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12 YouTube Facts for Their 10th Anniversary

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Like most of the world’s population with Internet access, we love YouTube. After all, where would society be without on-demand access to footage of cats getting stuck in boxes? Probably way more productive—but also a whole lot less entertaining. Check out 12 things you may not know about the world’s single biggest export of Rick Astley.  

1. You Could Give it a Secret Retro Look.

YouTube

Founded in 2005, YouTube escaped the visual nightmare that was the Internet circa the 1990s. But the site allowed users to give give it a cool retro look for their Geek Week promotion in 2013 by typing a “/ geekweek” code into the search prompt.

2. One Early Attempt to Find Content Was a Little Creepy.

According to the book YouTube: The Company and Its Founders, when the site needed some kind of video library during its 2005 launch, programmers decided to hit up Craig’s List in Los Angeles and Las Vegas with an offer: They’d pay $20 to any woman willing to upload 10 videos of herself to the site. Nobody replied.

3. Artificial Intelligence Loves Cat Videos Too.

In 2012, researchers at Google’x X lab constructed a neural computer network and let it “browse” YouTube. After combing through 10 million screen captures, the A.I. began to be able to distinguish between human and cat faces with consistency despite not being programmed to do so. Jeff Dean, who led the research, told press that “It basically invented the concept of a cat.”  

4. Their Top Cat Isn’t Real.

Simon’s Cat, an animated video series about a plump feline from animator Simon Tofield, has been viewed over a half-billion times, according to YouTube. That means Simon outranks actual kitten hall-of-famers like Maru, Grumpy Cat, and the one-hit wonder Surprised Kitty.

5. You Can Blur Your Face in a Video. 

YouTube

We’ve all been there: taking police cars out for joyrides and recording it, but worried about identifying details. Fortunately, Google remedied that back in 2012 by introducing a face-blurring feature for uploaders. Software detects facial features and obscures them, but it’s not selective, so if you want to smudge one face, you’ll have to smudge them all.

6. They Once Pulled Down All the Hitlers.

Downfall, a film depicting the final days of Adolf Hitler, features a scene where the Fuhrer throws a bit of a tantrum. Ever since, hundreds of videos have been created that plug in subtitles to (mis)represent the leader making a fuss over everything from bad customer service to Ben Affleck being cast as Batman. In 2010, Constantin Film alerted the site to the parodies and wanted them removed. YouTube complied, but it was a game of Whack-a-Mole: New videos were being uploaded constantly—including one in which Hitler complains about being removed from YouTube.

7. Journey Found Their New Lead Singer On the Site.

Losing a voice as distinctive as Steve Perry’s was a big blow to the band Journey, which had to make do without their lead vocalist beginning in 1996. In 2007, guitarist Neal Schon was browsing YouTube when he came across a video by Arnel Pineda, part of a Philippines Journey cover group. Pineda sounded so remarkably like Perry that Schon and the band signed him to a deal. They’ve been touring ever since.    

8. Unboxing Disney Toys Can Make You a Millionaire.

Well, not you, specifically. Someone already has that market cornered. According to Social Blade, which tracks the business valuations of content generators, the DisneyCollectorBR channel likely earns at least $1.5 million—and possibly much more—for unboxing Disney collectibles.

9. They’ll Give You a Gold-Plated Button For One Million Subscribers. 

YouTube

Got a cute cat? Have a neat idea involving Diet Coke and Mentos? Then you just may have a shot at getting one million subscribers to your YouTube channel. If you do, the site will commemorate the occasion by sending you a 24-karat gold-plated Play button. Only 100,000 subs? That’s all right: they’ll send you a silver button. Less than 100,000? Get to work.

10. The Longest Video is nearly 600 Hours.

When Jonathan Harchick uploaded a 571 hour video comprised of photo slides he took while touring Chile, he dared someone to try and top it. No one did, so he took it upon himself. Via his Moldy Toaster Media channel, Harchick delivered a 596.5 hour slog of a two-tone color pattern switching places. Leave it on and come back in 24 days. It will still be playing.

11. One Video Was Declared Fine Art.

Artist Petra Cortwright used her webcam to compose the above video, which she auctioned off during a 2013 digital art show held at the Phillips auction house. Titled rgb,d-lay, it depicts Cortwright holding her hair in a loop. The original video file was auctioned—Cortwright put a USB drive in a fancy box for the winner—and appraised based on the number of hits it had at the time of sale. It sold for $3200.

12. Viewers Really Want to Know How to Kiss.

YouTube has long since replaced those old Time-Life books on home repair, with thousands of videos devoted to instructionals. But according to the site, the most-searched tutorial isn’t for fixing a leaky faucet: it’s for how to kiss. (Number four: how to get a six-pack in three minutes.)

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Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.406E
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New Smithsonian Exhibit Explains Why Felines Were the Cat's Meow in Ancient Egypt
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Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.406E

From bi-coastal cat cafes to celebrity pets like Lil Bub, felines are currently enjoying a peak moment in popular culture. That’s part of the reason why curators at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery—which will re-open to visitors on Saturday, October 14, following a 3-month closure—decided to dedicate a new exhibition to ancient Egypt’s relationship with the animals.

Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt” looks at the cultural and religious importance of cats, which the Egyptians appreciated long before YouTube was a thing and #caturday was a hashtag. It's based on a traveling exhibition that began at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City. On view until January 15, 2018, it's one of several exhibits that will kick off the grand reopening of the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler galleries, the conjoined national museums of Asian and Middle Eastern Art.

The Freer has been closed since January 2016 for major renovations, and the Sackler since July 2016 for minor ones. The upgraded institutions will make their public debut on October 14, and be feted by a free two-day festival on the National Mall.

Featuring 80 artworks and relics, ranging from figurines of leonine deities to the tiny coffins of beloved pets, "Divine Felines" even has a cat mummy on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. These objects span from the Middle Kingdom (2008 to 1630 BCE) to the Byzantine period (395 to 642 CE).

An ancient Egyptian metal weight shaped like a cat, dating back to 305 to 30 BCE, on view at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Weight in Form of a Cat, 305 to 30 BCE, Bronze, silver, lead
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114

The term “cat” is used loosely, as the Egyptians celebrated domestic mousers and fearsome predators alike.

“The Egyptians were close observers of nature, so they were observing cat behaviors,” Antonietta Catanzariti, the exhibition's in-house curator, tells Mental Floss. “They noticed that cats and lions— in general, felines—have aggressive and protective aspects, so they associated those attributes to deities.”

The ancient Egyptians viewed their gods as humans, animals, or mixed forms. Several of these pantheon members were both associated with and depicted as cats, including Bastet, the goddess of motherhood, fertility, and protection; and Sakhmet, the goddess of war and—when appeased—healing. She typically has a lion head, but in some myths she appears as a pacified cat.

A limestone sculptor's model of a walking lion, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Sculptor's Model of a Walking Lion, ca. 664 to 630 BCE, limestone
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 33.190

While Bastet was a nurturer, Sakhmet—whose name means “The Powerful One”—could use her mighty force to either slay or safeguard humanity. These characterizations are typical of the ancient Egyptian worldview, which perceived the universe in dualistic terms. “There’s always a positive and a negative,” Catanzariti explains.

Contrary to popular belief, however, ancient Egyptians did not view cats themselves as gods. “The goddess Sakhmet does have the features as a lion, or in some cases as a cat, but that doesn’t mean that the Egyptians were worshipping cats or lions,” Catanzariti says. Instead, they were simply noting and admiring her feline traits. This practice, to an extent, also extended to royalty. Kings were associated with lions and other large cats, as they were the powerful protectors of ancient Egypt’s borders.

These myriad associations prompted Egyptians to adorn palaces, temples, protective amulets, ceremonial vessels, and accessories with cat images. Depending on their context, these renderings symbolized everything from protection and power to beauty and sexuality. A king’s throne might have a lion-shaped support, for example, whereas a woman’s cosmetics case might be emblazoned with a cat-headed female goddess of motherhood and fertility.

An ancient Egyptian figurine of a standing lion-headed goddess, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Figurine of a Standing Lion-Headed Goddess, 664 to 630 BCE, Faience
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.943E

While cats were linked with heavenly figures and kings, they were also popular domestic pets. Their ability to catch vermin made them an important addition to households, and owners loved and anthropomorphized their pets just like we do today.

Egyptians often named, or nicknamed, their children after animals; Miit (cat) was a popular moniker for girls. It's said that entire households shaved their eyebrows in mourning if a house cat died a natural death. Some also believe that cats received special legal protection. (Not all cats were this lucky, however, as some temples bred kittens specifically to offer their mummified forms to the gods.) If a favorite cat died, the Egyptians would bury them in special decorated coffins, containers, and boxes. King Tutankhamen, for example, had a stone sarcophagus constructed just for his pet feline.

An ancient Egyptian bronze cat head adorned with gold jewelry, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Cat's Head, 30 BCE. to third century CE, bronze, gold
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114

“Divine Felines” breaks down these facts, and more, into five thematic sections, including “Cats and Kings"; “Cats and Gods”; “Cats and Death”; “Cats and Protection”; and “Dogs as Guardians and Hunters.” Yes, there’s also an exhibition section for dog lovers—“a small one,” Catanzariti laughs, that explains why canines were associated with figures like Anubis, the jackal-headed god of mummification and the afterlife.

Did the ancient Egyptians prefer cats to dogs? “I would say that both of them had different roles,” Catanzariti says, as dogs were valued as hunters, scavengers, and guards. “They were appreciated in different ways for their ability to protect or be useful for the Egyptian culture.” In this way, "Divine Felines" is targeted to ailurophiles and canophiliacs alike, even if it's packaged with pointed ears and whiskers.

An ancient Egyptian cat coffin, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Coffin for a Cat, 664 to 332 BCE, or later, Wood, gesso, paint, animal remains
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.1944Ea-b
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Here's the First-Ever Video of Sand Cat Kittens Playing in the Wild

Sand cats are as elusive as they are adorable. Native to the isolated deserts of Asia and Africa, the nocturnal felines are adapted to desert life, and can go for long periods without water. They’re stealthy predators of venomous snakes and small rodents, and escape detection thanks to their pale sandy coats and furry paws, the latter of which make their tracks nearly invisible. These reasons, among others, are why sand kittens have never been captured on video—until now.

As The Independent reports, researchers from Panthera France, a wild cat conservation group, recently found and filmed three sand cat kittens in Morocco. Thought to be around two months old, they were hiding among vegetation as they waited for their mother to return.

Led by biologists Alexander Sliwa and Grégory Breton, the managing director of Panthera France, the researchers first embarked on their quest to locate and study the wild cat in 2013. Over the course of multiple expeditions, they encountered adults, but no offspring.

In April 2017, during their fifth expedition, Sliwa and Breton were heading back to camp at night when they spotted three pairs of gleaming eyes in the darkness. "They belonged to young sand cats, yellowish, small wild cats with broader faces and larger ears than domestic cats," Breton recounted on Panthera France's blog. Astonished, the scientists managed to record the kittens and identify and radio-collar their mother.

Experts think this is the first time that sand cat (Felis margarita) kittens have been documented in their African range. Until Sliwa and Breton locate even more baby cats for us to ogle, you can enjoy their video footage below.

[h/t The Independent]

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