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The Prize Soap Racket

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This is the story of Jefferson Randolph Smith II, also known as “Soapy Smith”. After building a crew of outlaws and con-men, Randolph set to work conning the people of America. It started with classic swindles, shell games and the like. Though Soapy Smith is mostly known for his con involving soap, nicknamed by the Denver Post: “the Prize Soap Racket”.

Soapy_Smith_portrait

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Dung beetles: guided by the sun, moon, and stars

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Dung beetles use balls of feces away for food and brooding chambers. To do so, they (specifically the 10% nicknamed “rollers“) hide the dung from the other greedy beetles by rolling it away from the location they found it.

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However, this presents a unique problem: how to roll the ball away without doubling-back to your original location. Strangely enough, these scarabs can travel disorderly and indirect routes to the source of dung while still able to make a straight path to their home once more!

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Ferdinand Cheval’s Le Palais idéal

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In 1879, postman Ferdinand Cheval tripped over an oddly shaped stone. The shape inspired him and he returned the next day to collect more stones. And he did not stop collecting until he had built himself a palace of the stones.

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Cheval (seen with the cane) in front of his work

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Professor’s Records: Son House

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Born in Clarksdale, Mississippi in 1902 (or 1886 if others are to be believed), Son House is an early blues influence on artists from Muddy Waters to Jack White. He has been named the Father of Folk Blues by some, and the title fits.

Photo by Giuseppe Pino in his book "Jazz My Love"

Photo by Giuseppe Pino in his book “Jazz My Love”

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Petrifaction as Preservation: Girolamo Segato

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The following post contains images that may be NSFW for some.

Girolamo Segato was, and is, the only person to petrify human body parts. Unfortunately, his methods appear to be lost to time…

Girolamo_segato

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Professor’s Records: DJ Earworm

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Each year, DJ Earworm uses the top 25 biggest US hits to create a new song entirely; a series he calls “United State of Pop”. In a masterful work of mashup, he seamlessly brings the songs into harmony. Although I do not often listen to Pop music, DJ Earworm has a way of changing perspective. These songs create a slice of what music was perceived as “good” during the preceding year.

This year’s mashup is titled Shine Brighter:

If you enjoyed that, a couple more from the series are included after the jump!

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The Smallest Amount of Space and Time

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Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck’s (1858-1947) work with black-body radiation is considered today to be the birth of quantum physics. His research in this field led him to create three fundamental units of mass, length, and time. Each of these units demonstrate, quite literally, the smallest measurement you can make of that subject. Planck time is, therefore, the smallest amount of time.

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