It took 83 engines to get to the moon

Amy Shira Teitel of Vintage Space shares lots of cool facts about the golden age of space exploration. Here, she enumerates the engines (and motors) it took Apollo to get to the moon. Read the rest

Watch how 19th-century Genaille-Lucas calculating rulers work

Multiplying large numbers before calculators led to a number of ingenious inventions to make things easier, like these Genaille-Lucas rulers demonstrated by the fine folks at DONG.

Via manufacturer Creative Crafthouse:

In the days before calculators, methods of simplifying calculations were of much interest. In 1617 Napier also published a book describing a method to multiply, divide and extract square roots using a set of bars or rods. These became known as Napier's Bones. (avail on our website)

In the late 1800s, Henri Genaille, a French civil engineer, invented an improvement to Napier's Bones that eliminates the need to handle carries from one digit position to the next. The problem was posed by Edouard Lucas and thus the alternate name of Genaille-Lucas Rulers (or Rods).

There are also sets for division. You can get your own set online or print your own from these free files.

Genaille-Lucas Rulers (YouTube / DONG) Read the rest

Ancient trilobites had eyes made of crystals

Fun fact: trilobites were able to see thanks to eyes made of calcite instead of soft tissue. YouTuber Thunderf00t shows off a cool fossil and explains the phenomenon. Read the rest

Scientists figure out how to make and measure time crystals

Time crystals, a theoretical phase of matter proposed in 2012, can now be reliably created and measured, thanks to researchers at UC Berkeley. Above: a great primer on time crystals.

The discovery built on the work of several teams of researchers:

Time crystals repeat in time because they are kicked periodically, sort of like tapping Jell-O repeatedly to get it to jiggle, Yao said. The big breakthrough, he argues, is less that these particular crystals repeat in time than that they are the first of a large class of new materials that are intrinsically out of equilibrium, unable to settle down to the motionless equilibrium of, for example, a diamond or ruby.

“This is a new phase of matter, period, but it is also really cool because it is one of the first examples of non-equilibrium matter,” Yao said. “For the last half-century, we have been exploring equilibrium matter, like metals and insulators. We are just now starting to explore a whole new landscape of non-equilibrium matter.”

Maybe the next step is the development of these time crystals:

Scientists unveil new form of matter: time crystals (UC Berkeley via EurekAlert) Read the rest

Why Is Blue So Rare In Nature?

Blue as a pigment in nature is incredibly rare. Most animals with blue coloration achieve it through microscopic structures in their skin, fur, or feathers. This helpful explainer delves into the details. Read the rest

Watch this high schooler explain the theory of relativity

Filipino student Hillary Diane Andales won a $250,000 scholarship from the Breakthrough Junior Challenge for this entertaining and easy-to-understand explainer on relativity and the equivalence of reference frames. Read the rest

Math theorem: the most misshapen ham sandwich can always be cut into two perfect halves

Mathematician Hannah Fry explains the "Ham Sandwich Theorem," a mathematical concept that says that even the most poorly constructed sandwich can be cut exactly in half with only one straight cut of a knife. Read the rest

Great video primer on the mathematics of auctions

What's the difference between a tulip auction, an English auction, a sealed bid auction, and a Vickrey second-bid auction? Preston McAfee, Chief Economist at Microsoft explains auction types.

Bonus video: America's contribution to the English auction:

The Ideal Auction (YouTube / Numberphile) Read the rest

Dataviz ducks: when designers put style ahead of substance

Calling Bullshit (previously) has released a wonderful lecture series on the epidemic of misinformation in today's media landscape. This lecture looks at dataviz ducks, the craptacular USA Today-style charts that dumb down and garbage up information graphics. Read the rest

A quick and handy guide to audio file formats

The fine folks at Techquickie put together a quick overview that takes the mystery out of the dizzying array of audio file formats, including when to use what and brief histories of the most common types. Read the rest

Numberphile looks at mathematics' undecidable statements

The average person probably assumes that mathematics is a complete system in which all mathematical statements can be proved or disproved. The fine folks at Numberphile are ready to disabuse folks of this notion with a nice overview of Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem. Read the rest

How many humans and animals have died while on space missions?

Second Thought takes a brisk stroll through the historical death toll for earth creatures sent into space. Let's just say you didn't want to be a space monkey in the mid-20th century. Read the rest

The genetics of photosensitive sneezing, explained

If you're among the one in four people who sneeze when you move from a dark place into the sunlight, this nifty little explainer from a fellow traveler gives a great overview of causation theories over the millennia. Turns out it is just one transposed letter in the second chromosome that causes the effect. Read the rest

People who identify as lucky really are different than others

This nice little explainer covers the nebulous concept of luck in a fun way. It summarizes the work of Richard Wiseman, who researched self-identified lucky and unlucky people. He found four key distinctions. Read the rest

Sobering look at how the poor are denied American justice

American penitentiaries, in idealized Quaker imaginings, were to be a place for reflective penitence followed by forgiveness. That's not how it worked out, especially for the poor. And the problem goes far beyond prison reform: Read the rest

Crazy unearthly planetary phenomena described

22,000 mile per hour winds, magma clouds that rain rocks, and planets where you could fly by flapping your arms in a wingsuit. These are some of the remarkable phenomena scientists believe are possible on nearby planetary bodies. Read the rest

Fifty years later, the same flight takes longer. Why?

Fifty years ago, American Airlines' flight from New York to Los Angeles took 5 hours and 43 minutes. The same flight is 6 hours and 27 minutes today. Wendover Productions examines why planes don't fly faster in this interesting video. Read the rest

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