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]

Astrophysicist Developing Face-Touching Warning Necklace for Coronavirus Gets Magnets Stuck Up His Nose

Nothing good can result from shoving things up your nose. One astrophysicist learned that the hard way.
Nothing good can result from shoving things up your nose. One astrophysicist learned that the hard way.
RusN/iStock via Getty Images

History is full of innovators who have suffered for their ingenuity. Thomas Midgley, Jr., for example, was struck with polio and developed a pulley system to help get himself out of bed. He was strangled by the contraption. Henry Smolinski thought he had a viable prototype for a flying car made from a Ford Pinto in 1973. A wing fell off and killed him.

All things considered, Daniel Reardon got off easy. He only had to have magnets professionally removed from his nose.

Reardon, an Australian astrophysicist, is one of many innovators attempting to assist in the coronavirus pandemic. According to The Guardian, Reardon was in the process of designing a necklace that could alert the wearer when they were in danger of touching their face, one of the primary methods of transmission for viral illness. His idea was to have magnets worn on wrists that would activate a circuit on the necklace.

But then Reardon realized the electronic field in the necklace only completed its circuit without a magnetic field, meaning it buzzed constantly. Having failed in his task and growing bored, Reardon decided to play with the powerful neodymium magnets, clipping them to his earlobes and then his nostrils. This, he said, is when things went “downhill.”

When Reardon removed one set of magnets from outside his nostril, the remaining magnets inside his nose were attracted to one another. Reardon then used more magnets to try and remove them, expecting the outside pull would negate their attraction on the inside of his nose. Unable to control them, he soon found himself with multiple magnets lodged in both nostrils.

After realizing pliers only made the problem worse—they were attracted to the magnets—and that he had failed to achieve his goal of not touching his face, Reardon went to the hospital, where all of them were removed. (One nearly fell down his throat, but he managed to cough it up.) Doctors made an informal diagnosis of self-inflicted injury due to isolation and boredom.

Neodymium magnets are typically sold with cautions, as they are strong enough to “leap” toward each other from several inches or even several feet apart. Though they do not often come with explicit warnings not to shove them inside your nose, it's best avoided.

[h/t The Guardian]

Canadian Man Named Lorne Grabher Stripped of His Right to Have a ‘GRABHER’ License Plate Is Appealing the Court’s Decision

Lorne Grabher shows off his forbidden license plate.
Lorne Grabher shows off his forbidden license plate.
CBC News, YouTube

For about 25 years, Nova Scotia, Canada, was home to a vanity license plate emblazoned with “GRABHER.”

Lorne Grabher had given it to his father as a 65th birthday gift in 1991, and it eventually passed to Lorne himself. Anyone who knew the Grabhers no doubt recognized the last name, but the same couldn’t be said for one passerby, alarmed at what seemed like a blanket imperative for abduction and assault. In November 2016, the anonymous individual filed a complaint with the Registrar of Motor Vehicles, who informed Grabher that his plate would be revoked the following month.

Grabher, proud of his Austrian-German heritage and outraged at what he considered to be a violation of his rights, sued the Registrar. This past January, CBC News reported that the Nova Scotia Supreme Court sided with the Registrar, ruling that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not extend to this particular situation.

“The seven letters (‘GRABHER’) on a government-owned license plate can be interpreted as promoting sexualized violence (without full contextual information),” the court stated in its decision. “Preventing harm that could flow from such a message on a government plate must be seen as pressing and substantial.”

Though disappointed with the outcome, Grabher was determined to continue the fight, even if that meant taking the case all the way to Canada’s Supreme Court.

“I’m not giving up,” he told CBC News in January. “I’m in it for the long haul.”

True to his word, Grabher is now filing an appeal through his lawyers at Calgary’s Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms on the grounds that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does, in fact, cover personalized license plates, and there is no evidence to suggest that Grabher’s plate actually promotes sexualized violence [PDF].

While you wait for the next chapter of this epic battle of wills to unfold, check out 11 other controversial license plates here.

[h/t CBC News]