The Reason Why No Photography is Allowed in the Sistine Chapel

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

As the home of some of the greatest works of art produced by humanity, the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City is a popular tourist destination (to put it mildly). If you've been one of the 4 million visitors to the famous landmark each year, you've probably learned of one aspect of the room filled with Michelangelo's beautiful, biblical frescos that tends to come as a surprise to first-time guests.

There's no photography or video allowed in the Sistine Chapel.

Yes, despite the rules that encourage quiet contemplation of the fantastic, eye-popping art that adorns nearly every inch of the walls and ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, visitors to the chapel will find their experience peppered with terse shouts of “No photo! No video!” from security guards. The prohibition against photography has been in place for several decades, and while many assume that the no-photography rule is in place to prevent the flashing of cameras from affecting the art, the real reason dates back to the restoration of the chapel's art that began in 1980 and took nearly 20 years to complete.

Restoration of Daniel in the Sistine Chapel
Michelangelo, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain in the United States

When Vatican officials decided to undertake a comprehensive restoration of Michelangelo's art in the chapel, the price tag for such an endeavor prompted them to seek outside assistance to fund the project. In the end, the highest bidder was Nippon Television Network Corporation of Japan, whose $3 million offering (which eventually ballooned to $4.2 million) was unmatched by any entity in Italy or the U.S.

In return for funding the renovation, Nippon TV received the exclusive rights to photography and video of the restored art, as well as photos and recordings of the restoration process by photographer Takashi Okamura, who was commissioned by Nippon TV. While many initially scoffed at the deal, the high-resolution photos provided by Nippon offered a hyper-detailed peek behind all of the scaffolding that hid each stage of restoration, and eventually won over some critics of the arrangement.

As a result of the deal, Nippon produced multiple documentaries, art books, and other projects featuring their exclusive photos and footage of the Sistine Chapel restoration, including several celebrated collections of the photographic surveys that informed the project.

The ban on photography within the chapel remains in effect despite the waning of the terms of Nippon's deal. In 1990, The New York Times reported that Nippon's commercial exclusivity on photos expired three years after each stage of the restoration was completed. For example, photos of Michelangelo's epic depiction of Last Judgment were no longer subject to Nippon's copyright as of 1997, because that stage of the restoration was completed in 1994.

For the record, Nippon has stated that their photo ban did not apply to "ordinary tourists," but for simplicity's sake—lest some professional photog disguised himself in Bermuda shorts and socks and sandals—authorities made it an across-the-board policy.

Last Judgment in Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel
Michelangelo, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain in the United States

The “No Photos! No Video!” rule remains in place for the Sistine Chapel (though as some recent visitors can attest, its enforcement isn't exactly strict). Given the damage that can be caused by thousands of cameras' flashes going off in the chapel each day, it's no surprise that Vatican officials decided not to end the ban when Nippon's contract expired.

After all, the chapel houses some of the greatest art in the world—and a gift shop stocked with souvenir photos, of course.

The Reason Americans Buy Refrigerated Milk and Europeans Don't

Buying cold milk is a very American phenomenon.
Buying cold milk is a very American phenomenon.
ziggy1/iStock via Getty Images

Nothing goes better with cookies or cereal than a cold glass of milk. (Or almond milk, if that’s your preference.) Few people in the United States pull cartons of milk from their cupboard. Milk is sold and stored cold, but America is a bit of an outlier in that regard. So what gives? Why do we buy milk chilled while Europe and other parts of the world stock and store it outside the refrigerator?

It comes down to different pasteurization methods. In the U.S. and Canada, milk manufacturers make use of high-temperature short-time pasteurization, or HTST. Able to kill bacteria in large batches, HTST is efficient but results in milk that expires relatively quickly—about seven to 10 days after opening. That’s because the temperature used (about 161°F for 15 seconds) is enough to kill most bacteria, but some will proliferate if the milk hangs around long enough.

In Europe and other parts of the world, another technique called ultra-heat-treated pasteurization, or UHT, is used. Milk is exposed to higher temperatures of 284°F for three seconds, decimating virtually all the bacteria and making it shelf-stable for about six months if left unopened. (Once opened, it has to be refrigerated.) Because it’s “cooked” at high heat and burns off some of the sugar, UHT milk also has a slightly different flavor.  

Pasteurization is named after Louis Pasteur, a French scientist in the 1860s who realized heating beer could kill bacteria. Decades later, German agricultural chemist Franz von Soxhlet applied the principle of high heat to milk, since dairy products had a nasty habit of harboring contaminants that could cause diphtheria or tuberculosis. HTST and UHT methods followed, and Europe picked up on the promise of UHT producing milk that wouldn’t spoil quickly.

Even though companies have tried getting Americans to warm to shelf-stable milk—the Parmalat company tried a marketing campaign with Luciano Pavarotti in the early 1990s—it may simply be too late. The idea of purchasing milk in the middle of a grocery store, unrefrigerated, is something that doesn't fit with U.S. food storage habits. While UHT milk is still sold in the U.S., it’s primarily for portable cartons thrown in lunchboxes or for people who want to have milk on hand in a backpack. For most Americans, however, cold milk is the only milk worth considering.

[h/t Reader’s Digest]

What Does the i in iPhone Stand For?

Steve Jobs reveals the iPhone 4 at a conference in 2010.
Steve Jobs reveals the iPhone 4 at a conference in 2010.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

At this point, a lowercase i before virtually any other word—phone, pad, pod, tunes, etc.—is a giant clue that Apple is affiliated with that gadget, program, or service. And, given that the now-ubiquitous tech company ushered in the practice of including internet access on just about all our personal devices, the assumption that the i stands for internet is a pretty good one.

But internet isn’t the only word the i represents. Back in 1998, Apple unveiled the iMac, a candy-colored, translucent personal computer that boasted a better user experience, higher processing speeds, and access to the internet. During the launch presentation, Steve Jobs confirmed that the i alluded to those internet capabilities—and then some.

“We are targeting this for the number-one use that consumers tell us they want a computer for, which is to get on the internet,” he said, before revealing that i also stood for four other words: individual, instruct, inform, and inspire.

“We are a personal computer company, and although this product is born to network, it also is a beautiful standalone product,” he explained. “We’re targeting it also for education. They [educators] want to buy these, and it’s perfect for most of the things they do in instruction. It’s perfect for finding tremendous source[s] of information over the internet, and we hope, as you see the product, it will inspire us all to make even better products in the future.”

Apple did make even better products in the future, and Jobs gave users the opportunity to access the internet on the go with the launch of the first iPhone in 2007. But by that time, as Reader’s Digest points out, the i had become more of a brand identifier than an indicator that the device actually had internet access; the first iPod, for example, which was released in 2001, had no network capabilities.

While the iPhone has proven to have an impressive amount of staying power in society, the same can’t be said for iPod Socks, the Apple Time Band, and these nine other forgotten Apple products.

[h/t Reader’s Digest]

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