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From Brave Pigeons to Sour Herrings: This Week's Curios

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Last week's Curios covered pigeon war heroes, the color of the universe, and why we vote on Tuesdays. Plus, a new Mindset Curio from Dr. Carol Dweck.

Curio No. 1207 | A pigeon war hero
Today we are honoring a very unlikely military hero: a carrier pigeon named Cher Ami (French for "dear friend"). Cher Ami carried 12 messages in his military career, all amidst the grueling Battle of the Argonne Forest in World War I. His finest moment came with the Lost Battalion of the 77th Division. The group of soldiers was stuck in Verdun, France--isolated from other Allied forces and surrounded on all sides by Germans. Food and water were already dangerously low when the Lost Battalion began taking friendly fire from American planes. Major Charles Whittlesey, the group's leader, frantically wrote a plea and tied it to Cher Ami's leg. The message read: WE ARE ALONG THE ROAD PARALELL 276.4. OUR ARTILLERY IS DROPPING A BARRAGE DIRECTLY ON US. FOR HEAVENS SAKE STOP IT. The rest, as they say, is carrier pigeon legend... keep reading.

Curio No. 1206 | Our beige universe
Beige is the color of the universe. Actually, it's cosmic latte to be exact. Astronomers at Johns Hopkins University made this discovery while studying the history of star formation. Their dataset--which captured the light spectrum of over 200,000 galaxies--turned out to be the perfect tool for finding the average color of all light sources in the universe. All they had to do was filter out the wavelengths that are invisible to the human eye; then average the RGB value of the remaining digitized pixels. Other candidates for naming the color, whose hexadecimal value is #FFF8E7, were Skyvory, Astronomical Almond, and Primordial Clam Chowder... keep reading.

Curio No. 1205 | The world's stinkiest delicacy
Last week, we learned about fancy restaurants serving the smell of food. Here's one smell they probably won't be pairing with anything: surströmming, or sour herring. Surströmming is popular in Sweden, where locals apparently find no issue with an odor that has been compared to old eggs in sewage. The canned delicacy gets its pungent stench the old fashioned way: rotting. Freshly-caught herrings are aged in brine for up to a year, causing them to ferment while their blood mixes with the brine. The gooey, salty fish-and-blood mixture is then canned and sold as a delicacy in Swedish grocery stores... keep reading.

Curio No. 1204 | Why we vote on Tuesdays
Thank god: the 2016 US Presidential Election is finally here. Have you ever wondered why America votes on Tuesday? Specifically the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November? Thank the farmers. In the 19th century, US farmers were a powerful constituency. And they had quite a few needs. First, they often required a full day to travel to and from their polling place. Polls were located only in big cities, and travel via horse-and-buggy was often grueling. Second, they couldn't miss two days of work or their crops would die--so Election Day had to occur after harvest (October) and before spring planting (March/April). That left early November as the best chance for mild weather. Then there was the day of the week. Since most voters were Christian, Sunday was out. That meant Monday had to be a travel day. Tuesday had appeal because many people already traveled into town that day to get ready for the traditional Wednesday market--where rural citizens would convene to buy and sell goods... keep reading.

Curio No. 1203 | Pushing our buttons
Bad news for elevator riders. Those close door buttons that you frantically push don't actually do anything. They're placebo buttons. It wasn't always so. The close door button lived a happy existence until 1990 when the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed into law. One clause clearly states elevator owners must ensure people with disabilities have adequate time to make it into an elevator--hard to follow if impatient people can control the doors. Some older elevators may still have the close door functionality since ADA compliance is only required when a building is built or an elevator is upgraded. The average life of an elevator is about 25 years, so older models are quickly becoming extinct. Of course, the "American" Disabilities Act is only law in America; when in Rome, close the doors as quickly as you want... keep reading.

Curio No. 1202 | Effort is (sort of) everything (SMC #4)
Do you find yourself shying away from professional opportunities or personal developments that turn out to require a lot of effort? Join the crowd! It can feel bad when you're trying hard at something and it's not coming easily. Your fixed mindset persona (see Mindset Curio #2) will have a field day! But get over it. It's a fixed mindset myth that things come easily to successful people. In truth, when something you want requires hard work, it's usually a sign you're on the right path to growth.... keep reading.

Curio No. 1201 | Just one more baseball game (STC #62)
This year, Ace Alonzo, Blazin' Boone, and Cruisin' Callahan played for the Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians, and Boston Red Sox in some combination. Can you figure out which teams they each played for? ... keep reading.

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