My $500 million Mars Rover mistake: A failure story

My $500 million Mars Rover mistake: A failure story

From Chris Lewicki: "Some mistakes feel worse than death. A February evening in 2003 started out routine at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA. I gowned up in cleanroom garb and passed into the High Bay 1 airlock in Building 179 where nearly all of NASA’s historic interplanetary spacecraft have been built since the Moon-bound Ranger series in the 1960s. After years of work by thousands of engineers, technicians, and scientists, there were only two weeks remaining before the Spirit Mars Rover would be transported to Cape Canaveral in Florida for launch ahead of its sibling, Opportunity."

Literary fight club: What started the great poets brawl of 1968

The Men Who Still Love “Fight Club” | The New Yorker

From Nick Ripatrizone for Literary Hub: "One Saturday evening in 1968, the poets battled on Long Island. Drinks spilled into the grass. Punches were flung; some landed. Chilean and French poets stood on a porch and laughed while the Americans brawled. A glass table shattered. Bloody-nosed poets staggered into the coming darkness. Allen Ginsberg fell to his knees and prayed. The World Poetry Conference at Stony Brook University was almost over. At the center of it all was Jim Harrison, a self-described “nasty item,” a prominent, if obnoxious, student in comparative literature. He had no business graduating."

Pour one out for the "alewives," who ran the brewing business until the 1400s

A woman proffers a jug of ale to a man in the street from her 'house of shame', in an allegorical 19th century woodcut.

From Akanksha Singh for JSTOR Daily: "Until the fourteenth century, women dominated the field of beer brewing. And the alewife, as she was known, was responsible for a high proportion of ale sales in Europe. Ale was virtually the sole liquid consumed by medieval peasants, since water was considered to be unhealthy. Ale production was time-consuming, and the drink soured within days. The grain needed to make it, usually barley, had to be soaked for several days, then drained of excess water and carefully germinated to create malt. The malt was dried and ground, and then added to hot water for fermentation, following which the liquid was drained off and “herbs or yeast could be added as a final touch.”

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Alvin & The Chipmunks still make almost half a million dollars a year

Alvin and the Chipmunks

From Steve Knopper for Billboard: "Exactly 65 years ago, Ross Bagdasarian‘s “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” — a novelty song featuring weird, high-pitched voices augmented in a recording studio — kicked off what would become the multimillion-dollar Alvin and the Chipmunks brand. Three weeks after its Dec. 1, 1958, release, the track topped the Billboard Hot 100, then went on to win three Grammy Awards and sell millions of records. “They were born from a No. 1 song, which is unusual for most cartoon characters,” says Ross Bagdasarian Jr., whose father — the creator of Alvin, Theodore, Simon and their long-suffering host, David Seville — died in 1972."

Courtney Dauwalter came out of nowhere and conquered ultramarathon running

From Meaghen Brown for Outside: "Over the past seven years, Dauwalter has won almost everything she’s entered. In 2016, she set a course record at the Javelina Jundred—an exposed, looped route through the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. That same year she won the Run Rabbit Run 100-miler in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, by a margin of 75 minutes, despite experiencing temporary blindness for the last 12 miles. In 2018, she won the extremely competitive Western States 100 in California; it was her first time on the course. A year later, she set a new course record while winning the prestigious Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc."

Why do residents of an Icelanic town catch baby puffins and throw them off a cliff?

Puffins who migrate together 'more successful' at having pufflings

From Dan Lewis at Now I Know: "Pufflings, being birds, don’t know that us humans have created a way to replicate the glow of the moon, so when it’s time for the baby birds to make their way to the water, they often get lost. In the small Icelandic island and town of Vestmannaeyjabaer, streetlights and the like attract hundreds if not thousands of baby puffins each year. So every August and September, the people of the town go on a puffling hunt. Once a bird is captured, the volunteer will place the puffling into a grass-lined box until the next day. When the sun is up the boxed birds are brought to the cliffside and released."

A working ski lift made out of Lego

Acknowledgements: I find a lot of these links myself, through RSS feeds etc. But I also get some from other newsletters that I rely on as "serendipty engines," such as Rusty Foster's Today In Tabs, Clive Thompson's Linkfest, Maria Popova's website The Marginalian, The Morning News from Rosecrans Baldwin, Why Is This Interesting, Dan Lewis's Now I Know, Robert Cottrell and Caroline Crampton's The Browser, Sheehan Quirke AKA The Cultural Tutor, the Smithsonian magazine, and JSTOR Daily. If you come across something you think should be included here, feel free to email me.