"A payre of bodies of black cloth of silver with little skirts (1571), a pair of bodies of sweete lether (1579), a pair of bodies of black velvet lined with canvas stiffened with buckeram (1583), for altering a pair of bodies...the bodies lined with sackecloth and buckram about the skirts with bents covered with fustian, a pair of french bodies of damaske lined with sackcloth, with whales bone to them (1597)"
Victorian women were described by contemporaries as maintaining a 43 centimeters waistline with the aid of whalebone corsets. But period advertisements for corsets cater to waistlines of up to 107 centimeters with an average of 76 centimeters. Wearing a tight corset did constrain blood flow and cause fainting - but there was no shortage of corsets of all sizes.
Corsets dominated fashion between 1555 and 1908 when the first flowing gowns to be worn without a the constraining undergarment were designed. Another twenty years passed before the corset was relegated to history.
Crime Fighting, Computer Systems and Databases
As crime globalizes, so does crime fighting. Mobsters, serial killers, and terrorists cross state lines and borders effortlessly, making use of the latest advances in mass media, public transportation, telecommunications, and computer networks. The police - there are 16,000 law enforcement agencies in the Unites States alone - is never very far behind.
Quotes from the official Web pages of some of these databases:
National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC)
Its mission is to combine investigative and operational support functions, research, and training in order to provide assistance, without charge, to federal, state, local, and foreign law enforcement agencies investigating unusual or repetitive violent crimes. The NCAVC also provides support through expertise and consultation in non-violent matters such as national security, corruption, and white-collar crime investigations.
It comprises the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), Child Abduction and Serial Murder Investigative Resources Center (CASMIRC), and Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (VICAP).
VICAP is a nationwide data information center designed to collect, collate, and analyze crimes of violence - specifically murder. It collates and analyzes the significant characteristics of all murders, and other violent offenses.
Homicide Investigation Tracking System (HITS)
A program within the Washington state's Attorney General's Office that tracks and investigates homicides and rapes.
Violent Crime Linkage System (ViCLAS)
Canada-wide computer system that assists specially trained investigators to identify serial crimes and criminals by focusing on the linkages that exist among crimes by the same offender. This system was developed by the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) in the early 1990s.
UTAP, stands for The Utah Criminal Tracking and Analysis Project
Gathers experts from forensic science, crime scene analysis, psychiatry and other fields to screen unsolved cases for local law enforcement agencies.
International Criminal Police Organization (ICPO) - Interpol's DNA Gateway
Provides for the transfer of profile data between two or more countries and for the comparison of profiles that conform to Interpol standards in a centralized database. Investigators can access the database via their Interpol National Central Bureau (NCB) using Interpol's secure global police communications system, I-24/7.
Global communication system to connect its member countries and provide them with user-friendly access to police information. Using this system, Interpol National Central Bureaus (NCBs) can search and cross-check data in a matter of seconds, with direct and immediate access to databases containing critical information (ASF Nominal database of international criminals, electronic notices, stolen motor vehicles, stolen/lost/counterfeit travel and ID documents, stolen works of art, payment cards, fingerprints and photographs, a terrorism watch list, a DNA database, disaster victim identification, international weapons tracking and trafficking in human beings-related information, etc).
Provides information on the development and implementation of fingerprinting systems for the general public and international law enforcement entities.
Europol (European Union's criminal intelligence agency) Computer System (TECS)
Member States can directly input data into the information system in compliance with their national procedures, and Europol can directly input data supplied by non EU Member States and third bodies. Also provides analyses and indexing services.
The image of the quintessential British gentleman, stoically solving a crossword puzzle while on a train voyage - is etched in our minds. The crossword puzzle appears to be a British institution, as ancient as the monarchy and a lot more rewarding.
The surprising fact is that it was invented only in December 1913.
It was first published as a "word-cross" puzzle in New York of all places - in a Sunday weekly called the "World".
Following a crossword craze launched by a nascent publishing company called "Simon and Schuster" in 1924, the Sunday Express in Britain picked up the American habit. The "New York Times" succumbed and published the first of its renowned crossword puzzles only in 1942.
Dance, St. Vitus
Dancing manias - a form of mass hysteria - were most common between the 13th and 17th centuries in Italy, notably in Taranto. Hence "tarantism". But occurrences were recorded in other locations (e.g., Lizzano, southern Apulia, Sardinia) as late as 50 years ago, during and after the second world war.
The Italian folk dance, "Tarantella" is related to tarantism. It was played for days on end to manic patients by groups of travelling musicians as a kind of music therapy. The patient also had to select among colored ribbons and concentrate on a band bearing the color of the biting spider. Oftentimes, such treatment was administered in the field where the mania first manifested.
The bite of the tarantula, called in many parts of Italy "Taranta" (also named after the town of Taranto) was long - and wrongly - thought to be the cause of the irresistible impulse to dance. The victims, it was claimed, were trying to prance the venom out of their bloodstream.
Other manic raves - such as "St. Vitus' or St. John's Dance", the names given to episodes of rheumatoid chorea - were common in large swathes of Europe between the 11th and 17th century. One legend has it that in 1278, hundreds of people were successfully treated in a chapel named after St. Vitus in Utrecht, Germany, close to the place where a bridge plunged into the Maas river following some frantic dancing. Hence "St. Vitus' dance". Other sources say that the blasphemous frolickers drowned.
Manic dances - sometimes in the form of ecstatic but structured rituals - often resulted in death. The dancers - many of them hailing from foreign lands - were not clinically insane. Men and women were equally represented.
Dead Horse Arum
The Dead Horse Arum smells like rotting meat and, thus, attracts female flies eager to lay their eggs. Researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Italy's University of Cagliari discovered that the chemicals emitted by the flower - three types of oligosulphides - are identical to those given out by disintegrating protein in decaying flesh.
The flower is found on islands off the coasts of Sardinia, Corsica and Spain's Balearic islands in the western Mediterranean. It traps dozens of blowflies at a time in a chamber for a few hours. Then - when they have immersed themselves in its pollen - it lets them fly away and pollinate other specimen. The inside of the chamber is 15 degrees warmer than the outside - another fly luring feature. The flower is the color of decomposing flesh and has is covered with hair-like pelt, the better to simulate a dead animal.
The brain of a decapitated person continues to produce brain waves recordable by EEG 3-8 seconds after the head is severed. Is the person conscious?
A study (Mikeska and Klemm, 1975) reported an EGG trace in the decapitated heads of rats of up 30 seconds (on average - 14 seconds). Allred and Berntson (1986) and Vanderwolf et al. (1988) dismissed that as LVFA (low voltage fast activity), not necessarily indicative of consciousness or distress. Holson (1992) reviewed the literature and found that decapitation triggers 2-4 seconds of slow direct current EEG trace followed by 10-13 seconds of an LVFA trace. When the rats were anesthetized the LVFA trace lasted longer - proving that it had nothing to do with consciousness.
Still, numerous anecdotes recounted by eyewitnesses support the theory that consciousness survives in the first 2-6 seconds and that some decapitated persons even realize their predicament to their utter horror.
DNA – Deoxyribonucleic Acid
Kilo is one thousand. Mega is one million. Giga is one billion. Tera is one trillion. Peta is a thousand trillion (one quadrillion). Exa is a thousand peta (quintillion). Zetta is a thousand exa (one sextillion). Yotta is a thousand zetta (one septillion).
Juan Enriquez quotes a study by the University of California at Berkeley in his tome, "As the Future Catches You - How Genomics and Other Forces Are Changing Your Life, Your Work, Your Investments, Your World":
All the words ever spoken by humans amount to 5 exabytes. By comparison, we now produce 1.5 exabytes of data per year, including phone conversations, e-mail messages and photocopies.
The genetic code consists of three billion letters, repeated twice within each of our 50 trillion cells. This amounts to 15 with 22 zeros after it, or 150 zettabits of data. Stretched in a line, the DNA is one cell would measure c. 2 meters long. Inside the cell, it is folded in a packet merely trillionths of a centimeter long.
Drive-ins were invented by Richard M. Hollingshead, a car salesman. At first, the film was projected from the hood of his car on to a bedsheet, securely fastened to tree trunks in his back yard in Camden, New Jersey. The sound was broadcast from a radio placed behind the screen and, later, from speakers he mounted on trees. Hollingshead was granted a patent in May 1933 (later invalidated by the courts) and the first drive-opened on June 6, 1933 in Camden, New Jersey. The price of admission was 25 cents per car and another 25 cents per person. The sound was delivered by in-car speakers which hung on the driver's side window.
Drive-ins today have anywhere from one to 13 screens (in Florida) and a capacity of between 50 and 3000 cars. The soundtrack is now delivered through the car radio.
Little known facts about temblors:
The epicenter of an earthquake is not the same as its hypocenter (focus, point of origin within a fault-line). The epicenter is the point on the surface of the Earth directly above the focus. Dangerous, shallow-focus quakes originate 0-70 kilometers below the surface. Less damaging deep-focus tremors occur between 70-700 kilometers down. Subduction zone earthquakes (like the one that gave rise to the lethal tsunami on December 26, 2004) occur when one tectonic plate moves under another (subducts). There are interplate and intraplate quakes, which take place along plate boundaries or within the fracturing crust of a single plate, respectively.
Earthquakes are not rare at all - several hundred earthquakes occur every day. There are about 1 million of them annually - of which 50,000 can be felt without the aid of instruments. Tremors of the magnitude of Kobe in 1995 (which caused an estimated damage of $100 billion ) are measured 20 times in an average year.
The Encyclopedia Britannica (2005 edition) describes a "swarm" of such events thus:
"In the Matsushiro region of Japan, for instance, there occurred between August 1965 and 1967 a series of hundreds of thousands of earthquakes, some sufficiently strong (up to local magnitude 5) to cause property damage but no casualties. The maximum frequency was 6,780 small earthquakes on April 17, 1966."
The Pacific ocean is the unhappy recipient of well over 80 percent of all the energy released by earthquakes worldwide. Japan alone suffers from 1500 tremors annually (of which two thirds are greater than 3.5 in magnitude). Fault lines abound and new ones are discovered frequently. One fault line runs under 125th street in Manhattan, New-York.
Still, in the last 5 centuries, all earthquakes combined killed less than one tenth the victims of World War II - and this includes the 240,000 who died in the 1976 Tang-Shan, China event.
Earthquakes are composites of:
I. Primary (or compression) and secondary (or shearing) body waves (that travel in the rocks under the surface of the Earth at speeds of up to 7 kilometers per second and frequencies of between 20 Hertz and one vibration per 54 minutes)
II. Two types of surface waves, named after British physicist Lord Rayleigh and British geophysicist A. E. H. Love (with frequencies of 1-0.005 Hertz).
Some earthquakes are caused by human activities (such as the filling of water reservoirs behind dams, injecting water into deep wells, and underground nuclear tests). More than 600 tremors were recorded in the decade following the filling of Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam on the Nevada-Arizona state border.
Some earthquakes produce low-pitch sounds and light effects (flashes, streamers, and balls). Water in lakes and reservoirs oscillate causing flooding (a phenomenon called seiche). Seiches were observed in Scotland and Sweden following the Lisbon quake of 1755. Similarly, the Alaskan tremor in 1964 produced seiches in Texas and throughout the southwestern parts of the United States.
Measuring the magnitude of earthquakes is more a fine art than an exact science.
Charles Richter developed his eponymous logarithmic scale in 1935. It measures the amplitude (the height) of seismic surface waves. Each unit represents a tenfold increase in the energy released by the tremor. An earthquake of magnitude 9 is, therefore, 1000 stronger than a tremor of magnitude 6. The Kobe earthquake measured 6.8 on the Richter scale, the San Francisco tremor of 1906 was 8.3 (as was the earthquake in the Mississippi Valley in 1811), and both the Alaskan quake of 1964 and the South Asian underwater temblor of 2004 were around 9 (9.2 in Alaska to be precise).
The Richter scale is used mainly by the media. Professional seismologists use the Moment Magnitude Scale (MMS) which takes into account the properties of the area and the amount of slippage (displacement). It captures the total energy of the tremor. The Kobe earthquake measured 7 on the MMS, the San Francisco tremor of 1906 was 7.6, and the Alaskan quake of 1964 was 9.
Then there is the still-used 12-grade Modified Mercalli Scale (adapted in 1931 by American seismologists H. O. Wood and Frank Neumann from the original Mercalli scale, proposed in 1902 Italian seismologist Giuseppe Mercalli). It measures the impact that an earthquake has on the natural and man-made environment to gauge its magnitude. The Europeans have a similar 12-grade scale, called MSK.
Seaquakes are earthquakes that start on land and then travel into the sea at the speed of sound (about 1.5 kilometers per second).
Quakes occur even on the moon which has no plates, volcanic activities, or ocean trenches. The five seismograph stations of the Passive Seismic Experiment set up between 1969 and 1977 as part of the United States Apollo Program detected up to 3,000 moonquakes every year. Mars, on the other hand, seems not to have quakes at all!
Some notable earthquakes in history:
Lisbon, November 1, 1755, 09:40 AM (All Saints Day)
Property damage: 12,000 houses, fire raged for 6 days
Casualties: 60,000 dead
Felt as far as: Algiers (1100 kilometers to the east)
Side effects: tsunami 20 meters high (at Cadiz) to 6 meters high (at Lisbon). Traveled to Martinique (6100 kilometers) in 10 hours and rose to 4 meters when it struck the shore.
New Madrid, Missouri, USA - December 16, 1811, January 23 and February 7, 1812
Felt as far as: Louisville, Kentucky (300 kilometers away); Cincinnati, Ohio (600 km. away); Canada; Gulf Coast.
Side effects: 1874 aftershocks; The tremor affected 100,000 square kilometers. An area of 240X60 kilometers sank by 1-3 meters and was flooded as a nearby river rushed in.
San Francisco, April 18, 1906, 05:12 AM
Property damage: Fire destroyed the business district of San Francisco. Cities along the fault (e.g., San Jose, Salinas, and Santa Rosa) obliterated.
Casualties: 700 dead
Felt as far as: Los Angeles in the south and Coos Bay, Oregon, to the north
Side effects: At least a 430 kilometers fault slippage (break).
Tokyo–Yokohama, September 1, 1923
Property damage: Fifty four percent of brick buildings and one tenth of other, reinforced, structures collapsed. Hundreds of thousands of houses crumbled or burned.
Casualties: 140,000 dead
Side effects: Twelve-meter high tsunami crashed against Atami on the Sagami Gulf, destroyed 155 houses and killed 60 people.
Property damage: Pegged at millions of US dollars.
Casualties: 5700 killed and 3000 injured.
Side effects: Seismic sea waves (tsunamis) struck Hawaii, Japan, and the Pacific coast of the United States.
Alaska, March 27, 1964
Casualties: 131 dead
Side effects: Felt over an area of 1,300,000 square kilometers and tilted an area of more than 120,000 square kilometers. Land was thrust up by as much as 25 meters and sank by up to 2.5 meters. Numerous tsunamis affected locales as far as Crescent City, California. The fault extended for 1000 kilometers and there were tens of thousands of aftershocks.
Tang-shan, China, July 28, 1976
Property damage: Entire city razed to the ground.
Casualties: 240,000 killed and half a million injured.
Mexico, September 19, 1985, 07:18 AM
Property damage: Most buildings in Mexico City - 400 kilometers from the epicenter - damaged extensively.
Casualties: 10,000 killed.
Side effects: Seismic sea waves (tsunamis) struck Hawaii, Japan, and the Pacific coast of the United States.
The media would have us believe that the victims of eating disorders are adolescents with psychological problems.
The truth is different. Both Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa are indeed more common among adolescents. But close to 80% of all deaths from anorexia nervosa are among people older than 45. Actually, the median age of death from eating disorders and related causes among women is 69 and among men - 80! One fifth of all adult sufferers are men.
A human female is born with 150,000 hollow balls of cells. Each "ball" - a follicle - contains an immature ovum (egg cell). By the age of 16-18, only 30-40,000 of these follicles survive. The destruction of follicles continues well into menopause when the few remaining follicles degenerate and die. Only 300-400 follicles mature during the woman's reproductive years 13-54. But the quality of the eggs deteriorates with time. In her early 30's, for instance, the rate of spontaneous abortions a woman endures reaches 28%. Menstruation occurs every 4 weeks.
A follicle from one of the two ovaries matures, the egg is extruded from the ovary and is made ready for fertilization in the reproductive tract. If not fertilized, it leaves the body together with the nutrients accumulated to feed a prospective embryo - and blood.
The electric chair was invented by a dentist, Alfred Southwick from Buffalo. But the modern implement was designed and tested by Harold Brown with the active support of Thomas Edison. Carlos McDonald and A. P. Rockwell contributed to the engineering of the chair. But the patent is registered to one, Edwin Davis, who used it to kill more than 300 prisoners.
Due to the body's high resistance, an alternating current of 2000-2400 volts is applied to electrocute the condemned. Only two electrodes, moistened with a salt solution, are attached to the scalp and to the calf of one leg. Death occurs two to five whole minutes after the jolt has been administered - but no one knows why or how. The electrical current may stop the heart before the victims are practically burnt or cooked to death. There is no proof either way. Willie Francis, who survived his first execution, described it thus:
"My mouth tasted like cold peanut butter. I felt a burning in my head and my left leg, and I jumped against the straps."
The chair has its own circuit, separate from the prison's - but it does feed off the public grid. Prison officials pull the switches or push the buttons.
The axe murderer, William Kemmler, was the first to be electrocuted in Auburn State Prison, New York, on August 6, 1890. By 1972 the chair was adopted by 25 states and the District of Columbia. More than 4300 inmates, including dozens of women, were "grilled" by the device in the United States. Only 11 of the 38 states that currently allow the death penalty still use the chair, though - and only 3 of those as an exclusive method of execution, as do the Philippines and China.