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How the Contradictions of Socialism Make Cuban Art Great

In Cuba, where scientists and artists alike lineup for stale bread and chicken, the arts flourish. Cubans are not hesitant to study the arts and make a living out of being musicians, dancers, artists, and comedians because it’s not fiscally irresponsible to do so. Every neighborhood has its own casa de cultura, where anyone can, for free, learn the core principles of Cuban art. One such core principle is “to keep the censors busy.” Read full article here

Graveyards Are Surprising Hotspots for Biodiversity

Graveyards might be the last bastions of biodiversity. They lie mostly undisturbed for the better part of the year, making them the perfect place for nature to run wild. Scientists have found graveyards packed with native plants; one in Hebei province housed 24 unique species over an area of two square meters. They support not only the plants within their boundaries but also those in surrounding areas, as pollinating insects flourish within them. Read full article here

How a Poetry Collection Masquerading as Buddhist Scripture Nearly Duped the Literary World

Ever heard of a white American man trying to disguise himself as a Buddhist Elder Nun? Matty Weingast did just that. Weingast’s controversial book, The First Free Women: Poems of the Early Buddhist Nuns, was initially marketed as a translation of the Therigatha, an important Buddhist scripture composed by the first enlightened women. Weingast’s book got the biggest names in American Buddhism enthused until the truth came out: it was only a collection of his own poems, with zero accurate references to the Therigatha. Read full article here

In a Mafia Stronghold, This Cooking School Is Stirring the Pot

“Every kid who is taken out of the street, and welcomed at the cooking school, is labor subtracted from the Mafias.” Uno Chef per Elena e Pietro is a cooking school located in Bianco, the base of the Calabrian Mafia, and it hopes to give a future to those who have nothing. Their students are taught not only how to cook but also to approach life holistically, free of charge. Read full article here

How Suffering Seeded The Creativity Of J.R.R. Tolkien And C.S. Lewis

World War I destroyed the spirits of the public and ushered in literature rife with alienation and moral cynicism. When World War II proved to be even more devastating, two British authors decided that the world should be reminded of the “supreme importance of the individual in combating the evils of his age”. These two went on to finish “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe”. Read full article here

The Insane True Story Of Sleepytime Tea's Origins In An Extraterrestrial Cult

The inspirational tag on your box of Sleepytime tea may be derived from a racist scripture written by aliens. Bizzare as it might sound, writer Megan Giller claims that the founder of Celestial Seasonings, Mo Siegel, follows a mysterious book called The Urantia. The book claims to be a transmission of extraterrestrial wisdom and shares some cult-like ideas. As a result, it is possible the company’s name refers to the wisdom showered by aliens. Read full article here

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The Mysterious Origins of the Word 'Posh'

The origin of the word ‘Posh’ is still unknown. While some believe it comes from the nineteenth-century slang for money or a coin of small value, others say it originates from another slang meaning a rich, well-dressed man. Though the true etymology is still debatable, it is certain that posh is not an anagram for a Nautical term as some theorists believe. Read full article here

Why I Am Not a Stoic

Stoicism was one of four schools of thought in Greek Philosophy. With the pursuit of virtue through rationality as their objective, Stoics believed that emotions were dangerous and that decision-making should be guided by facts. While it has aspects that are useful today, such as changing what you can and accepting what you can’t, its core tenets of detaching yourself from your emotions and remaining rational at all times are near impossible in practice. Read full article here

Adaptation of sperm whales to open-boat whalers: rapid social learning on a large scale?

Whales may be smarter than we think; sperm whale groups in the North Pacific seemed to have not only adopted defensive techniques after humans started hunting them but also been capable of social learning, where they taught each other these techniques. Scientists theorize that, in one case study, this social learning could have led to the rapid decline of successful harpooning attempts a few years after whalers explored a new region. Read full article here

An Enterprise of Solid Gold

In the 1700s, prior to copyright laws, piracy was a respectable business. “Take a book that is selling well, reprint it…then haul in the profit.” But pirating literature was also a risky enterprise; if it is printed and sold too late, it was unlikely that your pirated copies would sell well. Even so, it was a risk that businessmen like Frédéric-Samuel Ostervald were willing to take, especially when Voltaire himself encouraged piracy of his work. Read full article here

Are Genetically Modified Trees a Climate Change Solution?

Trees are some of the most efficient carbon sinks; they store carbon dioxide in their roots, trunks, and stems, and scientists are looking to enhance that power to combat climate change. Because trees soak up the most carbon after they’ve reached the “old growth stage”, scientists are genetically engineering trees to reach this “old growth” in 20-50 years — a huge step up from the centuries or millennia it normally takes to reach this stage. Read full article here

How Old Is Your Dog in Human Years? Scientists Develop Better Method than 'Multiply by 7'

Apparently, the ratio of one dog year to seven human years isn’t entirely accurate. A new method in determining age reveals that dogs age very quickly in their younger years and slow down once they hit their seventh birthday. The new method measures changes in chemicals in genes, and is predicted to accurately determine the age not only of dogs but also of humans and other animals. Read full article here

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Empathy is the mother of invention

Helen Demetriou and Bill Nicholl argue that empathy, and not necessity, is the mother of invention. They studied pupils from two schools. While one school continued with its lessons as usual, the other replaced its lessons with a kit named Designing Our Tomorrow, which includes instructions on empathy. The pupils from the second school showed a considerable increase in emotional and cognitive creativity. Solely understanding the subject matter at a rational level doesn’t seem to be enough to solve our issues. Read full article here

If you believe in nihilism, do you believe in anything?

Political nihilism is perceived as dangerous because it is understood to be the rejection of authority — the willingness to destroy society for personal freedom. But this only describes active political nihilism. Passive nihilists are said to be more willing to embrace political systems that enforce conformity and blind deference to authority figures. Why? A passive nihilist “does not want to risk self-destruction, and so clings to the safety of traditional beliefs”, thus suppressing their doubts of society’s ways. Read full article here

Inside the Gently Competitive World of Giant Vegetable Growing

Giant vegetable competitions have a lot in common with the vegetables themselves — once small and insignificant, they have grown into the juggernauts they are now. These competitions trace their origins to a Welsh pub, where a gentleman turned a bar bet into an annual competition about who can grow the largest pumpkins. Decades later, this humble competition transcended the borders of Great Britain, taking root in Facebook groups and food science around the world. Read full article here

Lego investment returns match art and wine

If you have a Lego set in good condition lying around your house, you might have a worthwhile investment in your hands. According to a paper published last November, Lego sets enjoy an annual return on investment similar to wine, stamps, and fine art; all hover around the 2 to 3% range, with Lego averaging 2.85%. Some categories, such as minifigures have an even higher return — a whopping 29.56% average. Read full article here

More Twins Are Being Born Today Than Ever Before in History

Our growing preference for starting families later in life could be causing more twin births. Although the rise of pregnancies resulting in multiple children can be partly attributed to in-vitro fertilization, studies show that women over 35 years of age are three to four times more likely to give birth to fraternal twins. It’s still unknown if the trend will continue, but a team of scientists speculate that populations could shift dramatically in the coming decades. Read full article here

The Secrets of the World's Greatest Jailbreak Artist

“The idea is to create a sense of shock so profound that those in charge ‘won’t understand anything about the ‘movie’ they’re in’.” Rédoine Faïd’s plan to escape from a maximum-security prison was so absurd that everyone could only stare in awe; the guards were so sure that no helicopters could land on the prison’s kevlar wire-covered premises, but Faïd’s accomplices managed to find a midcentury chopper small enough to squeeze through the open courtyard and whisk the criminal away. Read full article here

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