Winter Holidays Season Background
DrAfter123 / iStock

Carols are playing on the radio and in stores, homes are decked out with colorful lights and displays, and vehicles can be spotted with green spruces or pines on their roofs — all signifiers that it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, as the old Bing Crosby song goes

Christmas, observed annually on December 25, is one of the most well-known end-of-year holidays, celebrated by billions of people around the globe. Both a religious and cultural celebration, it commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ and is a day of gift-giving. While it may be one of the most popular winter holidays at this time of year, though, it certainly isn’t the only one.     

Read on for an overview of several other festivities that take place during winter.

Hanukkah (a.k.a. “The Festival of Lights”)
Dates: From nightfall on Sunday, December 18 to nightfall on Monday, December 26; dates vary from year to year

Why the Dates Change: 
Most secular and Christian holidays in the U.S. are based on the Gregorian, or solar, calendar, according to Reader’s Digest, whereas Jewish holidays follow a lunisolar calendar — which tracks the Earth’s orbit around the sun — and factors in moon phases to mark the beginning and end of months. Solar calendars and lunisolar calendars don’t align perfectly; hence, while Hanukkah is always celebrated for eight consecutive days, the dates can change annually. 

FamVeld / iStock

What It Is: 
Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean Revolt of the second century B.C., when the Jews stood up to their oppressors, the Seleucids. According to the Talmud, during this rededication of the Temple, there was only enough untainted oil on hand to keep the menorah’s candles burning for one day, and yet the flames miraculously continued to burn for eight nights. The menorah holds eight candles — symbolizing the eight days that the Temple menorah burned — that flank the center shamash, considered a “helper” candle of sorts, which is lit first and then used to light the others. 

Three Kings Day
Date: January 6

What It Is: 
Three Kings Day is celebrated in most Latin American and Caribbean countries. The “three kings” in question are the three wise men who came bearing gifts when visiting baby Jesus. Some of the day’s celebratory customs include leaving grass or hay out for the kings in exchange for a present, per USA Today. In Mexico, a Rosca de Reyes, or large oval-shaped bread festooned with dried fruit, often concealing a plastic baby Jesus figurine inside, is a beloved symbol of the season. To many in the Latinx and Hispanic communities, Three Kings Day is revered as “second Christmas.”

Winter Solstice
Date: December 21 at 4:48 p.m. ET (Northern Hemisphere)

What It Is (And What It Isn’t):
As noted by Almanac.com, there’s a common misconception that the winter solstice spans its full designated day, but in fact, it’s a precise moment on that date when a hemisphere is tilted as far away from the sun as possible. In the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice occurs annually on December 21 or 22.

A variety of cultures across the globe have celebrated the solstice as a meaningful and often spiritually significant passage between seasons. Check out History.com’s article about eight ways that various parts of the world have been known to mark the occasion.

Kwanzaa
Dates: December 26-January 1

What It Is:
Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, as a means of creating unity and support for African Americans in the wake of the Watts riots of 1965, History.com explains. Karenga found inspiration in the traditions of various African “first fruit,” or harvest, celebrations. 

Kwanzaa is centered on seven essential principles, called the Nguzo Saba. One principle is celebrated on each day of the seven-day celebration, as outlined at Almanac.com. The principles are: unity (umoja), self-determination (kujichagulia), collective work and responsibility (ujima), cooperative economics (ujamaa), purpose (nia), creativity (kuumba), and faith (imani).

SeventyFour / iStock

St. Lucia’s Day
Date:
December 13 

What It Is:
A largely Scandinavian celebration, this day marks the start of the Christmas season in Scandinavia. St. Lucia was a young Christian woman martyred for her faith. According to Britannica.com, she would take “food to persecuted Christians in hiding, wearing candles on her head to light her way so she could have both hands free” after delivering food to persecuted Christians. As described by Vogue Scandinavia, “the day is celebrated with a Lucia train (Luciatåg) procession in which a young girl elected to portray St. Lucia leads the way wearing a white gown, with a red sash and crown of candles. She is trailed by Lucia handmaidens (tärnor), star boys (stjärngossar) and gingerbread men (pepparkaksgubbar) who all carry candles.” December 13 used to mark the Winter Solstice according to the Julian calendar that was still in use when St. Lucia’s Day originated, so it continues to be celebrated on that day. 

St. Nicholas Day
Dates: December 5 or 6 (can vary by country)

What It Is:
St. Nicholas Day, also known as feast day, celebrates St. Nicholas — the bishop of Myra in the 4th century who inspired present-day Santa Claus. Over time he came to be known as the patron saint of Russia and Greece, as well as a number of cities, while widely revered as the protector of sailors, children, and an assortment of other groups. Variations of his legacy spread throughout Europe, per Britannica.com. In Holland, for instance, he came to be known as Sinterklaas; he’s said to have arrived there on horseback for his feast day, dressed in a bishop’s red robe and carrying a mitre, accompanied by his compatriot, Black Peter. Together, they are believed to have distributed sweets and presents to good children, or less desirable offerings — like the proverbial lump of coal — to the not-so-good children. 

ferrantraite / iStock

Las Posadas
Dates: December 16-December 24

What It Is:
Las Posadas, a novena (nine days of prayer), is a religious festival celebrated in Mexico and Latin American countries, as well as across parts of the U.S. It symbolizes the journey of Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem, culminating in the birth of the baby Jesus in a stable. The festival often involves a procession through the streets of a town, reenacting the quest of Joseph and Mary for safe shelter. Typically, passages of the Bible are read, carols are sung, and a Mass is held after the procession. Piñatas in the shape of a star, symbolizing the one that guided the three wise men to the baby Jesus, are also popular in the festivities.

Boxing Day
Date: December 26

What It Is: 
Celebrated the day after Christmas, Boxing Day is widely observed in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and other Commonwealth countries. The holiday originated in Britain, where servants in wealthy households were expected to serve their employers on Christmas Day. However, the servants were allowed to spend time with their families on the following day, according to Almanac.com, and were often sent home with “Christmas boxes” from their employers — filled with presents, holiday bonuses, and leftover food. Inspired by this tradition, because it would have been the cook’s day off back in the day, in modern times those celebrating Boxing Day will often enjoy their leftovers from their Christmas meals the day before. In Ireland, Boxing Day is also known as St. Stephen’s Day.

James Warren builds bus stop benches
Courtesy of James Warren

After witnessing a woman sitting in the dirt while waiting for the bus, James Warren decided to take action and give back to his Denver, Colorado, community in a practical way. He began building benches for local bus stops that didn’t have seating options and has been placing his handmade wooden creations around the city since the start of the year. 

Warren, who has been involved with transit advocacy in the past, told Nice News he realized it “was a way that [he] could make an immediate difference.”

“We all deserve respect, no matter our station in life, no matter our mobility choices, no matter what we’re doing, and waiting for the bus is one of the things that we do in life,” said the 28-year-old. “For somebody like me, it’s [a] convenience. For other people, it’s a real health consideration. And so I started making benches and put them around town.”

The benches, which are constructed of scrap wood, all display the same two words: “Be Kind.” The message is simple, yet it serves as a constant reminder to the community.

“I truly believe that being kind can make a real difference, a meaningful difference, in somebody’s life,” Warren said.

James Warren builds bus stop benches
Courtesy of James Warren
James Warren builds bus stop benches
Courtesy of James Warren
James Warren builds bus stop benches
Courtesy of James Warren
James Warren builds bus stop benches
Courtesy of James Warren
James Warren builds bus stop benches
Courtesy of James Warren
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And he has witnessed how his simple acts of kindness have benefited the lives of others. 

One man told Warren he had a medical condition that prevented him from being able to walk home and from standing for lengthy periods of time while waiting for the bus, “so the bench made a real difference for him.”

“I talked to another guy, actually online, who said he used to be homeless. And how he always found it a bummer that if he was trying to get around places, he would have to be standing or sitting on the ground,” Warren added. 

Whether the bus stop benches are for health, convenience, or dignity, they serve a greater purpose than just being seats. 

“The most important takeaway message, if I could pass one on to people, is that we all deserve dignity in this world,” said Warren, who hopes his unique pieces of craftsmanship make a long-term positive impact on society as a whole. “If I can’t be a part of [systemic] change, then I just hope to keep [building benches] and keep making people’s lives just that much better.”

October is National Pizza Month
AsiaVision / iStock

Whether you prefer Chicago or New York-style, pineapple or pepperoni, stuffed crust or cauliflower, there’s one thing the majority can agree on: Pizza is simply the best. 

In celebration of National Pizza Month this October, pie makers nationwide are serving up delectable deals and cooking up cool contests. 

Read on to find out about events near you. 

Bertucci’s 
Bertucci’s is serving three new limited-edition brick oven pies available through October only. Options include sausage and broccoli rabe; roasted butternut squash; and potato and bacon. 

Blaze Pizza
At Blaze Pizza, customers can get a two-topping 11-inch pizza and a drink or dessert for just $10. You can also get an 11-inch one-topping pizza and a regular-sized fountain drink for pickup for $10.95; two BYO 11-inch pizzas, two fountain drinks, and two desserts for $26; or two large two-topping pizzas for $27. 

California Pizza Kitchen 
California Pizza Kitchen is expanding its repertoire with the release of its “first-ever burger,” and to give the West Coast Burger a chance to shine, it’s “boycotting” pizza during October, per NBC. Customers who order other menu items instead of pizza will get a coupon for a free 7-inch pizza to use for their next lunch or dinner order of $20 or more. 

Casey’s 
Casey’s, a large convenience store chain in the U.S., has a few deals this month. Per the company’s website, customers can order a large pizza and get a second one 40% off; save $7 on two large specialty pizzas; or save $5 on two large single-topping pizzas. 

DiGiorno 
DiGiorno is running a National Pizza Month sweepstake, giving customers the chance to win a variety of prizes, including, of course, free pizza. The grand prize is the Ultimate Pizza Experience, which includes $5,000 for live pizza-centered events or a trip to Italy.  

Domino’s 
One of the world’s biggest pizza chains, Domino’s is currently offering 20% off all online orders through October 16; the announcement came last month as part of its inflation relief deal. Any two or more menu items are also going for $6 for each carryout or $7 for each delivery.

chas53 / iStock

Hungry Howie’s 
October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Hungry Howie’s is supporting the cause as part of its annual Love, Hope & Pizza campaign. For every pizza sold in a pink box, the chain will donate to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Since 2009, the company has raised $2.5 million for the cause. Also this season, Hungry Howie’s is offering its Pumpkin Spice Howie Bread

Little Caesars 
Feeling fancy? Little Caesars customers can get a large Old World Fanceroni Pepperoni pizza — featuring more than 100 pepperoni slices — for $9.99. The company is also offering a $13.99 Crazy Combo NFL Meal Deal with an Old World Fanceroni Pepperoni pizza, a 2-liter soda, and a Crazy Combo. 

Marco’s Pizza 
Marco’s Pizza has a few deals running, including $3 off large Pepperoni Magnificos; large one-topping pies for $8.99; $3 off large specialty pizzas; and unlimited medium one-topping pizzas for $7.99 each. 

Papa Murphy’s
This month, Papa Murphy’s is giving away free pizza! Three daily winners will receive free pizza for a month, and the grand prize winner will get free pizza for a year; the contest ends October 16. Customers can also get 20% off a $20 order using code NPM20. 

In celebration of the spooky season, Papa Murphy’s is also offering a special Jack-O’Lantern Pizza — made in the shape of a pumpkin with a pepperoni face — through Halloween. Plus, through October 16, customers can get a Triple Pepp pie, which has three types of pepperoni. 

Pieology 
Pieology is giving triple Pie Life rewards this month, with orders of three Signature Pizzas in one or multiple transactions. The promo runs through October 31.

Pizza Hut 
Pizza Hut is celebrating the occasion by bringing back its Detroit-style pizza, a rectangular pizza with an airy crust packed with toppings, cheesy edges, and sauce on top, for the month. Detroit Double Pepperonis, Detroit Meaty Deluxes, and Detroit Supremos are available for $12. The Hut is also offering multiple other deals that are available through online ordering. 

Schlotzsky’s 
Schlotzsky’s is using National Pizza Month to debut some new pies, including a Bare Naked Pizza featuring a sourdough crust with no toppings or sauce, available for just $5. The chain has also added three new fully dressed pizzas: Meaty, Supreme, and Four-Cheese White Pizza, available for $8.79 and up. Plus, every Wednesday through October, Schlotzsky’s Rewards members ordering in person, online, or through the app can get a free pizza with the purchase of a regularly priced pie. 

Streets of New York
The popular Southwest chain Streets of New York is offering 16-inch large one-topping pizzas for $20 all month with the code $20PIZZA. Every Monday, customers can also get 50% off any pizza with the purchase of one regularly-priced pie.

MIT underwater camera is battery-free
Adam Glanzman

Engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have built a battery-free, wireless underwater camera that can travel up to 130 feet below the surface, a groundbreaking device that may one day be capable of collecting never-before-seen images of the deep sea.

We know more about the surface of Mars than Earth’s ocean floors. To date, only 5% of the ocean has been explored by humans, despite the fact that it is the biggest ecosystem on the planet. That’s because the deepest ocean floors — called “the hadal zone” after Hades, the ancient Greek god of the underworld — can be an unforgiving place for technology

MIT researchers recognized that the high cost of powering an underwater camera is a major roadblock in wide-scale ocean exploration. Their solution is a battery-free, wireless underwater camera that is said to be 100,000 times more energy-efficient than other underwater cameras developed previously — it is completely unmanned by explorer or ship, and could survive for weeks on end.

Adam Glanzman

Using soundscape as its energy source, the camera can take color photographs, even in dark areas, and transmit that data to researchers wirelessly. Per a press release, “It converts mechanical energy from sound waves traveling through water into electrical energy that powers its imaging and communications equipment,” noting that sound waves can come from any source, such as a ship or marine life.  

To capture color images, red, green, and blue LEDs are utilized. “Even though the image looks black and white, the red, green, and blue colored light is reflected in the white part of each photo,” the press release explains. “When the image data are combined in post-processing, the color image can be reconstructed.” 

Furthermore, the camera can operate for weeks before it loses power, allowing researchers to study little-known species — and perhaps even discover new ones. 

Fadel Adib, associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and director of the Signal Kinetics group in the MIT Media Lab, noted that climate monitoring is an additional and equally groundbreaking prospective way to use this advanced technology.

“We are building climate models, but we are missing data from over 95% of the ocean. This technology could help us build more accurate climate models and better understand how climate change impacts the underwater world,” Adib said in a statement.  

Researchers tested the camera in several environments and on different subjects, including plastic bottles floating in a pond, an African starfish, and the underwater plant Aponogeton ulvaceus

The scientists, who published their results in Nature Communications, want to improve on this prototype by increasing the camera’s memory and range. The device has successfully transmitted data from depths of 130 feet, a mere fraction of the miles upon miles that have yet to be explored. But once the technology is perfected, Adib told CBC, it will have serious implications for ocean exploration and climate change research.

“​​We want to be able to use them to monitor, for example, underwater currents, because these are highly related to what impacts the climate,” he said. “Or even underwater corals, seeing how they are being impacted by climate change and how potentially intervention to mitigate climate change is helping them recover.”

world's oldest living tree
Yiyo Zamorano via Wikimedia Commons

About 5,400 years ago, a Patagonian cypress seedling sprouted in a valley in present-day Chile. Over the millennia, the colossus grew to 100 feet tall, with a trunk 13 feet in diameter, making it one of the largest in Alerce Costero National Park. Now, research reported by Science indicates the tree may also be the oldest living non-clonal tree — one that doesn’t share a common root system — in the world.  

Jonathan Barichivich, the Chilean environmental scientist who estimated the tree’s age, grew up on indigenous land in the park. “It was like a waterfall of green, a great presence before me,” he told The Guardian, recalling the first time he saw the Alerce Milenario, or Gran Abuelo (which means “great-grandfather” in Spanish), tree as a child.

If Barichivich’s estimate is correct, the Alerce Milenario’s age surpasses that of Methuselah — a 4,853-year-old Great Basin bristlecone pine in California currently thought to be the oldest non-clonal tree — by centuries. According to the publication, non-clonal trees tend to not live as long as clonal trees. At an estimated 9,558 years old, the world’s longest-living clonal tree is thought to be Old Tjikko, a Norway spruce in Sweden.  

Barichivich, who works at the Climate and Environmental Sciences Laboratory in Paris, and colleague Antonio Lara first took a core sample of the Alerce Milenario’s trunk in 2020. Typically, Smithsonian Magazine reports, researchers calculate a living tree’s age by taking a core sample and counting the rings in the trunk. They can also take a root sample and use carbon-dating.

PatagoniaArgentina via Wikimedia Commons

But Alerce Milenario’s massive width meant a standard borer could not reach its center. Plus, Newsweek reports, due to its advanced age, much of the tree is dead, and its center likely rotten, making an accurate core sample impossible. Most of the tree’s life remains in its vulnerable root system, with any disturbance posing a threat to its vitality.   

To protect the tree, Barichivich had to devise a different way to estimate its age.

“It’s not the point to make a big hole in the tree just to know that it’s the oldest,” Barichivich told Newsweek. “The scientific challenge is to estimate the age without being too invasive.”

The 2020 core sample — which reached about 40% into the tree’s trunk, according to The Guardian — showed 2,400 rings. According to Smithsonian Magazine, Barichivich and Lara examined complete core samples from other Patagonian cypress trees and studied the species’ growth rate, as well as how environmental changes affect tree development. They also used statistical modeling to estimate its age. Based on their results, they determined there is an 80% chance the tree is older than 5,000 years, likely 5,484.

Sietecolores via Wikimedia Commons

The researchers, who plan to publish their results in 2023, say they’re less concerned with breaking records and more interested in securing federal protection for Gran Abuelo, according to Smithsonian Magazine. Although there’s a platform intended to protect its roots from treading visitors, it is still endangered by this and other threats. Preserving it, they say, is important for multiple reasons.

“The Gran Abuelo isn’t just old, it’s a time capsule with a message about the future,” Barichivich told The Guardian. “We have a 5,000-year record of life in this tree alone, and we can see the response of an ancient being to the changes we have made to the planet.”

Customizable Scoliosis Brace That Grows With Patients
Dyson

One young innovator is working to make scoliosis easier to treat — and notably more stylish — for adolescent patients. University of Cincinnati graduate Sangyu Xi earned the 2022 U.S. James Dyson Award for Airy, a customizable and repositionable brace that grows with its wearers. The international award aims to honor and inspire the next generation of design engineers.

Xi set out to make an “off-the-shelf scoliosis brace that the teenager is willing to wear for enough hours a day,” she explained on the award’s website. Patients can adjust the brace to accommodate their bodies and growth for up to three years. Airy’s exterior color can also be changed and the padding can be removed to make the brace translucent. 

Dyson

Scoliosis, a lateral curvature of the spine, affects about 2-3% of the U.S. population, or 6-9 million people, according to an article from Columbia University’s medical center. A brace is often essential for scoliosis patients, the majority of whom are adolescents, to keep the spine upright and prevent any curvature from getting worse. Dr. Michael Vitale, an orthopedic surgery professor at Columbia, advises that growing patients wear a brace as recommended for 16-18 hours every day. 

Vitale specializes in the treatment of complex pediatric scoliosis and performs approximately 200 scoliosis procedures annually. Most scoliosis diagnoses do not require surgery if treatment begins early. He said getting the right brace often comes down to whether the patient will wear it — “We choose the most effective brace that your child is most likely to wear as prescribed.” 

Dyson

But discomfort and “poor aesthetics” make it hard for patients to wear them for hours on end, Xi said in her project overview. Her solution, Airy, is an ergonomic brace with a recommended wear time of 18 hours per day. The target users for Airy, which incorporates a more stylish design than most braces currently on the market, are scoliosis patients ages 6-19 with moderate curvature — and Xi said she’s already seeing interest from teens with the spinal disorder. 

“I carried the prototype to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to do a validation test with four teen patients,” Xi wrote on the Dyson site. “They have expressed a strong desire to buy Airy the next time they need a new one, since it is more pleasant to wear and does not restrict their breathing.”

Dyson

Born and raised in Chengdu, China, Xi created Airy as part of her senior year capstone project at the University of Cincinnati. After a discussion with her professor, she discovered the limited advancements in scoliosis brace design and set out to create a beautiful, functional, and comfortable alternative. The design was also inspired by her mother’s work in medical device sales. 

“Winning this national award really means something to the scoliosis patients who are trying to call to people ‘we want something new [that] we want to wear and that can help us fight against scoliosis,’” she said in a press release.

Air Company Creating Jet Fuel From Carbon Dioxide
AIR COMPANY

Sustainable jet fuel alternatives will soon be taking flight in the commercial airlines industry. New York-based startup Air Company recently announced the launch of its Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), made from captured carbon dioxide.

Major airlines like JetBlue, Virgin Atlantic, and even the United States Air Force, among others, have collectively committed to purchasing over 1 billion gallons of the sustainable fuel alternative. The company is optimistic that the innovation can transform aviation into an environmentally-sustainable form of transportation, according to CEO and co-founder Gregory Constantine. 

“We have been quietly working on this innovation, and we’re proud to debut this SAF technology and commercialization in partnership with some of the most impactful and innovative companies in the world,” Constantine said in a recent press release. 

AIR COMPANY

This climate-friendly fuel — distributed under the trademarked name AIRMADE™ SAF — utilizes excess carbon dioxide to create industrial carbon-negative alcohols and fuels that can be used to power jets. Air Company hopes the SAF will serve as a blueprint for global decarbonization

“The aviation industry, for us, is really interesting, because it’s one of the toughest industries to decarbonize,” Constantine told Fast Company. Sustainable fuel alternatives and electrification have resulted in climate-friendly gains in the automobile industry in recent years, but significant infrastructural and technological challenges have slowed progress for other transportation modes. Aviation and other forms of transportation account for approximately 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions collectively, according to a study published by the American Chemical Society earlier this year.

“Traditional jet fuel, or kerosene, is a mix of hydrocarbons made from a series of chemical reactions,” Popular Science explains. Engineers must integrate more renewable starting materials in lieu of fossil fuels to make air travel more sustainable.

SAF instead utilizes carbon dioxide, a practically unlimited resource, without the need to blend fossil fuels.  

“The benefit to what we’ve been able to do is create a 100% ‘drop-in’ fuel,” Constantine told Fast Company. “So no change needs to be made to existing engines.”

AIR COMPANY

Results of a recent successful test flight conducted by the Air Force have stoked optimism within the industry, and now Air Company is eyeing the commercial flight industry in its efforts to phase out environmentally-destructive fuels. 

SAF “has the potential to achieve commercial viability at scale—a game-changer for our industry to significantly and quickly drive down our emissions,” Sara Bodgan, the sustainability director at JetBlue, told Fast Company. The airline has committed to purchasing 25 million gallons of Air Company’s new fuel within the next five years.

“With [the launch of SAF], we and our partners aim to create a direct pathway towards a seismic shift away from legacy fossil-fuel-based production in a cost-effective manner,” Constantine said in a statement. “We’re excited about the future and anticipate seeing more partners commit to phasing out fossil fuel use and decarbonizing aviation altogether.”

ONEPIECE by Ilan Manouach, world's longest book
JBE Books

The world’s longest book is enthralling but impossible to read — and that’s the point. At 21,540 pages and 37 1/2 pounds, artist Ilan Manouach’s conceptual work “ONEPIECE” is a single volume containing every edition of the world’s most highly circulated comic in the Japanese style known as manga, One Piece. Manouach says his sculpture is a commentary on the commodification of comic books. 

To make the colossal creation, Manouach printed out the entire digital catalog of One Piece and bound it together. The manga, written and illustrated by Eiichiro Oda, has been serialized in Shōnen Jump magazine every week since 1997, selling more than half a billion copies to date. The story follows protagonist Monkey D. Luffy, a boy whose body has the properties of rubber, on his swashbuckling adventures to find the world’s most valuable treasure, a “One Piece,” and become king of the pirates.  

Despite its literary contents, “ONEPIECE” isn’t meant to be read. In fact, opening it could damage the spine. Instead, it is an “unreadable sculpture that takes the shape of a book — the largest one to date in page numbers and spine width — that materializes the ecosystem of online dissemination of comics,” a spokesperson for publisher JBE Books told The Guardian

Manouach teamed up with JBE Books and his nonprofit, Echo Chamber, to create 50 signed and numbered copies of the artwork, priced at around $1,840 each. The books, featuring 31 1/2-inch spines with vivid illustrations, all sold within days of the September 7 release, Smithsonian Magazine reports.

According to JBE, “ONEPIECE” was inspired by the prevalence of online content and “rampant digitization” of comics, which “challenges the state-of-the-art comics craftsmanship.” It is also a commentary on the fact that comics are traded similarly to trading cards.

ONEPIECE by Ilan Manouach, world's longest book
JBE Books
ONEPIECE by Ilan Manouach, world's longest book
JBE Books
ONEPIECE by Ilan Manouach, world's longest book
JBE Books
ONEPIECE by Ilan Manouach, world's longest book
JBE Books
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“Comics are dual objects. They have a use value — for readers — and an exchange value for collectors. Although these two functions are not operating along a clear-cut divide, they sometimes run opposite to each other,” reads the JBE Books press release. “‘ONEPIECE’ intensifies this duality as it can only be contemplated as a material instantiation of digital comics’ very own media-saturated digital ecosystem. ‘ONEPIECE’ exists only as an object of pure speculation.”

When asked if Oda had been consulted or involved in the creation process of the world’s longest book, a JBE spokesperson told The Guardian: “This piece is about Manouach’s work around ecosystems of comics, here as a sculptor who uses online dissemination as source material, not reading copyrighted content.” The spokesperson added that they do not believe there is any copyright infringement because the book is unreadable. Although Oda might not receive royalties, he is still the richest manga creator of all time, the publication reports, with an estimated net worth of $200 million. 

“ONEPIECE” is the latest iteration of Manouach’s practice of repurposing comics. He is well known for creating “Shapereader,” a tactile storytelling system initially designed for people with visual impairments.

ancient chalk drum
British Museum and Allen Archaeology

Archeologists are making headway in the study of ancient toys, a long overlooked focus in the field — one that has them asking deeper questions about children’s play in early civilizations. 

Archaeologists have long studied ancient artifacts, religious motifs, and burial grounds to better understand history, and have made immense progress in the last century developing “effective methods and techniques for studying the past,” according to the Society for American Archaeology. Researchers have come across especially incredible finds while surveying children’s graves — the recent discovery of a 5,000-year-old chalk drum, found buried with three children, was dubbed “the most important piece of prehistoric art to be found in Britain in the last 100 years.”

Evidence of what could have been children’s toys and games have often been omitted — or misinterpreted — in records, though that is beginning to change. 

“The child’s world has been left out of archaeological research,” archaeologist Grete Lillehammer wrote in her 1989 paper, “A Child Is Born: The Child’s World in an Archaeological Perspective,” per the BBC. The article noted that “few archaeologists have looked into the subject or given it attention, less ever thought of it as the main field of interest.”  

In the case of the 5,000-year-old drum, which was found above the head of one of the children in the grave, archaeologists concluded that it was likely not a musical instrument. Jennifer Wexler, project curator of the British Museum’s exhibition where the artifact was displayed, told CNN that the drum “could have served as a toy for the children, and that there could have been wood versions that did not survive over time.” The artifact is now being regarded as more of a work of art; three “hastily-added holes” on the object may represent the “presence of the three bodies in the grave.”

Archaeologists consider context when surveying ancient artifacts, the BBC explains. Something that at first glance might resemble a child’s toy may in fact have served a different, or more practical, purpose at the time. For example, rattles have been discovered throughout the world, but some archaeologists discount them as toys because they “have been too big, and made of material too fragile, to have been convincingly used by small children.” 

A Mohenjo-Daro terracotta he-goat toy with wheels DEA / G. NIMATALLAH / De Agostini via Getty Images

“Maybe there’s a broader context that has been overlooked, simply because children have been overlooked,” Kristine Garroway, an associate professor who focuses on children in ancient Israel and Mesopotamia at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles, told the BBC. “And maybe it’s the grown-ups or an older child that are shaking a rattle to keep the child quiet.”

The chalk drum features elaborate and decorative motifs, a clue that it could have been more of an ornamental object. On the other hand, the drum was discovered alongside a chalk ball and polished bone pin which, on their own, would not be considered art. Thus is the dilemma of archeologists trying to imagine a child’s world long ago — but the effort is still important.

Understanding how children of ancient civilizations engaged in play may help archaeologists better understand the culture and history of those populations. That’s why the European Research Council (ERC) sponsored and financed a multimillion dollar, five-year project to “identify, categorize, and reconstruct the games and play of ancient Greece and Rome” — marking the first-ever comprehensive analysis of play and games in classical society. 

The project, “Locus Ludi,” is headed by professor of classical archaeology Véronique Dasen at Switzerland’s University of Fribourg. Were toys gender-specific in ancient civilizations? Were the same games played throughout the vast, multi-ethnic region? Did historical and theological shifts affect the way children play? Dasen’s project, which started in October 2017 and will conclude on September 30, set out to answer such questions.

In 2008, the National Museum of Play awarded the distinction of “oldest toy” to the stick. Although it may never be considered an archaeological discovery, it isn’t hard to imagine a Mesopotamian child using such a simple item to play drums or draw in the sand.

Devise Monitoring Parkinsons disease illustration
N.Fuller, SayoStudio

Traveling to a doctor’s office can be arduous for people with Parkinson’s disease, a neurological condition that causes spontaneous, uncontrollable movements and cognitive challenges. But clinical monitoring is essential to track the disease’s progression and evaluate treatment efficacy. A new at-home monitoring system might provide a solution that’s not only more convenient but also more effective.  

In a paper published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers described how they used radio sensor devices to monitor patients’ movements and gait speeds — a key indicator of disease severity — as they went about their day. The yearlong, at-home study involved 34 participants with Parkinson’s and 16 without. 

According to MIT News, the machine, which is about the size of a Wi-Fi router, passively gathers data using radio signals that reflect off the person’s body as they move nearby. Clinicians can then use machine-learning algorithms to analyze the information and track patients’ disease progression and medication response. 

Enabling patients to remain in the comfort of their homes is immensely beneficial in and of itself. Assessing Parkinson’s disease usually requires lengthy appointments at a medical center, where clinicians test patients’ motor skills and cognitive functions. According to a previous study, more than 40% of people with Parkinson’s never receive treatment from a neurologist or Parkinson’s specialist, often because it’s too difficult to access such services.

Plus, researchers say at-home monitoring could make evaluations more accurate. Typical assessments are somewhat subjective and can be skewed by external factors, like a patient’s fatigue from travel or their inclination to act differently in an unusual circumstance. The machines provide a fuller, more precise picture of the patient’s condition. 

“We can’t really ask patients to come to the clinic every day or every week,” Yingcheng Liu, a Ph.D. student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the study’s co-lead author, told Popular Science. “This technology gives us the possibility to continuously monitor patients, and provide more objective assessments.”

And Liu’s study isn’t the only one to look to radio waves to help people with Parkinson’s — last month, a study published in Nature Medicine showed how radio signaling devices could detect and monitor the disease while patients are asleep. 

Ray Dorsey, M.D., a professor of neurology and co-author of the Nature Medicine study, told the University of Rochester Medical Center that remote monitoring could be a “powerful tool.” 

“I like to compare our understanding of Parkinson’s to a street lamp in the night; we only get a glimpse of the disease when patients visit the clinic,” he said. “Moreover, the methods we use to track the disease over time are subjective. As a result, we have a very limited insight into how Parkinson’s disease impacts people’s daily lives.” 

Neurological disorders are the leading causes of disability globally, and Parkinson’s is the fastest-growing type, affecting more than 10 million people worldwide. 

“This radio-wave sensor can enable more care (and research) to migrate from hospitals to the home where it is most desired and needed,” Dorsey told MIT. “Its potential is just beginning to be seen.”