Category Archives: Article of the Day

Magdalene Asylums

Named after Mary Magdalene, who, according to Christian tradition, repented her sins and became one of Jesus’ closest followers, Magdalene asylums were institutions largely run by various orders of the Catholic Church to rehabilitate so-called fallen women—prostitutes, unwed mothers, even girls considered too promiscuous or flirtatious—through hard labor and penance. Many were admitted against their will, and some allege that they were subject to abuse. When was the last of these asylums closed? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

The Black Sox Scandal

After the Chicago White Sox lost to the Cincinnati Reds in the 1919 World Series, eight White Sox players—including Shoeless Joe Jackson—were accused of having taken bribes to throw the series. Five of the accused confessed their guilt to a grand jury, but their signed confessions later disappeared. Though all eight players were acquitted in 1921, they were banned from Major League Baseball for life anyway. In whose possession were the missing confessions eventually found? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

A Fish Out of Water

Found in coastal waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans, mudskippers are fish adapted for remaining on dry land when the tide goes out on the mud flats and brackish mangrove swamps where they live. While mudskippers have no special air-breathing organs, they are able to absorb oxygen through the skin and gill chambers as long as these remain moist. When out of water, they use the fleshy bases of their pectoral fins for propulsion on the ground. What other adaptations do mudskippers have? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Energy Weapons

Directed-energy weapons are those that transfer energy to a target without the use of a projectile. Types of energy used or proposed for such weapons include sound, radio, light, particles, and plasma—all of which could be used for a number of different applications, including destroying targets, causing disorientation, or disabling machinery. Although many so-called energy weapons are the stuff of science fiction, some are in development or even in limited use. What are some examples? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Frost Flowers

Frost flowers form when thin layers of ice are extruded from long-stemmed plants in autumn or early winter and freeze. They appear along cracks in plant stems created when sap is frozen and expands. Water is continually drawn through the cracks due to capillary action and freezes upon contact with air, curling into lovely petal-like shapes. A rare sight, frost flowers are most often observed in shaded areas in the early morning and usually melt when exposed to sunlight. What is a “frost beard”? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Fanaa

Sufism is an umbrella term for the ascetic and mystical movements within Islam that seek to find divine love and knowledge through direct personal experience of God. Fanaa is the Sufi concept of achieving complete unity with God by “annihilating” the self. Similar to the idea of nirvana in Buddhism, the concept was advocated by al-Bistami and used by Hallaj in the declaration of his unity with God, which led to his execution for heresy in 922. What similar concept is found in Hinduism? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Dormancy

In the broadest sense, dormancy is the state in which a living plant organ—such as a seed, bud, tuber, or bulb—fails to exhibit growth, even when environmental conditions are considered favorable. In a stricter context, dormancy is an inhibition of growth internally controlled by factors restricting water and nutrient absorption, gas exchange, cell division, and other metabolic processes necessary for growth. What is the oldest dormant seed that has been germinated into a viable plant? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Theobromine

Closely related to caffeine, theobromine is a toxic alkaloid found in cocoa, chocolate products, tea, and cola nuts. Also known as xantheose, it is bitter and colorless and acts as a diuretic, vasodilator, cardiac stimulant, and smooth muscle relaxant. Despite its name, the compound contains no bromine—a corrosive, toxic liquid element. Rather, its name is derived from the genus of the cacao tree, Theobroma, which is made up of the Greek roots theo and broma and means what? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Ice-Nine

Ice-nine is a fictional material conceived by author Kurt Vonnegut in his novel Cat’s Cradle. Described as an alternate solid form of water that is more stable than common ice, it is said to melt at 114.4° Fahrenheit (45.8° Celsius) rather than at 32° Fahrenheit (0° Celsius). When ice-nine comes into contact with liquid water, it causes the entire body of water to crystallize as ice-nine—with obvious far-reaching consequences. How did Vonnegut supposedly get the idea for the substance? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

The Giant Clam

Also known as the bear’s paw clam, Tridacna gigas is the largest bivalve mollusk in the world. Found in the South Pacific and Indian oceans, especially in the Great Barrier Reef, the giant clam can weigh more than 500 lb (225 kg) and grow to more than 4 ft (120 cm) in length. The clams are a source of food for people of the South Pacific and have also been harvested for their huge shells. Why are stories of people being trapped within giant clams unlikely to be true? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary