Activities for Adults: Ongoing Moffat Events
Wikipedia Scavenger Hunt
Have you ever gotten sucked down a Wikipedia Wormhole? You casually search for something on Wikipedia and suddenly you follow one link after another, chasing dozens of new and interesting topics until several hours later you're in a completely different and unrelated page to where you started? Did you know that if you start from a random Wikipedia article and only click the first link in the main page, you will almost certainly eventually reach the Philosophy page?
This is when you jump down the rabbit hole on purpose.
Check back here every Tuesday for a new scavenger hunt. We'll provide a starting and ending location and you can try to find the shortest link path to get from one to the other. For example, you can get from Harry Potter to the Andromeda Galaxy in just four steps.
The trick is to search through the entire article to find likely candidate for moving toward your destination.
From time to time we'll also post clues and riddles to find a specific person or place on Wikipedia. Answers will be available one week after the original post. Happy hunting!
Start at Moffat Library,
full of artifacts most fair.
Make your way to maple tree,
just three steps will take you there.
See how quickly you can get from Moffat Library's Wikipedia page to the article on maple trees. You might learn something along the way about New York's history, architecture, or interior design! We'll post the optimal path here next week.
Blooming Grove, history and beauty too,
is stuffed with interesting things to do.
After Independence, diplomats few,
preserved peace and for Maine new borders drew.
One of the last serious confrontations between the United States and the United Kingdom was an international incident in 1838 involving a disputed border between New Brunswick, Canada and Maine. The "Aroostook War" did not involve any formal hostilities or pitched battles, but vigilantes and posses did spend much of 1838 arresting British and American citizens who were living and working in the contested territory. Before the two governments agreed to a settlement in 1839, militias and military troops were mobilized to hold land on both sides of the Aroostook River.
Storm Kings and sculptures vast across the green,
together in nature and art combined,
stony fellows to waters most serene,
and ties with a republic for you to find.
The Storm King Art Center (close by in Mountainville) is perhaps the largest American collection of contemporary outdoor sculptures. The melding of the natural landscape with monumental sculptures is a constant effort which produces a yearly evolution of the collection; even pieces in the permanent collection cycle through different natural seasonal backdrops.
The Republic of Venice was one of the oldest continuous sovereign states in Europe, stretching from the decline of the Roman Empire to the end of the 1700s and the French Revolution. Its maritime trade, fabulous wealth, and craftsmanship all contributed to a flourishing of art and architecture. Now, there is little besides art history to obviously link a 20th century outdoor art museum to an old mercantile republic, but it’s possible to make your way from Storm King to the Republic of Venice in just three jumps. Can you find a path?
There were many optimal paths for last week's race, but the smallest number of clicked links was always three. Our solution was:
Blooming Grove → American Revolutionary War → Invasion of Quebec (1775) → Aroostook War (in the sidebar "Conflicts between Canada and the United States")
From ancient Earth to the cosmos above,
science reveals bold determination.
Search for what paleontologists love;
you might learn about space exploration.
Morganucodon is remarkable as one of the first animals in the fossil record to show mammal-like characteristics. (It doesn't hurt that the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History features an adorable Morganucodon nicknamed Morgie as one of its mascots for its Hall of Mammals.) As a contemporary of Triassic and Jurassic dinosaurs, Morganucodon helps to show the development and biology of early mammals. Normal mammalian traits such as fur or hair don't always show up well in fossils, so paleontologists look for commonalities in ear and skull bones found only in mammals.
Moving from a far distant geological epoch to the present day and plans for future space exploration, we have the Mars Opportunity Rover. This robot, alongside its companion rover Spirit, launched in 2004 and was intended for a mission length of just over 90 days. Spirit lasted until 2010, more than 20 times its planned mission length. Opportunity prove even more determined, relying on its solar panels to power through dust storms and over craters to remain in contact with NASA scientists until 2018. Ancient biology and Mars exploration may seem like two very different scientific projects, but, like most things, Wikipedia links reveal some common threads. Can you find a path?
Last week's optimal potential paths were pretty tricky! It's often worth checking the sidebars or category boxes at the bottom of a Wikipedia page. Our solutions will always try to ensure that you can trace a path using just links in the article's main body, but there are lots of fascinating connections to be made by exploring how Wikipedia organizes information at the bottom of each page. Our optimal solution had three steps:
Storm King Art Center → Acre → Middle Ages → The Republic of Venice
A cultivar known for delicious bites,
part of the history and knowledge that
helped agriculture expand to new heights,
occurs best when growers wear a chef's hat
The Honeycrisp Apple is one of the great success stories in fruit cultivation. Originally developed in the 1970s, the Honeycrisp didn't become a popular supermarket apple until the 1990s. In fact, the difficulty of growing, shipping, and storing Honeycrisps compared to other apples meant that there were initial plans to discard the cultivar. Its exceptional taste and crunch as a raw apple, however, have led to it becoming one of the most widely grown cultivars in the world. This is to the detriment of smaller Northeastern orchards due to the difficulties of growing it in colder and wetter weather. Still, there is no arguing with its exceptional taste; consumers are willing to pay roughly double for Honeycrisps compared to other cultivars.
Crop Rotation is one of the most historically significant innovations in agriculture. Planting the same crop in the same location year after year tends to both delete soil nutrients and leave fields vulnerable to invasive weeds and pests. Even without a clear understanding of chemistry, ancient societies recognized the benefits of leaving part of their fields fallow (or uncultivated) each year. Maintaining more complicated crop rotations, between staple crops (like wheat or barley), fodder crops (like hay), and nutrient rich legumes allows a greater total proportion of farmland to be under cultivation while still allowing parts to remain fallow. Modern agricultural practices have tended to move away from traditional crop rotations in favor of topdressing and direct fertilization of essential nutrients. Topdressing is much less complicated than crop rotation, with improper rotations potentially taking years to fix. This allows for greater efficiency with fields specializing in a single crop, at the risk of increasing the vulnerabilities of monocultures to pests, disease, and climate change. There are a lot of different routes from Honeycrisps to Crop Rotation. How many can you find?
It's wild to think about, but one increasingly important aspect of astronomy is extraterrestrial biology! Our optimal path made use of the fact that part of the Mars Rover missions was the search for ancient Martian life. Opportunity and its companion rover Curiosity searched for signs of water, fossilized microorganisms, and any indication that Mars might have once been habitable. Our solution had three steps:
Morganucodon → Crown Group → Fossil → Opportunity (Rover)
The cuisine of New England is bound up
in flavors like maple and berries tart,
travel south just a bit to fill your cup
with some medieval gardens and art.
The Cuisine of New England stands out for its extensive use of seafood and dairy products, as well as its tradition of baking (as opposed to frying or roasting). This has given rise to classic dishes such as clam chowder, apple pie, baked beans, and maple syrup. (I'll admit that part of the reason I choose this topic as a starting point is my family's plans for some lobster rolls this upcoming Memorial Day.) The history of New England cuisine is largely bound up in its geography. The fishing industry was one of the first and most prominent means by which Puritans and early colonists supported themselves. Further, the unique prevalence of plants such as maple trees, cranberries, and squash lent their distinctive flavors to the preferred cooking methods of England. Finally, a shorter growing season limited the variety of ingredients available to other regions.
The Cloisters is a museum in Washington Height, Manhattan, New York. It specializes in European medieval art, architecture, and tapestries. The Cloisters has one of the most extensive collections of pre-Renaissance art in the Eastern United States. And the site itself has a history as part of Fort Washington overlooking the Hudson River during the Revolutionary War. The layout of the museum is informal and meant to evoke the feeling that visitors are in a medieval monastery. To aid in this feeling, several French monasteries were actually moved, stone by stone, to the Cloisters as part construction funded by John D. Rockefeller.
Last week's solution is heavily focused on agriculture and botany. This should not be too surprising, given the start and end points. We did take a somewhat surprising detour through maize (as a cultivar of corn) to reach crop rotation, but apples and other fruit trees do not normally play a role in crop rotation. Sometimes you have to go a little bit out of your way to get to wear you want in Wikipedia! Our solution had three steps:
Honeycrisp → Hybrid (Biology) → Maize → Crop Rotation
From computers to books and back again,
knowledge often writes with a spotty pen.
There is hidden beauty that does not feign
how knowledge and its tellings come with pain.
Conway's Game of Life is a zero-player game used to demonstrate a celluar automaton developed by the British mathematician John H. Conway. (A zero-player game means that the development of the game state entirely depends on the initial conditions and rules of the game; there is no further input from a player.) Conway briefly became prominent in the news back in April after he sadly passed away due to COVID-19. His Game of Life uses an extremely simple set of rules to simulate "cells" living on an infinite two-dimensional grid. Cells in the grid may be considered either alive or dead. Each generation or step of the game then determines which cells live or die based on the state of their surrounding cells. From these simple and tedious rules (before the invention of electronic computers, celluar automata games were run and studied by hand), astonishingly complex behavior can emerge. Conway's Game of Life is actually Turing complete, which means that different initial states can be used to calculate different things in the same way as a regular computer. Hobbyists and scholars have identified many different initial states that produce interesting outcomes, such as infinitely oscillating patterns or "spaceships" that travel away from the main area.
Johannes Gutenberg is at least part of the reason why libraries look as they do right now! As the earliest attested inventor of moveable type printing around 1450 CE, Gutenberg revolutionized the production of books. The newfound widespread availability of books and pamphlets caused a surge in literacy and a new print culture permitting the large scale transmission of knowledge and ideas across huge distances. One of the interesting aspects of Gutenberg's life is just how few documents about the printmaker survive. In fact, historians of the printing press and early modern Europe highlight the (true) story of how dozens of cities and not just Gutenberg's Mainz claim to have invented printing presses and the (fanciful) story of how the legendary figure Faust in German folklore stole the blueprints to a printing press in the early 1400s from the Dutch inventor Laurens Janssen Coster. History - even in cases where we ought to have plenty of documents - can be messy!
By Lucas Vieira / CC BY-SA
I hope that last week's starting point gave you some cooking inspiration for the coming months of summer! One of the useful strategies in creating a Wikipedia trail is to aim for a broader, more general article before trying to narrow that focus back down to your target. Since the Cloisters is a museum in New York City, it makes sense to try to get to New York before reaching the Cloisters. Even though the New York City article does not have a direct link to the Cloisters, it does have links to numerous other museums and landmarks which then link back to the Cloisters. Our solution had three steps:
Cuisine of New England → New York City → Hudson River → The Cloisters
There once was a cat without a tail
which chased around large rats without fail.
The sound was a fright
and so was the sight
which made Mr. Alexander Graham Bell turn pale!
The Manx Cat is best known as a naturally occurring tailless breed. Native to the Isle of Man, the Manx is a highly intelligent and social cat prized as a rat and mouse hunter. Although the original mutation causing Manx to have shorter tails is difficult to place chronologically, the distinctiveness of the breed has been recognized since the 1800s. In fact, the Cat Fanciers' Association - the largest and most prestigious cat registering organization in North America - recognized the Manx as one of its first records. The appearance of "stubbins" or tailless cats has been the subject of various bits of folklore and superstition. One story concerns the arrival of a cat that lost its tail after the destruction of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Another prominent urban legend is the idea of the "cabbit" - a cat-rabbit hybrid, where the stubby rabbit tail and hopping movement combines with the general appearance of cats.
There is no apparent connection between Alexander Graham Bell and Manx Cats. (Although the Isle of Man is not that far from Bell's native Scotland. The island is almost exactly in the middle of the Irish Sea, equidistant between Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England, less than 200 miles from landfall.) Bell is best known as the inventor of the first practical telephone - although it was quite a race to the patent office between Bell and several other engineers! Possibly less well known to the public, however, is Bell's background as a teacher of deaf individuals. Both his mother and his wife were deaf, and there has been frequent speculation that Bell began work on telephones as an effort to help cure deafness. His views that deafness was a disease to be cured, as well as his advocacy against the use of sign language, unfortunately, means that Bell has a mixed reputation within the deaf culture community. The immense economic and cultural impact of telephones - for good and for ill - cements Bell's legacy as an inventor. You can hear a recording of his voice dating all the way back to 1885!
We have M.C. Escher to thank for last week's path from Conway's Game of Life to Johannes Gutenberg. Mathematics has a rich tradition among certain artists, and the paradoxes and illusions of Escher make a neat jump from math to woodcuts. After that, it's a short step to wood block printing and other early techniques. Moveable type follows naturally. The ability to see a connection between an artistic technique like relief printmaking and the automation of textual reproduction had massive real world consequences! Our solution had three steps:
Conway's Game of Life → Mathematical Beauty → Woodcut → Johannes Gutenberg
Pantry Raid Cooking Challenge
Can't make it to the grocery store today? Don't have a use for those spices that no one remembers buying? Want to see how fun and easy cooking can be for the whole family?
Check out our Pantry Raid ideas for making interesting, delicious food out of the stuff you already have laying around your home! Stop by every Thursday for simple ways to transform just a few ingredients into something memorable! We'll post the recipe card with ingredients and instructions, suggestions for substitutions, and some photos of our successes (and failures!).
Need more recipes fast, especially while you're stuck at home? There are tons of passionate and talented chefs who are putting out Pantry Raid ideas! We've taken a lot of inspiration from recipes like the one below. It's quick, easy, delicious, and great for cooking with kids!
Our quest today is to do something interesting with those saltines or other crackers hiding in the back of your closet. Crackers are great for their crunch and their ability to pick up flavors from dips and sauces. But by themselves, they're kind of dull.
(They're also typically healthier than chips - but we're here to make a cracker that tastes good, not worry too much about nutrition. Still, I'm assuming that you don't have a deep fryer sitting around your house, so we'll make a baked snack that you can enjoy and feel confident about!)
This recipe for hot and spicy saltines takes less than 20 minutes, and it can really take your cracker to a new level. Don't like spicy foods? Consider substitutions like cool ranch, a handful of parmesan, or barbeque sauce.
Rice is a really versatile food. It also tends to accumulate unaccountably. You probably have some laying around the kitchen right now, either as leftovers from restaurant takeout, from a time when you made too much for a meal, or in one of those big uncooked bags. While we won't tackle strategies for cooking rice today, it is an easy way to add substance and bulk to nearly any dish. So assuming that you have some leftover cooked rice that you need to use somehow, our quest today is a delicious crunchy, cheesy rice dish.
You might have a can of pumpkin laying around the kitchen, forgotten from last fall. Our quest today is to turn that into a sweet and hearty snack, perfect for an afternoon break with a cup of coffee or tea. This sort of baking is straightforward, just mix together all the ingredients in the proper order, pour it into a baking pan, and forget about it in the oven for about an hour or so. Whether you are nostalgic for a taste of fall or want something different for your baking project, pumpkin bread is a great choice! The nice thing about this recipe is that it is easily doubled (the usual size for a can of pumpkin is 1 pound while our recipe calls for just half a pound) in case you want to make more. Just remember that you'll need another baking pan if you don't want to be baking all afternoon.
This recipe may not be the healthiest one around (as with all excuses to play with butter), but it does make for a delicious bit of home biscuit. Don't feel restricted to just cheddar cheese or pecans, either. Our quest for today is to make a worthy snack or dish dish out of just a handful of ingredients. Experiment with the spices that you have on hand, and enjoy rolling out the dough! Remember to be mindful of people's allergies when cooking with nuts.
Growing up, one of my favorite cookbooks was Lynn Kuntz and Jan Fleming's American Grub: Eats for Kids From All Fifty States. Not only did it have fun recipes that I could make as it kid, it also taught me all the state capitols and a little bit about the history and culinary diversity of the country. Today, I wanted to share with everyone a quick and easy baking recipe that lets you play around with the ingredients before you put them in the oven for baking. Jam cookies are notable for using quite a bit less sugar than most baked goods while still tasting just as sweet. The shortbread is the real standout, so feel free to use your imagination when it comes to the filling. We use strawberry jam here, but you can use any flavor, or even a more savory filling like cheese if you need to make a substitution.
In Arabic, Shakshuka literally means "mixture" and it shows in this bright and slightly spicy dish of onions, tomatoes, peppers, and eggs! The dish has been common in eastern Mediterranean cuisine for centuries, and it is a quick and easy way to meld some delicious flavors (and put some of the more neglected spices in your pantry to use. Like always, our quest is to make use of what you already have in your kitchen, so there are lots of variations to this recipe. If you don't have feta or lamb meat of anything like that, don't worry. The real stars of the show are tomatoes, onions, and eggs. The rest is bonus flavor. And it all fits in one skillet!
Bean dips are a versatile way of mixing flavors. They work well hot or cold (although I like this one best after it's been warmed in the microwave) and are sturdy enough to carry lots of different ingredients. Canned beans are easiest, but if you find yourself with an excess of dried beans, you can easily soak them overnight and turn them into a delicious snack. As always, I'd encourage you to be creative with what ingredients you have rather than being too serious about the ingredients I've listed. The beans themselves won't have too much flavor, so I'd recommend mixing in plenty of your favorite spices. Remember to have some tortillas or chips on hand to enjoy the dip. And have a happy Memorial Day!
This is another recipe inspired by the children's American Grub cookbook, this time from Arkansas and watermelon. Summertime is heating up, and watermelon by itself is a great way to cool down and hydrate. But if you want to make do something a little special with watermelon, your quest this week is to add some ice for a smooth, fizzy, and sweet drink! Fruit smoothies are surprisingly easy to make with a blender. They're versatile, have a great texture, and let you make use of some frozen fruit. This watermelon frappe recipe can range from a simple watermelon flavored soda to a slushie! Stay cool this summer.