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Photo by John Salzarulo on Unsplash

The Inca was the culmination of thousands of years of development. It conquered huge parts of western south America and held onto them from 1438 to 1533. The last vestiges were conquered by the Spanish in 1572.

Much like the Romans, the Inca demanded their subjects worship the Emperor and acknowledge the primacy of their gods.

Much like the Romans they had an incredible network of roads.

But they’re also famous for one other thing:

They didn’t have the wheel.

Did the Inca Really Not Have the Wheel?

We consider the wheel a basic symbol of civilization. The idea of a great empire not having it tends to hit our brains as proof that they are inferior and primitive. …


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Photo by Nicolasintravel on Unsplash

As of the time of writing, if you do a news search for Yellowstone Volcano, it’s dominated by headlines like “Yellowstone volcano: ‘Greatest catastrophe ever’” and “Yellowstone eruption ‘worst-case scenario’ exposed by USGS Chief.”

Yup.

We’re all going to die.

Here’s the good news…that full page of horrible Yellowstone headlines are all from the same paper, the Daily Express. A British tabloid. For reasons I haven’t ever worked out, British tabloids love to predict Death By Supereruption.

So, what are the actual chances of Yellowstone erupting, and if it does, will it end the world?

Past Supereruptions

Yellowstone has, indeed, caused chaos in the past. The Yellowstone hotspot track has been associated with more than one of these. The largest was 8.7 million years ago, and was called the Grey’s Landing supereruption. The most recent major eruption was 630,000 years ago. This has caused some people to argue that we’re somehow “overdue” for one. …


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Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Okay, so, we have preliminary efficacy results on the Astra-Zeneca vaccine…and scientists are baffled.

You have probably seen both 70% and 90% figures circulating, and there’s a reason for that.

The trials tried two different regimens. One was two full doses of the vaccine, the other was a half dose followed by a full dose.

So, guess which one is 90% effective? Yeah, I led you with this one.

The Half Dose Works Better

In completely counterintuitive results, a much higher efficacy was obtained when the first dose was half the amount of the second one.

This virus is not a mRNA vaccine, but a viral vector vaccine. It’s made by modifying a chimp adenovirus…essentially a chimpanzee cold. (The Chinese have been using a human adenovirus as a vector, but this is generally considered more risky as prior immunity to the adenovirus could diminish the efficiency of the vaccine). …


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Photo by Alexi Romano on Unsplash

Love them or hate them, thousands of women every year strip down and don bikinis, two-piece bathing suits that often cover no more than they absolutely have to.

The bikini has come to mean both exploitation and empowerment, and integrally linked with women’s sexuality, but how did it start out? Read on…

Ancient Bikinis

There are some images of Greek woman athletes wearing two piece outfits consisting of a breast band and loincloth. However, more common for athletes in the Heraian Games (the women’s equivalent to the Olympics) was a short tunic.

(Men, meanwhile, traditionally competed naked).

Roman mosaics also show evidence of women engaging in athletic activity wearing similar clothing. …


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Photo by Adrian Pelletier on Unsplash

The news this week that the Big Dish at Arecibo has reached the end of its life has hit the astronomy and SETI communities hard. Let’s look back over the working life of this amazing telescope.

An Ambitious Project

In the early 1960s, William E. Gordon from Cornell University designed a telescope to study the ionosphere.

The site on Puerto Rico was chosen for two reasons:

  1. It was close to the equator, which is always a good site for large telescopes.
  2. The karst geography was prone to large sinkholes, which allowed for the easy construction of the big dish.

The initial design was a fixed parabolic reflector with a 150 m tower, but designers soon realized that this would greatly limit its utility, and the tower was redesigned to have an azimuth arm, which would carry the actual antennae to receive the signal and allow them to be pointed at any part of the sky. Thus, the only limitation was the Earth’s rotation; sometimes astronomers would have to wait for their target to come into view. …


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Photo by CDC on Unsplash

In the best piece of news all year, we now have two vaccines that appear to be safe and effective for COVID-19.

It’s the light at the end of the tunnel (and several more vaccines are a bit behind them). Which means it’s time to understand one basic fact:

You might not be able to get vaccinated straight away.

And whether you can get the vaccine early is going to depend on factors that strongly include…your job.

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Photo by CDC on Unsplash

What is Strategic Vaccination?

Strategic vaccination, also called targeted immunization, is the policy of using a limited number of vaccine doses to control an outbreak quickly.

Essentially, it means vaccinating the right people at the right time to get the numbers down as quickly as possible. …


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Photo by Tanya Kusova on Unsplash

You might have seen the picture circulating of Baby Yoda in the crew dragon capsule.

So, what was he doing there? It’s all part of a tradition that goes back to the very first space launch.

Gagarin and Zero-G Indicators

In 1961, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human being in space. He took with him a small doll, secured in the cabin, “to watch it float.”

This started the tradition of the “zero-g indicator,” which confirms that a craft is in microgravity (zero-g is a misnomer but tradition requires it be used in this case).

The ostensible purpose is to make sure astronauts know that they really are in free fall before unstrapping, but I suspect personally that it’s as much a sailor’s talisman as anything else. …


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Photo by Mitch Rosen on Unsplash

The saga of Henry VIII’s wives is told, often scurrilously, between English schoolchildren.

One story, though, is not quite what it seems, and that’s what happened to and with Anne of Cleeves, the famous “Flanders mare.”

The Official Line

Henry, at 44, was desperately in need of two things: Alliances, and an heir. His legitimate son, Edward VI, was sickly and it was commonly believed that the boy might not live long enough to be king (he did, but not for very long).

He had fathered a bastard in his youth, Henry FitzRoy, on one of his queen’s ladies-in-waiting. Henry had been acknowledged and could potentially have been legitimized, but he died of “consumption” (likely tuberculosis) in 1536. …


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Photo by Michal Balog on Unsplash

UPS is pretty distinctive. They’re well known for their big brown trucks…and their brown uniform.

In fact, UPS has been famous for many years for a strict dress code that included short hair for men, no beards, no visible tattoos, etc. And, of course, it was racist too, like so many dress codes, barring natural hair for women. In 2018, the UPS was fined $4.9 million dollars for relegating men who had long hair and/or beards for religious reasons to, well, the back room.

So, yeah. It’s been a problem.

So, what changed?

What changed was Carol Tomé.

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Photo by RoseBox رز باکس on Unsplash

The New UPS Dress Code

Carol Tomé became CEO of the company in March, after retiring as CFO of Home Depot in 2019. …


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Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Early data indicates that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine may be 90% effective. Of course, this is early data, but even if it drops some, it sounds like it will be above the 50% minimum for approval.

Russia claims their Sputnik-9 vaccine is 92% effective, although this is Russia.

It looks like COVID-19 may well be very vulnerable to vaccines. From the start, we have followed the narrative that vaccination is how we move forward from this pandemic.

But here are some things we all need to know and understand before we roll up our sleeves.

Takeup is Vital

First of all, no vaccine is useful if people won’t take it. Thankfully, Pfizer’s results were announced after the election…an announcement right before could have made a lot of people not trust it. …

About

Jennifer R. Povey

Freelance writer, freelance editor, novelist and short story writer. Jack of many trades. https://www.jenniferrpovey.com/

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