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The Things You're Missing Out On!

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Last month, Jason and I started a side project called Watercooler Ammo. It's a fun newsletter that comes out every Monday-Thursday, and it features one bit of perfectly curated, smile-inducing trivia. If you're not a subscriber, you can sign up here to try it out (you'll like it!). But if you need more convincing, these are just a few of the great stories you've been missing out on:

Long Live the (Part-Time) King!

Up until a few months ago, Peggielene Bartels was a secretary living alone in a one-bedroom apartment in Silver Spring, MD. Then, in the middle of the night, she got a call from Ghana. Her distant uncle-- who had been king of a village-- had passed away, and the tribal elders on the phone wanted to know whether she'd take over.

After a lot of debate, Peggielene decided to wear the crown. Now, she uses all of her vacation days in Otuam, Ghana where she stays in an 8 bedroom palace, and spends her time sorting out the problems of her 7,000 subjects! And while a few of the elders were keen to crown a woman king because they thought she'd be a pushover, Peggielene refuses to let the chauvinism get in her way. She's already rooted out a good bit of corruption. And she's working hard to install computers in Otuam's schools, dig new wells in the region, and bring up the region's literacy rates. While she's a part-time ruler for now, once King Bartels retires from her job in 5 or 6 years, she plans to move to Otuam. As she put it in this wonderful Washington Post write-up "Late in life, God gave me many children. Now I have 7,000 of them and I must raise them the best I can."

The Weirdest Birthday Present Ever

Metro UK is reporting on what has to be the strangest (and creepiest!) kid's birthday gift ever. In Switzerland, parents are flocking to hire "Evil Clown" Dominic Deville to surprise their kids on the week leading up their birthdays. For a fee, Dominic will personally stalk your children-- following them around, leaving notes that he's watching, sending text messages and setting little traps in mailboxes. Then, at the end of the week, the Evil Clown will jump out from nowhere, chase your kid down and then... throw a cake in their face. According to Deville: "Most kids absolutely love being scared senseless." And while that may be true, I think I would have preferred a Nintendo game and an ice cream sundae to all this special attention.

The Time the Army Stopped Niagara Falls

A few weeks ago we were stunned to learn that scientists once actually stopped the falls from flowing. Here's what happened: In 1969, the Army Corps of Engineers were engaged in erosion control efforts at Niagara. Apparently, the force of the falls had been wearing down the rocks and riverbed on the American side, and if left as is, would have caused serious devastation. So, the Army basically built a dam to divert the Niagara River's flow to the Canadian side for 6 months! In the process, they studied the riverbed and "mechanically bolted and strengthened any faults they found." In any case, whatever they did seems to have worked. To redivert the water back to the American side of the falls, the Army corps simply dynamited the dam they constructed. The photo to the left is just one pic of the eerily dry falls, but you can see more stunning photos at this Flickr gallery.

The Height of the Party

If you're into theme parties, check out Hans Hemmert's Same Height Party. The German artist constructed a whole bunch of different-sized foam shoe lifts that he custom-designed for his guests. The result? A party where everyone was exactly 6 feet 7 inches tall, and at one another's eye-level. Of course, while the photos show that Hemmert has a real grasp on the concept, it looks like he could use some help in the appetizers and decor department. Link via the always fascinating Presurfer.

Balloony Tunes

Last week, after finally seeing the gorgeous, animated film Up, we started wondering how many helium balloons it would take to move a real-life house. Luckily, the folks at Wired had the same question. To fact-check the science, the magazine first called a mover that specializes in moving old houses. He determined that the structure would weigh about 100,000 lbs. Then Wired put their calculators to use. According to the article, if you use balloons that are 3 feet in diameter, you'll need about 105,854 balloons. (According to their estimates, the animators in Up drew in about 112,000 balloons.) While it's strange that you can technically move a house with party balloons, what we find even stranger is that there's a crazy subculture of people who enjoy "Cluster Ballooning." Essentially, they just tie a huge number of large helium balloons to a harness, strap on parachute (just in case), and then float to heights of 3,000-5,000 feet. Some cluster balloonists have even hit heights of 20,000 feet! To see pics of people in flight, be sure to click here. And to read more on the science of Up, be sure to check out this delightful piece at

Convinced yet? Go ahead and subscribe to our Watercooler Ammo newsletter here. We promise you won't regret it!

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images
6 Radiant Facts About Irène Joliot-Curie
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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Though her accomplishments are often overshadowed by those of her parents, the elder daughter of Marie and Pierre Curie was a brilliant researcher in her own right.


A black and white photo of Irene and Marie Curie in the laboratory in 1925.
Irène and Marie in the laboratory, 1925.
Wellcome Images, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 4.0

Irène’s birth in Paris in 1897 launched what would become a world-changing scientific dynasty. A restless Marie rejoined her loving husband in the laboratory shortly after the baby’s arrival. Over the next 10 years, the Curies discovered radium and polonium, founded the science of radioactivity, welcomed a second daughter, Eve, and won a Nobel Prize in Physics. The Curies expected their daughters to excel in their education and their work. And excel they did; by 1925, Irène had a doctorate in chemistry and was working in her mother’s laboratory.


Like her mother, Irène fell in love in the lab—both with her work and with another scientist. Frédéric Joliot joined the Curie team as an assistant. He and Irène quickly bonded over shared interests in sports, the arts, and human rights. The two began collaborating on research and soon married, equitably combining their names and signing their work Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie.


Black and white photo of Irène and Fréderic Joliot-Curie working side by side in their laboratory.
Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Their passion for exploration drove them ever onward into exciting new territory. A decade of experimentation yielded advances in several disciplines. They learned how the thyroid gland absorbs radioiodine and how the body metabolizes radioactive phosphates. They found ways to coax radioactive isotopes from ordinarily non-radioactive materials—a discovery that would eventually enable both nuclear power and atomic weaponry, and one that earned them the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935.


The humanist principles that initially drew Irène and Frédéric together only deepened as they grew older. Both were proud members of the Socialist Party and the Comité de Vigilance des Intellectuels Antifascistes (Vigilance Committee of Anti-Fascist Intellectuals). They took great pains to keep atomic research out of Nazi hands, sealing and hiding their research as Germany occupied their country, Irène also served as undersecretary of state for scientific research of the Popular Front government.


Irène eventually scaled back her time in the lab to raise her children Hélène and Pierre. But she never slowed down, nor did she stop fighting for equality and freedom for all. Especially active in women’s rights groups, she became a member of the Comité National de l'Union des Femmes Françaises and the World Peace Council.


Irène’s extraordinary life was a mirror of her mother’s. Tragically, her death was, too. Years of watching radiation poisoning and cancer taking their toll on Marie never dissuaded Irène from her work. In 1956, dying of leukemia, she entered the Curie Hospital, where she followed her mother’s luminous footsteps into the great beyond.

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Live Smarter
You Can Now Order Food Through Facebook
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After a bit of controversy over its way of aggregating news feeds and some questionable content censoring policies, it’s nice to have Facebook roll out a feature everyone can agree on: allowing you to order food without leaving the social media site.

According to a press release, Facebook says that the company decided to begin offering food delivery options after realizing that many of its users come to the social media hub to rate and discuss local eateries. Rather than hop from Facebook to the restaurant or a delivery service, you’ll be able to stay within the app and select from a menu of food choices. Just click “Order Food” from the Explore menu on a desktop interface or under the “More” option on Android or iOS devices. There, you’ll be presented with options that will accept takeout or delivery orders, as well as businesses participating with services like or EatStreet.

If you need to sign up and create an account with or Jimmy John’s, for example, you can do that without leaving Facebook. The feature is expected to be available nationally, effective immediately.

[h/t Forbes]


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