Body Farms

Body farms are used in the field of forensic anthropology to help law enforcement officials, medical examiners, and crime scene investigators study human decomposition. The original body farm, the University of Tennessee Forensic Anthropology Facility, is simply a wooded area where bodies are exposed to the elements in different ways and left to decompose. These experiments help researchers understand how various conditions affect decomposition. How do body farms acquire their cadavers? Discuss
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invertebrate

Definition: (adjective) Lacking a backbone or spinal column; not vertebrate.
Synonyms: spineless.
Usage: The sixth grade class groaned in unison as the students learned that they would be dissecting worms during their study of invertebrates.
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Vauxhall Bridge Opens in London (1906)

Vauxhall Bridge is an arch bridge over the River Thames in central London. Despite its public garden and location, the Vauxhall area was sparsely populated before the 19th century, and a plan for a bridge there was hatched in 1809 to help develop the area. The resulting bridge was in terrible shape by the end of the century, however, and construction on a new, richly decorated, steel-and-granite replacement began in 1898. A major transport artery today, the bridge is adorned with what statues? Discuss
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The Blombos Cave

Located in a limestone cliff on the coast of South Africa, Blombos Cave is an archaeological site made famous in the 1990s, when excavators uncovered 75,000-year-old beads, 80,000-year-old bone tools, and some of the earliest evidence of fishing, dating back approximately 140,000 years. The finds suggest the existence of cognitive behaviors not previously associated with Middle Stone Age people. What other items have been found at the site? Discuss
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Al Jolson (1886)

Jolson was one of the most popular entertainers in the US in the 1930s. The son of a rabbi, he had planned to be a cantor but instead became a singer and comedian. By the age of 15, he was touring in vaudeville and minstrel shows. His 1909 blackface performance of “Mammy” was a hit, and he performed on Broadway and the radio. In 1927, he starred in the first feature-length “talkie,” The Jazz Singer. How do scholars differ in their analysis of Jolson’s use of blackface in his performances? Discuss
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floorwalker

Definition: (noun) An employee of a department store who supervises sales personnel and assists customers.
Synonyms: shopwalker.
Usage: Although Bill thoroughly enjoyed the raise associated with his promotion to floorwalker, he disliked answering customer complaints and sometimes wished he had remained a cashier.
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Millions Participate in Hands Across America (1986)

Hands Across America was a massive, heavily publicized fundraiser during which millions of people, including scores of celebrities and politicians, lined up in the hopes of forming a human chain stretching from New York to California. Though they did not succeed in this regard—there were many gaps along the way—the event raised $20 million. Had all of the participants actually given the $10 required donation, it would have reached its $50-million goal. For what cause was the money raised? Discuss
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Iris Recognition

Iris recognition, not to be confused with retinal scanning, is a type of biometric authentication that uses pattern recognition techniques to analyze the irises of an individual’s eyes. Iris recognition is rarely impeded by glasses or contact lenses and has a staggering accuracy rate when it comes to yielding unambiguous identifications. In fact, the eyes have been described as the ideal human body part for biometric identification. What advantages does iris recognition have over fingerprinting? Discuss
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Beverly Sills (1929)

Sills was an American operatic soprano. She sang on the radio as a child and made her operatic debut in 1946. Her 1966 performance in Julius Caesar made her an opera star, not just for her voice, but also for her acting. After 25 years of singing with the New York City Opera, she became its director, and she also served as chairman of the board of New York’s Lincoln Center and of the Metropolitan Opera. In 2006, she claimed to have stopped singing, even in the shower, for what reason? Discuss
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impermanent

Definition: (adjective) Not lasting or durable; not permanent.
Synonyms: temporary.
Usage: After weeks of carefully constructing the beautiful sand mandala, the Tibetan monks quietly swept it away in a ceremony emphasizing the impermanent nature of existence.
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USSR Begins Drilling World’s Deepest Hole (1970)

The Kola Superdeep Borehole project was an attempt to dig as far as possible into the Earth’s crust. It began when, in 1970, following setbacks in the Space Race, Soviet scientists looked downward. Digging on the remote Kola Peninsula for some 20 years, they reached a depth of 40,230 feet (12,262 m)—about a third of the way through the Earth’s crust—before being forced to stop due to higher-than-expected temperatures of 350° F (180° C). Surprisingly, water was found at what depth? Discuss
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Joseph Brodsky (1940)

Soon after Brodsky began writing poetry in the USSR in the 1950s, he was accused by the government of “social parasitism” and sentenced to hard labor. Exiled in 1972, he settled in New York and began writing in English. He was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1987 and was poet laureate of the US for a time. His poetry, with its themes of loss and exile, is highly regarded for its intensity, depth, and wit. What was his retort when a Soviet judge once asked him, “Who enrolled you in the ranks of poets?” Discuss
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Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day)

Jerusalem Day commemorates the capture and reunification of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War (on 28 Iyyar 5727 on the Jewish calendar—June 7, 1967), after which Israel gained possession of the Old City of Jerusalem and other Arab lands. Although there are no specific rituals connected with this holiday, it is common to recite the Hallel (Psalms 115-118), Psalm 107, and the Aleinu, or concluding prayer. Because this day falls during the Lag ba-Omer period, the mourning customs traditionally observed during this time are suspended for the day. Discuss
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Squatting

Squatting is the act of occupying an abandoned or unoccupied space or building that one does not own, rent, or have permission to use. Many of the slums and shanty towns found in the world’s poorest countries began as squats established on illegally occupied land. Commonly seen in urban areas the world over, squats function as residences as well as social centers. According to one source, there may be as many as one billion squatters globally. What is the international squatters’ symbol? Discuss
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Rosemary Clooney (1928)

Clooney was an American singer popular in the 1950s with hits such as “Come On-a My House.” She also appeared in several movies, including White Christmas (1954), which co-starred Bing Crosby. In the 1960s, mental illness and drug addiction took a toll on her career, but she made a comeback in the mid-1970s and performed until her death in 2002. Her 1968 mental breakdown was precipitated by the assassination—as she stood nearby—of what personal friend? Discuss
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New York Public Library Dedicated (1911)

When former New York governor Samuel J. Tilden died in 1886, he left $2.4 million in his will for the creation of a grand public library. At that time, there were two other important libraries in New York City—the Astor and the Lenox—but they were struggling. With Tilden’s gift, they were merged in 1895. The new library’s cornerstone was laid in 1902 at the old Croton Reservoir on Fifth Avenue, and it finally opened to the public in 1911. By 1910, how many miles of shelves had been installed? Discuss
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Ayyavazhi

Ayyavazhi is a belief system that originated in South India in the 19th century. Many consider it a Hindu sect—including the majority of its followers—however, academics often define it as an independent monistic religion. While its ideology is quite similar to that of Hinduism, some Ayyavazhi beliefs and practices differ from the Hindu tradition, especially those relating to the concepts of good and evil as well as dharma. On whose teachings is Ayyavazhi based? Discuss
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degage

Definition: (adjective) Showing lack of emotional involvement.
Synonyms: detached, uninvolved.
Usage: Mrs. Smith was not easily impressed by excuses, and she adopted a degage pose on the arm of the easy chair as her son tried to explain why he missed dinner.
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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859)

Conan Doyle was a Scottish writer noted for his tales about fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. Originally a doctor, Conan Doyle studied under the sharp-eyed Dr. Joseph Bell, who was noted for his ability to draw accurate conclusions about people through observation. Bell was thus the model for Holmes, who appeared for the first time in 1887. Conan Doyle “killed off” Holmes in 1893 but was forced by public demand to resurrect him. What famous unsolved hoax might the author have perpetrated? Discuss
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Green Man

A legendary pagan spirit later adopted by the Christian church, the Green Man is often depicted as a male figure covered in foliage or as a face surrounded by, made of, or sprouting leaves. He is represented in a variety of English church carvings made between the 11th and 20th centuries. From the Renaissance onward, elaborate variations on the Green Man theme began to appear in many other media. Which popular folklore characters are associated with the Green Man? Discuss
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Farmer Discovers Howe Caverns (1842)

Howe Caverns is a cave system in east-central New York that lies 156 ft (48 m) below ground. It was discovered in 1842, when farmer Lester Howe began to wonder why his cows all seemed to gather near one particular hill on hot summer days. Upon investigating, he felt a cool breeze blowing from a hole in the hill. He and a neighbor began to dig out the hole and uncovered the entrance to a cave. They explored it extensively and opened it for tours the next year. Why are there boats in the cave? Discuss
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