9 Awesome Items from the AMNH-Etsy Collaboration

Yesterday, the American Museum of Natural History and Etsy debuted a new collection inspired by the museum’s collections. Some of the Etsy artisans had participated in a behind-the-scenes tour, meeting scientists and peeking into drawers of AMNH’s departments to get inspiration for the products, which were to debut just a month and a half after the tour. “Everyone was just giddy,” says Vanessa Bertozzi, Program Manager for Etsy Wholesale. “It’s the first time that we’ve officially worked with a museum. We wanted to dig into the artistic process, and that’s been the most amazing part of this, to see what these guys come up with when you set them loose on a collection and what inspires them and their interpretation of it. I love the range—there’s something for everyone.”

The collection includes 140 items made by 22 Etsy designers; here are a few of our favorites, which are available in the museum shop, on its website, or on Etsy.

1. AMNH Bandana, $25

Fred DiMeglio and Mary Kate McDevitt—aka the Winter Cabin Collection—made this fun AMNH-themed bandana, which comes in three colors and features a quote from Teddy Roosevelt. “They sent us an email and we were like, ‘Yeah, that sounds great!’” DiMeglio told mental_floss. “[The museum] is a national institution, and we definitely wanted to be involved. We came and toured the museum and got plenty of inspiration from that.”

McDevitt (who did the lettering on our Origins of Everything cover) sketched various items from the collections as they toured the parts of the museum that were off limits to the public and as they walked the museum itself with a guide. “I was like, ‘I’m going to do as much drawing as possible so that I can leave knowing what we want to do,’ she says. “If you leave something on your to-do list for too long, you can lose your inspiration. So even over the lunch break [that day], we were kind of like, ‘What are we going to do? I already have some sketches done.'”

DiMeglio makes a lot of bandanas for his printing business, McDevitt says, so they decided to make that one of their items. The bandanas are hand dyed, and he uses a process called discharge to the remove the dye. “The white is the original color of the bandana,” he says, “and the gray is the dye. [With this process], you can touch it and won’t feel any difference between the two—it’s not rough in the print area.” The pair also made a fun tote and an awesome banner as a tribute to the museum’s scientists and their curiosity.

2. Fantastic Little Fox Coat, $160

Little Goodall constructed this adorable child's coat out of ecowool, which is made of plastic bottles. If foxes aren’t your kid’s thing, there’s also a dinosaur, a lion, and a robot. We probably won’t be the only ones wishing these cute coats came in adult sizes!

3. Speckled Leather Pouch, $48

Jessica Kertis Ulrich used to work in the museum’s marketing department before she began selling handcrafted goods on her Etsy store, kertis, full time. These Italian leather pouches—hand-painted with natural sponges—were inspired by a Lorenz Oken illustration of speckled eggs in the museum’s book, Natural Histories, as well as by thick-billed murr eggs from the museum’s Ornithology collection, which is one place Ulrich said she hadn’t had a chance to check out when she was working at AMNH.

Eggs and Ulrich's sketch. Photos by Erin McCarthy.

Each comes with its own brown tag: “In the collections, there are all these really cool old tags for each of the specimens,” Ulrich says. “I love the typography and the design, so i wanted to draw a little bit from that.”

4. Pigeon Vase, $28

Pigeons get a bad rap, but they’re actually fascinating (at least one is a war hero, and there are even fancy pigeons!). Pay tribute to the ultimate urban bird with BrooklynREHAB’s ceramic vase.

5. Blue Whale Pendant, $250

To get this sterling silver representation of the museum’s famous blue whale correct, Amanda of Craft0logy—who used to work in the museum’s library—came to the museum to sketch the fiberglass cetacean, then made use of archival photos of its installation from the museum’s Digital Special Collections.

Blue whales were once called Sulphur Bottom Whales. Amanda used this drawing to get the proportions of her pendant correct. Photo by Erin McCarthy.

She also visited the rare book room and used an image of a blue whale—which you can see above—from the 1874 book Marine Mammals of the Northwestern Coast of North America, Described and Illustrated, Together with An Account of the American Whale History to get the proportions right. “Just using the archival photos, it’s really hard to figure out the size of the tail and the proportions from the fin to the tail in relation to the rest of the whale,” she says. “I sketched it bigger and smaller until I got it right.” She used her final illustration to create a wax model that she carved detail into and made a mold with, and cast the sterling silver whale from that. (There’s also a platypus!)

6. Space Alphabet Poster, $40

This awesome 18x24 poster—which includes not just the alphabet, but also trivia—was created by 55 Hi’s. There’s also a dinosaur version!

7. Porcelain Iceburg Necklace, $98

Amy Hamley of RedRaven Studios jumped at the chance to create a piece inspired on the museum’s collections. “I’m definitely a little bit nerdy when it comes to the sciences, so I was really excited,” she tells mental_floss. She was particularly inspired by the museum’s Gems and Mineral Hall and its exhibition, Nature’s Fury. “I cast quartz crystal porcelain necklaces and planters in my regular line, but I wanted to step away and not just make a porcelain version of a mineral,” Hamley says. “So I was thinking about things that were formed similar ways to minerals—with heat and pressure and things leaching into the ground—and iceburgs are basically the exact same thing, just from extreme cold and pressure over immense spans of time.” She used a citrine crystal, which has similar facets to ice, to make a mold, which she filled with porcelain to create the pendant. Each pendant is fired, glazed, and finished it with platinum luster.

8. Crystal Amethyst Soap, $8

This soap, which is made by The Bower Studio, is so realistic looking that you’d be forgiven if you thought it was a real amethyst. The soap is vegan and made with palm and coconut oil.

9. The Science Box, $18

Curious kids will love this clever little box, which contains 60 simple science experiments on 30 wooden coins.

Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
Pop Culture
An AI Program Wrote Harry Potter Fan Fiction—and the Results Are Hilarious
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

“The castle ground snarled with a wave of magically magnified wind.”

So begins the 13th chapter of the latest Harry Potter installment, a text called Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash. OK, so it’s not a J.K. Rowling original—it was written by artificial intelligence. As The Verge explains, the computer-science whizzes at Botnik Studios created this three-page work of fan fiction after training an algorithm on the text of all seven Harry Potter books.

The short chapter was made with the help of a predictive text algorithm designed to churn out phrases similar in style and content to what you’d find in one of the Harry Potter novels it "read." The story isn’t totally nonsensical, though. Twenty human editors chose which AI-generated suggestions to put into the chapter, wrangling the predictive text into a linear(ish) tale.

While magnified wind doesn’t seem so crazy for the Harry Potter universe, the text immediately takes a turn for the absurd after that first sentence. Ron starts doing a “frenzied tap dance,” and then he eats Hermione’s family. And that’s just on the first page. Harry and his friends spy on Death Eaters and tussle with Voldemort—all very spot-on Rowling plot points—but then Harry dips Hermione in hot sauce, and “several long pumpkins” fall out of Professor McGonagall.

Some parts are far more simplistic than Rowling would write them, but aren’t exactly wrong with regards to the Harry Potter universe. Like: “Magic: it was something Harry Potter thought was very good.” Indeed he does!

It ends with another bit of prose that’s not exactly Rowling’s style, but it’s certainly an accurate analysis of the main current that runs throughout all the Harry Potter books. It reads: “‘I’m Harry Potter,’ Harry began yelling. ‘The dark arts better be worried, oh boy!’”

Harry Potter isn’t the only work of fiction that Jamie Brew—a former head writer for ClickHole and the creator of Botnik’s predictive keyboard—and other Botnik writers have turned their attention to. Botnik has previously created AI-generated scripts for TV shows like The X-Files and Scrubs, among other ridiculous machine-written parodies.

To delve into all the magical fiction that Botnik users have dreamed up, follow the studio on Twitter.

[h/t The Verge]

Netflix's Most-Binged Shows of 2017, Ranked

Netflix might know your TV habits better than you do. Recently, the entertainment company's normally tight-lipped number-crunchers looked at user data collected between November 1, 2016 and November 1, 2017 to see which series people were powering through and which ones they were digesting more slowly. By analyzing members’ average daily viewing habits, they were able to determine which programs were more likely to be “binged” (or watched for more than two hours per day) and which were more often “savored” (or watched for less than two hours per day) by viewers.

They found that the highest number of Netflix bingers glutted themselves on the true crime parody American Vandal, followed by the Brazilian sci-fi series 3%, and the drama-mystery 13 Reasons Why. Other shows that had viewers glued to the couch in 2017 included Anne with an E, the Canadian series based on L. M. Montgomery's 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables, and the live-action Archie comics-inspired Riverdale.

In contrast, TV shows that viewers enjoyed more slowly included the Emmy-winning drama The Crown, followed by Big Mouth, Neo Yokio, A Series of Unfortunate Events, GLOW, Friends from College, and Ozark.

There's a dark side to this data, though: While the company isn't around to judge your sweatpants and the chip crumbs stuck to your couch, Netflix is privy to even your most embarrassing viewing habits. The company recently used this info to publicly call out a small group of users who turned their binges into full-fledged benders:

Oh, and if you're the one person in Antarctica binging Shameless, the streaming giant just outed you, too.

Netflix broke down their full findings in the infographic below and, Big Brother vibes aside, the data is pretty fascinating. It even includes survey data on which shows prompted viewers to “Netflix cheat” on their significant others and which shows were enjoyed by the entire family.

Netflix infographic "The Year in Bingeing"


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