Cyclopedia of Factoids - The Letter M
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Long before the first congress (1889) of the Second International, a socialist gathering, appropriated May 1, it was being celebrated by the Celts. They considered it the day when the supernatural invaded the earthly and placed living things in great jeopardy. To protect their precious livestock, they used to herd it between two bonfires in what became known as the Beltane (or Belltane) festival. The Romans honored the spring goddess Flora on May Day.
May 1 is still celebrated throughout the countries of the former communist bloc and in many other places in Europe and Asia as a kind of Labor Day while in North America, Labor Day is celebrated in September.
Mayonnaise was invented by the chef of the Duc de Richelieu in 1756. The Duc was in the habit of holding nude dinner parties. Having beaten the British at Port Mahon, he instructed his chef to prepare a culinary feast, replete with a "sauce made of cream and eggs". The terrified chef discovered, at the last moment, that there was no cream in the kitchen. He hurriedly poured olive oil and scrambled it with the eggs. Thus emerged the "Mahonnaise".
The Journal of Environmental Science and Technology published study according to which 1.6 kilograms of fuel, 72 grams of chemicals and 32 kilograms of water are consumed in the manufacturing of a typical two-gram chip.
A 32-MB RAM microchip requires 630 times its mass to manufacture. Microchip production utilizes 160 times the amount of energy needed to make mere silicon. Thousands of chemicals are used in the process, some of them highly toxic.
Debunkers of UFO sightings often propose to explain the persistent and recurrent reports as atmospheric phenomena, such as mirages.
UFO enthusiasts counter that "mirages cannot be seen more than 1° above or below the observer's horizon." UFO's are almost always observed high in the sky or even directly above the observer's head (zenith).
Mirages are generated by the bending of light rays when they move across layers in the atmosphere with different temperatures and, thus, densities. Mirages are real and can be photographed.
All mirages contain one regular ("erect") image and one or more mirror ("inverted") images. "Fata Morgana" is a mirage with many interlaced inverted and erect images. It is named after King Arthur's sister, the enchantress (magician-witch) Morgan le Fay.
Other refractive phenomena include looming, towering, sinking, stooping, etc. In looming an object below the horizon is projected into the sky. Objects under the horizon can thus appear to be above it.
And who is right in the UFO debate?
Due to refraction, even under normal atmospheric conditions, we all see objects that are under the astronomical horizon.
How much we see depends on our elevation, the width of the sky between the two horizons, and the distance to the objects, among other variables. Our APPARENT horizon (what we can actually see) and the "real", astronomical horizon (what we would have seen in the absence of refracting atmosphere) are not the same. The difference between them is the "dip". Optics tells us that multiple or inverted images must occur under the astronomical horizon and above the apparent horizon - i.e. within the dip. Theoretically, the dip can be larger than 1 degree. But, practically, on our small planet, with the highest point at 9 kilometers (Mount Everest), and our eyes constructed as they are, and out atmosphere composed as it is - it is impossible to see mirages displaced by more than 1 degree. UFO fans are right after all.
Mary Katherine Campbell, the only woman to win the Miss America title twice (1922 and 1923), who was 5-foot-7 and weighed 140 pounds (c. 65 kg.). Norman Rockwell, the painter, was on the panel of judges in 1923.
Campbell died in 1990. She declined offers from Hollywood and Broadway, married, and led a staid life to her death.
The smile of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa is a Victorian
romantic invention. The Victorians idealized women and romanticized them as
fragile, mysterious, and forbidden objects. But, for 300 years, the Mona Lisa
was considered by art critics - from the contemporaneous Vasari onwards - as a
masterpiece of realism and innovation. It influenced painters throughout the
centuries, from Raphael through Caravaggio to Rembrandt.
This tiny painting on a poplar wooden plank (canvas came later) crammed numerous new techniques into its claustrophobic space:
1. Monumental background, combining, as was the ideal of the Renaissance, the works of Man (bridges, roads) and wild Nature of which Man is a part. Hints of classicism comprising the human form and acts of creation, both human and divine.
2. Sfumato: using graded tones and shading to yield a misty, hazy, and soft look that denotes timelessness and ethereal unearthliness.
The family name by marriage of the real Mona Lisa was Gioconda which means "happiness". Hence her smile. Da Vinci commonly introduced into his works of art such allusions.
The painting, started by the artist in 1506 (or maybe 1513) was completed by his apprentices after his death in 1519. It had a turbulent history over the centuries: bought by a French king, it occupies its own room in the Louvre palace. The eyebrows and eyelashes faded over the years. It was stolen in 1911 (police suspected Picasso), mutilated, caricatured, and puzzled over by generations which read into it their fantasies and fears. Men committed suicide, having fallen in love with her and she still receives ardent fan mail.
The "paper" notes we use to pay for goods and services (which, together with coins, constitute "money" or "tender") are made of a blend of cotton and linen.
Throughout history, numerous objects served as money: seashells, stones, whales' teeth, cattle and manillas (ornamental jewelry). The word "salary" reflects the fact that Roman soldiers were paid in salt. As recently as 1932, in Tenino, Washington, USA, notes of $1, $5 and $10 denominations were printed on wood.
Money comes in all sizes, shapes and forms. One meter long and half a meter wide copper plates were used in Alaska in the 1850s. They weighed 40 kilograms.
Humans made monsters by inhuman treatment abound in literature. In "The Man Who Laughs", published in 1869, the French author, Victor Hugo (1802-1885), described the comprachicos thus:
"The comprachicos (child buyers) were strange and hideous nomads in the 17th century. They made children into sideshow freaks. To succeed in producing a freak one must get hold of him early; a dwarf must be started when he is small. They stunted growth, they mangled features. It was an art/science of inverted orthopedics. Where nature had put a straight glance, this art put a squint. Where nature had put harmony, they put deformity and imperfection. The child was not aware of the mutilation he had suffered. This horrible surgery left traces on his face, not in his mind. During the operation the little patient was unconscious by means of a stupefying magic powder.
In China since time immemorial, they have achieved refinement in a special art and industry: the molding of living man. One takes a child two or three years old and puts them into a grotesquely shaped porcelain vase. It is without cover or bottom, so the head and feet protrude. In the daytime the vase is upright, at night it is laid down so the child can sleep. Thus the child slowly fills the contours of the vase with compressed flesh and twisted bones. This bottled development continues for several years. At a certain point, it becomes an irreparable monster. Then the vase is broken and one has a man in the shape of a pot."
The Kyrgyz writer, Chingiz Aitmatov (or Aytmatov) (1928 - ) recounts in "The Day Lasts More than One Hundred Years" (1980) the legend of the Ana-Beiit cemetery and the zombies known as "mankurts".
According to tradition, the nomad Zhuan’zhuan, shaved the heads of the younger and more fit prisoners of war and wrapped their skulls in raw camel hide. The prisoners were then left to shrivel in the desert's scorching sun, without food or water. As the caps shrank around their heads, they perished in terrible agony. The survivors completely lost their memory. Their subsequent submissiveness and loyalty made them ten times more valuable than a regular slave and three times as precious as a free man (in terms of pecuniary damages when accidentally killed).
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