Cool Weird Awesome with Brady Carlson

Cool Weird Awesome with Brady Carlson

www.coolweirdawesome.com
Three minutes each weekday of cool facts, weird news and awesome discoveries with Brady Carlson. Back us at http://patreon.com/bradycarlson


Record Your Own Song Into A Paper Cup
May 29 • 3 min
Most audio these days (including this show) is recorded digitally, but there are lots of ways to document sounds, including one that’s built around a paper cup-turned-microphone. Plus: a programmer has designed a face mask with a lit up, virtual mouth! An…
James Bond’s Favorite Food Was Going To Be Scrambled Eggs
May 28 • 3 min
Agent 007 is known for living as large as you can - fast cars, fancy clothes, expensive hotels, and fancy food and drink. But writer Ian Fleming once admitted that Bond was originally going to eat pretty much just one food. Plus: if you’re going to stick…
Bees Doing It For Themselves
May 27 • 3 min
There are lots of human efforts to help bees out, but there’s also some new research out that says bees help themselves by taking steps to get plants to flower earlier than usual. Plus: a man in Canada ordered hair cream in 2012, and it just arrived this…
The Letters of the English Alphabet Weren’t Added in Alphabetical Order
May 26 • 3 min
Amazingly, the English alphabet added its last letter in 1524, and no, that letter wasn’t Z. We’ll explain how an Italian grammarian convinced the world to add one more letter to the list. Plus: Andoni Bastarrika is a Basque artist who works with sand,…
James Garfield Had A Lot To Say On Memorial Day
May 25 • 3 min
If you miss the speeches that often come at a Memorial Day ceremony, we have a story for you: the story of the speech future president James A. Garfield gave at the first Memorial Day event at Arlington National Cemetery in 1868. It was, shall we say, not…
Can Robots Get Dogs To Sit?
May 22 • 3 min
Our world is filling up with artificial intelligence, and now, so is the world of dogs. Researchers at Yale University have been testing whether dogs will take commands from robot voices. Plus: someone, somehow, posted a video that appears to show a…
How French Soup-Makers Helped Give Us Restaurants
May 21 • 3 min
It’s National Waitstaff Day, and whether or not you’re back to dining out, it’s a good time to figure out a little of where restaurants come from. (It’s complicated.) Plus: the website ThisWordDoesNotExist creates words that sound real but aren’t. When…
The Hubble Telescope’s First Space Photo Was Kind Of Blurry
May 20 • 3 min
It was on this day in 1990 that the Hubble Space Telescope took its first photo from space. Unfortunately the telescope had a problem with one of its mirrors that required astronauts to go up and fix. Plus: for World Bee Day, the story of an Irish bee…
The Day The Sun Left New England
May 19 • 3 min
This day in 1780 was a very strange day for New England. The sun decided to leave the sky around 10 in the morning, leaving everything pitch black and scaring the heck out of the locals. Plus: this day in 1964 was a very strange day for Andy Warhol, who…
A Rock Painter In New Hampshire Really Loves A Chicken Farmer
May 18 • 3 min
We explore one of the great mysteries of our time: why is there a rock in Newbury, New Hampshire, with the words “CHICKEN FARMER I STILL LOVE YOU” painted on it? Plus: why is there a giant statue of a chicken eating burgers on top of a restaurant in…
Let’s All Ride Inside A Monowheel
May 15 • 3 min
Imagine a unicycle, but there’s no seat, the wheel is much bigger and you ride inside it. That’s a monowheel, and while it may not be a casual rider’s cup of tea, extreme sports people are way into them. Plus: how would you like to recreate a piece of art…
Predictive Text Is Changing, Not Just Predicting, What We Write
May 14 • 3 min
A new Harvard study finds those systems that suggest words to us when we type on our smartphones are actually shaping the way we write sentences and messages. The new app Drive + Listen can take you on the most realistic virtual road trip of our time.…
Otters Collect Rocks And Juggle Them
May 13 • 3 min
Otters are known to choose favorite rocks to carry around and juggle - it’s a real sight to see. Researchers at the University of Exeter have been trying to figure out why otters juggle. Meanwhile: Juneau, Alaska just set up a joke hotline for residents…
Why Did The Moon Disappear 900 Years Ago?
May 12 • 3 min
The moon waxes and wanes in its phases month after month, and it always comes back. Except for that time in 1110, when records indicate that the moon vanished for months, or maybe even a year or longer. Scientists finally think they know what happened.…
A Guy Taking An Online Class May Have Made An Archaeological Find
May 11 • 3 min
Chris Sedden was looking at scans of a site near where he lived, and spotted something “a bit odd, and a bit round.” It might be a lost henge! Plus: the community of Dorset finds a way to hold the annual “knob”-eating contest even while everyone’s staying…
The College With Its Own Doll Collection
May 8 • 3 min
Colleges and students are trying to make the best of the current difficulties - like with virtual commencement ceremonies, for example. But there are still some traditions that are hard to replicate online, like Meredith College’s annual presentation of a…
Jigsaw Puzzles, A Geographic Teaching Tool Turned Global Phenomenon
May 7 • 3 min
There’s been a surge in popularity for jigsaw puzzles lately - not bad for an idea that was originally meant to teach kids in London about the countries of Europe. Plus: today marks the 10th anniversary of the world record for the largest group hug.…
When In Rome, Recycle Like The Ancient Romans Did
May 6 • 3 min
The city of Pompeii was buried by Mount Vesuvius almost 2,000 years ago. And yet something there may sound very familiar to us today: the community had a pretty elaborate recycling system. Plus: why staff at the Sumida Aquarium in Tokyo are encouraging…
If You Miss Eating At Restaurants, Maybe These Ambient Sound Playlists Will Help
May 5 • 3 min
Missing the sounds of a full restaurant on a Saturday night? Several well-known ambient sound apps and platforms feature a wide range of soundscapes, including restaurants, that might bring those familiar sounds back to you. Plus: the story of a dude in…
In Belgium, Eating Fries Is Patriotic
May 4 • 3 min
Authorities in Belgium are calling on citizens to do their duty and help the country’s potato farmers by ordering frites twice a week - fitting, since Belgium is home of the world’s only Frietmuseum and considers itself the birthplace of the fried potato.…
Couple Songs Are A Thing, According To Science
May 1 • 3 min
You know how some couples have their own song? There’s actually psychological research into what are known officially as “couple-defining songs,” and there are legitimate benefits to the relationship to choosing a tune to share. Plus: next time you’re in…
The Doctor Who Took Out His Own Appendix
Apr 30 • 3 min
It would be understandable if you felt a little cut off from the rest of the world these days. Hopefully it won’t be as challenging as it was for Dr. Leonid Rogozov, who on this day in 1961 had to remove his own appendix while stationed in Antarctica.…
A Computer Chip That Brings Back The Sense Of Touch
Apr 29 • 3 min
Physical distancing has hopefully made us all appreciate the sense of touch a little more. Scientists in Ohio may have found a way to bring that sense back to people with spinal cord injuries. Plus: an octopus may have brought back a family heirloom to a…
Meet The Fake Beatles
Apr 28 • 3 min
This month marks 50 years since the world learned The Beatles were calling it a day. So we’re telling the story of the American Beetles - a knockoff band that toured South America, without quite telling everyone they weren’t the genuine article. Plus:…
Lead Pollution Is Bad For Us, But Can It Walk Us Back Through History?
Apr 27 • 3 min
Lead, unfortunately, is something that lingers, as was proven by scientists who used lead pollution from centuries ago to track the ups and downs of European monarchs. Plus: the story of a Japanese chef so good with a knife that he’s created what’s…
The Friendship Oak Is Over 500 Years Old And Still Going Strong
Apr 24 • 3 min
Today is Arbor Day, and so we’re going to talk about the Friendship Oak, a remarkable tree in Mississippi that just keeps on keeping on. Plus: we’ll visit Joe Bagley, who has 1,400 house plants in his apartment and for whom it might be said that every day…
Now That’s A Deep Cut: Music Scholars Bring Back “Lost” Songs From 1,000 Years Ago
Apr 23 • 3 min
Music scholars at Cambridge University studied musical manuscripts without modern notation and after years of detective work, reconstructed what they would have sounded like. Plus: on this day in 1982 Key West, Florida declared independence from - and war…
Running The Mars Rover From Home Is The Coolest Remote Work Ever
Apr 22 • 3 min
Like people in other industries who have the means to do so, the scientists who operate the Curiosity Rover are working away from their office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in southern California. Though technically when you run a craft that’s on…
How To Perform Opera In American Sign Language
Apr 21 • 3 min
The University of Virginia’s Disabilities Studies Symposium has produced a version of a 1950s opera called “Dialogues of the Carmelites” featuring both traditional opera singers and Deaf actors performing together and living up to the name of their…
Jimmy Carter Vs. The Swamp Rabbit
Apr 20 • 3 min
It’s a very odd anniversary in the history of the US presidency. Today in 1979, President Jimmy Carter got into a fight (of sorts) with a swamp rabbit. Plus: today would normally be a big day in Zurich, when participants in the annual Sechselauten bring…
Now That We Don’t Shake Hands, Find Out Why We Ever Started
Apr 17 • 3 min
Some health experts suggest that when the world gets back to normal we should do away with the handshake. It is an effective way to spread germs, but it’s also had some pretty useful functions in its long history. Plus: since it’s the anniversary of the…
Bouncy Pavement Could Be Safer Pavement
Apr 16 • 3 min
Falls on hard pavement can be very, very dangerous for some of us. That’s why a research group called SAFERUP is trying to make safer, bouncier pavement. Plus: the Rakuten Monkeys baseball team in Taiwan is planning to have robot mannequins in the stands…
When Food Becomes The Artist’s Muse
Apr 15 • 3 min
Artist Itsuo Kobayashi has been keeping an illustrated food diary since 1980, drawing and describing each meal, the ingredients, the price and how it made him feel. Plus: for National Banana Day, we go to - where else - the International Banana Museum in…
The Weirdest Words Noah Webster Ever Defined
Apr 14 • 3 min
Today’s the day in 1828 that Noah Webster went to the copyright office to register his work “An American Dictionary of the English Language.” This work, no pun intended, defined American English as people actually spoke it, but it also included some words…
The “Mutant Enzyme” That Helps Recycle Plastic
Apr 13 • 3 min
A company called Carbios says it’s been using what it calls a “mutant enzyme” to break plastic down into the components to make new plastic in mere hours. But will this mutant eventually try to rule humanity for its own good? Plus: an education student in…
Robot Week: The Little Robot That Cleans Up After Your Dog
Apr 10 • 3 min
We’re replaying some of our favorite robot-themed episodes of the show this week. In this episode from October 2019, we hear about an autonomous device that’s ready to clean up after our dogs on demand, thanks to a large scooper on its underside. If…
Robot Week: Drones Can Go Through Windows Now. That’s Good, Right?
Apr 9 • 3 min
We’re replaying some of our favorite robot-themed episodes of the show this week. In this episode from July 2019, we learn about a quadcopter drone that uses spring-loaded arms and a process called “rapid aerial morphing” to fold itself up as it flies. So…
Robot Week: Getting All Our Robot Ducks In A Row
Apr 8 • 3 min
We’re replaying some of our favorite robot-themed episodes of the show this week. In this episode from July 2019, we check in on a little white robot swimming through rice fields in Japan, imitating a duck! It’s actually helping to grow the rice by…
Robot Week: Row, Row, Row Your Bot
Apr 7 • 3 min
We’re replaying some of our favorite robot-themed episodes of the show this week. In this episode from June 2019, researchers teach robots to row themselves gently down the stream and to connect to each other autonomously. They could help clean the water…
Robot Week: Laser Apple Robots
Apr 6 • 3 min
We’re replaying some of our favorite robot-themed episodes of the show this week. In this episode from April 2019, a New Zealand company tests a robot that’s supposed to move through an apple orchard, spot ripe fruit, yank it from the tree and bring it…
How To Fight Fires With Drones
Apr 3 • 3 min
Firefighters in Chongqing, China, may soon put out fires with help from a team of six large drones that can get in the air and quickly extinguish blazes. Plus: a guy in Tacoma, Washington is spreading positivity by yelling things at people for money.…
Could You Be The New Voice Of Big Tex?
Apr 2 • 3 min
They’re holding auditions for the next voice of Big Tex, the 55 foot tall cowboy that’s the embodiment of the Texas State Fair. He’s joined forces with the X-Men and survived catching on fire, not he just needs someone to help him talk about his long…
Lego Bricks Could Last Longer Than A Millennium
Apr 1 • 3 min
Researchers have been studying LEGO longevity! Don’t put them in the ocean, because they could last hundreds or even thousands of years - instead, maybe build something really cool to share with future generations. Plus: there’s a new world record in the…
Radio Saved The Eiffel Tower
Mar 31 • 3 min
The Eiffel Tower was only supposed to stand in Paris for 20 years… but experiments in “wireless telegraphy” helped convince the powers that be to keep the tower in place. Plus: this gallery of the weirdest-looking cars to ever roll off the assembly line…
Have Fun Storming The Augmented Reality Castle
Mar 30 • 3 min
There’s a website that shows seven sites on which European castles once stood - only partial structures now, but the site has filled the towers and other structures back in. Plus: the blare of a neighborhood car alarm gives Brooklyn musician Andrea Long…
The Story Behind The Weirdest Baseball Card Of All Time
Mar 27 • 3 min
Baseball’s opening weekend has been postponed, so for now let’s enjoy the tale of how pitcher Keith Comstock managed to turn his baseball card into one where he appears to be hit in a very sensitive place. Plus: salon owner Heidi Oley had to close her…
The Motorcycling Sisters Who Rode For The RIght To Vote
Mar 26 • 3 min
It’s the birthday of Augusta Van Buren, who joined her sister Adeline for a cross-country motorcycle trip in 1916 to win support for the suffragist movement. And what a trip it was. Plus: if you’re one of the many people stocking up on bathroom tissue…
The Mars Lander Can Give Itself A Helping Hand
Mar 25 • 3 min
NASA has fixed a problem with its Mars lander, essentially by telling the lander to use a robotic arm to help itself - or, depending on the headlines you read, to whack itself. Plus: a Wisconsin man finds a clever way to share a beer with his neighbor in…
Can This Device “Hear” Disease?
Mar 24 • 3 min
A team Purdue University developed a device that uses sound waves that can help determine if and when a disease has started to invade our body cells. That SOUNDS like a good idea (see what we did there?) Plus: a sports commentator in the UK is keeping his…
Our Show About The History Of “OK” Is Just Okay
Mar 23 • 3 min
On this day in 1839 we first saw the word we use so often to describe our most middling feelings. That’s right, it’s the birthday of OK. Plus: it’s also the anniversary of the time an astronaut smuggled a corned beef sandwich aboard a space mission. How…
Underwater Cleaning Robots Can Lower Cargo Ships’ Emissions
Mar 20 • 3 min
This sounds bonkers, but apparently a robotic cleaning system called HullSkater can remove bio-gunk off the hulls of ships, helping them reduce their carbon footprints. Plus: Freeman, South Dakota was to have SchmeckFest this weekend. It will be back, so…
Does A Book With 1,250 Endings Ever Really End?
Mar 19 • 3 min
I grew up reading Choose Your Own Adventure books, some of which had dozens of possible endings. But a new book from a celebrated Sri Lankan children’s author had a world record 1,250 endings! Plus: a pilot in Austria does his part for social distancing…
In Which Four Guys With The Same Name Start A Band
Mar 18 • 3 min
The Atlantic just did an interview with some musicians called the Paul O’Sullivan Band. There are four guys in the group: Paul O’Sullivan, Paul O’Sullivan, Paul O’Sullivan and (wait for it) Paul O’Sullivan. Here’s the story of how they got together. Plus:…
Someday Teeth May Heal Themselves (But We’ll Still Have To Brush)
Mar 17 • 3 min
A team at King’s College London has found evidence that, with help from a prescription treatment, teeth may be able to repair themselves! Plus: parades are off this St. Patrick’s Day, but we’ve still got Irish Potato Candies. (Don’t worry, they only look…
The World Shuts Down, But “Art Doesn’t Stop”
Mar 16 • 3 min
Staff at a museum in Turin, Italy called Castello di Rivoli have been working marathon days to digitize their entire collection so that art lovers who can’t see the pieces in person can still enjoy them online. Plus: a volunteers at a thrift shop in North…
There’s A Hair Freezing Contest In The Yukon
Mar 13 • 3 min
This weekend voting gets underway for one of the most unusual contests you’ll find anywhere in the world: the Takhini Hot Springs Hair Freezing Contest. Plus: Colorado is honoring a dude who’s spending his afterlife surrounded by a great deal of dry ice.…
The Earth’s Rotation Is Slowing, Thanks To The Moon
Mar 12 • 3 min
We’re hearing a lot about how a research project has shown that Earth days used to be about a half-hour shorter than they are now. Why is our planet rotating more slowly now? It’s mostly because of the moon. Plus: in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the…
Turn Used Cooking Oil Into Raw Material For 3D Printers
Mar 11 • 3 min
Researchers at the University of Toronto have an idea: maybe the old cooking oil from fast food chains could have new life as resin for 3D printers. Plus: this weekend in Mansfield, Texas, it’s the one and only Pickle Parade! U of T researchers turn…
Durian Fruit May Help Charge Our Cellphones, And Without That Smell
Mar 10 • 3 min
Researchers at the University of Sydney say they can turn the waste from durian and jackfruit into carbon aerogel, which can help store energy in what are called super-capacitors. And no, they don’t smell. Plus: Daniele Barresi is a master of making…
How Do We Talk To Voyager 1 and 2 When They’re So Far Away?
Mar 9 • 3 min
Earlier this year NASA got Voyager 2 to restart systems it had shut down through the ultimate in working remotely: sending directions beyond the reach of the sun! The way we send those commands to Voyagers 1 and 2 is pretty basic, but with twists to make…
Get Hydrated By Eating These Water-Filled Treats
Mar 6 • 3 min
Dehydration can be a big problem for patients with dementia or Alzheimers. Jelly Drops are colorful, edible treat pods full of water that may be able to help these individuals stay hydrated. Plus: the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museum is…
The Life And Flights Of Jerrie Cobb
Mar 5 • 3 min
Today is the birthday of Jerrie Cobb, who could have been the first woman in space but ended up flying to great heights nonetheless. Plus: it was on this day in 2011 that a museum in the Netherlands first put on exhibit a work called “Peanut Butter…
The Moths That Absorb Sound To Hide From Bats
Mar 4 • 3 min
Some moths are built to essentially cancel sound - and it’s a pretty effective defense mechanism against bats and echolocation. Plus: a heart-shaped work of art made by bees! Deaf moths evolved noise-cancelling scales to evade predators (Phys.org) Bees…
When Kentucky Had a “Meat Shower”
Mar 3 • 3 min
On this day in 1876, a Mrs. Crouch was outside making soap when “suddenly there descended upon her a gentle shower of meat.” What the heck happened to cause meat to fall from the sky over Bath County, Kentucky? Plus: Lincoln, the goat mayor of Fairhaven,…
There’s Music For Cats And It’s Apparently Very Good For Them
Mar 2 • 3 min
Can music help cats relax during their visits to the vet? Apparently so - but would music specifically made for cats be even more helpful than music made for humans? Plus: if you missed Justin Bieber’s birthday yesterday, visit a museum in his hometown…
Lyndon Johnson Had A Not So Great Leap Day
Feb 28 • 3 min
It was on a Leap Day in 1968 that the President of the United States got stuck in an elevator. We’ll explain how it happened. Plus: this weekend at Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, it’s the third annual Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Weekend. LBJ Stuck In…
A Device That Can Make Electricity “Out Of Thin Air”
Feb 27 • 3 min
A new technology out of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst actually pulls electricity out of the air! But don’t worry, it’s not like when Sith lords shoot lightning at people. Plus: Steamboat Springs, Colorado sets the world record for the largest…
This Program Can Make You Invisible On A Webcam
Feb 26 • 3 min
Disappearing People is a computer program that can make us invisible on our computer’s cameras! Plus: the story of something that cannot be unseen, the world record longest salami. This Program Will Make You Invisible (to Your Webcam) (Motherboard) Salami…
We Can Put Old Mattresses To Use In Gardens
Feb 25 • 3 min
A project run by researchers at the University of Sheffield, is using foam taken from discarded mattresses to help Syrian refugees start hydroponic gardens in Jordan. Plus: why were there two Miss Sasquatch Queens in Saskatchewan back in 1969? Scientists…
A Brain Implant That Can Bypass A Damaged Eye And Send Images To The Mind
Feb 24 • 3 min
The technology I like best is the technology that helps people do what they couldn’t do before, like a new brain implant that can put images from a camera in front of blind people. Plus: Rita Ebel is making the German town of Hanau more accessible for…
Do Chocolates Taste Better With The Right Music?
Feb 21 • 3 min
Washington State University has a Sensory Science Lab that tests all the ways we encounter what we eat and how that can affect how we think it tastes. Now they’re testing whether different kinds of music can affect how we think about chocolate. Plus: this…
“Ghost Signs” Show What Buildings Used To Be
Feb 20 • 3 min
If you’ve ever driven past a building and seen a faded advertisement on the side of the brick, or spotted a neon sign for a restaurant where a real estate office now sits, those are ghost signs. A new book called The Ghost Signs of NYC tours these signs…
When Americans Could Mail Their Children From Place To Place
Feb 19 • 3 min
It was on this day in 1914 a family in Grangeville, Idaho sent a four year old through the mail to her grandmother in Lewiston, 73 miles away. And she wasn’t the only kid to travel this way after the US Postal Service began the parcel post. Plus: the…
The Robot That Sorts Your Trash From Your Recyclables
Feb 18 • 3 min
Toss an item into TrashBot and the system’s internal sensors figure out what the item is, and whether to recycle it or toss it out. No more recycleables in the trash, no more trash in the recycleables. Plus: officials in Prichard, Alabama missed a typo…
Gerald Ford Stayed In His Own House, Not The White House, After He Became President
Feb 17 • 3 min
Since 1800, presidents have made the White House their home base. But there have been a few times when new presidents took office unexpectedly and the world’s most powerful address wasn’t yet available to them. For Gerald Ford in 1974, that meant he spent…
Olm Salamanders Are The Most Chill Creatures On Earth
Feb 14 • 3 min
For Valentine’s Day, the story of the olm salamander, who will basically sit around and do nothing… unless it’s time for love. Plus: people in Rangeley, Maine gear up for the annual World Record Snowmobile Ride. A salamander didn’t move for seven years –…
The Loudest Thing Anybody Ever Heard
Feb 13 • 3 min
Some sounds are pleasing, others not so much. And a few can actually be destructive, like the sound ZME Science identified is probably the loudest sound humans have ever heard. Plus: how about some loud applause for an octopus who managed to escape four…
Dogs Are Saving Citrus Orchards From Disease
Feb 12 • 3 min
Orchards in the US and elsewhere have been trying to head off a disease called citrus greening. Research shows that dogs can sniff out this disease better and more quickly than any other method we have. Plus: if you’re out riding a horse in Australia, and…
Living Fabrics Make The World Greener As They Make Us Look Fancy
Feb 11 • 3 min
There’s a whole world of sustainable materials for clothing that will have less of an impact should they end up in landfills - some don’t just have low carbon footprints, they have negative carbon footprints! Plus: an art student in Japan puts on a…
4D Printed Microneedles Could Take The Shots Out Of Getting Shots
Feb 10 • 3 min
Here’s one instance where the doctor really CAN say “this won’t hurt a bit.” 4D-printed microneedles could perform of the medical functions of hypodermic needles - giving us vaccines and medicines, taking blood samples - except no shots. Plus: the story…
Blueberries Are Nature’s Bandages
Feb 7 • 3 min
There’s a project out of the University of Maine that’s found that wild blueberries can help us heal cuts and other wounds. Plus: this weekend the 3rd annual Hawaii Island Steel Guitar Festival gets underway. Wound-healing treatment using wild blueberries…
Nanoparticles Can Eat Plaque And Clear Arteries
Feb 6 • 3 min
Sounds like good news for the millions affected by heart disease: a nanoparticle that can target the plaque inside those blood vessels and actually reduce it! Plus: an animal rescue in Leesville, SC, needs piggy cuddlers! Nanoparticle chomps away plaques…
Antarctic Fish Are Helping Us Clear Ice
Feb 5 • 3 min
Researchers at UCLA have developed a coating that can take care of persistent ice in winter, and amazingly, it’s all due to fish. Plus: Kendall Diwisch of Edmonton, Alberta. who helped three kittens get unstuck from an icy situation. Hydrogel coating is…
Will Kryptos, The Unsolvable CIA Puzzle Sculpture, Finally Be Solved?
Feb 4 • 3 min
Kryptos is a puzzle sculpture that’s been on the grounds of CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia since 1990. Three of its four coded messages have been solved - and now we have a clue that might reveal the fourth. Plus: the story of the J.W. Westcott II,…
When Abe Lincoln Said Thanks But No Thanks To A Herd Of Elephants
Feb 3 • 3 min
On this day in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln wrote to the king of Siam, now Thailand, to say thanks, but no thanks, to the king’s offer of a herd of elephants. It was a gracious letter, which was appropriate because elephants themselves have lovely…
If You Like Hockey, You’ll Like Blind Hockey
Jan 31 • 3 min
A growing number of hockey fans are paying attention to blind hockey, where players have either full blindness or 10 percent vision or less. That puts the emphasis on sound. Plus: introducing the Telecaster guitar that’s been signed by 16 Navajo code…
If You’re Making Cookies In Space, Be Patient
Jan 30 • 3 min
Of all the great breakthroughs we’ve made in outer space, there are none sweeter than this: last month, astronauts on the International Space Station baked chocolate chip cookies. But baking cookies in space is a little different than baking them on…
The Rubik’s Cube Was A Maddening Puzzle For Decades, But Not For Speedcubers
Jan 29 • 3 min
The Rubik’s Cube first came to a toy fair in London 40 years ago today. I have never finished one, but the enthusiasts known as speedcubers can now solve an entire cube in seconds. Plus: did you know that Horshack from “Welcome Back Kotter” did the voice…
Here’s A Tiny Particle That Spins Faster Than Anything That’s Ever Spun
Jan 28 • 3 min
Researchers at Purdue University have managed to spin a very tiny object at the ungodly rate of 300 billion revolutions per minute - and it’s powered only by light. Plus: Google Maps allows users to rate and review rivers, lakes and anywhere else that…
When Cows Get Excited, They Tell Each Other About It
Jan 27 • 3 min
A PhD student at the University of Sydney, Alexandra Green, studied a herd of cows for more than five months to study what she called cattle vocal individuality. Cows, it turns out, have a lot to say to each other! Plus: the story of Manuela, a tortoise…
Scientists Can Make Diamonds Out Of Peanut Butter
Jan 24 • 3 min
On National Peanut Butter Day, a reminder that peanut butter is so versatile it can be turned into diamonds. It actually takes more time to explain why you can turn peanut butter into diamonds than to explain how. Plus: this weekend in McCall, Idaho, the…
The Story Of How Frisbees Flew Into Millions Of People’s Hands - And Hearts
Jan 23 • 3 min
Today’s the birthday of one of the great toys of our time: the Frisbee. Though if the man who put that toy into millions of hands had his way, it would’ve been called the Pluto Platter. Plus: on this National Pie Day, head to Rockland, Maine for the 16th…
Boston’s Mayor Once Wanted To Clear Snow With Flamethrowers
Jan 22 • 3 min
On this day in 1948 of the mayor of Boston, James Curley, wrote to the president of MIT, asking that the school’s top engineers find a way to get rid of the huge amounts of snow, maybe with flamethrowers. Seriously. Plus: in Chico, California, a much more…
Meet Toksook Bay, Alaska, Where The 2020 Census Begins
Jan 21 • 3 min
April 1st is officially Census Day in 2020, but today is the first day of counting, and the first town to be counted is Toksook Bay, Alaska, near the Bering Sea. Plus: meet Aleia Murawski and Samuel Copeland, who build little environments for snails and…
Martin Luther King Jr. Was A Trekkie
Jan 20 • 3 min
The most prominent civil rights leader in US history was a Trekkie, and a big reason why was the character of Lieutenant Uhura, played by NIchelle Nichols. Here’s the story of how Dr. King convinced Nichols to stay on the show when she had plans to leave.…
Ben Franklin vs Counterfeiters
Jan 17 • 3 min
Benjamin Franklin was a lot of things, but he always saw himself as a printer - and some of what he printed was currency for American colonies. Turns out he had some pretty creative ways to try to keep counterfeiters from copying his bills. Plus: New…
Meet The Zamboni Who Invented The Zamboni
Jan 16 • 3 min
And now the episode I’ve wanted to make since I started the show: we’re celebrating the Zamboni! And we’re meeting its inventor, Frank Zamboni, who was born on this day in 1901. Plus: a company calculates out just how long it would take a Zamboni to…
Old-Time Sports Radio Used To Give The Audience Diagrams
Jan 15 • 3 min
On this day in 1927, the BBC tried something new for their broadcast of a rugby match between England and Wales: they partnered with Radio Times magazine to publish a diagram of a rugby pitch to help the audience follow the action. Plus: on National Hat…
A Big-Time Librarian Kept “Goodnight Moon” Off The Shelves For 25 Years
Jan 14 • 3 min
The New York Public Library released a list of its top 10 all-time most borrowed books. One book you won’t find on the list is “Goodnight Moon.” Despite being one of the most iconic children’s books of its time, the New York Public Library didn’t have a…
When Ford Introduced The Soybean Car
Jan 13 • 3 min
On this day in 1942, the patent was issued for a car that was to be (at least partly) made from soybeans. And it was the idea of none other than Henry Ford. Plus: Steven Paul Judd is an Oklahoma-based artist of Kiowa/Choctaw descent, and last month he…
We Could Make Fuel Kind Of Like Plants Do
Jan 10 • 3 min
Humans have been trying to figure out how to replicate plant photosynthesis for a long time - and we’ve had some successes, but a team at the University of Michigan has taken one of the biggest steps forward, with a process that uses metals as catalysts…
The Dentist Who Put On A Vaudeville Show To Distract Patients
Jan 9 • 3 min
Dental history is, shall we say, complicated. Fortunately we have all sorts of ways to minimize pain today, but none may be as exciting as those used by Edgar “Painless” Parker, a dentist who would distract his patients by putting on a vaudeville show as…
What’s In A Baby Name? A Pop Song
Jan 8 • 3 min
All kinds of pop culture can lead to trends in baby names, but there’s research that shows that when a hit song has climbed up the pop charts, the same name starts climbing the list of baby names. Plus: good news out of the Consumer Electronics Show for…
Michelangelo Knew Human Anatomy Better Than Medical Science Did
Jan 7 • 3 min
Michelangelo’s David has been one of the best-known works of art for centuries because of its extraordinary detail. Last week we learned it may be even more detailed than we knew. Plus: Clean the World has been collecting, sterilizing and recycling all…
Math Says You Get More Pizza With A Large Instead Of Two Mediums
Jan 6 • 3 min
Obviously one large pizza gets you more than one medium or one small, but what if you’re offered one of those deals where you could get two mediums for a special price? A bold group of pizza researchers studied how you can get the most pizza for your…
Recycled Milk Bottles Apparently Make Great Road Surfaces
Jan 3 • 3 min
In South Africa, a construction company has started producing and using a more eco-friendly asphalt that contains plastic pellets that come from recycled milk bottles. Plus: meet a mayor in Texas who’s bringing a VERY fresh perspective to the job. South…
Eddie Shore, The Hockey Player Who Would Do Anything To Make The Game
Jan 2 • 3 min
Bruins defenseman Eddie Shore missed his team’s train from Boston to Montreal for a must-win game against the Canadiens. So he did what anyone would do: drove 350 miles in a blizzard without a windshield to get there. Plus: DriveTanks in Uvalde, Texas,…
When New Year’s Meant Going To The White House To Shake Hands With The President
Jan 1 • 3 min
For years, on New Year’s Day, Americans could go the White House and shake hands with the president. It’s a tradition that went back to John Adams and the early days of the Executive Mansion. Plus: starting the new year by ending an old relationship? Meet…
Color-Changing Chocolate Sounds Like A Willy Wonka Invention Brought To Real Life
Dec 31, 2019 • 3 min
Researchers in Switzerland say they’ve found a way to change the color of chocolate, and without adding any colors or dyes to it. Instead, they use a special imprint to give it a glowing, rainbow-y patina. Plus: the annual PeepsFest is getting underway,…
The Time Samoa Didn’t Have Time For December 30th
Dec 30, 2019 • 3 min
Eight years ago Samoa skipped a day on the calendar, owing to the International Date Line and some business involving its key trading partners. There just wasn’t a December 30th, 2011 there! Plus: why break your back shoveling snow when you can design a…
UPS Drivers Are Hanging Out With Dogs And Posting Photos With Their New Pals
Dec 27, 2019 • 3 min
There’s a Facebook group/Instagram account called UPS Dogs, and it collects and shares photos of the pups that delivery drivers meet (and usually befriend) on their routes, especially the ones they see regularly. Which is completely and utterly adorable.…
The Return of the Mystery Beer Fridge in Nebraska!
Dec 26, 2019 • 3 min
Remember the beer fridge from our first episode, that two men found after a long weekend of cleaning up flood damage? The Lincoln Journal-Star has checked back in with the owner and the finders to get the latest chapter in the beer fridge story. Plus:…
The Festive 200 Foot Gator In Christmas, Florida
Dec 25, 2019 • 3 min
People can celebrate Christmas the way any way they like, no matter how far it strays from those common paths. We share a few unusual but enjoyable places with their own special traditions for December 25th. Tiny town of Christmas, Fla., is home to…
The Terrifying World Of Victorian-Era Christmas Cards
Dec 24, 2019 • 3 min
Santa Claus stuffing a terrified kid into his bag of presents? Creepy monsters chasing people? A Christmas dinner come to life, with utensils as legs? Meet some of the many terrifying designs for Christmas cards back in the Victorian era. Plus: today is…
Competitive Dreidel Is The Best New Hanukkah Tradition
Dec 23, 2019 • 3 min
Take the Hanukkah favorite, dreidel, and turn the intensity way, way up. Now you’ve got Major League Dreidel, a growing new sport in New York City. Plus: an agency in Nova Scotia decided people needed a break from ads this season, and released some…
Winnipeg, The Slurpee Capital Of Canada
Dec 20, 2019 • 3 min
As we get ready for the official start of winter, it’s worth noting that some of us deal with this time of year in unusual ways. Like the people of Winnipeg, Manitoba, who spend their cold, cold winters drinking Slurpees. Plus: on this Star Wars premiere…
Smart Intersections Could Help Make Self-Driving Cars Smarter
Dec 19, 2019 • 3 min
You’ve heard about making cars smarter, but what about smarter intersections? Cornell researchers find that making intersections more autonomous could help get self-driving cars where they want to go more efficiently. Plus: on the anniversary of the last…
Museums Are Helping Color-Blind Art Lovers See The Whole Spectrum
Dec 18, 2019 • 3 min
An increasing number of museums are offering EnChroma corrective glasses to visitors with color blindness, to bring more color to the world of art and those who enjoy it. Plus: a museum in London is exhibiting a disposable cup from 3,500 years ago,…
They Built A Real-Life Simpsons House In Nevada
Dec 17, 2019 • 3 min
Today marks 30 years since the first episode of “The Simpsons” aired, and so we pay tribute to the house Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie call home - not to mention a real-life, 3D version of the place in Nevada. Plus: the closest real-life town to…
A Family In Michigan Has Kept A Fruitcake As An Heirloom For 141 Years
Dec 16, 2019 • 3 min
Fruitcake is one holiday tradition that’s not for everybody, we know that, but those who love it, love it - like the Ford family in Michigan, which has kept a single fruitcake as an heirloom for over 140 years. Plus: if fruitcake is so infamous, why are…
Is The Tuba The Most Christmas-y Instrument Ever?
Dec 13, 2019 • 3 min
TubaChristmas is an annual concert tradition in which musicians gather to play festive music exclusively on tubas, baritone horns, sousaphones and and euphoniums. We’ll explain how Christmas got so tuba-ey. Plus: Stan Freese got so into his tuba that he…
A More Eco-Friendly Way To De-Ice Roads Sounds Really Grape
Dec 12, 2019 • 3 min
Many communities put down road salt in winter. It can make the roads safer, but too much salt is bad for the environment and for the roads themselves. Scientists at Washington State University may have found a better way to take the ice off the roads:…
Sometimes Towns Just Have To Build Statues To Invasive Pests
Dec 11, 2019 • 3 min
Today marks one hundred years since the community of Enterprise, Alabama, put up a very special monument in the middle of town: a statue of a Greek woman holding a boll weevil, an invasive pest that had ruined the local cotton crop. Wait, what? Plus: meet…
What Can Help Save Coral Reefs? The Sounds Of Coral Reefs
Dec 10, 2019 • 3 min
If you want a good party, you need the right soundtrack: researchers set up underwater loudspeakers in dead sections of the Great Barrier Reef, and playing sounds of healthy reefs attracted twice as many fish as areas where there was no sound. Plus:…
Who Wants To Be The Garbage Collector Of Space?
Dec 9, 2019 • 3 min
There are tens of thousands of pieces of space debris orbiting the Earth. We’ve tried a few different ways to bring them back down over the years. Plus: in Huddleston, Virginia, a giant hay sculpture of a country music legend. Meet Will-hay Nelson! ESA…
Without The Washington Post We Wouldn’t Have Teddy Bears
Dec 6, 2019 • 3 min
Today in 1877 the Washington Post published its first edition. It brought us landmark coverage of Watergate, and John Philip Sousa named a march for it. But the Post’s biggest achievement is helping to create the teddy bear. Plus: this weekend in Ashland,…
The “World’s Smartest Chess Board” Is The Closest Thing To Wizard Chess We Have
Dec 5, 2019 • 3 min
The chessboard known as Square Off works if your opponent is nearby or not, because it can use Bluetooth technology to move the pieces for them on your board, and your pieces on theirs. Ron Weasley would be impressed. Plus: you haven’t heard “Jingle…
These Flexible High-Tech Casts Are Standing Up To Itchy Plaster
Dec 4, 2019 • 3 min
There’s a new medical startup called Cast 21, and, as startups do, they’re looking to disrupt those traditional plaster cast paradigms and make a cast so flexible that wearers could even go swimming. Plus: for National Cookie Day, we pay a virtual visit…
How Oregon Trail Inspired A Generation To Learn About Dysentery
Dec 3, 2019 • 3 min
It was 48 years ago today that kids first got to play the video game Oregon Trail - the invention of three student teachers from Minnesota who ended up changing video game history without realizing it. Plus: a hospital in San Antonio, Texas marks the…
When A Store Held A Drawing For A Baby
Dec 2, 2019 • 3 min
It was the giveaway to end all giveaways - 70 years ago almost to the day, a store in Oregon advertised a drawing for a baby. How the heck did this actually happen? Plus: it’s December and a good way to enjoy the season is a little thing called ice bumper…
How Thanksgiving Leftovers Led To TV Dinners
Nov 29, 2019 • 3 min
In 1953 Swanson had several hundred tons of leftover Thanksgiving turkey - so they created the TV Dinner and changed how we eat. Plus: the 40th annual Holiday Cave Sing is this weekend at Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. The Rise and Fall of the TV Dinner…
We’re Grateful For Off The Wall Thanksgiving Sides
Nov 28, 2019 • 3 min
This holiday edition of Cool Weird Awesome celebrates that for which we are all most grateful: the bewildering foods that inexplicably become part of our annual Thanksgiving dinners, from “seafoam salad” to “tunies” to hot dog chunks warmed up in pizza…
Literally, It’s A Metal Guitar
Nov 27, 2019 • 3 min
Maker and woodworker Tim Sway built a guitar out of reclaimed nails - which he calls the “Tetanuscaster.” Plus: the It’s A Wonderful Life Festival is in full swing in Jimmy Stewart’s hometown! Guitar Made of Nails (Tim Sway on YouTube) So Metal: An…
To Save Water, Sometimes LESS Is More
Nov 26, 2019 • 3 min
Researchers at Penn State University have created liquid-entrenched smooth surface, or LESS. Why? To coat our toilets. Why? So stuff can’t stick to them. Why? To save water, which we use by the tens of billions of gallons each day just to re-flush that…
A Guy In Michigan Drives A Banana Car
Nov 25, 2019 • 3 min
The busiest travel season of the year is getting underway, so here’s a story about a vehicle right out of Richard Scarry’s Busytown: the Big Banana Car, which is a 15 foot long banana with four seats on the frame of a Ford F-150. Plus: the Volkspod is a…
Meet The New, Foldable Coffee Cup
Nov 22, 2019 • 3 min
Some research suggests those plastic tops for disposable coffee cups make up five percent of the millions of tons of plastic waste that end up in the ocean each year. The Unocup aims to do something about that. It’s a paper cup that folds up to become its…
Pigs Are On A Mission To Save Hazelnuts
Nov 21, 2019 • 3 min
The nefarious filbertworm is trying to infest our hazelnut supply! Researchers at the University of Oregon think the solution might lie with pigs. Plus: the Ebo is a little ball-shaped robot that will play with your cat when you’re not home. Biology Major…
Apollo 12 Crashed Its Lunar Module On Purpose
Nov 20, 2019 • 3 min
This week marks 50 years since the Apollo 12 mission, the second time humans went to the moon and the first time we launched an artificial earthquake there. Plus: one of the two moonwalkers painted a picture that included their command module pilot on the…
In Honor Of Rocky And Bullwinkle, We Have Stories About Moose And Squirrel
Nov 19, 2019 • 3 min
Today is the 60th anniversary of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends, so in their honor, here’s a real life moose who inadvertently helped foil a crime. Plus: a woman in Sacramento puts out a public call for her missing domesticated squirrel, Squeakers.…
What Time Was Like Before Time Zones
Nov 18, 2019 • 3 min
November 18, 1883 is when railroads across the United States adopted a uniform system of time, more or less getting all of us in sync with each other. But what was time like before then? Plus: Japan has had cat cafes, hedgehog cafes and bunny cafes. Now…
Finally, Cameras Can Truly See The Sea
Nov 15, 2019 • 3 min
Underwater photos are usually greenish or blueish and the brighter colors are washed out. An engineer and oceanographer has come up with an algorithm she calls Sea-thru that can bring those colors back into the image. Plus: the Las Vegas Pizza Festival is…
That Time There Was A Laugh Track On “The Twilight Zone”
Nov 14, 2019 • 3 min
Who knew the Twilight Zone was a dimension not only of sight and sound but of canned laughter?!? The episode “Cavender is Coming” features Jesse White, Carol Burnett, and a laugh track the network thought might help lead to a spinoff series. (It didn’t.)…
Stella The Dog Uses A Soundboard
Nov 13, 2019 • 3 min
Stella the dog lives with a speech-language pathologist and has been using a soundboard to “say” several dozen words, raising hopes that someday the show “Dog With A Blog” may come to life. Plus: Quilty the cat likes to spend his nights freeing the other…
The Mountain That’s Higher Than The Highest Mountain
Nov 12, 2019 • 3 min
This is Geography Awareness Week, and on our fascinating planet Mount Everest is the tallest mountain - but it’s not actually the highest point on earth. That’s actually Mount Chimborazo, in Ecuador. Plus: the community of New Baltimore, NY gets a spooky…
How To Turn A World War II Parachute Into A Wedding Dress
Nov 11, 2019 • 3 min
For Veterans Day, we have the story of Claude and Ruth Hensinger, who used the parachute that saved Claude’s life during World War II to help build their lives and their 49 year marriage together. The Wedding Dress That Dropped From The Sky (Patch) Dress,…
The Singing Maple Syrup Bottle With Patti Page’s Voice
Nov 8, 2019 • 3 min
Patti Page, aka the “Singing Rage,” was one of the biggest-selling pop singers of the 1950s. But later, she lived part-time on a farm in New Hampshire where she and her husband sold maple syrup. The bottles didn’t just have her name on them; they included…
Even For Meringue This Meringue Is Light
Nov 7, 2019 • 3 min
This meringue is just about the lightest dessert ever made. Based on the lightest substance in the world, Aerogel, it’s about 96 percent air and a serving weighs about a gram. We guarantee you won’t think it’s too filling. Plus: the story of a…
Take It To The (Gold) Hoop
Nov 6, 2019 • 3 min
Jeremy John Kaplan is the artist behind the Gold Nets Project, which has replaced hundreds of broken or missing nets with shiny golden ones, and encouraged local basketball players to think about stepping up and maintaining the courts too. Plus: the…
Some Art Looks Great Even When Accidentally Hung Upside Down
Nov 5, 2019 • 3 min
A great painting can turn your world upside down, especially if the painting is also upside down. We take a trip through the website Weird Universe’s Gallery of Art Hung Upside Down. Plus: a 9 year old who can’t stop doodling, even in class, is now a…
The Board Game Clue Is 70 Years Old, It’s Been A Rough Seven Decades For Mr. Boddy
Nov 4, 2019 • 3 min
It’s time to celebrate 70 years of Clue, the invention of musician Anthony Pratt, who used to play piano for murder mystery nights at big mansions and thought, this would make a good board game! Plus: the movie “Clue” is well known for the on-camera…
Abraham Lincoln, Wedding Planner
Nov 1, 2019 • 3 min
Today in 1800 President John Adams moved into the White House, the first chief executive to live in what was then called the President’s Mansion. One of the house’s most adorable stories - though possibly an apocryphal one - is the time in 1862 that…
Harry Houdini, If You’re Out There, Let Us Know
Oct 31, 2019 • 3 min
This isn’t just Halloween. It’s also the anniversary of the passing of the legendary illusionist and escape artist Harry Houdini, who they say wanted to make the greatest escape of all time… from mortality. Hence why Bess Houdini held seances every…
Quit Hating On Candy Corn, At Least Until You Hear Its Story
Oct 30, 2019 • 3 min
it’s National Candy Corn Day, and while no candy gets more hassle around this time of year than candy corn, it also has its fans. I mean, someone’s eating those 9 billion pieces produced each year. Plus: a haunted house in Utah with an unforgettably…
In This Minnesota Town, It’s Always Halloween
Oct 29, 2019 • 3 min
There’s still time to get ready for Halloween in most places, but in Anoka, Minnesota, it’s kind of always Halloween. The community north of the Twin Cities bills itself as the Halloween Capital of the World. Plus: Pennsylvania invites you on a…
When You’re Tracking Migrating Eagles, Always Get Extra Roaming Data
Oct 28, 2019 • 3 min
A project in Russia tracks the movements of steppe eagles through trackers that can send text messages back to research HQ about their whereabouts. There’s one problem: the eagles have been crossing into other countries and their trackers are using…
The Microwave Oven Was Sort Of An Accident
Oct 25, 2019 • 3 min
Today is the anniversary of the day the first consumer microwave oven went on sale, back in 1955. But the microwave has roots that go back well before that, and it’s at least in part a byproduct of radar technology from World War II. Plus: Los Alamos, New…
The Little Robot That Cleans Up After Your Dog
Oct 24, 2019 • 3 min
A startup called Beetl is developing an autonomous device that’s ready to clean up after our dogs on demand, thanks to a large scooper on its underside. If they’re willing to do this job, maybe robots aren’t trying to conquer us after all. Plus:…
How Old Is The Word “Word”?
Oct 23, 2019 • 3 min
Languages change over time; Merriam-Webster said it added over 500 new words to the dictionary last month. But you can also see those new additions over time through the Time Traveler feature on Merriam-Webster’s website. Plus: a piece on Mental Floss…
The North Carolina Bridge That Decapitates Cars Is Finally Being Raised
Oct 22, 2019 • 3 min
It’s the end of an era in Durham, North Carolina. The 11 Foot 8 Bridge, known as the Can Opener or the Gregson Street Guillotine for its propensity for shearing the tops off rental trucks and other large vehicles, is at last being raised. Probably good…
How Space Might Save The Whales
Oct 21, 2019 • 3 min
Science has brought whales and outer space together for the first time since the fourth Star Trek movie. The British Antarctic Survey has been partnering with researchers in Chile on a way to protect whales via satellite. Plus: the story of a paraglider…
Keeping Up With The World’s Fastest Ant
Oct 18, 2019 • 3 min
The Saharan silver ant can ran up to 108 of its own body lengths per second, making it the fastest ant in the world. But it lives in the desert, and running in sand usually slows us down. How the heck do they do it? Plus: in Banner Elk, North Carolina,…
When Performance Art Meets Brain Scans
Oct 17, 2019 • 3 min
Indonesian performance artist Melati Suryodarmo has created a new work called “If We Were XYZ,” and it’s based on her dreams, which she documented with the help of an electroencephalogram machine. Plus: The World Food Championships are now underway in…
There’s A Giant Ouija Board In Salem, Massachusetts
Oct 16, 2019 • 3 min
Salem, Massachusetts is now home to the world’s largest Ouija board. These boards are a product of the Spiritualist movement of the 19th century, which emphasized communicating with the “other side.” They happened to be the most practical way to connect!…
When Entertainment Is Literally A Train Wreck
Oct 15, 2019 • 3 min
Every era has its forms of entertainment. In the old days, promoters would stage actual train wrecks, using trains that were on their way to the scrap heap. Others would stage massive recreations of disasters and tragedies from the news and history. And…
Let’s Cover Some Unusual Measurements In A Jiffy
Oct 14, 2019 • 3 min
Almost everything we do can be measured, and in lots of ways beyond the inches, yards and seconds we normally use. We take a trip through some lesser known measurements, like siriometer, cow’s grass, and jiffy (yes, it’s an actual term!) Plus: meet the…
The Mayor Can’t Be Here, But Would You Like A Selfie With His Cardboard Cutout?
Oct 11, 2019 • 3 min
When the residents of Pichuclaco, Chiapas, Mexico took part in a public health event, they didn’t get to meet Mayor Moisés Aguilar Torres - at least not the real him. But they did get to see, and take pictures with, a cardboard cutout of the mayor. Plus:…
This High-Tech Sleeve Could Save A Pitcher’s Arm
Oct 10, 2019 • 3 min
Sports tech company Motus Global has developed a high-tech compression sleeve for pitchers. It senses the movement of each pitch and determines how much strain the throws put on the arm, to help avoid injuries. Plus: the story of old-timey pitcher…
How The Tree That Owns Itself Came To Own Itself
Oct 9, 2019 • 3 min
Today we pay a visit to Athens, Georgia - specifically, the intersection of South Finley and Dearing Street. That’s where you’ll find something unusual: The Tree That Owns Itself. Plus: a Japanese design company has created a 3D-printed bonsai, which you…
What It Sounds Like When Bats Bicker
Oct 8, 2019 • 3 min
Egyptian fruit bats are known to make a lot of noise while they’re roosting. Scientists at Tel Aviv University have determined that a lot of that noise is bats getting annoyed at other bats. Plus: scientists studying endangered bats in Cuba tag them in a…
Here’s A Shirt That Can Feel Sound
Oct 7, 2019 • 3 min
The Soundshirt from high-tech fashion company Cute Circuit has embedded sensors that can sense sound and turn it into vibrations. In other words, it helps deaf people feel music. And since we’re talking about sounds, have you heard the Tiptree Sneeze,…
Kiss Is Playing A Concert For Sharks, One Of The Few Things They Haven’t Already Done
Oct 4, 2019 • 3 min
For decades fans of the band KISS have called themselves the KISS Army. But now that they’re set to play a concert off the coast of Australia for human and sharks fans, maybe there’s also a KISS Navy? Plus: in Oklahoma, the annual Honobia Bigfoot Festival…
The Trash Can Isn’t Going To Take Itself Out. Oh, Actually Now It Is
Oct 3, 2019 • 3 min
The Smart Can is a motorized, automated trash bin that will drive itself to the curb every week. Which means it’s already more motivated about garbage day than I’ve ever been. Plus: the pinball festival known as PinBaltimore is getting underway in…
The 7-10 Split Meets Big Data
Oct 2, 2019 • 3 min
The 7-10 split is the hardest show in bowling, right? Well, an analysis from 2015 put that to the test - and the results were pretty surprising. Plus: an exhibit at New York’s Hall of Science includes more than 100 classic works of art recreated with…
You Can’t Beat Furniture Grown On The Farm
Oct 1, 2019 • 3 min
Gavin and Alice Munro run a furniture farm in England. That’s right, rather than turning trees into lumber and using that to make chairs, tables and sofas, they shape living trees into furniture, to be more sustainable. Plus: today marks 15 years since…
Can We Get Mac and Cheese To Mars?
Sep 30, 2019 • 3 min
A mission to Mars would take years of travel - but today’s space food doesn’t last long enough. Scientists at Washington State University are working on a way to sterilize and pack food that can last 3-5 years, which is good for astronauts and for any of…
In Casey, Illinois, Small Town Life Has Never Been Bigger
Sep 27, 2019 • 3 min
The small community of Casey, Illinois is home to the Big Things In A Small Town project - and this weekend someone will win a chance to sit in the world’s largest rocking chair. Plus: tomorrow in Boulder City, Nevada, it’s the Wurst Festival. I’m not…
A Pole-Sitting Champ Finds Out It’s Lonely At The Top
Sep 26, 2019 • 3 min
Richard “Dixie” Blandy called himself the greatest flagpole sitter of all time - they say he spent more time atop flagpoles than most flags. Plus: the Great Basin Astronomy Festival today gets underway, with unusually dark skies and, to our knowledge, no…
I See What You Did There, Brain Implant
Sep 25, 2019 • 3 min
UCLA is testing a brain implant that takes the images captured by a tiny camera and converts them into electrical impulses that stimulate the part of the brain responsible for sight. It helps blind people detect darkness and lightness, as well as sensing…
Turn Those Old Straws Into New Albums
Sep 24, 2019 • 3 min
The Straw Vinyl project has lined up some high-profile bands to release limited-edition vinyl records that are made out of plastic harvested from old straws. Then your hipster friends can say they were into keeping straws out of landfills before it was…
Our Long History Of Crashing Stuff Into The Moon
Sep 23, 2019 • 3 min
We always celebrate great space achievements, why not also commemorate some great space screwups? This month marks 60 years since the first time a spacecraft tried to land on the moon but crashed instead. Plus: Mount Airy, NC, where Andy Griffith grew up,…
Bah Gawd It’s A Smart Cane
Sep 20, 2019 • 3 min
The weWALK is a smart cane for blind pedestrians, with ultrasonic sensors to detect obstacles ahead and Google Maps connections to navigate through and describe the surrounding area. Plus: if you like pickles, the Big Dill festival is back this weekend in…
It’s The Birthday Of Fawlty Towers, Don’t Mention The War!
Sep 19, 2019 • 3 min
Today in 1975 the BBC aired the first episode of “Fawlty Towers,” a landmark comedy series that was - amazingly - received about as poorly by TV executive and the public as Basil Fawlty’s appalling attitude was received by guests at his hotel. How did it…
The Race To Keep Day-Glo Paints Glo-ing
Sep 18, 2019 • 3 min
Paintings made with Day Glo paint - some by well-known and influential artists - are losing their glow over time. Conservationists don’t yet know how to solve this puzzle, but we do at least know how Day Glo got started. Plus: meet a color that absorbs…
We Can Make Orange Juice Cups From Oranges
Sep 17, 2019 • 3 min
Feel the Peel is a big automated juicing machine that turns discarded orange peels into bioplastic cups. Although if you don’t have the cup until you juice the orange, how do you drink the first cup’s worth of juice? Plus: a new restaurant in London…
We’re Unleashing Drones On Cows And It’s For Their Health
Sep 16, 2019 • 3 min
The so-called quiet life on the farm is actually one of the most high-tech places on earth. As envisioned by the University of Kentucky research team, drones could fly above cow herds as they graze, learn which cow is which, and visually check each cow so…
Scooby-Doo And Those Meddling Kids Started Solving Groovy Mysteries 50 Years Ago
Sep 13, 2019 • 3 min
It’s the 50th anniversary of the premiere of “Scooby Doo, Where Are You?” That’s right, the Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy and Scooby have been setting traps, being danger prone, dropping glasses, making gigantic sandwiches and solving mysteries for a…
How About We Put Shade Plants Under Solar Panels?
Sep 12, 2019 • 3 min
There’s work out of the University of Arizona that says solar arrays can be even more efficient if you grow food underneath the panels. And no, the panels don’t block the plants from growing by taking all the sun. Plus: Chandler, Arizona is hosting the…
How To Analyze DNA After DNA Starts Breaking Down
Sep 11, 2019 • 3 min
Researchers at the University of California, Davis are studying forensic proteomics, which one researcher describes as a way to read DNA when there isn’t DNA to read. Plus: a record shop in Seattle finds a royalty check that belonged to grunge royalty.…
Massachusetts Once Had Like Six John Kennedys On The Same Ballot
Sep 10, 2019 • 3 min
Around the same time John Fitzgerald Kennedy was rising through the ranks of the US Congress, a guy called John Francis Kennedy decided to put name on the ballot to run for Massachusetts state treasurer. In a few years, there were other John Kennedys…
Whatever’s In Loch Ness Isn’t What’s In The Famous Loch Ness Monster Photo
Sep 9, 2019 • 3 min
Researchers may have finally solved the long-running mystery of what the Loch Ness Monster is. What Nessie is not is the thing that is in the picture you’ll most likely see when you search for “Loch Ness Monster” on the internet. Plus: scientists think…
The Kansas Town Where Even Popeye Got His Spinach
Sep 6, 2019 • 3 min
It’s Spinach Festival weekend in Lenexa, Kansas, a time for games, crafts, music, the world’s largest spinach salad and a visit from noted cartoon spinach addict Popeye the sailor. That’s fitting, since a report in 435 Magazine says it was Popeye’s…
I’ll Take Alex Trebek Facts For $500, Alex
Sep 5, 2019 • 3 min
It sure was nice to hear that Jeopardy host Alex Trebek is not only doing well following his cancer treatment, he’s already back at work on a new season of the show! Each day’s filming requires hundreds of clues, multiple suit changes and lots of ways to…
Look, It’s The History Of Halley’s Comet
Sep 4, 2019 • 3 min
It was on this day in 1682 that an English astronomer, Edmund Halley, observed a particular comet in the sky. He didn’t discover it, but he did figure out when it was going to come back - only by then, he wasn’t around to see it again. Plus: in the old…
Even Takeout Can Be Greener, Thanks To Reusable To-Go Containers
Sep 3, 2019 • 3 min
There are lots of good options for takeout these days, but along with all that deliciousness comes a lot of waste. A company called GO Box is sending out food orders in reusable plastic containers to keep all the single-use stuff out of the garbage. Plus:…
It’s All Pumpkin Spice From Here On Out
Sep 2, 2019 • 3 min
Summer is through, which means the start of our annual time to consume and/or complain about products flavored with pumpkin spice. It was in the mid-90s that this blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cloves started its rise to power, and…
If You’re On Vacation, Eat Something Large And Weird
Aug 30, 2019 • 3 min
The roadside diner is a staple of American travel. And some restaurants make the food a kind of roadside attraction, often by creating meals that are too big to be believed, and often too big to be consumed in one sitting. Plus: the Traveler Restaurant in…
The Giant Potato Airbnb And Other Wild Places To Stay
Aug 29, 2019 • 3 min
There are hotels, motels, friends with fold-out couches, house rentals, B&Bs and, in Idaho, a giant potato you can rent. Or, technically, a 28 foot long, 12 foot wide structure built in the shape of a potato. Plus: a man from the UK traveling through…
The Train Station With No Entrances Or Exits
Aug 28, 2019 • 3 min
There’s an unusual train station in southwest Japan to which you can take a train, but you can’t enter the platform from outside; nor can you leave. Plus: the story of an eight year old in Russia who decided it was time to set out on his own and see the…
How To See The Lower 48 States In One Road Trip
Aug 27, 2019 • 3 min
Randal S. Olson developed a computer algorithm to find the shortest, most efficient way to drive through all 48 contiguous United States - 13,699 miles and around 224 hours of driving. Plus: the Race Across America is a more than 3,000 mile road race from…
A Bike Trip Around The World With A Cat
Aug 26, 2019 • 3 min
Dean Nicholson left his job and started a bike trip across the world. While riding through Bosnia, he heard a “desperate meow.” So, instead of riding solo, he decided the cat would come along. Plus: if a continental bike trip with a cat isn’t your cup of…
If I Could Save Time In A Time Capsule
Aug 23, 2019 • 3 min
The Derry, New Hampshire library had a time capsule that was sealed 50 years ago. When they took a look inside it contained… absolutely nothing. Why? We don’t know. But we do know that time capsules can get weird. Plus: today in Finland is the 2019 AIr…
Elizabeth Freeman Makes Herself A Free Woman
Aug 22, 2019 • 3 min
An enslaved woman in 18th century Massachusetts overheard all the talk about freedom and equality and decided it should be put to the test. On August 22, 1781, a court found the woman known as Mum Bett, later as Elizabeth Freeman, could not be the…
Ketchup Packets Last Somewhere Between Nine Months And Forever
Aug 21, 2019 • 3 min
Little sauce packets. We hang onto them because they’re too small to notice much, or because we don’t want to throw them out if they haven’t been used. But at some point they have to spoil, right? We now have a pretty definitive answer on their shelf…
How To Find Where You Are In Just Three Words
Aug 20, 2019 • 3 min
The app what3words breaks down all the spaces on earth into 3 meter by 3 meter squares and assigns each of those squares a unique set of three words. Anyone who knows the three words for a square can pinpoint it with GPS - just ask the group of lost…
The Future Of Health Care Is Alpacas
Aug 19, 2019 • 3 min
Researchers at Vanderbilt University have been looking at the unusual immune system of alpacas. Their antibodies are not only effective, they’re also easier to harvest than most other animals’ antibodies, so they could help develop ways to treat or…
The Ups and Downs Of Rollercoaster History
Aug 16, 2019 • 3 min
It’s National Rollercoaster Day, and while there have probably been thrill rides since humans first figured out the concept of ramps, the roller coaster as we know it has a direct ancestor that dates back to 15th century Russia. Plus: a RollerCoaster…
Keep Playing, Richie Havens, The Rest Of Woodstock Is Coming
Aug 15, 2019 • 3 min
Richie Havens wasn’t supposed to be the first act at the Woodstock festival, which started 50 years ago today. But like so much of Woodstock, what was supposed to happen was very different than what actually took place. Oh, also, there were cows there!…
The Alabama Bridge That Roosters Built
Aug 14, 2019 • 3 min
It’s the 100th anniversary of a time that roosters built a bridge. Ok, not literally, but an auction of roosters donated by the most prominent people in the world helped raise the money needed for a bridge over the Tombigbee River in western Alabama, a…
Checking In To The House Plant Hotel
Aug 13, 2019 • 3 min
The online plant store Patch is offering to take care of the house plants for you while you’re on holiday, in what it’s calling the world’s first plant hotel. Plus: meet the Social Escape Dress, which tracks your stress and activates built-in fog machines…
The Best Defense Against Cougars Is Metallica
Aug 12, 2019 • 3 min
When a cougar started walking toward her on a logging trail in British Columbia, Dee Gallant used the power of rock to protect herself. Plus: in a move that might make heavy metal even heavier, guitarist Takamizawa Toshihiko designs a guitar shaped like…
Elvis Almost Threw Down At A Wisconsin Gas Station
Aug 9, 2019 • 3 min
Elvis Week is getting underway in Memphis, Tennessee, and while I can’t be there, I can still celebrate, because my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin is where the King once broke up a fight at a gas station in the middle of the night. Plus: Hastings,…
All Hail Iowa’s Butter Cow
Aug 8, 2019 • 3 min
It’s day one of the Iowa State Fair, and what would that fair be without its centerpiece - the butter cow! The most bovine of butter sculptures made its debut in 1911, but the long and interesting history of butter-based art goes back even further. Plus:…
The Festival That’s Mostly People Throwing Tomatoes At Each Other
Aug 7, 2019 • 3 min
Later this month tens of thousands of people will head to Buñol, Spain for La Tomatina, otherwise known as the world’s largest tomato throwing festival. Also, today is day one of the World Yo Yo Contest in Cleveland, Ohio. But most of all, it’s Cool Weird…
Neat Freaks, Be Glad You Didn’t Live In A Medieval Castle
Aug 6, 2019 • 3 min
If you were a royal back several hundred years ago, this might be a time when you’d pack up and leave the castle for one of your other castles. This wasn’t just because that’s what you do when you’re wealthy; it was because the castle staff needed…
Dear Family, Camp Is The Worst, That’s The Entire Letter
Aug 5, 2019 • 3 min
It was a hard, hard weekend - so we thought it would be a good day to just take the few minutes we share together and have a little fun, before we have to go back out into the world. So here’s an Instagram account called Homesickdotcom, which shares…
A Garbage Cafe Is Much Better Than Its Name Suggests
Aug 2, 2019 • 3 min
There’s a new cafe in the Indian city of Ambikapur known as a “garbage cafe.” It aims to help very poor people by offering them meals and/or shelter in exchange for the trash they often pick up and try to sell - and it uses the reclaimed plastic to build…
Save The Washing Machine Museum!
Aug 1, 2019 • 3 min
The Lee Maxwell Washing Machine Museum in Eaton, Colorado, is facing an uncertain future. Its namesake wants to pass on his collection of some 1,600 machines to the next generation. Hopefully someone takes him up on that offer, because there’s a lot of…
Depression-Detecting AI Is Much More Than A Virtual Mood Ring
Jul 31, 2019 • 3 min
Someday, smart speakers might be able to sound off if we don’t sound quite ourselves. Researchers at the University of Alberta have been working on a way for AI to detect depression through voice recordings. Plus: Today in 1989 is when Nintendo brought…
Here’s Why Nellie Bly Is Getting Her Own Monument
Jul 30, 2019 • 3 min
Trailblazing journalist Nellie Bly once feigned severe mental illness to expose abuses at an asylum from the inside. New York City is now putting up a monument in her honor on the site where the asylum once stood. Plus: today is the birthday of the…
Where We Got Olympic Medals From Before Recycled Cell Phones
Jul 29, 2019 • 3 min
Last week the organizers of the 2020 Olympic Games revealed that 100 percent of the gold, silver and bronze used to create the Olympic medals is recycled - the metal comes from used cell phones. But the ancient Olympians got olive branches as prizes. Why…
Meet Owney, The Legendary Postal Dog
Jul 26, 2019 • 3 min
The National Postal Museum in Washington, DC, has an exhibit telling the story of Owney, the dog who loved the mail so much that he helped deliver it all over the world. Plus: Freeman, South Dakota is holding its annual Chislic Festival, a two day…
The Most Powerful Cat May Be The One At 10 Downing Street
Jul 25, 2019 • 3 min
Whenever a new Prime Minister takes office in the UK, the first question many people ask is: what happens to the cat living at the official residence at 10 Downing Street? We’ll look at some of the most famous felines to ever hold the title Chief Mouser…
Drones Can Go Through Windows Now. That’s Good, Right?
Jul 24, 2019 • 3 min
There’s a quadcopter drone that uses spring-loaded arms and a process called “rapid aerial morphing” to fold itself up as it flies. So we’re a step closer to real-life Transformers. Plus: the story of the all-robot band Compressorhead, whose members twist…
She Ran A Marathon While Pushing A Triple Stroller Full Of Kids
Jul 23, 2019 • 3 min
Lots of parents multitask but Cynthia Arnold is completely off the charts, having just run the Missoula Marathon while pushing a triple stroller containing her three kids. Meanwhile, Tony Fisher bought some salami and did the only logical thing with it:…
Point No Point And Other Amazing, Actual Places
Jul 22, 2019 • 3 min
The website and book Sad Topographies teaches us that our planet is home to some unusually-named places, like Gloomy Lake in Ontario, Divorce Beach in Mexico, New Jersey’s Shades of Death Road (!) and a spot in Washington state known as Point No Point.…
That Time Pink Floyd Jammed Out During The Moon Landing
Jul 19, 2019 • 3 min
50 years ago, the BBC brought in the band known for playing space rock to improvise on-air for its coverage of the Apollo 11 mission. Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour said, accurately, that “the programming was a little looser in those days.” Plus: it’s…
You Know Mack Robinson’s Brother, Now Get To Know Mack Robinson
Jul 18, 2019 • 3 min
On this day in 1912, the birth of the greatest athlete you might never have heard of - Olympic silver medalist and community advocate Mack Robinson. His brother, Jackie, is better known, but there’s a reason their hometown of Pasadena, California…
Vegetable Displays Are The New Black
Jul 17, 2019 • 3 min
Veggies are good for us - but some households can’t buy them, and others don’t want to. What is it that will get eaters more interested in buying and eating their vegetables? One answer may be: the color black. Plus: the Vent Haven International…
Airports Aren’t Just For The Journey, They’re The Destination
Jul 16, 2019 • 3 min
A growing number of people are heading to the airport not to catch flights, but just to hang out at the airport itself. And why not, given how many cool amenities airports have added over the years? Plus: a top destination for Instagram travelers is maybe…
Yours ‘Til Niagara Falls
Jul 15, 2019 • 3 min
Going over Niagara Falls with or without a barrel is a bad idea and you shouldn’t do it. It’s safer, easier and a lot more fun to cross over the bridge between Niagara Falls, New York and Niagara Falls, Ontario - or, if you’re a daredevil, to cross the…
Drinking Coffee Out Of Coffee Cups Made From Coffee
Jul 12, 2019 • 3 min
Coffee grounds can be recycled in all kinds of ways, including lots of products. And the most meta product of all is from KaffeeForm, which uses coffee grounds to make coffee cups. Plus: if you can’t wait a couple years for the Little Mermaid remake, why…
Rhinelander, Wisconsin Is America’s Hodag Headquarters
Jul 11, 2019 • 3 min
Wisconsin’s most fearsome folk monster been in Harry Potter and tangled with the Scooby Gang, but the Hodag is beloved in the community of Rhinelander, where it’s the high school team mascot and there are many Hodags to find around town. Plus: it’s a big…
When The Flyover Flies Over The Wrong Spot
Jul 10, 2019 • 3 min
Patrouille Swiss is the official aerial acrobatics team for Switzerland. Last weekend they were in fine form as they flew over the community of Langenbruck for a festival honoring a local aviation hero… except for one thing: they weren’t actually over…
Getting All Our Robot Ducks In A Row
Jul 9, 2019 • 3 min
In Japan, there’s a little white robot swimming through rice fields, imitating a duck! It’s actually helping to grow the rice by aerating the water and stopping weeds from growing. Plus: if you prefer non-robotic ducks, then you’ve got some options with…
Rise Of The Tortilla
Jul 8, 2019 • 3 min
Taco Bell says it’s been dealing with a tortilla shortage. Those craving inexpensive tacos and burritos at odd hours are bearing the brunt of this crisis, but it’s affecting all of us - after all, tortillas have been a part of our culinary lives for…
We Have A Lot Of UFO Historical Markers Now
Jul 5, 2019 • 3 min
It’s day one of the Roswell UFO Festival in New Mexico. Whatever happened there in 1947, the incident put Roswell on the map - and other towns that have their own UFO stories have been increasingly playing up those stories, including through historic…
What Was July 4th Like Before The Fourth Of July?
Jul 4, 2019 • 3 min
It’s the 243rd birthday of the United States, and we’ve done a lot of celebrating over those years. But what were people doing on the Fourth of July before American independence? One of the most interesting stories is from July 4, 1054 - in China. Plus:…
I Wear My Smart Glasses At Night
Jul 3, 2019 • 3 min
Smart glasses are a thing! Not augmented reality, but an actual pair of glasses that can sense what we’re trying to look at and make it easier to see it clearly as our eyes age and lose some of their ability to focus. Plus: the National Paper Doll…
Lawn Chair Larry Takes To The Sky
Jul 2, 2019 • 3 min
On this day in 1982, a dude named Larry Walters entered aviation history as the pilot of a craft called Inspiration I - which was a lawn chair attached to 42 large weather balloons. Plus: the story of some high school students in Toronto, Ontario, who…
Please Consider The Environment Before Printing And Reprinting On This Paper
Jul 1, 2019 • 3 min
Researchers at Rutgers University have developed a system to unprint the printing on standard printer paper, in a way that uses less energy and material than the conventional paper recycling process. Plus: the new Medi-Teddy aims to make a trip to the…
Medical Glue. Strong Stuff.
Jun 28, 2019 • 3 min
A team at Technion–Israel Institute of Technology developed a way to use medical glue to bind human tissue together instead of stitches and medical pins. They heat it up using, essentially, a hot glue gun - one that they hopefully don’t leave in with…
Anyone Need Some Sponge Candy While I’m In Buffalo?
Jun 27, 2019 • 3 min
I’m traveling to Buffalo, New York for a book event today, so I thought I’d celebrate one of the city’s beloved foods: sponge candy. Meanwhile, an ice cream shop in Buffalo has done what you might expect an ice cream shop in Buffalo to do: add Buffalo…
The Babe Is Here, Who’s Coming In Second?
Jun 26, 2019 • 3 min
Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias could do it all - she was an Olympic gold medalist, champion golfer, basketball and baseball player, vaudeville performer, celebrity and more. Once she won the US national track and field championships by herself - as in,…
The World’s Greatest Robotic Pig Food Truck
Jun 25, 2019 • 3 min
Today is #BourdainDay, where we celebrate Anthony Bourdain’s enthusiasm for traveling, eating, learning and especially for going off the beaten path to really get to know people and recipes and places. In that spirit, we talk about food trucks with…
Selfies On Mars
Jun 24, 2019 • 3 min
The Curiosity Rover takes selfies on Mars - so how does it do it without having its robot arm in the foreground of every shot? Plus: the University of St. Andrews teaches grey seals to sing the “Star Wars” theme. For research. Why Don’t We See the…
The Fastest Lawn Mower In The World, And How We Got To It
Jun 21, 2019 • 3 min
Earlier this month a prototype mower in Germany set a new world record by going from zero to 100 miles an hour in 6.29 seconds… while still cutting grass! Not bad for an invention that’s not even 200 years old. Plus: this weekend is the grand finale of…
Turtle-Friendly Fishing Nets Are Lit
Jun 20, 2019 • 3 min
Bycatch is what fishing boats catch that they’re not trying to catch. It’s bad for them, their nets and the bycatch - especially for turtles, which are difficult to disentangle from gillnets. But new research suggests illuminating nets with LED lights may…
Riding a Horse Down Fillmore Street For Juneteenth
Jun 19, 2019 • 3 min
Juneteenth is the annual celebration of the end of the institution of slavery. Today we give some props to the African-Americans who have built the holiday over the year, including the Texan-turned-San Franciscan who used to don his ten-gallon hat and…
Do You Feel Like Peter Frampton’s Talk Box Does?
Jun 18, 2019 • 3 min
Guitar great Peter Frampton starts his farewell concert tour, which means if you want to hear him use that famous voice box in “Do You Feel Like We Do,” now’s the time to do it. How does that talk box work, anyway? Plus: meet Ahmed Ali, a graduation…
How To Move A 12 Ton Sphinx
Jun 17, 2019 • 3 min
The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology - known better as the Penn Museum - needed to move its most famous object, a 3,000 year old Egyptian sphinx, from a gallery to the main hall as part of a renovation project. The move…
For Dads, The Story Of A World Record Burp
Jun 14, 2019 • 3 min
Sorry, Simpsons fans: the world’s greatest burper is neither “The Critic” Jay Sherman nor Eudora Welty, but an Italian guy in a wrestling mask who calls himself Rutt Mysterio. Plus: for Father’s Day weekend, the story of the only time in big league…
That Time Cat Stevens Wrote A Dog Song
Jun 13, 2019 • 3 min
The Songwriters Hall of Fame is inducting Yusuf Cat Stevens for his classic, mostly acoustic songs like “Moonshadow,” “Peace Train” and “Wild World.” But did you also know that Yusuf Cat Stevens was a pioneer in electronic music with his 1977 song “Was…
Row, Row, Row Your Bot
Jun 12, 2019 • 3 min
Autonomous robot boats are a thing! Over time, researchers have taught them to row themselves gently down the stream and to connect to each other autonomously - soon they could help clean the water or even turn themselves into temporary footbridges. Plus:…
Sensors Report Leftovers Are Still Fresh
Jun 11, 2019 • 3 min
We may be taking a big step forward in the effort to stop food waste! A research team at Imperial College London has developed food freshness sensors that can be embedded in the packaging of meat and fish and detect the gases that show up when food…
Cloudy With A Chance Of Ladybugs
Jun 10, 2019 • 3 min
Last week Southern California saw a bloom of ladybugs so big it showed up on radar! As it turns out, there’s a whole field of science called aeroecology that’s using our increasingly accurate radar to track insects, birds and bats. Plus: ladybugs have had…
The Great Banana Split Rivalry
Jun 7, 2019 • 3 min
Today is the start of the Banana Split Festival in Wilmington, Ohio, where the banana split was born. Of course, if you were in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, locals would point out their town had banana splits three years before Wilmington. Plus: the…
To Get Plastic Out Of The Ocean, Put It On A Plane
Jun 6, 2019 • 3 min
Researchers at Washington State University say they’ve found a way to make jet fuel out of something the world throws out in great quantities every day: household plastic. Plus: something you might want to fly overseas and check out is the new Easy-E…
From Storms Chasing Us, To Us Chasing Storms
Jun 5, 2019 • 3 min
Storm damage isn’t cool, weird or awesome, but the ways we spot storms and warn people about them are pretty great. And they’ve come a long way from the time when the US Army Signal Corps banned anyone from using the word “tornado” in forecasts so as not…
The Minor Leagues Got Majorly Weird
Jun 4, 2019 • 3 min
Attractions - especially weird ones - are a time-honored way to drum up business from people who are at best casual baseball fans, and lately that’s extended to team names, including the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, the Vermont Lake Monsters, the Binghamton…
And Then One Day You Find 10,000 Years Have Got Behind You
Jun 3, 2019 • 3 min
A project to build a clock that will run for 10,000 years got us thinking about how we measure time - and amazingly, 10,000 years is more time than has passed since the invention of hours, minutes and seconds. Plus: a quick look at the shortest official…
I Review The Body Electric
May 31, 2019 • 3 min
It’s the 200th birthday of Walt Whitman, the poet best known for his landmark work Leaves of Grass… and the guy who anonymously wrote glowing reviews of his own writing in the newspapers of the day. Plus: Plymouth, North Carolina is hosting the North…
The Only Headless Chicken With His Own Festival
May 30, 2019 • 3 min
We’re on the eve of this year’s biggest event in Fruita, Colorado - the Mike the Headless Chicken Festival, where people all gather to celebrate the miracle chicken who had his head chopped off, and carried on as if nothing had changed. Plus: residents of…
After-After-After-shocks
May 29, 2019 • 3 min
Today’s show is about a series of earthquake aftershocks in the Hebgen Lake area of Yellowstone National Park measured in 2017 and 2018. That’s not in and of itself unusual, except that the original earthquake happened in August of 1959. Plus: a dude…
What Is The Euphemism For “I Dropped A Frog”?
May 28, 2019 • 3 min
As much as we all like to consider ourselves straight talkers, we all use certain euphemisms when we’ve done something we wished we hadn’t. Scientists are particularly good at this because they can envelop a faux pas in layers and layers of academic…
The Many One True Birthplaces Of Memorial Day
May 27, 2019 • 3 min
Officially, the community that started Memorial Day is Waterloo, New York - in May 1866, the community spent the entire day honoring those killed in the Civil War by placing wreaths and flowers at their graves, then holding a parade, giving speeches and…
The Jumpsuit Century
May 24, 2019 • 3 min
There’s nothing more fashionable than the jumpsuit - right? Right? Anyway, it was a century ago that the Italian artist Thayaht proposed a one-piece garment with buttons down the front as the next big thing in fashion. The jumpsuit hasn’t quite become as…
Dance Breaks and Deathfests
May 23, 2019 • 3 min
May is Asian/Pacific-American Heritage Month, and a great time to talk about two exciting, important and sometimes underappreciated Asian-American performers. The dance team of Jew Wing Dong and Dorothy Takahashi, known professionally in their heyday as…
If You Want To Stop Burglary, Then Study Burglars
May 22, 2019 • 3 min
And now, a look at a study that’s the kind of research Batman would do if he were an academic instead of a crimefighter: a scientific study of virtual burglary. By watching how burglars burgle, we might learn the difference between how most of us think…
Excuse Me, My Suitcase Would Like To Get By
May 21, 2019 • 3 min
The busiest part of the year for travelers is coming, meaning that at airports, there will be a lot of people around to clonk into each other. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University may have a solution: a collision-detecting suitcase. Plus: a brewery…
Is It A Tortoise, Or Home Improvement Project?
May 20, 2019 • 3 min
Two weeks ago, the staff at the Humane Society of San Diego had to figure out how to help a tortoise with a hole in its shell. Veterinarians Daniel Barbour came up with a plan involving a trip to the hardware store. Plus: meet Ron Minis, a musician who…
Sure, I’m Petty, Just Not Paypal-Petty
May 17, 2019 • 3 min
A group of researchers has been looking at the science behind digital pettiness - that’s like if you go out to eat with somebody and then use Paypal or Venmo to send them the exact amount of money to cover your order, down to the penny. Maybe this isn’t a…
Venus: If You Lived Here, You’d Have Melted By Now
May 16, 2019 • 3 min
Today’s the 50th anniversary of an overlooked but important visit to a fairly nasty place… the planet Venus. The Venera 5 craft isn’t well remembered, partly because it only got to do its atmospheric testing for an hour before the hellscape that is the…
Ooh, That Smell: A Corpse Flower Blooms In Chicago
May 15, 2019 • 3 min
What’s in a name? That which we call a corpse flower by any other name would smell as bad. The Chicago Botanic Garden has issued a bloom watch for one of its corpse flowers - not humans’ favorite scent ever, but still a special occasion, because a corpse…
Do Tacos Dream Of Electric Tongues?
May 14, 2019 • 3 min
For this Taco Tuesday we salute the Washington State University researchers behind the latest in electric tongue technology. The virtual tongue system can better distinguish spiciness than human tongues - and for longer periods of time, too. Plus: a visit…
Australia’s Biggest Little Spelling Error
May 13, 2019 • 3 min
Australians have been laughing, cursing, sighing and facepalming over a misspelled word on the newest printing of the Australian $50 dollar note. They left out an I in the word “responsibility,” and no one in the country is apparently missing the irony of…
Treat Your Mother Subreddit Right
May 10, 2019 • 3 min
It’s 150 years to the day that the presidents of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads drove a ceremonial golden spike into the first railroad line to cross North America. That’s the big event of the weekend - oh, there’s also a thing called…
Dear Ralph Baer, Thanks, Signed, All The Video Gamers
May 9, 2019 • 3 min
Ralph Baer invented home video games from his workshop in Manchester, New Hampshire - and now the city is honoring this gaming pioneer with a “Baer Square,” complete with a statue, in a city park. Plus: this weekend, a place called the Maritime Republic…
The Spy Whale Who Loved Me
May 8, 2019 • 3 min
The story of the whale wearing a GoPro that might be some kind of Russian surveillance agent is pretty wild, but it’s not even close to the first time governments have turned to animals for surveillance purposes. In the Cold War, the CIA tried to train a…
The Biggest Binge-Watch Ever
May 7, 2019 • 3 min
The new film “Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project” tells the story of a Philadelphia librarian and activist who spent decades recording every TV program she possibly could. She left 70,000 videocassettes in all, which is now being digitized to help us…
Change The (English) Channel
May 6, 2019 • 3 min
Today is the 25th anniversary of the formal opening of the Channel Tunnel, a 31.4 mile long, mostly undersea rail tunnel connecting the city of Calais in northern France with the English town of Folkestone, Kent. The commemoration ceremony was a…
Here In My Hollywood Car Exhibit, I Feel Safest Of All
May 3, 2019 • 3 min
The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles is about to open a new exhibit called “Hollywood Dream Machines: Vehicles of Science Fiction and Fantasy.” If you’ve ever wanted to get close to the coolest rides the big screen ever shared with us - like,…
2 Dope Pirate Queens
May 2, 2019 • 3 min
The Louisiana Pirate Festival is getting underway in Lake Charles, which is as good a reason as any to talk about two of the most remarkable stories in pirate history: Cheng I Sao, a Chinese pirate queen who commanded 400 ships and 70,000 men and never…
The Ballad of Heckboy
May 1, 2019 • 3 min
In Dickson, Tennessee, a movie theater showing a certain movie about a certain bright red dude with horns decided the name was a little too brash to put on a marquee facing a church, and decided to clean it up a little and advertised a showing of, and I…
Sad-Eyed Wallaby Of The Lowlands
Apr 30, 2019 • 3 min
Bob Dylan still doesn’t like cell phone cameras at his concerts, judging by the admonition he gave a crowd this month. And yet, one of the most famous images was a concert photo taken by a random guy in the crowd! Plus: a group of poppy-fueled wallabies…
De-ice De-ice, Baby
Apr 29, 2019 • 3 min
A team at the University of British Columbia has developed a coating that has something called low interfacial toughness - in short, instead of ice building up on your car until it’s almost impossible to scrape off… it collapses under its own weight and…
Ship To Shark Communication
Apr 26, 2019 • 3 min
A new study led by a researcher from Duke University has spotted female sand tiger sharks returning to the same shipwrecks, sometimes over months or even years. Are they taking a rest stop on their migration routes? Are they mating there - like a…
I Love Drone Lamp
Apr 25, 2019 • 3 min
Japanese designer Kazuhiro Yamanaka has just released a flying drone lamp - this little light of yours will fly around the room with you as you move. Imagine how cool an episode of Ghost Hunters would be if they had one. Plus: what would an exercise video…
Take Off Your Password and Jacket
Apr 24, 2019 • 3 min
Passwords are totally out of control and no one’s happy about it. On the plus side, the security studies about how bad we are at passwords are pretty funny to read - like the new one from the UK that says one of the most common breached passwords is……
The Many Moods Of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Apr 23, 2019 • 3 min
Thirty years ago today was the last regular season game of one of the greats on and off the court. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored more points than any NBA player ever - and he may have set the record for most kinds of post-basketball success, from doing fight…
Roombas! In! Spaaaaaaace!
Apr 22, 2019 • 3 min
Being an astronaut is hard work - not only are you floating up in space, away from the rest of the world, you have a lot of cleaning to do. But there are plans for a new system that would disinfect the interiors of spacecrafts and space stations with…
What A Time To Be A Hologram
Apr 19, 2019 • 3 min
Frank Zappa is back out on tour, doing nine shows in the US and seven more in Europe. Now if you’re scratching your head here and saying, wait, isn’t Frank Zappa dead - well, yes, but this is the era of hologram concert tours, there’s no reason a dearly…
Break up with your pension, I’m bored
Apr 18, 2019 • 3 min
Everything is connected to everything else - and there’s no better example of that than this week’s news that a song by Ariana Grande is putting money into the state pension program in Michigan. And speaking of Michigan, did you know the state is home to…
I’m Going Out For A Scent
Apr 17, 2019 • 3 min
Tired? Smoke breaks. Inspired? Scent breaks. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Brown University are looking at whether pleasant smells can help curb cravings for nicotine. Plus: for the new short film NYC Textures, director Ynon Lan took…
The Long Lost Heads of Notre Dame
Apr 16, 2019 • 3 min
If you’re mourning Notre Dame cathedral today, well, you’re not the only one. Here’s a story from its long history that might make you feel a little more hopeful, a story of stone heads that disappeared - and reappeared hundreds of years later. Plus: a…
Bess and Taxes
Apr 15, 2019 • 3 min
Tax Day gives a lot of us the blues - which, as it turns out, actually kind of works. April 15th is the birthday of one of the greatest singers of all time: the Empress of the Blues, Bessie Smith. As for taxes, we have some news you can use - at least if…
You Call This Archaeology?
Apr 12, 2019 • 3 min
During the Cold War, the CIA flew U2 planes all over the globe, to see what the Soviets were up to. And in doing so, documented all kinds of geographical features from up above. Two researchers decided to go back through these photos - not for their Cold…
This One Goes Out To All My Peeps
Apr 11, 2019 • 3 min
The surest sign of spring is neither the calendar nor the weather. It’s the reappearance of Peeps, which are the stuff of candy and cultural legend now. Not only are there billions of them produced, eaten and/or used in dioramas every year, there’s a…
May The Force Sisters Be With You
Apr 10, 2019 • 3 min
The family that races hot rods together… stays together. For National Siblings Day, the story of Brittany, Ashley and Courtney Force, three sisters who have found an unusual way to spend time together: they’re professional funny car drivers. And if you’re…
All I’ve Got Is A Phonautograph, But It’s Not Enough
Apr 9, 2019 • 3 min
Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville invented a way to document sound more than a decade before Thomas Edison developed his wax cylinders. So why isn’t he remembered as the king of recording? Because he hadn’t figured out one key feature: playing the sound…
Come On Feel The Airplane Bathroom Noise
Apr 8, 2019 • 3 min
Researchers out of Brigham Young University have been working to quiet one of the most ungodly noises in the world - airplane bathrooms. Turns out changing the design of the pipes can make it a lot quieter, unlike that snoring guy in the next row. Plus: a…
Tweens vs. Potholes
Apr 5, 2019 • 3 min
A long cold winter is behind us - unfortunately potholes are underneath us. In Michigan, 12 year old Monte Scott counted 50 potholes on his street alone - and started filling them in himself. Fortunately, a research team at Drexel University is working on…
A Big Transplantiversary
Apr 4, 2019 • 3 min
It was 50 years ago today that a doctor implanted a temporary artificial heart in a patient - a pretty big leap forward in heart surgeries, given that transplants were only about a year old back then. Plus: since April is National Donate Life Month, and…
Laser Apple Robots
Apr 3, 2019 • 3 min
An apple a day keeps the coming war with robots away? A New Zealand company is testing a robot that’s supposed to move through an apple orchard, spot ripe fruit, yank it from the tree and bring it back to the farmer. They’re either helping us do a hard…
I Wish They All Could Be California Plates
Apr 2, 2019 • 3 min
You can apply for just about any set of numbers and letters to adorn your motor vehicle, so long as they’re a) not already taken and b) abide by your state’s rules. California residents have been putting the Golden State’s rules to the test in some odd…
The Pizza and Pipe Organ Connection
Apr 1, 2019 • 3 min
I spent part of the weekend chasing down a little bit of musical and culinary history in Greenfield, Wisconsin, just outside Milwaukee. That’s home to Organ Piper Pizza - as you eat, an organist plays an enormous Wurlitzer organ, which also controls stage…
The Goat Mayor Of Fair Haven, Vermont
Mar 29, 2019 • 3 min
On this day in 1861 the tiny European country of San Marino presented President Abraham Lincoln with honorary citizenship. There’s another leader named Lincoln who’s aspiring to greatness, and may yet achieve it - if, like Honest Abe, she can clean up the…
Baseball’s First, Fightingest Umpire
Mar 28, 2019 • 3 min
It’s Opening Day - and no matter who wins and who loses, baseball fans will have something to say about the umpires. The first pro ump in the big leagues was a man named Billy McLean - who, when he wasn’t calling balls and strikes, was occasionally…
Drunk Online Shoppers Of The World Unite
Mar 27, 2019 • 2 min
This year’s big growth industry: buying stuff online while you’re hammered. That’s according to a new survey that finds one in four respondents admitted to buying stuff on the internet while they’ve been drinking. Drunk buying is now a $39.4 billion…
A Salute To Great Eight Year Olds
Mar 26, 2019 • 3 min
Brady has an eight year old in the house today! To celebrate the big guy’s birthday, we’re taking a look at the many great eight year olds out there, making things a little more awesome. And check out the Memphis Zoo’s new Lego sculptures, including a…
We Got (The Cheese)
Mar 25, 2019 • 3 min
Researchers in Europe make a stunning discovery: playing hip-hop to cheese makes it taste better. Maybe they should have played a few songs to a collector’s coin in Germany that’s not getting a great reaction. Link: Cheese Exposed To Hip Hop Tastes Better…
Millennials Are (Not) Killing Lunch
Mar 22, 2019 • 3 min
Millennial memes are a crock. They’re not really killing lunch. Or bar soap. Or doorbells. But an often-discarded piece of their beloved avocados may end up saving lunch, thanks to a new kind of cutlery made from bioplastics. This weekend head to Virginia…
Mystery Beer Fridge
Mar 21, 2019 • 3 min
That feeling when you’ve had a horrible day and everything’s gone wrong and all you really want is to sit down and have a beer… and then a beer shows up. It’s the real-life story of a giant flood, two guys who lived through it, and what they found after.…