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5 Really Ambitious Science Fair Projects

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Intel's Flickr

Borrowing from Thomas Edison, science fair genius is 99 percent perspiration (the sweaty night-before-it’s-due kind) and 1 percent inspiration. And posterboard. But for every high-schooler scrambling to put together a hasty paper mache volcano, there’s a Conrad Farnsworth, a Wyoming high school senior who once built a working nuclear reactor in his dad’s garage—only one of 15 high school students in the world to successfully do so.

In salute to science aficionados going above and beyond “What popcorn pops the most?” projects, here’s a look at five other utterly impressive science fair projects.

1. Anna Simpson: Chemical-Detecting Robot

Courtesy of Intel's Flickr

When it comes to building LEGO cars, bigger is always better. Unless, of course, you’re Anna Simpson, who constructed an autonomous robot that can sweep and detect for hazardous chemicals using Lego pieces and a sensor. The six-inch long robot netted the then-San Diego high school student the Senior Division crown at the 2009 California State Science Fair. To quote Simpson (and paraphrase crowds of kids who flocked to check out her creation): “Wow! And I made that of LEGOs!”

2. Daniel Burd: Plastic-Eating Microbe

Courtesy of ChaCha

Most 16-year-olds’ ideas of “decomposition” are that turkey sandwich that’s been sitting in their locker since Spring Break. But Burd, an Ontario native, won the Canada-Wide Science Fair in 2008 by developing a process that cut the time it takes a plastic bag to decompose from 20 years to three months, thanks to a microbe he discovered. The inspiration for the project? Getting flooded by plastic bags while doing chores.

3. Jonah Kohn: Music for the Hearing Impaired

San Diego native Jonah Kohn won the 13-14 age group (he was 14) at the 2012 Google Science Fair with an invention that helps people suffering from hearing loss listen to music. The self-proclaimed music lover—the project’s name, Good Vibrations, is pilfered from the Beach Boys’ songbook—schemed up a “multi-frequency tactile device” that attaches to parts of the user’s body, translating sound frequencies to certain degrees of tactile stimulation: pretty much making the whole body into one big speaker. That’s music to anyone’s ears.

4. Ryan Garner and Amanda Wilson: Antarctic Submersible 

Courtesy of Arts.com

Calling $5000 a shoestring budget isn’t totally fair—except when you’re two high school students building a camera-equipped underwater rover, that is. But the Santa Barbara duo kept things relatively inexpensive by building the rover—dubbed M’RAJE—using mostly using “off-the-shelf” materials in 2007. M’RAJE took the plunge later that year, making 10 successful dives in freezing Antarctic waters, where it is still being used for climate change research. Pronounced “mirage,” the rig borrows the first initials from Wilson, Garner, and their technicians for its moniker.

5. Ryan Patterson: Sign Translator

High school student Patterson was flipping burgers in his hometown of Grand Junction, Colo., in 2001 when inspiration struck. Remembering some deaf customers needing a translator to get their order right, the 17-year-old developed a glove that translates American Sign Language into letters on a computer screen—a invention that won him $200,000 at 2001’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Patterson got the inventing bug early. As a toddler, he carried around an electrical cord instead of a blanket.

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5 Things We Know About Stranger Things Season 2
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Netflix

Stranger Things seemed to come out of nowhere to become one of television's standout new series in 2016. Netflix's sometimes scary, sometimes funny, and always exciting homage to '80s pop culture was a binge-worthy phenomenon when it debuted in July 2016. Of course, the streaming giant wasn't going to wait long to bring more Stranger Things to audiences, and a second season was announced a little over a month after its debut—and Netflix just announced that we'll be getting it a few days earlier than expected. Here are five key things we know about the show's sophomore season, which kicks off on October 27.

1. WE'LL BE GETTING EVEN MORE EPISODES.

The first season of Stranger Things consisted of eight hour-long episodes, which proved to be a solid length for the story Matt and Ross Duffer wanted to tell. While season two won't increase in length dramatically, we will be getting at least one extra hour when the show returns in 2017 with nine episodes. Not much is known about any of these episodes, but we do know the titles:

"Madmax"
"The Boy Who Came Back To Life"
"The Pumpkin Patch"
"The Palace"
"The Storm"
"The Pollywog"
"The Secret Cabin"
"The Brain"
"The Lost Brother"

There's a lot of speculation about what each title means and, as usual with Stranger Things, there's probably a reason for each one.

2. THE KIDS ARE RETURNING (INCLUDING ELEVEN).

Stranger Things fans should gear up for plenty of new developments in season two, but that doesn't mean your favorite characters aren't returning. A November 4 photo sent out by the show's Twitter account revealed most of the kids from the first season will be back in 2017, including the enigmatic Eleven, played by Millie Bobby Brown (the #elevenisback hashtag used by series regular Finn Wolfhard should really drive the point home):

3. THE SHOW'S 1984 SETTING WILL LEAD TO A DARKER TONE.

A year will have passed between the first and second seasons of the show, allowing the Duffer brothers to catch up with a familiar cast of characters that has matured since we last saw them. With the story taking place in 1984, the brothers are looking at the pop culture zeitgeist at the time for inspiration—most notably the darker tone of blockbusters like Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

"I actually really love Temple of Doom, I love that it gets a little darker and weirder from Raiders, I like that it feels very different than Raiders did," Matt Duffer told IGN. "Even though it was probably slammed at the time—obviously now people look back on it fondly, but it messed up a lot of kids, and I love that about that film—that it really traumatized some children. Not saying that we want to traumatize children, just that we want to get a little darker and weirder."

4. IT'S NOT SO MUCH A CONTINUATION AS IT IS A SEQUEL.

When you watch something like The Americans season two, it's almost impossible to catch on unless you've seen the previous episodes. Stranger Things season two will differ from the modern TV approach by being more of a sequel than a continuation of the first year. That means a more self-contained plot that doesn't leave viewers hanging at the end of nine episodes.

"There are lingering questions, but the idea with Season 2 is there's a new tension and the goal is can the characters resolve that tension by the end," Ross Duffer told IGN. "So it's going to be its own sort of complete little movie, very much in the way that Season 1 is."

Don't worry about the two seasons of Stranger Things being too similar or too different from the original, though, because when speaking with Entertainment Weekly about the influences on the show, Matt Duffer said, "I guess a lot of this is James Cameron. But he’s brilliant. And I think one of the reasons his sequels are as successful as they are is he makes them feel very different without losing what we loved about the original. So I think we kinda looked to him and what he does and tried to capture a little bit of the magic of his work.”

5. THE PREMIERE WILL TRAVEL OUTSIDE OF HAWKINS.

Everything about the new Stranger Things episodes will be kept secret until they finally debut later this year, but we do know one thing about the premiere: It won't take place entirely in the familiar town of Hawkins, Indiana. “We will venture a little bit outside of Hawkins,” Matt Duffer told Entertainment Weekly. “I will say the opening scene [of the premiere] does not take place in Hawkins.”

So, should we take "a little bit outside" as literally as it sounds? You certainly can, but in that same interview, the brothers also said they're both eager to explore the Upside Down, the alternate dimension from the first season. Whether the season kicks off just a few miles away, or a few worlds away, you'll get your answer when Stranger Things's second season debuts next month.

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Everything That’s Leaving Netflix in October
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NBC - © 2012 NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Netflix subscribers are already counting down the days until the premiere of the new season of Stranger Things. But, as always, in order to make room for the near-90 new titles making their way to the streaming site, some of your favorite titles—including all of 30 Rock, The Wonder Years, and Malcolm in the Middle—must go. Here’s everything that’s leaving Netflix in October ... binge ‘em while you can!

October 1

30 Rock (Seasons 1-7)

A Love in Times of Selfies

Across the Universe

Barton Fink

Bella

Big Daddy

Carousel

Cradle 2 the Grave

Crafting a Nation

Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest

Daddy’s Little Girls

Dark Was the Night

David Attenborough’s Rise of the Animals: Triumph of the Vertebrates (Season 1)

Day of the Kamikaze

Death Beach

Dowry Law

Dr. Dolittle: Tail to the Chief

Friday Night Lights (Seasons 1-5)

Happy Feet

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison

Hellboy

Kagemusha

Laura

Love Actually

Malcolm in the Middle (Seasons 1-7)

Max Dugan Returns

Millennium 

Million Dollar Baby

Mortal Combat

Mr. 3000

Mulholland Dr.

My Father the Hero

My Name Is Earl (Seasons 1-4)

One Tree Hill (Seasons 1-9)

Patton

Picture This

Prison Break (Seasons 1-4)

The Bernie Mac Show (Seasons 1-5)

The Shining

The Wonder Years (Seasons 1-6)

Titanic

October 19

The Cleveland Show (Seasons 1-4)

October 21

Bones (Seasons 5-11)

October 27

Lie to Me (Seasons 2-3)

Louie (Seasons 1-5)

Hot Transylvania 2

October 29

Family Guy (Seasons 9-14)

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