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The Last Soviet Citizen

Interesting reflection on the collapse of the USSR, from the vantage point of a cosmonaut who returned to a completely different world. After blasting off from Baikonur, Krikalev wouldn’t inhale earthly air for 312 days. In that time, the soft-spoken cosmonaut would watch his country crumble from 200 miles up. Presidents would change. His hometown of Leningrad would become St. Petersburg. And one communist superpower would splinter into 15 nations.…

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Shakespeare Popularized Falconry Terms

English is full of figures of speech popularized by Shakespeare. Some of those terms Shakespeare’s interest in falconry. “Hold onto Lima,” Healy-Rennison commanded, as I tightly pinched the speckle-feathered bird’s jesses, or tethers, under my thumb. “Now she’s ‘under your thumb’,” Healy-Rennison explained with a smile. “Quite literally,” I replied, amused to learn the etymology of a phrase that I’ve used for most of my life. Only now I was…

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Ringling Bros. circus to close after 146 years

The more I learned about elephants, the less I liked the idea of going to the circus. I’m interested in its place in the history of American culture, but times have changed. After 146 years, the curtain is coming down on “The Greatest Show on Earth.” The owner of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus told The Associated Press that the show will close forever in May. The…

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New “Adventure” Details from Will Crowther in Mammoth Cave Book

The new book from the University of Kentucky Press, Mammoth Cave Curiosities” A Guide to Rockphobia, Dating, Saber-toothed Cats and Other Subterranean Marvels, offers some new tidbits from Will Crowther about his ground-breaking 1970s computer game, “Colossal Cave Adventure.” In a subsection confidently headed “The First Computer Adventure Game,” we find this weaselly clunker: “Developed in 1976, Adventure was probably the first computer adventure or IF game…” (217). Probably? Of course…

Astaire Unwound (Ceiling Dance from “Royal Wedding”)

My high school physics teacher, Admiral Peebles, showed us episodes of this nerdy, awesome science video, which demonstrated what various common motions (a falling ball, a rolling ball) look like from fixed and moving frames of reference. The 1969 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey featured a huge rotating set, a realistic representation of artificial gravity in the interior of a space ship. I pored over stills from this scene a few years…

Readers Are Liars: The 1928 Study That Predicted the Future of News

The invention of the telegraph and the syndication of news brought national and even international news to local readers. This didn’t just change how newspapers worked. It changed what newspapers meant. | In the late-1800s, there were papers for every “class, sect, and political group,” Gallup said. Local journalism in that time was easy to do. When each writer was a member of his own audience, he could trust that anything…