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10 (Non-Basketball) Online March Madness Tournaments

You don’t have to know anything about sports to enjoy a tournament in March. The NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship, affectionately known as March Madness, officially kicks off with the "First Four" play-in games on March 15 and 16. But the madness isn’t limited to basketball—websites of all kinds stage their own tournaments, using reader participation to crown winners in every conceivable type of contest. Here are some that will start soon or have already started.

1. TV COUPLES MARCH MADNESS CHALLENGE

Zimbio has a tournament to decide the best TV couple of the past year. There are 64 couples in the running, and first round voting is going on now in the Ross & Rachel Conference, the Sam & Diane Conference, the Pacey & Joey Conference, and the Zack & Kelly Conference. Those classic couples aren’t in the running, but current shows are well represented.

2. MARCH MUSIC MADNESS

YouTube channel Coverkiller Nation is doing a “battle of the bands,” completely on YouTube. Each region in the first round has been posted as a video, and viewers place their votes in the comments. Rush was last year’s winner, so the regions this year are the Lifeson division, the Lee division, the Peart division, and the Starman division. Follow the progress of the tournament at the Music Madness website

3. TOURNAMENT EARTH 4.0

NASA Earth Observatory presents Tournament Earth, a competition between the best images from various observatories. The interactive bracket has clickable images for each of the 32 contestants in the Data Section, Art Section, Event Section, and Photograph Section, in case you want to record your tournament picks and compare them to the final results. First-round voting is going on now, and the tournament will wrap up on April 1.

4. THE MORNING NEWS TOURNAMENT OF BOOKS

Powell’s City of Books presents their annual Morning News Tournament of Books. This is the 12th year of the tournament, and 17 books published in 2015 are in the running, culled from a list of 86. Voting for the first-round matchups begins March 8.

5. TEEN OTP MADNESS

Forever Young Adult has a different tournament each year. This year, they are staging one called Teen OTP (one true pairing) Madness. This is a battle between 64 couples from TV and movies. These are “shipping wars,” so the brackets are called USS Passion, USS Lust, USS Romance, and USS Devotion. The matchups will be decided by your votes, beginning Monday March 7.

6. LENT MADNESS

Already underway, Lent Madness is now into the second round. The annual tournament serves as a daily Catholic devotional, with matchups designed to spark introspection. The bracket includes 32 saints battling their way to the Golden Halo—for example, the recent matchup between St. Barnabas and St. Elmo.

7. MAMMAL MARCH MADNESS

The blog Mammals Suck …Milk! presents their annual Mammal Madness Tournament. Which animal will reign supreme for 2016? The bracket starts with 65 mammals divided into four regions: Mighty Giants, Mascot Mammals, Chill Mammals and Mammals of the Nouns. There’s an alternative bracket with the same animals but labeled in their scientific names. The wild card play-in round begins Monday, March 7.

8. THEOLOGIANS FACE OFF

Logos Bible Software is staging a tournament that pits current and historical theologians against each other, and the company will be discounting books by those who are eliminated. Round one voting is going on now. So far, N.T. Wright defeated Richard Bauckham and Craig Blomberg took down Jürgen Moltmann. Click the names on the bracket to bring up current and finished matches.

9. MARCH MADNESS BOOK TOURNAMENT

The Grafton Public Library in Grafton, Wisconsin invites you to vote in their March Madness Book Tournament. The tournament started with 64 books [pdf] that have already been winnowed down to 16, as voting is now in the third round. Each vote enters you into a drawing for an undisclosed grand prize.

10. MENSCH MADNESS

The Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL) presents Mensch Madness. Previous tournaments featured heroes of the the TaNaKh (2014) and Creatures of Judaism (2015). This year, the tournament is between eight great Jewish scholars of history. If this is like previous tournaments, there will be no audience voting involved, but rather a hypothetical battle between the competitors explained in posts at the website My Jewish Learning. To keep up with matchups as they appear, follow this link.

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15 Confusing Plant and Animal Misnomers
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People have always given names to the plants and animals around us. But as our study of the natural world has developed, we've realized that many of these names are wildly inaccurate. In fact, they often have less to say about nature than about the people who did the naming. Here’s a batch of these befuddling names.

1. COMMON NIGHTHAWK

There are two problems with this bird’s name. First, the common nighthawk doesn’t fly at night—it’s active at dawn and dusk. Second, it’s not a hawk. Native to North and South America, it belongs to a group of birds with an even stranger name: Goatsuckers. People used to think that these birds flew into barns at night and drank from the teats of goats. (In fact, they eat insects.)

2. IRISH MOSS

It’s not a moss—it’s a red alga that lives along the rocky shores of the northern Atlantic Ocean. Irish moss and other red algae give us carrageenan, a cheap food thickener that you may have eaten in gummy candies, soy milk, ice cream, veggie hot dogs, and more.

3. FISHER-CAT

Native to North America, the fisher-cat isn’t a cat at all: It’s a cousin of the weasel. It also doesn’t fish. Nobody’s sure where the fisher cat’s name came from. One possibility is that early naturalists confused it with the sea mink, a similar-looking creature that was an expert fisher. But the fisher-cat prefers to eat land animals. In fact, it’s one of the few creatures that can tackle a porcupine.

4. AMERICAN BLUE-EYED GRASS

American blue-eyed grass doesn’t have eyes (which is good, because that would be super creepy). Its blue “eyes” are flowers that peek up at you from a meadow. It’s also not a grass—it’s a member of the iris family.

5. MUDPUPPY

The mudpuppy isn’t a cute, fluffy puppy that scampered into some mud. It’s a big, mucus-covered salamander that spends all of its life underwater. (It’s still adorable, though.) The mudpuppy isn’t the only aquatic salamander with a weird name—there are many more, including the greater siren, the Alabama waterdog, and the world’s most metal amphibian, the hellbender.

6. WINGED DRAGONFISH

This weird creature has other fantastic and inaccurate names: brick seamoth, long-tailed dragonfish, and more. It’s really just a cool-looking fish. Found in the waters off of Asia, it has wing-like fins, and spends its time on the muddy seafloor.

7. NAVAL SHIPWORM

The naval shipworm is not a worm. It’s something much, much weirder: a kind of clam with a long, wormlike body that doesn’t fit in its tiny shell. It uses this modified shell to dig into wood, which it eats. The naval shipworm, and other shipworms, burrow through all sorts of submerged wood—including wooden ships.

8. WHIP SPIDERS

These leggy creatures are not spiders; they’re in a separate scientific family. They also don’t whip anything. Whip spiders have two long legs that look whip-like, but that are used as sense organs—sort of like an insect’s antennae. Despite their intimidating appearance, whip spiders are harmless to humans.

9. VELVET ANTS

A photograph of a velvet ant
Craig Pemberton, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

There are thousands of species of velvet ants … and all are wasps, not ants. These insects have a fuzzy, velvety look. Don’t pat them, though—velvet ants aren’t aggressive, but the females pack a powerful sting.

10. SLOW WORM

The slow worm is not a worm. It’s a legless reptile that lives in parts of Europe and Asia. Though it looks like a snake, it became legless through a totally separate evolutionary path from the one snakes took. It has many traits in common with lizards, such as eyelids and external ear holes.

11. TRAVELER'S PALM

This beautiful tree from Madagascar has been planted in tropical gardens all around the world. It’s not actually a palm, but belongs to a family that includes the bird of paradise flower. In its native home, the traveler’s palm reproduces with the help of lemurs that guzzle its nectar and spread pollen from tree to tree.

12. VAMPIRE SQUID

Drawing of a vampire squid
Carl Chun, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

This deep-sea critter isn’t a squid. It’s the only surviving member of a scientific order that has characteristics of both octopuses and squids. And don’t let the word “vampire” scare you; it only eats bits of falling marine debris (dead stuff, poop, and so on), and it’s only about 11 inches long.

13. MALE FERN & LADY FERN

Early botanists thought that these two ferns belonged to the same species. They figured that the male fern was the male of the species because of its coarse appearance. The lady fern, on the other hand, has lacy fronds and seemed more ladylike. Gender stereotypes aside, male and lady Ferns belong to entirely separate species, and almost all ferns can make both male and female reproductive cells. If ferns start looking manly or womanly to you, maybe you should take a break from botany.

14. TENNESSEE WARBLER

You will never find a single Tennessee warbler nest in Tennessee. This bird breeds mostly in Canada, and spends the winter in Mexico and more southern places. But early ornithologist Alexander Wilson shot one in 1811 in Tennessee during its migration, and the name stuck.

15. CANADA THISTLE

Though it’s found across much of Canada, this spiky plant comes from Europe and Asia. Early European settlers brought Canada thistle seeds to the New World, possibly as accidental hitchhikers in grain shipments. A tough weed, the plant soon spread across the continent, taking root in fields and pushing aside crops. So why does it have this inaccurate name? Americans may have been looking for someone to blame for this plant—so they blamed Canada.

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.

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18 Tea Infusers to Make Teatime More Exciting
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Make steeping tea more fun with these quirky tea infusers.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

1. SOAKING IT UP; $7.49

man-shaped tea infuser
Amazon

That mug of hot water might eventually be a drink for you, but first it’s a hot bath for your new friend, who has special pants filled with tea.

Buy on Amazon.

2. A FLYING TEA BOX; $25.98

There’s no superlaser on this Death Star, just tea.

Buy on Amazon.

3. SPACE STATION; $9.99

astronaut tea infuser
ThinkGeek

This astronaut's mission? Orbit the rim of your mug until you're ready to pull the space station diffuser out.

Buy on ThinkGeek.

4. BE REFINED; $12.99

This pipe works best with Earl Grey.

Buy on Amazon.

5. A RIBBITING OPTION; $10.93

This frog hangs on to the side of your mug with a retractable tongue. When the tea is ready, you can put him back on his lily pad.

Buy on Amazon.

6. ‘TEA’ ALL LIVE IN A YELLOW SUBMARINE; $5.95

It’s just like the movie, only with tea instead of Beatles.

Buy on Amazon.

7. SHARK ATTACK; $6.99

shark tea infuser
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This fearsome shark patrols the bottom of your mug waiting for prey. For extra fun, use red tea to look like the end of a feeding frenzy.

Buy at Cost Plus World Market.

8. PERFECT FOR A RAINY DAY; $12.40

This umbrella’s handle conveniently hooks to the side of your mug.

Buy on Amazon.

9. AN EGGCELLENT INFUSER; $5.75

cracked egg tea infuser
Amazon

Sometimes infusers are called tea eggs, and this one takes the term to a new, literal level.

Buy on Amazon.

10. FOR SQUIRRELY DRINKERS; $8.95

If you’re all right with a rodent dunking its tail into your drink, this is the infuser for you.

Buy on Amazon.

11. HANGING OUT; $12.85

This pug is happy to hang onto your mug and keep you company while you wait for the tea to be ready.

Buy on Amazon.

12. ANOTHER SHARK OPTION; $5.99

If you thought letting that other shark infuser swim around in the deep water of your glass was too scary, this one perches on the edge, too busy chomping on your mug to worry about humans.

Buy on Amazon.

13. RUBBER DUCKIE, YOU’RE THE ONE; $8.95

Let this rubber duckie peacefully float in your cup and make teatime lots of fun.

Buy on Amazon.

14. DIVING DEEP; $8.25

This old-timey deep-sea diver comes with an oxygen tank that you can use to pull it out.

Buy on Amazon.

15. MAKE SWEET TEA; $10

This lollipop won't actually make your tea any sweeter, but you can always add some sugar after.

Buy on Amazon.

16. A SEASONAL FAVORITE; $7.67

When Santa comes, give him some tea to go with the cookies.

Buy on Amazon.

17. FLORAL TEA; $14.99

Liven up any cup of tea with this charming flower. When you’re done, you can pop it right back into its pot.

Buy on Live Infused.

18. KEEP IT TRADITIONAL; $7.97

If you’re nostalgic for the regular kind of tea bag, you can get reusable silicon ones that look almost the same.

Buy on Amazon.

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