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Strange Banner GEM Feb15 400

  • The end of an era: the last manufacturer of VCRs is ending production.
    It may seem old world, but when the first videocassette recorder was introduced in 1956 it was an astounding advance. The first units from Ampex Electric and Manufacturing Company sold for $50,000, and 100 of them were sold the first year. Eventually, prices came way down and tens of millions were sold. As DVDs took over in the late 1990s, sales slipped, and now Japan’s Funai Corporation announced that it would cease production because of “difficulty acquiring parts.”
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  • If you drilled a tunnel straight through the earth and jumped in, it would take 42 minutes and 12 seconds to get to the other side.
    Well, that was long the common belief, based on the earth's gravitational pull, which changes as one descends, but a new theory says the actual time would be about four minutes less because the prior theory did not accurately capture the density factor. The earth's crust has a density less than about 187 lb per cubic foot while the center’s denisty is about 811 lb per cubic foot, so anyone planning this jump (go with the flow) can now plan on an earlier arrival.


  • The human brain takes in 11 million bits of information every second … but is aware of only 40.
    Per Richard Epworth, author of Bottleneck - Our Human interface with Reality, the maximum information rate at which humans can learn is only a few tens of bits per second. Our eyes and ears do not impose this is low information rate. It is limited by the need for our brain to integrate what we sense into our internal mental model of the world.
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  • A Mexican general literally had a leg up during his presidential run.
    If the current U.S. presidential race seems bizarre, it’s not the first case of extremes. In 1836, Mexican General Santa Anna lost his leg after it was shattered by canon fire during a battle with the French army. He used that “opportunity” to reenter politics and campaigned by waving his prosthetic leg around after having an elaborate funeral for the severed leg – speeches, poems, gun salute and a funeral procession. He became president five times.
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  • The best selling erotic novel of the 15th century was written by a pope.
    Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, otherwise known as Pope Pius II, reigned from 1458-1464. Before he beame the pope, he was also the author of “The Tale of the Two Lovers,” which was extremely popular in its day and is still read today. To be fair, it’s far from what one might classify as sordid, such as this following excerpt:
    This lady was taller than the others. Her hair was long, the colour of beaten gold, and she wore it not hanging down her back, as maidens do, but bound up with gold and precious stones. Her lofty forehead, of good proportions, was without a wrinkle, and her arched eyebrows were dark and slender, with a due space between. Such was the splendour of her eyes that, like the sun, they dazzled all who looked on them; with such eyes she could kill whom she chose and, when she would, restore the dead to life. Her nose was straight in contour, evenly dividing her rosy cheeks, while nothing could be sweeter, nothing more pleasant to see than those cheeks which, when she laughed, broke in a little dimple on either side. And all who saw those dimples longed to kiss them. A small and well-shaped mouth, coral lips made to be bitten, straight little teeth, that shone like crystal, and between them, running to and fro, a tremulous tongue that uttered not speech, but sweetest harmonies. And how can I describe the beauty of her mind, the whiteness of her breast?