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.
Living in the Pacific Northwest, I occasionally experience the wimpiest of earthquakes, and they are endlessly entertaining to gossip about with other terrified locals. One night, some months ago, I was reading in bed when...somebody grabbed the bed and started shaking it. Well...a quick trip to the web revealed that I was indeed crazy, and there had been a minor earthquake in the area. Thus began several days of talking about the experience with everyone I could find. (I guess what I really need is an... READ ON
While researching a new article for the print version of the _floss, I came across some surprising inventions to tackle ear wax.
First was the practice of "ear candling," in which a hollow conical candle is placed over the ear and lit. The fire supposedly creates a vacuum which sucks wax out of the ear. Now in my personal opinion, the first sign that something is wrong in your personal hygiene ritual is that the procedure involves starting a fire on something stuck to your head. Why Ear Candling is... READ ON
Need something to divert you in the bathroom, after you've finished this month's mental_floss magazine? Try this Brain Training Toilet Paper, with puzzles and games printed on each square. If you're a Sudoku fan, the company makes Sudoku Toilet Paper too.
Links via... READ ON
In 1959, construction began on a top secret bunker, hidden underneath an expansion wing of the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia. The bunker was designed to hold up to 1,000 people, including the entire U.S. Congress, in the event of a nuclear war. The bunker's concrete walls were three feet thick and the complex included dormitories, a medical clinic, power and water plants, a television studio, and even a... READ ON
Lucid dreaming is a state in which you know you are dreaming, and can control the dream. While it's difficult to get started (I'm still working on it), the notion of influencing your own dreams is tantalizing. There are plenty of resources on the web to get you started: How to Have a Lucid Dream is a good overview. Dream Views is a well-designed source of information and tutorials. Wikipedia has a page on lucid dreaming as... READ ON
Have you ever taken a photo, only to find that it mirrored an existing... READ ON
Tired of the same old toast, boringly burned a uniform golden-brown? You need The Pirate Toaster, which emblazons a skull-and-crossbones design on each slice. If you don't like pirates, The Breakfast Art Toaster offers the user a choice of toast designs, including a smiley face. Need something weirder? Try The Love Toaster, which burns "I LOVE YOU" on your toast. (Recommended for those who need daily affirmations from their breakfast.) Other interesting toasting technologies include:
The Sunrise... READ ON
Gamers have been waiting with bated breath for the past seven years, but our wait will soon be over. In the second half of 2007, we'll finally get our hands on Spore, the latest game from Will Wright, famed creator of Sim City and The Sims. Judging from the media hype surrounding Spore, it's bound to be a huge... READ ON
In 1968, Doug Engelbart led the most famous computer demo of all time. With his team of seventeen researchers working behind the scenes, Engelbart showed off an interactive online system which had been in development since the early 60's. The demo was the coming-out party for the computer mouse (which Engelbart invented, with a colleague), hypertext, screen-sharing, computer-based videoconferencing, and more.
You can view the full demo on Google Video, or view an annotated version broken into... READ ON
Over the past few weeks, the web has been buzzing with competing open letters about Digital Rights Management, all starting from a post on February 6 by Steve Jobs. We break down the dialog after the jump, in excruciating... READ ON
(Warning, severely geeky content follows.) Programmer Steven Frank, creator of Spamusement and Basketball 2, has done it again. His new zep.pl program uses the power of your computer to randomly combine a set of words, eventually creating the opening lyrics to Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog" after a number of iterations. Let's walk through the source code to understand how:
The program is written in Perl, a popular scripting language. All Mac OS X computers include Perl, in case you want to run the... READ ON
It has happened to all of us: you read a book years ago, and have forgotten the title, author, really everything except that it had to do with hot air balloons and a volcano. Well, now there's a free What's That Book service to identify such mysterious tomes. The site was founded by a former Google Answers Researcher who answered over 2000 questions (many about books) on the now-defunct Google Answers service.
Although the site is relatively new, there are some impressive identifications: American... READ ON
Last week we looked at Ben Fry's Atari 2600 Cartridge Source Code project, which used game source code to make attractive, data-rich images. But Mr. Fry has a lot of other interesting projects, including an illustration for a New York Magazine article entitled Linkology that demonstrates how blogs link to each other in a sort of "global popularity poll" (also read: how the image was created).
In Fry's image, he presents blogs in a list from left to right, with the more popular blogs starting to the... READ ON
We have previously covered Spam poetry and eloquent spam, but the time has come for Spamusement, a comic strip based on real spam subject lines received by the author. Recently, the author has turned over the strip to fans, who post their own cartoons on a message board -- but the home page contains all the original Spamusement cartoons in a long, long list.
Some Spamusement classics: you were wrong cabinet sanchez (later made into merchandise), Amazing Software Types While You Talk, This could change... READ ON
Remember the original Terminator movie? Well, we came aross a bit of geeky Terminator trivia this weekend. Whenever you see through the eyes of The Terminator himself, a bunch of computery text is scrolling by. It turns out this text is the source code for an Apple II checksum program, among other programs. The code was first published in Nibble magazine in the early 80's, so was close at hand when the movie's producers needed something high-tech for their futuristic robot/killing machine/bodybuilder.... READ ON
If you use the iTunes Store, you may have noticed the occasional free song or TV show. Well, there's a blog that tracks free iTunes content. In addition to the entertainment stuff, there's a variety of educational material available for free. Best bets: UC Berkeley Lectures, Stanford on iTunes U (pictured below), and business school... READ ON
The "Is The New" image from DIAGRAM visualizes the common saying "[something] is the new [something else]" in a fun infographic.
Examples include: "gin is the new vodka" and "ugly is the new cute." Read the diagram by starting at a word and following the arrow, reading the arrow as "is the new." Here's a snippet of the image (click for the whole... READ ON
Artist and programmer Ben Fry has created a series of illustrations based on the source code from Atari 2600 cartridges, including Pac-Man and Q-Bert. (Pictured at left is the Pitfall source code.) In each illustration, the source code is printed in chunks, with all "go to" statements represented by curved lines pointing at other parts of the code. Wherever the cartridge contains binary data (notably, the graphics used in the game), those images are presented in the illustration -- often the images are... READ ON
Nerdcore Hip Hop, our favorite nerdy musical subgenre, is finally getting its own documentary: Nerdcore Rising. In case you haven't gotten the Nerdcore Memo yet, here's an explanation from the documentary's producers:
Nerdcore hip hop is a sociological phenomenon born out of the internet and made possible by computer-obsessed geeks. Nerdcore Rising follows MC Frontalot - the "Godfather of Nerdcore" - on his first national tour to reveal both the roots of the genre and the dorky complexities of its... READ ON
Ever get the feeling that corporate slogans are just random combinations of words? Even famous slogans like "I'm lovin' it," "Just Do It," and "Mikey likes it" seem suspiciously like random gibberish when viewed out of context. Perhaps there's a crack advertising team sitting in front of a screen somewhere, watching as random words float by, picking the best ones for their corporate slogans....
Regardless of whether a secret Random Advertising Cabal exists, there are several online resources to... READ ON
PETA once asked the Pet Shop Boys to consider changing their name to Rescue Shelter Boys.