else in the room with us?
Ben Alderson-Day for Aeon magazine: "Sarah was in her late teens when it first happened. A normal Thursday, it was early morning and pitch-black outside. The wind rattled the trees, branches rapping the windowpanes like a nervous visitor at the door. She could feel it was nearly time for her to get up, and heard her parents moving around downstairs. As she opened her eyes for the first time, something changed. A dark realisation – two, in fact. She couldn’t move her body. And she wasn’t alone. Something in the corner of her bedroom was waiting there. It was watching her. Something very old, almost primal. It emanated a vital sense of malice. What Sarah experienced that morning was sleep paralysis, a phenomenon that affects about 7 per cent of adults. It happens because, when we awake, our muscles aren’t always ready – even if our minds are."
Never get into a dispute with a painter
From the Journal of Art in Society on Twitter: "In this 1509 altarpiece, now known only by a later copy, Dürer boldly paints his own advertisement in the centre, after bitter dispute with the patron about pay ~ a self-portrait. standing in a field, turning to viewer, holding sign with his name & details"