Caution

When Ralf Trylla, environmental commissioner of the small Icelandic fishing village of Ísafjörður, wanted to slow traffic on a narrow street, he took inspiration from a project in New Delhi (below) that imparted a three-dimensional effect to a traditional zebra crossing.

Trylla partnered with street painting company Vegmálun GÍH to create a similar crossing in Ísafjörður, and they’re assessing the effect as they consider whether to apply it to more of the town’s crosswalks.

(Via My Modern Met.)

In a Word

belua
n. a huge or monstrous creature or beast

pervagate
v. to wander through (a place)

cibation
n. taking food, feeding

epichoric
adj. characteristic of or peculiar to a particular country or district

From October to December, a herd of elephants walks through the lobby of Zambia’s Mfuwe Lodge to reach the fruit of a wild mango tree.

At least three generations of one family has returned to the lodge to visit the tree.

Heavens

https://books.google.com/books?id=94oXAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA440

In 1770 Scottish sexologist James Graham moved to America and offered the “celestial bed,” a 12-foot “wonder-working edifice” in which “everything is done to assist the ethereal, magnetic, musical and electric influences, and to make the lady look as lovely as possible in the eyes of her husband and he, in hers”:

“On the utmost summit of the dome are placed two exquisite figures of Cupid and Psyche, with a figure of Hymen behind, with his torch flaming with electrical fire in one hand and with the other, supporting a celestial crown, sparkling over a pair of living turtle doves, on a little bed of roses.

“The other elegant group of figures which sport on the top of the dome, having each of them musical instruments in their hands, which by the most expensive mechanism, breathe forth sound corresponding to their instruments, flutes, guitars, violins, clarinets, trumpets, horns, oboes, kettle drums, etc.

“At the head of the bed appears sparkling with electrical fire a great first commandment: ‘BE FRUITFUL, MULTIPLY AND REPLENISH THE EARTH’. Under that is an elegant sweet-toned organ in front of which is a fine landscape of moving figures, priest and bride’s procession entering the Temple of Hymen.”

For 50 guineas a childless couple could occupy the bed for one night; it would “infallibly produce a genial and happy issue.”

He quickly ran out of money, sold most of his belongings, and decamped back to Edinburgh.

(From Roy Porter, Health for Sale: Quackery in England, 1660-1850, 1989.)

Hoary-Headed Frosts

https://hairfreezingcontest.com/

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.

The Curse of Billy Penn

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Williampennfront.jpg
Image: Wikimedia Commons

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.

Podcast Episode 316: A Malaysian Mystery

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Moonlight_bungalow.jpg
Image: Wikimedia Commons

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.

See full show notes …

The Persian Princess

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.

Watch Your Step

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.”