Today in 1969 was the first day off for the Apollo 11 astronauts in more than a month. Yes, they'd finished their moon landing weeks earlier, but they had to go into quarantine in case they'd picked up some "moon germs" that could lead to a plague on Earth. (Fortunately, they hadn't.) Plus: there's a new augmented reality tour of a church in Florence, Italy that was deconstructed in 1784.
Apollo 11 Astronauts Spent 3 Weeks in Quarantine, Just in Case of Moon Plague (Space.com)
Digital resurrection (University of Cambridge)
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There is at least one person in the world who's paid to be a wizard. The city of Christchurch, New Zealand, contracts with him to "provide acts of wizardry and other wizard-like-services as part of promotional work for the city of Christchurch." Plus: there's a museum exhibit in Switzerland featuring works of art that showcase imaginary or invented languages.
This New Zealand man gets paid $10,000 a year to be a city's official wizard (CNN)
When Writing Has No Meaning (Hyperallergic)
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We don’t have the Olympic Games right now, but we can still mark a big Olympic moment that happened on this day in 1948: the day Alice Coachman became the first Black woman to win Olympic gold. Plus: a chocolate company and an engineer say they've redesigned the chocolate chip. Is it more efficient? I don't know, but I'll be happy to test it out.
The day Alice Coachman became the first black woman to win Olympic gold (The Undefeated)
A Tesla engineer designed the perfect chocolate chip (Fast Company)
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There are parts of the world where some of the local spiders are very dangerous to humans. A new app called Critterpedia can scan your spider photos and tell you which spider is which. Plus: on National Root Beer Float Day, a root beer maker in Wisconsin is trying to set a world record for biggest root beer float drive-thru.
Australia just invented Shazam for spiders (CNet)
Sprecher Aims To Set Record for World's Largest Root Beer Float Drive-Thru With Free Floats For All (Yahoo)
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On this day in 1999 a court rules in a case involving a guy who tried to use a huge number of points in a Pepsi reward program to buy a fighter jet, which the soda maker had jokingly offered in one of its ads. It didn't work, but still, an A for effort. Plus: there's a new uncuttable substance that might make for a great bike lock.
When a Man Took a Joke in a Pepsi Ad Seriously, Chaos Ensued (Lit Hub)
Proteus – new un-cuttable material promises to make bike thefts a thing of the past (Red Ferret Journal)
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Maybe everyone in junior high was right: the clothes you wear really can make you cool! At least if those clothes are the new fabric developed in China with a kind of cooling system embedded inside. Plus: it's National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, so let's find out about the largest chocolate chip cookie of all time.
New fabric could help keep you cool in the summer, even without A/C (Science Daily)
Largest biscuit / cookie (Guinness World Records)
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Researchers at the University of Washington call it a "GoPro for beetles" - a ultralight, wireless, steerable camera that can ride on the back of a bug. And it's pretty effective at letting us see what these bugs see. Plus: a new online chart tracks the vocal range of famous pop singers, by measuring the highest and lowest notes they ever sung on a recording.
A GoPro for beetles: Researchers create a robotic camera backpack for insects (University of Washington)
Vocal Ranges of the World's Greatest Singers (Bookofjoe)
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Change is in the air in the border region between Spain and France. A small island there called Pheasant Island is about to change countries, as it does twice a year. Plus: some enterprising race fans in Poland use construction cranes to help them get a good view of their favorite drivers even while physical distancing.
The island that switches countries every six months (BBC)
Fans Rent Cranes to Watch Car Race from Outside Arena During Pandemic (Oddity Central)
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On this day in 1988, the Ostry family of Bruno, Nebraska got 328 people to lift a barn - a real, actual barn - and moved it 110 feet by hand. That's some impressive crowdsourcing. Plus: a guy invents a machine that can spot his face and lob M&Ms at it, which I'm pretty sure can win a guy a lot of friends.
Nebraska family looks back on barn moving event (WOWT)
Guy Builds Machine That Shoots Chocolate into His Mouth on Command (Interesting Engineering)
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A team of engineering students at Harvard is teaming with a startup called Savormetrics to develop a device that can tell us when avocados will be ripe. It's one step on the way to solving the costly problem of food waste. Plus: a project in Belgium called #ArtGenetics is learning about the evolution of fruits and vegetables through classic paintings.
Forestalling food waste (Harvard)
Old Paintings Reveal How Fruits and Vegetables Have Evolved Over the Centuries (VICE)
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Today is said to be the day in 1858 that a colonial magistrate in India began using fingerprints for identification. But that's just one part of the history of how and why our prints are such a valuable bit of biometric information today. Plus: a guy in Jamaica showed up to collect a big lottery prize in a Darth Vader costume, because why not?
How Fingerprinting Works (How Stuff Works)
Jamaican Darth Vader claims $95 million lottery prize (Toronto Sun)
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Most sports teams do promotions to get more fans into the games, but in 2002 the Charleston, S.C. RiverDogs held "Nobody Night," turning fans away at the gate to have an official attendance of zero. Plus: want to see a giant metal baseball? Drop by next time you're in Muscotah, Kansas.
RiverDogs' "Nobody Night" Promotion Recalled on Today's ESPN's "First Take" (MILB.com)
Muscotah, Kansas: World's Largest Baseball (Roadside America)
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This week we're replaying some of our favorite outer space-themed episodes of the show. In this episode from March 2020, NASA fixes 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 the era of social distancing.
NASA fixes Mars lander by hitting it with a shovel (CNN)
NASA’s Mars InSight Lander to Push on Top of the ‘Mole’ (NASA)
Social distancing the Wisconsin way: Richfield man shares a beer with his neighbor via RC car (Fox 6 Now)
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This week we're replaying some of our favorite outer space-themed episodes of the show. In this episode from October 2019, science brings whales and outer space together for the first time since the fourth Star Trek movie. The British Antarctic Survey partners with researchers in Chile on a way to protect whales via satellite. Plus: the story of a paraglider who manages to land smoothly and carefully on a couch.
Stranded whales detected from space (British Antarctic Survey)
Parachute Landing On Couch (YouTube)
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This week we're replaying some of our favorite outer space-themed episodes of the show. In this episode from January 2020, we find out that astronauts on the International Space Station baked chocolate chip cookies, only baking cookies in space is a little different than baking them on Earth. Plus: a new device called the Exolung can keep air flowing for virtually as long as a diver likes.
Space-baked cookies not chips off old block (The Columbian)
The Exolung gives divers an ‘unlimited’ underwater air supply (Designboom)
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This week we're replaying some of our favorite outer space-themed episodes of the show. In this episode from March 2020, we check out 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 up for the extremely long distance. Plus: ISS astronauts have been growing space veggies, and they’re pretty good for us.
How are the Voyager spacecraft able to transmit radio messages so far? (How Stuff Works)
Voyager 2 Returns to Normal Operations (NASA)
NASA’s Space Lettuce Is Safe And Nutritious, Paving Way For Crops On The Moon And Mars (Newsweek)
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This week we're replaying some of our favorite outer space-themed episodes of the show. In this episode from July 2019, we look back at when the BBC brought in Pink Floyd, the band known for playing space rock, to improvise on-air for its Apollo 11 coverage. Plus: it’s been 25 years since the time that Pizza Hut produced an ad for UK television in which all the dialogue was in Klingon.
My moon-landing jam session (The Guardian)
13 Minutes To The Moon (BBC)
Watch this fantastic 1994 Pizza Hut TV commercial that’s entirely in Klingon (Boing Boing)
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Vantablack is a color that's so black it absorbs almost all of the light nearby. There's new research out about a "vantafish" that does almost the same thing to avoid its hungry bioluminescent neighbors. Plus: you've heard of drive-in theaters; Paris is going to have a "float-in" theater featuring "socially distanced boats" on the Seine.
Vantablack? Meh. Meet the Ultra-Black Vantafish (Wired)
Floating Movie Theater With Socially Distant Boats Set for Paris (Interesting Engineering)
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While county and state fairs are canceled for 2020, the 4-H group In Morris County, New Jersey, has found a way to bring the fair experience online, as a virtual fair inside the game Minecraft. Plus: Iceland wants you to send them the sounds of you screaming about this frustrating year so they can play those screams on loudspeakers.
Welcome to the Morris County (Virtual) 4-H Fair! (Rutgers)
Frustrated by lockdown? Iceland offers to release your screams over loudspeaker (Irish Examiner)
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The drone company Skydio has just announced a new 3D scanning software that’s intended for use on large-scale structures like bridges. That may help us deal with the tens of thousands of "structurally deficient" bridges in the US. Plus: ever seen a guy do a shredding guitar solo riding on a OneWheel skateboard?
Introducing Skydio 3D Scan™ (Skydio via YouTube)
This guitar-playing skateboarder is warming hearts in pandemic-stricken Atlanta (CNN)
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There was a story out of Italy where a driver got a ticket for driving 437 miles per hour. Since that's almost three times as fast as the car could legitimately go, it's believed to have been a malfunction of a local speed camera. Plus: the creations of cabinet maker Henk Verhoeff aren't malfunctioning, they're meant to be, as the artist put it, "broken and weird."
Ancona: a Ford Focus caught at 703 km / h (due to the speed camera) (Autoappassionati)
How do speed cameras work? (The Guardian)
This Retired Cabinet Maker Goes Viral For Making Broken And Weird Furniture That Belongs In Disney Movies (Bored Panda)
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Pastries come and go, but in Brooklyn, people still talk about the blackout cake from Ebinger's, a cake so beloved that when the bakery closed, people bought up cakes, kept them in their freezers and ate them only on special occasions. Plus: it's the birthday of Erno Rubik, so maybe someday visit the Rubik's Cube-themed hotel room in Houston, Texas.
Ebinger’s Blackout Cake is Gone But Not Forgotten (Edible Brooklyn)
There’s A Rubik’s Cube Hotel In Texas And It’s The Definition Of Nostalgia (Only In Your State)
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Our entire show is based on the idea that we might say something interesting enough that it might get you to perk up your ears, figuratively speaking. Or, as a team at Saarland University has found, maybe not so figuratively speaking. Plus: a sculpture garden in Dublin, Ohio pays tribute to ears of a different kind.
Our animal inheritance: Humans perk up their ears, too, when they hear interesting sounds (Science Daily)
Field of Giant Corn Cobs (Roadside America)
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Every year in the US there are some 600,000 knee replacement surgeries. But a team at Duke University might help some people avoid those surgeries with a hydrogel that can stand in for cartilage. Plus: engineers at NIKE develop a ball that can really soar.
From The Lab, The First Cartilage-Mimicking Gel That's Strong Enough For Knees (Duke University)
NIKE's new flight ball promises a 'revolution in football aerodynamics' (designboom)
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Today we download video games online all the time. Back in the 1980s, gamers without the Internet (such as it was) had to buy or borrow their games. But a few could download programs off the radio. Plus: there's a comet headed Earth's way, and it might make for some great viewing this month, or 6,000 years from now. Either one.
You Could Download Video Games From the Radio in the 1980s (Interesting Engineering)
Comet NEOWISE could give skywatchers a dazzling show this month. Here's what to know. (Space.com)
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Today is believed to be the birthday of Leroy "Satchel" Paige, perhaps the most legendary pitcher baseball ever saw. Paige was a star for decades, and once pitched three scoreless innings in the major leagues at age 59. Plus: we'll visit the man who earned the world's first degree in ninja studies.
Fifty years ago, Satchel Paige pitched his last big-league game in KC ... at age 59 (Kansas City Star)
Meet the Japanese man who holds the world's only master's degree in ninja studies (CNN)
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In the 1980s Deaf children in Nicaragua were sent to a new school that was supposed to help them learn finger spelling. Instead, they built up their own language, now known as Nicaraguan Sign Language. Plus: divers in Mexico find a cave that looked like it hadn't been visited before, only to find a link to civilization thousands of years ago.
The Amazing Story of Deaf Children in 1980s Nicaragua Inventing a Brand New Language (Twisted Sifter)
Canadian scuba diver in Mexico accidentally discovers vast, prehistoric industrial complex (National Post)
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Vivid Maps released a map of the U.S. by demonym, which is the term for a word that describes people from a certain place. Some are straightforward, but there are also plenty of surprises. Plus: you've heard of Four Corners, but did you know there's also a Tri-State Marker where you could stand in the states of Idaho, Wyoming and Utah all at once?
Demonyms of the U.S. and Canada (Vivid Maps)
My Fellow Americanians (New York Times)
You Can Stand In Three Different States At Once Near The Town Of Montpelier, Idaho (Only In Your State)
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Netflix is about to release a show based on The Baby-Sitters Club I used to re-shelve all the time at the public library where I worked. Here's the story of how the series came to life. Plus: if you could use a little beauty in your world right now, check out the photos of Trung Huy Pham, documenting Vietnam's annual water lily harvest.
Over 30 years ago, The Baby-Sitters Club made space for girls from all backgrounds (AV Club)
‘The Baby-Sitters Club’ Trailer: An Iconic Piece of ’90s Nostalgia Heads to Netflix (Indiewire)
Vivid Photographs by Trung Huy Pham Capture Annual Water Lily Harvest in Vietnam (Colossal)
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Today is Canada Day, marking the 1867 confederation of three provinces then known as Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. But Canada was only one name out of many that were suggested for the new country. Plus: this week got weird at several Canadian Tire stores, thanks to a computer glitch that made every item show up in the scanner as a Mr. Potato Head.
What Canada was ALMOST named (CBC Kids)
Canadian Tire in Lindsay temporarily closed after every item scanned comes up as “Mr Potato Head” (Kawartha411)
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A team at UCLA has built technology into a glove that can recognize the hand movements from American Sign Language and translate those movements into spoken English in real time through a smartphone app. This may even get me to put down the Nintendo Power Glove (for a while). Plus: scientists in Australia say they can modify cotton to make its own color, without not-so-eco-friendly chemical dyes.
Wearable-tech glove translates sign language into speech in real time (UCLA)
CSIRO scientists discover how to grow coloured cotton, removing need for harmful chemical dyes (ABC.net.au)
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Back in 1978 the San Diego Chicken was winning huge numbers of fans - which is why Atlanta owner Ted Turner tried to coax the man inside the chicken suit, Ted Giannoulas, to move east. Plus: the Chicken is now in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but why is there also a San Diego Chicken head in the Gerald Ford Presidential Library in Grand Rapids, Michigan?
Profiles in Plumage: The San Diego Chicken (Society for American Baseball Research)
A look back at the 'Grand Hatching' of the San Diego Chicken (ESPN)
Found at the Presidential Libraries Dr. Seuss, Air Force One, and the San Diego Chicken (Prologue Magazine)
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On this day in 1973, a couple in Murphysboro, Illinois reported seeing a tall, hairy, extremely smelly creature that over time became known as The Big Muddy Monster. But what the heck was it? Plus: today is the anniversary of Elvis Presley's final concert. And yes, there's a historic marker on the site.
Chasing Monsters: Big Muddy Monster still has Murphysboro residents wondering (The Southern Illinoisian)
Big Muddy Monster Case File (Murphysboro.com)
The King’s Final Bow: Elvis’s Last Concert in Indianapolis (Indiana History Blog)
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It was on this day in 1894 that Annie Cohen Kopchovsky, aka Annie Londonderry, set off on a bike trip that, over the next fifteen months, would make her the first woman to ride a bike around the world. Plus: meet a contraption that can hit a home run about twice as far as the ones in the big leagues.
A Woman to Know: Annie Londonderry Cohen (A Woman To Know)
First woman to cycle the globe begins journey (Jewish Women's Archive)
World's Longest Home Run (The "Mad Batter" Machine) (Smarter Every Day via YouTube)
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Today at the 2010 Wimbledon tennis tournament was the first day of the longest professional tennis match ever played. John Isner and Nicolas Mahut played for more than 11 hours over three days! Plus: since Wimbledon 2020 has been canceled, what are they doing with all those strawberries they usually sell?
Wimbledon 2010: John Isner beats Nicolas Mahut in epic (BBC)
When Isner beat Mahut 70-68 in the fifth: Wimbledon's 11-hour epic defies belief, a decade on (Yahoo! Sports)
Wimbledon strawberries preserved: Huge 750kg crop will be turned into jam after this year's tennis tournament is cancelled due to coronavirus (Daily Mail)
Bees are running into a lot of challenges lately, and while there are efforts to help the bees get their buzz back, scientists are testing out systems that might give us other ways to pollinate. One, at the Washington State University, involves cameras and robot hands - while another, in Japan, involves soap bubbles.
Robotic crop pollination awarded $1 million grant (Washington State University)
Blowing bubbles: Soapy spheres pop pollen on fruit trees (BBC)
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This is about the time we were all supposed to be gearing up for the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. Since that's on hold, let's instead talk about the Inter-Allied Games, which began in Paris on this day in 1919. Plus: if you'd like some fierce sporting competition from this century, try out the American Hedgehog Bowling Association (and don't worry, the hedgehogs aren't bowled down the lanes).
WWI Soldiers Held their Own Olympics After the War (History.com)
Two Little Hedgehogs Try to Knock Down as Many Pins as They Can in an Adorable Bowling Tournament (Laughing Squid)
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One of the many special places you can mark Juneteenth is at the George Washington Carver Museum in Austin, Texas, with an art installation that has five statues and six pedestals. Plus: the summer solstice is this weekend, and while crowds won't be on hand the usual way at Stonehenge, they can take in the whole event virtually.
Juneteenth Memorial Monuments Find a Home (AustinTexas.gov)
You Can Watch the Summer Solstice Live From Stonehenge This Year (Thrillist)
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It's the birthday of Roger Ebert, a great film critic, TV host and author, and a pioneer in developing realistic-sounding electronic voices. Today we have the story of how he worked to create a voice called "Roger Jr." Plus: how about teaching the electronic voices to read some of Ebert’s hilariously devastating negative movie reviews?
Remaking my voice (TED Talks)
Roger Ebert's New Voice (CBS Sunday Morning)
Ebert's Most Hated (RogerEbert.com)
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Video games are now as artistically and technically challenging as any other art form. But now they've really leveled up: the FDA has just approved a video game-based treatment for ADHD. Plus: a school librarian in western Virginia just found a clever way to get books to her students while schools and libraries are closed.
Children with ADHD can now be prescribed a video game, FDA says (CNN)
Google-backed drones will drop library books so kids in Virginia can do their summer reading (Washington Post)
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