When excavating medieval and early-modern buildings in northern Europe, archaeologists sometimes find horse skulls buried beneath them. One theory is that the skulls were placed there for magical, ritualistic reasons. Another possibility is that they served an acoustic purpose.
The practical, non-ritual, reason given for horse's skulls concealed in buildings is that they are placed under floors to create an echo. This has been suggested both in the British Isles and in Southern Scandinavia... Ceramic pots have also been concealed in buildings for acoustic reasons. The acoustic skulls were placed in churches, in houses and in Scandinavia especially in threshing barns.
In churches the acoustics were very important, of course. And in houses were people danced and music was played, but why in threshing barns? It was considered important that the sound of threshing carried far. Could this have some magic purpose? It is well known that in many cultures loud noises are considered to expel evil forces. So this "practical" custom of acoustic skulls may not be contradictory to magical and symbolic acts at all. One question to consider is also why horses' skulls were preferred. One would presume that the skulls of cattle would be available more often than those of horses, and possibly just as suitable for acoustics.
A few years had passed since I had last been in the anatomy lab, but the smell immediately brought me back. With the smell came a flood of memories—meeting my 4 lab mates and bonding as we spent hours hunched over our cadaver. Often, we would share our favorite recipes as the lab would wind down, in part because of the aptly named "formaldehyde hunger" and to find common ground.
An article on mashed.com disputes the reality of the phenomenon, noting, "there is some self-reported evidence of formaldehyde actually having the opposite effect — constricting hunger, rather than inducing it."
My guess is that med students just naturally build up an appetite during the long hours they're dissecting a cadaver. After all, they're presumably not snacking while they're doing this. The formaldehyde has nothing to do with their hunger. But it makes a better story to attribute their food cravings to the formaldehyde.
Microsoft received its first patent in 1986 (Patent No. 4,588,074). By this time it was already a huge company, having released Microsoft Windows the previous year. But its first patent wasn't for anything related to computers or software. Instead, it was for a kind of hinged box designed to store and support books and articles.
It then didn't receive any more patents for another two years.
I'm curious about the backstory of this hinged box. What inspired its invention? Did Microsoft ever attempt to manufacture or sell it? And why did the company feel compelled to patent it?