THE GREAT PUMPKIN


Time to break into your pumpkin dance and talk about everyone's favorite Halloween fruit: the pumpkin. Yup, it's a fruit. Actually, to be more specific, it's a berry. A berry with medicinal and mood-boosting properties. Who knew.

Why do we carve into this strange, delicious berry, give it scary eyebrows, and stick a candle inside? The Jack O'Lantern originated in Ireland (as the name implies), where a man named Stingy Jack swindled the Devil and then paid for it in Purgatory. There, he carved into a turnip and lit some coal inside to guide his soul. Folks in Ireland fashioned their own turnip lanterns to scare away Jack and other evil spirits. When Irish immigrants came to America, someone carved into a pumpkin (turnips were nowhere to be found?) and the Jack O'Lantern was born!

Next time you carve your spooky Halloween pumpkin, consider focusing your attention on the shadows of the lantern. It's possible to use the art of stereographic projection to make amazing geometric shadow patterns around the pumkin. You might not scare away Stingy Jack, but you would learn a time-honored mathematical technique, used by cartographers to draw 2D maps of our 3D Earth.

Now go get yourself a pumpkin spice latte, "the coffee that tastes like a candle". Happy Halloween!

© 2017 by A LADY IN A LAB COAT

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