Chris Higgins is the author of The Blogger Abides and writes for This American Life, The Atlantic, Breakfast on Mars, and The Magazine. You can follow him at chrishiggins.com.
Update: it appears that all YouTube versions of the clip have been removed, though there is a version available here. For now, anyway.
This past weekend, a Star Wars fan event called Star Wars Celebration V took place in Orange County, California Orlando, Florida -- basically a galaxy far, far away. The main event was the unveiling of a deleted scene from Return of the Jedi, a scene that has been known about and discussed by nerds for more than 25 years, a scene in which Darth Vader uses the Force to... READ ON
Director Jonathan Burhop produced this very short film featuring Howard Weamer. From Burhop's description:
Winters of My Life is a portrait of Howard Weamer. For the past 35 years he has spent his winters as a hutkeeper in Yosemite's backcountry. He fills his days writing, reading, photographing, and being an ambassador to mountain culture. This is a brief look into his world and why he chooses to stay.
In the film, Weamer reviews his log of keeping the hut (starting in 1974), and discusses his... READ ON
Cyrus Teed was a bit of a kook. Born in 1839, he became an eclectic physician and established a laboratory in which he carried out alchemical and electrical experiments. After one particularly notable experiment in 1869 (of which there are varying accounts: one says he turned lead into gold; another claims he was shocked to within an inch of his life), Teed saw a vision of a beautiful woman who revealed the secrets of the universe to him. After this experience, he changed his first name to "Koresh" and... READ ON
I've personally only seen solar eclipses in the classroom, generally using complex pinhole projection devices designed to keep little-kid eyes safe. But when I saw this video from Argentina of a group of solar eclipse watchers, I realized the experience of people seeing this phenomenon as adults is very different. Watching the video, these people are totally freaking out -- and I found a similar pattern in other eclipse videos. Check it out, and prepare to witness why a tiny web video doesn't really... READ ON
William Shatner made a habit of stealing Leonard Nimoy's bike while working on Star Trek. Here's why.... READ ON
Now, I like big butts as much as the next guy. But I was floored when I came across the Wikipedia entry for Sir Mix-a-Lot's classic "Baby Got Back." This erudite description of the song reads like a college essay. I now present the entire "Synopsis" of the song, as proof that Wikipedia is completely awesome:
In the opening verse, Sir Mix-A-Lot professes his affinity for large buttocks and his inability to conceal this fact from others. He goes on to describe other desirable physical... READ ON
Sir Allen Lane is the creator of Penguin Books, which is credited with popularizing high-quality mass-market paperbacks. Paperbacks existed prior to Penguin, but they were often poorly made and/or had trashy subject matter. Lane changed all that, publishing classic literature in paperback form and legitimizing the paperback and offering an affordable price (sixpence per book at launch; or about the same as a pack of cigarettes). But he didn't stop there. He also invented the "Penguincubator," a vending... READ ON
I saw Kurt Vonnegut speak in 1997 at Florida State University, along with Joseph Heller (who is mentioned in the talk below) and William Styron. Vonnegut was crotchety and slightly addled and either very wise or very flippant or both. As part of the event staff, I remember Vonnegut being very unhappy that he wasn't allowed to smoke in university buildings, so perhaps that accounted for his mood when I saw him. But still, Vonnegut was a huge reason I became a writer myself. Reading Breakfast of... READ ON
So let's say you want to teach a robot arm how to flip pancakes. Robots aren't known for their pancake-flipping abilities. In this video, researchers show how they taught one robot, using a pan duct-taped to the robot arm. Note that it's a "simulated" pancake being flipped; no real pancake could suffer this much testing. There's more technical detail at this page, but the gist of it seems to be: first, hold the robot's arm and teach it kinesthetically (much like you'd teach a chef); then refine the... READ ON
What do you do when you get to the top of a mountain? Take a good look around, congratulate your buddies, and...shoot a video. Here's a collection of summit videos from YouTube, so you can see for yourself what it's like on top of various super-tall mountains.
Climber Krishna Patil briefly removes her breathing apparatus to narrate a video at the top of Mount Everest, the tallest point in the world at 29,029 feet.
This is the first... READ ON
The sum of all the numbers on a roulette wheel is 666.