The Mapparium, a Stained-Glass Globe You Can Stand Inside

No matter how hard they try, most maps have an image problem. They’re flat, while the Earth (spoiler alert) is not, and the difficulty of squashing a spherical shape onto a flat object produces all kinds of distortions. 

The Mapparium in the Mary Baker Eddy Library in Boston lets you experience the Earth’s geography without as many compromises.  The room includes a three-story, stained glass globe that you can actually walk inside of and, as Dylan Thuras of Atlas Obscura notes in the video above, the continents are reproduced in perfect relative scale. That means you can get an accurate sense of how big  (or small) Texas really is, compared to, say, Greenland.

Many of the features on the map are not, however, accurately labeled, at least in the way we would recognize them today. The labels on the glass are stuck in 1935, the year the map debuted in the Christian Science Publishing Society building. The building’s architect, Chester Lindsay Churchill, saw the Mapparium (originally called “the Glass Room” or “the Globe Room”) as a symbol for the global outreach of The Christian Science Monitor. The panels were originally designed to be replaceable—Churchill must have known 1935’s political boundaries and national names wouldn’t last forever—but Christian Science officials have seen fit to keep it preserved as a work of art, rather than something that should be constantly edited. 

Today, the room also functions as an example of a whispering gallery—a spherical or circular room with acoustics that allow a person whispering in one corner to be heard in another, even if it’s relatively far away (Grand Central Terminal includes a famous example). The Mapparium’s shape also creates other interesting acoustical features—people speaking in the middle of the room will sound much louder than usual. It’s a fun place to stand while you try to pronounce all the names of places that no longer exist. 

Header image via Smart DestinationsFlickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

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Afternoon Map
The Most Popular Infomercial Product in Each State

You don't have to pay $19.95 plus shipping and handling to discover the most popular infomercial product in each state: AT&T retailer All Home Connections is giving that information away for free via a handy map.

The map was compiled by cross-referencing the top-grossing infomercial products of all time with Google Trends search interest from the past calendar year. So, which crazy products do people order most from their TVs?

Folks in Arizona know that it's too hot there to wear layers; that's why they invest in the Cami Secret—a clip-on, mock top that gives them the look of a camisole without all the added fabric. No-nonsense New Yorkers are protecting themselves from identity theft with the RFID-blocking Aluma wallet. Delaware's priorities are all sorted out, because tons of its residents are still riding the Snuggie wave. Meanwhile, Vermont has figured out that Pajama Jeans are the way to go—because who needs real pants?

Unsurprisingly, the most popular product in many states has to do with fitness and weight loss, because when you're watching TV late enough to start seeing infomercials, you're probably also thinking to yourself: "I need to get my life together. I should get in shape." Seven states—Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Utah, and Wisconsin—have invested in the P90X home fitness system, while West Virginia and Arkansas prefer the gentler workout provided by the Shake Weight. The ThighMaster is still a thing in Illinois and Washington, while Total Gym and Bowflex were favored by South Dakota and Wyoming, respectively. 

Kitchen items are clearly another category ripe for impulse-buying: Alabama and North Dakota are all over the George Forman Grill; Alaska and Rhode Island are mixing things up with the Magic Bullet; and Floridians must be using their Slice-o-matics to chop up limes for their poolside margaritas.

Cleaning products like OxiClean (D.C. and Hawaii), Sani Sticks (North Carolina), and the infamous ShamWow (which claims the loyalty of Mainers) are also popular, but it's Proactiv that turned out to be the big winner. The beloved skin care system claimed the top spot in eight states—California, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas—making it the most popular item on the map.

Peep the full map above, or check out the full study from All Home Connections here.

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Design
A Florida Brewery Created Edible Six-Pack Rings to Protect Marine Animals

For tiny scraps of plastic, six-pack rings can pose a huge threat to marine life. Small enough and ubiquitous enough that they’re easy to discard and forget about, the little plastic webs all too often make their way to the ocean, where animals can ingest or become trapped in them. In order to combat that problem, Florida-based Saltwater Brewery has created what they say is the world’s first fully biodegradable, compostable, edible six-pack rings.

The edible rings are made of barley and wheat and are, if not necessarily tasty, at least safe for animals and humans to ingest. Saltwater Brewery started packaging their beers with the edible six-pack rings in 2016. They charge slightly more for their brews to offset the cost of the rings' production. They hope that customers will be willing to pay a bit more for the environmentally friendly beers and are encouraging other companies to adopt the edible six-pack rings in order to lower manufacturing prices and save more animals.

As Saltwater Brewery president Chris Gove says in the video above: “We want to influence the big guys and kind of inspire them to also get on board.”

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