• "Buy Nothing" groups blur the line between trash and treasure

    Instead of immediately turning to large retailers, conscious consumers are setting up online networks to share their stuff. In certain hyperlocal Facebook groups, neighbors give away their old items— even things like rotten bananas, expired milk, empty boxes, and stained clothing. Unlike thrift stores, online groups allow people to search for their specific needs and meet their neighbors. The "Buy Nothing" project is mostly on Facebook, currently, and alternatives include freecycle.org and nextdoor.com.

    Children's clothes and toys are hot commodities. As American weddings get increasingly expensive, sharing items like decorations and dresses can cut costs (a wedding swap subreddit exists for this specific purpose). Some exchanges are odder— like pickle juice, a glass sex toy, dirty fish water (it can be fertilizer!), and dryer lint (it can be hamster bedding!). Reddit user @brew-ski saves bubble wrap for interested neighbors.

    "Welcome to the wild world of Buy Nothing, a network of social media groups, mostly on Facebook, where people give and receive things, treating the stuff taking up space in their homes as gifts meant to be shared and treasured. Members are encouraged to offer their time and talents, too, and loan items that someone may need for just a few hours, like a car or a cake pan. Created in 2013 by two women in Bainbridge Island, Wash., it has grown to 6,700 independent Buy Nothing Facebook groups in 44 countries. The Buy Nothing Project recently developed an app that it will release more widely in a few weeks."

    The New York Times
  • Old Jewish Men want cheap lox and more public restrooms— and they want them now!

    Elderly social media stars kvetch about lox prices and the lack of public toilets in New York City. In one video, they chant: "2, 4, 6, 8, we just want to urinate!" Their antics have earned the account almost 50,000 followers and a feature in the NY Post.

    The group makes merchandise, too, which has been mentioned in the Cut and Vogue. Some items include "Ralph Lifshitz" Ralph Lauren spoof apparel, "OJM solar" sunglasses, and logo-adorned bucket hats.

    The person behind the accounts isn't an old Jewish man— yet. His name is Noah Rinsky, and he's a millennial filmmaker whose fascination with old Jewish men began with his father and family friends. Now, he's working on a show about OJM. In an interview, he explains the appeal of his subject.

    "I think when I started the account, that in a lot of ways, what I was going for is trying to create a world that appreciated the irreverence of the old Jewish man. The way they act and dress completely ignores the rest of the world. They just exist as if nothing else around them is there. I think that's what people respond to a lot of with Bernie Sanders and Larry David, I mean, the reason why that Bernie Sanders image of him at the inauguration is so compelling is that there is no one even looking at him, he's just sitting there as if he's not being broadcasted to 50 million people or whatever, he just exists in his own atmosphere, and I think that's what's so great about being an OJM."

    Forward
  • Researchers find a link between trauma and Tetris

    Maybe now is finally the time for the Tetris-only operating system. Swedish researchers have evidence to show that Tetris prevents the psychological effects of trauma. In a study, the group that played 20 minutes of Tetris had 62 percent fewer intrusive memories in the first week after a car accident than the control group.

     Emily Holmes, a psychology professor at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and lead author of the study, has performed variations in which Tetris proves to be both effective and ineffective at preventing intrusive thoughts, giving her more insight into what exactly is happening in the brains of traumatized Tetris players.

    Holmes feels that playing Tetris shortly after an accident can interfere with memory consolidation, or the gradual conversion of short-term memories into more permanent ones. Evidence suggests that there is a window following a trauma in which a bad memory can be disrupted or avoided — and in which memories can be uncoupled from the brain's emotional centers.

    She admits that the findings are probably not unique to Tetris. Traumatic memories are often highly sensory: Sights and sounds of a trauma can flash back in horrifying detail. Holmes believes that any highly visual activity that stimulates the brain's sensory centers might prevent graphic recollections from forming in the first place. 

    NPR

  • These facts about dunes will blow you away

    The new Dune movie looks pretty cool, but it's hard to beat plain old sand dunes. The ever-changing landform is comprised of tiny particles of all sorts of things—quartz, gypsum, coral, even war shrapnel! The term "sand" refers to particle size, not constitution, so "sand" can be made up of almost anything. As a result of Aeolian processes, sand particles form ordered ripple and wave patterns that are just a few centimeters high, and they also form gigantic sand dunes which you can climb, photograph, and surf.

    • Sand dunes submerged a town. Beneath dunes along the coast of Lake Michigan lies the remains of Singapore, Michigan, a town that began in the 1830s. It had its own currency of "Singapore dollars" (back when small banks could just make a currency!). After fires ravaged Chicago and other cities of the upper midwest, Singapore's logging industry exploded, and the town's tree cover slowly disappeared. Without the forests, the coastal winds blew sand into the town, and it was evacuated by 1875. More on Wikipedia. As ongoing desertification turns more areas into deserts, sand threatens communities like Fowler's Bay in Australia.

    • Sandboarding: just dune it! Adventure seekers ride boards down sand dunes in an extreme sport that may have originated in ancient Egypt. You can't build a lift on a dune, so to get back up to the top, you hop in a dune buggy.
    Atlantis Dunes in Cape Town. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

    • Dunes were almost the classic computer background. Charles O'Rear, the photographer who snapped the famous Bliss image used as the default background for Windows XP, also submitted a photo called "Full Moon over Red Dunes." It was the original wallpaper until users complained that it vaguely resembles buttocks. Microsoft subsequently opted for grassy scene we know and love.

    • Dunes are out of this world! If sand dunes seem otherworldly, it's because they are. NASA uses sand dunes in Colorado to test its rovers because the landscape is similar to parts of Mars. On Saturn's moon Titan, 100-meter-tall dunes of hydrocarbons may be the result of cosmic rays hitting ice. On Pluto, weird dune fields (which National Geographic compares to "an alien thumbprint pressed into extraterrestrial ice") are made of methane. There are dunes on Mars too, and NASA found an area with sand dunes in the shape of dots and dashes. They call it "Martian Morse Code."

    • Dunes sing, sort of. When sand blows in the wind, the particles' vibrations give rise to haunting symphonies. Wet sand can also produce a quacking nose when you shuffle your feet on it. The process is not well understood.
  • Fridge sends annoyed email to owner

    Extremely online kitchens might include devices like a smart egg tray, a smart water pitcher, and even a smart fork that vibrates when you're eating too fast. The IoT may offer convenience, but sometimes it gets a little too much in your business.

    Dan Hon shared an email that he got from an unlikely sender: his fridge. The email carried bad news—he was opening the fridge too much. Busted! The appliance, which had tracked door openings, warned him that his frequent fridge openings may cause "frost, increased noise, and low ice production." Hon blames the 44 fridge opens on his kids.

  • Politicians keep writing children's books. Most are quite bad.

    Several years ago, Charlotte and Karen Pence worked together on Marlon Bundo's A Day in the Life of the Vice President, a picture book of a bunny in the White House. The tale of the presidential rabbit is almost as good as its parody, published by a writer from John Oliver's Last Week Tonight, which describes a bunny's journey coming out as gay and falling in love with a boy bunny. 

    The Pence family is not alone in their political picture book pursuits. Political figures frequently venture into children's literature, and many of their books follow a predictable pattern: stories of patriotism and hard work and an invitation for the reader to make the world a better place. The books aren't known to meet children in their own world, and they may be a form of political posturing, but they can be hugely lucrative. Sophie Haigney wrote about the odd genre in The Drift Magazine:

    The project [She Persisted books] is a blockbuster in a genre that has become increasingly popular over the past decade: children's books by political, or politics-adjacent, figures. Recent examples have been written by Kamala Harris, her niece Meena Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Charlotte and Karen Pence, Barack Obama, Condoleezza Rice, Sonia Sotomayor, Callista Gingrich, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, Jenna Bush Hager, and Barbara Pierce Bush. These join the realm of a related subset of picture books that are not by politicians themselves but that ride the coattails of political celebrity. The hagiographies include I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her MarkMayor Pete: The Story of Pete Buttigieg; Revolution Road: A Bernie Bedtime StoryLittle People, Big Dreams: Michelle Obama and Little People, Big Dreams: Kamala Harris; Joey: The Story of Joe Biden; Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some Girls are Born to LeadBarack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope; Journey to Freedom: Condoleezza RiceKamala Harris: Rooted in JusticeToday's Heroes: Colin Powell and Today's Heroes: Ben CarsonMy Dad: John McCain (by Meghan); The ABCs of AOC: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from A to Z; a series comprised of Donald and the Fake News, Donald Builds the Wall! and Donald Drains the Swamp!; Elizabeth Warren: Nevertheless She Persisted; and, most recently, Dr. Fauci: How a Boy from Brooklyn Became America's Doctor. Forthcoming this fall: Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi Calls the House to Order and Pinkie Promises by Elizabeth Warren.

    These books are typically upbeat, didactic, and unimaginative. Many of them repackage the same themes and characters; frequently, authors select a set number of historical figures to celebrate. Obama picked thirteen American "heroes;" Chelsea Clinton picked thirteen American women; Gillibrand picked ten suffragists. They often rely on the repetition of certain catchphrases, so there is no way to miss the point, even when the point is remarkably banal. 

    One might feel compelled to ask why so many of these books exist, but the main reason is obvious: money.

    Sophie Haigney

    Read the rest of the essay here.

  • Walmart sells Bitcoin now

    A decade ago, Bitcoin communities were small crowds of particularly techy, alternative, or keen on privacy— the oddball decentralized currency was just a few years old. Now, the masses can get cryptocurrency from the grocery store. Over 200 Coinstar ATMs in Walmart stores offer Bitcoin as part of a pilot program.

    Walmart is the world's largest company by revenue, and by hosting Coinstar's Bitcoin exchange services, it carries the power to make Bitcoin more readily available. Coinstar explains the ATM-like machines on its website, noting that purchases carry a transaction fee of 4% and a cash exchange fee of 7%.

    More recently, Coinstar, which started adding bitcoin-buying services with Coinme in early 2019, added 300 bitcoin-enabled machines at Winn-Dixie, Fresco y Más, Harveys and other grocery stores across Florida.

    But Walmart, long seen as the crown jewel to bringing crypto financial services into the mainstream, is another step up – even if the 200-kiosk pilot is chump change for a company with 4,700 stores and a market cap of $409 billion.

    CoinDesk
  • A book by Trader Joe himself

    "Growth for the sake of growth still troubles me. It seems unnatural, even perverted," writes Joe Coulombe in Becoming Trader Joe: How I Did Business My Way and Still Beat the Big Guys.

    The California businessman is best known for founding Trader Joe's, a quirky grocery chain owned by Aldi since 1979. On paper, its success seems a bit unlikely: all products are private label; the company rarely offers sales or coupons; its stores are small and cramped; it barely advertises. Yet Trader Joe's has developed a cult following for its cheerful staff and unique products— like speculoos cookie butter, two buck chuck, "everything but the bagel" seasoning, and almond butter (which Trader Joe's created with discarded almond parts!).

    Coulombe passed away in February 2020 at the age of 89, and his book was released in June of this year. Without pretending to be a literary masterpiece, it offers a fascinating peek into the grocery industry. The New Yorker calls the book "an unusually colorful and sensible business guide that refuses to glamorize entrepreneurship."

    He comes off as obsessive and well-read, citing obscure quotations from economists, François Rabelais, Scientific American articles from the seventies, Goethe, Jean Renoir, and more. He disliked traditional forms of advertising, instead choosing to publish an offbeat and educational periodical called Fearless Flyer to help sell consumers on Trader Joe's. Perhaps most crucially, he harbored an outsized disdain for the standard business practices of corporate America, condemning things such as a "Byzantine management atmosphere," venture capitalism (what he calls "vultures"), investment banking, corporate consultants, and money borrowing. 

    Thinking about the hallmarks of the Trader Joe's brand, it's easy to imagine Coulombe as a progressive idealist, obsessed with the idea that his business was helping to make the world a better place. This was not the case; as the leader of a profit-driven company, he did not try to sell his colleagues or readers on the illusion that he was first and foremost a do-gooder. He didn't even seem to have much of a kinship with the hippies, hipsters, intellectuals, and health-food junkies he catered to. But he did discover, along the way, that doing good often benefitted his bottom line. He was prone to "doing the right things for all the wrong reasons," or engaging in acts of "selfish altruism," he writes. Chief among these "right things" was a respect for his workers. "This is the most important single business decision I ever made: to pay people well," he writes. He reasoned that employee turnover was the biggest cost to his business, and by paying his workers high wages and offering them excellent benefits he would ultimately reduce his costs.

    New Yorker
  • It's mole day! At 6:02, tip your hat to Avogadro's constant

    At 6:02 on 10/23, we pay tribute to the beloved SI unit commonly used in pesky chemistry class conversions. Today is mole day, and I'm not talking about the 12-fingered mammal or the Mexican sauce or the beauty mark above Cindy Crawford's lip. I'm talking about 6.022 × 1023, the standard measurement for particles also called "Avogadro's Number."

    I pledge allegiance to the mole, and to the science from which it comes, one SI unit, extremely divisible, with micromoles and millimoles for all.

    R. Thomas Myers, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio

    According to NPR, a Wisconsin science teacher started the holiday, and some chemistry educators use it as an excuse to eat mole-themed food like "e-mole-ade, guaca-mole sauce with chips. Some pie a la mole, mole-caroni, and ani-mole crackers."

    If you're rusty on your gen chem knowledge, think of "mole" like you think of "dozen." You say "dozen" when you mean 12 eggs, and chemists say "mole" when they mean 602,214,076,000,000,000,000,000 particles. That way, they don't have to deal with massive numbers and can more easily convey ratios. The value of Avogadro's Number isn't random— it's the number of atoms in 12 grams of the isotope carbon-12.

  • For every cow there is an equal and opposite bean

    In an excellent Twitter thread, crop scientist Dr. Sarah Taber displays the aesthetic similarities between various types of cows and beans. Though the comparison is quite fun, Taber acknowledges that there is "probably no deeper metaphysical meaning to matching cows and beans" (… but maybe). Check out her comparisons below, or view the thread at this link.

  • 19th-century women went nuts for Franz Liszt, music's first celebrity

    Before BTS, Bieber, the Backstreet Boys, or The Beatles, there was Lisztomania: the intense fan frenzy directed toward Hungarian composer Franz Liszt during his performances. The phenomenon first occurred in Berlin in 1841, before the emergence of celebrities as we know them today. Liszt was the first music heartthrob, and the hysteria he induced puzzled medical communities.

    If Liszt's music alone didn't stir passions, his impassioned live performances certainly solidified his sexual magnetism. According to a book "The Virtuoso Years" that profiles the composer, women would reportedly swarm him, fight over handkerchiefs and gloves, wear his portrait on brooches, get locks of his hair, and even treasure his old cigar stumps.

    Lisztomania was the topic of intense medical fascination. One Munich paper in 1843 speculates that the German city's residents would survive Lisztomania due to their "strong constitutions."

    Liszt fever, a contagion that breaks out in every city our artist visits, and which neither age nor wisdom can protect, seems to appear here only sporadically, and asphyxiating cases such as appeared so often in northern capitals need not be feared by our residents, with their strong constitutions.

    The Virtuoso Liszt

    He was young and handsome with a boyish Timothee Chalamet-type look— and if Timothee Chalamet wrote Hungarian Rhapsody No 2, maybe I'd be fainting too.

    Lisztomania is also, of course, the name of a hit Phoenix song.

  • This math teacher puts calculus lessons on Pornhub

    It's safe to assume that few Pornhub visitors are looking for hour-long calculus videos (by a fully-clothed instructor), but Taiwanese math teacher Changhsu puts them there anyway. His channel is filled with over 200 decidedly unsexy chalkboard lessons about topics like differential equations (link NSFW). The 34-year-old math tutor found the YouTube market for math explainers to be saturated, so he decided to expand his reach into Pornhub (link NSFW). He told Mel Magazine that he wants to reach a new market of mathematics learners.

    "Since very few people teach math on adult video platforms, and since there are so many people who watch videos on them, I thought that if I uploaded my videos there, a lot of people would see them."

    Mel Magazine

    This logic seems perfectly reasonable to me. You know what they say: location, location, location!

    So far, Changhsu's plan to garner acclaim has worked well. He has 1.6 million video views on Pornhub and says it directs business to his more profitable online course. "Many students who need a teacher who can teach math know me through Pornhub, and some of them buy my course," he says. Altogether, his online course pulls in 7,500,000 New Taiwan dollars (over $250,000 U.S.) per year, which he uses to pay his bills and provide a decent salary to his employees, who help him teach on his various platforms.

    By and large, the Pornhub community has accepted Changhsu and his lessons. Not only is he a verified Pornhub member, but the comments beneath his videos are mostly wholesome and welcoming. For instance, a user by the name of Hanimechann says, "Thanks, I needed this for my math finals." Another who goes by RobertsHoles writes, "This guy will do anything to reach his students!" 

    Mel Magazine

    Changhsu's Pornhub profile even includes some personal stats, like his height (5-7"), his interests and hobbies (roughly translated to "interesting things"), and turnoffs (channel deleted by Pornhub).

  • HAPPY NATIONAL CAPS LOCK DAY! A short history of the holiday

    The caps lock key is a vestige of mechanical typewriters, mimicking the function of the "shift bar," which literally shifts the typewriter in order to type capital letters. Today, the key resides on the left side of most keyboards, and while similar commands like bold and italics are relegated to keyboard commands, the caps lock keeps its coveted spot beside the home row (except for in Chromebooks, which recently replaced the key with an "everything button".) Some Reddit users aren't big fans of all-caps and have remapped the caps lock key to other keys like backspace, escape, or enter.

    But other internet users are major caps lock fans.

    In 2000, Derek Arnold declared October 22 International Caps Lock Day, suggesting that for the entire day, everyone types on caps lock. The software developer explained the holiday on a now-defunct webpage:

    International Caps Lock Day is in fact a testament to the small mindedness of certain Western individuals: the majority of the world's population writes in scripts which have no concept of letter casing. Therefore it is advised to laugh at anyone who invokes this day as an excuse to dismiss local typographical conventions: they are simply making an ass out of themselves.

    Today

    After the death of Billy Mays, the impassioned infomercial star prone to yell-talking ("BUT I'M NOT DONE YET!"), Arnold declared a second caps lock day to take place on June 28th, the anniversary of Mays' death.

    CELEBRATE RESPONSIBLY!

  • Alec Baldwin fatally shoots director of photography on film set in apparent prop gun accident

    An accident on the set of the movie "Rust" killed director of photography Halyna Hutchins, 42, and sent director Joel Souza, 48, to hospital, reports the New York Times. A prop gun, fired by actor Alec Baldwin, is the immediate focus of the investigation: "Detectives are investigating how and what type of projectile was discharged."

    According to Ms. Hutchins's website, she was originally from Ukraine and grew up on a Soviet military base in the Arctic Circle. She studied journalism in Ukraine and film in Los Angeles.

    She called herself a "restless dreamer" and an "adrenaline junkie" on her Instagram profile. She posted multiple images this month from the set of "Rust," including a video on Tuesday of her riding a horse on her day off.

    The New York Times

    The Sherrif's Office in Santa Fe County, the location of the incident, investigates the context of the shooting. The investigation remains active and no charges have been filed.

    "According to investigators it appears that the scene being filmed involved the use of a prop firearm when it was discharged," a statement from authorities said. "Detectives are investigating how and what type of projectile was discharged."

    CNN

    The accident comes nearly three decades after Brandon Lee, the son of Bruce Lee, died after being accidentally shot on the set of the movie The Crow in 1993.

  • Japanese vending machine sells flights to surprise destinations

    In the booming industry of Japanese vending machines (gachapon), you can get just about anything in a tiny, plastic sphere—even items as impractical as a mini water cooler, mini cats with desserts, figurines that are "drunk in public", and even panties to put on a water bottle.

    Now, you can get a domestic flight to an unknown location.

    Peach Aviation, a Japanese airline that largely flies domestic routes, is cashing in on that fleeting exhilaration. 

    On Wednesday, the company installed its very own gacha vending machine in Tokyo's buzzing Shibuya district, filled with round-trip mileage points to domestic destinations out of Tokyo's Narita Airport. The process is entirely random, and only upon opening do customers find out where they're going.

    Vice

    The vending machines' draw is probably about the thrill of a surprise vacation— not about saving money. According to Vice, winning the trip doesn't always cover the full price of airfare. A customer pays 5,000 Japanese yen ($44) for the vending machine and wins 6,000 Japanese yen ($53) worth of mileage points to use toward the destination they won.

  • Researchers trained AI with r/AmITheAsshole. Ask it your moral questions!

    "Should I get takeout for dinner even if I have leftovers in the fridge?" I asked Delphi, an AI built to answer questions of morals.

    "It's okay," Delphi responded.

    You can ask Delphi your own questions here!

    Researchers from the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence and the University of Washington published a paper describing the project. The team sourced questions from the Am I the Asshole? subreddit, the Confessions subreddit, the ROCStories corpus, and the Dear Abby advice column. They enlisted participants to read the questions and judge them based on moral norms in the US.

    According to the paper, Delphi's moral judgments are correct over 92% of the time. Delphi says it's okay to kill flies, but not dogs or cows. Eating meat is fine, but not in front of your vegetarian mother. As The Verge points out, changing the wording can change moral judgment.

    "Sometimes it's obvious how to tip the scales. For example, the AI will tell you that "drunk driving" is wrong but that "having a few beers while driving because it hurts no-one" is a-okay. If you add the phrase "if it makes everyone happy" to the end of your statement, then the AI will smile beneficently on any immoral activity of your choice, up to and including genocide. Similarly, if you add "without apologizing" to the end of many benign descriptions, like "standing still" or "making pancakes," it will assume you should have apologized and tells you that you're being rude. Ask Delphi is a creature of context."

    The Verge

  • Koalas have a chlamydia problem, so scientists launch vaccine trial

    Koalas—a lot of koalas— get chlamydia. And while humans can typically pop a few pills and get back to business in a few weeks, koalas don't respond well to chlamydia antibiotics. Current treatments disrupt the marsupials' gut bacteria, which are necessary to digest eucalyptus leaves.

    Due to habitat destruction and raging STIs, koala populations are nearing endangered status. Researchers from Queensland developed a protein-based vaccine to combat chlamydia.

    Chlamydia infection in humans is caused by a similar but distinct bacterium, Chlamydia trachomatis. While antibiotics can easily treat chlamydia is people, they are not ideal for the marsupials.

    The researchers hope the vaccine will help to improve the survival and reproduction of the animals, especially in parts of south-east Queensland and New South Wales where chlamydia affects more than half of koala populations.

    The Guardian

    Chlamydia vaccine trials in humans are ongoing, but in the midst of powerful anti-vaxx movements, there's a chance that we'll eradicate chlamydia in koalas before humans.

    Common STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis increasingly resist antibiotics.

  • Is it #BonesDay? A lazy pug named "Noodles" forecasts the day's mood

    "Good morning, everyone, and welcome back to yet another round of 'no bones,' the game where we find out if my 13-year-old pug woke up with bones, and we also kind of find out how our day is going to go," says Jonathan Graziano at the beginning of his Tiktok videos.

    Noodles the pug wakes up every morning and plays a game with his owner— and the internet. Graziano picks him up, and if Noodles flops back into his doggie bed, Graziano declares he has "no bones." When Noodles stays standing, though, it's "bones day" (hooray!).

    The lazy dog has garnered remarkable traction, with a number of articles comparing the dog's floppy legs to horoscopes and Groundhog Day. "My mental health is in the hands of a pug," said commenter @pettypastor.

    Graziano's "no bones" videos have racked up millions of views, and his account has grown to 1.7 million followers. The hashtag "BonesDay" has been viewed more than 33.8 million times as of Monday, and "#BonesOrNoBones" has been viewed more than 2.1 million times. "No bones" was even trending on Twitter Monday.

    NBC

    "He's been doing this since I adopted him," Jonathan said. He adopted Noodle when he was 7 years old, five pounds overweight, and had "a mouth full of dead teeth." "He has always been super stubborn in the morning, and it's so funny to watch this dog just finally let gravity take over."

    Buzzfeed
  • The story of Hawaii's "invisible" cows

    A sign near the Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii warns visitors of "invisible" cows— dark-colored cows who are hard to spot in foggy or dark conditions. It's become an iconic landmark, and a Mauna Kea gift shop sells invisible cow stickers (available online for $4 plus shipping).

    Most of the Mauna Kea access road below Hale Pohaku is open range, and the cows frequently cross the road. Dark colored cows are often invisible in darkness and/or fog. Use extreme caution and drive very slowly in this open range. 

    Mauna Kea sign

    The sign, at the site of a dormant volcano in a high-altitude region of a Pacific island, may sound like a joke. But there's probably some truth in the warning.

    Cattle certainly aren't native to Hawaii— they were domesticated from the auroch and were common in Eurasia. So how did they end up roaming this island in the Pacific?

    In the 1790s, a British officer gave the King of Hawaii a few cattle as a gift. The king, eager to increase the population size of a valuable animal, released them into the wild. He imposed the death penalty on anyone who killed the cattle, resulting in unchecked population growth. As the animals reproduced, they and wreaked ecological havoc. Eventually, in the 1830s, the Kingdom of Hawaii began to combat the invasive species.

    King Kamehameha III invited cowboys from what is now the American Southwest to train crews of Hawaiian cowboys, called paniolos. They worked to control and domesticate the cows, but the paniolos didn't fix the problem immediately. By one estimate, the cattle population was still near 35,000 in 1848, and even as recently as 2013, Hawaii's DNR has devoted resources to controlling feral cattle.

    If you'd like to practice finding invisible cows from the comfort of your home, check out findtheinvisiblecow.com. The game is quite simple: you hover your mouse over the screen until you reach a spot where a voice desperately screams "COW!" and you click. Tada, you found the invisible cow!

  • In this simulation, spending Bill Gates' 100 billion is exhausting

    If you had $100 billion that you had to spend, how would you even do it? A simulation by Neal Agarwal lets you squander the wealth of Bill Gates on things like movies, monster trucks, and the Mona Lisa. Try it out here, or spend Elon Musk's fortune here.

    Gates, of course, isn't in a rush to buy 106 Superbowl Ads or 34 cruise ships. Instead, he has a multi-billion dollar investment portfolio and the world's second-largest charitable foundation. He has publicly pledged to give half of his net worth to charity. As he and his ex-wife Melinda Gates divide their assets, he loses his position as the fourth-richest person.

    While you're on Neal's website, check out some of his other projects!