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8 Surprisingly Fun Games Uncle Sam Told Soldiers to Play in 1943

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In 1943, the U.S. War Department issued a manual packed with "informal" games that men might play if they were lucky enough to have downtime. The games were intended to occupy mind and body, manage stress, and subtly provide tactical training. Which might explain why so many games involved tackling and beating your fellow soldiers. But other, less physical games translate great from the barracks to the backyard. Here are eight of our favorites.

1. One Out

Equipment: Any easily obtained objects, such as sticks, shirts, or rocks

How to play: This is basically a game of musical chairs meant for soldiers instead of toddlers. So, no music, no graham crackers, but probably a comparable amount of shoving and punching. A line of sticks or similar objects are laid about 40 feet from the players. If there are 10 players, only 9 sticks are laid out, and so forth. At the signal, the players race to the line, "secure" themselves a stick, and race back. The player left stick-less is out, until only one remains.

2. Team Stick Guard

Equipment: A ball and two sticks

How to play: This game is a small serving of Capture the Flag with a heavy side of basketball. Each team has their own stick driven into the ground, surrounded by a 10-foot circle and a "goalie" to protect it. No other players are allowed in the goalie's circle. The referee begins play by throwing the ball between two men of opposing teams. The aim is for them to maneuver the ball close enough to knock the other team's stick out of the ground. Many of the rules from basketball apply: no running with the ball, holding, tripping, tackling, or touching. Such fouls results in a free throw at the opposing stick from the center of the field. The losing team is the one with the most knocked over pin.

3. Box Hockey

Equipment: A homemade box (7 feet by 3.5 feet, with or without a bottom) matching the one above, two sticks, and a ball or piece of wood small enough to fit through the holes

How to play: First, build the box, which probably took all of 20 minutes for men of this generation. From there, it's air hockey with less finger pinching and more accidental knee clubbing. Start the game with the ball balanced on the center partition. Clap sticks three times above the ball, and the game is on. The goal is to get the ball through your opponent's hole. If the ball is knocked out of the arena, it is rolled back in on the opposite side. No stepping inside the box; first person to five points is the winner.

4. Rooster Fight

Equipment: None

How to play: A man from each team is called out, and he must hop on one foot, hands held behind his back, to meet his opponent. The winning man is the one who knocks the other over, or causes him to put his foot down or arms out for balance. Another posture for the game is called "The Drake," which is hands never leaving ankles, as shown in the circle above. (This game thinly avoids becoming bloody combat by wisely removing most dangerous appendages from the battle.)

5. Log Roll

Equipment: Grassy area or floor mats

How to play: Two teams lie side by side on the ground. Starting with the end man, each player must roll over his entire team as soon as he himself is rolled over. The winner is the first team to have their front man roll over all of his men.

6. Chain Dodge Ball

Equipment: Kickball or other soft ball

How to play: This version of dodge ball adds a complex but fun twist. The men form groups of four to six players, each player holding the waist of the person in front of him. Everyone else forms a circle around them. The object is to hit only the end man of the "It" team with the ball. Players in the circle can toss the ball any way they think will accomplish this, and the "It" team can weave and run and flex in any formation possible to avoid it. The front man of the team can even use his hands to bat away the ball from the end man. The players are picked off one by one until the whole team is eliminated. Whichever team stayed inside the circle the longest is the winner.

7. Quick Line Up

Equipment: None

How to play: Simon Says with a loyal army at his feet. The players divide into four equal teams and line up, tallest to shortest, forming a square around the man who's "It." The four lines are designated, "1, 2, 3, 4." Now "It" can walk anywhere he wants on the field, and wherever he stops, the other players must scramble to reassemble their lines around him, same position, same sides. One point to the team who assembles correctly the fastest, first team to five points win.

8. Baste the Bear

Equipment: Buttocks

How to play: As full as this manual was of beating gamesfull-on assault games, and uncomfortably intimate games, it seemed unprincipled not to include at least one. One of the "tamer" rough games is Baste the Bear. The "Bear" in this case must bend at the center of the circle, his posterior presented. He has a "Keeper" whose job it is to protect his rump. The rest of the players circle, trying to slap the bear's buttocks with their open hands. If the Keeper tags a slapper when they reach toward the Bear, the slapper is the new Bear and selects his own tush guardian. Under scoring and winners, the manual simply lists, "None."

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Cell Free Technology
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This Pixel Kit Will Let You Play Tetris With Jellyfish DNA
Cell Free Technology
Cell Free Technology

Forget playing Tetris on your phone. Now you can play it with jellyfish DNA. Bixels is a DIY game kit that lets you code your own games using synthetic biology, lighting up a digital display with the help of DNA.

Its 8-by-8 pixel grid is programmed to turn on with the help of the same protein that makes jellyfish glow, called green fluorescent protein (GFP). But you can program it to do more than just passively shine. You can use your phone and the associated app to excite Bixels' fluorescent proteins and make them glow at different frequencies, producing red, blue, and green colors. Essentially, you can program it like you would any computer, but instead of electronics powering the system, it's DNA.

Two blue boxes hold Bixel pixel grids.

Researchers use green fluorescent protein all the time in lab experiments as an imaging agent to illuminate biological processes for study. With Bixels, all you need is a little programming to turn the colorful lights (tubes filled with GFP) into custom images or interactive games like Tetris or Snake. You can also use it to develop your own scientific experiments. (For experiment ideas, Bixels' creator, the Irish company Cell-Free Technology, suggests the curricula from BioBuilder.)

A screenshot shows a user assembling a Bixel kit on video.

A pixel kit is housed in a cardboard box that looks like a Game Boy.

Bixels is designed to be used by people with all levels of scientific knowledge, helping make the world of biotechnology more accessible to the public. Eventually, Cell-Free Technology wants to create a bio-computer even more advanced than Bixels. "Our ultimate goal is to build a personal bio-computer which, unlike current wearable devices, truly interacts with our bodies," co-founder Helene Steiner said in a press release.

Bixels - Play tetris with DNA from Cell-Free Technology on Vimeo.

You can buy your own Bixel kit on Kickstarter for roughly $118. It's expected to ship in May 2018.

All images courtesy Cell-Free Technology

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Habibou Kouyate, Stringer, Getty Images
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Play a Game to Help Scientists Defeat a Cancer-Causing Toxin
Habibou Kouyate, Stringer, Getty Images
Habibou Kouyate, Stringer, Getty Images

If you're used to fighting virtual zombies or flying spaceships on your computer, a new series of games available on Foldit may sound a little unconventional. The object of the Aflatoxin Challenge is to rearrange protein structures and create new enzymes. But its impact on the real world could make it the most important game you've ever played: The scientists behind it hope it will lead to a new way to fight one of the most ruthless causes of liver cancer.

As Fast Company reports, the citizen science project is a collaboration between Mars, Inc. and U.C. Davis, the University of Washington, the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa, and Thermo Fisher Scientific. The team's online puzzles, which debuted on Foldit earlier this month, invite the public to create a new enzyme capable of finding and destroying carcinogens known as aflatoxins.

Aflatoxins form when certain fungi grow on crops like corn, nuts, and grains. Developing countries often don't have the resources to detect it in food, leaving around 4.5 billion people vulnerable to it. When people do eat food with high aflatoxin levels unknowingly, they can contract liver cancer. Roughly a quarter of all liver cancer cases around the world can be traced back to aflatoxin exposure.

The toxin's connection to agriculture is why the food giant Mars is so interested in fighting it. By working on a way to stop aflatoxins on a molecular level, the company could prevent its spread more efficiently than they would with less direct methods like planting drought-resistant crops or removing mold by hand.

The easiest way for scientists to eradicate an aflatoxin before it causes real harm is by making an enzyme that does the work for them. With the Aflatoxin Challenge, the hope is that by manipulating protein structures, online players will come up with an enzyme that attacks aflatoxins at a susceptible portion of their molecular structure called a lactone ring. Destroying the lactone ring makes aflatoxin much less toxic and essentially safe to eat.

The University of Washington launched Foldit in 2008. Since then, the online puzzle platform has been used to study a wide range of diseases including AIDS and Chikungunya. Everyone is welcome to contribute to the Foldit's new aflatoxin project for the next several weeks or so, after which scientists will synthesize genes based on the most impressive results to be used in future studies.

[h/t Fast Company]

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