Friday, April 2, 2010

When Did April Fool's Day Begin?

Though pranksters and joke-lovers in many countries now gleefully prepare to dupe friends and loved ones on April Fool's Day, no one knows exactly when or why, or even where, this tradition began.

A giddy spurt of practical joking seems to have coincided with the coming of spring since the time of the Ancient Romans and Celts, who celebrated a festival of mischief-making. The first mentions of an All Fool's Day (as it was formerly called) came in Europe in the Middle Ages.

Some trace April Fool's Day back to Roman mythology, particularly the story of Ceres, Goddess of the harvest, and her daughter, Proserpina.

Pluto, God of the Dead, abducted Proserpina and took her to live with him in the underworld. The girl called out to her mother, but Ceres could only hear the echo of her daughter's voice and searched for her in vain.

Such "fool's errands," or wild goose chases, became a popular practical joke in Europe in later centuries.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dinosaurs Did Not Gradually Die Out

Non-avian dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago, and now researchers have proven that this die-off didn't happen over a long period of time.

A detailed look at dinosaur bones, tracks and eggs located at 29 archaeological sites located in the Catalan Pyrenees reveals that there was a large diversity of dinosaur species living there just before the fatal K-T extinction event, which many scientists believe was caused by several large meteors hitting Earth.

Dinosaurs thrived outside of this part of Spain as well before 65 million years ago, such as in North America, but this particular research, published in the journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, focused on the Catalan region, a former dinosaur hotbed.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Nazis had planned to infiltrate Vatican with spies dressed as monks

Germany hatched a plan during World War Two to infiltrate the Vatican with spies disguised as monks, according to secret MI5 intelligence reports.

A Nazi sympathiser living in Rome came up with the idea and it was quickly seized upon by officials in Berlin who saw it as the ideal opportunity to keep up with Allied activity in the city.

The plan is revealed in MI5 reports held at the National Archives in Kew and which have now been declassified - and it comes just days after other files revealed how Germany had also tried to infiltrate the Boy Scouts.

Operation Georgian Convent as it was called involved the purchase of a building in Rome by Michael Kedia, a Russian anti communist Nazi sympathiser from Georgia (Russian Republic of) who was also known to British intelligence.

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Ancient Tribal Meeting Ground Found in Australia

Australian archaeologists have uncovered what they believe to be the world's southernmost site of early human life, a 40,000-year-old tribal meeting ground, an Aboriginal leader said Wednesday.

The site appears to have been the last place of refuge for Aboriginal tribes from the cannon fire of Australia's first white settlers, said Michael Mansell of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre.

"When the archaeological report came out it showed that (life there) had gone back longer than any other recorded place anywhere else in Tasmania, dating back to 40,000 years," Mansell told AFP.

Up to three million artifacts, including stone tools, shellfish fragments and food scraps, were believed to be buried in the area, which appeared to have been a meeting ground for three local tribes.

They died out after white settlers arrived in the late 18th century.

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Japan confirms Cold War-era 'secret' pacts with US

TOKYO -- Japan confirmed Tuesday secret Cold War-era pacts with Washington that tacitly allowed nuclear warships in Japanese ports in violation of a hallowed postwar principle, effectively acknowledging that previous governments had lied about them for decades.

While the move was welcomed as a step toward greater government transparency, atomic bomb survivors expressed disgust that officials kept such agreements hidden for dozens of years.

The revelations came after an investigation by a panel of experts appointed by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's government, which swept to power last fall on promises to bring more openness to government. His left-leaning party defeated the long-ruling conservatives who repeatedly denied the existence of such agreements.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Steak Dinners Go Back 2.5 Million Years

The discovery of a new "missing link" species of bull dating to a million years ago in Eritrea pushes back the beef steak dinner to the very dawn of humans and cattle.

Although there is no evidence that early humans were actually herding early cattle 2.5 million years ago, the early humans and early cattle certainly shared the same landscape and beef was definitely on the menu all along, say researchers.

The telltale fossil is a skull with enormous horns that belongs to the cattle genus Bos. It has been reassembled from over a hundred shards found at a dig that also contains early human remains.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Medieval Bridges preserved with Sugar

Scientists have used 70 tons of liquid sugar to preserve the remains of three Medieval bridges found near Leicester. Experts from the University of Leicester immersed the 11th century bridges – whose ruins were so heavy they had to be carried in sections by eight-man teams – in tanks of sugar solution.

Leicestershire County Council persuaded British Sugar to provide the sticky haul in three huge delivery batches after a retired local GP found the fragile 11th century timbers in Hemington Quarry near Castle Donington in 1993.

"Securing the viability of the bridge is testament to the natural preservative qualities of sugar," said Dr Julian Cooper, head of food science at British Sugar.

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Tuzki Bunny Emoticon Emotional Bunny Says: "Yes, I know we're out of sugar for the coffee, but we only have an hour of traveling left - NO! YOU CAN'T EAT THE BRIDGES!!"

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Australian giants lived alongside man for a time

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Giant marsupials, reptiles and flightless birds that once roamed Australia became extinct about 40,000 years ago, later than had been thought and some 5,000 years after humans arrived, a new study suggests.

Controversy has long surrounded when such creatures became extinct in Australia. New equipment that can date teeth and bones has solved the puzzle, Australian researchers said in the latest issue of the journal Science.

"For a long time, we couldn't measure bone and teeth, or how old they (animals) were when they died, that is, when they went extinct," paleontologist Barry Brook at the University of Adelaide in southern Australia told Reuters by telephone.

One of the new techniques used in the latest research was uranium thorium dating, which can gauge when uranium was taken up into the animal's teeth when it was still alive.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

The battle over Hawaii's history

Amateur historian Rick Rogers just knows Europeans visited the islands two centuries before Captain Cook landed in 1778. Trying to prove it and convince professionals, that's another story.

Finding evidence of a shipwreck beneath the ocean would finally prove a theory that Rogers, an amateur historian, has been promoting for decades. He thinks a handful of Spanish and Dutch ships visited Hawaii in the centuries before Captain Cook landed there in 1778. Some Europeans came ashore after shipwrecks, like the characters in "The Swiss Family Robinson," he claims, and eventually integrated into the local society. That early European influence in the 16th and 17th centuries forever changed Hawaiian culture, Rogers says.

"It's cool -- you read 'Swiss Family Robinson' and pirate stories, and here it really did happen," said Rogers, a retired commercial airline pilot. "But nobody else is really paying attention to it."

Rogers is following in the footsteps of others with no formal training who have tried to convince scholars that they've stumbled across great historical discoveries, correct or not. They include German businessman Heinrich Schliemann, who boasted he'd found archaeological proof that Troy actually existed, and adventurer Gene Savoy, who said he'd found dozens of Inca settlements in Peru while on the hunt for El Dorado, the fabled city of gold.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

AMC developing White House scandal miniseries

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - AMC is developing a miniseries set during the 1920s presidency of Warren Harding.

"Black Gold: The Teapot Dome Scandal," adapted from a nonfiction book by Laton McCartney, depicts the orchestration of Harding's election to the White House by big oil companies.

"'Teapot Dome' is quite possibly the most outrageous political scandal in American history," said Joel Stillerman, AMC's senior vp of original programing. "It is bawdy and substantive at the same time, and reminds us that nefarious connection between the oil industry and our government is not a new phenomenon."

Reference Article: Yahoo! News

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Conservatives in, Ted Kennedy out of U.S. history standards

State Board of Education members Friday narrowly approved a change in proposed U.S. history standards that calls on students to be taught about leading conservative groups from the 1980s and 1990s - with no similar requirement for liberal groups. Pushed by board member Don McLeroy, R-College Station, the provision says students should learn about "key organizations and individuals of the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s" including Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly.

The amendment was approved on a 7-6 vote, with the social conservative bloc on the board providing all but one of the affirmative voters. McLeroy explained that the history standards already were "rife with leftist political periods and events - the populists, the progressives, the New Deal and the Great Society. Including material about the conservative resurgence...provides some political balance to the document." Among the conservative groups that will be covered in history are the National Rifle Association, Moral Majority, Heritage Foundation and Contract with America.

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King's FBI files may be opened to public

U.S. Sen. John Kerry plans to introduce legislation next week that would pave the way for the release of thousands of FBI documents on the life and death of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Kerry said the bill, which failed in 2006, can pass this year in honor of King. "I want the world to know what he stood for," Kerry said. "And I want his personal history preserved and examined by releasing all of his records."

The bill calls for creating a Martin Luther King Records Collection at the National Archives that would include all government records related to King. The bill also would create a five-member independent review board that would identify and make public all documents from agencies including the FBI - just as a review board in 1992 made public documents related to the 1963 John F. Kennedy assassination.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Bible Possibly Written Centuries Earlier

Scientists have discovered the earliest known Hebrew writing - an inscription dating from the 10th century B.C., during the period of King David's reign.

The breakthrough could mean that portions of the Bible were written centuries earlier than previously thought. (The Bible's Old Testament is thought to have been first written down in an ancient form of Hebrew.)

Until now, many scholars have held that the Hebrew Bible originated in the 6th century B.C., because Hebrew writing was thought to stretch back no further. But the newly deciphered Hebrew text is about four centuries older, scientists announced this month.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Rembrandt Etching Found in D.C. Men's Room

The Very Rev. David M. O'Connell went into the bathroom looking for paper towels. He came out with something a little better: an authentic Rembrandt etching.

Father O'Connell, president of the Catholic University of America, noticed a picture frame jutting out from underneath a pile of junk in one of his office building's bathrooms last January, the university says. He pulled out an etching and thought it looked familiar.

An appraiser confirmed that the 4.5-inch-by-5-inch piece is an original by the 17th-century Dutch painter. The etching isn't well known, but owning a Rembrandt is worth more than just its appraisal value, says Paul Westley Bush, a graduate student.

No one at Catholic University is sure how a Rembrandt piece ended up in the bathroom.

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Emotional Bunny Says: "Yes, I'm positive it's not in my bag! I've checked everywhere! What's that? No, no, I told you, I picked it up, drove over to the university, stopped in for a minute, and then I just had to use the bathroom before I - oh - oh, no - wait a minute - Oh dear...."

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

100 Years Ago: The Amazing Technology of 1910

The dawn of 2010 promises more amazing developments in the world of technology. Already, tourists can visit space, for a price, nearly everything and everyone is going digital, and medical science continues to test the boundaries of what makes us truly human.

One full century ago, the new technologies that had people talking were considered just as groundbreaking. Electricity led the charge of developments that were changing the way people lived every day, with transportation and chemistry not far behind.

As the clocks of 1909 ticked towards 1910, more exciting inventions were just around the corner.

The early years of the century saw the general public finally able to enjoy the fruits of what was achieved in electrical engineering during the previous century. By 1910, many suburban homes had been wired up with power and new electric gadgets were being patented with fervor. Vacuum cleaners and washing machines had just become commercially available, though were still too expensive for many middle-class families.

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FDR kept deadly disease hidden for years

Some 65 years ago, as World War II raged in Europe and the Pacific, the American people faced an unprecedented constitutional crisis of which they were completely unaware -- and which has remained a secret ever since.

It has long been known that President Franklin D. Roosevelt, during the last year of his life, was gravely ill with serious cardiac problems: He'd been diagnosed with acute heart failure in March 1944 and suffered from astronomically high blood pressure and arteriosclerosis.

But what the public did not know was that four years earlier, while still in the second of his four terms as president, FDR had been diagnosed with a deadly skin cancer, melanoma, in a lesion over his left eyebrow.

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