University College London Moves Jeremy Bentham's Auto-Icon to a New Location

Eden, Janine and Jim, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Eden, Janine and Jim, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

As far as human remains go, the auto-icon of Jeremy Bentham is well-traveled. The model of the British philosopher—consisting of a wax head and a foam body built around his actual skeleton—has been displayed in England, Germany, and recently at The Met Breuer in New York City. Bentham's latest trip was a short one, taking him from a set of wooden boxes at University College London to a glass display glass in the school, but it could be his last move for a while, Atlas Obscura reports.

Bentham has become just as famous for the unusual fate of his corpse as for his accomplishments in life. Born in England in 1748, the philosopher was an outspoken proponent of utilitarianism, or the axiom that “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong."

This principle carried over into his end-of-life wishes. Following his death in 1832, Bentham's body was dissected, reassembled, and preserved as an "auto-icon," per a request laid out in his will. This way, he could "attend" meetings, keep his friends company, and entertain spectators even in death. He had hoped to kick off a trend of what he called the "farther uses of the dead to the living."

The full extent of his vision was never realized. The method used to preserve his head had ghoulish results, so his mummified noggin was stored in a climate-controlled room and replaced with a wax replica. The trend of transforming dead bodies into dummies also never took off, and Bentham's auto-icon remains an anomaly.

When they weren't on tour, Bentham's remains were usually kept in a box within a box in a side corridor of University College London, their home since 1850. In February 2020, the college took the model apart and put it back together for display at the new student center across campus. The new semi-permanent location met the right conservation requirements for light, temperature, and humidity. And inside its new glass case, the auto-icon is clearly presented for passersby to see.

By displaying him in a prominent spot, the college hopes to fulfill Bentham's wishes of bringing the most joy to the most people long after his death. As he wrote in one of his final essays: "Of the de mortuis nil nisi bonum [of the dead, speak nothing but good], it would be the best application: it would extract from the dead only that which is good—that which would contribute to the happiness of the living. It would set curiosity in motion—virtuous curiosity."

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

This Outdoor Lantern Will Keep Mosquitoes Away—No Bug Spray Necessary

Thermacell, Amazon
Thermacell, Amazon

With summer comes outdoor activities, and with those activities come mosquito bites. If you're one of the unlucky people who seem to attract the insects, you may be tempted to lock yourself inside for the rest of the season. But you don't have to choose between comfort and having a cocktail on the porch, because this lamp from Thermacell ($25) keeps outdoor spaces mosquito-free without the mess of bug spray.

The device looks like an ordinary lantern you would display on a patio, but it works like bug repellent. When it's turned on, a fuel cartridge in the center provides the heat needed to activate a repellent mat on top of the lamp. Once activated, the repellent in the mat creates a 15-by-15-foot bubble of protection that repels any mosquitos nearby, making it a great option for camping trips, days by the pool, and backyard barbecues.

Mosquito repellent lantern.

Unlike some other mosquito repellents, this lantern is clean, safe, and scent-free. It also provides light like a real lamp, so you can keep pests away without ruining your backyard's ambience.

The Thermacell mosquito repellent lantern is now available on Amazon. If you've already suffered your first mosquito bites of the summer, here's some insight into why that itch can be so excruciating.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

“They Will Catch on Fire”: Michigan Library Asks Patrons Not to Microwave Their Books

Burning books may kill coronavirus germs, but at what cost?
Burning books may kill coronavirus germs, but at what cost?
Movidagrafica Barcelona, Pexels

Last month, the Plainfield Township branch of the Kent District Library (KDL) in Grand Rapids, Michigan, took to Facebook to share a cautionary tale about burning books.

It wasn’t a summary of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, nor did it have anything to do with a metaphorical protection of free speech. Instead, the post showed a scorched edition of Window on the Bay by Debbie Macomber, which had apparently been microwaved in an ill-conceived attempt to burn off any coronavirus germs.

As the post explained, each book is outfitted with a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag—a more efficient alternative to barcodes, which must be scanned individually and at close range. But since RIFDs contain metal, “they will catch on fire in the microwave.”

“I don't know if it was something that they saw on the news—that they thought maybe the heat would kill COVID-19,” the library’s regional manager Elizabeth Guarino-Kozlowicz told the Detroit Free Press.

Exposure to high heat could indeed kill the virus. According to the World Health Organization, temperatures of 132.8°F or above can eliminate the SARS coronavirus, which behaves similarly to this newer strain (SARS-CoV-2). That said, we still don’t know exactly how heat affects SARS-CoV-2, and nuking a novel is a horrible idea no matter what.

Food & Wine reports that KDL workers are quarantining all returned library books for 72 hours to make sure all coronavirus germs have died before checking them back into the collection. As for the fate of the charred volume, KDL told Mental Floss that the borrower has been billed for it. After they pay the fine, they’ll get to take it home for good.

If you’re worried about borrowing contaminated books from your own library, you can always call first to find out what safety guidelines they’re following. Or, you could stick to e-books for a while—here are five free ways to get them.

[h/t Food & Wine]