History

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Books from 1923 to 1941 Now Liberated!

The Internet Archive is now leveraging a little known, and perhaps never used, provision of US copyright law, Section 108h, which allows libraries to scan and make available materials published 1923 to 1941 if they are not being actively sold. Elizabeth Townsend Gard, a copyright scholar at Tulane University calls this “Library Public Domain.” She and her students helped bring the first scanned books of this era available online in a collection named for the author of the bill making this necessary: The Sonny Bono Memorial Collection. Thousands more books will be added in the near future as we automate. We hope this will encourage libraries that have been reticent to scan beyond 1923 to start mass scanning their books and other works, at least up to 1942.

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The GIF is dead. Long live the GIF.

The GIF as an art form—a short and silent loop—has never been more popular than it is right now. Yet the GIF as a filetype, the way we store the library of ones and zeros that computers translate into animation, is quietly embattled. Behind the scenes, a war to exterminate it has been raging for years, and it never really ended. All these years after Burn All GIFs Day, the GIF remains both deeply flawed and yet strangely irreplaceable. Whether this latest frenzy of GIF popularity enshrines it forever or kills it for good, you can be damn sure we’ll never see anything quite like it again.

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Greenland shark found to be at least 272 years old

A large, almost-blind shark that lives in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans is officially the world’s longest-living vertebrate, scientists say.

The Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus) has a lifespan of at least 272 years, and might live as long as 500 years1. That is older than the 211-year lifespan of the bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus), the previous record-holder in the scientific literature2. It also beats the popular — but unconfirmed — tale of a famous female Koi carp called Hanako, who supposedly lived to 226 years old.

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The Delightful Perversity of Québec’s Catholic Swears

Québec’s swearing vocabulary is one of the weirdest and most entertaining in the entire world. It is almost entirely made up of everyday Catholic terminology—not alternate versions, but straight-up normal words that would be used in Mass to refer to objects or concepts—that have taken on a profane meaning. Many languages have some kind of religious terminology wrapped into profanity (think of English’s “damn” or “goddammit”), but Quebec’s is taken to a totally different level.

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Isolated for 5.5 million years: the bizarre beasts of Romania’s poison cave

In the south-east of Romania, in Constanța county close to the Black Sea and the Bulgarian border, there lies a barren featureless plain. The desolate field is completely unremarkable, except for one thing.
Below it lies a cave that has remained isolated for 5.5 million years. While our ape-like ancestors were coming down from the trees and evolving into modern humans, the inhabitants of this cave were cut off from the rest of the planet.
Despite a complete absence of light and a poisonous atmosphere, the cave is crawling with life. There are unique spiders, scorpions, woodlice and centipedes, many never before seen by humans, and all of them owe their lives to a strange floating mat of bacteria.

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Discovery of (NEW) 1,000-year-old Viking site in Canada could rewrite history

Ms Parcak looked at modern-day plant cover to find places where a possible Viking settlement had altered the soil by changing the amount of moisture in the ground. This was a technique she had previously used in Egypt.

After identifying a potential site, archaeologists found a hearth-stone, which was used for iron-working, near what appeared to have been a turf wall.

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Einstein’s theory of general relativity, explained using only the thousand most common words in English

Two of his biggest ideas were about how space and time work. This thing you’re reading right now explains those ideas using only the ten hundred words people use the most often.1 The doctor figured out the first idea while he was working in an office, and he figured out the second one ten years later, while he was working at a school. That second idea was a hundred years ago this year. (He also had a few other ideas that were just as important. People have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how he was so good at thinking.)

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The audacious rescue plan that might have saved space shuttle Columbia

One of the most tragic events in the history of space exploration is the loss of the space shuttle Columbia and all seven of its crew on February 1, 2003—a tragedy made worse because it didn’t have to happen. But just as it is human nature to look to the future and wonder what might be, so too is it in our nature to look at the past and wonder, “what if?” Today, 13 years after the event, Ars is rerunning our detailed 2014 examination of the biggest Columbia “what if” of all—what if NASA had recognized the danger? Could NASA have done something to save the crew?

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