From Cara Ocobock for Scientific American: "The theory of man as the hunter has dominated the study of human evolution for nearly half a century. It is represented in museum dioramas and textbook figures, Saturday morning cartoons and feature films. But mounting evidence from exercise science indicates that women are physiologically better suited than men to endurance efforts such as running marathons. This advantage bears on questions about hunting because a prominent hypothesis contends that early humans are thought to have pursued prey on foot over long distances. Furthermore, the fossil and archaeological records, as well as ethnographic studies of modern-day hunter-gatherers, indicate that women have a long history of hunting game."
An easy way to get away with a crime: be an identical twin
From Dan Lewis at Now I Know: "After Harrod’s of London, Berlin’s Kaufhaus des Westen is the continent’s largest department store. On January 25, 2009, before the store opened its doors, three masked men climbed onto an awning overlooking the store’s second floor, pried open a window, lowered a rope ladder, and made their descent onto the store’s floor. They made their way through the jewelry department and helped themselves to a haul worth the equivalent of $6.8 million. They exited undetected, leaving behind only the rope ladder and a single latex glove. Inside that glove was a little bit of sweat, enough to run a DNA test. German investigators ran that DNA against a government database, but they didn’t get a match. They got two."
Thomas Edison and the war over which kind of electrical current was the best
From Matthew Wills at JSTOR Daily: "Following a wave of accidental deaths due to the new electrical lighting in the late 1880s in New York City, the great Thomas Edison wrote an article for The North American Review on the dangers in the system. The issue as he saw it was the overhead wires coursing with high-voltage alternating current (AC) power. When those wires came down, they presented quite a hazard. For Edison, the solution was to use low-voltage direct current (DC) power. It’s not surprising that Edison was a vigorous proponent of direct current, since he received royalties on the patents for it. The high-voltage alternating current system was the product of his rival, George Westinghouse, who had licensed Nikola Tesla’s patents."
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British naturalists relied on slave traders to obtain natural specimens from Africa
From Kathleen Murphy for Lapham's Quarterly: "The work of early modern naturalists required that they consult, compare, and analyze natural historical specimens or their visual representations. There were few such specimens from West Africa for British naturalists at the turn of the eighteenth century to consult. Naturalists therefore enthusiastically welcomed—and relied upon—the flora, fauna, minerals, and other objects obtained by British slave ship surgeons, captains, and slaving agents in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. A specimen gathered in the Gold Coast, then acquired by a British slaving mariner, transported on a slaving vessel and then to London, might find its way into the Royal Society’s meeting rooms in Gresham College."
What causes vertigo and other forms of dizziness is still mostly a mystery
From Shayla Love for The New Yorker: "At the emergency room, I was helped into a wheelchair because I could barely stand. The E.R. staff ruled out anything life-threatening, like a stroke, yet they couldn’t say what was wrong. I scheduled appointments with virtually every relevant specialist. Neurologists inspected the movement of my eyes. A physical therapist who specializes in balance issues asked me to close my eyes and stand on one foot. My hearing and sight were fine; an MRI was clear. Even doctors break down dizzy spells into a staggering number of mythic-sounding categories, many of which are poorly understood: labyrinthitis, mal de débarquement, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, Ménière’s disease, vestibular neuritis, vestibular migraine."
Why the ancient trial by ordeal was an effective test of guilt
From Peter Leeson for Aeon magazine: "For more than 400 years, between the ninth and the early 13th centuries, in difficult criminal cases, the court asked God to inform them about defendants’ criminal status. The method: judicial ordeals. These ordeals took several forms, from dunking the defendant in a pool of holy water to walking him barefoot across burning plowshares. Suppose you’re a medieval European who’s been accused of stealing your neighbour’s cat. The court thinks you might have committed the theft, but it’s not sure, so it orders you to undergo the ordeal of boiling water. Like other medieval Europeans, you believe in iudicium Dei – that a priest, through the appropriate rituals, can call on God to reveal the truth by performing a miracle that prevents the water from burning you if you’re innocent, letting you burn if you’re not. So if you're guilty, you will likely confess."