1) A New York woman recently won a million dollars on a scratch-off lottery ticket for the second time in four years. The odds of that happening have to be incredibly slim.
They are, at more than 1 in 3.6 trillion. To put that in perspective, we've all heard about how reliable DNA evidence is and how it's virtually impossible for two persons to have identical DNA. Well, the odds there are only about 1 in 3 trillion.
2) A 50-year-old man recently set a new world record for skydiving. Isn't that just... READ ON
The media often talks about how fat the U.S. is and while that's true, scientists gathering at the 10th International Congress on Obesity are pointing out that this is a global problem. Some very interesting facts:
There are now more overweight people in the world than undernourished.
There are over 1 billion overweight adults (more than 300 million areÂ obese) and about 800 million undernourished.
The World Health Organization recognizes that obesity is more of a problem inÂ rich countries but... READ ON
So yesterday we debated whether mice prefer cheese or peanut butter. And today, we return to dogs and their love of toilet water. This isn't really a debate so much as ourÂ pointing outÂ all the companies who are capitalizing on the doggie toilet water business. Mangesh posted recently about bottled water for dogs, which included a toilet water flavor. And today I stumbled onto a site that's selling a toilet dog bowl. This is apparently a hot industry so get in while you can!
Link via Unique... READ ON
I don't know who started the myth that mice like cheese but someone needs to be sued for this lie. According to British scientists doing some incredibly important, cutting edge research, mice actually like things that have a much higher sugar content, such as grains and fruit.
Mice have evolved almost entirely without cheese or anything resembling it. They respond to the smell, texture and taste of food and cheese is something that would not be available to them in their natural environment.
This is... READ ON
I've got an idea for the next shark attack movie. It takes place in the uterus of a grey nurse shark, told from the point of view of shark embryos that are being eaten by other shark embryos.Â And this is actually more realistic thanÂ most shark attack movies.
Australian scientists have been trying to find ways to save the grey nurse sharks from extinction and they're realizing that one of the problems is this intra-uterine cannibalism. As New Scientist reports, "Its embryos have a nasty habit of... READ ON
Â If you turned on CNN or picked up a newspaper this week, you probably learned about the capture of Warren Steed Jeffs, one America's 10 Most Wanted Fugitives. His capture made me wonder how the FBI will decide who replaces Jeffs on the list. It turns out our friends at HowStuffWorks have an article on that very topic. A few interesting facts from the article:
The list has been around since the 1950s.
94% of the fugitives on the list have been caught.
30% of those captured were found because of... READ ON
For some reason, one ofÂ the questions I'm asked mostÂ frequently in radio interviews is "So, your latest book claims the story about Catherine the Great dying while being a bit too intimate with a horse is actually a myth. So it's not really true?" And it's pretty funny becauseÂ most of themÂ seem disappointed to learn that it might beÂ myth.Â So I explain that no, it's not true, but that she most likelyÂ still died in a pretty embarrassing way - while on the toilet.
Then they ask about... READ ON
Â The Wired NextFest is coming up September 29th and the current issue has bits on some of the featured inventions. One of these inventions, the LifeStraw,Â gives us hope that it might actually be possible to significantly reduce the number of people suffering from waterborne illnesses like Typhoid, Cholera and Dysentery. This could be huge for the one billion people in the world who have no access to safe drinking water. According to the developers of the device, the LifeStraw kills 99.9% of the... READ ON
Scientists at Wicab Inc. have filed a patent application on an invention they think will help those suffering from brain damage to return to many of their previous activities such as walking or riding a bike. Using electrical pulses, this device will stimulate the tongue, which they say is helpful in re-training the brain:
A false palate with a square grid of 160 gold-plated electrodes is placed on the tongue and wirelessly connected to the output of a motion sensor and camera fitted on the... READ ON
mental_floss readers have done many things to express their loyalty over the years. We've seen great pictures of fans reading the magazine at the South Pole. A group of soldiers sent pictures after enjoying the mag in one of Saddam's former palaces. And there have been a few expressions that aren't fit for describing on a family-friendly blog. But this is the first floss-inspired tattoo I'm aware of (besides my mom's). Here's what our favorite person of the week had to say:
A heart? Too soft. A fairy? Not... READ ON
I just read a story over at LiveScience about polar bears experiencingÂ genital shrinkage because of industrial pollutants:
Polar bears from northernmost Norway, western Russia and east Greenland are among the most polluted animals in the Arctic, as they feast on ringed seals and bearded seals. The blubber of these seals accumulates high levels of organic pollutants loaded with halogens such as chlorine. These organohalogens can act like hormones.
The scientists... READ ON
I noticed yesterday on IMDB that Paul Reubens (a.k.a. Pee-Wee Herman) turned 54 this pastÂ weekend.Â And then I realized it's been 20 years since "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" debuted on CBS. And althoughÂ both facts areÂ hard to believe, the more surprising fact is that Pee-Wee is scheduled to return in "Pee-Wee's Playhouse: The Movie" in 2007.Â That'sÂ scary and funny.Â A few other surprising facts I learned on IMDB:
When Reubens signed to do "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" in 1986, CBS agreed to pay him... READ ON
Â ... READ ON
Although I doubt this will bring anÂ end to the debate on federal funding for stem cell research, scientists have now proven that it's possible to derive stem cells from an embryo without killing the embryo.
New Scientist reports on the promising development:
Last year, Bob Lanza and his team from Advanced Cell Technology of Worcester, Massachusetts, demonstrated that stem cells could be harvested from mouse embryos without killing them. Now they have done the same in human embryos left over from IVF... READ ON
Nothing makes good morning office chat like fiber talk. So the next time one of those great fiber-focused conversations comes up, here's somethingÂ to share.Â Scientists at the Medical College of Georgia have released the results to anÂ interesting study on how fiber works in a rather paradoxical way. As they explain,Â fiber actuallyÂ does its job by first doing damage to our gastrointestinal tract. As the fiber passes through, it tears cellsÂ along the way. These cells produce mucus, which is... READ ON
Okay, that looks like a rasberry and theÂ last time I checked, rasberries are not sharp. But according to the American Institute of Physics, this is a field ion microscope image of a tungsten needle, the world's sharpest man-made object. So what are those little round ball-looking things? Those are individual atoms.
Link via The Cellar Image of the Day... READ ON
Want to know whereÂ last week's 244 earthquakes took place? Check out this site, put together by Dawn Endico, using Google Maps and data from the U.S. Geological Survey. It's helpful in planning where not to take your next vacation.... READ ON
These infographics are a few years old but still very interesting. Neatorama linked to one about the number of people employed by the U.S. government (1% of theÂ U.S. population). But I think the spread on worldwide smoking is even more interesting. One fact from thatÂ infographic:
In 2000, 964 billion cigarettes were reported as exports, worldwide. 672 billion were reported as imports. Does that mean 1/3 of the world's cigarettes from that year just disappeared? It's anÂ interesting look at the... READ ON
#49 Run Lola Run
#37 Being John Malcovich
#26 Lost In Translation
#15 Blood Simple
#8 The Usual Suspects
See if you agree with Empire's list of the 50 Greatest Independent Films. I still don't understand why Sideways is so high on lists like this. I didn't dislike the movie but I definitely wouldn't put it up there with the rest of these films.
Link via Unique... READ ON
Farmers have their own. As do tech geeks and inmates. And now, finally, apes get what they've been waiting for (even if they didn't realize it). I'm talking about an online dating service.
According to an AP article that I just read on LiveScience:
Zookeepers in the Netherlands are planning to hook up Dutch and Indonesian orangutans over the Internet and believe the link could at some stage be used as an online dating service where apes could get to know one another and keepers could work out whether... READ ON
Yesterday's USA Today had an interesting article by Matt Krantz about companies getting cute with their stock market ticker symbols. Earlier this week, Harley-Davidson began trading under the symbol "HOG," instead of their old "HDI."
Some others mentioned in the article:
BID - Sotheby's
BUD - Anheuser-Busch
CAKE - Cheesecake Factory
DISH - Echostar
DNA - Genentech
LUV - Southwest Airlines
YUM - Yum Brands (Pizza Hut holding company)
ZEUS - Olympic Steel
The Southwest symbol, LUV, has been... READ ON
The International AIDS Conference is taking place right now in Toronto. CNN was reporting this morning on all the exciting developments announced at this year's gathering.Â But despite the conferenceÂ being in its 16th year, some attendingÂ are still voicing some disturbing beliefs. The New Scientist Sharp Science blog reports on comments made by the South African health minister:
People should fight HIV using garlic, beetroot, lemons and the African potato rather than relying on drugs, advised... READ ON
Sometimes I'm tempted to give myself a bad haircut, develop a strange accent and run around NYC at night covering statues in lasagna. I'm convinced that I would then be viewed as a brilliant artist.
NYC always seems to be the location of such amusing displays as "The Gates" and now the work of Jasmine Zimmerman, whose elastic webs can now be seen in various locations around the city.
And even if they're not really brilliant, I still find these events fun. And it's always funny to see how... READ ON
Canadian Wal-Marts must have an amazing beach toys section because the participants in the 2006 Canadian OpenÂ Sand Sculpture Championships seem to have slightly more exciting sand molds than I found inÂ my $9.99 kit. The impressive event took place over the weekend. Some great pictures on flickr.... READ ON
I'm not much of a beer drinker but I love world records and I stumbled across this record-breaking beer yesterday - on the web that is, because it's actually illegal to sell in the state of Georgia.
AtÂ 6 times the strength of a typical beer and twice that of a bottle of wine, Samuel Adams Utopias contains a little over 25% alcohol.
The BostonÂ brewery only made 8000 of the little copper kettles with the strong stuff.Â But if you really want one, you can snag one on eBay for only a few hundred... READ ON
Tired of Larry "Sweet Deal" Jones from Jones Toyota screaming at you about how "prices can't get any lower"? You know you're not alone. For years people have complained to cable companies and television networks about commercials being much louder than the shows people are tuning in to watch. This happens so frequently that many TV stations post answers to the "Why are the commercials so loud?" question on their websites. They claim that the commercials aren't actually louder, but that their consistent... READ ON
"This year alone, upwards of 500,000 Americans are expected to travel overseas to get their bodies fixed, at prices 30 to 80 percent less than at home." This is what Krysten Crawford writes in the August issue of Business 2.0. It's a fascinating article about the growing medical tourism industry.
Some other facts from the article:
There are more than 61 million Americans who are uninsured or don't have sufficient health insurance.
Experts estimate medical tourism will become a $40 billion/yr... READ ON
In case you ever wondered what it looks like when 200,000 people head to the beach -- this is a picture of the Chinese resort of Quindao.
Link via... READ ON
New Scientist has a cool piece on anÂ invention idea from an Israeli inventor, Eliyahu Nir. Nir was thinking about the number of lives lost in fire accidents due to the time it takes firefighters to retrieveÂ peopleÂ and carry them down ladders, especially in taller buildings.
So, here's his idea:
A specialised emergency truck would carry an extendible boom that could be raised to a window in a burning building. Jaws at the top of the boom would then expand to clamp a small platform inside the... READ ON
When architects in Harare, Zimbabwe were planning to build the Eastgate shopping centre, they looked to termites for guidance on building their cooling systems. Because of Harare's temperate climate, they were able to use a natural cooling system, instead of air conditioning. Treehugger has a cool (no pun intended) article on the new building. Here's a bit:
Long before the building was created, passive cooling was being used by the local termites. Termite mounds include flues which vent... READ ON
A German scientist claims to have tested an "anti-stupidity" pill on mice and fruit flies and has seen "encouraging results," according to a Reuters article.
I have a hard time buying into any study that's working to cure stupidity and is claiming success with mice and fruit flies. Preventing memory loss is one thing but the "anti-stupidity" claim seems a bit exaggerated.
"With mice and fruit flies we were able to eliminate the loss of short-term memory," Ropers, 62, is quoted saying in the German... READ ON
If you're in the mood to see double or if you'd like to see a Guinness record in action, you should head up to Twinsburg, OH this weekend for the 31st annual Twins Day Festival. Guinness Book of World Records lists this event as the world's largest gathering of twins.
Is there a word for the fear of twins? I think that word would apply to me if I had toÂ witness scenes like the one in the picture for an entire... READ ON
Here at mental_floss, we're just nerdy enough to celebrate whenever we discover an entertaining anagram. You may remember John's post a while back where he pointed out that Presbyterians is an anagram of Britney Spears. Well, our friend Anu over at Wordsmith has a fantastic listÂ in his Hall of Fame.
Some of my favorites:
Western Union = No Wire Unsent
Clint Eastwood = Old West Action
The centenarians = I can hear ten "tens"
The Meaning of Life = The fine game of nil
The Morse Code = Here Come... READ ON
We all knew that guy who refused to celebrate the turn of the millennium when the year 2000 hit because the real turn was in 2001. Well, if you're that guy, here's another fact to make you feel smarter than everyone else. Today is the actual anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, not July 4th. On July 4th, John Hancock and Charles Thompson signed drafts of the document. 50 men participated in the official signing on August 2, 1776. And a few more signed later in the year.
Be sure... READ ON
This story came out a couple weeks ago in Science, but I didn't read about it until flipping through The Week a few days ago.
Researchers in the Kalahari Desert recently observed meerkats teaching their young how to bite the stinger off a scorpion before eating it. "So what?" replied my mailman when I told him about it. "Well", I said to Andy the mailman, "This is the only other mammal that's been found actively teaching its young. Most other animals seem to learn through observation, but not direct... READ ON
A couple weeks ago I posted a story about a man who accidentally blinded his wife by throwing a carrot at her. After getting plenty of jokes from readers about carrots supposedly helping vision, one of our brilliant readers, David K, sent in a link to an interesting article on Snopes. There's a really interesting explanation as to how the carrot lore got its start.
In World War II, Britain's air ministry spread the word that a diet of these vegetables helped pilots see Nazi bombers attacking at night.... READ ON
A bumblebee in Great Britain recently set a record for the longest recordedÂ flight (by a bumblebee) when scientists released it 8 miles away from its home and the bee still found its way back. The scientists still don't know exactly how the bumblebee pulled off this stunt. Anyone else suspect performance enhancing nectar?
Link from Live... READ ON
I've posted a couple times on obesity in America so I thought I'd continue by sharing some fast food facts I read in flipping through Paul Grobman's Vital Statistics:
Odds that an American eats at a fast-food restaurant on any given day: 1 in 4
Odds that an American kid eats at a McDonald's in any given month: 9 in 10
Number of hamburgers the average American consumes each week: 3
First fast-food chain: White Castle (1921 - first one opened in Wichita, Kansas)
Year McDonald's first allowed... READ ON
As you know, mental_floss is on a mission to help people feel smart. Well, it's a shame we couldn't get to Roderick Vecsey of Connecticut before he was charged with second degree assault after throwing a carrot at his wife. The carrot hit her in the eye and as of this story's printing (hours later), she was still blind in that eye. Not a very smart thing to do. I guess on the bright side, maybe he should apply for a Guinness World Record for most blindings by carrot -... READ ON
It's amazing how many bad website ideas have made people rich. WeirdTechNewsHub has a list of the top 10. From the Million Dollar Homepage (1 million pixels of advertising space for $1/pixel) to SantaMail (pay $10 and Santa will send your child a letter from a North Pole postal address) to Doggles (goggles for dogs), people apparently have too much money to spend. The list will make you laugh and cry (because you didn't think of these terrible ideas... READ ON
Our buddy Alex at Neatorama linked to an amazing collection of images from The Biomedical Image Awards 2006. As the BIA website explains:
The Biomedical Image Awards 2006 is a striking display of shapes and patterns, and illustrates the microscopic structures of living organisms in a spectacular variety of ways. The winning images show a wide variety of subjects, most invisible to the naked eye, revealing new layers of complexity... READ ON
According to The History Channel Magazine, a recent survey by the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that "only 28 percent of Americans are able to name more than one of the five First Amendment freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, compared with 52 percent of all Americans who could name at least two Simpsons" (from the animated TV series The Simpsons). To be honest, I was more surprised that 48 percent of Americans couldn't name two Simpsons.
By the way, the First Amendment freedoms are... READ ON
Beer drinkers have been dreaming about self-cooling cans for years now. And it looks like they're finally going to get what they've been begging for - a can that drops a beer's temperature by 30 degrees Fahrenheit in three minutes! Tempra Technology has partnered with Crown Holdings, one of the biggest beverage-can producers in the world, to make this amazing can available in the coming months.... READ ON
You may have seen this in one of the morning papers but there's an AP write-up on the history of the Lebanese-Israeli conflict. It's a very brief article but worth the read if you're just looking for the basics. One quick fact from the article:
Because Israel and Lebanon have never signed a peace accord, the countries remain officially in a state of war that has existed since 1948 when Lebanon joined other Arab nations against the newly formed Jewish state.... READ ON
As you can see, mentalfloss.comÂ has a new look and a terrific cast of daily contributors. We think you'll agree it's a knowledge junkie's dream. But, the site justÂ went up today so please excuse us as we work out a few little last-minute quirks. We hope you'll tellÂ everyone youÂ know, and even people you don't know, about the new mentalfloss.com.Â Thanks! Will and... READ ON
ScienceDaily has a fascinating article about research being done to help paralyzed patients.
A multi-institutional team of researchers has found that people with long-standing, severe paralysis can generate signals in the area of the brain responsible for voluntary movement and these signals can be detected, recorded, routed out of the brain to a computer and converted into actions -- enabling a paralyzed patient to perform basic... READ ON