Category Archives: Article of the Day

The White Huns

First mentioned around 125 CE in Chinese writings, the White Huns were an agricultural people of obscure origin with possible Tibetan or Turkish roots. They successfully invaded Persia and India in the 5th century but were driven out in the 6th century. They had little effect in Persia, but in India they influenced society by altering the caste system and disrupting the hierarchy of the ruling families. Were the White Huns related to the Huns who invaded Europe in the fourth and fifth centuries? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

The Leonids

Occurring annually in mid-November, the Leonids meteor shower gets its name from the constellation Leo, from which it appears to radiate. The meteor shower is visible every year around the time the Earth moves through the particles left from the comet Tempel-Tuttle. Though most years’ showers have a low frequency of meteors, the Leonids have produced some of the most spectacular meteor showers in history. How many meteors are estimated to have been observed per hour during the shower in 1833? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Sea Snakes

Inhabiting the tropical waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans, sea snakes can sometimes be found swarming by the thousands. Oarlike tails help them swim and a specialized lung and valved nostrils allow them to remain submerged for up to eight hours. There are more than 50 species of sea snake, all of which are venomous. Their venom quickly immobilizes small fish and other prey; however, they are not aggressive and rarely attack humans. Almost all sea snakes are ovoviviparous, which means what? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

The Vanishing Hitchhiker

Told across the world in many variations, the vanishing hitchhiker story is a popular urban legend whose most common version involves a lone motorist who picks up a hitchhiker. This hitchhiker later vanishes without explanation, often from a moving vehicle. The driver eventually tracks down the hitchhiker’s relatives only to learn that the person in question died long ago. In other versions of the legend, the hitchhiker predicts a future disaster. What are some early examples of the tale? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

The Moirae

In Greek mythology, the Moirae, also known as the Fates, are the three goddesses who control human lives. They are usually depicted as old women: Clotho, who spins the web of life; Lachesis, who measures its length; and Atropos, who cuts it. Together they determine the length of each person’s life as well as its share of suffering. Their Roman equivalents are Nona, Decuma, and Morta—meaning “Ninth,” “Tenth,” and “Death,” respectively. What similar figures are found in Norse mythology? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

The Origin of Birds

Though the origin of birds has long been a contentious topic, the current scientific consensus is that they evolved from maniraptors, dinosaurs with which they share many anatomical features. One issue that has yet to be resolved, however, is whether the capacity for flight arose in tree-living dinosaurs that glided from branch to branch—the “trees-down” hypothesis—or in fast-running terrestrial dinosaurs—the “ground-up” hypothesis. What other theory about the origin of flight has been proposed? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Ancient Roman Sanitation

The sophisticated sanitation system in ancient Rome has been the subject of study by historians and archeologists for centuries. Antiquity’s largest city, imperial Rome counted well over a million inhabitants at its height. The city was supplied with water—from as far as 57 miles (92 km) away—by its many aqueducts, most of which were underground conduits. Some of the more famous stone arch versions are still standing. Rome also had a complex system of sewers. Where did they empty? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

The History of Ferrous Metallurgy

Iron is the fourth most abundant element in the Earth’s crust and likely a major component of its core, but it is rarely found in a readily usable form in nature except in meteorites. For that reason, it is likely that the use of iron in its free state began in prehistory with iron taken from meteorites—a fact supported by ancient words for iron referring to gods or a metal that has fallen from the sky. Ferrous metallurgy is alluded to in what sacred text? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Dango

A dango is a Japanese dumpling made from rice flour. Three or four of these dumplings are often served on a skewer accompanied with green tea. Savory, sweet, or both, they are flavored with a number of different ingredients, including eggs, green tea, sesame, soy sauce, and the especially popular anko—a red bean paste. The dish is so popular that it even inspired a Japanese proverb—hana yori dango, or “dumplings rather than flowers.” What is the message of this proverb? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

The Rotten Egg Nebula

The Calabash Nebula is a protoplanetary nebula 1.4 light years long and located approximately 5,000 light years from Earth. It is sometimes called the Rotten Egg Nebula because it contains a relatively large amount of sulfur. The densest parts of the nebula are composed of material ejected recently by the central star and accelerated in opposite directions at incredibly high speeds. What do astronomers believe will happen to the Calabash Nebula 1,000 years from now? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary