Musical Roads

Now I've heard everything: if you're a driver so musically deprived that you have neither a radio, CD player or iPod hookup in your car, there's still one more way to get yourself humming -- by driving on a so-called "musical road." There are only a half-dozen or so in the world -- one just over an hour from me, in Lancaster, California -- and they work via a series of raised pavement markers, spaced and grooved such that, when driven over at an optimal speed (usually around 50mph), the grooves' specially-calibrated vibrations "sing." Here's how the one in Lancaster -- tuned to the "William Tell Overture" -- sounds.

Sponsored by Honda, the Lancaster road is also known as the "Civic" road. Here's the commercial they made:

The idea was first hatched by two Danish artists, who created the very first "asphaltaphone" in the town of Gilling, Denmark. (The melody it plays isn't too impressive, though.) Here's a Danish news report featuring the road and its creators (in Danish, naturally). Skip to about 90 seconds to see the road in action.

There are several musical roads in Japan, including one that plays "Memories of Summer."

A Very Brief History of Chamber Pots

Some of the oldest chamber pots found by archeologists have been discovered in ancient Greece, but portable toilets have come a long way since then. Whether referred to as "the Jordan" (possibly a reference to the river), "Oliver's Skull" (maybe a nod to Oliver Cromwell's perambulating cranium), or "the Looking Glass" (because doctors would examine urine for diagnosis), they were an essential fact of life in houses and on the road for centuries. In this video from the Wellcome Collection, Visitor Experience Assistant Rob Bidder discusses two 19th century chamber pots in the museum while offering a brief survey of the use of chamber pots in Britain (including why they were particularly useful in wartime).

A Tour of the New York Academy of Medicine's Rare Book Room

The Rare Book Room at the New York Academy of Medicine documents the evolution of our medical knowledge. Its books and artifacts are as bizarre as they are fascinating. Read more here.


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