The TSA's Top 10 Strangest Finds of 2017

iStock
iStock

Airport security checkpoints are dull for everyone except Bob Burns, the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) witty social media lead. For the uninitiated, Burns—who’s also known as “Blogger Bob”—keeps track of the strange, hilarious, and dangerous things people try bringing on planes, and posts pictures of the more unusual items onto the organization's Instagram page. Among the many strange items Burns has encountered are countless knives and guns, a tiny dog trapped in a checked suitcase, a sandwich slicer, and even a life-size corpse prop from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Bob Burns, the TSA's social media lead
Courtesy of Bob Burns

To commemorate yet another year on the job filled with bizarre checkpoint finds, Burns recently created the video below. It highlights the top 10 weirdest TSA finds from 2017, which range from bladed metal knuckles Burns dubbed “Satan’s Pizza Cutter” to narcotics disguised as Christmas presents.

“We hate to tear open a perfectly wrapped gift, but as you can see from this [video], the contents of the gifts aren’t always sweaters, socks, and underwear,” Burns tells Mental Floss.

While making the video, Burns didn’t have pictures on hand of every single strange object he wanted to include. If so, he might have added a weaponized paint roller that was discovered inside a carry-on bag at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. It “looks like something out of a Mad Max movie,” Burns says. “It’s as if Mad Max wanted to paint the Thunderdome with the blood of his victims. It’s a paint roller wrapped in sandpaper and wire with nails protruding.”

A weaponized paint roller discovered by the TSA in 2017
Courtesy of Bob Burns

Other items that weren't captured in Burns's video that piqued the social media guru’s interest included grenade-shaped salt and pepper shakers and a knife concealed inside a container of Dove men’s deodorant. “Now I get why [the label] reads ’48 hours of protection,'” Burns says.

A knife hidden inside a deodorant container, discovered by the TSA in 2017
Courtesy of Bob Burns

Watch the video below to view Burns’s entire top 10 list of unusual checkpoint finds, and when you're done, check out the TSA's Instagram for more of his signature hilarity.

The Most Fun Cities in America, Ranked

iStock
iStock

You can argue all you want about how great your favorite city is, but the data doesn’t lie: If you want to have fun, head to Vegas. WalletHub compared 182 different cities across the U.S.—the country’s overall most populous cities, plus at least two of the biggest cities in every state—to come up with a list of the most fun cities in the entire country, and Sin City took the cake.

The scores are based on 56 different metrics in three different categories: entertainment and recreation; nightlife and parties; and cost. The metrics included appearances on lists like the TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards for top destinations; the number of beaches, movie theaters, casinos, hiking trails, festivals, bars, and clubs; how accessible bars are (both in number and geographical proximity); and the average cost of food, wine, hotels, and movie theater trips. Some of these metrics were adjusted to account for differences in city size, since, for instance, New York City would obviously have more restaurants than a smaller city like Lincoln, Nebraska.

Accounting for all these factors, these are the most fun cities in America, according to this particular dataset.

1. Las Vegas, Nevada
2. Orlando, Florida
3. New York City, New York
4. Atlanta, Georgia
5. Miami, Florida
6. Chicago, Illinois
7. Portland, Oregon
8. San Francisco, California
9. New Orleans, Louisiana
10. San Diego, California

Though the order of the rankings might be a little surprising, many of the cities are well-known as vacation destinations. Vegas, obviously, is a legendary destination for partying. Orlando is home to not just Disney World, but Universal Studios Florida (where the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is located) and SeaWorld Orlando, among others. New York City hosts the most tourists of any city in America each year. New Orleans is renowned for its food, bar scene, and music, in addition to the two weeks of parades and celebrations the city hosts during Mardi Gras—and yet it barely managed to break into the top 10, at No. 9.

Indeed, while the top 10 list isn’t necessarily surprising on its face, the order may be. Atlanta managed to beat out Miami, though the latter is more famous for its party atmosphere and picturesque beaches. Disney World apparently beats out the Statue of Liberty and 30 Rock, because Orlando is ranked as more fun than the Big Apple. And New Orleans was surpassed by less-popular destination cities like Portland and San Francisco. (Not to mention the fact that poor Los Angeles, the country’s second-biggest city and a major tourist destination in its own right, didn’t even crack the top 10, coming in at No. 13.)

As for the least-fun major cities included on the list— which you can dive into below—you may not have ever heard of them. Aside from perhaps Juneau and Pearl City (on the north shore of Pearl Harbor near Honolulu), most aren’t tourist destinations. Perhaps they’re better for residents than they are for tourists, though. Both Oxnard and Bridgeport appeared on National Geographic's list of the happiest cities in the U.S. in 2017.

1. Pearl City, Hawaii
2. Oxnard, California
3. Bridgeport, Connecticut
4. Santa Rosa, California
5. Fontana, California
6. Yonkers, New York
7. Rancho Cucamonga, California
8. South Burlington, Vermont
9. Juneau, Alaska
10. Moreno Valley, California

Disagree with the list? See where your favorite city ended up and the breakdown of scores of on WalletHub, or explore the map below.

Source: WalletHub

See Which Ingredients Cooks From Around the World Love Most

iStock
iStock

Food is incredibly regionally specific, and cuisines have been refined over millennia based on what ingredients have been available and what local cooks have come up with. Even though global trade has made the same spices and other flavor staples available virtually anywhere in the world, Mexican food still tastes radically different from Chinese food, and Italian food from Irish food. We know this intuitively—few of us pick up a bottle of soy sauce thinking we’ll use it in a traditional Italian pasta dish—but it’s still fascinating to see a breakdown of just which ingredients certain cuisines have cornered the market on, as you can in these charts.

Nathan Yau of FlowingData visualized the most-used ingredients in 20 different cuisines, using data on ingredients from Yummly to figure out what distinct flavors and ingredients country-specific cuisines gravitate towards.

Across the world, salt is king. It’s the most-used ingredient in 75 percent of the cuisines Yau looked at, and the only cuisine in which it doesn’t appear in the top five most-used ingredients is Korean food—but, like in other Asian cuisines, Korean recipes use soy sauce more than any other ingredient, and that in itself is very salty.

Because so many cuisines rely heavily on the same ingredients, like soy sauce and salt, Yau also calculated the ingredients most specific to each cuisine: the ones disproportionately used in one country’s traditional cuisine. This is where you start to get a picture of the kind of ingredients we associate heavily with particular regionally specific dishes. Mexican food relies on tortillas; Greek food, feta cheese; Korean, kimchi; Thai, lemongrass; Russian, beets; and Cajun, andouille sausage. Some ingredients may come as a bit of a surprise, though. Southern cooking in the U.S. uses vanilla extract more than other cuisines do, and the French love shallots. Cajun cooks are big fans of celery ribs, and somehow, though numerous cuisines use onions heavily, Brazilian cooks use them slightly more than anyone else.

The data relies on Yummly recipes, so the results are limited to what the recipe recommendation site has available. It's possible that home cooks working in each cuisine do something slightly different that might move the data in another direction. But, since Yummly currently has more than 2 million recipes available, it seems like a relatively large snapshot of cooking options.

Explore the interactive graphic and learn more at FlowingData.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER