Weird Universe Blog — January 30, 2023

The taste of food in dark isolation

Beatrice Finkelstein, a nutrition researcher at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, conducted a series of "dark-isolation studies" during the 1950s. Subjects were placed for periods of 6 to 72 hours in a totally dark, sound proof chamber furnished with a bed, chair, refrigerator, and chemical toilet.

The purpose of this was to find out how astronauts might react to being confined in a small, dark space for a prolonged period of time. And in particular how their responses to food might change.

Some of her results:

Food has had varying degrees of significance. Some subjects have spent excessive amounts of time eating, nibbling, or counting food; others have become very angry with the food or very fond of it. Here again, evidence is strong that food in a situation of stress may be used as a tool to obtain personal satisfactions.

But the stranger result was how the lack of visual input completely changed the flavor of the food:

Palatability and acceptability of food in many instances are contrary to that on the ground or in the air; e.g., brownies have enjoyed only a fair degree of acceptability whereas ordinarily they are highly acceptable; canned orange juice usually rates low in acceptability; in isolation it has moderate to high acceptability. Data also indicate that the ability to discriminate one food from another within the same food group is impaired. All meats taste alike. Subjects are unable to distinguish one canned fruit from another. White, whole wheat, and rye breads used in sandwiches are similar in taste. Thus it is quite apparent that removal of the visual cues ordinarily associated with eating interferes with the taste and enjoyment of food and therefore the acceptability of food.

More info: "Feeding crews in air vehicles of the future"

Beatrice Finkelstein (source)

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jan 30, 2023 - Comments (1)
Category: Food | Spaceflight, Astronautics, and Astronomy | Experiments | Psychology

Combined Suspenders and Garters


Posted By: Paul - Mon Jan 30, 2023 - Comments (0)
Category: Fashion | Inventions | Nineteenth Century

January 29, 2023

Kicking the pickle

1949: Ruth Brand "kicked off" National Pickle Week. And apparently that's a genuine giant pickle in the photos, not a fake one.

"Harry Conley of the Green Bay Food company, who is president of the National Pickle Packers association, officiates in Chicago at the 'kickoff' of the national pickle week campaign. Pickle week will be held May 20 to 28. Kicking the world's largest pickle is Ruth Brand, Chicago."

Lancaster Intelligencer Journal - Feb 11, 1949

But what is this about Amerigo Vespucci being a pickle dealer? I'd never heard this before.

Some research reveals that the claim traces back to a remark made by Ralph Waldo Emerson in his book English Traits:

Strange, that the New World should have no better luck,— that broad America must wear the name of a thief. Amerigo Vespucci, the pickle-dealer at Seville, who went out, in 1499, a subaltern with Hojeda, and whose highest naval rank was boatswain's mate in an expedition that never sailed, managed in this lying world to supplant Columbus, and baptize half the earth with his own dishonest name.

Smithsonian magazine investigated the claim and doesn't think it's very likely. Vespucci did work for a while as a ship chandler, and in this capacity it's possible he may have supplied some ships with pickled foods. But to go from this to calling him a pickle dealer is a bit of a stretch.

Posted By: Alex - Sun Jan 29, 2023 - Comments (5)
Category: Food | Pickles | 1940s

Motor Mouse and Autocat

The Spanish dubbing in the second clip only adds to the mystique.

More info here.

Posted By: Paul - Sun Jan 29, 2023 - Comments (1)
Category: Anthropomorphism | Motor Vehicles | Cartoons | 1970s

January 28, 2023

Would You Rather Be a Colonel with an Eagle on Your Shoulder or a Private with a Chicken on Your Knee?

One of the top 100 songs of 1919. Sung by Arthur Fields (using the pseudonym Eugene Buckley). More info: wikipedia

Posted By: Alex - Sat Jan 28, 2023 - Comments (2)
Category: Music | 1910s

The Elizabethean Underworld

This review by the famous Anthony Burgess (A CLOCKWORK ORANGE) alerted me to the existence of a fascinating book. Turns out it's available at the Internet Archive. The lexicon of thieves talk that Burgess mentions makes for fun reading.

Review source: The Guardian (London, Greater London, England) 19 Mar 1965, Fri Page 11

Posted By: Paul - Sat Jan 28, 2023 - Comments (0)
Category: Crime | History | Books | Slang

January 27, 2023

Suitcase-Size Wife

If it was allowed to save money on airfare by carrying your contortionist wife on as luggage and putting her in the overhead compartment, I'm sure some people would try it.

Omaha Morning World Herald - June 6, 1951

Posted By: Alex - Fri Jan 27, 2023 - Comments (0)
Category: Human Marvels | Air Travel and Airlines | 1950s

January 26, 2023

An Electrifying Performance

The audience, thinking it was all part of the McDowell County Line's act, cheered when Teasley — known professionally as John T — jumped from the stage and began writhing on the floor at the Blarney Stone bar in Huntington Beach. The crowd didn't know that a spilled beer had short-circuited an amplifier, sending hundreds of volts of electricity through his body.

The Carlisle Sentinel - Sep 28, 1983

Los Angeles Times - Sep 28, 1983

Posted By: Alex - Thu Jan 26, 2023 - Comments (4)
Category: Accidents | 1980s

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All original content in posts is Copyright © 2016 by the author of the post, which is usually either Alex Boese ("Alex"), Paul Di Filippo ("Paul"), or Chuck Shepherd ("Chuck"). All rights reserved. The banner illustration at the top of this page is Copyright © 2008 by Rick Altergott.

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