3,000-Year-Old Olive Tree on the Island of Crete Still Produces Olives Today

Image by David Hodgson, via Flickr Commons

On the island of Crete, in the village of Vouves, stands an olive tree estimated to be 3,000 years old. Hearty and resilient, "the Olive Tree of Vouves" still bears fruit today. Because, yes, olives are apparently considered a fruit.

Archaeologist Ticia Verveer posted a picture of the tree on Twitter earlier this week and noted: It "stood here when Rome burned in AD64, and Pompeii was buried under a thick carpet of volcanic ash in AD79." That all happened during the tree's infancy alone.

An estimated 20,000 people now visit the tree each year. If you can't swing a trip to Crete, you can take a virtual tour of the Olive Tree Museum of Vouves (it requires Flash) and see this 3D model of the tree.

Across the Mediterranean, you'll find six other olive trees believed to be 2,000-3,000 years old--some of our last living ties to an ancient world. And beautiful ones at that.

via @ticiaverveer

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

Related Content:

This 392-Year-Old Bonsai Tree Survived the Hiroshima Atomic Blast & Still Flourishes Today: The Power of Resilience

The Social Lives of Trees: Science Reveals How Trees Mysteriously Talk to Each Other, Work Together & Form Nurturing Families

Graphic Shows the House Plants That Naturally Clean the Air in Your Home, According to a NASA Study

Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree: The Animated Film Narrated by Shel Himself (1973)

 

The Illustrated Medicinal Plant Map of the United States of America (1932): Download It in High Resolution

Two years ago, we highlighted collector David Rumsey’s huge map archive, which he donated to Stanford University in April of 2016 and which now resides at Stanford’s David Rumsey Map Center. The opening of this physical collection was a pretty big deal, but the digital collection has been on the web, in some part, and available to the online public since 1996. Twenty years ago, however, though the internet was decidedly becoming an everyday feature of modern life, it was difficult for the average person to imagine the degree to which digital technology would completely overtake our lives, not to mention the almost unbelievable wealth and power tech companies would amass in such short time.

Similarly, when the above 1932 Medicinal Plant Map of the United States (see in a larger format here) first appeared—one of the tens of thousands of maps available in the digital Rumsey collection—few people other than Aldous Huxley could have foreseen the exponential advances, and the rise of wealth and power, to come in the pharmaceutical industry.




But the pharmacists had a clue. The map, produced by the National Wholesale Druggists’ Association, “was intended to boost the image of the profession,” writes Rebecca Onion at Slate, “at a time when companies were increasingly compounding new pharmaceuticals in labs,” thereby rendering much of the drug-making knowledge and skill of old-time druggists obsolete.

Although the commercial pharmaceutical industry began taking shape in the late 19th century, it didn’t fully come into its own until the so-called “golden era” of 1930-1960, when, says Onion, researchers developed “a flood of new antibiotics, psychotropics, antihistamines, and vaccines, increasingly relying on synthetic chemistry to do so.” Over-the-counter medications proliferated, and pharmacists became alarmed. They sought to persuade the public of their continued relevance by pointing out, as a short blurb at the bottom left corner of the map notes, that “few people realize the extent to which plants and minerals enter into the practice of pharmacy.”

The map appeared during "Pharmacy Week" in October, when "pharmacists in Anglo-Saxon countries" promote their services. Losing sight of those important services, the Druggists’ Association writes, will lead to suffering, should the traditional pharmacist's function “be impaired or destroyed by commercial trends.” Thus we have this visual demonstration of competence. The map identifies important species—native or cultivated—in each region of the country. In Kentucky, we see Nicotina tabacum, whose cured leaves, you guessed it, “constitute tobacco.” Across the country in Nevada, we are introduced to Apocynum cannabinum, “native of U.S. and Southern Canada—the dried rhizome and roots constitute the drug apocynum or Canadian hemp.”

The better-known Cannibus sativa also appears, in one of the boxes around the map’s border that introduce plants from outside North America, including Erythroxylon coca, from Bolivia and Peru, and Papaver somniferum, from which opium derives. Many of the other medications will be less familiar to us—and belong to what we now call naturopathy, herbalism, or, more generally, "traditional medicine." Though these medicinal practices are many thousands of years old, the druggists try to project a cutting-edge image, assuring the map’s readers that “intense scientific study, expert knowledge, extreme care and accuracy are applied by the pharmacist to medicinal plants.”

While pharmacists today are highly-trained professionals, the part of their jobs that involved the making of drugs from scratch has been ceded to massive corporations and their research laboratories. The druggists of 1932 saw this coming, and no amount of colorful public relations could stem the tide. But it may be the case, given changing laws, changing attitudes, the backlash against overmedication, and the devastating opioid epidemic, that their craft is more relevant than it has been in decades, though today's "druggists" work in marijuana dispensaries and health food stores instead of national pharmacy chains.

View and download the map in a high resolution scan at the David Rumsey Map Collection, where you can zoom in to every plant on the map and read its description.

via Slate

Related Content:

Download 67,000 Historic Maps (in High Resolution) from the Wonderful David Rumsey Map Collection

The History of Cartography, the “Most Ambitious Overview of Map Making Ever,” Is Now Free Online

1,000-Year-Old Illustrated Guide to the Medicinal Use of Plants Now Digitized & Put Online

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Strange, Sci-Fi Sounds of Skating on Thin Black Ice

This gives new meaning to "skating on thin ice." In Sweden, a filmmaker named Henrik Trygg likes to take his chances skating on pristine sheets of black ice, measuring only five centimeters/two inches thick. It's a risk. A natural thrill. It's also quite a sensory experience. Just listen to the "high-pitched, laser-like sounds," of which sci-fi films could be made.

Watch Trygg's film, "The Sound of Ice," above. And, below, a version annotated in English by National Geographic.

via The Kids Should See This

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

Related Content:

240 Hours of Relaxing, Sleep-Inducing Sounds from Sci-Fi Video Games: From Blade Runner to Star Wars

42 Hours of Ambient Sounds from Blade Runner, Alien, Star Trek and Doctor Who Will Help You Relax & Sleep

The Sounds of Blade Runner: How Music & Sound Effects Became Part of the DNA of Ridley Scott’s Futuristic World

Discover the Japanese Museum Dedicated to Collecting Rocks That Look Like Human Faces

It says something about the human brain that we so often see the shape of human faces in inanimate things — and that we feel such amusement and even delight about it when we do. If you don't believe it, just ask the 618,000 followers of the Twitter account Faces in Things, which posts images of nothing else. Or go to Chichibu, Japan, two hours northwest of Tokyo, where you'll find the Chinsekikan, a small museum that has collected over 1,700 "curious rocks," all 100 percent organically formed, about a thousand of which resemble human faces, sometimes even famous ones.

"The museum’s founder, who passed away in 2010, collected rocks for over fifty years," writes Kotaku's Brian Ashcraft. "Initially, he was drawn to rare rocks, but that evolved into collecting, well, strange rocks — especially unaltered rocks that naturally resemble celebrities, religious figures, movie characters, and more.




These days, the founder's daughter keeps the museum running, and it has been featured on popular, nationwide Japanese TV programs." It has also, more recently, become a subject of CNN's internet video series Great Big Story, which highlights interesting people and places all around the world.

The Chinsekikan stands in walking distance of a local river rich with rocks, where we see the museum's proprietor Yoshiko Hayama performing one of her routine searches for wee faces staring back at her. "To find rocks, we walk step-by-step," she says. "If we walk too fast, we won't find them." She explains that a proper jinmenseki, or face-shaped stone, needs at least eyes and a mouth, reasonably well-aligned, with a nose being a rare bonus. Only decades of adherence to these standards, and hunting with such deliberateness, can yield such prize specimens as a rock that looks like Elvis Presley, a rock that looks (vaguely) like Johnny Depp, and a rock that looks like Donald Trump — though that one does benefit from what looks like a pile of thread on top, of a color best described as not found in nature.

Related Content:

The Philosophical Appreciation of Rocks in China & Japan: A Short Introduction to an Ancient Tradition

Wabi-Sabi: A Short Film on the Beauty of Traditional Japan

How to Draw the Human Face & Head: A Free 3-Hour Tutorial

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The 1883 Krakatoa Explosion Made the Loudest Sound in History–So Loud It Traveled Around the World Four Times

Think of ourselves though we may as living in a noisy era, none of us — not even members of stadium-filling rock bands known specifically for their high-decibel intensity — have experienced anything like the loudest sound in history. That singular sonic event came as a consequence of the explosion of Krakatoa, one of the names (along with Vesuvius) that has become a byword for volcanic disaster. And with good cause: when it blew in modern-day Indonesia on Sunday, 26 August 1883, it caused not only 36,000 deaths at the very least and untold destruction of other kinds, but let out a sound heard 3,000 miles away.

"Think, for a moment, just how crazy this is," writes Nautilus' Aatish Bhatia. "If you’re in Boston and someone tells you that they heard a sound coming from New York City, you’re probably going to give them a funny look. But Boston is a mere 200 miles from New York. What we’re talking about here is like being in Boston and clearly hearing a noise coming from Dublin, Ireland. Traveling at the speed of sound (766 miles or 1,233 kilometers per hour), it takes a noise about four hours to cover that distance. This is the most distant sound that has ever been heard in recorded history."




Anyone who writes about the sound of Krakatoa, which split the island itself, struggles to properly describe it, seeing as even jet mechanics lack a comparable sonic experience. Bhatia quotes the captain of the British ship Norham Castle, 40 miles from Krakatoa when it erupted, writing in his log that "so violent are the explosions that the ear-drums of over half my crew have been shattered. My last thoughts are with my dear wife. I am convinced that the Day of Judgement has come." Krakatoa's reverberations – not heard, but felt and recorded as changes in atmospheric pressure – passed across the whole of the Earth not once but four times.

The sound of the explosion aside, "the rest of the world heard such stories almost instantly because a series of underwater telegraph cables had been recently laid traversing the globe," writes the Independent's Sanjida O'Connell. "This new technology meant that Krakatoa also generated the first modern scientific study of a volcanic eruption." A Dutch scientist named Rogier Verbeek turned up first to gather details for a detailed and pioneering report, followed by geologists from London's Royal Society, whose 627-page The Eruption of Krakatoa and Subsequent Phenomena you can read at the Internet Archive.

Since nobody would have got the explosion on tape in 1883, such verbal descriptions will have to suffice. Not that even today's highest-grade recording technology could withstand capturing such a sound, nor could even speakers that go up to a Spinal Tap-level 11 reproduce it. And no other sound is likely to break Krakatoa's record in our lifetimes – not if we're lucky, anyway.

via Nautilus

Related Content:

Watch the Destruction of Pompeii by Mount Vesuvius, Re-Created with Computer Animation (79 AD)

The Web Site “Centuries of Sound” is Making a Mixtape for Every Year of Recorded Sound from 1860 to Present

The British Library’s “Sounds” Archive Presents 80,000 Free Audio Recordings: World & Classical Music, Interviews, Nature Sounds & More

Download 10,000 of the First Recordings of Music Ever Made, Courtesy of the UCSB Cylinder Audio Archive

Mapping the Sounds of Greek Byzantine Churches: How Researchers Are Creating “Museums of Lost Sound”

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

How the Japanese Practice of “Forest Bathing”—Or Just Hanging Out in the Woods—Can Lower Stress Levels and Fight Disease

When the U.S. media began reporting on the phenomenon of “forest bathing” as a therapy for mental and physical health, the online commentariat—as it will—mocked the concept relentlessly as yet another pretentious, bourgeois repackaging of something thoroughly mundane. Didn’t we just used to call it “going outside”?

Well, yes, if all “forest bathing” means is “going outside,” then it does sound like a grandiose and unnecessary phrase. The term, however, is not an American marketing invention but a translation of the Japanese shinrin-yoku. “Coined by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in 1982,” writes Meeri Kim at The Washington Post, “the word literally translates to ‘taking in the forest atmosphere’ or ‘forest bathing’ and refers to the process of soaking up the sights, smells and sounds of a natural setting to promote physiological and psychological health.”




So what? We already have the examples of thousands years of Buddhist monks (and Thich Nat Hanh), of Henry David Thoreau, and the saints of the Sierra Club. But the oldest and most useful ideas and practices can get carelessly discarded in the frantic pursuit of innovation at all costs. The pushing of hi-tech outdoor gear, wearable activity trackers, and health apps that ask us to log every movement can make going outside feel like a daunting, expensive chore or a competitive event.

Forest bathing involves none of those things. “Just be with the trees,” as Ephrat Livni describes the practice, “no hiking, no counting steps on a Fitbit. You can sit or meander, but the point is to relax rather than accomplish anything.” You don't have to hug the trees if you don't want to, but at least sit under one for a spell. Even if you don't attain enlightenment, you very well may reduce stress and boost immune function, according to several Japanese studies conducted between 2004 and 2012.

The Japanese government spent around four million dollars on studies conducted with hundreds of people "bathing" on 48 designated therapy trails. In his work, Qing Li, associate professor at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, found “significant increases in NK [natural killer] cell activity in the week after a forest visit… positive effects lasted a month following each weekend in the woods.” Natural killer cells fight viruses and cancers, and are apparently stimulated by the oils that trees themselves secrete to ward off germs and pests. See the professor explain in the video above (he translates shinrin-yoku as taking a "forest shower," and also claims to have bottled some of the effects).

Additionally, experiments conducted by Japan’s Chiba University found that forest bathing lowered heart rate and blood pressure and brought down levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that can wreak havoc on every system when large amounts circulate through the body. Then there are the less tangible psychological benefits of taking in the trees. Subjects in one study “showed significantly reduced hostility and depression scores” after a walk in the woods. These findings underscore that spending time in the forest is a medical intervention as well as an aesthetic and spiritual one, something scientists have long observed but haven’t been able to quantify.

In their review of a book called Your Brain on Nature, Mother Earth News quotes Franklin Hough, first chief of the U.S. Division of Forestry, who remarked in a 19th century medical journal that forests have “a cheerful and tranquilizing influence which they exert upon the mind, more especially when worn down by mental labor.” Hough’s hypothesis has been confirmed, and despite what might sound to English speakers like a slightly ridiculous name, forest bathing is serious therapy, especially for the ever-increasing number of urbanites and those who spend their days in strip malls, office complexes, and other overbuilt environments.

What is a guided forest bathing experience like? You can listen to NPR's Alison Aubrey describe one above. She quotes Amos Clifford, founder of the Association of Nature & Forest Therapy, the certifying organization, as saying that a guide "helps you be here, not there," sort of like a meditation instructor. Clifford has been pushing health care providers to "incorporate forest therapy as a stress-reduction strategy" in the U.S., and there's no question that more stress reduction tools are sorely needed.

But, you may wonder, do you have to call it “forest bathing,” or pay for a certified guide, join a group, and buy some fancy outerwear to get the benefits hanging out with trees? I say, consider the words of John Muir, the indefatigable 19th naturalist, "father of the National Park System," and founding saint of the Sierra Club: In the eternal youth of Nature you may renew your own. Go quietly, alone; no harm will befall you. The quote may underestimate the amount of risk or overstate the benefits, but you get the idea. Muir was not one to get tangled up in semantics or overly detailed analysis. Nonetheless, his work inspired Americans to step in and preserve so much of the country's forest in the 19th and 20th centuries. Maybe the preventative medicine of "forest bathing" can help do the same in the 21st.

Related Content:

How Walking Fosters Creativity: Stanford Researchers Confirm What Philosophers and Writers Have Always Known

How Mindfulness Makes Us Happier & Better Able to Meet Life’s Challenges: Two Animated Primers Explain

This Is Your Brain on Exercise: Why Physical Exercise (Not Mental Games) Might Be the Best Way to Keep Your Mind Sharp

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Watch “The “Art of Flying,” a Short Film Capturing the Wondrous Murmurations of the Common Starling

In the tradition of Andrew Sullivan's Dish, we start the week--before it even gets a bit hectic--with a Mental Health break. Above, watch The Art of Flying, Jan van Ijken's short film that captures the mysterious flights--or murmurations--of the Common Starling. A blurb accompanying the film adds a bit more context:

It is still unknown how the thousands of birds are able to fly in such dense swarms without colliding. Every night the starlings gather at dusk to perform their stunning air show. Because of the relatively warm winter of 2014/2015, the starlings stayed in the Netherlands instead of migrating southwards. This gave filmmaker Jan van IJken the opportunity to film one of the most spectacular and amazing natural phenomena on earth.

Also, over at janvanijken.com, you'll find a longer seven-minute version of this film, featuring "wonderful close-ups and a spectacular final scene." The €2,99 fee for watching that full-length film goes toward supporting van Ijken's work as an independent filmmaker.

Enjoy.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

Related Content:

A Stunning, Chance Encounter With Nature

The Falcon and the Murmuration: Nature’s Aerial Battle Above Rome

A Bird Ballet in Southern France

More in this category... »
Quantcast