The new mental_floss hits newsstands today, and we can't wait for you to check it out. If you're not a subscriber, we're providing a few choice tidbits after the jump to get you excited. (By the way, you can fix that by taking advantage of one of these subscription specials right here.)
Here are a just a few of things you'll learn inside:
1. Walruses are One Man Floating Bands!
When courting a lady, walruses aren't afraid of a little song and dance. In fact, a male will elaborately click, bark, and drum his flippers on his pharyngeal pouches—two air pockets on the sides of his throat—creating music so complex that it's been compared to the songs of humpback whales. On land, this pouch drumming isn't so impressive, but underwater, it sounds like chimes. In fact, when marine explorer Jacques Cousteau visited the Arctic in 1972, he dropped a microphone into the ocean and mistook the ringing for bells. In addition to making music and impressing French divers, pharyngeal pouches also serve as flotation devices, allowing walruses to comfortably float and sleep with their heads above water. They're like water-wings, except in your neck. -From the "I Am the Walrus" spread on p. 16
2. Thomas Edison was The Original Subway Hero
To understand why Thomas Edison is such a nerd hero, all you have to do is skim his patents. The man invented the lightbulb, the phonograph, electric railroads, underwater search lights, and more than 1,000 other important things. But none of that would have happened if Edison hadn't saved a child's life first.
In 1862, at the age of 15, Edison got his first job as a newspaper boy at a train station in Mount Clemens, Mich. One day, while hawking papers, Edison noticed a 3-year-old boy playing on the tracks, right in the path of a runaway freight car. Although the engineer had spotted the boy and was trying desperately to stop the car, he couldn't. The quick-thinking Edison jumped on the track, swooped up the boy in the nick of time, and then dove away from the speeding train. The action not only saved the boy's life, but it changed Edison's, as well. The boy's father happened to be the station's telegraph operator. He was so grateful to Edison that he took him under his wing and trained him in telegraphy, sparking the inventor's lifelong love affair with all things electric.
-From the "Real Americans: 13 Heroes Villains and Legends Who Defined the American Spirit" cover story, p 49
3. If Scooby Doo and Marmaduke are both Great Danes, why do they look so different?
The truth is that Scooby-Doo is a wonderful pet, and detective, but he could never win a traditional dog show. When veteran character designer Iwao Takamoto began designing Scooby, he researched the ideal characteristics of a Great Dane. Then, he gave his creation all the opposite traits—a sloping back, bowed legs, and an undershot jaw. The design served two purposes: Not only did it lend Scooby a comical, non-threatening look, but it also set him apart from the comic strip character Marmaduke, removing the threat of lawsuits.
-From "Scooby and the Gang", p 18
4. Ben Franklin Invented the Extension Arm?!
In his later years, Ben Franklin spent lots of time in libraries. And he invented stuff for them, too! To reach books on high shelves, he created a pole with a claw on one end and handles on the other. To this day, you can still see people using Franklin's extension arm at convenience stores and bodegas everywhere.
-From A Ridiculously Long and Incomplete List of Things that Ben Franklin Invented, p 46
5. The Man who Controlled A Bull's Mind with a Remote
In 1963, Dr. Jose Delgado stepped into a bullring in Cordova, Spain, with a 550-lb. charging bull named Lucero. The Yale University neurophysiologist was no bullfighter, but he had a plan: to control the bull's mind. Delgado was among a small group of researchers developing a new type of electroshock therapy. Here's how it worked: First, the researchers would implant tiny wires and electrodes into the skull. Then, they'd send electrical surges to different parts of the brain, sparking emotions and triggering movements in the body. The goal was to change the patient's mental state, perking up the depressed and calming the agitated. But Delgado took this science to a new level when he developed the "stimoceiver." The chip, which was about the size of a quarter, could be inserted inside a patient's head and operated by remote control. Delgado envisioned the technology eventually leading to a "psychocivilized society," in which everyone could temper their self-destructive tendencies at the press of a button.
For several years, Delgado experimented on monkeys and cats, making them yawn, fight, play, mate, and sleep—all by remote control. He was particularly interested in managing anger. In one experiment, he implanted a stimoceiver into a hostile monkey. Delgado gave the remote control to the monkey's cage mate, who quickly figured out that pressing the button calmed down his hotheaded friend.
To read the rest of this story (where the intrepid Delgado hops into the ring with a raging bull!) be sure to pick up a copy on newsstands. Or better yet, subscribe here. Of course, these 5 stories just scratch the surface. We've got 72 pages of incredible stories and facts, from the Unbelievable Story of the Brooklyn Bridge to a Slacker's Guide to Making Millions to why Mumbai is being hailed as the City of the Future.
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