Virtual Reality Project Imagines What Manhattan Sounded Like in 1609

Welikia's rendering of what Manhattan and the surrounding area might have looked like in 1609. Image Credit: Welikia via Calling Thunder
Welikia's rendering of what Manhattan and the surrounding area might have looked like in 1609. Image Credit: Welikia via Calling Thunder

What did a typical day in Manhattan sound like 400 years ago? Designer David Al-Ibrahim wants to help you imagine. Al-Ibrahim has created Calling Thunder: The Unsung History of Manhattan, a virtual reality experience that illuminates how the bustling isle of Manhattan might have felt before the Dutch arrived, back when it was a Lenape territory named Mannahatta, or “Island of Many Hills.”

As CityLab reports, Al-Ibrahim worked with Bill McQuay of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to source sounds from the lab’s Macaulay Library, an archive of wildlife audio. To get a sense of the geography and biodiversity of 17th century Manhattan, they also reached out to landscape ecologist Eric Sanderson, whose Welikia project is studying and mapping New York City as it looked in 1609.

This 360-degree video juxtaposes the Manhattan of today with the wild sights and sounds of the old Mannahatta, where you would hear black bears, crows, and trickling streams rather than delivery trucks and honking cars. To represent the area with as much historical accuracy as possible, there are no sounds from extinct animals, so you won’t hear any passenger pigeons (which went extinct in the 1910s) or other animals that the creators could not obtain original recordings of. But you can hear bullfrogs, osprey, red-tailed hawks, and other creatures.

On the project website, you can listen to binaural soundscapes (meaning you can hear different audio in each ear, so you’ll need stereo headphones) of places like Inwood Hill Park and the American Museum of Natural History. The 360-degree videos on the site, imagining the soundscapes of specific areas of Manhattan, all feature descriptions of the different animals that can be heard in that clip.

If you’re in New York City, try listening to the clips on your phone as you walk around Manhattan.

[h/t CityLab]

Keep Your Cat Busy With a Board Game That Doubles as a Scratch Pad

Cheerble
Cheerble

No matter how much you love playing with your cat, waving a feather toy in front of its face can get monotonous after a while (for the both of you). To shake up playtime, the Cheerble three-in-one board game looks to provide your feline housemate with hours of hands-free entertainment.

Cheerble's board game, which is currently raising money on Kickstarter, is designed to keep even the most restless cats stimulated. The first component of the game is the electronic Cheerble ball, which rolls on its own when your cat touches it with their paw or nose—no remote control required. And on days when your cat is especially energetic, you can adjust the ball's settings to roll and bounce in a way that matches their stamina.

Cheerable cat toy on Kickstarter.
Cheerble

The Cheerble balls are meant to pair with the Cheerble game board, which consists of a box that has plenty of room for balls to roll around. The board is also covered on one side with a platform that has holes big enough for your cat to fit their paws through, so they can hunt the balls like a game of Whack-a-Mole. And if your cat ever loses interest in chasing the ball, the board also includes a built-in scratch pad and fluffy wand toy to slap around. A simplified version of the board game includes the scratch pad without the wand or hole maze, so you can tailor your purchase for your cat's interests.

Cheerble cat board game.
Cheerble

Since launching its campaign on Kickstarter on April 23, Cheerble has raised over $128,000, already blowing past its initial goal of $6416. You can back the Kickstarter today to claim a Cheerble product, with $32 getting you a ball and $58 getting you the board game. You can make your pledge here, with shipping estimated for July 2020.

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Victorian Women Worked Out, Too—They Just Did It Wearing Corsets

Opening a door was nearly as taxing as an actual 19th-century workout.
Opening a door was nearly as taxing as an actual 19th-century workout.
ivan-96/iStock via Getty Images

The next time you’re gasping for breath in the middle of a cardio routine, try to imagine doing the same thing while decked out in a flowy dress and corset. That’s what female exercise enthusiasts faced in the 1800s.

According to Atlas Obscura, tailors weren’t churning out loose leggings or stretchy tracksuits for women to don for their daily fitness sessions, and workout guides for Victorian women were mainly written by men. To their credit, they weren’t recommending that ladies undergo high-intensity interval training or heavy lifting; instead, exercises were devised to account for the fact that women’s movements would be greatly constricted by tight bodices and elaborate hairstyles. As such, workouts focused on getting the blood flowing rather than burning calories or toning muscle.

In his 1827 book A Treatise on Calisthenic Exercises, Signor G.P. Voarino detailed dozens of options for women, including skipping, walking in zigzags, marching in place, and bending your arms and legs at specific angles. Some exercises even called for the use of a cane, though they were more geared towards balancing and stretching than weight-lifting.

To Voarino, the light calisthenic exercises were meant for “counteracting every tendency to deformity, and for obviating such defects of figure as are occasioned by confinement within doors, too close an application to sedentary employment, or by those constrained positions which young ladies habitually assume during their hours of study.”

Nearly 30 years later, Catharine Beecher (Harriet Beecher Stowe's sister) published her own workout guide, Physiology and Calisthenics for Schools and Families, which encouraged educators especially to incorporate exercise programs for all children into their curricula. Beecher was against corsets, but the illustrations in her book did still depict young ladies in long dresses—it would be some time before students were expected to change into gym clothes at school. Many of Beecher’s calisthenic exercises were similar to Voarino’s, though she included some beginner ballet positions, arm circles, and other faster-paced movements.

Compared to the fitness regimen of 14th-century knight Jean Le Maingre, however, Victorian calisthenics seem perfectly reasonable. From scaling walls to throwing stones, here’s how he liked to break a sweat.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]