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Reblogged:Friday Hodgepodge

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Four Things

1. On finishing a book about medical quackery, I perused the bibliography and happened upon a name I wasn't expecting: Mark Twain. Twain, it turns out, wrote what the author characterized as a "caustic expose" of Christian Science and its founder, Mary Baker Eddy.

The book appears at Project Gutenberg. Although our modern oracle at Wikipedia agrees that Twain disliked Eddy, it paints a more ambivalent picture on the matter of his opinion of faith healing more generally.

I'm considering reading this for amusement some time: Feel free to drop a comment if you have already read this and have a strong opinion of it, good or bad.
lightning.jpg
It's worth a nickel, if you can catch it. (Image by Michał Mancewicz, via Unsplash, license.)
2. Lightning is dangerous and can be awe-inspiring. Surely, it would be a great boon if we could only harness all that untapped (and free!) energy.

If you have ever thought about this, wonder no more!

MIT's School of Engineering took up this question, and much of the answer was as you might expect: Even aside from the unpredictability of lightning strikes, this is a significant engineering challenge.

But the biggest surprise comes at the end, and passes as a punchline to a long joke: "The amount of energy from a lightning bolt would be worth only about a nickel."

3. My daughter came home from school one day wondering about a strange insect she saw during recess. An image search based on her description took us to "What's That Bug," a web site that got its start long ago as a column in a small, photocopied magazine.

Here is what we found:
Q: I found a red/scarlet ant looking insect on my porch. It has black and white stripes on the bottom of it. It's about the size of a fingernail. It's spring time. I have never seen anything like this insect before. I don't know if it's an ant or not. I would really appreciate it if you could answer my question. What is it? Thank you.

A. This is a Velvet Ant, a flightless female wasp that is reported to have an extremely painful sting. Based on this BugGuide image, it might be Dasymutilla scaevola. [format edits]
I saw similar (but solid red and furry) "giant ants" when I would play in my grandparents' yard as a child in Mississippi.

It's neat to know what they are, now.

4. It would not be much of an exaggeration to say that back in medieval times, at least in England, bakeries were the gas stations of the day:
Today, feeding bread to a horse might seem like the whimsy of a sentimental pet owner. But in pre-industrial England, it was the best technology available for powering the horses on which English society relied.

Horse bread, typically a flat, brown bread baked alongside human bread, fueled England's equine transport system from the Middle Ages up until the early 1800s. It was so logistically important that it was more highly regulated than its human counterpart, with commercial bakers adhering to laws dictating who could bake horse bread, as well as the bread's price, size, and occasionally even its composition. The ubiquitous bread was made from a dough of bran, bean flour, or a combination of the two, and typically was flat, coarse, and brown.
Interestingly, the Gastro Obscura article notes that people who have had some of this bread made from the old recipes love it.

-- CAV

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