It’s the start of another work week: Monday, June 15, 2020, and at the University of Chicago some researchers will be allowed back in their labs, but on a limited basis. It’s National Lobster Day, Nature Photography Day, Justice for Janitors Day, Global Wind Day, and, in the UK, National Beer Day. Have a Timothy Taylor’s Landlord for me, as it’s certain I won’t get to quaff my favorite UK beer for some time. Finally, it’s National Electricity Day, honoring the day in 1752 when Benjamin Franklin supposedly flew his kite in Philadelphia to demonstrate that lightning was a discharge of electricity. But that date is listed in some places as June 10. Has somebody looked up the weather records in Philly on those two days?
News of the Day: It’s the usual panoply of depressing stuff, so take a break and read this article about the discovery of bizarre new sea creatures, including siphonophores and larvaceans, whose thin and mucus-y can now be visualized with new technology. Some may be 150 feet long!
Today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 115,472, less than yesterday’s reported figure of 115,545; this must be a recording error of sorts unless some people have come back to life. The world death toll now stands at 433,164, and increase of about 3,500 from yesterday.
Stuff that happened on June 15 includes:
- 763 BC – Assyrians record a solar eclipse that is later used to fix the chronology of Mesopotamian history.
- 1215 – King John of England puts his seal to Magna Carta.
Here is that document, one of whose copies you can see in the British Library:
- 1648 – Margaret Jones is hanged in Boston for witchcraft in the first such execution for the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
- 1752 – Benjamin Franklin proves that lightning is electricity (traditional date, the exact date is unknown).
- 1844 – Charles Goodyear receives a patent for vulcanization, a process to strengthen rubber.
- 1878 – Eadweard Muybridge takes a series of photographs to prove that all four feet of a horse leave the ground when it runs; the study becomes the basis of motion pictures.
I guess they run so fast that nobody could really see this, or people would argue about what they saw. In this case the camera didn’t lie: Muybridge’s pictures clearly show (top row, 2nd and 3rd photos from the left) that the horse’s feet are all off the ground:
- 1919 – John Alcock and Arthur Brown complete the first nonstop transatlantic flight when they reach Clifden, County Galway, Ireland.
- 1937 – A German expedition led by Karl Wien loses sixteen members in an avalanche on Nanga Parbat. It is the worst single disaster to occur on an 8000m peak.
Here’s Nanga Parbat, in a picture that shows you why I love the Himalayas so much. What you see in vistas like this are enormous mountains, too large to comprehend, looming in the distance over regular landscapes. Nowhere else in the world can you see anything this majestic.
Nanga Parbat, in terms of chances of surviving a climbing attempt, is the third deadliest mountain in world: the fatality rate among climbers is 20%. The deadliest is Annapurna 1, which kills 32% of the climbers who attempt it, followed by K2 at 29%. Everest is #10.
- 1970 – Charles Manson goes on trial for the Sharon Tate murders.
- 2012 – Nik Wallenda becomes the first person to successfully tightrope walk directly over Niagara Falls.
I posted about it at the time, and included the video below, along with the note,
Granted, he’s wearing a safety harness, by stipulation of the ABC television network, but it’s pretty amazing nonetheless. He’s walking at night, and through heavy mist.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1914 – Saul Steinberg, Romanian-American cartoonist (d. 1999)
Here’s a New Yorker cover by Saul Steinberg:
- 1921 – Erroll Garner, American pianist and composer (d. 1977)
- 1932 – Mario Cuomo, American lawyer and politician, 52nd Governor of New York (d. 2015)
- 1937 – Waylon Jennings, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 2002)
- 1941 – Harry Nilsson, American singer-songwriter (d. 1994)
- 1943 – Johnny Hallyday, French singer and actor (d. 2017)
- 1963 – Helen Hunt, American actress, director, and producer
- 1964 – Courteney Cox, American actress and producer
- 1970 – Leah Remini, American actress and producer
Those who gave up the ghost on June 15 include:
- 1849 – James K. Polk, American lawyer and politician, 11th President of the United States (b. 1795)
- 1996 – Ella Fitzgerald, American singer and actress (b. 1917)
- 2011 – Bill Haast, American herpetologist and academic (b. 1910)
Haast, who lived to be 100, was owner of the Miami Serpentarium, and was famous for his macho displays of “milking” the venon from snakes using only his hands and a rubber-topped cup. He was bitten by venomous snakes at least 172 times, and attributed his longevity to the venom, to which he acquired immunity by repeated injections of small doses of various venoms. From Wikipedia:
By 1965 the Serpentarium housed more than 500 snakes in 400 cages and three pits in the courtyard. Haast extracted venom 70 to 100 times a day from some 60 species of venomous snakes, usually in front of an audience of paying customers. He would free the snakes on a table in front of him, then catch the snakes bare-handed, and force them to eject their venom into glass vials with a rubber membrane stretched across the top.
Soon after opening the Serpentarium, Haast began experimenting with building up an acquired immunity to the venom of King, Indian and Cape cobras by injecting himself with gradually increasing quantities of venom he had extracted from his snakes, a practice called mithridatism. In 1954 Haast was bitten by a common, or blue, krait. At first he believed his immunization to cobra venom would protect him from the krait venom, and continued with his regular activities for several hours. However, the venom eventually did affect him, and he was taken to a hospital where it took him several days to recover. A krait anti-venom was shipped from India, but when it arrived after a 48-hour flight, he refused to accept it. He received his first cobra bite less than a year after he started his immunization program. During the 1950s, he was bitten by cobras about twenty times. His first king cobra bite was in 1962. Haast was also bitten by a green mamba. Many times Haast donated his blood to be used in treating snake-bite victims when a suitable anti-venom was not available. More than twenty of those individuals recovered.
Here’s a 4.5-minute profile of Haast. Watch it unless you’re afraid of snakes:
- 2014 – Casey Kasem, American radio host, producer, and voice actor, co-created American Top 40 (b. 1932)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is doubly mad at viruses:
Hili: There was a beautiful tree here.A: We had to cut it down, it was attacked by a virus.Hili: Oh, these viruses!
Hili: Tu było piękne drzewo.
Ja: Trzeba je było wyciąć, bo je wirus zaatakował.
Hili: Ach te wirusy.
Two duck memes:
And Matthew’s cats: Harry, Ollie, and Pepper, resting together on the bike shed in his garden:
From Titania. I always knew Winnie was on the chopping block. Press the arrow to play.
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) June 14, 2020
A few months old but still relevant. Enlarge the video
Watching this video makes one very angry.
In broad daylight in Iran, a woman walking in the street is physically harassed by a pro-regime vigilante due to her hijab.
Next time they tell you compulsory hijab is a small issue, show them this video.
Many Iranian women face this pic.twitter.com/gC8dG4xSbs
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) March 11, 2020
Tweets from Matthew: This is cool—and nefarious:
Bee-fly collecting dirt at the tip of their abdomen to coat their eggs to provide camouflage and add weight to them to flick her eggs into bee nests. The bee-fly larvae then hatch and feed on bee larvae @SoldierfliesRS #bees #beefly pic.twitter.com/Ss5E5dT7Ol
— Tomos Nolan (@tomosjamesnolan) April 25, 2020
I badly want one of these, but it is unique:
— Cult of Weird (@cultofweird) June 13, 2020
But did this aptly named fly get the female?
Day 13 of #30DaysWild and check out the fabulous courtship display of this male Semaphore Fly (Poecilobothrus nobilitatus). Wing waving, hovering, 180 degree switch-backs, this guys got it all 😀@30DaysWild @Bex_Cartwright @flygirlNHM pic.twitter.com/NzlBdFE9NF
— Andrew Skinner (@AndyinSandy) June 13, 2020
Cat Man strangles Hitler!!!
Time for another pulp countdown, and as it's #SuperheroDay here is my top 10 of forgotten golden age superheroes!
— Pulp Librarian (@PulpLibrarian) April 28, 2020
Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. This is a true story:
In 1720 Marseille allowed a ship from plague-ridden Cyprus into port, under pressure from merchants who wanted the goods and didn’t want to wait for the usual quarantine. More than half the population of Marseille died in the next two years. https://t.co/IDapJhFhzM pic.twitter.com/vovtuQ1s7o
— Tim Stearns (@StearnsLab) April 25, 2020
Puffins are adorable, and this becomes twice as adorable with the sound on
A friend of mine was out on the Treshnish Isles near Mull today and got some great footage of puffins. These birds are completely unfazed by humans. Oh, and you’ll want the sound on.
🎥 Lawrie Cameron pic.twitter.com/xTWaE88ZeC
— Iain Cameron (@theiaincameron) April 24, 2020