The Cranberry Crisis of Thanksgiving 1959

While cranberries have been cultivated and consumed by Native Americans since pre-Columbian times – and have long been associated with Thanksgiving celebrations in the United States – the fruit’s position on our harvest table has not always been so secure.

Near the end of the second Eisenhower administration, fears of widespread chemical contamination prompted the Great Cranberry Scare of 1959. A few weeks before Thanksgiving, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Arthur S. Flemming announced that

The Food and Drug Administration today urged that no further sales be made of cranberries and cranberry products produced in Washington and Oregon in 1958 and 1959 because of their possible contamination by a chemical weed killer, aminotriazole, which causes cancer in the thyroids of rats when it is contained in their diet, until the cranberry industry has submitted a workable plan to separate the contaminated berries from those that are not contaminated.1

American consumers panicked: a “fifty-million-dollar-a-year business collapsed overnight [and] sales of fresh cranberries […] dropped sixty-three per cent from the year before.” Fearful of poisoning, cranberries vanished from Thanksgiving tables that year; even the Eisenhowers declined to served them at the White House dinner.2

Afterward, two things became clear. First, that the contamination was not widespread, and that scientists had simply erred on the side of caution since there was no way for consumers to determine on short notice where their cranberries had come from. Second, the cranberry industry concluded that it could not depend on Thanksgiving sales alone – prompting the introduction and marketing of cranberry juices that could be sold year-round.3

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Here are some weird facts about leap years.

Happy Leap Day, everyone! One of the rarest holidays of them all (though not nearly as rare as Thanksgivukkah), February 29 only shows up every four years. Lucky for us, this happens to be one of them! To celebrate, here are Five Weird Facts about leap years, courtesy of about.com.

A sampling:

3. Leap Year Capital of the World
In 1988, the town of Anthony, Texas, with a population of 8000, declared itself to be the “Leap Year Capital of the World.”

Its justification for this title was that two members of its Chamber of Commerce were born on leap year days. But in a moment of honesty a member of the Chamber also admitted that, “We just voted arbitrarily to name this as the leap year capital of the world because no one else has.”

As of 2016, the town of Anthony continues to pride itself on being the Leap Year Capital, with festivities planned for February 29.

I’m also partial to the notion of re-envisioning Leap Day as a “day out of time.”

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Volcanic ghost towns of North Sumatra

Indonesia’s Mount Sinabung, a stratovolcano located in North Sumatra, has been dramatically erupting on and off since 2010. (Incidentally, I climbed this volcano in late 2011 — between eruptions, of course.)

Recent eruptions have been so sustained and severe that a number of nearby villages have been abandoned — declared by Indonesian authorities, as The Atlantic reports, “too dangerous to inhabit.” Numerous villages such as Guru Kinayan, Simacem, Kuta Gugung, and Sibintun now sit empty, covered in ash and rapidly being reclaimed by nature, as the images below show:

Volcanic Ghost Villages in Sumatra, Indonesia

(Photo credit goes to Associated Press photographer Binsar Bakkara.)

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Giant ball pit for grown adults opens in DC

It’s a dream come true. Who doesn’t wish that there was some place they could go, as an adult, giant-ball-pit-for-adultsto dive into a giant pit of plastic balls without facing social judgment?

The National Building Museum in Washington, DC, last weekend opened a 10,000 square foot ball pit to the general public.
The installation, called “The Beach,” is literally two massive, gallery-white pools, built by Brooklyn design firm Snarkitecture, filled with plastic balls that fully grown adults can actually play in. It is reportedly very large and very fun, and is accompanied by a few dozen beach chairs.
 

You can see more photos here and here.

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Boston’s snow pile STILL hasn’t melted.

It’s nearly July, and while Boston’s massive mound of snow has certainly shrunk since its heyday, it seems likely that it will take at least a few more weeks before the last of it has melted away. Check out these pics from Twitter:

Before: Boston's snow mound at its height in February.
Before: Boston’s snow mound at its height in February.
After: Boston's snow mound in June, glory days long behind it.
After: Boston’s snow mound in June, glory days long behind it.

Source: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/offbeat/bostons-nasty-snow-pile-still-hasnt-melted/ar-AAcaW12

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“Thigh bone” spotted on Mars is just rock, NASA asserts

No need to worry, folks. It’s certainly not the bone of an alien or a hyper-ape, and there’s nothing anachronistic about it. Just a rock. Yup, no biggie. thigh-bone-on-mars.jpg

NASA released Curiosity’s “thigh bone” Mars rock photo with an explanation on Thursday.
 
In the photo description, NASA officials wrote that while “this Mars rock may look like a femur thigh bone,” it is not the fossilized remains of a mysterious Martian. “Mission science team members think its shape is likely sculpted by erosion, either wind or water.”
 
The Curiosity rover has found evidence that Ma
rs was once a habitable place in the ancient past, but there is no evidence that creatures large enough to leave a bone behind ever existed on the planet.
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Leading scientist ejected by audience after ‘trying to crowd surf’ at classical music concert

This may be the most perfect headline ever written, and I am so glad to live in a world where such absurd things sometimes happen.

The distinguished gentleman in question was a member of the Royal Society; the venue, the Bristol Old Vic; the tune, Handel’s Messiah.
Before the performance, [Bristol Old Vic Artistic Director] Mr Morris invited the audience to bring their drinks into the standing area in front of the stage and instructed them: “Clap or whoop when you like, and no shushing other people.”
 
But Dr Glowacki, a Royal Society Research Fellow, was so overcome during the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ he began lurching from side to side with his hands raised and whooping before attempting to crowd-surf, witnesses claimed.
 
Irritated by the distraction, audience members proceeded to physically eject the Bristol University academic from the area, in what Mr Morris claims is the first such incident at a classical concert since the 18th century.
That man is an inspiration to all of us. Original article here.
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The tree that owns itself

This is one of those times when I’ll let an excerpt from a Wikipedia article do all the talking:

A photograph of the Son of Tree That Owns Itse...

A photograph of the Son of Tree That Owns Itself taken by myself on a humid day in 2005. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Tree That Owns Itself is a white oak tree, widely assumed to have legal ownership of itself and of all land within eight feet (2.4 m) of its base. The tree, also called the Jackson Oak, is located at the corner of South Finley and Dearing Streets in Athens, Georgia, United States. The original tree fell in 1942, but a new tree was grown from one of its acorns, and planted in the same location. The current tree is sometimes referred to as the Son of The Tree That Owns Itself. Both trees have appeared in numerous national publications, and the site is a local landmark.
How extraordinary! Legend has it that sometime between 1820 and 1832, one Colonel William Henry Jackson deeded the original tree to itself. I can only hope that this proud line of self-owning trees will endure indefinitely.
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Google sends lone employee to map abandoned island city

Urban exploration enthusiasts, this one’s for you. Google recently sent an employee with hand-held Street View cameras to map out the abandoned Battleship Island (also known as Hashima), which was briefly the most densely-populated point on the planet. Others call it Ghost Island: originally populated as a coal mining facility starting in the late 1800s, the location was abandoned when Japan largely shifted to petroleum in the 1960s. Check out some footage below:

How fascinating and eerie it must have been to wander among the silent structures, standing lonely and forgotten against the sea. You can see more pictures at weburbanist
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Scientists discover binary supermassive black hole

The thought of a single supermassive black hole lurking at galaxy’s center is enough to send shivers down one’s spine (given a bit of contemplation and the right kind of personality). But two? That’s a new ballgame altogether.

Actually, astronomers suspect that these binary supermassive black hole systems are probably the result of galactic collisions. Awesome! 
To date, only a few candidates for close binary supermassive black holes have been found. All are in active galaxies where th

An artist's conception of a supermassive black...

An artist’s conception of a supermassive black hole and accretion disk. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ey are constantly ripping gas clouds apart, in the prelude to crushing them out of existence. In the process of destruction, the gas is heated so much that it shines at many wavelengths, including X-rays. This gives the galaxy an unusually bright centre, and leads to it being called active.


On 10 June 2010, Dr Fukun Liu from Peking University in China with colleagues spotted a tidal disruption event in the galaxy SDSS J120136.02+300305.5 (J120136 for short). They were scanning the data for such events and scheduled follow-up observations just days later with XMM-Newton and NASA’s Swift satellite.

Full article here
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