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.
Did you know that NOVA has a YouTube Channel? Well, surprise! Not all the episodes are there, but here are some of my favorites.
Cracking the Maya Code
About the decipherment of Mayan hieroglyphs. This episode includes several appearances by my former FSU professor, Kathryn Josserand (she was a linguist and Mayan language expert; there's nice remembrance of her here).
Secrets of the... READ ON
Founders of The Impossible Project have just announced a huge deal: Polaroid instant cameras and film are coming back to the market in 2010. After being discontinued over the past few years, Polaroid fans have lamented the lack of film packs, and many commercial Polaroid instant camera users (for example, in the fashion industry) have been buying up all remaining film stock, making it very hard to come by a pack of Polaroid instant film.
The folks at The Impossible Project -- a project to re-start... READ ON
So it's Tuesday afternoon, you're wondering what to watch in your cubicle as you slowly recover from a stupendous food coma caused by terrible decisions at lunch. Well, I've got a fix for you. In the video below, artists Blu and David Ellis create a stop-motion animation in an abandoned building in Italy by painting and modifying the building, while photographing each step. It's frankly a bit mind-blowing how much work goes into this, as you watch them paint animation all over the building and... READ ON
This is weird and mesmerizing: ultra slow-motion video of bullets impacting various materials (glass, wood, metal, hollow-points on ballistics gel, and so on). The soundtrack adds nothing to the experience, so you might as well mute it (unless you want to have a rave while watching the video). But from a scientific perspective, there's a lot of interesting stuff going on here...what was most interesting to me was watching the bullets instantly liquify when they hit hard surfaces (like harder metals).... READ ON
How do beekeepers get honey out of honeycombs? Would you believe it involves a gigantic centrifuge and some 90's rap? (Well, the latter is just edutainment, not technically part of the extraction process.) Anyway, this vintage Reading Rainbow clip explains the process a beekeeper goes through to harvest the honey, then there's a segment with a hilarious rap explaining why bees are important, and finally we see a new beehive being transferred into a new hive box. (That last part is really surprising and... READ ON
In February 2009, writer Elizabeth Gilbert gave a funny, inspiring talk at the TED conference in California. In her talk, Gilbert reflects on her experience after writing the hit memoir "Eat, Pray, Love" and what happened afterwards -- how everyone expected her to fail at her next project (or at least not duplicate that success). She talks about how everyone seems to assume that writers will be tortured, blocked, or otherwise mentally disturbed...and how she vehemently disagrees with this presumption,... READ ON
I grew up watching 120 Minutes, an MTV show that aired starting at midnight on Sunday night. This made waking up for school on Monday morning hard, but at least I got to catch the newest "alternative" videos (The Cure, The Replacements, The Breeders, that sort of thing) which rarely aired in the normal MTV rotation. Well, as the years have passed, what I grew up with as "alternative" is now called "classic alternative" (referring to roughly 1990 and earlier). When I noticed this the other day, it made... READ ON
So this is real. Seriously. A group of researchers have put together a system called PhotoSketch which allows the user to literally sketch a desired scene (see above for an example), label each part of the scene with keywords, then PhotoSketch searches the web for photos and assembles a photographic version of the sketch. Um. Wow?
If you'll recall, Skynet (the killer computer "defense" system from Terminator) became self-aware at 2:14am EDT August 29, 1997. So it's taken Skynet twelve years to... READ ON
Remember when Mr. Rogers explained how Crayons were made? I have heard this Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood segment referenced by friends as a sort of touchstone of their youth, but I had never seen it until now. Interestingly, it looks like Mr. Rogers himself never actually went to the Crayola factory, but he does narrate the whole process. This rare clip has suddenly popped up on YouTube, so I thought I'd link to it before it disappears:
For more Crayon-making goodness, see How Crayons are Made, which... READ ON
Today's trippy science videos: strobe lights affecting water drops. By shining a strobe light (a light that's turned on and off very, very rapidly) on a stream of water, strange effects occur. First, a display at an MIT museum showing water droplets under a green strobe light:
And now the really cool thing, Nate True's Time Fountain, an art installation that appears to freeze drops in mid-air due to the strobe effect, and even reverse them, making them appear to rise, among other... READ ON
The national animal of Scotland is the unicorn.