Inside the World's Only Public Collection of Mechanical Puzzles

Jennifer Jameson, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 (cropped)
Jennifer Jameson, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 (cropped)

Calling all problem-solvers and puzzle masters: A library in Bloomington, Indiana, is home to the world's only public display of mechanical puzzles. The Jerry Slocum Mechanical Puzzle Collection can be found at Indiana University’s Lilly Library, which also houses rare books and manuscripts, including Queen Elizabeth I's Great Seal and an early printed copy of "The Star Spangled Banner."

The collection is named after Jerry Slocum, a Chicago-area native who started donating his personal collection of puzzles to the library in 2006. The library now has over 34,000 mechanical puzzles, which, unlike jigsaw and crossword puzzles, tend to feature interconnected pieces that must be physically manipulated in order to solve the problem. There are exceptions, though. One subset of mechanical puzzle called an “impossible puzzle” requires no movement at all; instead, the player must figure out how the puzzle was built.

An online database of the collection lets users search by the puzzle’s date of creation, designer, maker, or classification. The oldest item is a 15th-century Khmer iron lock from Cambodia that contains trick locks and keys. But according to Indiana State Library, puzzles weren’t always created for their entertainment value. In the second century BCE, for example, Romano-Celtic puzzle padlocks were used strictly for security purposes. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the puzzle emerged as a fun pastime.

In a YouTube video uploaded by the Indiana Daily Student, the collection’s curator, Andrew Rhoda, tries his hand at the “Gear Cube Extreme,” which looks like a Rubik’s Cube on steroids. “The puzzle is complicated by the addition of gears that move at half-turns while the rest of the puzzle moves at quarter-turns,” Rhoda says in the video.

Unless a particular piece is being conserved, visitors are encouraged to grab a puzzle and start playing inside the library’s reading room. “Mechanical puzzles are really hard to understand if you see them behind glass,” Rhoda told the student news outlet in 2017. “You can sort of understand what is going on with a mechanical puzzle if you look at it behind glass and read an exhibit label. But to really understand the idea behind a puzzle, you have to handle it. You have to play with it. You have to try to solve it.”

Watch Alexei From Stranger Things Drink a Slurpee For 12 Hours Straight

Netflix
Netflix

*Warning: This article contains spoilers for Stranger Things season 3.*

As if we needed a reminder of how much we miss a certain late Stranger Things character, Netflix just went and drilled it into our hearts again.

As reported by CNET, the streaming service recently released a video tribute to the Russian scientist Alexei (Alec Utgoff), showing him sipping his Slurpee on a loop for 12 hours. Yep, you read that right: 12 hours of nonstop Slurpee-sipping.

The video is captioned: "To honor our Slurpee sipping hero, we are pouring one out for our pal. Sip along!"

In season 3 of the Netflix hit, Alexei opens the portal between Hawkins and the Upside Down to help the Soviets in their research. When the fan-favorite character gets kidnapped by Jim Hopper, his request is a cherry Slurpee in exchange for information ... and he won't compromise on the flavor.

Tragically, Alexei doesn't make it to the end of the season. And in true Stranger Things fashion, his death was totally unexpected and left fans shocked.

While you're still mourning the fallen character, just try and enjoy the oddly mesmerizing video of Alexei sipping away.

This Caturday, Watch Two Kitties Duke It Out in the World’s Oldest Cat 'Video'

VladK213/iStock via Getty Images
VladK213/iStock via Getty Images

Yes, Thomas Edison’s invention of the first commercially successful light bulb indisputably altered the landscape of modern technology. But was it really his most important contribution to the world as we know it? This first-ever “cat video,” shot in his Black Maria Studio in New Jersey, suggests the answer is "No.”

In the 20-second short film from 1894, two cats bedecked in boxing gloves and harnesses duke it out inside a tiny ring. According to the Public Domain Review, the cat-thletes were members of Professor Henry Welton’s touring cat circus, which also featured cats riding bicycles and doing somersaults.

The film’s subject matter is actually pretty on par with the level of eccentricity reached in Edison’s other early recordings, which weren’t always animal-friendly. Atlas Obscura reports that he electrocuted an elephant, filmed a trapeze artist undressing, and also captured the first copyrighted film, “Fred Ott’s Sneeze.” In it, Fred Ott sneezes.

The decision to film a couple of kitties seems oddly prescient in the wake of today’s internet culture, where viral cat videos reign supreme. But if you’ve studied ancient Egypt even a little, you know that 1894 was hardly the beginning of our obsession with fascinating felines.

Hopefully, you’re not forcing your own cat to entertain the neighborhood with boxing matches, but are you treating her as well as you could be? Find out the best way to pet a cat here.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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