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2018-05-22T13:27:20.459Z
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On a clear day, when Mount Mantalingahan isn’t cloaked by rain or fog, it provides a commanding view of the Philippine lowlands and ocean far below. Rising 6,841 feet above Palawan Island, the mountain is steep and isolated. Anyone who makes the climb up will notice that the summit, almost always cold, foggy, and wet, bears little resemblance to the tropical setting below. And that’s exactly why scientists are attracted to it.

Mount Mantalingahan is what is called a “sky island.” Unlike Palawan Island itself, the peak is not physically surrounded by water, but it falls under a broader definition of “island”—any place that is somehow sequestered from its neighbors, and develops an ecosystem all its own.

For researchers, the multi-day hike to the summit is worth it because of the unique environment that has evolved there. Sky islands are known for being hotspots of biodiversity. Larry Heaney, a curator of mammals at the Field Museum in Chicago, learned that years ago, after many seasons of field work in the Philippines. Conventional wisdom holds that tropical lowland rain forests are the best engines of terrestrial biodiversity. That’s true for ants and termites, and for birds and bats, Heaney says. But “it’s not true for earthworms, not true for small mammals, not true for oak trees, not true for orchids, all sorts of things.” For many different groups of plants and animals, he says, peak biological diversity occurs “well up...

The sky was still dark when we arrived at the Bibal family’s ancestral home, a large farm house surrounded by pasture in Sainte-Gemme, France. The day began—as it always does during their annual February visits—with a large family breakfast. We had visited the pig the evening before, when she was delivered by a local farmer. She slept on a thick bed of hay in a pen formerly used by the family patriarch, Fernand Bibal, to house animals. The large country house was equipped with all the accoutrements of subsistence farming: pens for livestock, chicken coops, and a granary. Normally, all that lies empty, except for once a year, when the large family convenes to keep the tradition of the tue-cochon alive.

The wintertime custom, which literally translates to “pig slaughter,” was once a matter of survival. When food was scarce and snow covered fields and gardens, families needed preserved foods. In France, pork provided the necessary base for rural families’ meals, and the process of salting and drying pork remained crucial for survival until only a few generations ago. Pork achieved such high regard that pigs were featured in famous French Belle Epoque postcards, and quintessential foods such as confit, pâté, boudin, and all manner of sausages can be traced to this need to preserve meat before the advent of refrigeration.

The Bibals no longer live in the country. Like many families, they left the fields for office jobs...

Designed in 1976, this UFO-shaped structure was built to welcome circus acts from around the world—or, more likely, from around the USSR. Unlike many structures of its kind, the Bishkek Circus still functions as an actual circus to this day. In fact, this architectural gem is a testimony to the role that the circus played in the Soviet Union.

Due to the lack of official records, it is all but impossible to pinpoint when the first circus appeared. Itinerant acts consisting of proto-clowns and musicians called skomorokhy wandered the Russian land in the 11th century, and they used to combine music, magic performance, dancing, and slapstick humor. 

They were more akin to street performers than to the circus, but the seeds were planted, and very soon, show booths began appearing where the audience was treated to trapeze and gymnastic stunts.   

The year 1877 saw the opening of the first stationary circus, in St. Petersburg. The target audience was the Russian aristocracy, which did not fail to embrace the daredevils that performed at the circus. After the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, the aristocracy was abolished and the circus was nationalized and transformed into a high art form comparable to ballet and opera. 

Under the aegis of the Soviet regime, circus acts like The Moscow Circus gained global recognition. Stationary structures purpose-built for the circus became common in all major Soviet cities, including Bishkek.

This small but fascinating museum displays the towering effigies of terrifying-looking demons and monsters known as Ogoh-Ogoh in Bali.

On the night of March 16th each year, the day before the annual Nyepi festival, locals celebrate by parading huge, impressively handcrafted Ogoh-Ogoh figures before setting them on fire. The demons take the form of figures from Hindu legends, and the ritual is based on a tradition to banish evil spirits.

Many of the figures from the parade are displayed throughout the rest of the year here in the Ogoh-Ogoh museum. The work that goes into building the mythological monsters, which can get up to 20 feet tall, is remarkable. And the over-the-top expressions and poses (some quite graphic) make visiting this museum feel like you have stumbled onto a set of horror movie. 

Engineers at Rutgers University have started 3D-printing a gel material that could one day give us softer, arguably less frightening robots. And to show off their so-called “smart gel,” they made it dance. It’s not just cute—the reactive synthetic might have far-reaching applications for the future of automation.

As explained in a study published last week in CS Applied Materials & Interfaces, the university team, based out of New Brunswick, New Jersey, have created the printable “smart gel” to move in response to electric stimuli. Made of a special polymer that reacts to electric impulses, the gel can be formed into a variety of shapes to perform tasks such as grabbing objects or moving them around. In the video below, you can see how the engineers managed to make a one-inch figure do a sort of walking-dance underwater by forcing it to contort and then return to its original shape.

The possibilities for the material are seemingly only limited to the imagination of the engineers. Since the team’s gel mimics other hydrogels, which Rutgers Today points out can be found everywhere from the human body to Jell-O, it could eventually be used to make artificial organs or octopus-like soft bots. “We are planning to find some useful application in the biomedical field. Drug delivery, artificial muscle,” says one of the study’s authors, Howon Lee, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.

The resulting...

The cloistered nuns of Convento de San Leandro in Seville, Spain, have sold just one item for more than four centuries: yemas de San Leandro. These rich, creamy nuggets are a simple mixture of sugar, lemon juice, and egg yolks.

Establishments across Spain make traditional yemas (diners enjoy yemas de Santa Teresa, for example, on October 15, the saint's feast day). But to acquire San Leandro's signature supply of yemas, you'll have to visit the convent, a Seville institution since the 13th century.

When you enter the foyer, you'll notice a revolving tray embedded in a wooden door. Reference the price list, then place the appropriate amount of money on the tray and rotate it behind the wall. A few moments later, a box of wrapped yemas should appear in its place. You'll have to put your faith in San Leandro's residents, but this shouldn't prove too difficult. You're dealing with nuns, after all.

Tennesse's Long Island, which sits in the middle of the Holston River, has been many things. Originally a sacred Cherokee site, the island was known for bootlegging during Prohibition. But locals in nearby Kingsport are now claiming those tumultuous days produced something very special: the Long Island Iced Tea cocktail. The assertion that the drink—which packs a punch by combining liquors including vodka, rum, and gin—originated in Tennessee is causing a tempest in a teapot. After all, New York's Long Islanders proudly claim the drink as their own.

According to Visit Kingsport, a bootlegger named Charlie "Old Man" Bishop got creative with his liquors one day on the island, mixing them together with maple syrup. In the 1940s, his son Ransom Bishop added citrus juice and cola, creating a drink that might be familiar to bar-goers today.

Kingsport's new marketing campaign, which features this origin story, has not been well received in Long Island, New York. Their Iced Tea is the standard, and uses sour mix and Triple Sec instead of maple syrup. It's also younger, created at the Oak Beach Inn in 1972 as part of a mixology contest. Visit Kingsport and Discover Long Island, the tourism boards for the two regions, faced off on May 10, exchanging letters establishing their Iced Tea sovereignty. "Not since the 'Battle of Long Island' in the Revolutionary War has Long Island's honor been so challenged," wrote bar owner Butch Yamali on...

One cannot judge a food simply by its name alone. Taiyaki, for example, translates to "grilled red sea bream." But after purchasing one, you will quickly notice the lack of seafood. It certainly looks like a fish, but that is where the similarities end. Its consistency hovers between a pancake and a waffle, and it's filled with a sweet paste, traditionally anko, or red bean paste. The whole experience raises one question: Why shape a pancake like a fish?

Taiyaki originated during the Meiji period. Its predecessor was a similar, cylinder-shaped Japanese snack called imagawayaki. For a reason that remains a mystery, a vendor decided to make an imagawayaki in the shape of a tai, or red sea bream. Perhaps he imitated the fish because it was a rare and expensive delicacy at the time. Or maybe it was because the tai is often considered a symbol of happiness.

Regardless of its origins, taiyaki became a festival and street food favorite across Japan. Fillings have expanded to include custard, chocolate, and sweet potato, as well as savory offerings such as cheese or sausage. Some establishments have even started to use the fishy cakes as ice cream cones.

In 1751, the renowned Italian violinist Francesco Geminiani took a break from bowing and set pen to paper. He aimed to distill his decades of experience into a treatise on how best to approach his preferred instrument. As he explained, he looked down on those violinists who spent their time "imitating the Cock, Cuckoo, Owl, and other Birds." He also lacked patience for "Contortions of the Head and Body," "sudden Shifts of the Hand," and "all other such Tricks." Instead, he wrote, a great violinist had one job: to achieve "a Tone that shall in a Manner rival the most perfect human Voice."

A tall order; those Contortions seem much easier. But as recent research has shown, the instruments themselves may help players accomplish Geminiani’s directive. A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that not only do great violins sing like humans, those built by different makers may remind us of different types of human voices.

Since the 16th century, a disproportionate amount of the world's great violins have come from Cremona, a city in northern Italy. The luthier Andrea Amati, who had a workshop in Cremona, is widely credited with inventing the violin in the mid-1500s. About a century later, Antonio Stradivari began making his own instruments, also in Cremona.

These instruments—along with those of another luthier, Giuseppe Guarneri—have inspired

It might be one of the world’s least likely locations for a cutting-edge winery. Amid plump yipping puppies, rice farmers amble home from a day in the surrounding paddies. Mist-shrouded hills loom nearby. And down a row of A-shaped bamboo houses, a wide bucolic road veers off toward a hidden hive of industry. Here, in Hong Village—a tiny tribal community in Northeast India—a sleek new boutique workshop is bottling up an unusual concoction: kiwi wine.

“When you say wine, people think about grapes,” says 37-year-old Tage Rita Takhe, the company’s founder, who has earned an entrepreneurship award for her efforts. Naara-Aaba—named after Takhe’s father-in-law—is India’s first and only organic kiwi wine factory, and remains one of only a handful of companies throughout the world to bottle the tangy, yellowy brew.

Takhe created the winery in response to a local dilemma. Kiwis grow plentifully in Arunachal Pradesh, a remote and rugged state that is connected to the rest of India by only a narrow land corridor. They are especially bountiful in Ziro Valley, the scenic, UNESCO-shortlisted district that is home to Hong Village. The fruit is popular in India, where it is thought to boost immunity against dengue fever. However, local farmers struggle to compete with imported fruits, which are considered tastier. Domestic kiwis also grow in mountainous areas, making delivery a challenge. Millions of kiwis are shipped to...

Nestled between four old buildings in the center of the city, this glowing neon alley is one of Wroclaw's best hidden gems. 

The area is sort of interior courtyard, accessible from either end through two alleyways. The sides of the buildings are covered in old neon signs on display, collected from all over the country. Local street artists have used the blank wall space in and around the signs to create stunning works of graffiti art, the colors and subjects of which perfectly tie in with the surrounding neon signs. 

What makes this place especially awesome is that the setting is perfect for what the signs represent. A lot of them are old signs taken from buildings during the Communist era, so the industrial feel of the alleyway really adds to the display.

Every night you can see the signs lit up in their full glory. If you're in Wroclaw and want to experience something a little different and off the beaten track, it is well worth a visit. It's also a great spot for anyone interested in street photography.

One of the most remarkable ancient synagogue mosaics sits in a little-visited archaeological site on the Sea of Galilee near a stretch of modern sea resorts and a water park.

Hammat Tiberias, where a 4th-century synagogue once stood, was a small settlement located just south of the larger metropolis Tiberias, named after the second Roman emperor by the city's builder, Herod Antipas. Little remains of the synagogue except some foundational stones and its magnificent floor mosaic.

The less surprising part of the mosaic is its traditional depiction of a Torah ark flanked by ceremonial menorahs, shofars (ram's horns), and palm fronds. At another end, the names of the synagogue's benefactors are written in Greek, the most used language of the time, surrounded by two lions.

What turns heads is the rest of the mosaic. In the center panel sits a magnificent zodiac wheel, featuring, among other pagan images, depictions of naked humans—including a conspicuously uncircumcised Libra. The wheel encircles a haloed Helios, the Greek sun god, mounted atop his chariot. Women representing each of the four seasons sit to the corners of the zodiac, with the accompanying Hebrew inscription of the names of the seasons.

Pagan imagery in a house of worship would appear a flagrant violation of God's injunction, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven...

Built in 1881 in Catalonia, Spain, Parc Samà was the summer residence of Salvador Samà I Torrents, Marquis of Marianao. The Marquis belonged to a Latin-American family who had settled in Cuba and who wanted to bring the atmosphere of the old colony to this area of Spain. The resulting park is considered one of the best examples of romantic gardening in the Mediterranean, an enchanting combination of botanical garden, zoo, and native forest. 

The architect of Parc Samà was greatly influenced by the famous Antoni Gaudi, who is said to have designed at least two of the amazing follies in the garden. There are long rows of plane trees, mandarin trees, limes, horse chestnuts, water lilies, palms and yuccas, among other plant species. Before the Spanish Civil War, the park even hosted animals from the Marquis’ private zoo, which were exhibited in several enclosures and cages that can still be seen.

Just as important as the beautiful flora are the park's amazing architectural elements. The most notable are the palace (unfortunately you cannot enter at the moment), the lake and waterfall, the shell fountain, the Pavelló dels Lloros (Pavilion of the Parrots), and the Torre de l’Angle (the Angular Tower).

During the Spanish Civil War, the park was taken over for military purposes by the Republican side, which...

Amaro di Sant'Antimo is a bitter liqueur created by monks in the Tuscan town of Montalcino. The liqueur’s key ingredient is the Carlina acaulis plant, a thistle-producing flower with a golden center and silvery-white petals. The plant gives an earthy, artichoke-like taste to this digestivo, which is perfect to sip after a heavy Italian meal.

Legendary origins of the drink go back to the eighth century. According to lore, Charlemagne’s troops, battling in the valley where the Abbey of Sant'Antimo now stands, had contracted the plague. Miraculously, an angel appeared, holding the Carlina acaulis flower, which was used in a curative tincture. In thanks, Charlemagne ordered a church built on the site.

There’s no proof of this story, but Carlina acaulis has been revered in the area since medieval times. Many people hung the plant outside as a kind of hygrometer (the flowers close in damp weather and open in dry weather) or used it for medicinal purposes. Benedictine monks at the Abbey of Sant’Antimo, founded in the 9th century, eventually morphed their plant-infused healing potion into the amaro.

The abbey, which was rebuilt in the 12th century, is a stunning example of Romanesque architecture, with a landscape dotted with olive groves, wheat fields, and Carlina acaulis plants. When the monks are not praying in the church or working the land, visitors can find them in the pharmacy, selling the...

A pair of centuries-old stone lions that at one time guarded a Confucian temple in Nanjing, China, now stand at the entrance of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism.

Sitting inside a brick archway that leads into the school, the intricate and elegant white lion statues were carved by an unknown artist almost 550 years ago, during the Ming Dynasty, in Chufu, the birthplace of Confucius. Each creature stands about five feet tall and weighs about 5,000 pounds.

The lions were sent to the university as gifts in 1931 by the Chinese government at the time. The founder of the School of Journalism, Walter Williams, accepted the ancient stone statues as symbols of goodwill between the two nations.

In Chinese history, guardian lions have a long and storied history. Born from Buddhist symbolism, the stone lions often stand in front of palaces, tombs, government offices, temples, and homes of the wealthy. It was a gift of great significance, rooting the school in a tradition of international honor and interconnectedness.

A Japanese stone lantern, which the school received in 1926 from the American-Japan Society of Tokyo, also stands near the entrance.

Located in Hebron, Connecticut, in what is now called the Gay City State Park, Gay City was created because of a religious feud. Gay City was an 18th century village so named after one of the founders, John Gay. In fact, most of the people living in the city were related to John Gay and bore the same surname.

The main beefs that many of the Gays had with the people of Hartford, from whence they came, was that they were Methodists and liked their alcohol, while most of Hartford were Congregationalists and while not tea totalers, took a more austere view of liquor, unlike the Gay family. In fact, only 15 years after the town was settled in 1796, the family built their own distillery. It really was a "gay" town after that. The inhabitants used the river to power several mills including a lumber mill and a textile mill, which were major sources of income for the community.

Gay City gets on the ghost hunter radar for some strange murders that took place. One story goes that a local peddler disappeared and then his skeleton was found in the local charcoal burner’s charcoal pit. It is believed that he was murdered by...

The N.S. Savannah is a nuclear-powered cargo and passenger ship, created in the 1950s to demonstrate the peaceful potential of atomic energy. It was part of a U.S. government initiative called "Atoms for Peace" under President Dwight Eisenhower.  

The decommissioned ship is now kept in Baltimore, Maryland, where it is open to the public for free tours just once a year, on the Sunday closest to National Maritime Day, in late-May each year. Exploring the retro-future ship is a fascinating glimpse at atomic age style. The engine room looks like it could be from the set of a '60s sci-fi film, and the back rooms and corridors have vintage machinery, dials, knob, diagrams, pipes, and portholes galore.  

A hand-painted quote from President Lyndon B. Johnson above a model of the ship declares the United States' intended purpose of the vessel, which was "to use atomic energy for peaceful purposes and for the benefit of mankind.” It was designed to be a kind of showpiece ship, and it looks like it could be from an early James Bond film.

Guest quarters and public areas include a retro midcentury modern dining room with oddly stylish vintage seating, atomic-themed ceiling lights and dinnerware. Throughout the ship...

This old airfield is said to be one of the best-preserved World War II airfields in the country. There are still four runways in good order and a number of airfield buildings on site, including a unique hangar, the Northlight Hangar.

The place first operated as a Royal Navy and then an RAF airfield toward the end of World War I. It then reopened in World War II as a naval air station primarily operating Swordfish torpedo biplanes. During the cold war, the station later became the site of the Joint Services School for Linguists. It’s here when the story really gets interesting.

During this time, the United Kingdom still had conscription (the draft). Selected army, navy, and air force conscripts were provided with intensive training at the Joint Services School for Linguists. This assignment was popular among the young enlisted men, as it was far more comfortable (and safe) than frontline service.

The school trained linguists mainly in Russian, but also taught Polish, Czech, and Mandarin. There are reports the site also taught interrogation techniques. The Soviets became interested in the school because they (correctly) believed many of the linguists would be employed to listen in on

In tiny Marfa, Texas, the buildings across the skyline don’t get too tall. The comfortable little town is about as far away from glitzy New York City or Los Angeles as you can get in most respects. But, in one way, the hamlet shares a little bit of history with those international metropolises. In 1955, maybe the most famous trio in Hollywood history graced the dusty streets of Marfa to make a movie.

It was summertime when movie production began for Giant, a Western film starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean. Between shooting the movie’s love scenes and drag-em-out fights, the cast took up residence in Marfa’s swanky, 25-year-old Hotel Paisano, which, at the time, billed itself as the most elegant stop between El Paso and San Antonio

With charming Southwest architecture, which includes multicolored tiles and curving archways, the Hotel...

One day in 2015, John Johnson stood in a storage room in Berlin’s quiet Dahlem neighborhood, a long way from home, searching for the remains of his ancestors. He was accompanied by a group of European museum curators and two elders from his community in the Chugach region of Alaska, southeast of Anchorage. To underscore the reason for their visit, Johnson read aloud from a 19th-century travelogue by Norwegian explorer Johan Adrian Jacobsen.

In the 1880s, the Royal Ethnological Museum in Berlin sent Jacobsen on a mission through the Pacific Northwest and Alaska to collect Native American artifacts. Jacobsen returned with more than 7,000 items. He had traded for garments, carvings, and other objects from the indigenous people he encountered—but he also dug up burials, without consent.

Jacobsen’s travelogue is littered with rather clinical accounts of cemetery-robbing and mummy-stealing in the name of science. Johnson read from one particular passage that stuck with him. In it, Jacobsen describes finding the grave of a mother and child. The bodies were disintegrating in his hands so he just took the mother’s skull and dumped out the contents the cradle.

“We knew the travelogue, but it was a different kind of atmosphere when [Johnson] read it to us and asked us, ‘What happened to our ancestors?’” says Ilja Labischinski, a curatorial assistant who was there that day in the storage room in 2015....