The Places That Can Make You Poop

Many of us are familiar with the idea that coffee makes you poop. There are substances in coffee that contribute to this, and not just caffeine. But it could also be that coffee is usually a stable part of one's normal morning routine. And there is also the psychological association of coffee with one's morning routine, so much that the smell of a coffee shop can make you run to the bathroom. How much each of these factors contribute to the effect is arguable, but the effect is real.

However, there are variations. The urge to poop can arise from the experience of being in a book store. This is called the Mariko Aoki phenomenon, named for a woman in Japan who wrote about her experiences in 1985. Since then, many folks have admitted that bookstores have this effect on them. While there has been little scientific interest in experimenting with the Mariko Aoki phenomenon, there have been several theories suggested for why it occurs, from scientists and non-scientists alike. And some folks get this urge at more general locations, like shopping malls. -via Nag on the Lake

(Image credit: Ryan Abel)


A Most Sinister Hot Sauce from a Galaxy Far, Far Away

What would Darth Vader put on his barbecue sandwich?

In the run up to Star Wars Day on May 4, the hot sauce company Truff has partnered with Lucasfilm to offer a special limited edition hot sauce styled after Darth Vader. It's called Dark Side Hot Sauce, and it comes in a bottle with Darth Vader's head, er, helmet as the bottle cap. It will be shipped in a "collectible gift box" featuring Star Wars imagery, resembling the volcanic hellscape of the planet Mustafar. They call it their hottest hot sauce so far, but also extol the virtues of its flavor. Does it taste good? Who knows? It sounds downright evil. Dark Side Hot Sauce won't go on sale until April 24, but you can sign up for the wait list at the Truff site. If you get your order in early, you could be enjoying some really spicy snacks for Star Wars Day.   -via Boing Boing


Operation Ivy: The First Hydrogen Bomb

After World War II, the US continued its research into nuclear weapons and developed a bomb named Mike. That was the nickname of the first hydrogen bomb, and it was too big to ever drop from above. In fact, Ivy (for Operation Ivy) Mike (for megaton) weight 74 metric tons, used a 20-foot tower, and required a cryogenics facility and a power plant for its liquid deuterium fuel. Why build a bomb that big? To see if it could be done.

Ivy Mike was detonated on November 1, 1952 on an island named Elugelab, which was part of the unpopulated Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands. I used the word "was" because Elugelab ceased to exist on that day, and became a crater in the ocean floor. The rest of the atoll was stripped of all its vegetation. The ten-megaton explosion created a fireball five kilometers wide, and a mushroom cloud 33 kilometers high.

Ivy Mike explodes in a clip from the documentary Trinity and Beyond.

Mike's detonation left the entire atoll contaminated. Despite years of decontamination efforts, it will still be a few years before Eniwetok Atoll is safe for humans. Read the story of Operation Ivy and the first hydrogen bomb at Amusing Planet.

(Image credit: United States Department of Energy)


The Horrific Demise of a Peanuts Character

Charles Schulz drew 17,897 Peanuts comic strips over nearly 50 years. In the 1950s, though, he was still experimenting with the Peanuts gang. One of the characters he introduced in 1954 was named Charlotte Braun, who was loud, extroverted, and everything the beloved Charlie Brown was not. She was obviously intended to be the anti-Charlie Brown. The problem was that Charlotte had no redeeming qualities, nor any underlying issues that readers could relate to, and they really disliked her. She only appeared in ten strips, and then disappeared forever. Charlotte's absence was never addressed in the strip, and no one thought much of it.

Fast forward to the year 2000. Following Schultz's death, 66-year-old Elizabeth Swaim submitted a letter that she had received from Schulz in 1955 to the Library of Congress. It was Schultz's response to her complaint about Charlotte Braun. No doubt it wasn't the only complaint that Schulz received about the character, but it may be the only reply that revealed what happened to her behind the scenes. Read the story of Charlotte Braun and her untimely death at the hands of Charles Schulz at Mental Floss. -via Strange Company


What Does This Elderly Woman's Tattoo Mean?

Redditor /u/SustainEuphoria asks on the always-intriguing subreddit What Is It? about this tattoo. They say that their grandmother was forced to get it as a child. What could it mean? A possible answer is below the fold.

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The New All Electric Atlas Dips Back Into the Uncanny Valley



We've grown to known and love Boston Dynamics' Atlas robot over the years, so much that we think if him (and his dog Spot) as everyday robots that have outgrown the "wow" factor and have become part of the family. So of course, they are retiring him and now have a replacement that is all electric. Yes, our old friend Atlas has plenty of electronics, but his strength and movement relies on hydraulics. The new fully electric Atlas is smaller, has more refined movements, and can articulate its limbs at 360 degrees. The upshot is that while the new Atlas may more resemble a human shape at first glance, watching it move gives us the creeps, as if it were a sideshow contortionist or a demon-possessed little girl in a movie.  

Boston Dynamics owes a lot to the original hydraulic Atlas, and have posted a tribute video for its retirement. The first half is a blooper reel, and the second half shows what Atlas can really do.



What does a robot do in retirement? Atlas should probably stay away from cruise ships. Maybe he could take up gardening instead. -via Born in Space


How To Use a Sidewalk: The Instructional Film

The 1950s and 60s saw a vast proliferation of educational films on a wide variety of purely interpersonal topics. The Baby Boomers were still quite young and thus it was necessary to inform them of how to interact with others as they grew up and explored American society.

Although some of these films seem a bit odd by modern standards, a few stand out as immediately useful. This one, for example, by filmmaker James Parris, helps people learn how to use that technological marvel that still causes confusion: the sidewalk.

What should you do if you are walking along the middle of a sidewalk and someone else is doing likewise, but approaching you? Do not knock them over. There's a better and safer way to use a sidewalk.

These procedures apply to other ambulatory locations, too, such as the aisles of grocery stores and even the hallways of a house. Watch and learn.

-via The Awesomer


When Falling Space Junk Disrupts Lives

The odds of getting hit by a piece of space junk are smaller than the odds of winning the lottery, but they are not zero. You can reduce your odds of winning the lottery slightly by not buying a ticket, while space junk could hit anyone. We've learned that most debris that falls out of orbit burns up on re-entry, and most of the rest falls into the ocean. That still leaves a few unfortunate people who have to deal with the fallout, so to speak. Just last month, a piece of a pallet of batteries crashed through the roof of a Florida home. The falling debris was foreseen, but no one knew where it would end up.

It wasn't the first time that space junk fell on unsuspecting people and their property- it's been happening since 1969. Of course now there is a lot more junk up there. Read up on five cases of damage caused by stuff falling from space at Cracked.

(Image credit: NASA)


Bluegrass Cover of "Everybody Wants to Rule the World"

In 1985, the British pop rock band Tears for Fears debuted their single "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," which soared to the top of the charts across much of the world. It made heavy use of synthesizers and other electronic instruments, unlike the lower tech of the bluegrass cover band named Greenwood Rye.

This quintet includes the quintessential bluegrass instruments of the banjo, mandolin, and the fiddle. An acoustic guitar and upright bass fill the gaps to provide very convincing covers of a-ha's "Take on Me", Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al", and Led Zeppelin's"Good Times Bad Times".

-via Timothy Imholt


Where Cannabis Came From, Scientifically Speaking

Archaeologists have found cannabis remains in a 2,500-year-old grave, with evidence indicating it was used at the funeral. And you thought "putting the 'fun' in funeral" was just a mortuary joke. But seriously, folks, researching the origins of cannabis is difficult because it's been deliberately cultivated for so long that any cannabis growing wild is feral instead of truly wild, and documenting historic samples is iffy because of its illegal status in many places. Scientists were having a hard time even charting out its taxonomy until gene sequencing came along. What we do know is that the plant developed its amazing chemicals to deter enemies, but the cannabis plant had no idea that humans would come along and find those chemicals so attractive.  

Yeah, this video from PBS Eons is posted a day early as far as the informal holiday known as 420 is concerned, but that leaves time for sharing. This video isn't nearly as long as it looks; the last two minutes are promotional.  


How Baron Munchausen Got His Reputation

You have probably heard of Munchausen syndrome, a psychological condition in which a person is driven to spin fantastic tales about false symptoms and illnesses for attention. It is formally referred to as “factitious disorder imposed on self," or in the case of Munchausen by proxy, “factitious disorder imposed on another.” That's when a parent gains attention by insisting their child is sick when there is no illness present. The disorder was not named for the doctor who discovered it, but for a pop culture character from the 18th century.

Baron Munchausen as a character is legendary for telling tall tales about his military career, from traveling to the moon to riding a horse underwater to battling exotic beasts to riding a cannonball. His appearances over the centuries saw him change from a liar to a deluded old man reminiscent of Don Quixote. The original novel about him, Baron Munchausen’s Narrative of His Marvelous Travels and Campaigns in Russia, was published in 1785 and gave birth to a character featured in many stories and several films since then. But that original novel by Rudolf Erich Raspe only portrayed him as a teller of fantastic tales that no one believed. In reprints and translations, the story grew until Munchausen was a mentally ill buffoon.

However, there was a real Baron von Munchausen, whose name was Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, and he was not pleased at all for his name to be associated with such a character. Hieronymus was a storyteller, but not a liar, and he spent the rest of his life trying to find Raspe and suing anyone associated with the novel. Read the story of the real Baron von Munchausen at Smithsonian.

(Image credit: Gottfried Franz)


Matza Pizza and Other ABBA Songs for Passover

Passover begins on the evening of April 22 (Monday) and will run through sunset on April 30. No, it doesn't always coincide with Easter. As they do every year, the Jewish a cappella group Six13 has unveiled another pop music parody for the holiday. This year their nine voices bring us "Matza Mia! An ABBA Passover." They've put new lyrics to four classic songs from the Swedish vocal group ABBA: "Take a Chance on Me," "Dancing Queen," "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight),” and “Mamma Mia!” They've also posted a song sheet if you want to use the new lyrics at your Seder or school program.

See also: previous Jewish holiday songs from Six13. I don't think anything will ever beat "5784" for Rosh Hashanah.


School Bus Designs Are Almost the Same as in 1939

The school buses that roam the streets today look an awful lot like the first conventional school buses that came out of an American standardization conference in 1939. They are big, boxy, and bright yellow. They aren't the same buses, but they've carried that iconic look for 85 years. There are reasons for this: we want people to recognize school buses for what they are, and if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Also, school buses are different from consumer automobiles in that there are no customers to please. People who buy cars want modern styling, convenience, and the latest gadgets, while school buses aren't for status or luxury. We just want to get the kids to school and back safely.

However, you might be surprised at how school buses have evolved on the safety front. The only thing you might really notice is the rise of cab-over-engine buses, which makes it easier for drivers to see children crossing in front. Even though the first big, boxy, bright buses were already safer than cars, we've had many safety innovations in school buses over the years. Those improvements are worth every penny. Read about the evolution -and the lack of it- in school buses at Jalopnik.  -via Boing Boing

(Image credit: H. Michael Miley)


What If the Milky Way Had Thousands of Alien Cultures?

Imagine a scenario in which the Milky Way galaxy is full of alien civilizations that are advanced enough to travel and communicate with each other, but they don't pay any attention to us here on Earth. That idea can be followed by all kinds of jokes about how human civilization isn't civilized, or otherwise deserving of company. But theoretically, there are other reasons we might not have been contacted by these advanced aliens. We might be honestly too far away to make the trip worth it. We may be relatively too young to understand them. They might know about us and have decided we have nothing useful to offer them. Or we may be among the "do not land here" list for other reasons. Yeah, some of those reasons are getting us closer to the old joke. It's easier to think that we are truly alone in the universe. This video from Kurzgesagt is really 10:15 long; the rest is an ad.


Heinz Inflicts upon the World a Barbie-Flavored Sauce

It's Barbiecue sauce! Get it?

The Mattel and Heinz companies have secretly developed a Barbie-themed sauce in honor of the doll's 65th anniversary "after a huge public demand." It's a vegan mayonnaise that is tainted with beetroot juice to match the official Barbie shade of pink (hex code #e0218a).

Fortunately, Heinz is only releasing its product in the UK and Spain, and the United States is thankfully outside of the blast radius. My condolences to the Europeans, though. The trauma begins today at Tesco stores in Britain.

-via Fast Company, which calls upon the end of Barbie product collaborations for humanitarian reasons.

Photo: Heinz UK






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