Learn How to Write (Very Basic) Cuneiform via YouTube

Behrouz Mehri // AFP // Getty Images
Behrouz Mehri // AFP // Getty Images

Dr. Irving Finkel is an expert on cuneiform, the world's oldest known writing system. It was developed by the ancient Sumerians roughly 5000 years ago. The word "cuneiform" itself derives from the Latin cuneus, or "wedge"—the writing was traditionally done by pressing a wedge-shaped stylus onto a clay surface, which then dries and preserves the mark.

In the video below, Finkel shows Tom Scott and Matt Gray how to read and write just a bit of cuneiform. (Finkel says it takes about six years of training to become fully fluent...yikes!) It's a fascinating review, including the vital information that cuneiform script is syllabic, so you can represent English using cuneiform, minus a few vowel sounds—in the video, "Tom" becomes "Tam" (ta-am) due to a lack of the English "o" sound.

Tune in for a delightful lesson in an ancient writing system:

If you'd like to get started with cuneiform writing, this tool from the Penn Museum is handy. You'll also want some more training and a sample alphabet. Also interesting is this table of cuneiform numbers (note the Sumerian base 60 numbering system!).

20 Weird Clubs That Actually Exist

Mental Floss via YouTube
Mental Floss via YouTube

Groucho Marx once famously quipped that he'd never "want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members." Most people would probably say the same about the Martin-Baker Ejection Tie Club—a very exclusive, 63-year-old organization created specifically for individuals who have had their lives saved by an ejection seat. Currently, the club boasts more than 6000 members.

That's just one of the weird and wonderful clubs you'll learn about in our latest edition of The List Show. Join Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy as she hunts down the world's most unusual clubs (Extreme Ironing Bureau anyone?). You can watch the full video below.

For more episodes like this one, be sure to subscribe here!

Video Captures Fiery Eruption of Mexico's Popocatépetl Volcano

RobertoVaca, iStock via Getty Images
RobertoVaca, iStock via Getty Images

Mexico is home to 48 active volcanoes, but few can compete with Popocatépetl. Located around 40 miles southeast of Mexico City, it's one of the most active volcanoes in the country, and on January 9, the extent of its power was caught on camera.

The video above, reported by NPR, shows the Popocatépetl stratovolcano—also known as a composite volcano—spewing lava, ash, and rock in a fiery plume that reached 20,000 feet above its cinder cone crater. CENAPRED, Mexico's National Center for Disaster Prevention, filmed the volcanic eruption as it unfolded early Thursday morning. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also recorded the explosion from space using its GOES 16 satellite.

No one was hurt by the incident last week, but CENAPRED is warning people to avoid the area as debris continues to fall from the summit. The center has set its Volcanic Warning Light to Yellow Phase 2, which indicates there's no immediate threat of danger.

Since it emerged from dormancy in 1994, Popocatépetl, or "El Popo," as it's known by locals, has become one of the most active volcanoes in Mexico. Tremors and showers of ash are now regular occurrences for residents of nearby towns. Given its volatility, there are currently 20 devices monitoring the volcano 24/7.

[h/t NPR]

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