2019-12-01:
Staten Island Ferry Disaster

Welcome to the 9th Advent Calendar of Curiosities! You can find all prior content on the main page! Subscribe to the feed, or simply follow me on Twitter or Mastodon to be notified of new content. I can do projects like this because of my wonderful patrons, occasionally throwing coins at me! <3 Enjoy! ^_^

A cast-bronze monument appeared at the southern tip of Manhattan in Fall 2016, just by the Whitehall Ferry Terminal, connecting to Staten Island: it depicted a ferry, being pulled underwater by a giant octopus. A plaque dedicated the memorial to the victims of that disaster, which allegedly happened on 1963-11-22.

The person who made the memorial, Joseph Reginella, when asked why no-one had ever heard of that giant octopus, says that the assassination of John F. Kennedy on the same day didn't give the press an opportunity to report on the event.

2019-12-02:
Illegal prime numbers

Back in the old days, when there were DVDs (some of my readers might be too young to remember), there was a copy protection algorithm called "CSS" (Content Scramble System). Naturally, people found ways to circumvent it, and one of the first programs to do that was called "DeCSS". There were several lawsuits against the authors of that software, and a legislative effort to stop the distribution of that software.

In response, there were several clever ideas to distribute descriptions of the DeCSS program, including Haikus, dramatic readings, and in 2001, mathematicion Phil Carmody found a prime number which, when written in hexadecimal, forms a .gzip file containing the program. At the time, it was one of the largest known prime numbers, worth publishing for that fact alone.

2019-12-03:
Dahala Khagrabari

Dahala Khagrabari was the only third-order enclave in the world. It was an Indian enclave within a piece of Bangladesh within a piece of India within Bangladesh. It measured 7000 square meters. It was situated in a complicated environment of India-Bangladesh enclaves, which allegedly once were used as stakes in card or chess games between two regional kings.

In 2015, the Parliament of India ratified an agreement which gave 51 enclaves to India and 111 enclaves to Bangladesh, simplifying the border situation. Dahala Khagrabari also was among the enclaves that were ceded to Bangladesh.

2019-12-04:
The 52-hertz whale

In the late 1980s, marine biologists started picking up a strange 52 Hz pitch. It was identified to be the call of a whale, but the frequency is very unusual – blue whales call at 10–38 Hz, and fin whales call at 20 Hz.

It seems to be the call of an individual whale, and the sound has been detected every year since, but its species couldn't be determined so far. Researchers think it could be a blue whale/fin whale hybrid, or that the animal could be malformed. Because there is only a single whale emitting this call, it has been called the "world's loneliest whale".

2019-12-05:
Mukbang

Mukbank is an entertainment format that became popular in 2010 in South Korea: it's a livestream of a person eating food, and interacting with their audience. The word is a portmanteau of mukneun ("eating") and bangsong ("broadcast"). The researcher Kim-Hae Jin suspects that this format satisfies "the vicarious pleasures of watching someone else cook and eat", combined with entertainment and chatting.

The streaming platform Twitch added a "Social Eating" category to its site in 2016.

2019-12-06:
Codex Seraphinianus

The Codex Seraphinianus was published in 1981 by the Italian artist Luigi Serafini. It resembles a manuscript, and depicts bizarre illustrations of flora, fauna, and foods.

Serafini used a writing system using a constructed language, which could not be decoded by linguists, until Serafini stated in 2009 that there was no meaning behind it. Instead, it was supposed to evoke the sensation children feel looking at books they cannot yet understand.

2019-12-07:
The Church Asylum of Den Haag

Starting in Fall 2018, the Protestant Church of The Hague held a non-stop worship service for almost 100 days, to grant church asylum to a refugee family that risked expulsion from the country. The effort involved about 1000 preachers.

In the beginning of 2019, an agreement was reached that allowed the family to stay, and they later received a permanent residence permit.

2019-12-08:
Dyeing Chicago River

Since more than 50 years, each year on St. Patrick's Day, the Chicago River is dyed green. The tradition arose from an accident, when plumbers used fluorescein dye to trace illegal discharges of polluted water. The event is still sponsored by the local plumbers union, but they are using environmentally safe vegetable dye.

Another interesting fact about the Chicago River is that the direction of its flow was reversed in 1990, using a series of canal locks, so that sewage and other pollution no longer flowed into Lake Michigan, the city's drinking water source.