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Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Tragic History Of RC Cola, by Jeff Wells, Mental Floss

In an alternate—and completely plausible—universe, it would have given Coke and Pepsi a run for their money. At one point, it did. Believe it or not, Royal Crown Cola used to be one of the most innovative companies in the beverage industry. It came out with the first canned soda, the first caffeine-free soda, and the first 16-ounce soda. It was the first to take diet cola mainstream, and the first to stage nationwide taste tests.

Given its long and pioneering history, RC deserved to be more than the middling soda brand it is today. In an industry that lives and dies by marketing, RC didn’t do nearly enough. But its failure wasn’t just due to lack of initiative. It was also a case of supremely bad luck, bad judgment, and a fateful ingredient known as cyclamate.

Why We Know Whether A Swallow Is Frightened In A Storm, by Alexander Pschera, Scientific American

We currently know little more than one percent of the way animals live in the wild. That is to say, little more than nothing at all. We don’t know how little sea turtles behave just after they have slipped out of their eggs on the beach. We don’t know how a young cuckoo finds out where to go when autumn breaks. This is why it is also so hard to protect animals. Fundamental connections between the life of animals and their surroundings remain unknown. We know far too little about the lives of many endangered animals to help them effectively. We don’t even know if some species still exist. New species appear, or reappear, every year. Take, for instance, the Spotted-tail Quoll (Dasyurus maculatus), a carnivorous marsupial that was recently caught on remote digital camera in Australia’s Grampians National Park, after being presumed extinct for 141 years. The last of these animals was supposedly killed in 1872. They were considered a real pest then. The presence of this species, however, provides a wealth of information. It is a sign of a stable ecosystem, because, as a nocturnal carnivore, the Spotted-tail Quoll occupies a spot at the upper end of the food chain, therefore inviting comparison to the Tasmanian devil. If this animal has survived this long, then the same must be true of the species on which it preys. Generally speaking, however, humans’ prior knowledge of most animals is so minimal that it is impossible to deduce any further understanding from it. It does not provide any reliable empirical foundation upon which actionable strategies could be built. Every year, billions of birds and bats fly thousands of miles from their breeding grounds to their winter homes. What actually happens during these migrations, however, remains a mystery. What we know is that mortality rates are very high during migration. But what we don’t know is when and where highly mobile animals die. In many instances of endangered species, we cannot answer the question of what exactly we need to protect in order to save them: Is it food options? Water quality? Botanical diversity? What prevents us from creating a telling picture of nature and formulating effective rules for humans’ behavior toward it, is the lack of hard, empirical data and concrete information: What animals currently exist? How do they move around the planet? What do they do underground or at night? Whom do they eat, and who eats them?

To Save Something, We Have To Eat It, by Larissa Zimberoff, Los Angeles Review of Books

How to be a better consumer? Know what you’re tasting. To do this, Sethi includes tasting notes along with each of her five foods, and flavor and aroma wheels that help us label what we taste and smell, like in wine, whether it be nail polish remover, cut green grass, or burnt toast. Lessons learned, tastes described, origins elucidated — the payoff of reading this book, and gleaning a more comprehensive understanding of what we put in our mouths, is boundless.

God And Sex Workers — Plus Cartoons — In 'Mary Wept', by Etelka Lehoczky, NPR

It would be tough to size up Chester Brown's new graphic novel, Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus, even if it weren't about prostitution. This book of lay Biblical scholarship is simultaneously idiosyncratic, meticulous, imaginative and heretical. It's also deeply emotional.

Le Monde Entièr Est Un Cactus: As Cities Change Rapidly, The Songs Stay The Same, by Alex Teplitzky, Medium

In the city, it really does feel impossible to sit down. I know so many people who spend a year at a time in their apartments. It feels impossible to make a home in a neighborhood that will stay the same from ten years to the next. New York of the 80s wasn’t like it was in the 90s. And the city of that time period is long gone.