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Interesting College Courses at Sweet 16 Schools

Sweet Sixteen schools are obviously pretty good at basketball (this year, anyway). But they're also pretty good at coming up with interesting classes that have students clamoring to enroll. Check out some of the unusual past and present offerings in the Sweet 16.

University of Florida: Lightning Research Laboratory. Students and researchers basically spend their summer trying to trigger lightning. It may be a storm chaser’s dream, but there’s a lot more than just chasing going on here: a few years ago, students in this lab made the groundbreaking discovery that lightning emits x-rays.

Indiana: The Art and Science of Beer was a course offered a few semesters ago, and while getting credit to study suds sounds like a great idea to me, the professor who taught the class said many students were disappointed to find out that it was “a real class instead of a keg stand.”

Michigan State: Surviving the Coming Zombie Apocalypse: Catastrophes & Human Behavior.

Been watching a lot of The Walking Dead? If the AMC series has you wondering how you’ll prepare for the zombie apocalypse, the Spartans have just the class for you; the seven-week course starts in May. Perhaps taking a cue from all of those zombie movies, the faculty even made a trailer for the class:

North Carolina: Into the West. A study of the American cowboy and his depiction in American pop culture. Class work includes writing and producing a short film starring a cowboy. A semester of Rooster Cogburn and Josey Wales? Sign me up.

Louisville: Communicating Hip-Hop Culture. An “analysis of rap music as a communicative force both within and about hip-hop culture”; topics of study include “the origins, development, and participants of the culture.” Fascinating, and students no doubt get to listen to some pretty great music in class.

Syracuse: Star Trek and the Information Age. What can you learn from Star Trek, you might be wondering? Only everything from management skills to unmanned, remote warfare. “The class’s Trekkie TA also mentioned human rights issues: “Is the android who’s on our team, is he considered a human? And why or why not?”

Wisconsin: Daytime Serials: Family and Social Roles. What better way to study familial relationships than by analyzing shows where a character’s stepmother may also be his ex-girlfriend, his child’s mother and his adopted sister?

Officially, the syllabus says:

“Analysis of the themes and characters that populate television's daytime serials and investigation of what impact these portrayals have on women's and men's roles in the family and in the work place. The course will compare and contrast prime-time programs with daytime serials for these themes."

Ohio State: Sports for the Spectator. That’s three credits to “Develop an appreciation of sport as a spectacle, social event, recreational pursuit, business and entertainment.” You think this class involved a couple of field trips?

Kansas: Dance, Dance Revolution. When Dance Dance Revolution was at its height a couple of years ago, Jayhawks could earn a cool credit by getting their groove on with an activity credit. Students who prefer outdoor exercise could play sand volleyball, another pretty sweet way to get a credit.

North Carolina State: Forensic Analysis. This is no textbook course. Students at NC State actually examine bones and other remains to see what they can learn about the deceased. One class even discovered that a previously unidentified victim was actually the sixth in a line of murders attributed to the Edgecombe serial killer.

Baylor: Homosexuality as a Gateway Drug. This course isn't as "interesting" as it is newsworthy: the college made the news in November when they listed this eyebrow-raising sociology class for Spring 2012. After public outcry, the name of the course was changed to “Special Topics in Sociology.” Baylor said the topic was going to be researched by one student as part of an independent study course and was not intended to offend.

We’re always looking for more interesting college classes. If your school has one (or even if you just want to discuss zombies), leave a comment or send me a Tweet.

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Watch These Surfers Crush Nantucket's 'Slurpee' Waves
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Instead of hunkering down with Netflix and hot chocolate during the East Coast’s recent cold snap, surfers Nick Hayden and Jamie Briard spent the first few days of January 2018 conquering icy waves in Nantucket, Massachusetts. The frothy swells resembled a frozen 7-Eleven Slurpee, so photographer Jonathan Nimerfroh, a friend of the athletes, grabbed his camera to capture the phenomenon, according to deMilked.

The freezing point for salt water is 28.4°F, but undulating ocean waves typically move too much for ice particles to form. At Nantucket’s Nobadeer Beach, however, conditions were just right for a thick layer of frost to form atop the water’s surface for several hours. Some of the slushy crests were even surfable before melting after about three hours, Nimerfroh told Live Science.

This is the second time Nimerfroh has photographed so-called “Slurpee waves." He captured a similar scene on February 27, 2015, telling The New York Times, “I saw these crazy half-frozen waves. Usually on a summer day you can hear the waves crashing, but it was absolutely silent. It was like I had earplugs in my ears.”

Check out Nimerfroh’s video of surfers enjoying the icy swell below.

[h/t deMilked]

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Big Questions
Why Is the University of Georgia's Mascot a Bulldog?
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Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

For licensing purposes and the all-important "aww" factor, collegiate football teams like their mascots—and few are as popular as Uga, the handsome bulldog of University of Georgia fame.

When Herman J. Stegeman took over as head coach in 1920, the team, which had previously been referred to as the Red and Black, became known as the Wildcats. Atlanta Journal sportswriter Morgan Blake took issue with the unoriginal moniker, pointing out that it was already shared by at least two other teams in the south—Kentucky State and Davidson.

"I had hoped that Georgia would adopt some original nickname that would stand out," Blake wrote, adding that, "The 'Georgia Bulldogs' would sound good, because there is a certain dignity about a bulldog as well as ferocity, and the name is not as common as 'Wildcats' and 'Tigers.' Yale is about the only team I recall right now that has the name."

One week after Blake's story ran, Cliff Wheatley of the Atlanta Constitution referred to Georgia as the Bulldogs several times in his recap of the team's tie at Virginia. The new nickname quickly caught on, and it wasn't long before the sidelines began to see a succession of canines offering their moral support. A fan named Warren Coleman took his bulldog, Mr. Angel, to games from 1944 to 1946; another bulldog, Butch, served as a mascot from 1947 to 1950 (before he was tragically shot by police who mistook him for a stray).

The Uga lineage began in 1956, when a dog owner named Cecelia Seiler dressed her bulldog in a children's-sized team jersey and took him to home games. Uga I patrolled the field for a decade before his son, Uga II, took up the mantle. Uga V, who reigned from 1990 to 1999, appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Uga X, the current bulldog in residence, has been rooting for the team since 2015.

In deference to the dog's position, the University of Georgia goes to considerable lengths to make sure Uga is comfortable during the game. His doghouse is air-conditioned for the warmer months and his jerseys are custom-made. When one of the Uga clan passes, they're buried on stadium grounds in a marble vault. Apparently, not even death will prevent a loyal Georgia mascot from showing their support.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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