Miss Cellania's Blog Posts

Name That Weird Invention!

It's time for the Name That Weird Invention! contest. Steven M. Johnson comes up with all sorts of crazy ideas in his Museum of Possibilities posts. Can you come up with a name for this one? The commenters suggesting the funniest and wittiest names will win a free T-shirt from the NeatoShop. Let your imagination run wild, and good luck!

Update: ladybuggs wins a t-shirt for coming up with the name "the Toothsayer"! Also tripleX had the second place winning name with "ayePad", but didn't specify a shirt. Honorable mentions to Andrew X for "Den-Tell" and to Trevor for "DenTell Plaque."

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The Fight for Safe Milk: Pasteurization

The following is an article from Uncle John's Giant 10th Anniversary Bathroom Reader.

Last week, we told you about the battle to end the sale of adulterated milk. Part II is the story of the fight to pasteurize the U.S. milk supply. It's an instructive tale. In spite of proof that pasteurization could save lives, Americans resisted it because it was a new idea... and because it "cost too much."


During the latter part of the 19th century, improvements were made in the quality of milk sold in the United States.

Bottles: In 1884, for example, Dr. Hervey G. Thatcher patented the first practical milk bottle with a sealable top. He got the idea while standing in line in the street for his own milk a year earlier. When the little girl ahead of him dropped her filthy rag doll into the milk dealer's open milk can, the dealer just shook the doll off, handed it back to the little girl, then ladled Thatcher's milk as if nothing happened.

Thatcher's bottle wasn't a solution to all of raw milk's problems, but at least it kept impurities out of the milk after it left the dairy. Many dairies hated the bottles because they were expensive and broke relatively easily, but they caught on with the public and were soon in use all over the country.

The Lactometer: In the early 1890s, New York State began regulating the content of milk using a lactometer, a newly invented device that could measure the amount of milk solids in milk. For the first time, it was possible to compare pure milk with a test sample of a dairy's milk to see if it had been watered down or adulterated. If the milk tested didn't contain the same amount of milk solids as pure milk, the milk dealer could be fined or penalized.


But by far, the most important breakthroughs were scientific. The 1880s and 1890s were a period of great advancement in the understanding of bacteria and its role in causing disease.

In 1882, for example, A German scientist named Rupert Koch discovered that bovine tuberculosis, a form of tuberculosis found in cattle, could be spread to humans through diseased milk. This form of tuberculosis attacked the glands, intestines, and bones, frequently killing the afflicted or leaving them deformed for life.

"Children seem to be especially susceptible to bovine tuberculosis," James Cross Gilbin writes in Milk: The Fight for Purity. "[Victims] often spent years trapped into spinal frames...designed to prevent deformity while the body slowly overcame the infection."
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The State of Wikipedia

(YouTube link)

Co-founder Jimmy Wales explains how Wikipedia came about ten years ago, how it works, and some interesting facts you might know about the website. -via Boing Boing

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Cat Lives the High Life in Tree

Almond was born in a maple tree last summer and never left. Ron Venden of Belleville. Wisconsin, says he's never sen the cat leave the tree, and there are no paw prints on the ground when snow covers his yard. And Almond doesn't need to leave the tree, since his needs are catered to.
To Venden's knowledge, Almond has no other home outside his maple. The cat was born there in June, and while the mother and the other kittens left, Almond stuck around. Venden has been feeding it ever since.

So why does Almond stay?

"I think it's because I'm treating it too good," said Venden, who at least twice a day climbs a ladder about 12 feet up to check on and feed Almond. He's also made a protected straw bed for the cat in a hollow of the tree, set up a dry cat food feeder and provides daily deliveries of fresh food, which Wednesday morning included a bowl of salami, meatloaf and milk.

"I kind of enjoy it," Venden said of caring for Almond, although he admits: "The neighbors think I'm goofy."

Vendon was scratched trying to remove the cat at first, but Almond is gentle enough when left where he belongs. Link -via Fark

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The Albino, Vampiric Redwood Tree

Have you ever seen an albino plant? Albino redwood trees are very rare, since they lack chlorophyll plants use to convert sunlight to nutrients. However, they can survive by sucking nutrients from neighbor trees. There are only 25 known specimens of albino redwoods alive, eight of which are in California. Read more about them at Discoblog. Link -via mental_floss

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The Giving Forger

Since 1989, Mark A. Landis periodically donates art to various museums. He asks for nothing in exchange, then disappears. Sooner or later, the art museum finds that the Curran, or Signac, or Lepine works he donated are forgeries, painted by Landis himself.
Unlike most forgers, he does not seem to be in it for the money, but for a kind of satisfaction at seeing his works accepted as authentic. He takes nothing more in return for them than an occasional lunch or a few tchotchkes from the gift shop. He turns down tax write-off forms, and it’s unclear whether he has broken any laws. But his activities have nonetheless cost museums, which have had to pay for analysis of the works, for research to figure out if more of his fakes are hiding in their collections and for legal advice. (The Hilliard said it discovered the forgery within hours, using a microscope to find a printed template beneath the paint.)

In the weeks since an article in The Art Newspaper first revealed the scope of the forgeries, museums and their lawyers have been trying to locate Mr. Landis, who was never easy to find in the first place because he often provided bogus addresses and phone numbers. But now he seems to have disappeared altogether.

Landis often uses often names and sometimes poses as a priest. Link -via Metafilter

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This Week at Neatorama

Those of you who read the comments here at Neatorama know that the remaining writers are a thick-skinned bunch. We welcome comments, both kudos and criticism, but we have a couple of rules: we will delete comments that are personal attacks on other Neatoramanauts, we will edit or delete comments with particularly bad language, and of course, we remove spam. Other than that, we encourage a lively but mannerly debate about the things we post. And if you have suggestions for making Neatorama better, we'd love to hear them!

This week, Disney theme park fan Jill Harness gave us the lowdown on one of Walt Disney World's biggest attractions with Neatorama Facts: Space Mountain.

From Uncle John's Bathroom Reader, we learned about The Fight for Safe Milk: Swill Milk. Part two of the fight for safe milk will be published Monday.

We looked into The Neural Correlate of Ignorance, courtesy of the folks at the Annals of Improbable Research.

Around the World in Religious Traditions came to us from mental_floss magazine.

In the Museum of Possibilities, Steven M. Johnson takes time to imagine Umbrella Possibilities.

At NeatoBambino, Tiffany passed along some nuggets of wisdom in Life Lessons My Dad Taught Me.

At the art blog, we welcome a new collection from UK illustrator Sam Branton. Check out his works and those of all the other artists.

At Neatorama's literature blog BitLit, you're invited to follow the tale of “How Santa Saved The World Then Lost It All” in Happily Ever Over by C. Merry starting here. The first five chapters are up; be sure to check back as more chapters are posted. Pictured here is the story's ghost Lavender Mary. And you can read the entire novel Wizard Constable by Tom Van Natta.

In the What Is It? game this week, Robert McLaughlin was the first to correctly state that the mystery object is a canary cage for a coal mine -here’s an explanation. Among many humorous guesses, The Professor wins a t-shirt for “This is the server used by Facebook to keep users’ private information secure!”

Looking for more once you've read all of Neatorama? Check out the links at the NeatoHub or the Best of Neatorama!

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New Fossil Shows Pterosaur with Her Egg

A pterosaur fossil found in Liaoning Province, China, yields fascinating information about the prehistoric reptiles. Scientists believe the Darwinopterus pterosaur laid the now-fossil egg after it died.
Scientists think the adult was an expectant pterosaur mother that somehow broke her left wing, causing her to fall into the lake and drown. The body sank to the bottom and eventually expelled the egg.

"During the decay process, you get a buildup of gases and pressure inside the carcass, and that tends to expel things out," said study co-author David Unwin, a paleontologist at the University of Leicester in the U.K. The egg "didn't go very far. It just came out of the body and sat there."

In addition to the associated egg, the fossil has a larger pelvis than other known Darwinopterus fossils, which is consistent with the animal being a female.

Chemical analysis of the egg suggests that, instead of laying hard-shell eggs and watching over the chicks, as most birds do, pterosaur mothers laid soft-shell eggs, which they buried in moist ground and abandoned.

The fossil gives clues as to how the eggs were formed and hatched, and since this is the first conclusively female fossil, we're finding out more about sex differences in pterosaurs. Read more at National Geographic News. Link -Thanks, Marilyn!

(Image courtesy of Lü Junchang, Institute of Geology, Beijing)

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12 Pieces of Geek Jewelry for Your Nerdalicious Guy Or Gal

One of the great things about the internet is that designers and manufacturers can find a specialized clientele, and consumers can find specialized items that locals stores cannot afford to stock. Case in point: jewelry that reflects your interest in the geeky worlds of technology, video games, science fiction, and other hobbies. Check out some awesome jewelry items in this list at Oddee, like these circuit board earrings. Link

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Pantone Chip Cookies

Kim Neill is a designer and illustrator has plenty of pantone color chips laying around, which made it easier for her to create cookies in exact pantone colors. She mixed royal icing until the colors were right, and added the color names with an edible marker once the icing was set. Instructions are included in the post. Link -via J-Walk Blog

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Batman Vs. The Internet

Caldwell Tanner and Kevin Corrigan rounded up internet memes to bedevil Batman and Robin in a series of comic book cover mashups. There are five in all; this one is my favorite. Link -via Gorilla Mask

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Dueling Cellos

(YouTube link) Stjepan Hauser and Luka Sulic perform Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal" on cellos. Cellos are cool! -via Buzzfeed

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Twitter Lawsuits

What you Tweet can get you into trouble! Mental_floss has the stories of four high-profile lawsuits that followed a careless Tweet. One that has yet to be settled involves fashion designer Dawn Simorangkir and some Tweets by singer Courtney Love.
After the two had worked amicably together designing custom dresses for Love, the relationship soured after some disagreements over the amount of money Simorangkir charged for the clothes. At 12:55am on the morning of March 17, 2009, Love started a series of social media posts railing against Simorangkir, starting with a lengthy post on MySpace, numerous tweets throughout the rest of the day, and even hitting the comments section of the popular handcrafted product site Etsy, where Love initially discovered Simorangkir’s work. Over the course of her day-long rant, Love accused the designer of stealing, lying, being a drug dealer and addict, being a homophobe and racist, having been arrested for prostitution, and even threatened “you will end up in a circle of scorched earth hunted til your dead.”

Simorangkir made accusations of libel and breach of contract. Love countered with freedom of speech. That trial is scheduled for next month. Read about that case and three others at mental_floss. Link

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Horse with Hands Riding a Bike

Horse with Hands Riding a Bike is a one-subject blog, but it's not a simple subject. What's hard to draw? Horses. Hands. Bicycles. Put them all together for a true test of anyone's drawing skills. Edward Carter did a good job with this one. Hero of Switzerland challenges anyone to draw a horse with hands riding a bike and submit it. Link -via b3ta

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(YouTube link)

Rubber is a French comedy/thriller that revolves around a murderous tire.

RUBBER is the story of Robert, an inanimate tire that has been abandoned in the desert, and suddenly and inexplicably comes to life. As Robert roams the bleak landscape, he discovers that he possesses terrifying telepathic powers that give him the ability to destroy anything he wishes without having to move. At first content to prey on small desert creatures and various discarded objects, his attention soon turns to humans, especially a beautiful and mysterious woman who crosses his path. Leaving a swath of destruction across the desert landscape, Robert becomes a chaotic force to be reckoned with, and truly a movie villain for the ages.

Despite an April 1 release date, this is a real feature film that made the rounds of film festivals last year. Link -via Buzzfeed

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A Museum for Inventions That Nobody Needs

In 1983, Fritz Gall and Friedl Umscheid opened the Nonseum in Herrnbaumgarten, Austria. The Nonseum is a home for inventions that never took off -many of which never made any sense in the first place.
Now, the Nonmuseum has hundreds of useless items on display, and has just celebrated its 100,000th visitor. Among the many eccentric inventions of this unusual museum, you can find a Portable Anonymizer that’s supposed to keep your identity a secret in real life, a foldable  snow sled, a guillotine for finger nails, and even a Champagne Cork Catcher – a device that keeps the cork from flying away when you pop open the bottle.

The object shown, housed at the Nonseum, is the foldable sled. Link -via the Presurfer

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The Growth of Shanghai

These two picture of the Bund in Shanghai show the growth of that part of the city in just  the last twenty years. Yes, although it may remind you of an early 20th-century photograph, the top picture was taken in 1990. The bottom picture was taken in 2010. According to a comment from a Shanghai redditor, this is an accurate depiction of the tremendous construction since then. Link

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Fake Coachella Posters

The line-up for the annual Coachella festival was leaked a few days ago, and dozens of parody posters featuring everything from deceased artists to the most horrific music combinations have been designed. Urlesque collected the funniest posters into one post, and added this one featuring internet memes. Link

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Survival Training, Ferret Style

At one time, the black-footed ferret was one of the rarest animals in the world. They were native to the Great Plains, but thought to be extinct. Then in 1981, 18 ferrets were found and rounded up for their own safety. Captive breeding programs produced 7,000 ferrets since then. They are being introduced into the wild a few at a time, but first each has to go to "boot camp" to learn how to be a feral ferret. That training facility is the National Black-Footed Ferret Conservation Center in Colorado.
Ferrets live in the Colorado facility until there’s an opening in one of the 48 outdoor pens, each about the size of a studio apartment. It’s a tough transition, says Paul Marinari of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, manager of the center. “They have to deal with cold and bugs, rain, snow, dust, all things they don’t have to deal with inside.”

It has taken a few tries to get the training right. In the past, researchers swooped down on ferrets with stuffed raptors and sent in “robo-badgers” to boost the ferrets’ ability to defend themselves against common predators. But the most important part, Marinari says, involves live prey: “The more practice ferrets get going after prey, the better they do.”

Ferrets that have gone through the training are more likely to survive on their own than other ferrets. Link

(Image credit: Morgan Heim)

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Discography of Your Favorite Band

It doesn't matter what band it is or what era they are from, chances are that at least some of this time line by Grant Snider will apply to them, sooner or later. Link -via reddit

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Roger Ebert's New Chin

Film critic Roger Ebert's jawbone was partially removed due to cancer in 2006. Through his recovery and several failed attempts at reconstruction, he lost the ability to speak, eat, or drink, but he continued to review movies and post to his website. Meanwhile, Dr. David J. Reisberg and David Rotter from the University of Illinois and artist Julie Jordan Brown worked to make Ebert a new prosthetic chin, which was recently fitted.
I will wear the prosthesis on the new television show. That's not to fool anyone, because my appearance is widely known. It will be used in a medium shot of me working in my office, and will be a pleasant reminder of the person I was for 64 years. Symbolically, it's as if my illness never happened and, hey, here I still am, on the show with these new kids. When people see the "Roger's Office" segment, they'll notice my voice more than my appearance.

At the beginning of this process I assumed I would wear the new prosthesis whenever I left the house, so that "nobody would know." But everybody knows. The photograph of me that appeared in Esquire even found its way onto billboards in China. And something else has happened since that day in the hospital: I accept the way I look. Lord knows I paid the dues.

Read the rest of the story at Ebert's blog. Link -via Metafilter

Ebert's new television series, "Ebert Presents at the Movies" premieres tomorrow on PBS. Link

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Police Detain Drunken Owl

Police officers in Pforzheim, Germany were called Tuesday to investigate an owl that appeared to be sick.
"A woman walking her dog alerted the police after seeing the bird sitting by the side of the road oblivious to passing traffic," Frank Otruba, spokesman for the police in the southwestern city of Pforzheim, told SPIEGEL ONLINE.

The Brown Owl didn't appear to be injured and officers quickly concluded that it had had one too many. One of its eyelids was drooping, adding to the general impression of inebriation.

"It wasn't staggering around and we didn't breathalyze it but there were two little bottles of Schapps in the immediate vicinity," said Otruba. "We took it to a local bird expert who has treated alcoholized birds before and she has been giving it lots of water."

The owl will be released when sober. Link -via Arbroath

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Rings of Saturn

(YouTube link)

This carnival ride concept is making my stomach queasy just looking at it, but my kids would fight for a chance to try it. What about you? -via The Daily What

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Around the World in Religious Traditions


(Image credit: Flickr user sweart)

Packing for the hereafter just got easier. According to a Chinese tradition, when a person dies, mourners should burn replicas of household items so the deceased can enjoy these in the afterlife. The hope is that if the dead are appeased with burnt offerings, their ghosts will refrain from haunting the living. But like many traditions, this one has evolved to reflect the times. Today, it's not uncommon to see mourners burning paper replicas of cars, laptops, credit cards, iPods, Louis Vuitton handbags, or even bottles of Viagra!


(Image credit: Flickr user Anton Kan)

For members of the Sufi Mawlawi order, pondering the nature of life can literally make your head spin. As part of the Sema ceremony, these "Whirling" Dervishes meditate by twirling in circles, an act that's meant to bring them closer to Allah. But don't mistake the spinning for carefree fun. In order to perform the centuries-old ritual, each dancer must undergo 1,001 days of training in seclusion during which they study music, poetry, and Sufi prayers. The clothing is also distinct; participants wear white gowns that flare out like poodle skirts, and they can twirl in ecstasy for hours.
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How Not to Lock Your Bike

Does this look like it would deter any bicycle thief whatsoever? See a collection of lock and logic failures for both bikes and bigger vehicles in a collection at Locksmiths-R-Us. Link -Thanks, David!

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Polish and Czech Monster Movie Posters

Instead of reprinting the studio posters, film distributors in some eastern European countries commission new posters for movies, and many are works of art. Monster Brains has a collection of Polish and Czech posters for Japanese monster movies, including this awesome Czech illustration for the film Monster from a Prehistoric Planet (Daikyoü Gappa). Oh yes, there are lots of variations on Godzilla, too! Link -via Pink Tentacle

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Mansion Untouched for 100 Years

Louis Mantin inherited a fortune and became a patron of the arts and of high living. He constructed a fine mansion in his home of Moulins, France and filled it with custom woodwork, relics from antiquity, and art. Mantin died in 1905, and had stipulated in his will that his home should become a museum in 100 years.
Mantin only had a few years to indulge his aesthetic fantasies. Knowing that his death was approaching, he made a will in which he made sure his treasured house would be saved.

"In the will, he says that he wants the people of Moulins in 100 years time to be able to see what was the life of a cultured gentleman of his day," said assistant curator Maud Leyoudec.

"A bachelor with no children, he was obsessed with death and the passage of time. It was his way of becoming eternal."

When the 100-year mark passed, the house remained abandoned and in no shape to open to the public. Isabelle de Chavagnac, a descendant of Mantin's, threatened to exercise her right to inherit the mansion if it didn't open as a museum. She didn't really want the estate, but her actions forced the local government to allocate funds for renovation. The house then opened as a museum, as Mantin wished, in 2010. BBC News has a video tour of the home. Link -via Gizmodo

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The Evolution of Nicolas Cage's Hair

(YouTube link)

Nicolas Cage has played roles in 66 different films so far, and his roles have an extraordinary range. So does his hair! For proof, watch this video compilation by Harry Hanrahan. See a list of the films used at Pajiba. -via The Daily What

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Let's Play Wolf Pack!

The latest story from Allie Brosch will remind you of a horror film -one in which you are being chased through a dark forest by a horde of demons intent on devouring you. Never mind that the horde of demons is a group of six-year-old girls at a birthday party!
Benny had severely underestimated our hunting and maiming capabilities.  We were not like ordinary little girls who frittered away their time hosting tea parties and pretending to be princesses.  We had spent countless hours out in the forest, sharpening our hunting tactics on imaginary prey and we finally had an opportunity to put all of our practice to use on a real thing that would run away from us and struggle for survival.  Unfortunately for Benny, we had not yet developed the ability to empathize with the pain and suffering of other people, and his terrified fleeing was pretty much the most fun thing that had ever happened to us.

It was a party no one, especially Benny, will ever forget. Link

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Tiger Mom Meme

We've already posted twice about Amy Chua's essay "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior", so is it any wonder that a new image meme has grown up around the backlash? Note: the image used in the generator is not Amy Chua; it's a stock photo. Link -via Buzzfeed

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Profile for Miss Cellania

  • Member Since 2012/08/04


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