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Articolele zilei - Articles of the day

Riverboarding is a sport in which thrill-seekers—and sometimes even emergency rescuers—lie prone on a specialized board and ride down rivers, through rapids, and over waterfalls using swim fins for propulsion and steering, at times performing tricks. The sport is known as hydrospeed in France, where it is thought to have originated in the late 1970s with river guides riding burlap mailsacks stuffed with life vests. What is the current record for tallest waterfall descended using a riverboard? Discuss
In winter, when temperatures dip below freezing and food supplies dwindle, some animals enter hibernation—an inactive state in which metabolism nearly stops, body temperature drops, and heart rate may slow to one or two beats a minute. Though the exact stimulus that triggers hibernation is unknown, infusing an extract from the blood of a hibernating animal into an active potential hibernator has been shown to induce hibernation, indicating that the cause may be blood-borne. What is estivation? Discuss
The life cycle of fig wasps is intimately intertwined with that of the fig trees they inhabit. It begins when a female wasp enters the fruit through a natural opening and deposits her eggs inside, pollinating the inner flowers in the process. Next, non-pollinating wasps deposit their eggs. After maturing inside the fig, male offspring's only jobs are to mate with the females—while still within the fig—and chew a hole through which the females can escape. What happens when the males exit the fig? Discuss
In Mexico and parts of Central America, el Día de los Muertos, or "the Day of the Dead," is a time when families and friends gather to pray for and remember loved ones who have died. Altars made of flowers, sugar skulls, and the favorite foods of the dead are often erected for the holiday, observed on the first two days of November to coincide with the Christian All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day. Scholars trace the origins of this holiday to an Aztec festival dedicated to what goddess? Discuss
In the Pacific Ocean, there is a vortex of ocean currents that occupies an area of approximately 10 million square miles (26 million sq km). Called the North Pacific Gyre, it has a relatively stationary center whose circular rotation draws in waste material, leading to a massive, floating accumulation of debris known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Though such debris has historically been biodegradable, the gyre is now accumulating vast quantities of plastics, which break down into what? Discuss
The third largest lake in Africa and ninth largest in the world, Lake Malawi is bounded on the west and south by Malawi, on the east by Mozambique, and on the north by Tanzania. Also known as Lake Nyasa—so named by Scottish missionary David Livingstone in 1859—it is approximately 360 miles (580 km) long with an average width of 25 miles (40 km). Fed by 14 rivers, it is home to more than 200 recorded species of fish—making it one of the most species-diverse lakes in the world. How deep is it? Discuss
The use of crowns as symbols of royal rank is an ancient tradition that dates back to Achaemenid Persia and Pharaonic Egypt. Crowns in ancient Greece and Rome—wreaths of leaves or ribbons—were awarded to victors of contests or bestowed upon citizens to recognize acts of public service. In medieval and more modern times, crowns were generally made of metal, often gold inlaid with precious gems. According to legend, what ruler surprised the pope by crowning himself during a coronation ceremony? Discuss
Bred as work animals for at least 3,000 years because of their ability to withstand harsh conditions, mules are the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. The less common cross of a female donkey and a male horse is called a hinny. Hinnies are more horselike in appearance than mules, but are often considered inferior. Like mules, they are sterile, since their uneven number of chromosomes results in an incomplete reproductive system. Why are hinnies rarer than mules? Discuss
After discovering that heated air in a lightweight bag would cause the bag to rise, French brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier invented a contraption that would come to be known as the hot-air balloon. In 1783, they held the first public demonstration of their invention and, just months later, the first manned free flight. Before humans were sent up in the balloon, a test flight was made using three animals: a sheep, a duck, and a rooster. Why were these animals chosen? Discuss
An indoor version of the sport known as soccer or—to those in many parts of the world—football, futsal is a fast-paced game that emphasizes improvisation, creativity, and technique. Credited with helping some of the world's best soccer players develop their skills, futsal is played by two five-person teams and employs a smaller, less bouncy ball than traditional soccer. Its courts, unlike those of other forms of indoor soccer, are bordered by lines rather than walls. How did futsal get its name? Discuss
Principally used by labor organizations to win improved wages and working conditions or by consumers to pressure companies to change their practices, boycotts can be employed in many ways. Though use of the method dates back further, the practice was named in 1880 for Captain Charles Cunningham Boycott, an English land agent in Ireland whose ruthlessness in evicting tenants led his employees to refuse all cooperation with him and his family. What type of boycott is illegal in the US? Discuss
Native to the southwestern US, peyote is a spineless cactus whose active substance is mescaline, a naturally occurring hallucinogenic drug. Ritually ingested by indigenous people in Mexico and the US to produce visions, the plant is chewed, brewed for drinking, or rolled into pellets to be swallowed. Apart from its use by Native Americans in religious ceremonies, peyote is illegal in all 50 US states. Based on archaeological specimens, how long has peyote been used by Native Americans? Discuss
Regarded by European alchemists as the foundation of their craft, the Emerald Tablet is a short, cryptic text that purportedly reveals the secret of the primordial substance and its transmutations. Even esteemed scientists such as Sir Isaac Newton have published translations of the text, which claims Hermes Trismegistus, a legendary sage or god variously identified with the Egyptian god Thoth and the Greek god Hermes, as its author. What is the oldest documentable source for this text? Discuss
Opium dens, establishments where opium is sold and smoked, were especially popular in the 19th century, particularly in China, Southeast Asia, France, and North America. Chinese immigrants hired to build the transcontinental railroad during the California gold rush brought the practice of smoking opium to the US. There, opium dens operated unhindered until an epidemic of opiate addiction in the late 1800s forced them underground. When was New York City's last opium den reportedly shut down? Discuss
Now employed in modern parlance to describe an irrefutable, strategic victory, "checkmate" is the term used in the game of chess to indicate the situation in which one player's king is threatened with capture and no escape or defense is possible. Delivering checkmate is the ultimate goal in chess, and the player who forces it wins the game. The term "checkmate" is an alteration of the Persian phrase shah mat, which means what? Discuss
Sargon of Akkad was a 24th-century BCE Mesopotamian king who established one of the first multiethnic and centrally ruled empires in history. His dynasty lasted approximately 160 years, and his vast territory extended from Elam to the Mediterranean Sea and included Mesopotamia, parts of modern-day Iran, Syria, and possibly portions of the Arabian Peninsula. An account of Sargon's early childhood from his purported autobiography closely resembles that of what religious figure? Discuss
Now known as the game of jacks, knucklebones is an ancient pastime played with five small objects—originally the knucklebones of a sheep—which are thrown into the air and caught in various ways. To win, one must complete a prescribed series of throws and catches—many of which have distinctive names like "riding the elephant"—while also carrying out tasks like picking up stones from a surface. The origin of knucklebones is closely connected to that of what other game? Discuss
The only tick-borne disease not caused by an infectious organism, tick paralysis is a rare, progressive disorder caused by several species of ticks that secrete a potentially lethal neurotoxin. Symptoms, including weakness, incoordination, and paralysis, appear only after the tick—frequently hidden in scalp hair—has fed on the host for several days, and the resulting paralysis can cause death. However, the removal of the tick leads to rapid recovery. What precautions can be taken to avoid ticks? Discuss
In cryptanalysis and computer security, a dictionary attack is a method of breaking a cipher or authentication mechanism by trying common words, like names of people, sports teams, pets, and cars, as possible passwords or decryption keys. Sophisticated dictionary attacks rank words by those most likely to be used. For that reason, computer users are advised to avoid passwords that can be found in an ordinary dictionary. How else can dictionary attacks be thwarted? Discuss
Discovered independently by German mathematicians August Möbius and Johann Listing in 1858, the Möbius strip is a continuous one-sided surface formed by rotating one end of a rectangular strip 180° and attaching it to the other end. If cut down the center, instead of two new strips, only one long one is produced. Because these strips effectively double surface area, they have practical applications as conveyor belts, continuous-loop recording tapes, and ribbons used in what kinds of machines? Discuss
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