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November 2008 Archives

November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Redux

Turkey.jpgIt's hard to believe, but the 2009 edition of the World Almanac and Book of Facts is now on sale — you should be able to find it wherever books are sold, online or in the "real world."

Got a copy already? Curl up after Thanksgiving dinner and browse some of this year's new features, from election results to Olympic records to updated "World at a Glance" pages.

Don't have a copy yet? Grab one tomorrow, to keep you company in those Black Friday check-out lines...

And in the meantime, take a moment to peruse some Thanksgiving facts from past years:

Does Thanksgiving Breach the First Amendment?
Talking Turkey
The Origins of Thanksgiving

P.S. Don't forget to become a fan of The World Almanac on Facebook...

November 21, 2008

The Final Count


It may not be Palm Beach County circa 2000, but that doesn't mean that I haven't been following the Minnesota Senate recount, triggered when votes cast for incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman (R) and comedian and political rookie Al Franken (DFL) gave Coleman the victory with a margin of less than 0.5 percent. There isn't any talk of chads--hanging, dimpled, or otherwise--because Minnesota uses fill-in-the-bubble optical scan ballots. But people still managed to mangle casting their vote for their intended candidate.

A fascinating poll on MPR's news site shows off some of the challenged ballots (such as the one shown here), and with them all of the ways that it's possible to mess up filling in that little bubble. It's a cautionary tale for the S.A.T.-bound or other standardized test-takers nationwide.

Challenged Ballots [MPR, via kottke]
Patience and Politeness as Minnesota Recounts Senate Ballots
Recount Results

MPR Photo/Curtis Gilbert

November 20, 2008

Calling All Fans

Got a Facebook account? Love the World Almanac? Then what are you waiting for? Go and show your true colors by becoming a World Almanac fan on Facebook. Check blog entries, start a discussion, check on upcoming radio and TV appearances, or just leave a note on our wall... it's free, and easy to sign up if you don't already have a Facebook account.

Happy 10th, ISS!

sts126_kozubal_lg.jpgThe image at right is from NASA's often-breathtaking Astronomy Picture of the Day site -- here, showing the Nov. 14, 2008, launch of Space Shuttle Endeavor, en route to the International Space Station, its trail passing directly in front of an almost-full Moon. And today is in some sense the 10th birthday of the ISS: Nov. 20, 1998, saw the launch of the space station's first component, the 42,000-pound Russian Zarya module.

Endeavor also carried the first U.S.-built ISS component into space: Mission STS-88, launched on Dec. 4, 1998, delivered the Unity connecting module and the station's first crew.

So depending on when you think the "moment of conception" occurred, some of you may choose instead to celebrate the station's 10th birthday on Dec. 6 (the first coupling of Unity and Zarya), Dec. 7 (first power-up of Unity), or Dec. 10 (first humans entered the station).

There are more "memorable moments in human spaceflight" on pp. 359-362 of the new 2009 World Almanac -- you can check them out yourself next Tuesday, Nov. 25, when the book goes on sale.

Link: NASA.gov mission archives: STS-88

November 18, 2008

Vestigial Facts

2687270083_5ff424a722_m.jpgAs Alan mentioned, we come across a vast array of offbeat stories, odds and ends, and data that, try as we might to stretch those 1,008 pages, just doesn't make the cut at the end of the year. LiveScience's "Top 10 Useless Limbs (and Other Vestigial Organs)" slideshow unfortunately fell into that category. Along with the usual nods to human wisdom teeth, appendix, and male nipples, are a few lesser known functionless parts, including whale leg bones, dandelion sex organs, and this:

In an experiment designed by nature, the species of fish known as Astyanax mexicanus, dwelling in caves deep underground off the coast of Mexico, cannot see. The pale fish has eyes, but as it is developing in the egg, the eyes begin to degenerate, and the fish is born with a collapsed remnant of an eye covered by flap of skin. These vestigial eyes probably formed after hundreds or even thousands of years of living in total darkness. As for the experiment, a control is needed; and luckily for us, fish of the same species live right above, near the surface, where there is plenty of light, and these fish have fully functioning eyes. To test if the eyes of the blind mexicanus could function if given the right environment, scientists removed the lens from the eye of the surface-dwelling fish and implanted it into the eye of the blind fish. It was observed that within eight days an eye started to develop beneath the skin, and after two months the fish had developed a large functioning eye with a pupil, cornea, and iris. The fish were blind, but now they see.
Top 10 Useless Limbs (via VSL)

Photo: Charles & Clint

November 17, 2008

We're Back!

We've been silent for a long time, but we haven't been idle--and the proof is right here on my desk, in a rubber-banded pile of 1,008 loose pages.

Regular readers of The World Almanac may have been wondering, in recent weeks, why they couldn't find the new edition in their local bookstore. The answer: it wasn't finished. For the first time since the 2001 edition, we held the book open until early November... so we could pack in election returns, World Series results, and more news and notable facts from the past year.

You can pre-order now or pick up a copy on November 25, wherever books are sold.

And keep checking back here (or subscribe to the feed), because Sarah and I will be back in the swing of blogging about our favorite new features, offbeat items that didn't quite make the cut, and our experiences promoting the new edition.

About November 2008

This page contains all entries posted to The World Almanac in November 2008. They are listed from newest to oldest.

June 2008 is the previous archive.

December 2008 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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