11 Weird and Wonderful Webcams

In the go-go 90s, the Internet was new and we were all excited about the potential of "webcams," a new technology allowing tiny images, almost-live, to be viewed online. Nearly twenty years after the advent of the technology, the bloom is off the webcam rose, and today the webcam landscape is a bit barren. But fear not, dear reader: I've combed through the remaining sites and collected 11 fun webcams for your amusement (and/or bemusement). Fire up Mosaic and follow me!

1. Live Bubbles On Command

One of the more technically impressive webcams is the Garden Bubble Cam. It requires you to enable a Java plugin (it took me three browsers and some fiddling to make that part work), then you click the "Bubbles" button and wait about thirty seconds...then you're treated to a live blast of bubbles on the back patio of a south Florida home! It really works!

The technical explanation is impressive (the bubble sprayer holds seven gallons of bubble solution!), and their FAQ is also worth a look. Statistics nerds may enjoy the insanely detailed stats page. Because you're watching an actual live bubble machine, you may witness others starting the bubbles as well! Also note that this cam doesn't look like much at night, as it's outdoors and there isn't artificial light on the bubble garden. Here's a festive bubble photo from Christmas:

2. Live View from a Keyhole

This cam looks into a London flat through a keyhole. In my viewing, I saw what appeared to be the corner of a room, with a light on, and nothing happening. Checking in a few hours later, I saw the same (apparently live) view. Enjoy the view of mostly nothing.

Keyhole View

3. Pitch Dripping into a Cup, One Drop Per Decade

As I pointed out recently, this is a spectacularly boring webcam: if we're lucky, a drop may fall within the next year. After that, we've got another dozen or so years before the next drop falls. Check it out!

Picture of the Pitch Drop Experiment from University of Queensland featuring the current (2007) custodian, John Mainstone (picture taken in 1990), two years into the life of the 8th dropPhoto from Wikimedia Commons: Picture of the Pitch Drop Experiment from University of Queensland featuring the current (2007) custodian, John Mainstone (picture taken in 1990), two years into the life of the 8th drop.

4. Hallway in Topeka, Kansas

Have you ever wanted to watch people waiting in a hallway...live? Now you can! From this cam's page:

This is the current situation outside of the County Treasurer's Office (updated every five seconds).

The Treasurer’s Dept. will open to the Public Monday through Friday from 8:00 am until 4:30 pm except the last business day of the month will be 7:30 am until 5:30 pm at both office locations. There will be no processing of title work after 4:00 pm every day.

This cam is impressive because there are definitely things happening (people sitting, reading, checking their phones, etc.) but it's also insanely boring. At least it's useful...if you're in Topeka and you want to know how much of a wait you'll have trying to get into Treasurer Larry Wilson's office. Get your hallway on.

Hallway in Topeka

5. Microscopic Life

This cam shows videos of various lifeforms in water, under a microscope. The site also appears to be largely an ad for microscopes, but hey: watch out for tiny bugs!

Microscopic Life

6. Grass Growing

"Mr. Grass" has been providing a live view of his front yard (warning: music auto-plays) since 2005. It's surprisingly interesting, partly because the view includes part of his driveway and the street in front of his house, so you can see cars drive by. And, of course, the grass does grow (as evidenced by various screenshots throughout the years, lower down on the page). Be sure to check out the "Click for Super-Size!" button at the top of the site, and check out the Grass Blog for some notable events in the history of Mr. Grass's lawn.

Grass Growing

7. Statue of Liberty

The Streaming LibertyCam is pretty impressive -- it has controls that allow you to zoom in on the statue, or take in a wider view. As I watched, two boats and two planes sped by, just past sunset. Check out the "Hall of Fame" shots below the cam for some great screen grabs.

Statue of Liberty

8. Niagara Falls

The Niagara Falls Cam uses the same technology as the aforementioned Statue of Liberty Cam, allowing you to zoom in. It periodically pans around to show different views of the area. I didn't spot anyone going over in a barrel, though.

Niagara Falls

9. A Big Fir Tree

The Christmas Tree Treasures webcam follows the adventures of a 160-foot tall fir tree located in Blue River, Oregon. Around Christmas time, it's decorated with lights and such. During the non-Christmas season it's just, you know, a really big tree.

Christmas Tree

10. The Northern Lights

The Canadian Space Agency provides the AuroraMAX camera, a view of the Northern Lights in Canada. Because the lights are only visible at night, and they aren't always that spectacular, this is sort of an "event webcam." Follow AuroraMAX on Twitter for tips on good viewing opportunities, and a gallery of movies shows some examples of past views.

AuroraMAX

11. Hissing Cockroaches

Just when you thought you were safe with boring cameras showing safe subjects, I had to expose you to the ultra-high-quality Roach Cam, a project of the University of South Carolina. It claims to have been online since 1993 (!). If you don't believe it's live, take a screenshot and then refresh the page, comparing the two images. Then squirm and freak out a little. Go on, I dare you.

Roaches

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Afternoon Map
From Snoopy to Shark Bait: The Top Slang Word in Each State
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There’s a minute, and then there’s a hot minute. Defined as “a longish amount of time,” this unit of time is familiar to Alabamians but may stir up confusion beyond the state’s borders.

It’s Louisianans, though, who feel the “most misunderstood,” according to the results of a survey regarding regional slang by PlayNJ. Of the Louisiana residents surveyed, 72 percent said their fellow Americans from other states—even neighboring ones—have a hard time grasping their lingo. Some learned the hard way that ordering a burger “dressed” (with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayo) isn’t universally understood, nor is the phrase “to pass a good time” (instead of “to have” a good time).

After surveying 2000 people (with proportional numbers from each state), PlayNJ created a map showing the top slang word in each state. Many are words that are unlikely to be understood beyond state lines, but others—like California’s bomb (something you really like) and New York’s deadass (to be completely serious)—have spread well beyond their respective borders thanks to memes and internet culture.

Hawaiians are also known for their distinctive slang words, with 71 percent reporting that words like shaka (hello) and poho (waste of time) are frequently misunderstood. Shark bait, one of the state’s more colorful terms, refers to tourists who are so pale that they attract sharks.

Check out the full list below and test your knowledge of regional slang words with PlayNJ’s online quiz.

A chart showing the top slang words in each state
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Health
20 States With the Highest Rates of Skin Cancer
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They don’t call it the Sunshine State for nothing. Floridians get to soak up the sun year-round, but that exposure to harmful UV rays also comes with consequences. Prevention magazine reported that Florida has the highest rate of skin cancer in the U.S., according to a survey by Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS).

BCBS surveyed 9 million of its insured members who had been diagnosed with skin cancer between 2014 and 2016 and found that Florida had the highest rate of skin cancer at 7.1 percent. People living in eastern states tend to be more prone to skin cancer, and diagnoses are more common among women.

Here are the 20 states with the highest rates of skin cancer:

1. Florida: 7.1 percent
2. Washington, D.C.: 5.8 percent
3. Connecticut: 5.6 percent
4. Maryland: 5.3 percent
5. Rhode Island: 5.3 percent
6. Vermont: 5.3 percent
7. North Carolina: 5.2 percent
8. New York: 5 percent
9. Massachusetts: 5 percent
10. Colorado: 5 percent
11. Arizona: 5 percent
12. Virginia: 5 percent
13. Delaware: 4.8 percent
14. Kentucky: 4.7 percent
15. Alabama: 4.7 percent
16. New Jersey: 4.7 percent
17. Georgia: 4.7 percent
18. West Virginia: 4.5 percent
19. Tennessee: 4.5 percent
20. South Carolina: 4.4 percent

It may come as a surprise that sunny California doesn’t make the top 20, and Hawaii is the state with the lowest rate of skin cancer at 1.8 percent. Prevention magazine explains that this could be due to the large population of senior citizens in Florida and the fact that the risk of melanoma, a rare but deadly type of skin cancer, increases with age. People living in regions with higher altitudes also face a greater risk of skin cancer due to the thinner atmosphere and greater exposure to UV radiation, which explains why Colorado is in the top 10.

The good news is that the technology used to detect skin cancer is improving, and researchers hope that AI can soon be incorporated into more skin cancer screenings. To reduce your risk, be sure to wear SPF 30+ sunscreen when you know you’ll be spending time outside, and don’t forget to reapply it every two hours. 

[h/t Prevention]

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