25 Things You Should Know About Albuquerque


This city in the desert is so much more than just the home of a certain fallen chemistry teacher. Albuquerque boasts a rich history, gorgeous vistas, and an established arts scene. (If you'll recall, it's also the place where Bugs Bunny really should have taken that left.) Below, a few things you might not have known about Duke City.

1. When Coronado arrived in the area of modern Albuquerque in 1540, he found a large pueblo called Kuaua, which itself dated to around 1300 CE. Although abandoned in the late 16th century, you can visit the reconstructed ruins at the Coronado Historic Site just outside Albuquerque.

2. And if that’s not old enough for you, nearby Acoma Pueblo and Taos Pueblo each claim to be the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the modern United States, dating back to circa 1000 CE.


The city itself was founded in 1706 as “San Francisco de Alburquerque,” after the viceroy of New Spain, Don Francisco, the Duke of Alburquerque. How it became Albuquerque is unknown, but it’s probably just because no one was able to pronounce the extra r.

4. In 1995, the state legislature passed a non-binding resolution to restore the dropped r, but nothing ever came of it, and the popular New Mexican author Rudolfo Anaya has long pushed for the reinstatement of the r.

5. When the railroads came to New Mexico, a brand new town was founded in the area. Confusingly, it was also named Albuquerque, right next to the other Albuquerque. They got around this by calling one New Albuquerque and the other Old Albuquerque. Eventually, New Albuquerque consumed Old Albuquerque, but it’s still called Old Town.

6. If you go out to eat in Albuquerque (or anywhere else in New Mexico, for that matter), don’t panic when they ask you "red or green?" That's just their way of finding out whether you prefer red or green chile on your dish. If you can’t decide, order Christmas, which is a combination of the two. And yes, it’s chile, with an e. In New Mexico, chile means the hot fruit while chili refers to the meat-and-bean stew. It’s important to distinguish between chile cheese fries (red or green) and chili cheese fries.



Chile is so important to the local gastronomic scene that even Albuquerque’s McDonalds have green chile cheeseburgers on the menu.

8. And make sure that you wash that down with New Mexican beer. Albuquerque has some of the best breweries in the country, with local breweries coming first AND second in the 2015 National IPA Challenge. Just in case you think that’s a fluke, an Albuquerque brewer also won in 2014.

9. According to a 2013 study, Albuquerque is 28 percent parks—that's the “highest percentage of parkland in a metro area."

10. Albuquerque is also a tech hub. The first Bitcoin machine in the United States was installed in an Albuquerque cigar bar, although it vacated the premises months later.

11. Although most often associated with Washington, Microsoft was founded in Albuquerque in 1975. It moved to Washington in ’79. The reason they started in Albuquerque was because of the Altair 8800, a computer that many consider to have started the personal computer age. It was a kit computer developed by an Air Force second lieutenant while based at Kirtland Air Force Base that you could buy for $400; it came with 256 bytes of RAM (for comparison, an iPhone 6S has about 8 million times that).

12. In 1959, Dr. William Lovelace’s clinic in Albuquerque worked with NASA to help winnow 32 potential astronauts down to the Mercury 7, using a specially designed week of some of the most extreme laboratory tests ever attempted. 

13. Two years later, Lovelace would attempt to do the same thing with the “Woman in Space Program” where he put 19 women through the exact same examination as the men went through. 13 passed. Despite his seal of approval, NASA regulations at the time prevented any of them from going to space.

One of the oldest holiday traditions in Albuquerque (and by old, we’re talking at least 300 years) are luminarias, paper bags with votive candles in them. Old Town is famous for its display of over a thousand of these bags intended to welcome Christ to the world.

15. After reading a Spider-Man comic in which our hero has a tracking bracelet put on, local judge Jack Love felt that a similar idea might work to keep tabs on people under house arrest. Towards this end, the official helped develop an early electronic monitoring bracelet

16. The largest Native American gathering in the country is in town in late April. The Gathering of Nations draws thousands of attendees and tens of thousands of visitors.

17. The Albuquerque skyline is dominated by two geologic features. In the east are the Sandia Mountains, which rise a mile above an already mile-high city, and are so named because at dusk they look a little like sandias—that's Spanish for "watermelon." 


To the west are the Albuquerque Volcanoes. While these volcanoes are probably extinct, some geologists think that New Mexico is due another eruption in the not too distant future.

19. The Sandia Peak Tramway is one of the longest trams in the world, traveling 2.7 miles to over 10,000 feet above sea level. Anyone hoping to get more of a workout in can also hike to the top.

20. The minor league baseball team in Albuquerque, the Isotopes, got their name from an episode of The Simpsons, in which the Springfield Isotopes are set to move to the city. Not surprisingly, they’ve been one of the top teams for merchandise sales every year since.

21. Albuquerque is also home to the National Fiery Foods Show, which claims to be the largest such event in the world, attracting over 200 exhibitors a year.

22. Vivian Vance, best known as I Love Lucy’s Ethel, was one of the founders of the Albuquerque Little Theater. Other actors who have called Albuquerque home include Neil Patrick Harris, Demi Lovato, and Freddie Prinze Jr.

23. Albuquerque’s real population growth came in the early 20th century thanks to people suffering from tuberculosis coming for the dry climate. It was estimated in 1913 that 50% of the city’s population were people with tuberculosis and their relatives. To advertise how great the climate was, the forerunner to the Chamber of Commerce came up with the slogan “Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the sick get well and the well get prosperous!”


The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta started in 1972, when 10,000 people watched 13 balloons lift off from a mall parking lot. Today, the festival lasts nine days and draws a crowd of more than 800,000.

25. Albuquerque is one of the sunniest cities in America, tied for tenth with Sacramento. But unlike sunnier cities (for instance, Yuma and Las Vegas), Albuquerque gets over a hundred degrees only once or twice a year, while Yuma has over a hundred such days. But Albuquerque can get snow. The one day record was 11.3 inches in 2006.

IKEA's New Collection for Tiny Apartments Is Inspired by Life on Mars

Living in a city apartment can feel claustrophobic at times. As Co.Design reports, the Swedish furniture brand IKEA took this experience to the extreme when designers visited a simulated Mars habitat as research for their latest line of housewares aimed at urbanites.

The new collection, called Rumtid, is tailored to fit the cramped spaces that many people are forced to settle for when apartment-hunting in dense, expensive cities. The designers knew they wanted to prioritize efficiency and functionality with their new project, and Mars research provided the perfect inspiration.

At the Mars Society's Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, scientists are figuring out how to meet the needs of potential Mars astronauts with very limited resources. Materials have to be light, so that they require as little rocket fuel as possible to ferry them to the red planet, and should ideally run on renewable energy.

IKEA's designers aren't facing quite as many challenges, but spending a few days at the simulated Martian habitat in Utah got them thinking on the right track. The team also conducted additional research at the famously snug capsule hotels in Tokyo. The Rumtid products they came up with include an indoor terrarium shaped like a space-age rocket, a set of colorful, compact air purifiers, and light-weight joints and bars that can be snapped into modular furniture.

The collection isn't ready to hit IKEA shelves just yet—the chain plans to make Rumtid available for customers by 2020. In the meantime, the designers hope to experiment with additional science fiction-worthy ideas, including curtains that clean the air around them.

Air purifiers designed for urban living.

Furniture joints on bubble wrap on black table.

Modular furniture holding water bag.

[h/t Co.Design]

All images courtesy of IKEA.

8 Projects That Reenvision the Traditional Cemetery

Globally, nearly 57 million people died in 2016. If you happen to be a cemetery caretaker, you might be wondering where we managed to put them all. Indeed, many cemeteries in the world’s major cities are filling up fast, with no choice left but to tear up walkways, trees, and green spaces just to make room for more graves.

In response to these concerns, a variety of visionaries have attempted to reimagine the modern cemetery. These plans tend to fall into one of two camps: Biologists and environmentalists have brainstormed alternate methods for disposing of bodies, some of which are said to be better for the planet than the traditional methods of burial and cremation. Meanwhile, architects have looked at ways of adapting the burial space itself, whether that means altering a traditional cemetery or creating something new and more ephemeral. Here are just a few of the creative ideas that have emerged in recent years.


As cemeteries started running out of ground to dig, it was only a matter of time before they started building up. There's been a lot of talk about skyscraper cemeteries in recent years, although the idea dates back to at least 1829, when British architect Thomas Willson proposed a 94-story mausoleum in London.

"The vertical cemetery, with its open front, will become a significant part of the city and a daily reminder of death’s existence," says Martin McSherry, whose design for an open-air skyscraper cemetery with layers of park-like burial grounds was one of the proposals presented at the Oslo Conference for Nordic Cemeteries and Graveyards in 2013. Another recent plan by architecture students in Sweden suggested repurposing a cluster of silos into a vertical columbarium (a place to store urns). Brazil’s Memorial Necrópole Ecumênica was one of the first places to implement this vertical concept back in 1984, and at 32 stories high, it currently holds the Guinness World Record for the tallest cemetery.


For much of human history, graves were often reused, or common graves were dug deep enough to accommodate multiple bodies stacked one on top of the other. “Our current cemetery design is actually a pretty new thing,” Allison Meier, a New York City cemetery tour guide (and Mental Floss writer), tells us. “It wasn’t normal for everyone to get a headstone in the past and we didn’t have these big sprawling green spaces.”

Now that many urban cemeteries are filling up, the idea of reusing plots is once again gaining popularity. In London, it’s estimated that only one-third of the city’s boroughs will have burial space by 2031. In response, the City of London Cemetery—one of the biggest cemeteries in Britain—has started reusing certain grave plots (the practice is legal in the city, even though grave reuse is outlawed elsewhere in England).

Across continental Europe, however, it's not uncommon for graves to be "rented" rather than bought for all eternity. In countries like the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, and Greece, families can hold a plot for their loved one as long as they continue to pay a rental fee. If they stop paying, the grave may be reused, with the previous remains either buried deeper or relocated to a common grave.

Meier says she isn’t aware of any cemeteries in New York City that have started reusing their plots, though. “That’s a tough thing for Americans to get on board with because it’s been a normal practice in a lot of places, but it’s never been normal here,” she says.


A rendering of a floating columbarium
BREAD Studio

Ninety percent of bodies in Hong Kong are cremated, according to CNN, and niches in the city's public columbaria are at a premium. The average wait for a space is about four years, sparking concerns that Hong Kongers could be forced to move their loved ones' ashes across the border to mainland China, where more space is available. (A space at a private columbarium in Hong Kong can be prohibitively expensive, at a cost of about $128,000.) To address this issue, a proposal emerged in 2012 to convert a cruise ship into a floating columbarium dubbed the “Floating Eternity.” Designed by Hong Kong and London-based architecture firm BREAD Studio, the columbarium would be able to accommodate the ashes of 370,000 people. Although it's still just an idea, BREAD Studio designer Benny Lee tells CNN, "A floating cemetery is the next natural step in Hong Kong's history of graveyards."


An underwater lion sculpture and other memorials
Neptune Reef

Land may be limited, but the sea is vast—and several companies want to take the cemetery concept underwater. At Neptune Memorial Reef off the coast of Key Biscayne, Florida, human ashes are mixed with cement to create unique memorials in the shape of seashells and other objects of the client's choice. The memorials are then taken by divers to the ocean floor and incorporated into a human-made reef designed to look like the Lost City of Atlantis. Eternal Reefs, based out of Sarasota, Florida, offers a similar service.


Not a water person? Try space instead. Elysium Space, a San Francisco-based company founded by a former software engineer at NASA, offers a couple of “celestial services.” At a cost of nearly $2500, the Shooting Star Memorial “delivers a symbolic portion of your loved one’s remains to Earth’s orbit, only to end this celestial journey as a shooting star,” while the Lunar Memorial will deliver a "symbolic portion" of human remains to the surface of the moon for a fee of nearly $10,000. Another company, Celestis, offers similar services ranging in price from $1300 to $12,500.


Shoveling soil

Critics of burial and cremation say both are bad for the environment. To address the need for a memorial method that doesn’t emit carbon dioxide, waste resources, or release carcinogenic embalming fluid into the soil, a number of eco-friendly options have emerged. One such innovation is the “mushroom burial suit," a head-to-toe outfit that's lined with mushroom spores designed to devour human tissue and absorb the body's toxins. Another company, Recompose, espouses human composting—a process by which a corpse would be converted into a cubic yard of soil, which could then be used to nurture new life in a garden. The procedure isn’t legal yet, but the company plans to work with the Washington State legislature to make it available to the general public before eventually rolling it out nationwide.


Many innovative proposals have emerged from the DeathLAB at Columbia University, including a plan to convert human biomass (organic matter) into light. The design—a constellation of light that would serve as both a memorial and art installation—won a competition hosted by Future Cemetery, a collaboration between the University of Bath’s Centre for Death & Society and media company Calling the Shots. John Troyer, director of the UK-based center, says they're working on raising funds to install a concept piece based on that design at Arnos Vale Cemetery in Bristol, England, but any usage of actual biomass would have to be cleared through the proper regulatory channels first. According to DeathLAB, the project would save significant space—within six years, it would more than double the capacity of the cemetery orchard where the memorials would be installed.


As virtual reality technology gets more and more advanced, some question whether a physical cemetery is needed at all. The website, founded by a Hong Kong entrepreneur, lets users "create virtual headstones anywhere in an augmented reality landscape of Hong Kong, including such unlikely places as a downtown park," as Reuters describes it. In Japan, one online cemetery allows the bereaved to “light” incense, share memories of their loved one in comments, and even grab a virtual glass of beer. Similarly, an app called RiPCemetery created a social network where users can craft a virtual memorial and share photos of the deceased.

However, Troyer says he doesn’t believe technology will ever usurp the need for physical spaces. “A lot of the companies talking about digital solutions talk about ‘forever’—and that’s very complicated with the internet, because the virtual material we create can easily disappear," he told the The Guardian. "The lowly gravestone has been a very successful human technology, and I suspect it will last … I would go with granite.”


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