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January 26, 2022

Ninja Rocks

Scott, one of my Crack Correspondents©®, commented earlier this afternoon as follows:


First I've ever heard of ninja rocks.

I wonder how come Scott knows about them....

January 26, 2022 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

World's first drinking straw

First straws

[The design of the components from the Maikop tomb. 1. one of eight perforated tips; 2. joint between two segments of the silver tube, and longitudinal seam; 3-5. types of fittings; 6. probable soldered longitudinal.]

From the Guardian:

Ancient metal tubes unearthed in 1897 could be oldest surviving drinking straws

Gold and silver tubes, each more than a meter long, were discovered in North Caucasus

A set of ancient gold and silver tubes dating to about 5,500 years ago and unearthed in North Caucasus in Russia could be the world's oldest surviving drinking straws, experts have claimed.

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The eight thin-walled tubes, each more than a meter in length and 10 mm in diameter with a narrow perforated tip and what appear to be strainers, were found in the largest of three compartments containing human remains, discovered during the excavation of a mound near Maikop in the summer of 1897.

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[This schematic drawing depicts the eight long, thin tubes — four of them with bull figurines.]

The tubes, now in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, date to the fourth millennium B.C.E., and were made of segments joined together. Four of the tubes also feature gold or silver bull figurines that have been slid onto them, which may also have served a practical purpose: balancing the straws on the side of the drinking bowl or pot when not in use.

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[Four gold and silver ornamental bull figurines found at the Maikop kurgan were both decorative and functional, acting to balance the straws.]

Experts have previously suggested the tubes may have been used to support a canopy used in the funeral procession, or that they were sceptres. A team of experts in Russia, however, said they were likely to be straws for drinking beer from a shared pot.

"If correct, these objects represent the earliest material evidence of drinking through long tubes — a practice that became common during feasts in the third and second millennia B.C.E. in the ancient Near East," the researchers wrote.

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[Artist's depiction of the tubes in use.]

Writing in the journal Antiquity, the team suggest the items are drinking straws "designed for sipping a type of beverage that required filtration during consumption."

The researchers say their theory is backed by evidence including depictions on seals from Iran and Iraq dating to the fifth to fourth millennium B.C.E., of people using straws to drink, while in the third millennium B.C.E. "banquet scenes showing groups of people sipping beer through long tubes from a shared vessel became popular in Mesopotamian art."

The authors add that a reed stem wrapped in gold foil, as well as two metal drinking tubes, were previously found in the grave of the woman known as Queen Puabi in the Royal Cemetery at Ur, dating to about 4,500 years ago.

The tubes' perforated tips are consistent with detachable metal straw tip-strainers used on the ends of reed straws in the Levant and Mesopotamia in the second millennium B.C.E.

"The set of eight drinking tubes in the Maikop tomb may therefore represent the feasting equipment for eight individuals, who could have sat to drink beer from the single large jar found in the tomb," the authors wrote.

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[Three of the perforated silver tips from the tubes now thought to be straws found at the Maikop kurgan.]

The team said they found evidence of barley starch in the tip of one of the tubes, although the finding is not conclusive proof of the presence of a drink such as beer.

"The position of the tubes alongside the body emphasizes both the importance of the feast in the funerary rite and the high social rank for someone who throws a banquet," said Viktor Trifonov, first author of the research from the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Professor Augusta McMahon of the University of Cambridge, who was not involved in the research, said the work was very convincing, adding that the proposed purpose was fancy but functional.

"Beer in the past was probably 'chunky' with sediment, and filter straws were a necessary implement," she said, adding they were well known in Mesopotamia during the third to second millennia B.C.E.

"These drinking straws reveal the importance of past communal eating and drinking as a powerful creator of social connections, as feasts and parties are today," she said.


Read the original scientific paper, "Party like a Sumerian: reinterpreting the 'sceptres' from the Maikop kurgan," published in the journal Antiquity on January 19, 2022.

Still not enough?

The artifacts are currently on display at St. Petersburg's Hermitage Museum.

January 26, 2022 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Can your helicopter do this?

Above, a close-up look at the intermeshing rotors — which spin in opposite directions — of the Kaman K-Max single-seat helicopter.

From The Prepared:

Axes of rotation tilt out from the helicopter's centerline.

This helicopter is capable of lifting nearly three tons.

Intermeshing rotors means that the K-MAX doesn't need a tail rotor, so all available engine power goes right to providing lift, and the K-MAX's narrow body allows pilots to lean out of the window and use vertical reference flight — good for cases when a load must be placed precisely, as when installing the upper segments of a ski lift tower.

Side note: Kind of incredibly, the K-MAX's rotors are made of a wood-fiberglass composite.

The blades' main structural component is a Sitka spruce layup, and their afterbodies (trailing edges) are fiberglass.

Articles around the internet make reference to wood's damage tolerance and fatigue resistance, which the Kaman representative I spoke with confirmed: apparently Charles Kaman, before he died, said something to the effect that "Trees stay out there for hundreds of years, and they twist and turn in the wind just fine."

Why did Kaman care about twisting?

Helicopters are steered by varying the rotor blades' angle of attack as they spin around the rotorhead.

Most helicopter rotors are mounted to the rotorhead using a big bearing, and a hydraulic actuator system pitches the rotor blades back and forth with every revolution they make.

But Kaman's helicopters are steered using a unique servo-flap design, which Charles Kaman patented in 1949.

Kaman's rotors are fixed to the rotorhead, but they have little servo-flaps (like the elevators on an airplane wing, but smaller) that are operated electronically.

As the servo-flaps change pitch, the end of the rotor actually twists around the longitudinal axis — which it does a couple hundred times per second in order to stabilize and steer the helicopter.

Because it lacks a tail rotor and a hydraulic pitch actuation system, Kaman claims that the K-MAX is less complex than helicopters with articulated rotors.

But Kaman's rotors need to be capable of twisting, repeatedly, every time the rotor revolves around the rotorhead, for years’'worth of flight time.

And apparently Kaman decided that the material to use was Sitka spruce.

Wood — and Sitka spruce in particular — has a long history in aerospace, as this in-depth article describes.

January 26, 2022 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Oldest Pretzel Bakery in the U.S.


[Giant pretzel outside the landmark bakery.]

From Atlas Obscura:

At the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery, bread is historic, salted, and loopy.

The establishment is the first commercial pretzel bakery in the United States.


And it just so happens that the Sturgis family is the oldest pretzel baking family in the country as well. 

In 1861, German immigrant Julius Sturgis was a spry 26 when he purchased a stone house at 219 E. Main Street in the little town of Lititz, Pennsylvania.

The building (below), which dates to 1784,


soon became both the Sturgis family home and their bakery.

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[Early equipment.]

There, Julius twisted the first pretzels in the country. His recipe is apparently timeless — it's still used today.


[Pretzel stencils for uniformity]

The Sturgis family still runs its namesake bakery.

Beyond buying twisted bread (in both soft and hard versions), visitors can take a guided tour of the bakery and its antique machinery,

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[Some of the antique items visitors encounter during a bakery tour.]

then learn how to sculpt the perfect pretzel.


[Twist a pretzel, get a certificate.]

Want some?

Your wish is my demand.

Apply within.

January 26, 2022 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Car Escape Tool

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Said Emme Hall, who knows about stuff like this: "Resqme makes a small portable car escape tool that will cut a jammed seat belt, and it also has a spring-loaded hammer to break your tempered glass side window should you need to escape your vehicle quickly. It's great because you can easily keep it on your keychain or in your glove box."

Features and Details:

 Originally developed for first responders (firefighters, EMTs, law enforcement agencies)

Used by over 8 million motorists worldwide

 Seat belt cutter

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with shielded blade

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 Spring-loaded window breaker

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 Compact and lightweight

 Made in U.S.A.

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White, Red, Blue, Orange, Black, Yellow, or Pink.


On the fence?


the video.

January 26, 2022 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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