From Marco Giancotti at Nautilus: "A synthetic female voice speaks into my ears over the electronic clamor: “top hat.” I close my eyes and I imagine a top hat. For most people, this should be a rather simple exercise, perhaps even satisfying. For me, it’s a considerable strain, because I don’t “see” any of those things. As soon as I close my eyes, what I see are not everyday objects, animals, and vehicles, but the dark underside of my eyelids. I can’t willingly form the faintest of images in my mind. And I also can’t conjure sounds, smells, or any other kind of sensory stimulation inside my head. I have what is called “aphantasia,” the absence of voluntary imagination of the senses. I know what a top hat is. I can describe its main characteristics. I can even draw an above-average impression of one on a piece of paper for you. But I can’t visualize it mentally."
Note: Some of you who know me will know that this is a topic close to my heart, since I also have this condition. I wrote more about it here.
Aaron Burr pretended to start a water company but actually created a bank
From John Jansen at Why Is This Interesting: "In the late 1790s, following the new US Constitution’s adoption, New York City was enjoying a period of commercial growth and expanding population, but the city lacked a supply of clean water. Aaron Burr observed the need for a healthy water supply and devised a plan to employ the local demand for water into a vehicle he could use to enrich himself. He proposed the creation of a private company—the Manhattan Company—that would provide clean water for street cleaning and firefighting as well as the infrastructure for the project by laying pipes. But Burr had no real intention of conducting business as a water company: what he really wanted to do was start a bank, as his rival Hamilton had done, founding the Bank of New York in 1784. So just before his Manhattan Company was approved, Burr inserted a clause in the bill giving his company the power to function as a bank."
Norwegian family unearths 1,200-year-old Viking artifacts in their yard
Sarah Kuta for Smithsonian magazine: "While searching for a lost earring in their yard, a family in Norway instead stumbled upon two pieces of jewelry that likely date to the Viking Age. Members of the Aasvik family were conducting their search using a metal detector outside their home in Jomfruland, a remote and sparsely populated island off mainland Norway’s southeast coast. When they reached an area of land underneath a large tree, the device indicated it had detected something. Intrigued, the family started digging. In that spot, they found two bronze ornaments that local government archaeologists later identified as brooches. The larger of the two is oval-shaped and likely helped fasten the shoulder straps of a woman’s halter-style dress. The other, smaller brooch was circular; experts initially found it more challenging to identify."
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Residents of a small town in Florida became millionaires thanks to Coca-Cola
From Jeannine Mancini for Yahoo: "In 1919, Coca-Cola made its debut on the public market, and Mark “Pat” Munroe, a banker in Quincy, Florida noticed that despite the economic hardships, people consistently had money to purchase Coca-Cola. Munroe began buying Coca-Cola shares, soon becoming an advocate for the stock within his community. He fervently advised residents to invest, going so far as to underwrite bank loans backed by Coca-Cola stock. Even when shares plummeted by 50% due to a dispute with the sugar industry, Munroe’s confidence in the beverage company did not waver. From 1929 to 1932, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted, losing 89% of its value, sales of Coca-Cola only decreased by a modest 2.3%. The continuous surge in Coca-Cola’s stock value soon brought unparalleled wealth to Quincy. By the late 1940s, this small town had risen to become the richest per capita in the United States."
The mystery of the Georgia Guidestones may never be solved
From Atlas Obscura: "In June of 1979, A man going by the pseudonym of R.C. Christian approached the Elberton Granite Finishing Company with the task of building a monument. He said that no one was to ever know his true identity or that of the group that he was representing. He seemed to have an endless supply of money to fund the project and by the terms of the legal contract all plans had to be destroyed after completion and all information about him withheld from the public. In 1980, the stones were finished. They carry a tablet in front proclaiming, “Let these be guidestones to an Age of Reason.” The guidestones also served as an astronomical calendar, and every day at noon the sun shone through a narrow hole in the structure and illuminated the day’s date on an engraving. In July 2022, the guidestones were destroyed by an explosion."
Researchers identify largest ever solar storm in 14,000-year-old tree rings
From the University of Leeds: "An international team of scientists have discovered a huge spike in radiocarbon levels 14,300 years ago by analyzing ancient tree-rings. The radiocarbon spike was caused by a massive solar storm, the biggest ever identified. A similar solar storm today would be catastrophic for modern technological society—potentially wiping out telecommunications and satellite systems, causing massive electricity grid blackouts, and costing us billions of pounds. The collaborative research, which was carried out by an international team of scientists, is published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical Physical and Engineering Sciences and reveals new insights into the sun's extreme behavior and the risks it poses to Earth."