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.
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.
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.
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.)
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?
Individuals have been fashioning homemade firearms for as long as guns have existed. Zip guns, crude but functional weapons often made from taped-together pieces of pipe and rubber bands, were particularly popular in the 1940s and 1950s. The AK-47, one of the most widely used assault rifles on the planet, has a reputation for being a cinch to make and practically impossible to break.
In Canada, the works of T.S. Eliot, Winston Churchill, and Malcolm X will emerge into the public domain. Canadians can stage their own dramatizations of T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (the basis for the Broadway show CATS), or add the full works of Churchill and Malcolm X to online archives, all without asking permission or violating the law. However, Canadians may have much less to celebrate next year. The recently released Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement (“TPP”), if ratified, would require Canada, along with 5 other countries, to add 20 years to its copyright term (expanding the term from 50 to 70 years after the author’s death). This is happening at a time when there is a consensus among academics, economists, and policymakers—including two heads of the United States Copyright Office—that this term is a “big mistake.” Why? Because its benefits are minuscule—economists (including five Nobel laureates) have shown that term extension does not spur additional creativity. At the same time, it causes enormous harm, locking away millions of older works that are no longer generating any revenue for the copyright holders. Films are literally disintegrating because preservationists can’t digitize them. The works of historians and journalists are incomplete. Artists find their cultural heritage off limits. Estimates are that the yearly cost to Canada from this term extension could exceed 100 million Canadian dollars. (You can read about the works that won’t enter Canada’s public domain here.) Yet, against this backdrop, the TPP would nevertheless mandate the term extension. If “the definition of insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results,” this would certainly qualify.
The truth is that most of us read continuously in a perpetual stream of incestuous words, but instead of reading novels, book reviews, or newspapers like we used to in the ancien régime, we now read text messages, social media, and bite-sized entries about our protean cultural history on Wikipedia.
In the great epistemic galaxy of words, we have become both reading junkies and also professional text skimmers. Reading has become a clumsy science, which is why we keep fudging the lab results. But in diagnosing our own textual attention deficit disorder (ADD), who can blame us for skimming? We’re inundated by so much opinion posing as information, much of it the same material with permutating and exponential commentary. Skimming is practically a defense mechanism against the avalanche of info-opinion that has collectively hijacked narrative, reportage, and good analysis.
An Amateur Radio Astronomer in North Cornwall accidentally picked up the signal in 2013 and after cross checking with various lists, has identified it as LES1 built by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and launched in 1965. The satellite failed to reach its intended orbit owing to a wiring error and has been drifting out of control ever since.