June 1, 2020

Gay Panic Defense

Murder of Scott Amedure

The gay panic defense is a legal strategy in which a defendant claims they acted in a state of violent, temporary insanity, committing assault or murder, because of unwanted same-sex sexual advances.

A defendant may allege to have found the same-sex sexual advances so offensive or frightening that they were provoked into reacting, were acting in self-defense, were of diminished capacity, or were temporarily insane, and that this circumstance is exculpatory or mitigating. Continue reading

May 29, 2020

South Atlantic Anomaly

Van Allen radiation belt

The South Atlantic Anomaly (SAA) is an area where the Earth’s inner Van Allen radiation belt (a protective zone of energetic charged particles originating from the solar wind that are captured by Earth’s magnetic field) comes closest to the Earth’s surface, dipping down to an altitude of 120 miles. This leads to an increased flux of energetic particles in this region and exposes orbiting satellites to higher-than-usual levels of radiation.

The effect is caused by the non-concentricity of the Earth and its magnetic dipole. The SAA is the near-Earth region where the Earth’s magnetic field is weakest relative to an idealized Earth-centered dipole field. Continue reading

May 24, 2020

Greater Fool Theory

Tulip mania

In finance and economics, the greater fool theory states that the price of an object is determined not by its intrinsic value, but rather by the local and relative demand of a specific consumer.

In an inflated market, a consumer, despite having broader market knowledge might pay an inflated price because of their needs and the local related-market value. Another consumer, relative to their needs and assessment of market value, may deem the price excessive. Thus, to one consumer, the commodity has a greater value than to another, making the former look like a fool to the latter. Continue reading

May 23, 2020

Venatio

Marcus Fulvius Nobilior

Venatio [ven-ah-tee-oh] (‘hunting’) was a type of entertainment in Roman amphitheaters involving the hunting and killing of wild animals.

The event was introduced by Roman General Marcus Fulvius Nobilior, who celebrated his Greek campaign in 189 BCE by celebrating games where gladiators would fight lions and panthers. He was possibly inspired by Alexander the Great’s purported pastime of pitting lions against both men and dogs. Continue reading

May 17, 2020

Diving Horse

Steel Pier

diving horse is an attraction that was popular in the mid-1880s, in which a horse would dive into a pool of water, sometimes from as high as 60 feet.

In Lake George, New York, the Magic Forest theme park hosts the only remaining diving horse feature in New York state. It has been in operation since 1977, originally featuring a horse named Rex, later replaced by a gelding named Lightning. The manager states, ‘There is no rider, no prods, no electrical jolts, and no trap doors.’ The horse jumps twice daily during a two-month season and has the rest of the year off. Continue reading

May 17, 2020

Boardwalk

Steel Pier

boardwalk is an elevated footpath, walkway, or causeway built with wooden planks that enables pedestrians to cross wet, fragile, or marshy land. They are also in effect a low type of bridge. Such timber trackways have existed since at least Neolithic times (12,000 years ago).

An early example is the ‘Sweet Track’ that Neolithic people built in the Somerset levels, England, around 6,000 years ago. This track consisted mainly of planks of oak laid end-to-end, supported by crossed pegs of ash, oak, and lime, driven into the underlying peat (partially decayed vegetation). Continue reading

May 12, 2020

Coquina

Castillo de San Marco 1677

Coquina [koh-kee-nuh] is a sedimentary rock that is composed either wholly or almost entirely of the transported, abraded, and mechanically-sorted fragments of the shells of mollusks, trilobites, brachiopods, or other invertebrates. The term coquina comes from the Spanish word for ‘cockle’ and ‘shellfish.’

Coquinas accumulate in high-energy marine and lacustrine environments where currents and waves result in the vigorous winnowing, abrasion, fracturing, and sorting of the shells that compose them. As a result, they typically exhibit well-developed bedding or cross-bedding, close packing, and good orientation of the shell fragments. The high-energy marine or lacustrine (lake) environments associated with coquinas include beaches, shallow submarine raised banks, swift tidal channels, and barrier bars. Continue reading

May 4, 2020

George Barris

Batmobile

George Barris (1925 – 2015) was an American designer and builder of many famous Hollywood custom cars, most notably the Munster Koach and 1966 Batmobile.

George and his brother Sam were born in Chicago in the 1920s. Barris was three years old when their father, a Greek immigrant from Chios, sent the brothers to live with an uncle and his wife in Roseville, California, following the death of their mother. By age 7, Barris was making models of cars employing balsa wood and modifying their design and appearance with careful attention to details so his entries won contests sponsored by hobby shops. Continue reading

April 30, 2020

Payot

Shaving in Judaism

Payot [pey-oht] is the Hebrew word for sidelocks or sideburns. Payot are worn by some men and boys in the Orthodox Jewish community based on an interpretation of the Biblical injunction against shaving the ‘corners’ of one’s head. Literally, ‘pe’ah’ means ‘corner, side, edge.’

There are different styles of payot among Hasidic, Yemenite, and Chardal (Zionist Israeli) Jews. Yemenite Jews call their sidelocks ‘simonim,’ literally, ‘signs,’ because their long-curled sidelocks served as a distinguishing feature in the Yemenite society (differentiating them from their non-Jewish neighbors). Continue reading

April 26, 2020

Zombie Satellite

LES-5

zombie satellite is a satellite that is no longer under human control due to an extended malfunction. At the end of their service life, the majority of satellites suffer from orbital decay and are destroyed by the heat of atmospheric entry. Zombie satellites, however, maintain a stable orbit but are either partially or completely inoperable, preventing operators from communicating with them.

One of the oldest known zombie satellites is Transit 5B-5, which was launched in 1965 as part of the Transit system. Also known as NAVSAT or NNSS (for Navy Navigation Satellite System), it is one of the first satellite navigation systems (or satnav). Transit 5B-5 is nuclear powered and still in a stable polar orbit, though operators are unable to control it. Continue reading

April 20, 2020

Dueling Scar

Academic fencing

Dueling scars have been seen as a ‘badge of honor’ since as early as 1825. Known variously as ‘Mensur scars,’ ‘the bragging scar,’ ‘smite,’ or ‘Schmitte,’ dueling scars were popular among upper-class Austrians and Germans involved in academic fencing at the start of the 20th century.

Among university students, it was seen as a mark of their class and honor. It is an early example of scarification (body modification) in European society. The practice of dueling and the associated scars was also present to some extent in the German military. Continue reading

April 16, 2020

Tensegrity

Skylon by George Morrow

Tensegrity [ten-seg-ri-tee], tensional integrity or floating compression is a structural principle based on a system of isolated components under compression inside a network of continuous tension, and arranged in such a way that the compressed members (usually bars or struts) do not touch each other while the prestressed tensioned members (usually cables or tendons) delineate the system spatially.

The term was coined by inventor Buckminster Fuller in the 1960s as a portmanteau of ‘tensional integrity.’ The other denomination of tensegrity, floating compression, was used mainly by the constructivist artist Kenneth Snelson. Shorter columns or struts in compression are stronger than longer ones. This in turn led Fuller to make claims that tensegrity structures could be scaled up to cover whole cities. Continue reading

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