In Greek mythology, Daedalus was a brilliant craftsman whose inventions often went awry. On Crete, he inadvertently helped create the fearsome Minotaur. At the order of King Minos, he built a labyrinth to contain the monster, but Theseus successfully navigated it to kill the beast. While imprisoned by Minos, Daedalus crafted wings of wax and feathers so he and his son Icarus could escape. Sadly, Icarus fell to his death when the sun melted his wings. Why had Daedalus originally fled to Crete? Discuss
Continue reading “Daedalus”

European Heat Wave of 2003

The 2003 European heat wave was one of the hottest summers on record in Europe. Tens of thousands of people—mostly elderly—died in the extreme weather, with more than 14,000 perishing in France alone. Melting glaciers caused avalanches in Switzerland, and deadly forest fires wreaked widespread destruction in Portugal. In Germany, the lowest river levels in a century hindered shipping traffic. Wheat crops across Southern Europe failed. What agricultural product actually benefited from the heat? Discuss
Continue reading “European Heat Wave of 2003”

The Beverage-Can Stove

A beverage-can stove is a homemade, lightweight, portable, reusable stove made from aluminum beverage cans. Popular among backpackers, it requires more fuel than some commercial stoves but is incredibly lightweight and easy to make. It is also said to be fail-proof even in difficult environments. Beverage-can stoves burn denatured alcohol and are nearly silent when operating. Their basic design dates back more than a century. How long does it take a beverage-can stove to boil two cups of water? Discuss
Continue reading “The Beverage-Can Stove”

The White Movement

The Bolshevik-backed Red Army, formed in the aftermath of the 1917 Russian Revolution, was named for the traditional color of the workers’ movement. After the subsequent Russian Civil War resolved in favor of the Bolsheviks and the Red Army, the iconic red flag of the USSR, identified with Communism, was adopted. Fighting against the Bolsheviks in the Revolution, and against the Red Army in the Civil War, was a movement named for a different color—the White Movement. Why white? Discuss
Continue reading “The White Movement”

Secret Sharing

In cryptography, secret sharing is a method of guarding information by distributing pieces of it to a number of people or entities. Each participant has a share of the secret, but no share is useful on its own. Some shares may even be decoys that are not useful at all. In certain scenarios, multiple participants may collaborate to try to reconstruct the original secret. How can they be certain that no one is misrepresenting himself just to gain access to more shares? Discuss
Continue reading “Secret Sharing”