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Articolele zilei - Articles of the day

At precisely 4 AM on the Monday after Ash Wednesday, all of the lights in the town of Basel, Switzerland, are turned off, and the city is lit only by decorative lanterns that are carried or worn on the heads of those gathered for the start of Basler Fasnacht—the Carnival of Basel. For the next 72 hours, thousands of costumed revelers, or Fasnächtlers, enjoy the parades and music of Switzerland's biggest carnival. Why is the use of multicolored confetti frowned upon at the carnival? Discuss
The Persian Royal Road was an ancient highway built by King Darius I in the 5th Century BCE to facilitate communication throughout his empire. The route, reconstructed using archeological research and historical records, passed through present day Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. The Greek historian Herodotus' praise for the speed of the Persian couriers, who were said to be able to travel the road's 1,677 miles (2,699 kilometers) in seven days, is popularly associated with what US public service? Discuss
Snake oil is a traditional Chinese remedy for joint pain and inflammation derived from the Chinese Water Snake. Imitations with unidentified or mischaracterized ingredients have caused the term "snake oil" to become synonymous in Western culture with remedies fraudulently marketed by charlatans as miraculous panaceas but which actually provide little health benefit. What were some of the ingredients of these so-called snake oils? Discuss
One of the best preserved ancient buildings in Rome, the Pyramid of Cestius was built circa 12 BCE as a tomb for magistrate Gaius Cestius Epulo. Constructed of brick-faced concrete covered with slabs of white marble, the pyramid stood at a fork between two ancient roads and was later incorporated into the Aurelian Walls, built around 271 CE to fortify the city. The origins of the pyramid were forgotten during the Middle Ages, and later Romans mistakenly concluded that the tomb belonged to whom? Discuss
The Gambian pouched rat, with its superb sense of smell and tractable personality, has been used recently to locate land mines in its native Africa. Trained from a young age to associate the smell of explosives with a reward, the rodents learn to alert their handlers to the presence of mines. There are several advantages to using rodents rather than dogs in such operations, among them the fact that they are fairly small and thus rarely cause mines to detonate. Why has the US banned their import? Discuss
Also called "habit spasms," tics are involuntary, compulsive, rapid, repetitive movements like blinking and shoulder shrugging or vocalizations that include grunts, barks, and other utterances. Their expression may be somewhat controlled, but much like an itch that must be scratched, sufferers ultimately feel impelled to go through with them. Stress has been known to exacerbate tics. What symptom of Tourette syndrome, one type of tic disorder, has been highly publicized but is relatively rare? Discuss
Terracotta figurines were a common form of artistic and religious expression in Ancient Greece. Today, they offer invaluable insight into the everyday life of the Ancient Greeks. First used as religious offerings, the figurines could often be purchased at sanctuary entrances and represented important life events, such as giving birth. Only around the 4th century BCE did the statuettes acquire a decorative function, becoming distorted, deformed caricatures known as what? Discuss
The phrase "running the gauntlet" is used figuratively today to mean enduring a series of punishments or tests. It derives from the Roman form of military execution known as fustuarium, in which a soldier found guilty of laxity was cudgeled to death by his comrades. In some later traditions, the condemned was forced to pass between two rows of armed soldiers and pardoned if he managed to exit the other side. "The gauntlet" is also a type of athletic drill used in training for what sports? Discuss
Yuezhi is the Chinese name—literally translated as "Moon Clan"—for the ancient Central Asian people who originally settled in the arid grasslands of the eastern Tarim Basin area in China. Often described as a nation of nomads, the Yuezhi migrated often before moving east during the 1st century CE to found the Kushan Empire. They later expanded northward and occupied parts of their original Tarim Basin territory, gaining a strategic position along what historic trade route? Discuss
A synthetic heart remains one of the long-sought holy grails of modern medicine. Although the heart is conceptually simple—it is, in essence, a muscle that acts as a pump—it contains subtleties that defy straightforward reproduction. Though artificial hearts have been successfully implanted, they are suitable only as temporary replacements in patients awaiting transplants; no device has yet been developed for total replacement of the heart. What is the longest an artificial heart has been used? Discuss
Voronoff was a French surgeon notorious for transplanting glandular tissue from monkeys into humans in the 1920s and 30s in an attempt to slow and reverse the aging process. By the early 1930s, thousands of men around the world had been treated with Voronoff's "rejuvenation" technique, but his popularity waned when it became clear that the procedure did not produce the desired results. What notorious experiment conducted by Voronoff inspired the novel Nora, the Monkey Turned Woman? Discuss
Tame silver foxes are the result of about 50 years of Russian experiments to domesticate the silver morph of the red fox. Scientist Dmitri Belyaev began the project to test his theory that the key to domestication is behavior—not size or reproduction—and did so by breeding the least aggressive foxes in each generation. The resulting tame foxes possess a temperament that differs fundamentally from that of their wild forebears. Interestingly, the breeding also resulted in what physical changes? Discuss
Known to his contemporaries as "El Gran Capitán", or "the Great Captain," Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba was a Spanish general who made Spain the world's preeminent military power. Born in 1453, de Córdoba was one of the founders of modern warfare. He formed the first modern standing army and was the first European general to organize the pursuit of defeated armies after a victory in order to destroy the retreating enemy. Historians refer to him as the father of what kind of warfare? Discuss
"Mayday" is a code word used internationally as a radio distress signal for a life-threatening emergency. It is derived from the French phrase venez m'aider, meaning "come help me." "Mayday" should be repeated three times, followed by the vessel's call sign, also repeated three times. "Mayday" and the call sign should then be stated again, followed by details about the emergency and position of the craft. What code word can be used for situations that are urgent but not life-threatening? Discuss
In 80 CE, Roman Emperor Titus celebrated the completion of the Colosseum, then known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, with lavish games that lasted for more than 100 days. Though accounts of the events are scarce, the games likely featured gladiatorial combat and battle reenactments, executions staged as recreations of myths and historical events, and animal entertainment that included extravagant hunts and fights between different species. What exotic animals are said to have done battle? Discuss
The bomba kryptologiczna—Polish for "cryptologic bomb"—was a machine designed in 1938 by mathematician and Polish Cipher Bureau cryptologist Marian Rejewski to break German Enigma machine ciphers. Shortly before Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Rejewski and his colleagues shared their findings on Enigma decryption with the French and British. The intelligence gathered as a result contributed, perhaps decisively, to the defeat of Nazi Germany. How did the machine come to be called a "bomb"? Discuss
Attachment therapy refers to a category of mental health interventions used to treat patients with attachment disorders, behavioral disorders caused by the lack of an emotionally secure attachment to a caregiver in the first two years of life and characterized by an inability to form healthy relationships. While there are attachment-related interventions based on generally accepted theory, some treatments are so controversial that they have been banned. Which methods are most strongly opposed? Discuss
Approximately 3,000 members of the Kalash people currently inhabit the isolated mountain valleys of the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan. The Kalash belief system differs drastically from those of surrounding ethnic groups and is said to be the last untouched representative of Indo-European mythology. Genetic testing has indicated that the Kalash are a distinct and perhaps aboriginal population. What is unique about their language? Discuss
Blue Peacock was the codename of a British 1950s Cold War defense project that aimed to place several 10-kiloton nuclear mines on the North German Plain in case of war. Fears that cold winter temperatures might prevent the buried bombs from working properly led scientists to propose several solutions, including one that earned it the nickname the "chicken-powered nuclear bomb." How were live chickens to be used in the operation of this device? Discuss
A volcanically active country, Japan is home to thousands of geothermally heated hot springs called onsen. Traditionally used as public bathing places, onsen now play a central role in domestic tourism and are often enjoyed by those who want to escape the hectic life of the city, relax, and benefit from the healing powers believed to be derived from the water's mineral content. When discussing onsen, the Japanese often cite the virtues of "naked communion," which refers to what? Discuss
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