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.
Are you a high school senior with an interest in math or science? Then you owe it to yourself to check out the Intel Science Talent Search, an annual competition for young scientists. Older readers like myself may know the program better by its former name, the Westinghouse Science Talent Search -- the competition has been running annually for 68 years, though Intel has sponsored it since 1999. In his 1991 speech to STS finalists, President George H.W. Bush famously called the competition the "Super... READ ON
Today's bizarre-but-true video: zebra finches playing electric guitars. They're not all that good at it, but they rock roughly as hard as an untrained human would. From the YouTube description:
French artist CÃ©leste Boursier-Mougenot ... creates a walk-though aviary for a flock of zebra finches, furnished with electric guitars and other musical instruments. As the birds go about their routine activities, perching on or feeding from the various pieces of equipment, they create a captivating, live... READ ON
Here's a shocker: Mike Rowe, the wisecracking host of Discovery's Dirty Jobs, was a host on the home shopping channel QVC in the early 90's. What makes this fun is that Rowe is clearly aware of how absurd QVC is, and spends much of his onscreen time cracking jokes and generally making a mockery of the job. It's awesome. Also, the pricing on all of these items is insane. Behold:
"The lamp is a little warm, not unlike lava. [Feigns burn.] Medic! A singular opportunity to not only... READ ON
Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (among other awesome stuff) was an environmental activist particularly concerned with endangered species (read more about his work on Wikipedia). Just days before his death from a heart attack in 2001, Adams gave a hilarious talk about some of the animals he encountered during his career. He describes adventures in the rain forest, strange animals, and an overview of "twig technology" through the years. At one point he says, "I was a monkey... READ ON
Eric Whitacre has created a "virtual choir" using volunteers from YouTube. The choir members applied via audition videos like this one, and Whitacre then posted a "conductor track" for his choir to sing along to (the piece is "Lux Aurumque" by Whitacre, written in 2000). By having the choir sing along at home, with a loud "BEEP" sound at the beginning of the video (used for synchronization), Whitacre could then assemble the video and audio of his 200 choir members to create one master performance. It's... READ ON
"I believe that if we want to survive the next century on this planet, we need...21 billion hours of gameplay every week. ... No, I'm serious." So says Jane McGonigal in a recent TED Talk. McGonigal is a game designer who studies gaming, cooperation, and how games can actually make a difference in the real world. Her thesis is basically that kids are already spending zillions of hours (specifically, 10,000 hours on average by age 21) playing games -- so why not use that game time to do something... READ ON
Premiering Sunday (March 21) at 8pm on the Discovery Channel in the US: Life, a new documentary miniseries from the producers of Planet Earth. Set your DVRs now!
Back in 2006, we were treated to Planet Earth, a BBC/Discovery Channel coproduction which was the most expensive nature documentary series ever commissioned by the BBC, and the first shot in full HD. It was a groundbreaking series, and for good reason -- four years of hard filming brought us spectacular photography and compelling narratives,... READ ON
Here's a quick teaser to a larger post tomorrow. Discovery and the BBC are about to release Life, their followup effort to Planet Earth, the massive nature documentary from a few years back. Like Earth, Life is shot in HD with lots of slow motion, bizarre locales, and -- the focus this time -- unusual living creatures. In the clip below, check out the stalk-eyed fly, an insect that inflates its own head with air. Super-weird, super-awesome.
More details tomorrow -- suffice it to say you may want... READ ON
Seahorses are unusual in the animal kingdom: the males actually carry and deliver the babies. After an elaborate courtship ritual, the female deposits eggs in the male's pouch; the eggs eventually hatch and fully-developed baby seahorses emerge in a pretty surprising display of male birth (often the babies come in a veritable flood). Below, I've collected some videos of the process!
This video shows a Hippocampus reidi giving birth in spurts.
The Pea-Shooter Technique... READ ON
There's a 4,000-year-old cemetery in the desert north of Tibet known as Small River Cemetery No. 5. In it, more than 200 mummies rest underneath a "vigorous forest of phallic symbols," and the corpses show signs of European and Siberian origin. So how did they end up in China? The New York Times gives us some clues in a new story: A Host of Mummies, a Forest of Secrets. But what really jumps out at me is all this talk of phalluses and proto-lingerie. Here's a snippet:
The cemetery lies in what... READ ON
Sea otters hold hands when they sleep so they don't drift apart.