Fun Stuff

August 25, 1835: The Great Moon Hoax

This Day in History - Sun, 08/24/2014 - 11:00pm

On this day in 1835, the first in a series of six articles announcing the supposed discovery of life on the moon appears in the New York Sun newspaper.

Known collectively as "The Great Moon Hoax," the articles were supposedly reprinted from the Edinburgh Journal of Science. The byline was Dr. Andrew Grant, described as a colleague of Sir John Herschel, a famous astronomer of the day. Herschel had in fact traveled to Capetown, South Africa, in January 1834 to set up an observatory with a powerful new telescope. As Grant described it, Herschel had found evidence of life forms on the moon, including such fantastic animals as unicorns, two-legged beavers and furry, winged humanoids resembling bats. The articles also offered vivid description of the moon's geography, complete with massive craters, enormous amethyst crystals, rushing rivers and lush vegetation.

The New York Sun, founded in 1833, was one of the new "penny press" papers that appealed to a wider audience with a cheaper price and a more narrative style of journalism. From the day the first moon hoax article was released, sales of the paper shot up considerably. It was exciting stuff, and readers lapped it up. The only problem was that none of it was true. The Edinburgh Journal of Science had stopped publication years earlier, and Grant was a fictional character. The articles were most likely written by Richard Adams Locke, a Sun reporter educated at Cambridge University. Intended as satire, they were designed to poke fun at earlier, serious speculations about extraterrestrial life, particularly those of Reverend Thomas Dick, a popular science writer who claimed in his bestselling books that the moon alone had 4.2 billion inhabitants.

Readers were completely taken in by the story, however, and failed to recognize it as satire. The craze over Herschel's supposed discoveries even fooled a committee of Yale University scientists, who traveled to New York in search of the Edinburgh Journal articles. After Sun employees sent them back and forth between the printing and editorial offices, hoping to discourage them, the scientists returned to New Haven without realizing they had been tricked.

On September 16, 1835, the Sun admitted the articles had been a hoax. People were generally amused by the whole thing, and sales of the paper didn’t suffer. The Sun continued operation until 1950, when it merged with the New York World-Telegram. The merger folded in 1967. A new New York Sun newspaper was founded in 2002, but it has no relation to the original.

Categories: Fun Stuff

Josh Billings

Quotes of the Day - Sun, 08/24/2014 - 7:00pm
"About the most originality that any writer can hope to achieve honestly is to steal with good judgment."
Categories: Fun Stuff

Stephen Vizinczey

Quotes of the Day - Sun, 08/24/2014 - 7:00pm
"Strange as it seems, no amount of learning can cure stupidity, and higher education positively fortifies it."
Categories: Fun Stuff

Charles Kuralt

Quotes of the Day - Sun, 08/24/2014 - 7:00pm
"Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything."
Categories: Fun Stuff

E. M. Forster

Quotes of the Day - Sun, 08/24/2014 - 7:00pm
"I would rather be a coward than brave because people hurt you when you are brave."
Categories: Fun Stuff

dovecote

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Sun, 08/24/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 24, 2014 is:

dovecote • \DUV-koht\  • noun
1 : a small compartmented raised house or box for domestic pigeons 2 : a settled or harmonious group or organization

Examples:
"The Sultan of Oman has also been a significant contributor, paying for the magnificent dovecote made from English walnut at the end of the lime walk." — Steve Whysall, Vancouver Sun, June 26, 2014

"A leaked anonymous letter, the so-called Trojan Horse letter, claimed there was a conservative Muslim conspiracy to infiltrate and take over as many as two dozen local schools. It caused fluttering in very many interested dovecotes." — Mary Dejevsky, Newsweek, June 15, 2014

Did you know?
When Shakespeare's Coriolanus was condemned to die by the Volscians, the doomed general proudly reminded his enemies, "Like an eagle in a dove-cote, I Flutter'd your Volscians in Corioli." (Coriolanus was referring to an earlier victory in which his army had seized the city of Corioli from the Volscians.) When he introduced that eagle into the dovecote, Shakespeare also introduced a new figure of speech, but one that wasn't truly "discovered" by most writers until the 19th century—and then from a misquote. English novelist Edward G. Lytton reminded folks about it in 1853 when he wrote about how "the great Roman general did 'flutter the dove-cots in Corioli.'" Nowadays, we sometimes "ruffle" dovecotes or "cause a flurry" in them, in addition to "fluttering" them or "causing a flutter" in them.

Categories: Fun Stuff

Daily Puzzle - August 23

BrainBashers - Easy Sudoku - Sat, 08/23/2014 - 11:24pm
BrainBashers Daily Puzzle

What letter is missing from this sequence:

A B G D E ==?== E

Categories: Fun Stuff

Daily Sudoku - August 23 - Easy

BrainBashers - Easy Sudoku - Sat, 08/23/2014 - 11:24pm
BrainBashers Daily Sudoku



Complete the grid such that every row, every column, and the nine 3x3 blocks contain the digits from 1 to 9.

[Copyright: Kevin Stone]

Categories: Fun Stuff

Daily Game - August 23

BrainBashers - Easy Sudoku - Sat, 08/23/2014 - 11:24pm
BrainBashers Daily Game

Tunnel Racer
   Race through the tunnel, dodging all of the barricades, by jumping and circling through them.
[Played on the BrainBashers Games website]

Categories: Fun Stuff

August 24, 0079: Vesuvius erupts

This Day in History - Sat, 08/23/2014 - 11:00pm

After centuries of dormancy, Mount Vesuvius erupts in southern Italy, devastating the prosperous Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum and killing thousands. The cities, buried under a thick layer of volcanic material and mud, were never rebuilt and largely forgotten in the course of history. In the 18th century, Pompeii and Herculaneum were rediscovered and excavated, providing an unprecedented archaeological record of the everyday life of an ancient civilization, startlingly preserved in sudden death.

The ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum thrived near the base of Mount Vesuvius at the Bay of Naples. In the time of the early Roman Empire, 20,000 people lived in Pompeii, including merchants, manufacturers, and farmers who exploited the rich soil of the region with numerous vineyards and orchards. None suspected that the black fertile earth was the legacy of earlier eruptions of Mount Vesuvius. Herculaneum was a city of 5,000 and a favorite summer destination for rich Romans. Named for the mythic hero Hercules, Herculaneum housed opulent villas and grand Roman baths. Gambling artifacts found in Herculaneum and a brothel unearthed in Pompeii attest to the decadent nature of the cities. There were smaller resort communities in the area as well, such as the quiet little town of Stabiae.

At noon on August 24, 79 A.D., this pleasure and prosperity came to an end when the peak of Mount Vesuvius exploded, propelling a 10-mile mushroom cloud of ash and pumice into the stratosphere. For the next 12 hours, volcanic ash and a hail of pumice stones up to 3 inches in diameter showered Pompeii, forcing the city's occupants to flee in terror. Some 2,000 people stayed in Pompeii, holed up in cellars or stone structures, hoping to wait out the eruption.

A westerly wind protected Herculaneum from the initial stage of the eruption, but then a giant cloud of hot ash and gas surged down the western flank of Vesuvius, engulfing the city and burning or asphyxiating all who remained. This lethal cloud was followed by a flood of volcanic mud and rock, burying the city.

The people who remained in Pompeii were killed on the morning of August 25 when a cloud of toxic gas poured into the city, suffocating all that remained. A flow of rock and ash followed, collapsing roofs and walls and burying the dead.

Much of what we know about the eruption comes from an account by Pliny the Younger, who was staying west along the Bay of Naples when Vesuvius exploded. In two letters to the historian Tacitus, he told of how "people covered their heads with pillows, the only defense against a shower of stones," and of how "a dark and horrible cloud charged with combustible matter suddenly broke and set forth. Some bewailed their own fate. Others prayed to die." Pliny, only 17 at the time, escaped the catastrophe and later became a noted Roman writer and administrator. His uncle, Pliny the Elder, was less lucky. Pliny the Elder, a celebrated naturalist, at the time of the eruption was the commander of the Roman fleet in the Bay of Naples. After Vesuvius exploded, he took his boats across the bay to Stabiae, to investigate the eruption and reassure terrified citizens. After going ashore, he was overcome by toxic gas and died.

According to Pliny the Younger's account, the eruption lasted 18 hours. Pompeii was buried under 14 to 17 feet of ash and pumice, and the nearby seacoast was drastically changed. Herculaneum was buried under more than 60 feet of mud and volcanic material. Some residents of Pompeii later returned to dig out their destroyed homes and salvage their valuables, but many treasures were left and then forgotten.

In the 18th century, a well digger unearthed a marble statue on the site of Herculaneum. The local government excavated some other valuable art objects, but the project was abandoned. In 1748, a farmer found traces of Pompeii beneath his vineyard. Since then, excavations have gone on nearly without interruption until the present. In 1927, the Italian government resumed the excavation of Herculaneum, retrieving numerous art treasures, including bronze and marble statues and paintings.

The remains of 2,000 men, women, and children were found at Pompeii. After perishing from asphyxiation, their bodies were covered with ash that hardened and preserved the outline of their bodies. Later, their bodies decomposed to skeletal remains, leaving a kind of plaster mold behind. Archaeologists who found these molds filled the hollows with plaster, revealing in grim detail the death pose of the victims of Vesuvius. The rest of the city is likewise frozen in time, and ordinary objects that tell the story of everyday life in Pompeii are as valuable to archaeologists as the great unearthed statues and frescoes. It was not until 1982 that the first human remains were found at Herculaneum, and these hundreds of skeletons bear ghastly burn marks that testifies to horrifying deaths.

Today, Mount Vesuvius is the only active volcano on the European mainland. Its last eruption was in 1944 and its last major eruption was in 1631. Another eruption is expected in the near future, would could be devastating for the 700,000 people who live in the "death zones" around Vesuvius.

Categories: Fun Stuff

John F. Kennedy

Quotes of the Day - Sat, 08/23/2014 - 7:00pm
"Mothers may still want their sons to grow up to be President, but according to a famous Gallup poll of some years ago, some 73 percent do not want them to become politicians in the process."
Categories: Fun Stuff

Scott Adams

Quotes of the Day - Sat, 08/23/2014 - 7:00pm
"Give a man a fish, and you'll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll buy a funny hat. Talk to a hungry man about fish, and you're a consultant."
Categories: Fun Stuff

Mark Twain

Quotes of the Day - Sat, 08/23/2014 - 7:00pm
"In religion and politics, people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second hand, and without examination."
Categories: Fun Stuff

Woodrow Wilson

Quotes of the Day - Sat, 08/23/2014 - 7:00pm
"I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow."
Categories: Fun Stuff

purfle

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Sat, 08/23/2014 - 1:00am

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 23, 2014 is:

purfle • \PER-ful\  • verb
: to ornament the border or edges of

Examples:
The guitar maker used abalone shell to purfle the instrument.

"She wore a silk dress purfled with gold, and they compared her beauty to the moon." — Nicholas Jubber, The Prester Quest, June 30, 2011

Did you know?
Today we use "purfle" mostly in reference to setting a decorative inlaid border around the body of a guitar or violin, a process known as "purfling." In the past, "purfle" got the most use in connection with adornment of garments. "The Bishop of Ely … wore a robe of scarlet … purfled with minever," reported an English clergyman in 1840, for example. We embellished our language with "purfle," first as "purfilen" in the 1300s, when we took it with its meaning from Middle French "porfiler."

Categories: Fun Stuff

Daily Puzzle - August 22

BrainBashers - Easy Sudoku - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 11:10pm
BrainBashers Daily Puzzle

I dig out tiny caves, and store gold and silver in them.

I also build bridges of silver and make crowns of gold.

They are the smallest you could imagine.

Sooner or later everybody needs my help yet many people are afraid to let me help them. Who am I?

Categories: Fun Stuff

Daily Sudoku - August 22 - Easy

BrainBashers - Easy Sudoku - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 11:10pm
BrainBashers Daily Sudoku



Complete the grid such that every row, every column, and the nine 3x3 blocks contain the digits from 1 to 9.

[Copyright: Kevin Stone]

Categories: Fun Stuff

Daily Game - August 22

BrainBashers - Easy Sudoku - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 11:10pm
BrainBashers Daily Game

Skidoo TT
   A nice slippery track to play with your skidoo. Navigate around the track in either arcade or time trial mode.
[Played on the BrainBashers Games website]

Categories: Fun Stuff

August 23, 1902: Fannie Farmer opens cooking school

This Day in History - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 11:00pm

On this day in 1902, pioneering cookbook author Fannie Farmer, who changed the way Americans prepare food by advocating the use of standardized measurements in recipes, opens Miss Farmer's School of Cookery in Boston. In addition to teaching women about cooking, Farmer later educated medical professionals about the importance of proper nutrition for the sick.

Farmer was born March 23, 1857, and raised near Boston, Massachusetts. Her family believed in education for women and Farmer attended Medford High School; however, as a teenager she suffered a paralytic stroke that turned her into a homebound invalid for a period of years. As a result, she was unable to complete high school or attend college and her illness left her with a permanent limp. When she was in her early 30s, Farmer attended the Boston Cooking School. Founded in 1879, the school promoted a scientific approach to food preparation and trained women to become cooking teachers at a time when their employment opportunities were limited. Farmer graduated from the program in 1889 and in 1891 became the school's principal. In 1896, she published her first cookbook, The Boston Cooking School Cookbook, which included a wide range of straightforward recipes along with information on cooking and sanitation techniques, household management and nutrition. Farmer's book became a bestseller and revolutionized American cooking through its use of precise measurements, a novel culinary concept at the time.

In 1902, Farmer left the Boston Cooking School and founded Miss Farmer's School of Cookery. In addition to running her school, she traveled to speaking engagements around the U.S. and continued to write cookbooks. In 1904, she published Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent, which provided food recommendations for specific diseases, nutritional information for children and information about the digestive system, among other topics. Farmer's expertise in the areas of nutrition and illness led her to lecture at Harvard Medical School.

Farmer died January 15, 1915, at age 57. After Farmer's death, Alice Bradley, who taught at Miss Farmer's School of Cookery, took over the business and ran it until the mid-1940s. The Fannie Farmer Cookbook is still in print today.

Categories: Fun Stuff

George Bernard Shaw

Quotes of the Day - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 7:00pm
"When a thing is funny, search it carefully for a hidden truth."
Categories: Fun Stuff