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Where the heck are our hydrogen-powered cars?

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In the new issue of mental_floss magazine, Ethan Trex answers The Biggest Questions of 2009. All this week, he'll be answering additional questions of various sizes here on the blog.


As climate-saving plans go, few sound quite as appealing as cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells. They don't need any petroleum! They're low on emissions! They're"¦not in our garages. Why not?

Although most of us might not have seen one, there are hydrogen-powered cars out there. There just aren't very many of them. Honda began production of its FCX Clarity in 2008. The little car runs on hydrogen fuel cells and can travel up to 270 miles on a full tank of hydrogen. The car can get from 0 to 60 in 9.2 seconds—about the same as Honda's Accord. Sounds perfect, but there are a few hitches.

First, the hand-assembled car is tricky to put together; Honda can only crank out 200 of them in the first three years of production, and mass-production probably can't start until 2018. On top of that, fuel-cell cars are honda-clarity.jpgmind-numbingly expensive, and not just by the standards of Honda's Accord-buying public. According to Honda, just building a single 134-horsepower FCX Clarity costs several hundred thousand dollars, which is part of why the company only leases the cars instead of selling them.


Finally, there's the problem of our lack of hydrogen fueling infrastructure. (When was the last time you saw a hydrogen station as you cruised down the highway?) Until there's a nationwide effort to build an infrastructure for producing, distributing, and retailing hydrogen, the cars might be little more than a pleasant daydream. When Honda announced its plans to start leasing the Clarity in 2008, only Southern California residents were eligible to drive one home, and even they had to live near one of three existing hydrogen fueling stations in the area.

Although GM, BMW, and Hyundai hope to have hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles of their own in showrooms within the next five years, some experts estimate that it will take decades before the American fleet can convert to hydrogen. If hydrogen cars can't really take off in significant numbers until 2050, it might be too late for the technology to make a meaningful impact on how we drive.

shell.jpgBonus Question: Why are there different types of gas (premium, regular, and super) but it seems like there is only one gas tanker?


You can't judge a tanker truck by its shiny metallic covering. Although from the outside these trucks look like one gigantic tank, they're actually divided into a series of compartments. Each compartment contains a certain grade of gas so one truck can stock a station for all three grades of fuel.

You can pick up mental_floss wherever brilliant/lots of magazines are sold. Or you could just subscribe.

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Opening Ceremony
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These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

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Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]

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This First-Grade Math Problem Is Stumping the Internet
May 17, 2017
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If you’ve ever fantasized about how much easier life would be if you could go back to elementary school, this math problem may give you second thoughts. The question first appeared on a web forum, Mashable reports, and after recently resurfacing, it’s been perplexing adults across social media.

According to the original poster AlmondShell, the bonus question was given to primary one, or first grade students, in Singapore. It instructs readers to “study the number pattern” and “fill in the missing numbers.” The puzzle, which comprises five numbers and four empty circles waiting to be filled in, comes with no further explanation.

Some forum members commented with their best guesses, while others expressed disbelief that this was a question on a kid’s exam. Commenter karrotguy illustrates one possible answer: Instead of looking for complex math equations, they saw that the figure in the middle circle (three) equals the amount of double-digit numbers in the surrounding quadrants (18, 10, 12). They filled out the puzzle accordingly.

A similar problem can be found on the blog of math enthusiast G.R. Burgin. His solution, which uses simple algebra, gets a little more complicated.

The math tests given to 6- and 7-year-olds in other parts of the world aren’t much easier. If your brain isn’t too worn out after the last one, check out this maddening problem involving trains assigned to students in the UK.

[h/t Mashable]

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