The 2019/2020 Takhini Hot Springs Hair Freezing Contest attracted 288 contestants to the natural hot springs north of Whitehorse, Yukon. Air temperatures below -20°C will freeze all wet hair, including eyebrows and eyelashes — entrants ring a bell near the pool entrance to summon staff to take a photo, and then judges choose among the season’s entries.
Each winner gets $2,000.
For years, under a “gentleman’s agreement,” the Philadelphia Art Commission would approve no new structure that rose higher than the statue of William Penn atop city hall. Then, in March 1987, it approved One Liberty Place, a steel-and-glass skyscraper that rose 121 meters above Penn’s head.
In the next 22 years no major professional sports team based in Philadelphia won a championship.
Finally, in 2007, during the completion of the 297-meter Comcast Center downtown, workers John Joyce and Dan Ginion attached a small figurine of Penn to its topmost beam. The following year, the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series.
In 2017 another Penn statuette was placed atop the newly completed 342-meter Comcast Technology Center. “They did not want to take the chance and wait for the jinx,” said the building’s construction manager. A few months later, the Eagles won the Super Bowl.
In 1967, Jim Thompson left his silk business in Thailand for a Malaysian holiday with three friends. On the last day, he disappeared from the cottage in which they were staying. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll review the many theories behind Thompson’s disappearance, which has never been explained.
We’ll also borrow John Barrymore’s corpse and puzzle over a teddy bear’s significance.
“Change the Color,” by Haruaki Fukuda of the University of Tokyo, won second prize in the Neural Correlate Society’s 2019 Best Illusion of the Year Contest:
Among the honorable mentions is “3D Graffiti,” by Jack Bowers:
Bowers’ figure reminds me of Patrick Hughes’ disorienting “reverspectives.”
In October 2000, a mummy was offered for sale on the black antiquities market in Pakistani Baluchistan. Tribal leader Wali Mohammed Reeki claimed that it had been found after an earthquake near Quetta.
At first a Pakistani archaeologist suggested that the mummy had been a princess of ancient Egypt, or perhaps a daughter of Persian king Cyrus II. Iran and Pakistan began to contend for its ownership, but then American archaeologist Oscar White Muscarella came forward to say he’d been offered a similarly uncertified mummy the previous March which had turned out to be a forgery.
On examination, the “Persian Princess” turned out to be substantially younger than her coffin — in fact, the mat under her body was only 5 years old.
In the end, Asma Ibrahim, curator of the National Museum of Pakistan, reported that the woman had in fact died only around 1996, possibly even murdered to provide a corpse. She was eventually interred with proper burial rites, but her identity remains unknown.
In 2016, Manchester’s Casa Ceramic installed custom tiles in its entry corridor to create the illusion of an uneven surface.
Sales administrator Harry Molyneaux says the effect is most vivid in photographs.
“The floor is completely flat and safe to walk over.”
At the commencement of this battle [Gettysburg], as the Regiment was rushing forward toward the enemy, a cannon ball passed between the legs of Captain Robert Story, of Company B, plowing up the earth beyond, yet he rushed on until, half an hour later, he lay mortally wounded, in the enemy’s lines. He was struck in the left thigh by a Minnie ball, which, on reaching and fracturing the bone, divided into three parts.
— Abram P. Smith, History of the Seventy-Sixth Regiment New York Volunteers, 1867
A recipe for “toast sandwiches,” from Mrs. Beeton’s Dictionary of Every-Day Cookery, 1865:
Ingredients. — Thin cold toast, thin slices of bread-and-butter, pepper and salt to taste. Mode. — Place a very thin piece of cold toast between 2 slices of thin bread-and-butter in the form of a sandwich, adding a seasoning of pepper and salt. This sandwich may be varied by adding a little pulled meat, or very fine slices of cold meat, to the toast, and in any of these forms will be found very tempting to the appetite of an invalid.
3 slices of white bread = 240 Calories. Butter = 10 g = 90 Calories
Total = 330 Calories
Toast sandwich nutrients
Protein = 9.5 g
Fat = 12 g
Carbohydrate = 55 g
Fibre = 4.5 grams
Calcium = 120 mg
Iron = 2 mg
Vitamin A = 90 mcg
Vitamin B1 = 0.25 mg
Vitamin B2 = 80 mcg
Vitamin B3 = 4 mg
Vitamin D = 0.08 mcg
“I’ve tried it and it’s surprisingly nice to eat and quite filling,” said he RSC’s John Emsley. “I would emphasise that toast sandwiches are also good at saving you calories as well as money, provided you only have one toast sandwich for lunch and nothing else.”
The Cucuteni-Trypillian culture of Neolithic Europe left behind a curious puzzle for archaeologists: It appears that, for more than a thousand years, the houses in every settlement were burned. It’s not clear why. Possibly the fires arose accidentally or through warfare, or possibly they were set deliberately. The extent of each fire must have been considerable, because the raw clay in the walls has been vitrified by intense heat, an effect that has not appeared in modern experiments with individual houses. But the reason for the phenomenon, and for its longevity, remains unknown.