New Tolkien-Themed Botany Book Describes the Plants of Middle-Earth

iStock
iStock

While reading The Lord of the Rings saga, it's hard not to notice J.R.R. Tolkien’s clear love of nature. The books are replete with descriptions of lush foliage, rolling prairies, and coniferous forests. A new botany book builds on that knowledge: Entertainment Weekly reports that Flora of Middle-Earth: Plants of J.R.R. Tolkien's Legendarium provides fantasy-loving naturalists with a round-up of plants that grow in Middle-earth.

Cover art for botanist Walter Judd's book "Flora of Middle-Earth: Plants of J.R.R. Tolkien's Legendarium."
Oxford University Press

Written by University of Florida botanist Walter Judd, the book explores the ecology, etymology, and importance of over 160 plants. Many are either real—coffee, barley, wheat, etc.—or based on real-life species. (For example, pipe-weed may be tobacco, and mallorns are large trees similar to beech trees.)

Using his botany background, Judd explores why Tolkien may have felt compelled to include each in his fantasy world. His analyses are paired with woodcut-style drawings by artist Graham Judd, which depict Middle-earth's flowers, vegetables, fruits, herbs, and shrubs in their "natural" environments.

[h/t Entertainment Weekly]

The Smithsonian Needs Your Help Transcribing Sally Ride’s Notebooks

Sally Ride in 1984.
Sally Ride in 1984.
Coffeeandcrumbs, NASA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

On June 18, 1983, Sally K. Ride made history when she became the first American woman to travel into space. Now, the Smithsonian Institution is making the history of her incredible decades-long career more accessible to everyone—and they need your help to do it.

The National Air and Space Museum Archives is home to the Sally K. Ride Papers, a collection of 38,640 physical pages (over 23 cubic feet) of material spanning Ride’s professional life as an astronaut, physicist, and educator from the 1970s to 2010s. Those resources have been scanned and used to create an online finding aid—not unlike a table of contents—so researchers can easily navigate through the wealth of information.

To simplify the searching process within that online finding aid, the Smithsonian Institution is asking for volunteers to transcribe documents in the Smithsonian’s Transcription Center, a digital hub launched in 2013, where anybody can sign up to type and review historical sources. Three projects from the Sally K. Ride Papers are currently available to transcribe, which include her notes for shuttle training between 1979 and 1981, notes about the Remote Manipulator System Arm (there's one on the International Space Station today), and notes from NASA commissions on which she served. One, for example, was the Rogers Commission, which investigated the causes of the fatal Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986.

You can find out more about the documents in the projects here, and if you’re interested in joining the forces of “volunpeers,” as the Smithsonian likes to call its transcribers, you can create a new user account here. (All you’ll need is a username and email address.)

Check out more citizen science projects you can participate in at home here.

You Could Get Paid $1000 to Host a Remote The Office Watching Party

NBC
NBC

If getting paid to watch The Office sounds like a dream come true, well, you're in luck. Amid the COVID-19 crisis, Overheard on Conference Calls, an online resource that provides helpful guides to navigating the workplace, is paying one diehard fan $1000 to host a remote watch party of The Office.

"In a time when most states in the U.S. are under stay at home orders due to COVID-19 and words like social distancing are common, it can be tough to still remember there are good things out there. Two of those things are friendship and the television show The Office," the company said on their website.

But there are a few important requirements. According to the site, Overheard is looking for someone who loves the show, has accessibility to host a video call, and will watch 15 episodes in the span of one week with their friends.

You also need to be 18 years or older and a current resident of the United States. If you fit all these requirements, simply fill out this form by April 27.

Even if you aren't the lucky winner, you can still host an Office watch party while social distancing. Check out this free browser extension that allows you to watch Netflix with your friends.

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