Who's the fastest selling Playmobil figure of all time? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a dinosaur? [more inside]
The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown is a nine-part series posted by sci-fi author and statistician Michael F. Flynn to his blog last year, covering the historical conflict between heliocentrism and geocentrism, with a special focus on Galileo. They are based on an article (pdf) by Flynn which originally appeared in the Jan/Feb 2013 issue of Analog. [more inside]
In December 1974, New York Times reporter Seymour Hersh's front-page account (paywall) of the CIA's MK-ULTRA program documented their illegal domestic intelligence operations against the antiwar movement and other dissident groups in the United States. The article eventually prompted investigations by the Rockefeller Commission and the Church and Pike committees. "There have been other reports on the CIA's doping of civilians, but they have mostly dished about activities in New York City. Accounts of what actually occurred in San Francisco have been sparse and sporadic. But newly declassified CIA records, recent interviews, and a personal diary of [George H. White,] an operative at Stanford Special Collections shed more light on the breadth of the San Francisco operation." SF Weekly: "Operation Midnight Climax: How the CIA doped San Francisco citizens with LSD." MK-ULTRA: Previously on Metafilter. (Via)
Pope Benedict XVI has announced the establishment of a new Vatican department dedicated to tackling what he called 'a grave crisis in the sense of the Christian faith and the role of the Church." The Pontifical Council for the Promotion of New Evangelisation will (per Archbishop Vincent Nichols,) focus on countries "in which, even though the Christian Gospel has shaped an entire culture," secularism now reigns, in what the Pope termed an "eclipse of a sense of God." [more inside]
Today is Reformation Day, the anniversary of Martin Luther nailing the 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in 1517. He was largely criticizing the practice of selling indulgences (forgiveness for sins). He didn't intend to split with the church. He left room for the Pope to slip out of the indulgences corruption. But the Pope didn't, and the split eventually came.