Modest Mussorgysky’s “Night on Bald Mountain” – the original Black Sabbath

 

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Although written nearly 150 years ago, Modest Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain” feels incredibly modern.   Mussorgsky composed the piece – about a witches’ Sabbath and Satan worship on St. John’s Eve – over 12 sleepless days in 1860, finishing on St. John’s Eve itself.  In a letter to Vladimir Nikolsky, he said of the work:

 “[I]t seethed within me so, and I simply didn’t know what was happening within me… I see in my wicked prank an independent Russian product, free from German profundity and routine… grown on our native fields and nurtured on Russian bread.”

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On a clear night, you can see Uranus

Uranus with orbit

As proof that first impressions can be misleading, one need not look further than Uranus.  After the spacecraft Voyager 2 visited Uranus in 1986, it was dubbed “the most boring planet” in the Solar System. But recent photos from the Hubble Telescope reveal that Uranus is not as dull as once imagined.

For one thing, Uranus is the only planet other than Venus with a retrograde (i.e., clockwise) orbit.  Unlike the other planets of the solar system, however, Uranus is tilted almost all the way over on its axis.  Essentially, it orbits the sun on its side. Astronomers hypothesize that this unusual orientation might be due to a collision with a planet-sized body soon after Uranus was formed.

Because of its unusual axial tilt, each pole gets around 42 years of continuous sunlight, followed by 42 years of darkness.  (A year on Uranus is equal to 84 years on Earth). Bizarrely, however, even though the poles receive more sun than the equator, Uranus is – for unknown reasons — hotter at its equator than at its poles.
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Durian – the world’s smelliest fruit

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“When the durians fall down, the sarongs go up.” – Malay saying

Durian’s smell has been likened to “road kill wrapped in sweaty socks.”  It’s so pungent that it’s been banned in most Asian airlines and hotels.  And with a taste that has been described as “cheese, decayed onion and turpentine,” durian sounds like something you wouldn’t want in your garbage, let alone your mouth.  So why are people willing to pay as much as $25-50 for this “king of fruits”?

The green, melon-sized durian grows on trees throughout Southeast Asia. The outside is covered with spiky thorns that can pierce even calloused hands.  On the inside it has five oval compartments, each filled with pale, edible pulp and one to five large seeds. Since a durian can weigh as much as 18 pounds, farmers have been known to wear helmets to protect their heads when they harvest the fruit.

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What Exactly is a “Blue Moon”?

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The phrase “blue moon” is used metaphorically to refer to a rare event, as in the expression “once in a blue moon.”  It has nothing to do with the actual color of the moon, although any moon can appear blue if the air is full of particles from volcanic eruptions or forest fires.

A “blue moon” is usually defined as the second full moon occurring during a calendar month. But until 1946, a “blue moon” was the third full moon in any season in which there were four full moons.  It was a sort of Leap Day for moons, necessitated by the fact that the average lunar cycle is 29.53 days, slightly shorter than an average month.

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Chromotheraphy: the use of color to cure disease

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Chromotherapy is a centuries-old method of treating disease.  In its original form, it was based on the theory that each of the body’s organs and limbs has its own distinct color. Disease was said to be the result of one or more of these parts not vibrating in harmony with its color.

Medical practitioners in ancient Egypt, Greece, China and India used chromotherapy. They prescribed both direct exposure to sunlight and, indirect exposure through stones, dyes, ointments and plasters.  In the Ayurvedic tradition, colors are held to correspond to the body’s seven major energy centers, known as “chakras.”  Chakras are also believed to correspond  to particular states of consciousness, personality types and endocrine secretions.

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