Who killed the 20th century’s greatest spy?

Who killed the 20th century’s greatest spy?

From Simon Parkin for The Guardian: "This much is certain: Ashraf Marwan, a man some describe as the 20th century’s greatest spy, was alive when he tumbled from the fifth-floor balcony of his £4.4m London flat. The Egyptian businessman landed, shortly after 1.30pm on 27 June 2007, in the private rose garden at number 24 Carlton House Terrace, a street whose former occupants include three prime ministers (Palmerston, Earl Grey and Gladstone) and which lies a few hundred metres from Piccadilly Circus. Overhead, the lunchtime sky was obnoxious with helicopters, swarming above Tony Blair’s Teflon-plated convoy as it carried the prime minister to Buckingham Palace, where he would hand in his resignation. A woman screamed. Someone called the police. The paramedics arrived too late. Marwan died from a ruptured aorta."

When America was obsessed with the idea that aliens were creating crop circles

Crop circle in Switzerland

From James MacDonald at JSTOR Daily: "For a period of time in the 1980s and 1990s, much of the US was baffled by a mystery known as crop circles — areas in fields where crops had been flattened in circular, geometric patterns. These patterns would appear mysteriously out of nowhere, usually overnight, especially in the UK, but later in parts of the U.S., Japan, and a handful of other places. The phenomenon had no known cause, baffling experts but providing plenty of work for producers of TV specials. Researchers assumed the crop circles were caused by a weather event, such as a localized whirlwind, electrical phenomenon, or some combination of the two. But reality ended up being brutally embarrassing to the crop circle research community."

What it's like learning to live without a tongue

Surgery - Wikipedia

From Jake Seliger: "On May 25, I had a massive surgery that made me feel like I should be dead; the surgery left me without a tongue, without some teeth in the bottom of my jaw, and without important nerves in my neck. No sane person wants their tongue removed, but having it out and not being able to swallow has particularly awful resonances for me: I’ve been into food and cooking since I was a teenager, and “going out to dinner” was the most common form of going out for Bess and me. “Having friends over for dinner” was our most common form of socializing. I chronically experimented with new food and gadgets in the kitchen. What can I make with fish sauce? Is the sous vide machine worth it? Can an air fryer replace the oven for many dishes? Will the capers in cauliflower piccata alienate our guests?"

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Some scientists believe it's time to start re-engineering the sky

A colorful illustration of the sun and clouds in the stratosphere.

From Douglas Fox for Scientific American: "On the crisp afternoon of February 12, 2023, two men parked a Winnebago by a field outside Reno, Nev. They lit a portable grill and barbecued a fist-sized mound of yellow powdered sulfur, creating a steady stream of colorless sulfur dioxide (SO2) gas. Rotten-egg fumes permeated the air as they used a shop vac to pump the gas into a balloon about the diameter of a beach umbrella. Then they added enough helium to the balloon to take it aloft, attached a camera and GPS sensor, and released it into the sky. They tracked the balloon for the next several hours as it rose into the stratosphere and drifted far to the southwest, crossing over the Sierra Nevada Mountains before popping and releasing its gaseous contents. The contraption plummeted into a cow pasture near Stockton, Calif. The balloon released only a few grams of SO2, but the act was a brazen demonstration of something long considered taboo—injecting gases into the stratosphere to try to slow global warming."

The US passed a law allowing it to claim ownership of any island with bird poop

New Battle of Midway pits military history against wildlife - Los Angeles  Times

From Dan Lewis for Now I Know: "Imagine the Americas of the 1850s. Westward expansion has led to a population boom or vice versa — either way, the country is growing in leaps and bounds. More people requires more food, and more food requires more land. That’s the one thing the United States had at the time. But to get crops growing, that land needed more than a rake and a hoe. The land needed fertilizer, and that wasn’t so easy to come by. So America came up with a solution. If we couldn’t harvest it locally, and we couldn’t buy it from abroad, we’d conquer it. There are lots of little rocks that make for rather convenient toilets for passing birds. And America wanted that “white gold,” as guano was actually referred to at the time. In 1856, Congress passed a bill — the Guano Islands Act — explicitly making this possible."

Why are so many millennials going to Mongolia?

From Lauren Jackson for The New York Times: "Over the past decade, millennials — those born between roughly 1981 and 1996 — have been seeking out remote places like Mongolia, while other tourists crowd Santorini, the Eiffel Tower and the Colosseum. It may be a reaction to a world that’s increasingly condensed into our phones, where the same few destinations pop up again and again on Instagram grids and travel blogs. What we have gained in accessibility, we have lost in serendipity. Tour operators are catering to this growing interest, helping young people see the Golden Eagle Festival, an annual gathering of nomadic hunters — male and female — and their eagles; join the Mongol Rally, a driving odyssey across Europe and Asia; or ride in the Mongol Derby, a roughly 600-mile horse race. “The world is getting smaller, and everyone’s looking for the new frontier,” said Sangjay Choegyal, a 36-year-old living in Bali who has visited Mongolia eight times. “The next place is Mongolia.”

This relative of the sunfish weighs as much as two thousand pounds

From Massimo on Twitter: The ocean sunfish (Mola mola) is one of the heaviest known bony fishes in the world. Adults typically weigh between 247 and 1,000 kg (545–2,205 lb).