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Surfing the Web at 300 Baud

So...let's say you have an old modem, but you want to get on the web. Sucks to be you, 56k dialup is painfully slow, end of story -- right? Well, normally that'd be the case. But here's a video of a guy with a really, really old modem: a Livermore Data Systems Model A 300bps Acoustic Coupler Modem, circa 1964, a handmade device in a beautifully crafted wooden box (complete with dovetailed joints and leather handle). Can you surf the web using this thing? Exactly how painful would it be? Why not watch this awesome video and find out? (If you're impatient and/or don't care about the technical details, skip to around 7 minutes in to see a demo of loading the Wikipedia homepage via the lynx browser.) This is quite possibly the oldest modem still in use (though if you have something older, please speak up!):

Discussed: the provenance of this particular modem; voltage of RS-232 serial ports; hearing modulation as you hit keys on the keyboard; how to connect a completely analog 45-year-old modem to a modern laptop; exactly how slow it is to load a page (even just a text page)

(Via Waxy.org.)

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Lindsay Fox, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0
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Are Cigarette Butts the Secret to Better Roads?
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Lindsay Fox, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

A cigarette butt on the pavement is disgusting. A cigarette butt in the pavement, though—well, that's another story. Scientists writing in the journal Construction and Building Materials say butt-studded asphalt could be the wave of the future.

Tobacco companies produce about 6 trillion cigarettes every year, which leads to about 1.3 million tons of butts.

Lead author Abbas Mohajerani is an engineer at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. "In Australia alone, people smoke about 25 to 30 billion filtered cigarettes a year and, of these, about 7 billion are littered," he said in a statement.

Butts that end up in a landfill are not much better off. They're slow to decompose, and when they do, they release their nasty chemicals into the soil and water around them.

Mohajerani knows that we're not going to get everyone on Earth to stop smoking. But there may be other things we can do. He and his colleagues at RMIT have begun incorporating cigarette butts into different construction materials.

They started with bricks. And while it may sound like a weird, abstract art project, the addition of cigarette butts actually makes a lot of sense. The very thing that makes cigarettes disposable—their flammability—also can help make better, cheaper bricks. The researchers found that changing a brick's composition to include just 1 percent cigarette waste reduced the amount of energy required to fire that brick by a whopping 58 percent.

The waste-added bricks also were better at insulating than standard bricks—which could reduce a brick building's heating and cooling costs.

For their latest study, the team sealed cigarette butts in bitumen and paraffin wax, then combined them with hot asphalt. The resulting pavement was not only functional but, like the bricks, better for the surrounding environment. The inclusion of the bitumen decreased the pavement's ability to conduct heat, which could help keep already overheated cities cooler.

Most importantly, both the bricks and the asphalt imprisoned the cigarettes' toxic chemicals and prevented them from poisoning their surroundings.

"This research shows that you can create a new construction material while ridding the environment of a huge waste problem," Mohajerani said.

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iStock
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The Most Popular Emojis Around the World
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iStock

Emojis may be the closest thing we currently have to a universal language. But even between English-speaking countries, emoji-texting habits can vary greatly.

HighSpeedInternet.com recently conducted an international survey on emoji usage and used the data to make the map below.

Of the nine English-speaking countries they studied, all nine chose the basic smiley emoji as their favorite pictograph. The second-place symbols are where interesting trends start to appear: For example, respondents in Jamaica, Trinidad, the UK, and the U.S. are all partial to the teary-eyed laughing emoji. Love is also a popular theme. Texters in Canada like sending one heart, while in New Zealand they prefer two. But not every country is so wholesome: In Ireland, the most popular emoji message behind a smiley face is a double poop.

They also determined that different countries have different interpretations of the same images; while everyone seems to greet that the kissing heart face means "love you," where some countries see an innocuous food image like an eggplant or a peach for exactly what it is, other countries have a less PG-rated view of them. (Learn more about their findings here.)

HighSpeedInternet.com

It should come as no surprise that emojis are loved in the U.S., where residents report including them in over half of all text messages. Besides Trinidad, all other countries included in the survey reported using emojis in less than 25 percent of texts. For a more localized look at visual texting trends, check out this map of the most prevalent emojis in each state.

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