Demonstration of a Chinese "spouting bowl"

Steve Mould explains the physics behind the squeak in "squeaky clean." Read the rest

The Trump-Russia scandals: a quick visual guide

Trump keeps saying that the media's relentless investigations into Russia's corrupting influence on the White House is "fake news," but the media keeps finding out more and more about how Trump and his inner circle have cozied up to Russian and eastern European mobsters and kleptocrats. This new infographic from Vox is a simple guide to what's been unearthed so far, but it doesn't include recent revelations into billionaire Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross' role as a vice chairman of the Bank of Cyprus, which is co-owned by a dear friend of Russian president Vladimir Putin, and is run by the former head of the mega-money-laundering Deutsche Bank. It also doesn't reveal this bit of news reported today in the NY Times: "Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and now a senior adviser, also participated in the meeting at Trump Tower with Mr. Flynn and Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador." (Kislyak is quite the belle of the ball in Trumplandia.)

It's stinking to high heaven in the White House, and even the Trump Aftershave everyone is wearing can't mask the odor of large-scale malfeasance. Read the rest

Adobe Illustrator is 30 years old

My favorite application is Adobe Illustrator, which turned 30 this week. I have used it for decades and still learn new things about it almost evert week. Here's a great video series about the beginnings of Adobe Illustrator. In the first episode, graphic designers talk about Rapid-O-Graph pens, rub-on letters, French curves, and how Adobe worked to digitize those tools. My only complaint is that the series wasn't longer.

Part 2:

Part 3: Read the rest

Good, inexpensive silicone kitchen sink strainer

I like almost everything OXO makes. This silicone kitchen sink strainer ($8) was a welcome replacement for the wire mesh one we had, because some of the wires had broken. Those little protruding wires hurt when they poke your finger. The OXO strainer is made of soft silicone and that won't hurt you. To clean the collect food debris, just pop the cup inside out in the trash. One reviewer on Amazon said it is still in good condition after four years of use.

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How to imagine 52 factorial

I remember being fascinated by a description of eternity in "The Shepard Boy," from the Brothers Grimm:

In lower pomerania is the Diamond mountain, which is two miles high, two miles wide, and two miles deep. Every hundred years a little bird comes and sharpens its beak on it, and when the whole mountain is worn away by this, then the first second of eternity will be over.

Similarly, Scott Czepiel has a great essay on imagine the immensity of 52!, or 80658175170943878571660636856403766975289505440883277824000000000000, which is the number of ways an ordinary deck of cards can be shuffled:

This number is beyond astronomically large. I say beyond astronomically large because most numbers that we already consider to be astronomically large are mere infinitesimal fractions of this number. So, just how large is it? Let's try to wrap our puny human brains around the magnitude of this number with a fun little theoretical exercise. Start a timer that will count down the number of seconds from 52! to 0. We're going to see how much fun we can have before the timer counts down all the way.

Start by picking your favorite spot on the equator. You're going to walk around the world along the equator, but take a very leisurely pace of one step every billion years. The equatorial circumference of the Earth is 40,075,017 meters. Make sure to pack a deck of playing cards, so you can get in a few trillion hands of solitaire between steps. After you complete your round the world trip, remove one drop of water from the Pacific Ocean.

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Raccoon attempts to rob woman in kayak

Raccoon Robbing A Girl In A Kayak

Hominidae and Procyonidae -- natural enemies since time immemorial. Read the rest

zoom in on the syrup

"The radius of human thought touching upon the longitude of our transient existence causes infinite pain. Seeking to ameliorate existential anguish incites us to ponder spiritual matters, and this sphere of mental activity spurs us to contemplate the perimeter of unknown frontiers." - Kilroy J. Oldster, Dead Toad Scrolls Read the rest

The Smithsonian needs your help transcribing Phyllis Diller's gag file

Right now, you can apply your brain power towards helping the Smithsonian transcribe the 52,000 jokes from Phyllis Diller's gag file. It's fun way to spend a few minutes!

Phyllis Diller's groundbreaking career as a stand-up comic spanned almost 50 years. Throughout her career she used a gag file to organize her material. Diller's gag file consists of a steel cabinet with 48 drawers (along with a 3 drawer expansion) containing over 52,000 3-by-5 inch index cards, each holding a typewritten joke or gag. These index cards are organized alphabetically by subject, ranging from accessories to world affairs and covering almost everything in between.

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Nintendo puts a "bittering agent" on game cards so people don't stick them in their mouths

Kotaku recently contacted Nintendo to ask them why Nintendo Switch cartridges taste so awful. Nintendo replied: “To avoid the possibility of accidental ingestion, keep the game card away from young children. A bittering agent (Denatonium Benzoate) has also been applied to the game card. This bittering agent is non-toxic.”


According to Wikipedia, denatonium benzoate is the most bitter chemical compound known, commonly used as an aversion agent to prevent accidental ingestion, which is why the Switch cards are coated in it. It’s also used in animal repellent, shampoos, soaps and nail-biting prevention.

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The strawberries in this photo are blue

My daughter send this photo to me. I put it in Photoshop to check. The "reddest" part I could find using the eyedropper had an RGB value of 153/181/182. So technically there is some red in the image, but here is what 153/181/182 looks like:

Not very red! Read the rest

Making coffee with the BioLite CookStove

The friendly folks at BioLite (makers of innovative battery-powered lighting, solar charging batteries, and other cool field gear) sent me a BioLite CookStove to try out. Imagine a tin can that holds burning sticks. And attached to that can is a battery pack with a fan that blows air into the can, which makes the sticks burn hot and bright. You can put a pot on top of the can to cook food or boil water. That's what the CookStove is.

I tried it out by making some coffee in my backyard (see my video, above). First, I found a small branch that fell from a tree during the last torrential downpour here in LA. It was already dried out from a few days in the sun. I snapped it into 4-inch pieces. I also found some pieces of eucalyptus bark, which were thin and kind of rolled up like cigars. I put a few sticks and some bark into the can and lit it with a match. Once it was burning pretty good, I turned on the fan to the lowest setting (one of four levels) and slowly added more and thicker pieces of wood. The fire made a nice "jet engine" sound. But I got overzealous and stuffed too many pieces in at once and it started belching white smoke. After a minute, the fire inside the can was roaring again, and almost smokeless. I put my coffee maker on top and in a couple of minutes the coffee was finished. Read the rest

Five cool mass-market puzzles

Game design Fleb presents some of his favorite mass-produced puzzles. They are Hanayama Cast Cuby, Curvy Copter Cube, Iron Maiden. Red Dragon Egg, and the Hoberman Brain Twist. Read the rest

Video of 67 people paid to jump from a 33-feet diving tower for the first time

"Would you jump? Or would you chicken out?" That's the question asked of 67 different people who were asked to jump off a 10-meter diving tower into a pool. None of them had done it before, and it took most people a while to work up the nerve. I could do it, as long as someone push me off while I wasn't looking.

From the NYTimes:

"Our objective in making this film was something of a psychology experiment: We sought to capture people facing a difficult situation, to make a portrait of humans in doubt...Through an online advertisement, we found 67 people who had never been on a 10-meter (about 33 feet) diving tower before, and had never jumped from that high. We paid each of them the equivalent of about $30 to participate."

Through an online advertisement, we found 67 people who had never been on a 10-meter (about 33 feet) diving tower before, and had never jumped from that high. We paid each of them the equivalent of about $30 to participate — which meant climbing up to the diving board and walking to its edge. We were as interested in the people who decided to climb back down as the ones jumping.

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Pickup truck going 115mph avoids road block by flying through the air

From Jalopnik: "An 18 year-old driving a stolen Toyota Tacoma running from the police in Webster Parish, Louisiana hit a set of spike strips going 115 mph, subsequently barreled off of the road and into a drainage ditch, launched the truck into the air and landed on a car parked at a restaurant." Read the rest

Primitive Technology: Planting Cassava and Yams

Primitive Technology is a YouTube video channel produced by an Australian guy who goes into the jungle with nothing but the clothes on his back, and makes things like shelters, tools, and weapons. There are no words or text in the video, only the sounds of nature for a soundtrack. Here's his latest video.

In this video I build a garden to grow Cassava and yams, two staple food crops. Cassava is a shrub that develops large edible roots. Yams are a climbing vine that produce large, edible underground bulbs and smaller aerial bulbs on their vines.

I had 5 huts, but the wattle and daub hut (from the first video uploaded on this channel nearly 2 years ago) became dilapidated. I abandoned it in favour of the other huts I built and neglected the roof. This let water in destroying a wall. Also, the sweet potato patch behind it had a tree fall across it destroying the fence. So I demolished them both to make one large garden.

The beginning of the video (where he tears down the old huts and other things he made) is interesting because the fall apart so easily. Nature works quickly to reclaim the stuff he borrowed from her. Read the rest

Rachel Maddow connects the dots between a billionaire Russian oligarch and a bizarre Donald Trump deal

Why would a savvy Russian billionaire buy a tear-down, mold-infested house from Donald Trump for $100 million, and what does it have to do with newly confirmed Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross?

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Video about incredibly deadly nerve agent VX

The chemists at the wonderful YouTube channel, Periodic Videos, explain what the deadly nerve agent VX is and why it is so good at making people drop dead. As you might recall, VX is the stuff used to assassinate the half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un at a Kuala Lumpur airport.

From what I learned here, when VX comes in contact with your nervous system it won't allow your muscles to relax. It causes convulsions and asphyxiation.

Here's an extra video: Read the rest

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