In an earlier post, I explored curiousity and asked whether we are still curious in our contemporary world stuffed full of information and abundance. And has our natural inquisitiveness been squelched by living and trying to survive in a world fraught with terrorism, crime, violence and choice, choice, choice?
In my research and wanderings, I come across stories that I find curious, bizarre or touching. So I’ve decided to collect these for a new, regular ThinkingShift feature – How Curious! if you’re not a curious person, then read no further. But for those who want to learn about how our world can still be a haven for the inquiring mind or can still delight us, read on! And feel free to leave a comment if you know of a curious story.
First up, a bird who brings new meaning to the word hatchback. A very confused seagull in Inverness, Scotland has decided that the roof of a car, parked in the airport’s long-term carpark, makes a very good nesting place. Apparently, a French car (Citroen) provides a comfortable flat surface for incubating eggs. No word on whether the owner of the car has returned to find a seagull happily ensconced.
Are you descended from Genghis Khan? well, maybe not. But 16 million Asian men can lay claim to being descended from the Mongul conquerer – but nyet Russian men. Geneticists found an interesting cluster of Y-chromosomes in 18 nations across North Eurasia and discovered closely-related lines, which fanned from a common ancestor. The cluster originated in Mongolia about 1000 years ago and its distribution pattern was within the boundaries of the Mongol Empire. Based on this evidence, researchers have concluded that there is a Genghiside dynasty but for some reason men from the Genghis Khan clan left no genetic trace in Russia. Very curious indeed!
Being a chocoholic, my curiousity was well and truly piqued by news that chocolate toothpaste can fight tooth decay. Wouldn’t it be great to hear your dentist say “now, floss and eat plenty of chocolate.” Apparently, an extract of cocoa powder that occurs naturally in chocolate might be an effective natural alternative to fluoride in toothpaste. The extract is a white crystal powder whose chemical makeup is similar to caffeine and helps harden tooth enamel. A peppermint flavoured prototype, with the cavity-fighting cocoa extract added, is being tested. I’d sure be a willing guinea pig for the chocolate flavoured variety!
For the history buffs: when President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address in 1863, he may have been in the early stages of a life-threatening illness. The current issue of the Journal of Medical Biography has a report by two researchers at the University of Texas, who have concluded that Lincoln suffered from a serious form of smallpox, a disease that was rampant in the United States at the time. Lincoln appeared to present with the clinical features of variola major – high fever, weakness, severe head and back pain, prostration, skin eruptions. Possibly Lincoln’s physicians kept the severity of the disease from the President so that ultimately the public would not be alarmed during the turmoil of the American Civil War. Lincoln recovered and led the country through to the conclusion of the conflict, before being assassinated in 1865. When Dr Washington Chew Van Bibber (love the name!) finally told Lincoln that he had “a touch of the varioloid” (old-fashioned name for smallpox), Lincoln is said to have quipped: “How interesting“.
And for the archaeology buffs: in a wonderful piece of serendipity, Belgian archaeologists have “accidentally” found the tomb of an Egyptian courtier who lived around 4000 years ago. While excavating a later burial site at the Deir al-Barsha necropolis near the Nile Valley town of Minya, south of Cairo, the archaeologists stumbled onto the tomb of Henu, an estate manager and high-ranking official during the first intermediate period (2181-2050 BC). Henu’s preserved mummy was still wrapped in linen, inside a large wooden coffin and sarcophagus, decorated with hieroglyphic texts addressed to the Egyptian gods Anubis and Osiris.
And finally: if you happen to have a stuffed whippet, the Lowry gallery at Salford Quays, UK would love to hear from you. The gallery is hosting an exhibition on the myths of northern life and is missing one vital element – a stuffed whippet. Say what?? Apparently, the exhibition is a tongue-in-cheek review featuring terraced streets, smoking chimney, driving rain, flat caps and whippets. Perhaps some UK ThinkingShift readers could enlighten us as to the curious meaning of whippets in this?