Mercury is a dense metal, but it’s also liquid, which makes it a rather odd substance to play experiment with. The same volume of mercury is 13 times heavier than water. Mad scientist CodyDon Reeder wondered if you could flush mercury down a toilet. No, not your toilet, because it’s dangerous to put mercury in the sewer system. But a working toilet with a closed water system? Let’s see.
He also wondered how much mercury it would take to stop up a toilet, and then what would it be like to flush a toilet with mercury and no water! A toilet tank of mercury weighs about 240 pounds, so that in itself presented challenges, but Cody managed to do it. This is way more interesting than you might think. YouTube commenters say he should be nominated for an Ig Nobel next year. -via Metafilter
Michigan State professor and urological surgeon David Wartinger noticed that some of his patients tended to come home from vacation with fewer kidney stones, mainly because they told him about passing kidney stones while visiting the Disney theme parks in Orlando. One man passed three kidney stones, one every time he road the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Wartinger decided to investigate by going to Florida himself.
First, Wartinger used a 3-D printer to create a clear silicone model of that three-time-stone patient’s kidney. He then filled the kidney with stones and urine. (Not real urine, I assumed, as I know the park already has plenty.) Then he and colleague Marc Mitchell bought two tickets and flew to Orlando.
Of course, the researchers had to get permission from Disney World before bringing the model kidney onto the rides. “It was a little bit of luck,” Wartinger recalls. “We went to guest services, and we didn't want them to wonder what was going on—two adult men riding the same ride again and again, carrying a backpack. We told them what our intent was, and it turned out that the manager that day was a guy who recently had a kidney stone. He called the ride manager and said, do whatever you can to help these guys, they're trying to help people with kidney stones.”
Amazingly, the fake kidney passed the stones in the real urine, in 16.67 percent of the rides in the front of the coaster and 63.89 percent of rides in the back of the coaster.
The Lord of the Rings showed us the cozy underground homes of the Shire, where Hobbits live. They were intriguing, how they meshed with the surrounding natural world, and their Middle-Earth details. There are quite a few Hobbit homes in the real world, either specifically designed to be Tolkien or that happen to share the esthetic. Underground homes are quite eco-friendly and energy-efficient, and some of these houses fit into the landscape so well that you might not even realize they are there, like the Dune House in Florida.
Look too quickly, and you may miss the fact that a house is built under all of the greenery. It’s called the Dune House, is located in Atlantic Beach, Florida, and is practically hidden in the landscape. As far as Hobbit houses go, this one is completely decked out. It’s a two story building and was built in 1975 by famed architect William Morgan — that means he had a jump on the trend before LOTR was even a thing. The home is worth $1.4 million dollars, and it definitely looks expensive inside.
Well, The Hobbit was published in 1937 and The Lord of the Rings trilogy in the ‘50s, but most of the ten homes on this list are relatively recent and resemble the Hobbit homes in the movies. You can even visit and sleep in a couple of them!
While the alien race we know as the Klingons appeared in the original Star Trek TV series, they only achieved the iconic look and used their own language in the first Star Trek feature film in 1979. The language they spoke in Star Trek: The Motion Picture consisted of words made up by James Doohan, who played Engineer Scott. The role of non-human species and their languages would expand for further movies. About that time time, Marc Okrand of the National Captioning Institute was preparing to do close-captioning in real time for the 1982 Academy Awards.
During preparations in L.A., Okrand was having lunch with an old friend when serendipity struck. The friend was working on what would become Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and the film just so happened to need a linguist to dub a conversation between Vulcans Spock and Saavik (played by a young Kirstie Alley). Using clues from the little bit of Vulcan spoken in the first film, Okrand got to work. But Vulcan at this time wasn't really a language. "The scene was filmed with the actors speaking English. My job was to make up gobbly-goop that fit the lip movements and then was dubbed in," Okrand says. Two years later, he was asked backed to work on the third Star Trek movie, but this time the task was a bit more complex: to develop the Klingon language.
Russian history in U.S. schools is usually limited to Lenin, Stalin, the space race, and maybe now they include the fall of the Soviet Union. Depending on your age, you likely learned about Nicholas II, the last Tsar and his family from movies, because it was a very dramatic story. There were several movies about Rasputin, and I would recommend the 1971 film Nicholas and Alexandra. But even more people recall the movies Anastasia (1956) or Anastasia (1997), neither of which tell us much about the family or the Russian revolution. They are about Anna Anderson, who was presented as the youngest of the Tsar’s four daughters, Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna. Anderson was only taking advantage of the rumors that Anastasia was the only member of the family who had survived the assassination of 1918 and had been missing ever since. How did those rumors ever get started? Probably because, despite the Soviet Union's refusal to say anything about the Tsar's fate, there were a few people who knew that not all the Romanovs were buried together.
In the spring of 1979, Alexander Avdonin and Geli Ryabov discovered the pit in which five of the seven Romanovs (and four of their servants) had been buried. Since the Communists were still ruling Russia at the time, Advonin and Ryabov decided to keep the finding a secret. The pit wouldn’t be officially opened until 1991, the same year that the Soviet Union dissolved.
DNA and skeletal analysis matched the remains in the pit to Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarina Alexandra, Yevgeny Botkin, Alexei Trupp, Ivan Kharitonov, Anna Demidova, and three of the four grand duchesses. William R. Maples (a forensic expert) concluded that the two bodies missing from the family grave were that of Tsarevitch Alexei and Anastasia. However, Russian scientists believed that it was the body of Maria that was missing. Using a computer program to compare photos of the youngest grand duchess with the skulls of the victims from the mass grave, they identified one the bodies in the pit as that of Anastasia.
This morning, redditor twilling8 found a skunk wandering around his neighborhood in Ontario with a Coke can stuck on his head. What to do? He could ignore the skunk, and go about his business, but that could return to haunt him later. Or he could risk getting sprayed.
Japanese comedian Kosaka Daimaou, whose real name is Kazuhiko Kosaka, has a character he does named Piko-Taro. Here, Piko-Taro sings a little ditty about pens and pineapples. It doesn’t make a bit of sense, but since he posted it one month ago, it’s been covered and remixed by dozens of YouTubers.
Any scenario in which someone wears the inflatable T-Rex costume is funny just because, and even funnier because they are so awkward. But this T-Rex managed to be funny and leave the awkwardness behind as he goes out on the lake on a jet ski!
This T-Rex is professional jet skier Mark Gomez, doing what he does best even inside a dinosaur costume. Guillermo Casas recorded him using a drone. A good time was had by all. -via Tastefully Offensive
Edward Grant of Middletown, New Jersey, caught this fish Sunday in Raritan Bay. It’s a fluke, in more ways than one. It appears that something, possibly a bluefish or shark, had taken a bite out of the fish. The fluke's massive injury was completely healed.
"We were very shocked," Grant said, adding, "We used a few other words, too."
Grant tossed the 18.5 inch fluke back into the bay, deciding it had been through enough already and deserved to live.
"I felt bad for it," he said.
Would you call the fish lucky for both surviving such a bite and also being tossed back by a fisherman? Or would you call him unlucky for being bitten and then being hooked? -via Arbroath
The world’s largest elevator opened just last weekend to carry ships up and down the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River in central China. Previously, ships could only surmount the dam by using a system of five locks, which took hours. Now they can just be lifted up or down, water and all, in just 40 minutes!
Do you recall the Staten Island Ferry Disaster of 1963? The news flew under the radar because it happened on the morning of November 22, and the media became overwhelmingly focused on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. But now there’s a memorial and a museum dedicated to the memory of the disaster and those who lost their lives. From the memorial page:
It was close to 4am on the quiet morning of November 22, 1963 when the Steam Ferry Cornelius G. Kolff vanished without a trace. On its way with nearly 400 hundred people, mostly on their way to work, the disappearance of the Cornelius G. Kolff remains both one of New York’s most horrific maritime tragedies and perhaps its most intriguing mystery. Eye witness accounts describe “large tentacles” which “pulled” the ferry beneath the surface only a short distance from its destination at Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan. Nobody on board survived and only small pieces of wreckage have been found…strangely with large “suction cup-shaped” marks on them. The only logical conclusion scientists and officials could point to was that the boat had been attacked by a massive octopus, roughly half the size of the ship.
You can find out more about the memorial and the attached museum at its website. See a short documentary on the incident here. You can even get a memorial t-shirt. Residents of Staten Island were surprised by the sudden opening of the memorial, but that’s to be expected, because after all it was 53 years ago. It also didn’t happen. The story is a hoax by artist Joe Reginella, a Staten Island native who has been handing out brochures for the memorial (he is also the one who designed the Jaws Baby Bed). The memorial does exist, if you can find it, but the museum does not. Workers at other Staten Island museums have been busy fielding questions from people looking for it. The ferry Cornelius G. Kolff existed at one time, but was not attacked by a giant octopus. The t-shirts, of course, are real. The brochures, t-shirts, and the actual statue depicting a ferry being devoured by a tentacled monster will go a long way toward perpetuating the urban legends city dwellers like to tell tourists. -via Metafilter
The perfect thing to start a Sunday morning, a little Rammstein! But this isn’t like anything you’ve heard from them before. Is that Rammstein or Jazzstein? The effect is a little like the time you had to stop cold in the grocery store when you realized that Muzak was playing some jam you rocked out to when you were 17.
And then he started playing around with the recording. Soon, he was singing along and mixing in other sounds. Before you know it, he had a full-blown composition built around his squeaky glove box. You can hear it anytime SoundCloud. -via Laughing Squid
Who came up with the insane idea of playing polo while driving cars? That would be Ralph “Pappy” Hankinson, a Ford dealer in Topeka, Kansas, who was looking for a way to sell more cars. The sport lasted from 1912 to sometime in the early ’20s. We know about polo played on horse or camels, but those are sentient animals that try to avoid crashing into each other while the guy riding worries about the game. In Auto Polo, paying attention to the game meant crashing one’s car into other players quite often. However, it did mange to sell cars, probably because players needed replacements.
Not only did Hankinson’s plan work, it quickly became a hugely popular sporting event in which not only the participants were at risk of injury or death but so were the spectators who flocked to such events. The matches were held across the country and the world, with the very first major auto polo exhibition being held in Washington D.C. in 1912. The outright brutality of the uncompromising sport also meant that cars would have to be routinely replaced since they would often give up the ghost in the middle of a match and because the main attraction of the sport was the very high probability that cars would crash into each other.
In other words auto polo was a bit like the 1985 film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome only with cars operated by those insane enough to careen them around an arena armed with ball-smashing mallets at 40 miles per hour. So dangerous was the game of auto polo that an actual surgeon was onsite during the matches just in case anyone was injured (which according to most historical resources on the topic was shockingly rare). But deaths on the field did happen and those infrequent occurrences caused the sport to be banned in numerous states despite its rabid fan base.
Your world map is wrong when it comes to Australia. It’s not just the Mercator distortion, so your globe is wrong, too. Australia sits on the world’s fastest-moving tectonic plate, and manages to constantly drift relative to the world’s other land masses, about 2.7 inches a year. That does’t seem like much, but for GPS coordinates, it soon becomes a lot.
Four times in the last 50 years, Australia has reset the official coordinates of everything in the country to make them more accurate, correcting for other sources of error as well as continental drift. The last adjustment, in 1994, was a doozy: about 656 feet, enough to give the delivery driver an alibi for ringing your neighbor’s doorbell instead of yours.
What I want to know is, how wrong does my globe look? The globe itself is at least 50 years old, and was probably based on maps that are now 100 years old. Read more about Australia and its place in the world at the New York Times. -via Digg
If you own a white Ford Bronco, it has probably occurred to you to get personalized plate. Redditor DaFunktapus managed to get the simplest one in North Carolina. He was surprised that it was available. There is a kind of club for white Ford Bronco owners with personalized plates, although they are spread out over the 50 states. And for some reason, people take pictures of them. Continue reading to see some of them.
The Simpsons meet Adventure Time in the newest couch gag, which will accompany The Simpsons' 28th season premiere Sunday night. It wasn’t directed by Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward, but it’s a darn good imitation. Ward does, however, sing the song.
Every character (except Lisa) gets a new identity as a character from Adventure Time, and the action gets weirder and weirder as the sequence goes along. See how many small details you can find that tie the two shows together. -via Geeks Are Sexy
During the 1983-’84 television season, NBC managed to set a record: all nine of their new shows had tanked badly. A normal response would be to try something different, but TV executives are not known for taking chances. A puppeteer named Paul Fusco had an idea about an alien named ALF that moves in with a suburban family. What did they have to lose? He met with network executives for the pitch.
Fusco: We set up a meeting with the VIPs at NBC. It was Brandon, Leslie Lurie, and Warren Littlefield. I walked in carrying a brown garbage bag with ALF in it, but I didn’t tell them that. I asked where I could do my laundry.
[Associate Producer Steve] Lamar: It was probably a Hefty bag.
[ALF Co-Creator and Writer] Patchett: You can't pitch a primetime show where the lead is a puppet unless you see it.
Fusco: We go into this conference room and sit at this long table. I threw the bag under it. Brandon was at the head and I was next to him, with Tom next to me. We go into the pitch—alien crashes into this house, lives with the family, it’s funny. And I could see in their eyes that we’re losing them. Bernie whispers to me, "Take him out."
Patchett: There's no way you can look at what Paul does with the character and not laugh.
Fusco: I pull him out and sit him next to me. People were just silent. They didn’t expect it. Bernie said, "Listen, before you guys pass on the show, we wanted you to meet ALF."
Patchett: That was absolutely the thing that put it over the top.
Fusco: So ALF is sitting there and not saying anything. He looks around the room, sizing everyone up. He looks at Brandon, picks his nose, and wipes it on Brandon’s jacket. The room went crazy.
Patchett: He just started raining insults at people.
A 14-year-old comic book fan from New Jersey, and the dream he wouldn't let die.
Michael Uslan lived and breathed comic books. When he was a teenager, his collection was so vast, it consumed his parents’ New Jersey garage. In seventh grade, he co-founded a comic book club that coordinated a field trip to DC Comics’ Manhattan headquarters. He even completed a script for a daily comic strip about the Cricket, a superhero he invented, and submitted drafts to newspapers. An employee at The Sacramento Union was so impressed, he suggested they collaborate—until he realized the author was in junior high.
No superhero fascinated Uslan like Batman. Unlike Superman, Batman didn’t have special powers. His strength came from his will, training, and armored flying suit. Batman was human and damaged—as a child, he’d watched a stranger murder his parents and swore to avenge their deaths. That origin story deeply affected Uslan, who couldn’t consider a world in which his mom and dad didn’t exist.
So it was with great excitement that he tuned in to the ABC premiere of Batman on January 12, 1966. Watching it, Uslan’s heart sank. Portrayed by Adam West, TV’s Batman was stilted, overly earnest, and almost buffoonish. Paired with his guileless sidekick, Robin, he wore tights and spoke in corny adages (“Crime never pays!”) while imparting good-citizen lessons about proper grammar and paying taxes. Even the bad guys were ham-handed jokes, nothing like the terrifying, unhinged criminal overlords of the comic. The fight scenes? Slapstick routines replete with full-screen flashes of onomatopoeic gibberish (“Pow! Crash! Boff!”).
“Society was laughing at Batman—and that just killed me,” Uslan said in the 2013 documentary Legends of the Knight. To him, Batman was an orphan whose vigilantism was a civic and emotional reconciliation, not a campy pop-art punch line. There and then, teenage Uslan made his own Bruce Wayne–like vow: “I would restore Batman to his true and rightful identity as the Dark Knight, a creature of the night stalking criminals from the shadows...a master detective who survived and thrived more by his wits than by his fists.”
The winners of the 2016 Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded last night during a cermony at Harvard University's Sanders Theater. The annual awards are presented by the magazine The Annals of Improbable Research. The winners are:
REPRODUCTION PRIZE [EGYPT] The late Ahmed Shafik, for studying the effects of wearing polyester, cotton, or wool trousers on the sex life of rats, and for conducting similar tests with human males.
REFERENCE: "Effect of Different Types of Textiles on Sexual Activity. Experimental study," Ahmed Shafik, European Urology, vol. 24, no. 3, 1993, pp. 375-80.
REFERENCE: "Contraceptive Efficacy of Polyester-Induced Azoospermia in Normal Men," Ahmed Shafik, Contraception, vol. 45, 1992, pp. 439-451.
ECONOMICS PRIZE [NEW ZEALAND, UK] Mark Avis, Sarah Forbes, and Shelagh Ferguson, for assessing the perceived personalities of rocks, from a sales and marketing perspective.
REFERENCE: "The Brand Personality of Rocks: A Critical Evaluation of a Brand Personality Scale," Mark Avis, Sarah Forbes, Shelagh Ferguson, Marketing Theory, vol. 14, no. 4, 2014, pp. 451-475.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Mark Avis and Sarah Forbes
The 1987 movie Lethal Weapon wasn’t the first buddy cop movie, but Roger Murtaugh and Martin Riggs (Danny Glover and Mel Gibson) elevated the concept to blockbuster status. Three sequels and 31 years later, it’s been adapted as a TV show. So its time to look back and learn a little of what went into the creation of Lethal Weapon.
5. THE MOVIE WORKED BECAUSE OF “REAL CHARACTERS.”
In a 2012 reunion interview with Empire Magazine, Mel Gibson said buddy-cop movies prior to Lethal Weapon “were all a little two-dimensional. The heroes would grunt; they wouldn’t express themselves much. But Riggs and Murtaugh were real characters.”
“It’s the humor, mixed with the action and the special effects,” Danny Glover added. “All that came together at that particular time. And the chemistry between the two of us was undeniable.” Donner agreed: “You don’t find [chemistry] in real life very often, much less on the screen," said the director. "But it works. People care about them.” Gibson described filming Lethal Weapon as “pure fun,” and Donner said “there was uncontrollable laughter at times.”
“And it’s been emulated so much and referred to so often,” Gibson said. The 1993 film Loaded Weapon 1 (a sequel, thankfully, wasn’t made), starring Emilio Estevez and Samuel L. Jackson, parodied Lethal Weapon 1 through 3. “If something works and people are sending it up and knocking it off, you’ve got to be flattered,” Gibson told Empire.
6. THE ORIGINAL FILM HAD A DIFFERENT OPENING AND ENDING.
The first time we see Riggs in Lethal Weapon is at his beachfront trailer, with his dog, smoking and drinking while walking around naked. In an earlier draft of the script, Riggs drinks with dock workers who torment a dog, and Riggs makes “mincemeat” out of the guys. The original ending (above) featured Riggs and Murtaugh saying goodbye to each other, and Riggs telling Murtaugh not to quit the force, because he’s too old. But in the theatrical ending, Riggs shows up at Murtaugh’s house on Christmas. “If you think I’m going to eat the world’s lousiest Christmas turkey by myself, you’re crazy,” Murtaugh tells him. “I’ll tell you a little secret: I’m not crazy,” Riggs responds. Riggs and his dog agree to stay for dinner.
Somewhere in Norway, a møøse is helping himself to the apples on a backyard tree. The suburban homeowner, knowing that møøse can be dangerous, does not approach the møøse. Instead, he sends in his robotic lawnmower!
Who will win in this epic standoff? The answer is a lesson in why you don’t chase a møøse out of the backyard yourself. Next time, just let him have the apples. Bonus: Oddly inappropriate music. -via Tastefully Offensive
Pleasing a woman isn’t all that hard. We have simple needs, like a decently clean home that doesn’t take up all our spare time. I'd kiss a frog for that! And ice cream, because ice cream is happiness. So, would you rather clean the bathroom, or remain a lonely frog? This is the latest from Lunarbaboon.
The Solar Ice Rink in Nairobi, Kenya, is the country’s only ice rink. In fact, it’s the only ice rink in Eat or Central Africa. Every Wednesday, Nairobi’s hockey players meet and play against each other. The team doesn’t have a name, or the funds to attend competitions, but they have a lot of ambition, and a lot of fun.
Most of the time when you hear the words “Mercury retrograde,” it’s someone talking about astrology. Mercury in retrograde is an astrological phrase that somehow explains all kinds of bad things happening, if you believe in astrology. But retrograde is a real phenomena for planets in orbit. It just doesn’t mean all that much when you understand it.
“Retrograde” conveys the idea that the planet, whether Mercury, Mars, or whichever, is moving backwards. Planets do not move backwards. But they can appear to, which is an illusion Joss Fong explains here visually. Mercury does it about four times a year! No wonder astrologers depend on it so much. -via Laughing Squid
New products come out, they seem like a good idea at the time, but for some reason, the public doesn’t buy it. Maybe it’s too expensive, doesn’t live up to expectations, or doesn’t fulfill a real need. Sometimes it’s just too bizarre. How many of these discontinued products do you remember? He got halfway through the video, up to the toys, before I remembered any of them! But we’ve posted about the Atomic Energy Lab science kit, and I recall Clackers. Most of the others just passed me by. Elliot Morgan runs through a bunch of "here today, gone tomorrow" consumer products in this week’s episode of the mental_floss List Show.
The early Counting Crows hit ”Mr. Jones" was a lie. Take that back—the incident was real, and Adam Duritz did hang out with a guy with the last name Jones, but the song’s whole plotline about how they were gonna be happier when they were famous didn’t come to pass. If you go to a Counting Crows show these days, in fact, the lyric is now “we all wanna be big, big stars, yeah, but then we get second thoughts about that.” Duritz should’ve talked to the British acid house duo The KLF before they released that song as their first single. Around the time when Counting Crows were becoming famous, the duo was in the midst of destroying their fame and fortune essentially for kicks. Sorry for the red herring, Counting Crows fans—this is the tale of The KLF, the most amazing midlife crisis in music history.
Bill Drummond decided to leave the comfortable confines of the music industry at age 33⅓. The year was 1986, and Drummond had been working on the business side of the music industry for much of the ’80s, after a stint in the early punk band Big in Japan. “There is a mountain to climb the hard way, and I want to see the world from the top, these foothills have been green and pleasant but I want to smell the rock, touch the ice and have the wind tear the shirt off my back,” he wrote in a press release around the time. Soon, he released a solo album, but it was what he did after that made him infamous.
The novelty song that set the stage for The KLF’s takeover
Bill Drummond, like John Lydon, had a perfectly acerbic view on fame by the time he was in his 30s, and had just enough knowledge of the music industry to basically exploit it for his own purposes.
And exploit it he did: Within two years of his “retirement” from the music biz, he managed to top the charts in the U.K., creating a crass novelty record called ”Doctorin’ the Tardis,” which took a hugely popular TV theme (the Doctor Who theme) and wedded it to two incredibly well known songs in a fairly obvious way.
"In our case, we used parts from three very famous songs, Gary Glitter’s 'Rock ‘n’ Roll,' 'The Doctor Who Theme,' and the Sweet’s 'Blockbuster' and pasted them together, neither of us playing a note on the record," the duo once explained.
Sabrina Gonzalez’s dad works at Costco, and he sent her a picture of himself with several of the store’s famous giant teddy bears. She joked in response, “Maddie needs one of those.” Maddie is her five-month-old daughter. Grandpa took that as a challenge, so Maddie got her bear that very day. Madeline Jane can "bearly" be found in a picture of the bear at home! You can see more pictures of the bear (and Maddie) here. Meanwhile, the bear takes up an awful lot of room, so he is being stored at -you guessed it- Grandpa’s house. -via Metafilter