1. Jingle Bells was the first song played in space

Just before Stafford and Schirra were scheduled to reenter Earth’s atmosphere December 16, the pair reported they had sighted some sort of UFO. Schirra recounted the moment when Stafford contacted Mission Control in Schirra’s Space, a memoir he wrote with Richard Billings:

“We have an object, looks like a satellite going from north to south, probably in polar orbit . . . . Looks like he might be going to re-enter soon . . . . You just might let me pick up that thing . . . . I see a command module and eight smaller modules in front. The pilot of the command module is wearing a red suit.”

Then ground controllers heard the strains, both familiar and otherworldly, of “Jingle Bells.” The Santa Claus plot had been hatched weeks before the Gemini 6 mission. “Wally came up with the idea,” recalls Stafford, now a retired Air Force general, who chairs an International Space Station advisory group. “He could play the harmonica, and we practiced two or three times before we took off, but of course we didn’t tell the guys on the ground.”

(Via: Boing Boing )

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2. What Is Frankincense? And where does it come from?

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3. Solstice-eclipse overlap first in 456 years

This year’s winter solstice — an event that will occur next Tuesday — will coincide with a full lunar eclipse in a union that hasn’t been seen in 456 years.

The celestial eccentricity holds special significance for spiritualities that tap into the energy of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and a time that is associated with the rebirth of the sun.

“It’s a ritual of transformation from darkness into light,” says Nicole Cooper, a high priestess at Toronto’s Wiccan Church of Canada. “It’s the idea that when things seem really bleak, (it) is often our biggest opportunity for personal transformation.

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4. Science’s Breakthroughs of 2010 and Insights of the Decade

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5. Weird News of the Week: The Skunk Who Sprayed Christmas

A skunk sprayed hundreds of presents that were going to be given to low-income families in the area, said Peggy Christian with McClain County Operation Christmas.

McClain County Operation Christmas is an all-volunteer group, Christian said, that took care of 786 children in 2009 with expectations of providing gifts to 850 or more in 2010.

As for the gifts that were sprayed, it’s unclear whether they can be salvaged.

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6. The Most Amazing Science Images Of 2010

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7. Give your relationship a boost with the ‘we’ word

If you want your marriage - or other long-term relationship - to last, try to make heavy use of the first-person plural pronoun.

Or in other words, try to describe you and your partner as “we”, rather than as “me” and “you”.

If you and your partner both do this, according to a new paper, you are likely to be calmer, exhibit more positive emotional behaviour, and be more satisfied with your relationship. The study, by Robert Levenson of the University of Berkeley, California, and colleagues, put 154 couples through “conflict conversations” while monitoring their physiological responses using a polygraph.

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8. Quote of the Week: “The poetic imagination . . . in some ages belongs principally to the radicals; but in our time it is in the keeping of the conservatives. There is something better than dynamic conservatism, and that is imaginative conservatism . . . And if we Americans are to lead the nations, we shall have to think less and less about doubling or tripling the standard of living and more and more about what makes life worth living.” — Russell Kirk

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9. Why, beyond middle age, people get happier as they get older

When people start out on adult life, they are, on average, pretty cheerful. Things go downhill from youth to middle age until they reach a nadir commonly known as the mid-life crisis. So far, so familiar. The surprising part happens after that. Although as people move towards old age they lose things they treasure—vitality, mental sharpness and looks—they also gain what people spend their lives pursuing: happiness.

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10. 12 Christmas Traditions From Around The World

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11. Atomic weights of 10 elements to be altered

The adjustments planned for the Periodic Table of the Elements will more accurately reflect the nature of 10 types of atoms, including carbon, nitrogen and oxygen.

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12. Image of the Week: Britain’s ugliest dog

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13. 13 Unbelievable Urban Mural Projects

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14. Many Christmas presents will be re-gifted re-wrapped

More of us will this year re-gift unwanted Christmas presents than ever before . . . and we’ll even wrap them in festive paper we tore off our own presents last year.

A study of festive shoppers found that many of us are opting to re-use yuletide paraphernalia from last year in a bid to save money.

73 percent of people will apparently recycle unwanted presents they were disappointed with last year and 52 percent will re-use some old wrapping paper they have stored.

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15. Image journal’s Top Ten Works of 2010

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16. Capitalism’s Gift of Peace

Perhaps capitalism’s most overlooked attribute is peace. Virtually all conflicts of the last century have been initiated by fettered market, authoritarian states. Often the world’s armed conflicts have been between two such regimes. Contrastingly, military conflicts have almost never pitted two capitalist, democratic nations against one another.

Socialist, communist, fascist, or simply non-ideological dictator-governed nations have almost always been the world’s aggressors. When capitalist democracies are drawn into armed conflict, it is almost always against such economically-fettered nations.

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17. Infographic of the Week: Christmas tree industry facts

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18. Marching band forms a giant animated kicker

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19. Interactive Graphic of the Week: From grubby to gaudy, the rebirth of NYC’s 42nd Street

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20. Whatever’ Dubbed Most Irritating Word

or the second consecutive year “whatever’ topped a Marist poll as the most annoying word or phrase in the English language.

Nearly 39 percent of 1,020 Americans questioned in the survey deemed it the most irritating word, followed by “like” with 28 percent and the phrase “you know what I mean’ at 15 percent.

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21. 9 Wacky Mailboxes from Around the World

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22. HistoricalLOL of the Week

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23. John Lennon wasn’t the pacifist we’ve turned him into

No doubt the tendency to remember Lennon in this way arises, at least in part, from a desire to underscore the tragedy and senselessness of his death. The idea that John Lennon, a man who stood for peace, was gunned down by a lunatic certainly makes for a powerful narrative. For many baby boomers, his assassination was a generation-shattering event (all the more so because it came about a month after Ronald Reagan was elected president). There is also no denying that in some of its iterations, the pacifism that Lennon championed can seem truly beautiful. So long as the world is plagued by hate and war, people are going to look fondly upon those who proselytize for peace and love.

Nevertheless, all of these well-intended tributes and vigils are off the mark. It isn’t just that they extol a naive style of pacifism (though there is that). They also ask us to genuflect before a highly idealized and simplified version of the slain Beatle. During his lifetime, Lennon was ambivalent about pacifism, and his public enthusiasm for the peace movement was fleeting and capricious.

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24. Ben Franklin’s 200+ Synonyms for “Drunk”

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25. On the Trail of World’s Most Ingenious Thief

Blanchard pulled off his first heist when he was a 6-year-old living with his single mother in Winnipeg. The family couldn’t afford milk, and one day, after a long stretch of dry cereal, the boy spotted some recently delivered bottles on a neighbor’s porch. “I snuck over there between cars like I was on some kind of mission,” he says. “And no one saw me take it.” His heart was pounding, and the milk was somehow sweeter than usual. “After that,” he says, “I was hooked.”

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26. YouTube’s Most Watched Videos of 2010

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27. Better Book Titles of the Week

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28. How-To of the Week: Make the Perfect Snowball

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29. Attractiveness of Leg Length: Report From 27 Nations

The leg-to-body ratio (LBR) is a morphological index that has been shown to influence a person’s attractiveness. In our research, 3,103 participants from 27 nations rated the physical attractiveness of seven male and seven female silhouettes varying in LBR. We found that male and female silhouettes with short and excessively long legs were perceived as less attractive across all nations. Hence, the LBR may significantly influence perceptions of physical attractiveness across nations.

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30. Top 15 Worst Sports Moments of All Time

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31. Muslim Country Unveils World’s Most Expensive Christmas Tree

Emirates Palace hotel, the luxury Abu Dhabi hotel, has unveiled what is thought to be the world’s most expensive Christmas tree, valued at more than $11m.

The 13-metre fake evergreen tree is located in the hotel’s lobby, and is decorated with silver and gold bows, ball-shaped ornaments and small white lights.

However, the record value of the tree is due to the necklaces, earings and other jewellery draped over its branches.

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32. Difference Between: ALS and Muscular Dystrophy

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33. Walk on the Wild Side

Additional Sources: The Presurfer

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