Artists remix NYC "If You See Something, Say Something" subway signs

A group of artists placed signs in NYC subway cars that look like standard "If You See Something, Say Something" signs, but they contain additional information. Example:

“I’m glad I was reminded to report that suspicious bag. But I wonder, when my own president uses a willing media to perpetuate a constant state of fear, who are the real terrorists and who profits off my panic?”

And:

“It’s important to report suspicious activity. I feel weird telling people this when I know ratting out a fellow cop for unethical behavior or brutality could make my life a living hell.”

And:

“I knew to report the unattended bag I saw. But why wasn’t I also encouraged to speak up when I saw my government destabilizing the Middle East which led to increased terrorism in the first place?””

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Malta's famous "Azure Window" has collapsed into the sea

Sad news: Malta's famous natural land bridge, the "Azure Window," has broken into bits by relentless ocean waves.

Flickr: Tobias Scheck

From The Times of Malta:

“Suddenly, the arch collapsed into the sea with a loud whoomph, throwing up a huge spray. By the time the spray had faded, the stack had gone too." In a press conference, Environment Minister Jose Herrera said several studies had shown that no man-made intervention could have prevented the collapse.

[via] Read the rest

Keep your water bottles clean with this brush set

If you use a water bottle you may have noticed that no matter how much you wash them, they still retain a musty smell. This bottle brush set from OXO Good Grips has three brushes to take care of that problem. One cleans the inside of the bottle, one cleans the cap, and the third cleans the straw (if it has one). It's $10 on Amazon. Read the rest

Why mutating symbiotic thought germs love the web

Zoologist Richard Dawkins coined the word "meme" in his book on evolution, The Selfish Gene, in 1976. In it, he wrote:

Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain, via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation.

This video (Thank, Mister44!) by CGP Grey looks at what has happened to meme propagation in the era of the Web. He calls them "brain germs" instead of memes, because the word meme is now more closely associated with photos with text on them (which *are* memes, but not the only memes). CGP Grey says that hateful ideas spread faster than happy or sad ideas, and that they mutate into super-hateful fake news thought germs.

Thought germs can burn out because once everyone agrees, it's hard to keep talking and thus thinking about them. But if there's an opposing thought germ, an argument, then the thinking never stops. The more visible an argument gets the more bystanders it draws in which makes it more visible, which is why every group from the most innocuous internet forum to The National Conversation can turn into a double rage storm across the sky in no time.

Wait, these though germs aren't competing, they're co-operating. Working together they reach more brains and hold their thoughts longer than they could alone.

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Puzzle: The Candy Thief

A puzzle from our friends at Futility Closet:

Five children — Ivan, Sylvia, Ernie, Dennis, and Linda — entered a candy store, and one of them stole a box of candy from the shelf. Afterward each child made three statements:

Ivan:

1. I didn’t take the box of candy. 2. I have never stolen anything. 3. Dennis did it.

Sylvia:

4. I didn’t take the box of candy. 5. I’m rich and I can buy my own candy. 6. Linda knows who the crook is.

Ernie:

7. I didn’t take the box of candy. 8. I didn’t know Linda until this year. 9. Dennis did it.

Dennis:

10. I didn’t take the box of candy. 11. Linda did it. 12. Ivan is lying when he says I stole the candy.

Linda:

13. I didn’t take the box of candy. 14. Sylvia is guilty. 15. Ernie can vouch for me, because he has known me since I was a baby eight years ago.

If each child made two true and one false statement, who stole the candy?

A problem by Wayne M. Delia and Bernadette D. Barnes:

Click here for answer. Read the rest

Neuroscientist explains the same concept about the brain to a 5-year-old and then a grad student

Bobby Kasthuri is a neuroscientist at Argonne National Laboratory. In the video he was asked to explain what a connectome is to 5 different people; a 5 year-old, a 13 year-old, a college student, a neuroscience grad student and a connectome entrepreneur. Read the rest

Robber thinks he's locked in bank. The door opens the other way.

Robber thinks he's locked in bank. The door opens the other way..

A gentleman walked into a bank with the intention to rob it. He went to a teller's window and told her what he was planning to do. The teller push a button that caused a big metal plate to quickly rise up and form a barrier between the robber and the money. In a panic, the robber ran to the door, but found that he couldn't push it open. He rammed it a couple of times with his body, and the camera got a good look at him. A while later, a woman entered the bank by pushing it. It turns out, the door only swings one way.

This is an old video. Does anyone know what happened to the robber?

[via] Read the rest

Great set of dish towels on sale

I bought this set of 13 kitchen towels on Amazon in July. They've held up well, and do a good job of absorbing water. At $15 for 13 towels, they are not expensive to replace, but I haven't even started to think about getting a new set. Read the rest

This 24-hour recording of idling engine noise from a Star Trek ship in Star Trek will put you to sleep

I'm playing this recording of soft droning engine noise from Star Trek TNG as I type this and I can hardly keep my eyes open. This is just one of several space ship sounds recordings featured on Open Culture. There's also the USCSS Nostromo from Alien, Dr. Who's Tardis (yes, not really a spac.... ZZZZZZzzzzzzzzz Read the rest

Grassroots hitchhiking system called Casual Carpool is a $1 substitute for Uber

Casual Carpool is a longtime San Francisco Bay Area tradition where people line up at certain spots in Oakland and San Francisco to be picked up by people driving over the Bay Bridge. It's a win-win deal. Riders pay just $1 for a ride (voluntary), and drivers get to take the speedy carpool lanes. Thousands of people do it everyday. It's a lot cheaper than BART, too! (The last time I took BART from the Oakland Airport to the 16th Street Mission station in San Francisco it was over $20 round trip - wtf? That would be $400 a month for a commuter. Is BART just for rich people?)

The Wall Street Journal has an article about Casual Carpool, written by Laura Stevens. It is paywalled, but somehow I got access to the article after the third or forth try. The video from the article is above.

Snip:

More than 6,000 people a day use Casual Carpool, according to one transit study. The median wait time for riders in line is just 2½ minutes, says Susan Shaheen, co-director of the University of California, Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center.

The service is unregulated, but riders know they are supposed to pay or at least offer $1 to help cover the $2.50 bridge toll and the driver’s gas.

And die-hards gladly follow a series of unofficial rules that align with the Bay Area’s quirky character: No fragrances. No phone calls. Don’t speak unless the driver does. Listen to NPR.

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Newspaper hoax about the gruesome results of a mass breakout at the Central Park Zoo

A new episode of Nate DiMeo's Memory Palace podcast is out and it's a good one. It's about a newspaper hoax about the gruesome results of a mass breakout at the Central Park Zoo, which Nate "turns into a comment on Fake News/Pizza Gate/etc by way of an Edward Gorey story." Nate is a terrific storyteller, and I highly recommend every episode of the Memory Palace. Read the rest

The BioLite CampStove 2 - how it burns wood like gas, and converts heat into electricity

Last week I tried out BioLite's CookStove, which uses sticks for fuel and has a battery-powered fan to create a hot flame that rivals gas camping stoves.

BioLite just introduced a new version of its CampStove, which is similar to the CookStove, but it has the extra feature of generating electricity from heat and storing it in its battery pack. The battery can charge the fan and charge any USB powered device as well. The video above shows how it works. I love the way it looks, and how it folds neatly into the included cloth bag. BioLite puts a lot of care into their products.

It's designed to work with the BioLite KettlePot (though you can use any old pot, really), and the Campstove Grill Attachment (to grill food).

Ben Z, the lead engineer behind the CampStove 2, is the host of the video above and will be hosting a FB Live session at 1pm ET today.

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The joy of sanding sponges

These are spongey blocks covered with abrasive grit. They are ideally suited for smoothing irregular and rough surfaces. I use them to smooth a wall after repairing cracks and nails holes with spackling paste. I've also used them to sand the necks of cigar box guitars and other musical instruments. Get the 3M ones labeled 3X or 5X, because they last longer than the ordinary ones. Read the rest

The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge

Gary Wolf of Quantified Self writes:

Princeton University Press has just reissued this classic essay ["The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge" by Abraham Flexner, 1939] by the founder of the Institute for Advanced Study, with a new companion essay by the physicist Robbert Dijkgraaf. I’m going to buy the book, but you don’t have to do that to read the original essay, with its terribly relevant opening paragraph: “Is it not a curious fact that in a world steeped in irrational hatreds which threaten civilization itself, men and women – old and young – detach themselves wholly or partly from the angry current of daily life to devote themselves to the cultivation of beauty, to the extension of knowledge, to the cure of disease, to the amelioration of suffering, just as though fanatics were not simultaneously engaged in spreading pain, ugliness, and suffering?”

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Gun stores for liberals

I know a bunch of liberal gun owners. Here's an article in Vocativ by Ethan Harfenist and Jacob Steinblatt about this growing group.

Membership increased by 10 percent since election for the Liberal Gun Club, which provides “a voice for gun-owning liberals and moderates in the national conversation on gun rights.” Vocativ found an entire subreddit dedicated to Liberal Gun Owners, a four-year old community that has close to 7,000 subscribers and includes a thread dedicated to liberal gun stores.

It appears that some of those who lean left don’t want to fork over money to shops run by trigger-happy, extreme right-wing folks who sell target sheets shaped like Hillary Clinton and stickers that read “Muslim Free Zone.” It makes sense, at a time when consumers are more aware than ever about the values backed by their favorite businesses and services

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Animated graph shows how USA has become more polarized in last 20 years

Pretty astonishing to see how close together median Democrats and Republicans were in 1997.

From Sociological Images:

A recent Pew Report reported that in 1994, 64% of Republicans were more conservative than the median Democrat on a political values scale. By 2014, 92% of Republicans were more conservative than the median Democrat. Democrats have become more consistently liberal in their political values and Republicans have become more consistently conservative. And this has led to increasing political polarization.

You might think ideological commitments naturally come in groupings. But there are lots of illogical pairings without natural connections. Why, for instance, should how you feel about school vouchers be related to how you feel about global warming, whether police officers use excessive force against Black Americans, or whether displays of military strength are the best method of ensuring peace? The four issues are completely separate. But, if your Facebook feed looks anything like mine, knowing someone’s opinion about any one of these issues gives you enough information to feel reasonably confident predicting their opinions about the other three. That’s what ideological consistency looks like.

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Life Undersea: 1968

From Paul Di Filippo: "Our glorious domestic undersea future, as depicted in an ad sponsored by "Investor-Owned Light and Power Companies" in the issue of LOOK for May 14, 1968." Read the rest

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