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Mark Rober / YouTube

A Swimming Pool of Orbeez Is All Kinds of Scientific Fun

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Mark Rober / YouTube

If you could swim in anything, what would it be? We already know that clear putty is not fun and a pool of puppies sounds dangerous. So what about Orbeez? The superabsorbent polymers are tiny balls that grow when placed in water. You can find them in toy stores, peddled in tourist traps, and inside diapers. Thanks to their slippery surface, they look like they'd be great to take a dip in. 

YouTube user Mark Rober decided to actually fill a swimming pool with Orbeez (along with some larger generic brand water balls) for science. The former NASA engineer teamed up with The Backyard Scientist who, as the name suggests, had a backyard to conduct the experiment. After filling a giant pool with 25 million liquid polymers, they were ready to test a hypothesis: If you jumped in, how deep would you sink? Rober theorized that he would only sink to about his waist, but ended up sinking all the way to his shoulders. 

According to Rober (and your high school science teacher), objects displace their weight in water. That means when a 100 gram item enters the water, it will sink until it has pushed out 100 grams of water. The water line's relation to the object shows how dense it is in comparison; in other words, if the water line is about halfway up the object as it floats, you know said object is about half as dense as the liquid it's in. Orbeez are a little more dense than humans. That, along with the sheer packing efficiency of spheres in water, means that about 85 percent of Rober sank before he displaced his weight and started floating. The YouTuber expected friction to have more of an effect on the experiment but alas, his hypothesis was wrong.

Now that the scientific aspect is out of the way, you can watch the video and try to live vicariously. 

Know of something you think we should cover? Email us at tips@mentalfloss.com.

[h/t Nerdist]

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Ikea
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Design
How IKEA Turned the Poäng Chair Into a Classic
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Ikea

IKEA's Poäng chair looks as modern today as it did when it debuted in 1976. The U-shaped lounger has clean lines and a simple structure, and often evokes comparisons to Finnish designer Aalto’s famous “armchair 406.” Its design, however, is ultimately a true fusion of East and West, according to Co.Design.

In 2016, the Poäng celebrated its 40th birthday, and IKEA USA commemorated the occasion (and the 30 million-plus Poäng chairs they’ve sold over the years) by releasing two short videos about the armchair’s history and underlying design philosophy. Together, they tell the story of a fateful collaboration between Lars Engman, a young IKEA designer, and his co-worker, Noboru Nakamura.

Nakamura had initially come to IKEA to learn more about Scandinavian furniture. But the Japanese designer ended up imbuing the Poäng—which was initially called Poem—with his own distinct philosophy. He wanted to create a chair that swung “in an elegant way, which triggered me to imagine Poäng,” Nakamura recalled in a video interview. “That’s how I came up with a rocking chair.”

“A chair shouldn’t be a tool that binds and holds the sitter,” Nakamura explained. “It should rather be a tool that provides us with an emotional richness and creates an image where we let go of stress or frustration by swinging. Such movement in itself has meaning and value.”

Save for upholstery swaps, a 1992 name change, and a new-ish all-wooden frame that's easily flat-packed, the modern-day Poäng is still essentially the same product that customers have purchased and enjoyed for decades. Devotees of the chair can hear the full story by watching IKEA’s videos below—ideally, while swinging away at their desks.

[h/t Co. Design]

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iStock
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Medicine
Why Haven't We Cured Cancer Yet?
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iStock

Walkathons, fundraisers, and ribbon-shaped bumper stickers raise research dollars and boost spirits, but cancer—the dreaded disease that affects more than 14 million people and their families at any given time—still remains bereft of a cure.

Why? For starters, cancer isn't just one disease—it's more than 100 of them, with different causes. This makes it impossible to treat each one using a one-size-fits-all method. Secondly, scientists use lab-grown cell lines cultivated from human tumors to develop cancer therapies. Living masses are far more complex, so potential treatments that show promise in lab experiments often don't work on cancer patients. As for the tumors themselves, they're prone to tiny genetic mutations, so just one growth might contain multiple types of cancer cells, and even unique sub-clones of tumors. These distinct entities might not respond the same way, or at all, to the same drug.

These are just a few of the challenges that cancer researchers face—but the good news is that they're working to beat all of them, as this TED-Ed video explains below.

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