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Weekend Links: The Giant Metal Moles Under London

I haven't found a great game to feature on here in a while (I'm not counting pinball from yesterday since it was so rudimentary, though still fun!), so I'm pleased to finally be able to present Axon, where you are a neuron seeking connections. My first-attempt score was 16,628 - how did you do?
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Robot Revolution -slash- Cylon Update: How to Become the Engineers of Our Own Evolution. According to the Smithsonian, "the 'transhumanist' movement says better technology will enable you to replace more and more body parts—even your brain."
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From my friend Preston: Described by Boris Johnson as "voracious worms nibbling their way under London," these giant metal moles are working to build a network of tunnels beneath London's streets called the Crossrail Project, currently the largest civil engineering project in Europe.
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And more London (because for me at least, there is never enough!) - beautiful aerial photos of the city at night.
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10 Mesmerizing Photos Of Ink Underwater.
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From the "Bad Astronomer" Phil Plait, an interesting 2-part essay by his friend Kevin Grazier on what it's like to be a science advisor for a TV show.
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There's been a spate of photographic series lately mixing old and new, but this is definitely the creepiest: decades of time are split into one portrait, where people's faces have been carefully spliced together from childhood and present day. It's very Frankenstein-esque!
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Need something to read? Here's a list of science books for "people who want their minds blown." The Blood Work book was featured as the subject of two recent Stuff You Missed in History Class podcasts, and really was fascinating.
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Even though my own results writing a shape relief alphabet have been mixed, perhaps you will have better luck, because the effect is pretty cool. And if you want to step it up a notch, how about an impossible font?
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Thanks to everyone who sent in links this week! Keep it up - send your submissions to FlossyLinks@gmail.com or @FlossyAlli on Twitter.

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Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California
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History
The Concept of the American 'Backyard' is Newer Than You Think
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California

Backyards are as American as apple pie and baseball. If you live in a suburban or rural area, chances are good that you have a lawn, and maybe a pool, some patio furniture, and a grill to boot.

This wasn’t always the case, though. As Smithsonian Insider reports, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Americans began to consider the backyard an extension of the home, as well as a space for recreation and relaxation. After World War II, Americans started leaving the big cities and moving to suburban homes that came equipped with private backyards. Then, after the 40-hour work week was implemented and wages started to increase, families started spending more money on patios, pools, and well-kept lawns, which became a “symbol of prosperity” in the 1950s, according to a new Smithsonian Institution exhibit.

A man mows his lawn in the 1950s
In this photo from the Smithsonian Institution's exhibit, a man mows his lawn in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington
Library in San Marino, California

Entitled "Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Back Yard," the exhibition includes photographs, advertisements, and articles about backyards from the 1950s and 1960s. The traveling display is currently on view at the Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum in Temple, Texas, and from there it will head to Hartford, Connecticut, in December.

Prior to the 1950s, outdoor yards were primarily workspaces, MLive.com reports. Some families may have had a vegetable garden, but most yards were used to store tools, livestock, and other basic necessities.

The rise of the backyard was largely fueled by materials that were already on hand, but hadn’t been accessible to the average American during World War II. As Smithsonian Insider notes, companies that had manufactured aluminum and concrete for wartime efforts later switched to swimming pools, patio furniture, and even grilling utensils.

A family eats at a picnic table in the 1960s
A family in Mendham, New Jersey, in the 1960s
Molly Adams/Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Maida Babson Adams American Garden Collection

At the same time, DIY projects started to come into fashion. According to an exhibit caption of a Popular Mechanics article from the 1950s, “‘Doing-it-yourself’ was advertised as an enjoyable and affordable way for families to individualize their suburban homes.” The magazine wrote at the time that “patios, eating areas, places for play and relaxation are transforming back yards throughout the nation.”

The American backyard continues to grow to this day. As Bloomberg notes, data shows that the average backyard grew three years in a row, from 2015 to 2017. The average home last year had 7048 square feet of outdoor space—plenty of room for a sizable Memorial Day cookout.

[h/t Smithsonian Insider]

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