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Bizzare & Odd

The Mediterranean Werewolf

 by EsoterX

“Man is to man either a god or a wolf” – Desiderius Erasmus 

The Copper Age (somewhere between 4500-3300 B.C.) doesn’t get as much play as its immediate predecessor, the Stone Age (courtesy of the Flintstones), or its successor, the Bronze Age, but it’s particularly notable in so far as western civilization’s culturally ubiquitous notions of lycanthropy seem to have emerged as a coherent system of monstrous thought from the murky depths of a common Proto-Indo-European mythology.  Linguistic, archaeological, and archaeogenetic evidence seems to indicate that a set of loosely related populations emerged from the Pontic-Caspian Steppe near the Black Sea sometime in the Copper Age and spent the next thousand years spreading out into Anatolia, the Aegean, Western Europe, Central Asia, India, and Siberia, carrying with them certain specific theological ideas that can be hypothesized based on similarities in words for various deities, folkloric themes and cosmological vocabulary.  French mythographer Georges Dumézil has suggested that the Copper Age saw the emergence of a common class based ideology in Proto-Indo-European culture (called the “trifuncional hypothesis”) that would characterize all its inheritor civilizations, that is the division of society into priests, warriors, and the unwashed masses.  Initiation into the warrior class seems to be the likely source of our notions about lycanthropy, that is, that humans could take on aspects of fearsome critters.  World population in the 5th century B.C. was hovering around five million souls, so it’s safe to say that we had not as of yet firmly established our place at the top of the food chain.  By way of contrast, as late as 1600 A.D., the North American Gray Wolf population alone was still around two million wolves.  It’s safe to assume wolves were pretty much everywhere, and with high intelligence and morphological adaptations to hunting large prey they were the apex predator in most of the ecological niches they inhabited until humans (1) started domesticating them into lap dogs, and (2) put our big brains to use figuring out incredibly efficient ways of eradicating them.  It’s no wonder that a Chacolithic tough guy would feel a certain simpatico with the wolf, to the point of incorporating it into transformative rituals that signified a distinction from the commoners.  As proto-Indo-Europeans spread into Northern and Western Europe, these ideas presumably travelled with them, and consequently our modern western conception of the werewolf just so happens to be deeply rooted in the Teutonic versions (Iron Age Germanic paganism) that evolved, coupled with a heavy dose of later Christianization.  Proto-Indo-Europeans also spread into the Mediterranean, carrying with them a werewolf of a different flavor, what I like to think of as the Greco-Roman Lycanthrope of Late Antiquity.

Because the classical Greeks regarded anybody who spoke Greek with an accent to be an unsophisticated brute, and those who spoke no Greek at all to be little better than animals, it stands to reason that they would have associated widespread lycanthropy with those unfortunates doomed to live on the frontiers of Greek civilization by accident of birth.  Homer’s Iliad, one of the oldest extant works of western literature, thought to date to approximately the 8th Century B.C., and probably recording oral traditions passed down from at least 1150 B.C., mentions the region of Arcadia (northern highlands of the Pelloponese).  More importantly, a semi-mythological king of the Kingdom of Arcadia is held to be a certain fellow named Lycaon (from who we derive the term “lycanthrope”), and is regarded by many as the source of the first written records we have regarding werewolves in the Mediterranean.  “The oldest werewolf story on record is that of Lycaon, king of Arcadia, in which however the legend of the werewolf proper is mixed up with another, and apparently a less ancient one, relating to the practice of sacrificing human victims, which seems to have prevailed more extensively and to a later period in Arcadia than in other parts of Greece. Lycaon is said to have been turned into a wolf by Zeus Lycaios, as a punishment for having offered a human victim to the god” (Kelly, 1863, p243).  Lycaon wasn’t entirely convinced that Zeus was omniscient, so he decided to test his all-knowingness by serving him human flesh at a banquet.  Turns out Zeus was omniscient and was not pleased.  Lesson one is don’t piss off Zeus.  Lesson two is that they don’t call them “gods” unless they’ve got some juice.  Lesson three is that your neighbors tend to look askance at human sacrifice, even when they themselves don’t have indoor plumbing, cell phones, or political action committees.  What’s abundantly clear is that the notion of humans transforming into animals (in particular, wolves) was part of the constellation of Greek cultural thought as early as the Homeric Age (1100-800 B.C.), and appeared as a motif taken for granted as early as the 7th Century B.C., given that the Greek fabulist Aesop (620-564 B.C.), who rumor has it was an exceptionally ugly slave that won freedom, fame, and prestigious positions through his awesome storytelling abilities, tossed around the idea of the werewolf in a manner that suggested everybody in 7th Century B.C. was on the same page when it came to lycanthropy.

A Thief hired a room in a tavern, and stayed some days, in the hope of stealing something which should enable him to pay his reckoning. When he had waited some days in vain, he saw the Innkeeper dressed in a new and handsome coat, and sitting before his door. The Thief sat down beside him, and talked with him.  As the conversation began to flag, the Thief yawned terribly, and at the same time howled like a wolf. The Innkeeper said, “Why do you howl so fearfully?”; “I will tell you,” said the Thief: “but first let me ask you to hold my clothes, for I wish to leave them in your hands. I know not, sir, when I got this habit of yawning, nor whether these attacks of howling were inflicted on me as a judgment for my crimes, or for any other cause; but this I do know, that when I yawn for the third time, I actually turn into a wolf, and attack men.” With this speech he commenced a second fit of yawning, and again howled as a wolf, as he did at first. The Innkeeper hearing his tale, and, believing what he said, became greatly alarmed, and rising from his seat, attempted to run away. The Thief laid hold of his coat, and entreated him to stop, saying, ” Pray wait, sir, and hold my clothes, or I shall tear them to pieces in my fury, when I turn into a wolf.” At the same moment he yawned the third time, and set up a howl like a wolf. The Innkeeper, frightened lest he should be attacked, left his new coat in his hand, and ran as fast as he could into the inn for safety. The Thief made off with his new coat, and did not return again to the inn (Aesop, ‘Fables’, “The Thief and the Inkeeper”).

While Aesop was clearly telling us to consider the source, the fact that a fear of werewolves was so prevalent that it could be used in a cunning ruse to upgrade one’s fashion suggests a deeply enmeshed cultural symbol that would have been immediately obvious to your average urbanized Greek citizen.  By the time of Greek historian Herodotus (484-425 B.C.), scholars, as scholars are wont to do, were getting a bit skeptical about the existence of werewolves, but nonetheless faithfully recorded their back story, attributing their origin to a migration of Neurian tribes neighboring  Scythia, the generic 11th Century B.C. term for Central Asia north of the Black Sea (and suspiciously, what we would consider the “Pontic Steppe” from which the proto-Indo-Europeans emerged).

The Neurian customs are like the Scythian. One generation before the attack of Darius they were driven from their land by a huge multitude of serpents which invaded them. Of these some were produced in their own country, while others, and those by far the greater number, came in from the deserts on the north. Suffering grievously beneath this scourge, they quitted their homes, and took refuge with the Budini. It seems that these people are conjurers: for both the Scythians and the Greeks who dwell in Scythia say that every Neurian once a year becomes a wolf for a few days, at the end of which time he is restored to his proper shape. Not that I believe this, but they constantly affirm it to be true, and are even ready to back their assertion with an oath (Herodotus, “Histories”, Book 4, Ch. 105).

The Neuri were reportedly a tribe that lived in the vicinity of modern day Ukraine and Belarus and apparently had some serious pest control issues related to snakes. Where is St. Patrick when you need him?  In contrast to the more Northern European idea of the ravenous beast that uncontrollably metamorphasizes into a wolf by the light of the full moon and runs amok, the Neurian werewolves were powerful sorcerers that deliberately went wolfen on occasion.  This concept did get re-echoed in Western European werewolfdom, but is distinctly related to the Christianized context of lycanthropy generated from a pact with the Devil – courtesy of the Inquisition, but not nearly as popular as witchcraft accusations, although some of the earliest witchcraft accusations that emerged in 15th Century Switzerland included werewolf-related charges.  Greek philosophical superstar Plato (428-348 B.C.) equated lycanthropy with cannibalism, suggesting that it was the consumption of human flesh that turned a human into a werewolf.  This makes a certain kind of sense in that, when the most common apex predator across the globe has traditionally been the wolf (apart from us), and humans have been competing with the wolf for millennia for our share of the meat biomass out there, there is actually a fine line between human and wolf.  Frankly, it’s a good thing we invented pointy sticks.  For most of human history we were basically afraid of two things: (1) our insufferable human neighbors, and (2) wolves.

According to it, the worshipper who tasted the one human entrail, which was minced up with the other entrails of other victims, was inevitably metamorphosed  into a wolf….In like manner, should the commons’ champion find the populace so very compliant that he need make no scruple of shedding kindred blood, should he, with unrighteous charges, as is the wont of such persons, prosecute his victims and render himself blood-guilty, making away with human life, and tasting the blood of his fellows with unholy tongue and lips, should he banish, and kill, and give the signal for cancelling debts and redistributing the land ; is it not from thenceforth the inevitable destiny of such a man either to be destroyed by his enemies, or to become a tyrant, and be metamorphosed from a man into a wolf? (Plato, “The Republic”, Book VIII, vs.565-566).

As the Romans of classical antiquity took up the role of apex predator in the western world, gobbled up those smart-aleck Greeks and went on to dominate civilization as we know it for a thousand years, they were all about wolves, from the suckling of Romulus and Remus on down.  Obviously, they were big fanboys for Greek myths about werewolves.  Roman natural philosopher Gaius Plinius Secundus, or Pliny the Elder (23-79 A.D.), digging through ancient Greek sources, quoted Euanthes (an unknown Greek scholar, likely alive before 200 B.C.) in elaborating on the ancient myth of Arcadian werewolves in Greece.

Euanthes, a Grecian author of no mean reputation, informs us that the Arcadians assert that a member, of the family of one Anthus is chosen by lot, and then taken to a certain lake in that district, where, after suspending his clothes on an oak, he swims across the water and goes away into the desert, where he is changed into a wolf and associates with other animals of the same species for a space of nine years. If he has kept himself from beholding a man during the whole of that time, he returns to the same lake, and, after swimming across it, resumes his original form, only with the addition of nine years in age to his former appearance. To this Fabius adds, that he takes his former clothes as well (Pliny, Natural History, Book VIII, Ch.34).

Nine years is a long time to be a wolf, if one has known the creature comforts of human civilization.  Plus, what good is it to be a werewolf if you can’t taste human flesh.  Interestingly, remaining a werewolf is characterized as optional, and if after refraining from human prey for nine years, you find the wolf life doesn’t suit you, you can opt to return to the embrace of your mundane humanity.  Ancient Roman poet Virgil (70-19 B.C.) also describes lycanthropy as a choice, rather than a curse, emphasizing in his pastoral poems that a state of wolfishness was obtained through the use of certain “herbs”, corresponding with the notion that deliberate sorcery was involved.

These herbs and these poisons, culled in Pontus, Moeris himself gave me—they grow plenteously in Pontus. By their aid I have oft seen Moeris turn wolf and hide in the woods, oft call spirits from the depth of the grave, and charm sown corn away to other fields (Virgil, Eclogue VIII).

This refrain, with its emphasis on the choice to become a werewolf is similarly evident in the elegiac works of Augustan Roman poet Sextus Propertius (50-15 B.C.), incidentally a good pal of Virgil.  They probably loaned each other books.

Skilled to win even Hippolytus that said “Nay” to love, and ever worst of omens to lovers’ peace, she could force even Penelope to be deaf to rumours of her husband’s safety and to wed with wanton Antinous. Should she will it, the magnet will refuse to draw the steel, and the bird prove a stepmother to her nestlings. Nay, did she bring herbs from the Colline field to the magic trench, things solid would dissolve into running water. She dared put spells upon the moon to do her bidding and to disguise her shape beneath the form of the night-prowling wolf, that by her cunning she might blind jealous husbands, and with her nails she tore out the undeserving eyes of crows; she consulted owls how she might have my blood, and gathered for my destruction the charm that drips from the pregnant mare (Propertius, ‘Elegies’, Book 4, Elegy 5).

By the 2nd Century A.D., the Greeks still fancied themselves the pinnacle of intellectual sophistication in the Roman world (even though they had pretty much become a Roman suburb) and just like Herodotus 500 years before them, we see the same skepticism regarding werewolves re-emerging in the works of Greek Geographer Pausanius (110-180 A.D.) when he dismissed a common rumor that a famous Arcadian boxer named Demarchus was also a werewolf.

With respect to the Parrhasian pugilist from Arcadia, whose name was Demarchus, all that is related of him, except his Olympic victory, I consider as the fictions of arrogant men; such as, for instance, that in a sacrifice to Lycaean Jupiter he changed himself into a wolf, and in the tenth year after this recovered again his pristine form. Neither does this fable appear to me to have originated from the Arcadians; as nothing of this kind is mentioned in the inscription on his statue, which is as follows: From the Parrhasise in Arcadia sprung Dinytta’s son Demarchus this devotes (Pausanias, ‘Description of Greece’, Book 6, Ch. 8)

Still, the Greco-Roman conception of the werewolf was incorporated in the popular literature of Classical Rome, exemplified by Roman courtier and satirist Gaius Petronius’ (27-66 A.D.) Satyricon, which related a fictional encounter with a werewolf, but nonetheless included elements reminiscent of the original Arcadian myth.

“It so happened my master had gone to Capua, to attend to various trifles of business. So seizing the opportunity, I persuade our lodger to accompany me as far as the fifth milestone. He was a soldier, as bold as Hell. We got under way about first cockcrow, with the moon shining as bright as day. We arrive at the tombs; my man lingers behind among the gravestones, whilst I sit down singing, and start counting the gravestones. Presently I looked back for my comrade; he had stripped off all his clothes and laid them down by the wayside. My heart was in my mouth; and there I stood feeling like a dead man. Then he made water all round the clothes, and in an instant changed into a wolf. Don’t imagine I’m joking; I would not tell a lie for the finest fortune ever man had. “However, as I was telling you, directly he was turned into a wolf, he set up a howl, and away to the woods. At first I didn’t know where I was, but presently I went forward to gather up his clothes; but lo and behold! they were turned into stone. If ever a man was like to die of terror, I was that man! Still I drew my sword and let out at every shadow on the road till I arrived at my sweetheart’s house. I rushed in looking like a ghost, soul and body barely sticking together. The sweat was pouring down between my legs, my eyes were set, my wits gone almost past recovery. Melissa was astounded at my plight, wondering why ever I was abroad so late. ‘Had you come a little sooner,’ she said, ‘you might have given us a hand; a wolf broke into the farm and has slaughtered all the cattle, just as if a butcher had bled them. Still he didn’t altogether have the laugh on us, though he did escape; for one of the laborers ran him through the neck with a pike.’ “After hearing this, I could not close an eye, but directly it was broad daylight, I started off for our good Gaius’s house, like a peddler whose pack’s been stolen; and coming to the spot where the clothes had been turned into stone, I found nothing whatever but a pool of blood. When eventually I got home, there lay my soldier a-bed like a great ox, while a surgeon was dressing his neck. I saw at once he was a werewolf and I could never afterwards eat bread with him, no! not if you’d killed me. Other people may think what they please; but as for me, if I’m telling you a lie, may your guardian spirits confound me!” (Petronius, Satyricon, Chapter 9, LXII).

By and large, the Mediterranean werewolves of classical antiquity had it easy.   No Inquisition death squads hunting them down.  Sizable populations of wild wolves to party with, and a certain degree of cultural respect, for impressive sorcerous skills, if nothing else, not far removed from the proto-Indo-European mythologies that celebrated the transformation of man into wolf as the embodiment of the warrior ethos.  Don’t get me wrong, the werewolves of Classical Antiquity would still merrily rend you limb from limb.  Mama didn’t raise no domesticated mutt.  And despite their relative sophistication with respect to our brutish and animalistic modern werewolf, us pesky humans probably still just looked like tasty snacks.  As was observed in The Company of Wolves, “Little girls, this seems to say.  Never stop upon your way. Never trust a stranger friend.  No-one knows how it will end.  As you’re pretty, so be wise.  Wolves may lurk in every guise. Now as then, ’tis simple truth, sweetest tongue has sharpest tooth.”

Aesop. Three Hundred Æsop’s Fables. London: George Routledge and sons, 1871.
Herodotus. The History of Herodotus. [Olympic ed.] New York: The Tandy-Thomas company, 1909.
Kelly, Walter Keating. Curiosities of Indo-European Tradition And Folk-lore. London: Chapman & Hall, 1863.
Pausanias, fl. ca. 150-175. The Description of Greece. A new ed. with considerable augmentations, in 3 vol. London: R. Priestley, 1824.
Petronius Arbiter. The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter. New York: Published for private circulation only by Boni & Liveright, 1922.
Plato. The Republic of Plato. London: Macmillan and Co., 1921.
Pliny, the Elder. The Natural History of Pliny. London: G. Bell & sons, 1856.
Virgil. Virgil. London: W. Heinemann, 1916.
Propertius, Sextus. Propertius. London: William Heinemann, 1912.



Bizzare & Odd

TOP Rare facts about the first landing on the moon

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, and the whole world gasped. Since then, we have not stopped gasping and groaning, learning new facts about that flight.

We know a lot about the legendary flight of Apollo 11, but a lot of interesting details have remained behind the scenes of the moon race. How much did the Apollo 11 flight cost, what does moon dust smell like and how dangerous it is, why were the astronauts taught to walk sideways and what nearly exploded after landing? “Popular Mechanics” will tell about these and many other little-known, but damn interesting facts associated with the first manned landing on the moon.

The moon smells like burning

The big question before the NASA team was: what will the surface of the moon be? Will the lander feet touch a hard surface or sink into something soft? The good news was that the surface was actually quite hard, but the real surprise was that the moon had its own scent.

astronaut on the moon
NASA Aldrin after collecting a sample of lunar soil. Pay attention, under his feet is a scoop-landing net with a long handle

When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin returned to the lunar module, the lunar mud entered the cabin and began to smell strong. The astronauts reported that it was the smell of something burnt, like wet ash from a fireplace.

The cost of a flight to the moon flew into a pretty penny

In total, the States spent more than $ 25 billion on the Apollo program. Decent, but in 1960s prices. In terms of today’s money, this is more than $ 150 billion – that’s really decent.

NASA Saturn 5 booster with Apollo 11 during launch. Millions of dollars burn so brightly

Only Apollo 11 itself cost the Americans 355 million dollars, and another 185 million had to be paid for the Saturn 5 launch vehicle. Further on the little things: the command module “Columbia”, in which Michael Collins remained while Armstrong and Aldrin roamed the moon ($ 55 million), the lunar module “Eagle” ($ 40 million).

The USSR carefully concealed attempts to get to the Moon first

Not only the States were going to demonstrate their dominance by landing people on the moon, the Soviet Union was also preparing for this feat. From 1967 to 1969, the USSR launched a lot of spacecraft – “Cosmos”, “Probes”, “Soyuz” and “Luna”. The most successful of these turned out to be Zond-5, which became the first spacecraft in the world to return photographic film taken from the Moon to Earth.

True, as soon as the American astronauts set foot on its surface first, the Soviets lost interest and reduced their efforts in this direction to a minimum.

At first, our country needed secrecy so that, God forbid, no one would catch up with us. But then, when the States did catch up with us and overtook us, we had to maintain secrecy so that no one knew that we had been beaten.

Astronauts trained, literally walking sideways

How do you prepare to send someone to a place no one has ever been? To do this, NASA created a series of simulators in the 1960s that simulated what astronauts might encounter in reality.

NASA training
NASA: Astronauts Prepared for Lunar Gravity in Exotic Pose

Aldrin practiced collecting samples on artificial moonlit landscapes indoors. Armstrong trained in piloting on a training simulator in Houston. And to simulate walking in the atmosphere with the gravity of the moon, astronauts, dressed in spacesuits, were hung sideways on special cables and forced to walk for hours on the walls of the Langley Research Center.

For 20 years we could not find a photo of Armstrong on the moon

After that flight, it was officially believed that there was not a single photo of Neil Armstrong, taken on the moon while leaving the ship, since he had the camera all the time.

Neil Armstrong on the moon
NASA Here it is, the only snapshot of Neil Armstrong on the Moon that could not be found for 20 years. By the way, later NASA decided to make red stripes on the commander’s spacesuit so that the astronauts could be easily distinguished.

However, in 1987, NASA historians managed to make a discovery: there is still a picture, but it is the only one. Edwin Aldrin took a camera that Armstrong had placed on the open panel of the lunar module’s cargo hold before collecting rock samples and shot a panorama. Part of this panorama was the shot with Armstrong.

Buzz Aldrin received communion on the moon

When Eagle landed on the moon on July 20, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had to wait a bit before embarking on their first moonwalk. Aldrin, as an elder in the Presbyterian Church, made good use of his time and did things that no other person has ever done. He took part in the first religious sacrament ever performed on the moon – the rite of Christian communion. Armstrong declined to participate.

Aldrin had originally hoped for a live radio broadcast, but at the last moment NASA dropped the idea. All because of a lawsuit initiated by the militant atheist Madaline Murray O’Hare: she filed a lawsuit against the agency in connection with the fact that the crew of Apollo 8 on Christmas Eve 1968 in lunar orbit on the air read the first chapter of Genesis.

Scientists were terribly afraid of space microbes

Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins found themselves stuck in a biological defense quarantine upon arrival. Since humans had never been to the moon before, NASA scientists couldn’t be sure that some deadly space plague hadn’t come along with the astronauts.

Apollo 11 crew
NASA Upon arrival on Earth, the Apollo 11 crew communicated with the world only through the glass of the special van. Even with President Nixon.

As soon as their capsule splashed down in the Pacific on July 24, 1969, the trio were sent into a mobile quarantine van, which was taken to NASA’s Lunar Reception Laboratory in Houston, where the team remained until August 10, 1969.

Film cassettes and sample containers were less fortunate. The films were sterilized in an autoclave for several hours, after which they were sent to the darkroom. There, one of the photo technicians accidentally took the cassette with his bare hands (just the one that the astronauts dropped on the moon) and was taken out in the moon dust. He had to take a five minute disinfectant shower.

Lunar Reception Laboratory
NASA This is the building of the Lunar Reception Laboratory, where the crew spent 18 days of quarantine

The sample containers were double sterilized: first with ultraviolet light, then with peracetic acid. Then they were rinsed with sterile water and dried with nitrogen. The opening of the containers was delayed due to unstable pressure in the vacuum zone.

They suspected a small leak in one of the gloves that could be used to manipulate the samples. Less than a week later, the gloves were torn. Most of the lunar samples were exposed to the earth’s atmosphere, and two of the technicians had to be quarantined. Then four more technicians were quarantined. In total, more than two dozen people have been quarantined.

President Nixon prepared in advance for mission failure

As Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin jump across the moon’s surface, Richard Nixon’s anxiety peaked. After all, if something goes wrong, he will have to make excuses to ordinary Americans for billions of wasted tax dollars.

Employees of the 37th President of the United States prepared a statement that he was supposed to read in case the worst happened. Even the NASA staff chaplain was on a low start. Watching the Apollo 11 adventures live, the President could only hope he didn’t have to read that statement. As we know, it was never necessary to read it. The mission failure speech was only made public 30 years later.

Astronauts did not land where planned

When Lunar Module Eagle, with Armstrong and Aldrin aboard, undocked from Command Module Columbia, in which Collins remained, the residual pressure inside the tunnel connecting the two spaceships was not sufficiently relieved. So “Eagle” received a small, but still an additional impetus.

Nine minutes before landing, Armstrong realized that the Eagle would fly past the planned landing site. According to astronauts’ estimates, they should have missed by about five kilometers (in fact, they missed by six).

Lunar module "Eagle"
NASA Lunar module “Eagle” after undocking from the command module “Columbia”

But the search for a new safe landing site is not so bad. Due to the overload, the Eagle’s onboard computer distracted astronauts with constant emergency signals, and radio communications with the Mission Control Center were patchy. Fortunately, since the on-board system alarm was intermittent, the MCC considered the risk of overload low and gave the go-ahead to land.

When the Eagle had only 30 seconds of fuel left, Armstrong gently guided the lunar module towards the makeshift landing pad: “Houston, says Tranquility Base. The Eagle sat down. “

The lunar module nearly exploded

As adrenaline dropped and the astronauts completed their tasks, another problem was brewing. Although the Eagle’s landing engine had already been turned off, the sensors recorded an increase in pressure in its fuel line. This could mean only one thing: an ice plug formed in the system, and the accumulated fuel vapors were heated from the unit that had not yet cooled down.

At NASA, the situation was considered critical, and if the increase in pressure is not eliminated, the Eagle could explode. However, before the instructions for venting the fuel system were given to Armstrong and Aldrin, the ice plug melted, the pressure returned to normal, and the problem went away on its own.

The danger of moon dust

Created billions of years ago by meteorite impacts, the Moon lacks processes that could give debris and tiny soil particles smoother shapes. The astronauts have discovered that abrasive dust is much more than a nuisance.

Buzz Aldrin's Trail on the Moon
NASA Aldrin’s boot imprint, which literally inherited in the history of astronautics.

In later missions after Apollo 11, with longer exits to the lunar surface, there were reports that dust particles penetrated the interior of the lunar module, covered the visors of helmets, and caused zippers to wedge. The moon dust penetrated even through the layers of the protective suit material.

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Bizzare & Odd

The peak of deaths on Halloween: the history of 1918 repeats itself in the USA

In the United States, the history of a century ago is repeating itself: in 1918, the Halloween celebration was canceled due to the Spanish flu epidemic – the noise of parties disturbed the sick in the hospitals. Mass events were banned this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but many Americans still decorate their homes and are going to celebrate the holiday online. They did not break traditions in the White House either. At the same time, some US residents are wondering: is it worth celebrating Halloween in 2020, when all thoughts are about death due to the coronavirus?

Americans have already begun preparations for the Halloween celebration, despite the cancellation of mass events. The focus has shifted from hosting parties to decorating their own homes and virtual flash mobs in which Tiktokers offer to dress themselves up as dead Disney princesses . However, some social media users have questioned the need to celebrate Halloween this year, given the coronavirus pandemic. 

“This Halloween will be the scariest one,” they tweet.

100 years ago in the United States there was a similar situation : all Halloween parties were canceled due to the Spanish flu epidemic, which killed 50 to 100 million people worldwide.

On the eve of Halloween, the number of cases of the Spanish flu increased – the second and most powerful wave of the epidemic occurred.

“Not only was there a peak in mortality on Halloween eve, but there were some pretty strong waves of disease,” Carolyn Orbann, assistant professor of medical sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia , told CNN . 

“The highest death rate was observed from October to December, possibly due to a more deadly strain of the virus and crowding in hospitals and military camps.”

However, those Americans who were not affected by the disease were tired of being locked up in quarantine and demanded a holiday. There are reports of local newspapers that year, which say that they celebrated more than ever “harsh and stormy”: and in Alabama, crowds of boys running from home to riots, forcing the police to drive on false calls and provoking accidents. A reporter for The Birmingham News wrote that after a month of quarantine, Birmingham residents were literally torn apart from the desire to celebrate Halloween.

“The Health Council’s order banning parties acted like a red rag for a bull — the killer joy of ordinary Halloween festivities poured in,” wrote local media in 1918. The Americans celebrated so vigorously that the San Francisco authorities had to ban people from making noise, because loud noises irritated patients in wards. 

“Conditions were dire in most places in the United States by October 31, 1918,” Elizabeth Otka, professor of English at the University of Richmond, told CNN. –

Shops, schools, churches were closed, there was devastation and the realization that celebrating Halloween was a bad idea.”

Denver has banned parties, during which they usually arranged “diving for apples, tying the tail to a donkey with a blindfold and other entertainment.” Many states have canceled Halloween celebrations for economic reasons – so as not to waste extra food supplies. “I saw a report from Missouri where they usually throw dry corn into each other’s house,” Orbann said. “But in 1918 the price of corn was too high to be scattered, and the children used sawdust to do it.”

Although public gatherings were banned in cities, some people threw house parties. “People did not break the rules, but adjusted to them,” the historian noted. Despite the horrors of the Spanish woman in 1918, people wanted to celebrate and visit each other, as now, in a pandemic, Elizabeth Otka notes. “1918 was remembered for the stacks of coffins and dead bodies, the gravediggers were simply exhausted,” she added. – Nevertheless, many continued to live as before, if none of their relatives was sick, forgetting how dangerous it can be.

It seems reasonable to spend Halloween this year differently, although I love the holiday, it’s great. But to stay alive, I think, is still better. “

To prevent a 100-year-old history from repeating itself on an entire scale, the Los Angeles authorities banned any Halloween parties, gathering at haunted houses, and children from running to neighbors for candy, although, according to tradition, they and so should be in masks and costumes – carnival. But the Americans are not discouraged and carry out flash mobs on the Internet. So, the participants of one of them on TikTok are invited to fantasize about what would become of the Disney princesses if they did not live to see the happy ending.


alice finds a bottle labelled ‘drink me’ unaware of its rapid shrinking side effects

♬ B3AKY Let Us Adore You Remix – Shiiny✨

Another resident in quarantine, Samantha Browning, came up with the idea of ​​painting Barbie toy doll houses for mysterious mansions from horror films. Her new hobby takes Samantha 5-10 hours. With Halloween approaching, items created in the summer have become more relevant, because now, in order to beg for sweets from neighbors, you don’t have to go to their houses, but do it in front of Samantha’s creations “contactlessly”.

“This year the pandemic canceled the traditional Halloween, but I decided to adapt the pipe railings on one of my mansions so that candy would slide down for families who still want to celebrate the holiday in a safe way,” explained Samantha on social media. “One of my dollhouses is on the inside veranda, and on Halloween night, I’ll probably put two of the creepiest houses outside with battery-powered candles.”

They did not cancel the holiday in the White House, even despite Trump’s illness. This was announced on Tuesday by CNN, citing a source. It is noted that when celebrating Halloween, the recommendations of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be taken into account. 

This means adherence to the mask regime and other preventive measures. Usually on this day, relatives of the US administration staff , families of American military personnel and students of the capital’s schools are invited to the White House , and the head of state and the first lady treat children to sweets on the South Lawn of the White House.

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Bizzare & Odd

Coronavirus in Italy: the mysteries of the pandemic

How, after a summer respite, the Apennines seem to plunge into a coronavirus nightmare again.

From a country that until recently was considered one of the most prosperous in terms of the epidemiological situation, Italy, like Spain and France, is again moving into the category of “dangerous”. The growth of new infections, however, is not as rapid as that of neighbors, but quite noticeable. Even before October 10, it was possible to keep the daily increase within 2 thousand cases, but the threshold of 6 thousand has already been overcome. The number of new infected will increase, there is no doubt about it.

Six Dwarfs of Snow White

The Italian government has just adopted a new order, in which for the first time since the end of May, when the quarantine ended, restrictive measures are not lifted, but introduced. Among them: the end of team games for non-professional athletes, limiting the opening hours of drinking establishments in the evening, reducing the number of people invited to family ceremonies such as weddings, christenings and funerals to 30 people. While gyms, swimming pools and schools are open, the authorities assure that they will not switch to remote training again, as well as will not introduce a new nationwide total quarantine. The country simply cannot afford it, either from an economic or social point of view.

As in the entire period of the pandemic, certain decisions of the authorities are criticized and met with outright irony. So, many jokes were generated by the recommendation not to invite more than six guests. Images from “Snow White” immediately appeared on the Internet, where she kicks out the seventh dwarf. On the reproduction of the fresco “The Last Supper” two policemen were added to write out fines for the apostles, who are exactly twice the recommended number of participants in the feast.

Against this background, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte assured that the country will not turn into a police state and no one intends to send law enforcement officers to control private apartments. At the same time, he also strongly recommends not to disdain masks even at home – almost 70% of new infections occur in the bosom of family and friendly companies. At the same time, many pay attention to the problem of crowded public transport in large cities. And no one is in a hurry to solve it.

Summer “calm”

The second wave has been frightening for a long time, and it would be naive to believe that it could have been avoided. Its offensive, nevertheless quite unexpected, only exacerbated the issue of the summer “lull”. Why did the virus suddenly recede, give a break? The most obvious answer is quarantine. In Italy, it was introduced in early March and lasted until the second half of May. As the experience of the country, the first victim of a pandemic in Europe, has shown, there is no more effective means of countering the spread of coronavirus than self-isolation. In March, the Italians were seriously scared and for the most part obeyed the orders of the authorities. Despite the widespread stereotype about the indiscipline of the southern peoples, Italians – and the pandemic has demonstrated this once again – are quite manageable and led people.

The effect of almost three months of quarantine, namely a decrease in the number of infections, coincided with the onset of summer. Many people said that at high temperatures, the virus spreads more slowly and the viral load drops, although no one has scientifically proven this. But the fact is that during all three summer months the number of daily infections was kept at the level of 200-300. Hundreds of patients remained in hospitals, and intensive care units, previously suffocating from several thousand heavy covids, were practically empty. And this is another mystery of the new coronavirus.

In a word, people began to live as if in the old way: sea, mountains, air, good food and wine. Of course, many refused to travel abroad. But the first “swallows” made themselves felt quickly. The slightest movement led to the emergence of new foci. One of them was formed on the prestigious Emerald Coast on the island of Sardinia, and the infection affected the rich and famous who love to visit him, including the entire Berlusconi family and the former prime minister himself. Someone began to bring COVID-19 from resorts in Croatia and from Greece. In Spain, new infections have already crept. And those arriving from these countries began to take tests for the new coronavirus without fail. Now France, Great Britain, Belgium, as well as a number of other countries are already on this list. From somewhere, entry is simply prohibited, for example from Brazil.

Italy is overwhelmed by the second wave

The first noticeable surge in infections occurred in the second half of August. But everyone continued to pretend that nothing was happening. August bliss is sacred in Italy. In general, they are accustomed to masks, for many they have become a fashion accessory (as well as a subject of designer fantasy). In mid-September, as promised by the government, schools were opened, although it was also not without controversy, criticism and exposure of the system’s unavailability.

To date, there is no division into regions where the coronavirus is more common (north) and where it is less common (south), as it was in the spring, when the southern regions were saved. And this is especially troubling for the authorities, including regional ones, because if hospitalizations begin to grow proportionally, the hospitals in the south will not be able to withstand the load. So far, the fundamental difference between the current situation and what Italy experienced in the spring is that the number of hospitalized people is several times less. While. This is explained, in particular, by a decrease in the average age of those infected (from 60 to 40), and therefore, the disease caused by the new coronavirus is more easily tolerated by many. Some of the experts say that doctors have learned to heal better, learned more about the unpleasant surprises of COVID-19. And to prevent them, hospitalization is often needed.

And one more important observation: it is impossible to compare the current infection rates with the spring ones. Just for the reason that then only 30 thousand tests were carried out, but now they, including express, drive-in, are done up to 130 thousand per day. People stand in lines for hours to get tested. Many infected people are detected during a banal screening, which no one could even think of in the spring, because they had to cope with emergency cases. So the assumption that in the spring the real scale of infection was many times greater is quite justified. Then the official statistics recorded only cases with a “symptomatic course”. The virus, most likely, has not changed, and the solution is one – the vaccine.

The main fear now is uncertainty. People still only pretend that normal life has returned. But every day, with a sinking heart, you are afraid of a call from a kindergarten or school with a notification about the introduction of class quarantine due to the identification of an infected student or teacher. And it is even worse if they are told to urgently take their child, who has already been placed in an isolated room due to the low temperature. “Man proposes, but God disposes” – now sounds more relevant than ever.

Spring Lockdown Economic Price

In a purely economic sense, this is a decrease in GDP by 8-10%. For Italy, where economic growth in recent years has been virtually in lethargic sleep, this is devastating. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost, although, oddly enough, against the background of existing problems, this damage seems to be less noticeable than, say, in the same more prosperous France or Spain. The tourism and cultural sectors, referred to as “Italian oil”, have been the hardest hit. Although in local tourism, everything was not bad everywhere. The Italians flooded their own seashores and mountain resorts. In many places popular with wealthy Italians, things have gone even better this year than in normal years, because, having stayed at home, this category of the population spent the money in the service sector that usually went on holidays abroad.

However, in general, representatives of the tourism sector say that the poorer domestic tourist is not able to compensate for the absence of more generous guests from the USA, Russia, Brazil, India and other countries. The greatest losses are incurred by the “art cities”. Venice in the summer had 60% fewer tourists, which means less income for a city that lives off tourism. A dramatic situation in some areas of Rome. Of course, the lockdown also affected the psychological health of the population. The magnitude of the damage in this sense is difficult to quantify, and most likely it will have an impact in the long term, especially in children, psychologists say. There were, of course, isolated cases of domestic violence, but in general there were no mass divorces.

“A new beginning”

There is also a relative positive in the situation around the pandemic. Italy should receive the lion’s share of funds from the European Recovery Fund. By the way, the resentment towards Europe, which appeared at the beginning when the European partners did not seem to show sufficient solidarity, seemed to have passed. There is a feeling that everyone is in the same boat.

The authorities talk about a “new beginning”, about incredible opportunities for renewal, building a new, more environmentally friendly economic system. It seems that in this endeavor they are even sincere. But then there is a shadow of the threat of the mafia, which is already encroaching on a tidbit, penetrating with its tentacles of the “octopus” into legal business everywhere. Innovative projects are stifled by a bureaucracy, which, despite all the bellicose promises, has so far failed to cope with. But one gets the impression that in a certain sense the people seem to have become a little happier. It’s as if the pandemic taught us to rejoice at the little that it had deprived for several months. Italians are reviving, and the quarantine period has shown that the nation is much more united and committed to its values, including state power, than it seemed.

Dark Period Symbols

Over the past months, there have been many stories engraved in memory. Many of them are reflected in the recently opened photo exhibition of the Foreign Press Association “Lockdown in Italy – through the eyes of foreign journalists”. This is how to remember everything. Many of those shots flew around the world and became symbols of the “dark period”, as the past spring is sometimes called in Italy. Of course, we cannot forget the caravan of military trucks that transported the coffins with the victims of the coronavirus infection from Bergamo. Most of them were old people, and they died alone – they did not let their loved ones. Thoughts about this break my heart to this day.

But I especially remembered a small note in one of the newspapers – a letter of recognition from a student. It was published in the summer, when many restrictions were lifted and even discos were opened. The girl wrote that she followed all the precautions, did not meet with anyone, but was seduced by her best friend’s birthday, which was celebrated in a nightclub. As a result, she became infected, there were no symptoms, so she learned about the coronavirus when her father was admitted to the hospital with complications. In an open letter, the girl reproached herself. We do not exclude that that publication had a certain ideological task and the letter was written by the editorial board. But it raises a moral problem that has plagued the entire pandemic – responsibility and guilt if you become, even through no fault of your own, a carrier of infection. A Nightmare at the thought of who needs to be warned!

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