Weekly Word: Feb. 28, 2012

Hello Shmooperinos,

Woo! Extra day tomorrow. We’re psyched that Shmoop has made it to our second leap day, so we plan to celebrate the following here at Shmoop HQ:

  • Twenty-four more hours ‘til the light bill shows up
  • Leap babies born in 1924 can claim they’re only ’22’
  • We finally have a good reason to jump around the office all day
  • The Shmoop elves will work another whole day without realizing they haven’t gotten their gruel*

If you’re looking for a great way to invest some of those extra hours, check out our Mythology section. We have all the myths that can’t be busted, because, well…they’ve been around long enough.

Featured Shmoop: Mythology

We know you probably feel like you’ve run into a few Medusas in your life. That one bus driver with the snake hair was a huge drag. But do you know the real story? Don’t turn to stone. Learn how here.

Before the Disney movie or the awful TV series that only some of you will remember, there was the actual Hercules. And boy, this semi-divine dude could move boulders, wrestle lions, and slice dragons like nobody’s business. Check out his exploits here.

This Week in History: Salem Witch Trial Starts March 1st, 1692

We were baking Shmoop cookies (like real cookies, but better) the other night when we realized that the egg test was a lot like medieval witch hunts. To see if an egg is still good, submerge it into a bowl of water: if it sinks, it’s fine; if it stands up, you probably won’t get any diseases; and if it floats, it’s a witch. Wait, what?

March 1 marks 320 years since the Salem Witch Trial began in the colony of Massachusetts. Along with shaping New England society and ensuring that Americans would always give Puritans a little bit of the side-eye, the terror and hysteria of the witch trials also spawned an entire cottage industry of excellent literature and not-so-excellent movies.The Crucible, anyone?

This Week in History 2.0: Watson and Crick Discover DNA Double Helix Feb. 28th, 1953

Even though James Watson isn’t the most famous Watson in many circles,** he is certainly one of the most influential. The fact that he isn’t fictional probably helps. Back in 1953, Watson and his associate, Francis Crick, discovered that theDNA we know and love actually comes packaged in a double helix.

Sidenote: We would also like to acknowledge Rosalind Franklin, the scientist who provided the data that Watson and Crick used. Unfortunately, they didn’t cite her work, so she couldn’t share in the spoils of the Nobel Prize-winning discovery.

Literary Birthday: Dr. Seuss Born March 2nd, 1904

The good doctor (Seuss, that is) will always hold a place in our hearts. Whether he was teaching us about the places we’ll go or how not to be picky eaters, the man had a way with words. Well, mainly making things up and rhyming them, but nobody does it better.

Though we’re a little disappointed that the Lorax has been “bought” by Mazda and is now supporting a car, which kind of goes against the book’s main message, we’ll all be heading to the theater this weekend to relive the glory of the meaningful and rhyme-filled bedtime story.

Shmoop Shout Out: The Tallest, Fattest Penguin Found

Pause for a second to think about giant penguins roaming the earth.

…Pretty cool, right? (Or, depending on how you feel about birds, terrifying.)

Proving that penguins could exist even before Morgan Freeman was around to narrate their lives, scientists recently discovered a ginormo fossil in New Zealand that dates back 27 million years. Penguins version giant point oh stood 5 feet tall, weighed about 130 pounds, and probably took down entire squids with their beaks. That outpaces today’s emperor penguin by about two feet and almost 50 pounds. Check it out here.

Shmoop Shout Out 2.0: DNA Reveals Clues to Neanderthal Extinction

Speaking of DNA, scientists are looking into what may have caused Neanderthal populations to ebb and flow around 50,000 years ago. Perhaps it was their excessive use of body paint and their penchant for shell necklaces that did them in, but who are we to judge? Learn more here.

Enjoy your extra 24 hours,

The Folks at Shmoop

*We don’t have Shmoop elves. Approved by S.P.E.W., remember?

**That title goes to Dr. Watson, of Sherlock Holmes fame.

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