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18 Beautiful and Unusual Playing Cards

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amazon

Cards are a fun way to pass the time, and there are so many decks available—featuring everything from lumberjacks to characters from Ghostbusters—that you'll never think about getting a boring set from a drug store ever again. Here are some cards so beautiful, you might not even want to use them.

1. RAINBOW CARDS; $13

These colorful cards come from the Brooklyn-based design duo Fredericks & Mae. When spread out, the cards create a vibrant rainbow. They come in a foil-stamped box and are accompanied by a booklet with some game recommendations.

Find it: Amazon

2. PEAKS; $15

Peak Playing Cards each come with an illustration of one of Colorado's 53 14ers (mountains that are at least 14,000 feet above sea level). Each card features a different mountain along with its name and elevation. You can decide between Day and Night decks that show different illustrations on the back. All the backs are the same so no one can figure out what cards you’re holding.

Find it: Art of Play

3. GLITCH; $15

These seemingly defective cards are created by San Francisco-based designer Soleil Zumbrunn. The result of a successful Kickstarter campaign, you can now purchase a deck for yourself online.

Find it: Amazon

4. BROSMIND; $4

Barcelona-based design studio Brosmind created 54 delightful illustrations for this whimsical pack of cards. Each illustration is better than the last, with images like spades riding dogs and doughnuts running around.

Find it: Amazon

5. GHOSTBUSTERS; $10

These officially licensed cards by Albino Dragon have completely original illustrations. Each card has a different character from the classic ‘80s comedy, including Slimer, Peter Venkman, and Winston Zeddemore.

Find it: Amazon

6. AND 7. CATS AND DOGS; $8 AND $4

Remember lenticular pictures? Now you can get them in playing card form. On one set, there are 52 different felines—and two dog jokers. If you’re more of a dog person, they have some of those too. Just try not to get too distracted moving the cards back and forth.

Find it: Cats, Dogs

8. SOLITAIRE; $14

Enjoy this throwback deck, which features the original artwork for the Windows 3.0 Solitaire game. Designer Susan Kare even designed joker cards just for the deck. The retro cards are the perfect thing to play with in your family’s computer room.

Find it: Amazon

9. MINIMALIST; $10

Designer Joe Doucet aimed to make these cards are simple as possible. Instead of illustrations of the suits, Doucet marked each card with the number and a small icon for the suit. The backs feature a single slash. The cards come in either black or white.

Find it: Areaware, Amazon

10. CMYK; $13

The cards do away with suits in favor of the colors in the CMYK model: cyan, magenta, yellow and black. The cards in each color suit are different opacities, which creates a gradient when they're laid out.

Find it: Hundred Million

11. TIM BURTON; $5

This spooky deck of cards comes from the creative mind of Tim Burton. The face cards come with illustrations of characters from Burton’s book The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories.

Find it: Amazon

12. BACON; $8

Breakfast time is now card playing time. These bacon-themed cards are the perfect thing for the hungry poker players in your life. The face cards feature some royal piggies while the number cards are shown as strips of bacon.

Find it: Amazon

13. FIREFLY; $9

Fans that are still a little sore about the untimely end of Firefly might take some comfort in these officially licensed cards. Artist Ben Mund created illustrations of objects and characters from the show for the cards, which come pre-weathered.

Find it: Amazon

14. ANIMAL KINGDOM; $10

This deck is called "Animal Kingdom" for a reason—the face cards sport some pretty regal looking animals. These cards are also conservation-minded: They're printed on paper from sustainable forests, and for each deck purchased, a dollar will be given to the World Wildlife Fund.

Find it: Amazon

15. PIXELS; $10

These unusual cards are illustrated with pixels that are separated by a transparent grid. You can see through your cards, but your opponents can't see what you’re holding.

Find it: Amazon

16. JANE AUSTEN; $13

Relive all your favorite Austen novels with these playing cards, which feature quotes from the book as well as characters illustrated by Hugh Thomson and Chris Hammond.

Find it: Amazon

17. MADE BY CHILDREN; $12

These adorable playing cards were illustrated by children in Korea. Now you can play with smiling hearts, dinosaurs, and squishy looking spades. Best of all, a portion of the proceeds benefit children in developing countries.

Find it: Art of Play

18. LUMBERJACK; $12

Instead of crowns, deck your face cards in plaid. These lumberjack-inspired playing cards are sure to be a hit with your woodsier friends. Made by Bicycle, the fun cards feature trees, saws, and other lumberjack fixings.

Find it: Art of Play

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Kena Betancur, AFP/Getty Images
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Health
Want to Live as Long as an Olympian? Become a Chess Grandmaster
Kena Betancur, AFP/Getty Images
Kena Betancur, AFP/Getty Images

It’s well known that physical fitness can help prolong your life, so it’s not surprising that elite athletes, like Olympians, tend to have longer lifespans than your average couch potato. But it seems that “mind sports” can help keep you alive longer, too. According to BPS Research Digest, a recent study suggests that international chess grandmasters have lifespans comparable to Olympic athletes.

The study, published in PLOS ONE, examined the survival rates of 1208 mostly male chess grandmasters and 15,157 Olympic medalists from 28 countries, and analyzed their life expectancy at 30 years and 60 years after they attained their grandmaster titles. They found that both grandmasters and Olympic medalists exhibited significant lifespan advantages over the general population. In fact, there was no statistical difference between the relative survival rates of chess champions and athletic champions.

There are several variables that the study couldn’t take into account that may be linked to chess players’ long lifespans, though. Grandmasters often employ nutritionists and physical trainers to keep them at their best, according to the researchers, and exercise regularly. Economic and social status can also influence lifespans, and becoming a world-champion chess player likely results in a boost in both areas.

Some research has shown that keeping your mind sharp can help you in old age. Certain kinds of brain training might lower the risk of developing dementia, and one study found that board game players in particular have slightly lower rates of dementia.

If keeping the mind sharp with chess really does extend lifespans, the same effect might apply as well to elite players of other “mind sports,” like Go, poker, or competitive video games. We’ll need more research to find out.

[h/t BPS Research Digest]

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David Franzen, Library of Congress
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architecture
You Can Thank 1950s Suburban Architecture for ‘The Floor Is Lava’
David Franzen, Library of Congress
David Franzen, Library of Congress

No one knows who, exactly, was the first kid to play "The Floor Is Lava," the simple childhood game that has only one rule: You can’t touch the floor. But as Quartz reports, a new paper contends that the game wouldn't have come about if it weren’t for the rise of American suburbs.

Published in the Social Science Research Network, the analysis by Tim Hwang of the MIT Media Laboratory argues that architecture was a vital factor in the spread of the folk game.

In the new suburban housing developments of postwar America, builders began to market the relatively new idea of the family room, an informal room designed for the social needs of the whole family. This room was separate from the formal living room and dining room, both of which were more likely to contain the inhabitants’ good furniture and fancy china. In building plans popular in the 1950s and 1960s, they were also set apart from the kitchen. One 1965 poll found that seven of 10 new houses built that year contained a family room.

And these factors, Hwang argues, are integral to playing The Floor is Lava. Family rooms provide big couches, coffee tables, and other furniture that kids can move around, climb on, and use as props for the game. Bedrooms would be too small, and formal living and dining rooms too full of potentially fragile items that Mom and Dad would be livid to find disturbed. And kitchens were seen as a mother’s domain, meaning that she would likely be there to put a stop to any shenanigans.

"What is unique about the family room space is both the quantity of space and permission that it affords to the play of The Floor is Lava,” Hwang writes.

However, this is just a hypothesis, and no one can really identify who started playing the game first. Kids in urban apartments can also theoretically jump all over their parents’ living room furniture, if allowed. During my childhood, the game typically took place on a playground rather than inside, requiring players to avoid the ground rather than the family room floor. There are games that originated elsewhere in the world that also revolve around avoiding the floor—Hwang notes examples from Kenya and the UK. But given how the spread of suburbs in the U.S. during the postwar period affected home design, it makes sense that a game might arise from the new spaces children lived in. We may never truly know how The Floor Is Lava was invented, but architecture seems like a good clue.

[h/t Quartz]

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