Last week's Curios covered the most isolated cave in the world, cat fancies, and the unlikely history of military camouflage.
Curio No. 1039 | Life in a deadly cave
A poisonous cave? 30 years ago, workers in Romania were searching for a good place to build a power plant when they stumbled upon one of the strangest underground environments in the world. Named the Movile Cave, the network of tunnels is pitch black and filled with hot, toxic air. At the central cavern, the passageways give way to a large lake that is teeming with more than 40 lifeforms, 30 of which exist nowhere else in the world. Translucent and eyeless spiders, snails, worms, and centipedes survive by eating a thick layer of bacteria atop the lake. The bacteria survive by using chemosynthesis--a variation on photosynthesis that uses energy from inorganic chemical reactions instead of solar energy... keep reading.
Curio No. 1038 | Bach and Handel had a terrible eye surgeon
George Frideric Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach have a lot in common. They were both born in 1685. They grew up just 50 miles away from each other, in the German towns of Eisenach and Halle. And they have gone down in history as the two greatest baroque composers of all time. And, amazingly, both were also blinded by the same quack eye surgeon. He was called "The Chevalier" John Taylor--a title he gave himself, meaning "knight" or "chivalrous one." Taylor practiced ophthalmology before the field had a name. Although he studied at a hospital under an eye surgeon, his practices were not very scientifically sound--even by 17th century standards.... keep reading.
Curio No. 1037 | Before LOL cats there was this guy
Harrison Weir was the original crazy cat lady. In the late 19th century he founded the National Cat Club, wrote a book entitled Our Cats and All About Them, and created the first cat show. In other words, Weir earned his nickname of "The Father of the Cat Fancy." Weir was a member of Victorian-era London high society. At the time, most people saw cats only as rodent deterrents, not house pets. But Weir identified in cats "an elegance and wit that useless dogs lacked." In 1873, he founded the Crystal Palace Cat Show. Cats were graded on fur, color, shape, and build using Weir's "Standards of Excellence"... keep reading.
Curio No. 1036 | The saddest bowling story ever told
Strike! In bowling league play, a perfect game score of 300 is amazing but not that rare. What is elusive is a "900 series"--recording strikes in all three games of a league match, 36 in total. The United States Bowling Congress has certified only 28 "900 series" in 34 years of tracking. On the night of January 18, 2010, at the Plano Super Bowl in Texas, Bill Fong was almost number 29. Bill had bowled a 300 game before, but never two in a row. Bill began by hitting his first 24 strikes to record two perfect 300 games in a row. In game three he picked up speed and recorded his first nine strikes easily... keep reading.
Curio No. 1035 | Making babies without daddies
Hey ladies--if only! There is a species of North American lizards that is entirely female. The New Mexico whiptail lizard propagates without males, through asexual reproduction. But unlike other living things that reproduce asexually, the New Mexico whiptail lizards produce genetically unique offspring. This is because they have double the chromosomes of their lizard relatives. Biologists don't understand how or why, but this bizarre adaptation eliminates the major problem with asexual reproduction.... keep reading.
Curio No. 1034 | Cannes-ing fascism with a film festival
The Cannes Film Festival is a great way to spend a fortune watching independent films in luxury. But it was conceived in 1932 as a way to fight fascism. Jean Zay, a French politician, founded the film festival after hearing Mussolini intended to establish an Italian film festival as a fascist propaganda machine. Mussolini's Mostra del Cinema was held the same year in Venice. At first it included American films like It Happened One Night, starring Clark Gable. But only two years later, the top award was renamed the Coppa Mussolini and pro-fascist Italian films dominated the competition... keep reading.
Curio No. 1033 | The art of military camouflage
Today is Armed Forces Day here in the US. So we're honoring another military innovation that has found its way into popular culture: camouflage. While other animals have had camouflage for eons, humans weren't afforded the same biological advantage. So we have to make ours. Most experts agree the 19th-Century American artist Abbott Thayer is the "father of camouflage." Thayer, originally known for painting young women with angel wings, became infatuated with camoufler, French for "to conceal." He wrote a book, Concealing Colouration in the Animal Kingdom. ... keep reading.