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The Beautiful Science Behind a Bursting Balloon

When French physicist Sébastien Moulinet saw this photograph of a balloon by Jacques Honvault, an idea began to inflate.

Moulinet was curious about the way the particular fissures formed in a bursting balloon, and how they spread in relation to tension. So Moulinet grabbed the necessary tools: a latex balloon, a blade, and a high speed camera. Along with theoretician Mokhtar Adda-Bedia, he studied the popping balloons at different levels of inflation. The results appear in an October 30 edition of Physical Review Letters.

In short, a balloon bursts in one of two ways. With low inflation (and low tension), it will break along one or two cracks. After a certain inflation threshold, however, the tension becomes high enough that there are many cracks—as many as 40—through which the balloon will burst. Aside from being interesting in and of itself, equations for this relationship remain true for other materials like glass, which means their implications could be practical in innumerable ways.

To watch the slow motion bursts and hear New York Times science writer James Gorman discuss the study, check out the video above.

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26 Facts About LEGO Bricks

Since it first added plastic, interlocking bricks to its lineup, the Danish toy company LEGO (from the words Leg Godt for “play well”) has inspired builders of all ages to bring their most imaginative designs to life. Sets have ranged in size from scenes that can be assembled in a few minutes to 5000-piece behemoths depicting famous landmarks. And tinkerers aren’t limited to the sets they find in stores. One of the largest LEGO creations was a life-sized home in the UK that required 3.2 million tiny bricks to construct.

In this episode of the List Show, John Green lays out 26 playful facts about one of the world’s most beloved toy brands. To hear about the LEGO black market, the vault containing every LEGO set ever released, and more, check out the video above then subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay up-to-date with the latest flossy content.

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Of Buckeyes and Butternuts: 29 States With Weird Nicknames for Their Residents
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Tracing a word’s origin and evolution can yield fascinating historical insights—and the weird nicknames used in some states to describe their residents are no exception. In the Mental Floss video above, host John Green explains the probable etymologies of 29 monikers that describe inhabitants of certain states across the country.

Some of these nicknames, like “Hoosiers” and “Arkies” (which denote residents of Indiana and Arkansas, respectively) may have slightly offensive connotations, while others—including "Buckeyes," "Jayhawks," "Butternuts," and "Tar Heels"—evoke the military histories of Ohio, Kansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. And a few, like “Muskrats” and “Sourdoughs,” are even inspired by early foods eaten in Delaware and Alaska. ("Goober-grabber" sounds goofier, but it at least refers to peanuts, which are a common crop in Georgia, as well as North Carolina and Arkansas.)

Learn more fascinating facts about states' nicknames for their residents by watching the video above.

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