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Behrouz Mehri // AFP // Getty Images

Learn How to Write (Very Basic) Cuneiform via YouTube

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Behrouz Mehri // AFP // Getty Images

Dr. Irving Finkel is an expert on cuneiform, the world's oldest known writing system. It was developed by the ancient Sumerians roughly 5000 years ago. The word "cuneiform" itself derives from the Latin cuneus, or "wedge"—the writing was traditionally done by pressing a wedge-shaped stylus onto a clay surface, which then dries and preserves the mark.

In the video below, Finkel shows Tom Scott and Matt Gray how to read and write just a bit of cuneiform. (Finkel says it takes about six years of training to become fully fluent...yikes!) It's a fascinating review, including the vital information that cuneiform script is syllabic, so you can represent English using cuneiform, minus a few vowel sounds—in the video, "Tom" becomes "Tam" (ta-am) due to a lack of the English "o" sound.

Tune in for a delightful lesson in an ancient writing system:

If you'd like to get started with cuneiform writing, this tool from the Penn Museum is handy. You'll also want some more training and a sample alphabet. Also interesting is this table of cuneiform numbers (note the Sumerian base 60 numbering system!).

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Ikea
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Design
How IKEA Turned the Poäng Chair Into a Classic
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Ikea

IKEA's Poäng chair looks as modern today as it did when it debuted in 1976. The U-shaped lounger has clean lines and a simple structure, and often evokes comparisons to Finnish designer Aalto’s famous “armchair 406.” Its design, however, is ultimately a true fusion of East and West, according to Co.Design.

In 2016, the Poäng celebrated its 40th birthday, and IKEA USA commemorated the occasion (and the 30 million-plus Poäng chairs they’ve sold over the years) by releasing two short videos about the armchair’s history and underlying design philosophy. Together, they tell the story of a fateful collaboration between Lars Engman, a young IKEA designer, and his co-worker, Noboru Nakamura.

Nakamura had initially come to IKEA to learn more about Scandinavian furniture. But the Japanese designer ended up imbuing the Poäng—which was initially called Poem—with his own distinct philosophy. He wanted to create a chair that swung “in an elegant way, which triggered me to imagine Poäng,” Nakamura recalled in a video interview. “That’s how I came up with a rocking chair.”

“A chair shouldn’t be a tool that binds and holds the sitter,” Nakamura explained. “It should rather be a tool that provides us with an emotional richness and creates an image where we let go of stress or frustration by swinging. Such movement in itself has meaning and value.”

Save for upholstery swaps, a 1992 name change, and a new-ish all-wooden frame that's easily flat-packed, the modern-day Poäng is still essentially the same product that customers have purchased and enjoyed for decades. Devotees of the chair can hear the full story by watching IKEA’s videos below—ideally, while swinging away at their desks.

[h/t Co. Design]

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Medicine
Why Haven't We Cured Cancer Yet?
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iStock

Walkathons, fundraisers, and ribbon-shaped bumper stickers raise research dollars and boost spirits, but cancer—the dreaded disease that affects more than 14 million people and their families at any given time—still remains bereft of a cure.

Why? For starters, cancer isn't just one disease—it's more than 100 of them, with different causes. This makes it impossible to treat each one using a one-size-fits-all method. Secondly, scientists use lab-grown cell lines cultivated from human tumors to develop cancer therapies. Living masses are far more complex, so potential treatments that show promise in lab experiments often don't work on cancer patients. As for the tumors themselves, they're prone to tiny genetic mutations, so just one growth might contain multiple types of cancer cells, and even unique sub-clones of tumors. These distinct entities might not respond the same way, or at all, to the same drug.

These are just a few of the challenges that cancer researchers face—but the good news is that they're working to beat all of them, as this TED-Ed video explains below.

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