Industrial mechanic Ulf Hoffmann built the robot called UHTTR-1, which plays table tennis with the aid of its own camera. It doesn’t miss a shot, it's just not as aggressive as some players I’ve seen -yet. But what a great practice partner! Learn more about it at Hoffmann’s blog, if you can read German, or you might prefer the Google translation. He mentions that his son added text and music to the video so "it is not so boring." I found the tennis anything but boring! -via Laughing Squid
Playing Star Wars with your kids is so much more fun when you can summon the power of… static electricity! Your kids may be impressed beyond belief, or they may be fighting off nightmares afterward. This moment of inspired scientific role-playing is brought to you by Lunarbaboon.
(Image credit: Flickr user Ian Sane)
This is His Royal Majesty King Zawadi Mungu of the Oregon Zoo. He lives there with his wives Neka and Kya.
(Image credit: Flickr user Ryan J. Zeigler)
And since September, he has three daughters: the triplets Kamali, Zalika, and Angalia. The three cubs are almost weaned now, and this past week they met their father for the first time. The first meeting was inside, away from the public. Zawadi Mungu was wary at first, but was soon grooming the cubs himself. Afterward, the whole family made their first public appearance together in the outdoor enclosure. The cubs wanted to play with dad, while their mother Neka and "aunt" Kya watched close by.
Zawadi Mungu was surrounded by five females, but he took it in stride. The little snarls he gives the cubs are very inhibited. They have yet to see their father in full apex predator mode. You can keep up with the lion cubs’ development at Facebook. -via Viral Viral Videos
The National Science Foundation recently released results of their science test that showed Americans sadly lacking in basic science knowledge. We cringed at the fact that one in four Americans did not know that the Earth revolves around the sun. So how hard is the test? When I saw the opportunity to sample it, I thought, “How fun!” But there are only ten questions, and to Neatorama readers they would be so extremely simple you would all get ten out of ten right.
However, under each answer, we find out how the average Americans polled scored on each, which is sobering. More than half the respondents did not know what lasers are made of. The answers also have some neat explanations in the form of videos. And the comments are what you’d expect -half argue about two questions on religious grounds, and the other half are pedantic science nerds who argue about the exact wording of a question. See those questions at PolicyMic. -via Digg
(Image credit: Minute Physics)
Take just a minute for a happiness break. Mike and Caroline named their new puppy Tobias. No plot here, just an adorably photogenic puppy frolicking through a gorgeous landscape accompanied by bouncy music. That's definitely worth a couple of minutes! And you'll have a smile on your face afterward. -via Tastefully Offensive
If you think the Internet came out of Silicon Valley, that NASA planned the first satellite to orbit Earth, or that IBM created the modern computer—think again. Each one of these breakthroughs was conceived at RAND, a shadowy think tank in Santa Monica, California.
The Intimidation Factor
Rand rose out of the ashes of World War II. After witnessing the success of the Manhattan Project—the $2 billion initiative that created the first atomic bomb—a five-star Air Force general named Henry “Hap” Arnold (pictured) concluded that America needed a team of great minds to keep the country’s technology ahead of the rest of the world. In 1946, he gathered together a small group of scientists and $10 million in funding and started RAND (which stands for Research and Development). He even convinced a family friend, aircraft magnate Donald Douglas, to house the project at his factory in Santa Monica.
After a few short months, RAND got the attention of academics, politicians, and military strategists alike by issuing a prophetic study called “Preliminary Design of an Experimental World-Circling Spaceship.” At the time, rocket science was still in its infancy, so RAND’s call for an orbiting space station was revolutionary. Not only did the think tank specify the kind of fuel the spaceship would need and how quickly it could be built, but it also outlined how the station could predict the weather, transform long-distance communication, and, most importantly, intimidate our rivals abroad. If America could put a satellite into space, what else was she capable of?
Although President Truman passed on the space station, the military fell in love with RAND. Through Hap’s connections, the Air Force quickly became the think tank’s main contractor, and RAND began consulting on everything from propeller turbines to missile defense. Before long, the organization was so flush with contracts that it had to hire hundreds of additional researchers to keep up. In recruitment ads, RAND bragged about its intellectual genealogy, tracing a direct line from its president, Frank Collbohm, to Isaac Newton. Whether or not that claim was true, the institute secured a reputation as the place to dream up new ways to wage wars and keep enemies at bay.
By the 1960s, America’s rivals were paying attention. The Soviet newspaper Pravda nicknamed RAND “the academy of science and death and destruction.” American outfits preferred to call them the “wizards of Armageddon.”
The Soviets had good reason to worry about RAND. In 1957, the Air Force hired the think tank to create spy satellites.
You may have heard the news that the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is getting an overhaul. The essay portion that was added in 2005 will be made optional, and the rest of the test is going back to the old 1600-point scale. Questions will be replaced to bring them more in line with what students are being taught in the classroom, to try to level the playing field that has been upset in recent years by students who can afford test tutoring. Why? Because students, parents, teachers, and even colleges don’t like it. It’s stressful, interferes with regular classwork, and doesn’t even predict college success.
A growing number of colleges and universities, frustrated by the minimal change to the SAT when it was revised in 2005 and motivated by a report issued in 2008 by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (Nacac), began to eliminate the SAT and its competitor, the A.C.T., as admission requirements, following the lead of several small, liberal-arts colleges that did so years before. The authors of the Nacac report cited a University of California study, which characterized the SAT as a “relatively poor predictor of student performance” and questioned the tendency of colleges to rely on the SAT as “one of the most important admission tools.” (Many of the schools that dropped test requirements saw spikes in their applications, at least in the first year.)
Around the time the report came out — and following the publication of “The Power of Privilege,” by the Wake Forest University sociology professor Joseph A. Soares, an account of the way standardized tests contributed to discriminatory admissions policies at Yale — Wake Forest became the first highly rated institution (it regularly appears as a Top 30 university on the U.S. News & World Report college rankings) to announce a test-optional admissions policy. Follow-up studies at Wake Forest showed that the average high-school G.P.A. of incoming freshmen increased after the school stopped using standardized-test scores as a factor. Seventy-nine percent of its 2012 incoming class was in the top 10 percent of their high-school classes. Before going test-optional, that figure was in the low 60s. In addition, the school became less homogeneous. “The test highly correlates with family income,” says Soares, who also edited a book that, in part, examines the effects of making the SAT optional at the University of Georgia, Johns Hopkins University and Wake Forest. “High-school grades do not.” He continued, “We have a lot more social, racial and lifestyle diversity. You see it on campus. Wake Forest was a little too much like a J. Crew catalog before we went test-optional.”
The new test will not be introduced until the spring of 2016 -too late for all my children. Only time will tell if the changes are an improvement. The New York Times has the story of how the SAT became something other than what it was intended to be, and how the changes for 2016 came about. -via Digg
A girl and her dog take a look backward at the life they’ve shared growing up together. You may want to get a hankie before you watch. The ad for Chevy was directed by Lloyd Lee Choi. Yes, believe it or not, it’s a car ad. It should send you right out to buy a car adopt a dog from the local shelter. -via Digg
UniverseProjects told us about his Russian wife trying to ask for a tape measure. He knew what she meant. Learning a different language is hard, and it takes years to learn enough words to express everything you need to express. Meanwhile, you do the best you can with the words you have. And we can usually figure out what you mean, but the effort can be amusing.
Everyone has an example, from all different languages. Here are some from the comments at imgur.
Tape measure: centimeter ribbon
Ice cubes: very cold water with corners
Shell: snail houses
Wrists: hand ankles
Napkin: face paper
Volcano: fire mountain (which turned out to be literally correct in Japanese)
Muffin: bread mushroom
Bathroom: ceramics department
Madejyalook took some of the funnier phrases and illustrated them.
Continue reading for more.
A little dachshund caught an inflatable shark that’s way bigger than he is. The dog clearly wants to stash his catch in his cubbyhole (a pet carrier) but it’s too big! You think he’ll never be able to do it, but preserverance and a can-do attitude bring surprising results. The lesson here is: Never give up on the things you really want to accomplish. -via Uproxx
Looking through a collection of historical images at reddit, this one jumped out from the list (which is heavy on World War II photos). These are the nine monarchs of Europe who attended the funeral of the United Kingdom’s King Edward VII on May 20, 1910. They are:
Standing, from left to right: King Haakon VII of Norway, Tsar Ferdinand of Bulgaria, King Manuel II of Portugal, Kaiser Wilhelm II of the German Empire, King George I of Greece and King Albert I of Belgium. Seated, from left to right: King Alfonso XIII of Spain, King-Emperor George V of the United Kingdom and King Frederick VIII of Denmark.
They were all related to Edward VII; George V was his son and the rest were in-laws or cousins. The funeral was also attended by scores of queens, princes, princesses, and other royalty. U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt was there representing the United States. See the photo full-size.
The ad copy is mundane, but the images are stunning. In the 1930s, the Japanese railway system distributed beautiful art deco posters encouraging tourism by train. A collection of these rare posters in pristine condition were found rolled up in storage at an antique furniture store. Antiques Roadshow appraiser Rudy Franchi was stumped as to their origin. Even museum poster curators had never seen anything like them.
The veil of mystery surrounding the posters probably has something to do with Japan’s place on the world stage in the 1930s. While much of the Western world was struggling from the effects of the Great Depression, Japan was expanding, with a growing economy and territories that included Taiwan and Korea, which was a popular destination for Japanese tourists. The 1930s was also the decade when Japan established numerous national parks, many of which featured natural hot springs and were accessible by Japan’s growing system of railways. “It was like putting up posters for Yellowstone and encouraging tourists to get there by train,” Franchi says.
Although no one can be 100 percent sure, Franchi says the posters were probably printed in editions of 2,000 or fewer. “We think the numbers were fairly limited,” he says, “because there were only so many places to distribute them at the time. They’d put them in railway stations, send them to classrooms, things like that. The marketing wasn’t very sophisticated back then. Low thousands is typical of what the Japanese would produce for domestic posters. You see tons of Japanese posters from the ’30s meant for international distribution, but these were internal.”
This is my first encounter with “jumping fitness,” but I might like to try it sometime. A trampoline with a handle is my kind of trampoline! You might want to turn the volume down, as this video is pretty loud. And it’s short. And it gets a bit, uh, exciting toward the end. -via Daily of the Day
Manuel Juraci is a beekeeper in Itatira, Brazil. There are a lot of beekeepers in the small town, but Juraci is one of the most successful, and one of the reasons is that he has Boneco the donkey to help haul the honey. Boneco can accompany his master on his rounds safely in his custom-made beekeeping donkey suit! Read about Boneco, and a beekeeping dog as well, at Gizmodo. -via Everlasting Blort
In 1979, George Lucas was looking for a good short film to show in theaters before The Empire Strikes Back, which was released in 1980. Roger Christian, the set decorator on the first Star Wars film, was commissioned to make a 25-minute film for Lucas. It was Christian’s first attempt at directing a film, and he only had a £25,000 ($50,000) grant to do it with. The result was Black Angel, a medieval fantasy about a knight who must rescue a mysterious woman. Christian and his tiny crew shot the film in Scotland.
But back in London, Christian's editor informed him that there wasn't enough footage to meet the 25-minute contract. To lengthen the film, they decided on a new option at the time, called step-printing, which produced a slow-motion effect during fight sequences by printing one frame repeatedly.
"It looked amazing," Christian says. Lucas was apparently so impressed with the fight sequences that the technique was then edited into The Empire Strikes Back during a scene with Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in a cave. "He liked that look." Black Angel's stunning Arthurian appearance would also go on to influence fantasy movies in the 1980s like Excalibur and Legend.
Black Angel was shown before The Empire Strikes Back in Europe and Australia, but not in America. Then the film was completely lost for thirty years! A negative was recovered under mysterious circumstances in 2011, and the complete restored short film will be available for sale soon. Read the story of Black Angel, and see a clip, at Esquire. -via Digg
Vi Hart collaborated with mathematical artist Gwen Fisher, her sister Ruth at Sweets by Ruth, and software engineer Andrea Hawksley to make cookies. At least their stated purpose was to make cookies and forget about math, but that’s not the way the afternoon turned out. Read more about this video at Hart’s website. -via Boing Boing
Remember newspaper comic strips? Of course you do -you may still read them today, although you probably do so online. We all had our favorite strips, from Thimble Theater to Doonesbury to Calvin and Hobbes. I recall well when Farley died in the strip For Better or For Worse. It was certainly sad, but while all the other characters aged in real time, Farley had been around for twice a dog’s normal lifespan.
John Green has plenty of other stories from the comic strips in this week’s mental_floss video. You already know about Peanuts, but many of these stories will be new trivia for you. I still miss The Far Side. Is your favorite strip included here?
The focus of this map from 1685 is the ocean currents, while we find the land masses are the most interesting part. The proportions are strange, but it’s pretty complete considering the measuring tools and methods available at the time. The Mississippi River flows through Texas, and Florida is missing, but the details of the coastlines are pretty familiar. This map is part of a collection of historical graphs from the British Library in an exhibit called Beautiful Science: Picturing Data, Inspiring Insight. See more examples from the exhibit at Buzzfeed.
(Image credit: British Library)
Detective Winston Harbin normally works on cold cases for the homicide department of the New Orleans Police Department. But when you work for the city of New Orleans, you know you’re getting pulled for parade duty during Mardi Gras season. Still, there’s no reason not to have a little fun! Forty-nine-year-old Harbin was recorded jointing in a group doing a line dance called the Wobble during the Endymion parade on Saturday. Despite the vertical video syndrome, his dance with fellow detective Decynda Barnes and parade-goers is a real hit! Harbin was also spotted doing the Dougie and the Cupid Shuffle, which you can see at the Times-Picayune. -via Time Newsfeed
He was, quite probably, the most popular and beloved movie star of them all. More than that, he was an American icon- ranking with Washington, Lincoln and Davy Crockett.
John Wayne's last film was to be The Shootist. Actual figures vary because Wayne did so many obscure films early in his career, but it was around his 175th film. Co-starring Ron Howard and Lauren Bacall, Wayne's director was Don Siegel.
Wayne had hated and insulted Siegel back in earlier days, when someone mistakenly told him Siegel was a communist. John was a virulent anti-commie, but he found out that the rumor was untrue. He approached Siegel and said, “Kid, I owe you an apology".
Wayne had lived a very full life (an understatement!) and his 70-year-old body was quickly breaking down. The filming was very unsteady, due to the Duke's bad health. He had trouble breathing and there was an oxygen talk on the set for him to take breaths. There were bad coughing spells and Wayne missed several days shooting, necessitating the use of a double.
Wayne, like so many people in great pain, was moody, angry and often hostile. One day he blew up at the cameraman, bawling him out for not filming right and not paying enough attention to "lighting." Siegel then angrily told Wayne to leave the cameraman alone and take a look at the dailies (the previous day's footage). John did come in and watch the dailies and he was pleasantly surprised. "That's the best damn film of me I've ever seen. I love you and i hope you'll forgive me,” he said.
Unfortunately, The Shootist was a massive flop, grossing less than $6 million domestically. Wayne, not broke, but in need of money, was now forced to star in TV commercials- something he never did before. He filmed commercials for "Datril" (an aspirin subsitute) and "Great Western Savings & Loan."
The Duke had said, “Two lousy, crooked business managers done me in.” Wayne's bad investments had cost him a fortune. He was somewhat bitter, knowing that he deserved to be much more well-off after all the years of performing he'd put in.
Jean-Michel Claverie and Chantal Abergel led a team of scientists into Siberia to look for frozen viruses. A soil sample they took from the permafrost 100 feet underground has yielded a previously-unknown virus that will still infect cells, even after being frozen for somewhere between 34,000 and 37,000 years! The virus, named Pithovirus sibericum, is also extremely large: 1.5 micrometers, which can be seen with a regular microscope. That’s up to 100 times larger than the average virus.
It poses no danger to humans, because it exclusively infects single-celled organisms called amoebae—something the scientists discovered when they revived the microbe from its inert virion form by warming it up and putting it in a petri dish with live amoebae. Once revived, the virus entered the amoebae cells, hijacked the cells' metabolic machinery to create many copies of itself, and split the cells open, killing them and freeing itself to infect further cells.
Previously-known giant viruses also infect amoebae, likely because of how easy it is to enter them. Amoebae feed through phagocytosis, using their cellular membranes to engulf particles and organisms; for a giant virus to get inside an amoeba, all it has to do it let itself be engulfed. Because most human and other animals cells don't engulf particles in this way, viruses that infect us generally have to use more complex entry methods, which prohibit such an enormous size.
How can a virus stay dormant so long and come back to life? Because viruses are not exactly what we normally call “living.” They exist on the line between how we define living and non-living things. They can reproduce, but they do not have their own equipment to do it -rather, they must hijack a living cell in order to harness the cell’s energy and replicate their DNA. Viruses: truly weird and getting weirder. And even though this “new” old virus cannot infect humans, who is to say there aren’t other viruses that can, frozen in the earth, just waiting to re-activate someday? Read more about the frozen giant virus Pithovirus sibericum at Smithsonian.
(Image credit: Julia Bartoli and Chantal Abergel, IGS and CNRS-AMU)
Warning: this will make you feel ancient. Dial phones were replaced by push-button phones when these kids’ parents were children (although that wasn’t universal -remember when we had to pay an extra fee for touchtone service?), so it’s no surprise they don’t know how to use them. But when you hear them try to figure out how to send a text on a rotary phone, it strikes home how different the world they are growing up in really is.
My older daughter found a rotary phone in vendor's mall a few years ago and asked me to show her how it was used. Every step was totally new to her. Then she wanted to buy it and use it! I said no, because we'd then have to get landline service. Would that even work these days? -via Metafilter
The record-breaking selfie that Ellene DeGeneres took at the Academy Awards Sunday night has another honor: it’s been rendered in LEGO bricks! Master LEGO artist Ochre Jelly (Iain Heath) must’ve started on this one immediately. Look how authentic it is -even the facial expressions are spot on!
Ellen told everyone to "retweet" her Oscars selfie.
I thought she said "rebuild" it ...in LEGO.
A little girl named Lara practices to become the musical director of this church choir in Kyrgyzstan someday. From her careful movements and her passion for the music, it probably won’t be as long as you might think! -via Daily Picks and Flicks
The caption of this image at imgur says, “As a European this is how I imagine Americans have breakfast.” Americans were quick to set the record straight, because there are certain inaccuracies in the meal. There aren’t any hash browns, grits, biscuits and gravy, or pancakes. There is only one egg in this picture, and the coffee should be black. Also, where’s the jelly for the toast? And the gun should be turned the other way, making it easier for a right-handed person to pick up. That’s the trouble with European stereotypes about Americans -they are too mild for our tastes. -via John Walkenbach
Here’s lovely garden of cacti and succulents, on the tops of cupcakes! Alana Jones-Mann made them, and will show you how you can do it yourself. Make your favorite cupcakes, cover them in a bed of “sand,” and mix up some cactus-colored icing. Of course, you’ll do this to impress people, but warn the person who grabs the tall cactus about the toothpick inside that keeps it upright. But if your guests think they are too pretty to eat, your job is done, and you can eat them yourself later! -via Blazenfluff
These shapes certainly look familiar to Star Trek fans, and even the Shat. This is a picture of sand dunes on the surface of Mars, in an image taken by the HiRISE camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Technically, they’re called barchan dunes. They can form when the wind blows predominantly from one direction. If there’s an obstacle, like a big rock or small hill, the wind will blow around the obstacle, the same way water flows around a rock. Sand will pile up on the leading edge and also be swept around to the backside. Eddies in the wind create circular currents on the downwind side, building up walls of sand on the sides and creating that horseshoe crab-like appearance.
Phil Plait explains more about barchan dunes at Bad Astronomy.
(Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)
There’s a case before the Supreme Court about political speech and how truthful it must be. It’s a sticky issue, as it pits freedom of speech against an informed public, and who is to decide how truthful a statement is, anyway? P.J. O’Rourke wrote an amicus brief on behalf of The Cato Institute stretching the points of the arguments into satire.
The question is: “Can a state government criminalize political statements that are less than 100% truthful?” The actual argument begins on page eight of the pdf (page 2 of the document).
In modern times, “truthiness”—a “truth” asserted “from the gut” or because it “feels right,” without regard to evidence or logic5 —is also a key part of political discourse. It is difficult to imagine life without it, and our political discourse is weakened by Orwellian laws that try to prohibit it.
After all, where would we be without the knowledge that Democrats are pinko-communist flag-burners who want to tax churches and use the money to fund abortions so they can use the fetal stem cells to create pot-smoking lesbian ATF agents who will steal all the guns and invite the UN to take over America? Voters have to decide whether we’d be better off electing Republicans, those hateful, assault-weapon-wielding maniacs who believe that George Washington and Jesus Christ incorporated the nation after a Gettysburg reenactment and that the only thing wrong with the death penalty is that it isn’t administered quickly enough to secular-humanist professors of Chicano studies.
The rest of it is just as funny, and would be even funnier to those more familiar with constitutional law. It includes plenty of examples of political prevarication, slander, and mud-slinging from history. -via Metafilter
Can you believe it’s been 30 years since This Is Spinal Tap was released? Many folks just did not understand the movie at first, because it was very much like actual documentaries on the rock bands that played at big stadiums throughout the 1970s, yet the faces were somewhat familiar: Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer. The subtle humor mocked the excess and cluelessness of real rock stars so well that many thought they were a real band. And then they became an actual band, releasing albums and going on concert tours, which didn’t help the misunderstanding.
7. THE FILM HIT TOO CLOSE TO HOME FOR MANY FAMOUS MUSICIANS.
“We do love that, the musicians who have said, ‘Man, I can't watch Spinal Tap, it’s too much like my life,’” Harry Shearer says in John Kenneth Muir’s book, Best in Show: The Films of Christopher Guest and Company. “That's the highest compliment of all. It beats all the Oscar nominations we never got.” It’s a compliment the movie’s cast and crew hear quite often. Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen, Eddie Vedder, and Dee Snider are just a few of the musicians who have referenced similarities between their own lives and the movie’s plot.
8. IT MADE TOM WAITS AND THE EDGE CRY.
Tom Waits once said that when he watched the film for the first time, he cried because of its realism. The Edge shared a similar sentiment in 2005, when U2 was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: “It's so hard to keep things fresh, and not to become a parody of yourself,” the legendary guitarist told the crowd of onlookers. “And if you've ever seen that movie Spinal Tap, you will know how easy it is to parody what we all do. The first time I ever saw it, I didn't laugh. I wept. I wept because I recognized so much and so many of those scenes.”
But the film grew over the years, and is now a fan favorite. Read all 15 things at mental_floss.
In the late 1960s and early ‘70s, I did not miss a Batman comic (Superman, either), and even if I didn’t part with the 15 cents to take one home, I read them all through at the supermarket while mom shopped.
But since then, a lot has changed in the DC universe, and I read this comic from the top, hoping to catch some insight into Bruce Wayne and company that I should know. By the time I got to the bottom, it became clear that some things never change. Comic by Julia Lepetit and Andrew Bridgman at Dorkly.
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