Category Archives: Article of the Day

Knowth

Knowth is the site of a Neolithic passage grave in the valley of Ireland’s River Boyne. Built approximately 5,000 years ago, the site consists of a large mound containing two passages leading to burial chambers. This is surrounded by 17 smaller satellite tombs. Knowth contains more than a third of all the megalithic art in Western Europe, including hundreds of stones decorated with spirals, crescents, and other shapes. Why do some believe that Knowth exhibits evidence of astronomical alignment? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Water Intoxication

Water intoxication is a potentially life-threatening condition caused by excessive ingestion of water. Too much water disturbs the body’s electrolyte balance, which in turn interferes with brain function and can lead to seizures, coma, and even death. Water intoxication is common in psychiatric patients as well as infants living in poverty whose parents “stretch” powdered formula by watering it down. What are some notable cases of death by water intoxication? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Cloisonné

Likely invented in the Middle East but later perfected by the Chinese, Japanese, and French, cloisonné is an ancient method of decorating metals with enamel. It involves adhering metal wire to a metal object in a specific pattern, filling the resulting compartments with colored enamel paste, and firing the object to fuse the enamel to its surface. The earliest surviving examples of cloisonné are six 13th century BCE Mycenaean rings. Where in Venice’s St. Mark’s Basilica can one find cloisonné? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Conscription

Conscription, compulsory enrollment in a country’s armed forces, existed as early as the 27th century BCE in Egypt. Since then, forms of obligatory military service have been recorded in countless cultures; Japanese samurai, Aztec warriors, and citizen militiamen in ancient Greece and Rome are just a few examples of conscripted forces. Conscription in the modern sense dates from 1793, when the French Republic raised an army of 300,000 men. What countries draft women into military service? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

The Predestination Paradox

A predestination paradox is a scenario in which a time traveler seeking to alter the past inadvertently plays a role in bringing about the same future, thus creating a loop of events that “predestines” him to travel back in time yet again. This concept, often utilized in science-fiction works, appears in an episode of The Twilight Zone in which a man goes back in time and tries to prevent a fire but instead knocks over the lamp that causes it. What are some other examples of this paradox? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Stonefish

Found in the tropics of the Indian and Pacific oceans and in the Red Sea, the stonefish, Synanceia verrucosa, is the world’s most venomous fish. Spines lining its dorsal area release a toxin that causes excruciating pain, local swelling, general paralysis, and, eventually, fatal respiratory paralysis. Using its resemblance to a piece of rock to camouflage itself, the carnivorous fish feeds on small fish, shrimp, and other crustaceans. A stonefish can survive out of water for how long? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Dog Tags

Because they resemble the identification tags found on dog collars, those worn by military personnel have also come to be known as dog tags. Now popular among civilians as fashion accessories, the tags are officially intended to aid in identifying those killed or wounded in battle. Before dog tags were invented, soldiers were known to scratch their names on the backs of their belt buckles or pin notes with identifying information to their clothing. Why are dog tags usually issued in sets of two? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

The Plague of Justinian

The Plague of Justinian was a pandemic that afflicted the Byzantine Empire during and after the rule of Emperor Justinian I, who himself contracted the disease. The most commonly accepted cause of the pandemic is the bubonic plague, which is infamous for its role in the so-called Black Death of the 14th century. It is estimated that the Plague of Justinian wiped out what percentage of Constantinople’s population at the time? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Nymphs

Nymphs are the minor female deities of Greek mythology that act as guardians of nature. Represented as beautiful maidens, they are distinguished from one another by the aspect of nature—tree, body of water, mountain—or locality with which they are associated. Though generally described as young, beautiful, amorous, and gentle, some nymphs are associated with the wilder aspects of nature and some may be vengeful. Nymphs are also depicted as being in the retinue of which gods? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

The Gregorian Calendar

The Gregorian calendar is the most widely used dating system in the world. It replaced the Julian calendar in 1582, following a decree by Pope Gregory XIII, after whom it is named. In the Julian system, an inaccuracy in the measurement of the solar year caused the calendar dates of the seasons to regress almost one day per century. By Gregory’s time, the Julian calendar was 10 days out of sync. To bring the vernal equinox—and thus Easter—back to its proper date, 10 days were dropped. Which ten? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary