We have quite a few readers in England, and I am intensely jealous of them, partly because of their access to ready-made scotch eggs and partly because they've had the chance over the last month to watch Blizzard: Race to the Pole, a documentary in which two small groups of lunatics brave explorers recreated the famous British/Norwegian scramble for the South Pole in 1911-12. (U.S. readers not blessed with BBC2 can check out the accompanying book.) The teams traveled over 1,500 miles using only the... READ ON
The two Munch paintings that were stolen from a museum in Oslo two years ago have been found, and in pretty decent condition at that:
"We are 100% certain they are the originals. The damage was much less than feared," police said.
They had been missing since two armed men ripped them from the wall and threatened staff at the Munch Museum in the Norwegian capital in August 2004. Three men were found guilty of charges relating to the theft in May.
BoingBoing notes that "the paintings were found just... READ ON
Today is International Navel-gazing Blog Day, and despite the current poetically sad state of the Blog Day... READ ON
Here at mental_floss, we do love all things Einstein, so I couldn't resist posting this great video of his doppelganger from Hanson Robotics, who walks, talks, and makes amazingly realistic facial expressions. (As far as I know, the robot has not yet formulated a Unified Field Theory.)
For comparison, here's the real thing:
Thanks,... READ ON
Our songwriting contest ended weeks ago, with the winning entry transforming "I Wanna Be Sedated" into "I wanna piece of bacon." But reader Donna decided that deadline or no deadline, she had to have some of our attention:
To the chorus of "Brass In Pocket," by The Pretenders:
Gonna use my arms
Gonna use my legs
Gonna use my style
Gonna use my sausage
Gonna use my fingers
Gonna use my, my, my imagination
As someone who has never understood that particular lyric, which is apparently "my... READ ON
Neatorama had a ginormous post yesterday about the origins of photography. We've pulled some of our favorite facts (that's the world's first photomontage, above), but trust us, the whole article is a great read!
In 1760, long before photography was invented, author Charles-FranÃ§ois Tiphaigne de la Roche wrote a story about "a race of secret supermen in an imaginary wonderland who could fix a reflected image onto a canvas coated with a sticky substance."
The French government bought Louis... READ ON
Here at mental_floss, we know a lot of people (our president included) who have recently had babies. May we present the perfect shower gift, from Baby... READ ON
Just in time for any Plutonian funeral festivities you may have planned (hey, he was the god of the underworld), our commemorative t-shirts are now in stock in our store. Not planning a party? Wear yours in protest at the next meeting of the International Astronomical Union, in 2009 in Rio. Available in dark gray in four sizes, from Pluto to... READ ON
This blog has publicized some pretty ludicrous ways of stopping global warming in the past, but today's might really be more than just a gas: Dr. Dieter Adam of New Zealand proposes to do it by genetically engineering "fuel-efficient" cows that don't need to burp very much. According to The Age, this could end up being a $4 million project. The AFP explains:
The project aims to breed more efficient cows that convert their food into more milk and less methane, one of the greenhouse gases blamed for rising... READ ON
Perhaps in an effort to combat the Pop-Tart-flames-of-death effect, which was hugely viral back when Mentos-and-Diet-Coke was just a glint in EepyBird's eye, Kellogg's recently introduced mint chocolate chip Pop-Tarts that are meant to be eaten frozen instead of blow-torched. (They join Cookies n' Creme, Hot Fudge Sundae, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Chocolate Vanilla Creme, Chocolate Fudge, and Strawberry Milkshake in the pantheon of frozen goodness unholy unhealthiness.)
The new Pop-Tarts taste okay,... READ ON
Taking a page from John Ashcroft, the city of Warsaw recently deemed a depiction of its own symbol -- a half-naked mermaid featured in the city crest and two statues -- "too erotic" to appear on publicity materials for an upcoming international conference. In the approved version of the image, the mermaid's goodies will be covered with a sash.
The conference, by the way, is the Miss World pageant.
More about the Warsaw mermaid after the jump, as if that's why you're reading... READ ON
But, yeah, we told you so.
There's a great story on false confessions over at Slate, by the way, which includes the following tidbit:
Several hundred people claimed to have abducted the Lindbergh baby, for example, and more than 30 confessed to the Hollywood "Black Dahlia" murder in the 1940s.
If you haven't heard of the Black Dahlia, you will soon: It's about to be a movie starring Hilary Swank, Scarlett Johanssen, Aaron Eckhart, and Josh... READ ON
Our buddy at Neatorama posted this over the weekend and I thought we'd add some factlets to... READ ON
Stephen Colbert continues his reign as King of Geeks this week; yesterday he took the title for coining the top television buzzwords of the year: "truthiness" and "wikiality." We agree with Gawker about the general lame-itude of the proceedings ("Katie?" "Katrina?" last we checked, these were first names, not important-sounding technical words used to impress laymen), but we do like funny words, and we do like contests. So in that spirit, and also in David's spirit, this week for our contest we're asking... READ ON
I've still got the ninth planet galaxy's most famous iceball on the brain today, partially because I can't stop thinking about our fabulous commemorative t-shirt (have you pre-ordered yours yet? email us at tips-at-mentalfloss-com or leave a comment with your email address), and partially because of all the crazy things I learned last week while reporting this article on the solar system. Here are some assorted tidbits I found that didn't end up in the final story:
Europa, a moon of Jupiter, has a... READ ON
People magazine is reporting that Kevin Federline, husband of Britney, has landed a small role on CSI:
"It's the first time I've actually had a speaking role," he told the magazine.
Federline started filming this week in Los Angeles. He will play a menacing, arrogant teen who harasses investigators Nick Stokes (George Eads) and Warrick Brown (Gary Dourdan) on a job.
So, amateur screenwriters: Assuming that K-Fed's TV persona is based on his real one, what will his momentous "speaking role" actually... READ ON
One of the amazing things about our "identify the colorful blob" contest was how many of you wrote in with answers that were technically wrong but scientifically feasible. According to you guys, the thing at left could have been a corneal map, a storm on Jupiter, bone marrow, Hurricane Katrina, or "obviously ... the absorption of a food particle into the cell lining of a blood vessel using infrared, multi-chromatic x-ray technology." We've got some serious convergence going on here -- why do so many types... READ ON
As you may have heard, scholar Bernard Lewis recently announced in the Wall Street Journal that August 22, 2006 would be the end of the world. Or, more precisely, that if a man did come around on that date, he'd probably be the president of Iran:
This year, Aug. 22 corresponds, in the Islamic calendar, to the 27th day of the month of Rajab of the year 1427. This, by tradition, is the night when many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the prophet Muhammad on the winged horse Buraq, first to "the... READ ON
We don't care what the International Astronomical Union thinks -- today, we're taking our cues from Yahoo News (which labeled the link for this Pluto story "http://...planet_mutiny") and officially declaring this blog a Plutocracy. We will be campaigning for Pluto's reinstatement from now until, well, until both the former planet and ours are set right again. You can join us and help our cause in two ways:
1. Write to the IAU here.
2. Buy our shirt commemorating Pluto's downfall -- just think what a... READ ON
This week's contest has taught me two things about our readers: (a) You are funny. (b) You are smart. Approximately three milliseconds after I posed the initial question ("what is that thing?"), Drew Hicks wrote in to tell us it was:
a picture of the rock Vesta. About 500 kilometers across, it orbits out past Mars. The image is a false color conglomerate made by the Hubble telescope. The small portion of the picture shown actually shows a large crater that covers pretty much its entire southern... READ ON
You're all probably aware by now of my penchant for writing poetry when prose will suffice. Well, it seems I have a soulmate over at The Morning News, where NYT obituaries have been turned into "light verse," such as the following ditty on the life of the co-founder of a popular burger chain:
Esther L. Snyder, 86; Burger Matriarch
"Burger Mistress" wasn't what she'd always longed to be,
Having graduated with a zoological degree.
But something made her sour on a life... READ ON
When most women break a fingernail, it's an annoyance; for Lee Redmond it would be an identity crisis -- she's got the world's longest. Apparently Lee has been awarded a place in the Guinness Book and will be evangelizing for it in London this September while also doling out, well, nail tips.
She says her philosophy that "you are what you eat" has influenced their rapid growth. She eats a high-protein diet, which is what hair and nails are mostly made of. She used to soak them in warm olive oil once a... READ ON
Here ya go. And here are some more things that our colorful blob is NOT:
* Keba Keba, a lonely creature who transforms into a cloud ("Keba Keba features a friendless colorful blob.")
* An exhibit at MOMA ("The show, too, is a bit of a blob. A bright, colorful blob in a museum.")
* A Larry McMurtry novel ("His brush strokes here have become so broad that his picture blurs into a colorful blob.")
* The Super Mondo Inside-Out Ball by Play Visions ("So what do the kids do with this soft, gooey,... READ ON
I really shouldn't be blogging about this -- after all, there's cleaning to be done, babies to be borne, kitchens to be barefoot in -- but Forbes has just published an article with a premise that falls somewhere on the misogyny continuum between Larry Summers and Satan: Don't marry career women. And that's just the headline. It also repeatedly refers to working women as "career girls" and includes this little gem:
If a host of studies are to be believed, marrying these women is asking for trouble. If... READ ON
Ah, Sarasota -- home to dead fish, American Idol toothpaste, and, on the plus side, the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. I'm currently visiting a friend who's working there, and yesterday she took me on a tour. The museum does have a circus component, but it also has a quite respectable set of paintings, as well as the odd sculpture, sketch, photograph, and antique harpsichord, and it appears that most of the collection is online. My personal favorite is "Time Discovering the Love of Venus and Mars"... READ ON
According to this story, the red tide currently floating off the coast of Sarasota "has not killed fish or caused respiratory problems on Siesta Public Beach, Sarasota County's biggest tourist beach."
There were hundreds, maybe even thousands, of dead fish on that particular beach yesterday -- mostly the ones in the cell-phone pic above, but also some pufferfish (pictured after the jump) and pinfish. About an hour up the road, snook have also been dying, apparently because of an underwater... READ ON
This week we've got another mad scientist who isn't really mad, although, if you go around singing some of his lesser-known songs, people might think you are. We speak, of course, of Tom Lehrer, whose work you probably know from The Electric Company -- he's the guy who brought you the songs about "ly," "ou", "silent e," "n't," "sn," and so on. There's video of him in concert on YouTube, but I think the best introduction to his musical stylings is this flash animation of his song about the periodic table,... READ ON
You know what to do.
By the way, we'd like to challenge Jarred: we'll buy that this is the Predator checking his wristwatch, but what's he doing here?
For everybody else: we all know that Jesse Ventura and Arnold Schwarzenegger turned out to be gubernatorial material, but who was the third actor from Predator to run for governor? (And, as David says, Googling it is... READ ON
Apparently what all the kids are doing now is ghostriding.
I am stunned that no one entered this in our stupid-sports... READ ON
Since we seem to be on a rock n' roll kick today, I thought I should share this, via YesButNoButYes:
A reel of film held for 20 years in a Sydney vault could unlock the mystery of what happened to the original tapes of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
The reel belongs to Australian film producer and rock video director Peter Clifton, who had all but forgotten a pristine 16-millimetre film of the moon landing was part of his vast personal film catalogue.
Mr Clifton had ordered the reel in 1979 for a... READ ON
Our friends at the Huffington Post recently turned us on to Smith magazine, where we found the following anecdote that was too good not to... READ ON
This one's a little less colorful but equally blobby, and we still want to know what you think it depicts. We like the answers we've gotten so far; keep 'em... READ ON
Spotted in a Sarasota grocery... READ ON
According to Time's European edition, the Frogs are taking on the frogs -- armed men are slipping through the night, hunting the not-nearly- elusive-enough North American bullfrog:
[The species was] introduced to France in 1968 by a French aviator who liked the idea of the critters croaking in his garden. They're now an ecological menace. ... Weighing up to a kilo, these voracious predators gorge on crustaceans, fish, other frogs, salamanders and even the occasional bird.
... The park service has... READ ON
This week, we'll be giving out two prizes in our contest -- one to the first person to supply the correct answer, and one for the most creative (and wrong) answer. But we're getting ahead of ourselves, seeing as how we haven't told you the question yet. The question, obviously, is:
What is that thing?
The... thing at left is a small portion of a picture we like. Every day this week, we'll be posting a different piece of the image. For the correct answer, we'll need to know (a) what object the image... READ ON
Last week's contest, in which we challenged you to tweak and improve the lyrics of your favorite songs, had a surprising but delightful side effect: a boatload of new mondegreens. I particularly liked one that reader Joel said belonged to his "buddy's high school girlfriend" -- yeah, Joel, we've all heard "my friend has a problem" before -- which substituted "God sent gravy" for "constant craving." Jordan alerted us to a lovely tune called "Alex the Seal," apparently written for the hundreds of confused... READ ON
Rather than shoehorn my review into poetic form this week, I decided to take a cue from David and go with cliches.
There's always another fish in the sea, especially if you're an orangutan.
You can smell a celebrity a mile away.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, especially if you're on a treadmill bike.
He who laughs last is probably a man, laughing at something a woman said.
Politicians and diapers should be changed regularly, and for the same reason.
It's a dog... READ ON
Nonetheless, in honor of the event we've all been waiting for -- Snakes on a Plane comes out today! -- here are ten bits of snake trivia for your (and your moviegoing pals') amusement, courtesy of UKTV:
1. Terrible teeth. Unlike regular teeth, the fangs of a venomous snake are hollow. This means they can act inject their toxin with the efficiency of a hypodermic syringe. And they don't need much... the venom of a cobra could kill an elephant.
2. Particular poisons. Snake venom is a complex mixture of... READ ON
What is that thing? The monster from Maine (would that make it a "monstah?") that was found by the side of the road this week is probably just a wild dog, says the AP:
Loren Coleman, a Portland author and cryptozoologist, said he didn't know for sure what the animal was based on his examination of its remains Wednesday. "I think this dead animal is a chow or chow-mix, a relatively small dog, that was feral, which is unusual for that area," he told the Sun Journal newspaper. ...
Some say it's simply a... READ ON
Not that we're hurting for contestants. As of this writing, we've got 170 entries and counting in our "your favorite lyrics, but better" contest. We also thought that, in the interest of improving grammar everywhere, we'd take this moment to share one reader's complaint about a Nickelback song:
On a grammatical note, I like Nickelback, but I have to skip the song "Believe It Or Not" on their The Long Road album because of the unrelenting grammar errors. An example occurs in the first four lines:... READ ON
Earlier this week, I posted about a cool piece of street artwork (I'm loathe to call it graffiti, because it wasn't spray-painted) I'd seen in Brooklyn. One of our readers promptly informed me that the technique, which I described rather ineptly as using "a piece of waterproof paper or some similar material," was called "wheatpasting." Apparently, this is exactly what it sounds like -- putting up fliers and other paper works on cement using wheat flour. I found plenty of easy instructions for making the... READ ON
I normally shy away from "guess whose birthday it is" posts, because really, you can get that on Entertainment Tonight -- but today being my husband's birthday, indulge me just this once, would ya?
1601 - Pierre de Fermat (of "last theorem" fame)
1786 - Davy Crockett
1882 - Samuel Goldwyn
1887 - Marcus Garvey
1893 - Mae West
1913 - W. Mark Felt (you know him as Deep Throat)
1920 - Maureen O'Hara
1926 - Jiang Zemin
1930 - Ted Hughes
1932 - V. S. Naipaul
1943 - Robert De Niro
1959 -... READ ON
Remember how we said that August 16 was an excellent day for arresting murderers?
We swear, we didn't have any inside information.
Although, now that we look at the facts, we should have known something was up three years ago, when two judges declared that JonBenet Ramsey was probably killed by an intruder, and -- more significantly, perhaps -- scientists sequenced crime-scene DNA belonging to an "unknown male."
Now investigators have to figure out whether John Mark Karr's confession to Thai... READ ON
This image was on NASA's website... READ ON
Here at mental_floss we're sometimes accused of indulging in bathroom humor. Today, we're guilty as charged: There's a new musical on Broadway (or at least somewhere in the vicinity of Broadway), and it's all about a guy who farts a lot. That didn't surprise us. What we did find a little shocking is that it's based on a real guy who made a very fine living at flatulism. Joseph Pujol, known as "Le Petomane" (or "the Fartiste"), had a musical show of sorts at the Moulin Rouge from 1887 to 1914. He drew such... READ ON
We actually don't think Paul Berg is "mad" at all; he's a Nobel laureate who was largely responsible for figuring out how DNA did its job of producing proteins. Nonetheless, he had to be a little crazy to put together this fantastic video, in which a large group of Stanford undergrads in the '70s enacted the process of protein synthesis "in the dance idiom:"
Translation: a bunch of hippies run around pretending to be, among other things, amino acids.
via Inky... READ ON
This just in from NASA: Last month, the globe experienced an extreme phenomenon referred to in the technical literature as "heat," shown in this satellite... READ ON
Whew! That was a heavy way to start the morning. I need a palate cleanser -- something that's cute and fanciful and playful and the exact opposite of a serial killer. I... READ ON
Continuing with my theme of weird coincidences involving famous murders and specific days in mid-August, today was a bad day for serial killers, and thus a good day for everyone else: Charles Manson was arrested on August 16, 1969, and Ted Bundy was arrested the same day six years later on suspicion of burglary. (Unfortunately, he later escaped and wasn't fully reined in until 1978.)
Whether Manson can really be considered a serial killer is another matter; in some ways, he was more like a mass... READ ON
Paul Pedini spent a decade working as an engineer on the Big Dig in Boston, and of one aspect of the project, he says: "There's something inherently illogical about it." He's pointing out that a lot of high-quality leftover construction material was supposed to be junked, but he could also be complaining about the Big Dig's status as the most expensive public works project in human history. Or its tendency to fall apart and kill people because it's held together with glue and duct tape.
Anyway, in the... READ ON