The Beatles tried to make a LOTR movie but Tolkien said no

The Beatles tried to make a LOTR movie but Tolkien said no

From the BBC: "In 1968, author JRR Tolkien refused The Beatles permission to make a film version of his fantasy epic The Lord of The Rings. "What I understand is that Denis O'Dell, who was their Apple film producer, who produced The Magic Christian, had the idea of doing Lord of The Rings," director Peter Jackson said. "When they went to Rishikesh and stayed in India, it was about three months with the Maharishi at the beginning of 1968, he sent the books to The Beatles. I expect because there are three, he sent one book to each of the Beatles. I don't think Ringo got one, but John, Paul and George each got one Lord of The Rings book to read in India. And they got excited about it. Ultimately, they couldn't get the rights from Tolkien, because he didn't like the idea of a pop group doing his story. So it got nixed by him. They tried to do it. There's no doubt about it."

Arthur Conan Doyle's brother-in-law created a gentleman burglar named Raffles

Collier's illustration for E. W. Hornung's Raffles short story "Out of Paradise" by J. C. Leyendecker, 1904

From JSTOR Daily: "Sherlock Holmes captured the hearts of people around the world by solving crimes in the early 1900s. But less remembered is a fictional contemporary who was equally beloved for cleverly committing crimes: a gentleman burglar named Arthur J. Raffles, invented by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s brother-in-law, Earnest William Hornung. In twenty-five stories, plus one novel, written between 1898 and 1909, Raffles spent his days as a cricketing master and gentleman of leisure and his nights gleefully stealing from his fellow London elites, accompanied by his sidekick Bunny Manders. Some critics recoiled at presenting young readers with stories in which, as one put it, “one’s notions of right and wrong are turned topsy-turvy.” But Moss writes that they played to a widespread questioning of social hierarchies in the 1880s and ’90s.

The University of Colorado's student cafeteria is named for an infamous cannibal killer

From Atlas Obscura: "The Alfred Packer Grill is a popular student cafeteria at the University of Colorado Boulder. You can enjoy a variety of food there, including several kinds of meat. What non-natives may not realize at first is that Alfred Packer was an admitted cannibal murderer. In 1873, Packer and more than a dozen men he didn't know left Salt Lake City to hunt for gold in Breckenridge in the Colorado Territory. Packer claimed to be an experienced guide but he was fibbing. The group became quite lost. Things went from bad to worse when a fierce snowstorm trapped them in the mountains. Packer got hungry so he killed and ate several of his traveling companions. When he finally staggered into civilization in Colorado, looking surprisingly well-fed, suspicious locals couldn't reconcile his healthy appearance with his story of dire survival."

(Editor's note: If you like this newsletter, please share it with someone else. And if you really like it, perhaps you could subscribe, or contribute something via my Patreon. Thanks for being a reader!)Horseshoe crab counting with New York’s citizen scientists

Volunteers Sabine Frid-Bernards, Janie Dumbleton and Caroline Boykin count horseshoe crabs along the Broad Channel waterfront.

From The City: "As the pinkening sun slipped behind the Manhattan skyline, a group of citizen scientists in waders paced along a scruffy rim of shoreline overlooking Jamaica Bay, attempting to tally some of the first-ever New Yorkers. During the months of May and June, the prehistoric horseshoe crab — whose ancestors predate dinosaurs — make their annual pilgrimage to the banks of the mid-Atlantic, including coastal areas across New York City. There, they lay clutches of thousands of eggs in sandy holes before returning to the depths of the ocean. During that time, teams of volunteers fan out across the waterfronts of Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Queens during high tide before and after the new and full moons to count crabs during their fornicatory frenzy. Young crabs, distinguished by their slicker shells, molt more than a dozen times before they begin mating at around 10 years old."

Coney Island was once home to multiple dueling and backstabbing theme parks

Wholesome fun is dirty business.

From Atlas Obscura: "the early 1900s. It was the Progressive Era, amusement parks were becoming enormously popular across America, and New York City’s version of roller coasters and carnival games seemed like the epitome of wholesome fun. But the beachy entertainment land was quite different than it is today. Coney Island mainly consisted of three theme parks: Steeplechase Park, Luna Park, and Dreamland. And from 1904 to 1911, all were locked into a perpetual dance of stealing acts, copying rides from each other, and some dirty competition. This fleeting moment in time was captured by a little-known Brooklyn artist named John Mark. His rare 1906 “bird’s eye view” map was full of spectacular details at the three competing parks. Together, they helped turn around the reputation at Coney Island—which was once considered tawdry and called “Sodom by the Sea”—bringing clean fun to families.

This unassuming fern has the world's largest genome, but scientists don't know why

image of the fork fern

From Science: "The human genome is made up of 3 billion base pairs of DNA. But that’s nothing compared with the New Caledonian fork fern, a leafy plant native to several Pacific islands. Its genome contains an astonishing 160 billion base pairs, making it the largest genome ever discovered. The finding could help scientists understand how genomes grow so large, and how these massive sets of genes affect species’ adaptability and survival. Plant genomes tend to be heftier, and scientists know plants with relatively large genomes tend to be longer lived, slower to reproduce, and more vulnerable to environmental stress. But there’s no clear relationship between the size of an organism’s genome and its physical or physiological intricacy. Ferns often have notably long stretches of repetitive DNA sequences, which scientists used to call junk DNA.”

Scientists invented a prosthesis that gives users a third thumb

Acknowledgements: I find a lot of these links myself, but I also get some from other newsletters that I rely on as "serendipity engines," such as The Morning News from Rosecrans Baldwin and Andrew Womack, Jodi Ettenberg's Curious About Everything, 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 at mathew @ mathewingram dot com