Cyclopedia of Factoids - The Letter D
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Dance, St. Vitus
Dancing manias - a form of mass hysteria - were most common between the 13th and 17th centuries in Italy, notably in Taranto. Hence "tarantism". But occurrences were recorded in other locations (e.g., Lizzano, southern Apulia, Sardinia) as late as 50 years ago, during and after the second world war.
The Italian folk dance, "Tarantella" is related to tarantism. It was played for days on end to manic patients by groups of travelling musicians as a kind of music therapy. The patient also had to select among colored ribbons and concentrate on a band bearing the color of the biting spider. Oftentimes, such treatment was administered in the field where the mania first manifested.
The bite of the tarantula, called in many parts of Italy "Taranta" (also named after the town of Taranto) was long - and wrongly - thought to be the cause of the irresistible impulse to dance. The victims, it was claimed, were trying to prance the venom out of their bloodstream.
Other manic raves - such as "St. Vitus' or St. John's Dance", the names given to episodes of rheumatoid chorea - were common in large swathes of Europe between the 11th and 17th century. One legend has it that in 1278, hundreds of people were successfully treated in a chapel named after St. Vitus in Utrecht, Germany, close to the place where a bridge plunged into the Maas river following some frantic dancing. Hence "St. Vitus' dance". Other sources say that the blasphemous frolickers drowned.
Manic dances - sometimes in the form of ecstatic but structured rituals - often resulted in death. The dancers - many of them hailing from foreign lands - were not clinically insane. Men and women were equally represented.
Dead Horse Arum
The Dead Horse Arum smells like rotting meat and, thus, attracts female flies eager to lay their eggs. Researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Italy's University of Cagliari discovered that the chemicals emitted by the flower - three types of oligosulphides - are identical to those given out by disintegrating protein in decaying flesh.
The flower is found on islands off the coasts of Sardinia, Corsica and Spain's Balearic islands in the western Mediterranean. It traps dozens of blowflies at a time in a chamber for a few hours. Then - when they have immersed themselves in its pollen - it lets them fly away and pollinate other specimen. The inside of the chamber is 15 degrees warmer than the outside - another fly luring feature. The flower is the color of decomposing flesh and has is covered with hair-like pelt, the better to simulate a dead animal.
The brain of a decapitated person continues to produce brain waves recordable by EEG 3-8 seconds after the head is severed. Is the person conscious?
A study (Mikeska and Klemm, 1975) reported an EGG trace in the decapitated heads of rats of up 30 seconds (on average - 14 seconds). Allred and Berntson (1986) and Vanderwolf et al. (1988) dismissed that as LVFA (low voltage fast activity), not necessarily indicative of consciousness or distress. Holson (1992) reviewed the literature and found that decapitation triggers 2-4 seconds of slow direct current EEG trace followed by 10-13 seconds of an LVFA trace. When the rats were anesthetized the LVFA trace lasted longer - proving that it had nothing to do with consciousness.
Still, numerous anecdotes recounted by eyewitnesses support the theory that consciousness survives in the first 2-6 seconds and that some decapitated persons even realize their predicament to their utter horror.
DNA – Deoxyribonucleic Acid
Kilo is one thousand. Mega is one million. Giga is one billion. Tera is one trillion. Peta is a thousand trillion (one quadrillion). Exa is a thousand peta (quintillion). Zetta is a thousand exa (one sextillion). Yotta is a thousand zetta (one septillion).
Juan Enriquez quotes a study by the University of California at Berkeley in his tome, "As the Future Catches You - How Genomics and Other Forces Are Changing Your Life, Your Work, Your Investments, Your World":
All the words ever spoken by humans amount to 5 exabytes. By comparison, we now produce 1.5 exabytes of data per year, including phone conversations, e-mail messages and photocopies.
The genetic code consists of three billion letters, repeated twice within each of our 50 trillion cells. This amounts to 15 with 22 zeros after it, or 150 zettabits of data. Stretched in a line, the DNA is one cell would measure c. 2 meters long. Inside the cell, it is folded in a packet merely trillionths of a centimeter long.
Drive-ins were invented by Richard M. Hollingshead, a car salesman. At first, the film was projected from the hood of his car on to a bedsheet, securely fastened to tree trunks in his back yard in Camden, New Jersey. The sound was broadcast from a radio placed behind the screen and, later, from speakers he mounted on trees. Hollingshead was granted a patent in May 1933 (later invalidated by the courts) and the first drive-opened on June 6, 1933 in Camden, New Jersey. The price of admission was 25 cents per car and another 25 cents per person. The sound was delivered by in-car speakers which hung on the driver's side window.
Drive-ins today have anywhere from one to 13 screens (in Florida) and a capacity of between 50 and 3000 cars. The soundtrack is now delivered through the car radio.
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