A list of curious facts
One: Did you know that those kitschy garden gnomes were once flesh-and-blood human beings—known as ‘ornamental hermits’? Back in 18th century England, landed aristocrats decided they needed a status marker that reflected their ‘frugal’ values:
Combining Enlightenment ideals with more traditional elements of a reclusive lifestyle, the ornamental hermit “became a representation of the aspiration to the simple life, the life of rural retirement characterized by philosophical and scientific curiosity.”
But why opt for the sombre life of sanyas when you could outsource it to someone else. All it took was an ad that read something like this:
[T]he hermit is never to leave the place, or hold conversation with anyone for seven years during which he is neither to wash himself or cleanse himself in any way whatever, but is to let his hair and nails both on hands and feet, grow as long as nature will permit them.
You get a glimpse of how they lived on the estate in the lead image. Below is an example of what an English hermit looked like—though this one wasn’t the ornamental kind. (Financial Times, paywall, Smithsonian)
Two: Global warming is now a given. And the Japanese are way ahead of the game—putting fans inside clothing to keep people cool. This isn’t new. For years, jackets and vests with this cooling technology were used by Japanese construction workers. But now they are being redesigned as casual wear for the aam aadmi and aurat. Like this ‘air conditioned work shirt’—with two fans embedded in the back. (Bloomberg News, paywall, The Guardian)
Three: Here’s a simple but brilliant fact. Penduline tits (Anthoscopus minutus) have pendulous nests—hence the name—that swing back and forth, often held firm by sticky spider web. These tiny birds—which are only 3-4 inches tall—are special for one reason: their nests contain a false entrance—to trick predators! It’s placed right above the real entrance—and leads to an empty chamber. You have to see it to appreciate the tits’ genius architectural skills. (National Geographic, paywall, EarthlyMission)