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.
Today's weird science: Dr. Neil Shirtcliffe shows off substances that repel water in very surprising ways. It's a little hard to describe -- basically, imagine a coating that prevents water from adhering to something. And I mean water will not stick at all. Now put that coating on glass, and on a piece of rough material (like a rough version of Teflon). Now start squirting water on those coated substances and submerging them -- and watch as very weird stuff happens. Check out the nerdy goodness:... READ ON
A "Complaints Choir" is a community project in which people sing their complaints, generally about local issues -- transit, weather, and politics seem to make it into every choir's song. Complaints Choirs have formed worldwide, and there's even a Wikipedia page about the choirs. Here are a few favorites.
Birmingham Complaints Choir
According to Wikipedia, this is the one that started it all.
"Why does my computer take so very long? What can't the bus driver talk to anyone? And why is the beer... READ ON
I'm embarrassed to admit that I missed this year's Captain Picard Day -- it was one week ago today, on June 16. According to Geeks are Sexy, "Captain Picard Day is celebrated on June 16th because it is the equivalent date to Stardate 47457.1, mentioned in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode entitled The Pegasus. In that episode, Captain Picard Day is an occasion for the Enterprise to host schoolchildren and show them what Starfleet is like."
Although Stardate experts disagree on the June 16th... READ ON
In this touching video, Carl Sagan reads from his book Pale Blue Dot. Director Michael Marantz shot time-lapse video and composed beautiful music under Sagan's narration. Please have a look -- it'll put your Tuesday into perspective. It begins:
We were hunters and foragers. The frontier was everywhere. We were bounded only by the Earth, and the ocean, and the sky. The open road still softly calls.
Our little terraqueous globe is the madhouse of those hundred thousand millions of worlds.
We,... READ ON
Like all Pixar films, Toy Story 3 features a short film before the feature. The new short is called Day & Night. The short is hard to describe -- it's the first Pixar film to include any hand-drawn 2D animation, though in this case there are two 2D characters with 3D worlds inside them. There's a visual explanation in the clip below:
Have you seen Day & Night? What did you think? I haven't seen the whole thing yet, and frankly the clips above seem a little baffling, though I've heard rave... READ ON
Presented without comment: The Daily Show's Mo Rocca covers pigeon racing in 1999.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p /... READ ON
I mentioned Watson, IBM's Jeopardy-playing computer, back in February. But the details were a little thin back then. Now, the New York Times Magazine has a full profile of Watson, and it sounds like this thing is a monster. IBM has been staging "live" games and plans to pit Watson against former TV champions later this year (note to TV people: please televise this). As Andy Baio (of Waxy.org) said: "Ken Jennings, you're our only hope!" Here's a taste:
Over the rest of the day, Watson went on a... READ ON
Beck Hansen has assembled a "Record Club" club which covers favorite songs and posts videos of the cover songs online. Recently, they've been on an INXS kick (pun intended) in which they cover songs from the famous 1987 INXS album Kick. Here's the entire album (minus the last two tracks -- they're apparently still on the to-do list), as recorded by Beck and friends:
"Never Tear Us Apart
A song with its own Wikipedia entry.
Record Club: INXS "Never Tear Us Apart" from Beck Hansen on Vimeo.... READ ON
I've been in plenty of Monopoly games that dragged on for hours, with one or two bankrupt players sitting on the sidelines, bored to death. But a few intrepid gamers decided to figure out the shortest theoretically possible Monopoly game. Their solution is explained here and depicted in the video below. While extremely unlikely, it's theoretically possible that it could happen. It takes only nine rolls of the dice.
But what's more interesting is this comment thread in which several other Monopoly... READ ON
3D printers have been around for a while. They're often used when prototyping consumer products -- you can feed a CAD file (a computer rendering) into the 3D printer and it creates an object (usually made of plastic) that you can feel and fiddle around with. This is handy, because it helps you get an idea of the the "real world" size of an object -- and usually a small object at that. But Italian inventor Encrico Dini has created a printer called D-Shape that uses sand to create very large objects.... READ ON
The USDA allows the term "wyngz" for wing-like chicken products that contain no wing meat.