We may have accidentally killed whatever life there was on Mars

We may have accidentally killed whatever life there was on Mars

Drik Schulze-Makuch writes for Big Think: "In the mid-1970s, NASA sent two Viking landers to the surface of Mars equipped with instruments that conducted the only life detection experiments ever conducted on another planet. At the time of those landings, scientists had very little understanding of the Martian environment. Since Earth is a water planet, it seemed reasonable that adding water might coax life to show itself in the extremely dry Martian environment. In hindsight, it is possible that approach was too much of a good thing. For microbes that live within salt rocks, pouring water over them might overwhelm them. In technical terms, we would say that we were hyperhydrating them, but in simple terms, it would be more like drowning them."

What we think of as exercise now used to literally be torture

Britannica on the treadmill | Digital Transformation & Adaptation |  Britannica

From Dan Lewis at Now I Know: "The word 'treadmill' first entered the English language in 1822, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. Most exercise equipment (think 'bike' or 'weights' or 'jump rope') describes either how to use the equipment or what makes the item useful for a workout. The word 'treadmill' has the 'tread' part, signaling that it’s used for walking, but it also has the 'mill' part, which suggests that it’s used for grinding something down. And while exercise can definitely be a grind, that saying wasn’t one back in the early 1800s. The early treadmills were a lot like sawmills or windmills or millstones, and the first treadmills weren’t found at your local gym — they were found in prisons. The people on them were inmates, and this was part of their sentence."

This handbag sold for over $63,000 — because it's smaller than a grain of salt

Microscopic 'Louis Vuitton' handbag sells for $63K, the latest project from art collective MSCHF.

From CNN: "A minuscule handbag measuring just 657 by 222 by 700 microns (or less than 0.03 inches wide) sold for over $63,000 at an online auction Wednesday. Barely visible to the human eye, the fluorescent yellowish-green bag is based on a popular Louis Vuitton design — though it is the work of a New York art collective, not the luxury label itself. Dubbing its diminutive creation “Microscopic Handbag,” the Brooklyn-based group MSCHF claims the bag is narrow enough to pass through the eye of a needle and is smaller than a grain of sea salt (though that may depend on how coarse you like your salt). The object was made using two-photon polymerization, a manufacturing technology used to 3D-print micro-scale plastic parts. It was sold alongside a microscope equipped with a digital display through which the bag can be viewed."

The artist behind these classic ads from the 1920s had a secret message

From Blake Gopnik at the New York Times: "J.C. Leyendecker was one of this country’s first celebrity illustrators. His calling card was male beauty: Jazz Age youths in their finest finery populate his ads for shirts and starched collars; athletic collegians grace his covers for the weeklies. In 1908, a popular magazine felt it worth reporting that, at 34, Leyendecker was booked 12 months in advance and charged the vast sum of $350 for one commercial illustration — what an ordinary worker might have earned in a year. That meant a large part of the public had no choice but to encounter the radical idea that hid under the traditional surfaces of his imagery: that two elite men could be in love, or in lust, and might even be the happiest of long-term couples."

Italian teacher fired after not coming in to work for twenty years

An empty classroom in Italy

From Mattea Bubolo at the BBC: "Cinzia Paolina De Lio was dismissed in 2017 after she reappeared for four months and triggered complaints. Italy's highest court confirmed the dismissal after a legal battle, saying her absences showed a "permanent and absolute ineptitude". Ms De Lio has condemned the ruling and vowed to "reconstruct the truth". The secondary school teacher, who specialises in history and philosophy, said she had documents to prove her story but told Repubblica newspaper: "Sorry, but right now I'm at the beach." The ministry argued that the teacher had kept out of the classroom for 20 out of her 24 years of service. For the first 10 years she was completely absent, and her absences in the other 14 years were attributed to sickness, personal or family reasons."

Neanderthals were capable of creating synthetic materials, including glue

Image of a human skull, brown with age, seen in profile.

Elizabeth Rayne writes for Ars Technica: "It appears that Neanderthals found a way to manufacture synthetics long before we ever did. Neanderthal tools might look relatively simple, but new research shows that Homo neanderthalensis devised a method of generating a glue derived from birch tar to hold them together about 200,000 years ago—and it was tough. This ancient superglue made bone and stone adhere to wood, was waterproof, and didn’t decompose. The tar was also used a hundred thousand years before modern humans came up with anything synthetic. After studying ancient tools that carry residue from this glue, a team of researchers from the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen and other institutions in Germany found evidence that this glue wasn’t just the original tar; it had been transformed in some way."

When the Internet was just a passing fad

via Jon Erlichman on Twitter