Miss Cellania's Blog Posts

Deconstructing the Color Wheel

One disturbing shade at a time.

SEEING RED

When the Spanish arrived in Mexico in the early 1500s, they weren't just shocked by the impressive Aztec temples, they were also stunned by Mexico's bright red clothing. Europeans hadn't yet discovered how to make a color that vibrant, and the conquistadors were mesmerized.

The Aztecs didn't guard their secret particularly well, though. They showed the Spanish how to make the red dye by crushing the carcasses of cochineals, female beetles that live on cacti. When the conquistadors left to return to their homeland, they made off with the Aztec's gold -and their fashion secret. For the next few hundred years, the Spanish made a fortune producing the crimson dye, keeping the source of the color closely guarded.

Red dye from cochineals is still used today in lipstick and food. After all, it's organic! You can find it in juices, jams, and maraschino cherries. But if you're squeamish about ingesting beetle juice, it's easy to avoid. In 2009, the FDA required it to be declared on product labels.

PRETTY IN PINK

Pink, now the province of Paris Hilton and Barbie, was once considered the most appropriate color for clothing boys. In 1918, the hospital trade journal Infants' Department explained the rationale behind the fashion trend: "The generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. The reason is that pink being a more decided and stronger color is more suitable for the boy; while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl."

How did boys and girls swap colors? According to one theory, Hitler made homosexuals wear pink triangles on their uniforms in his work camps, and men have been wary of the color ever since. (Image credit: Flickr member *pinkpooch*)

PURPLE MAJESTY

Once upon a time, a dog belonging to Hercules went for a walk along the beach. When he returned to his master, the pup's mouth was bright purple. Hercules' girlfriend at the time, a nymph named Tyra, fell in love with the color, and she told Hercules that she wouldn't see him again until he gave her a robe of the same shade. So Hercules, who had a weakness for nymphs, tracked the dog back to the beach and found the source: His dog had been eating sea snails.

The story of Tyra's robe is a myth, but Tyrian purple -the color worn exclusively by imperial officers and clergy in ancient Rome- really does come from sea snails, specifically Bolinus brandaris. To get the regal color, Roman dye makers would pulverize the snails, boil them in salt, then leave them in the sun until the secretions from their glands turned purple. Eight thousand of the hapless snails were needed for one gram of the very expensive dye. (Image credit: Wikimedia user M.Violante)

BLUE BLOODED

Prussian blue -the pigment favored by Picasso during his Blue Period- was discovered completely by accident. Back in 1704, a Berlin dye maker known as Diesbach was trying to create a rich, red pigment from the cochineal beetle [see "seeing red" above]. In the process, he used a potassium-rich substance called potash and "animal oil," a mixture of bones and blood. But when the potash and the blood combined with iron sulphate from the cochineal, it produced the world's first synthetic blue pigment. As PBS painter Bob Ross would have said, it was a happy little accident.

SICKLY GREEN

When Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele was investigating the chemical properties of arsenic in the 1770s, he used the toxic substance to make a verdant pigment known as Scheele's green. In the process, he ingested way too much arsenic, essentially poisoning himself to death by the age of 43.

Sadly, that wasn't the only life Scheele's green would claim. In Europe, the color was used extensively in decorating. In fact, a study done in England at the end of the 19th century indicated that four out of every five wallpapers contained arsenic from Scheele's green. Researchers of the time noted that when the wallpaper became damp, it gave off a "mouse-like" odor that caused illness and even death. In the 1930s, scientists confirmed that the smell was a lethal gas produced by a fungus feeding off arsenic in the wallpaper.

Interestingly, Scheele's green may have even contributed to the death of Napoleon. During the last years of his life, Napoleon lived in exile in St. Helena, a humid island off the west coast of Africa. His bedroom was wallpapered bright green, and the air in St. Helena was definitely moist enough to grow fungus. In 2001, scientists analyzed samples of Napoleon's hair and discovered arsenic levels as much as 38 times higher than normal.

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The article above, written by Michael Franco, is reprinted with permission from the May-June 2011 issue of mental_floss magazine. Get a subscription to mental_floss and never miss an issue!

Be sure to visit mental_floss' website and blog for more fun stuff!




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9 Essential Facts for the Crustacean Enthusiast

1. LET THEM EAT LOBSTER!

In colonial America, lobster wasn't the delicacy it is today. In fact, it was so cheap and plentiful, it was a staple for prisoners and servants. One group of servants from Massachusetts actually grew so tired of eating lobster that they took the employers to court, where a judge ruled that lobster was to be served to them no more than three times a week.

2. JUDGE THEM NOT BY THE COLOR OF THEIR SKIN

(Image credit: Flickr user Alex)

In their ocean habitat, lobsters are brown. (They turn red when you cook them.) However, there are a few notable exceptions. About one in every four million lobsters is born with a genetic defect that turns it blue. Sadly, these prized critters rarely survive to adulthood. After all, a bright blue crustacean crawling around on the ocean floor is simply easier for predators to spot. Yellow lobsters are even more uncommon, making up only one in 30 million. But if you end up with a yellow or blue one on your plate, don't worry; lobsters of all hues are equally delicious.

3. A CENTURY OF MEAT

Most lobsters weight between 1.5 and 2 lbs., but one lumbering beast caught off the coast of Nova Scotia in 1977 measured 3.5 feet from claw to tail and weighed 44 lbs. How does a lobster put on that sort of weight? He was 100 years old.

4. SHOWING TOO MUCH LEG

Speaking of red lobsters: In 2003 the seafood chain Red Lobster ran a promotion offering customer $20 all-you-can-eat snow crab legs. The gimmick was both incredibly successful and a mistake. Hungry seafood lovers flocked to the restaurants, where most of them plowed through a lot more crab than the company anticipated. Even when Red Lobster raised the price to $24 per person, it still lost money on the deal.

5. EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEAFOOD, BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK

In 2010, Red Lobster restaurants across America began equipping their wait staff with computer-based "seafood expert encyclopedias." The technology allows waiters to look up the answer to any seafood-related question posed to them. So ask away.

6. THE SILENT TREATMENT

In Disney's 1940 animated film Pinocchio, Mel Blanc played the character of Gideon the cat, one of the scoundrels who introduces Pinocchio to the world of vice. Blanc, who famously voiced Bugs Bunny, recorded an entire movie's worth of dialogue for Gideon. But during post-production, Disney decided the character would be cuter if he was mute. All of Blanc's lines were cut, except for three burps, which you can hear during the brief scene at the Red Lobster Inn.

7. A PARENT'S JOB IS NEVER DONE

Red Lobster and Olive Garden are both owned by Darden Restaurants, a parent company that's pretty overprotective. In 2010, Darden filed suit against a San Diego T.G.I. Friday's for running a "never ending shrimp" promotion. Darden argued that the campaign combined Olive Garden's "never ending pasta bowl" with Red Lobster's "endless shrimp" in a way that "willfully attempted to confuse and mislead customers." The case is still tied up in court, where lawyers are dealing with "never ending paperwork."

8. OUT OF THE POT AND INTO THE FIRE

(Image credit: Crustastun)

In October 2010, British inventor Simon Buckhaven introduced the world to a lethal device known as the crustastun. It might look like a harmless computer scanner, but it's designed to zap a lobster with an electric shock, killing it in less than two seconds. Animal-rights groups have praised the invention as a more humane method of killing lobsters -at least more humane than boiling them alive.

9. IMAGINE ALL THE LOBSTERS

In 1979, The B-52s song "Rock Lobster" became the band's first to hit the Billboard Top 100. At the time, former Beatle John Lennon had been away from music for about three years, but after hearing "Rock Lobster," he was inspired top start writing music again. Lennon said the song moved him because it "sounds just like Yoko's music." It's unclear whether or not that was a compliment.

_______________________

The article above, written by Adam K. Raymond, is reprinted with permission from the May-June 2011 issue of mental_floss magazine. Get a subscription to mental_floss and never miss an issue!

Be sure to visit mental_floss' website and blog for more fun stuff!




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This Week at Neatorama

Why is the Neatobot holding a Canadian flag? Because Canada Day is coming up on Friday, July 1st! OK, that's our look ahead. Now let's take a look back over the past week and see if there's anything you might have missed here at Neatorama. The weekend is a great time to catch up!

On Wednesday, Jill Harness told us about Six Seriously Strange Animal Adaptations. Mother Nature, you scary!

We took a trip back in time with Eddie Deezen's remembrance of The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show.

The nostalgia trip continued with 17 Facts You Might Not Know about Bonanza from John Farrier.

We learned about the beginning of professional wrestling as we know it in The Man in the Mask from Uncle John's Bathroom Reader.

Mental_floss magazine gave us 5 Comic Superheroes Who Made A Real-World Difference.

The Sound-ness of Tree Falls gave us a glimpse into how scientific research is really done, courtesy of The Annals of Improbable Research.

Giveaways! This week saw the return of the Tokyo Flash Treasure Hunt. I'll slide the winners' names in here as soon as I get them.

Another prize giveaway is still open for entries. Read the instructions for What's In The Box? Transformers and you might win some nice movie swag! At least, that's MY guess as to what's in the box...

This week's What Is It? game came up a day earlier than usual, and we got a winner faster than usual.

Ladybuggs knew this was a knife designed to be used in a life raft. Here’s the description from Rob at the What Is It? blog:
A US Navy life raft knife, part of the survival kit on a life raft, cork handle so it floats, holes make it lighter, rounded end so it won’t puncture the raft, painted orange so it can be seen if lost overboard, also a lanyard to tie it to the raft

The Professor had the funniest answer -a hedgehog quill-scraper! Both winners will receive a t-shirt from the NeatoShop!

Want more? Be sure to check our Facebook page every day for extra content, contests, discussions, videos, and links you won't find here. Also, our Twitter feed will keep you updated on what's going around the web in real time.

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New York Rainbow

Last night, the New York state legislature voted to legalize same sex marriage. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law just before midnight. Celebrations began immediately.
Less than an hour after the New York legislature passed a marriage equality bill 33 to 29 during a late session on Friday, Twitter started filling up with messages about how the Empire State Building had "gone rainbow." "OK, pictures of rainbow Empire State Building are getting me misty," screenwriter Diablo Cody wrote. "A rainbow shines on the Empire State and the Empire State building tonight!," another tweet read. And another: "Empire state building goes rainbow. Go us!"

Less than an hour? The Atlantic explains how the display was executed so fast. Link -via @Bad Astronomer

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Lights Over Poznan


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To celebrate the summer solstice, over 8,000 paper lanterns were released over the city of Poznan, Poland. Link -via reddit


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37 Year Without a Bath

A farmer in India, Guru Kailash Singh, has neither bathed nor cut his hair since just after his wedding day -37 years ago! His wife says the family has tried to force a bath on him several times, but he manages to run away each time.
It wasn't because he no longer needed to attract the ladies that he let himself go. Kailash reportedly abandoned washing because a priest told him it would help him produce a son.

With seven daughters born since then, he's still waiting for a male heir.

Still waiting? Singh is 65 and his wife is 60. Do you have a sneaking suspicion he just might not want to bathe? Link

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Coffee: The Greatest Addiction Ever


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I consider myself an expert on drinking coffee, but even I didn't know why a coffee tree produces caffeine! Excuse me, I need to go pour another cup. Link -via the Presurfer


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1947: First Flying Saucer Report

On June 24th, 1947, Army Air Corps pilot Kenneth Arnold reported an unusual sighting while returning from a mission to find a reported downed plane. Out of the incident was born a new term: flying saucer.
As Arnold recalled, the afternoon was crystal clear, and he was cruising at an altitude of 9,200 feet. A minute or two after noting a DC-4 about 15 miles behind and to the left of him, he was startled by something bright reflecting off his plane. At first he thought he had nearly hit another aircraft but as he looked off in the direction the light had come from, he saw nine “peculiar-looking” aircraft flying rapidly in formation toward Mount Rainier.

As these strange, tailless craft flew between his plane and Mount Rainier and then off toward distant Mount Adams, Arnold noted their remarkable speed — he later calculated that they were moving at around 1,700 mph — and said he got a pretty good look at their black silhouettes outlined against Rainier’s snowy peak. He later described them as saucer-like disks … something the gentlemen of the press glommed on to very quickly.

At the time, Arnold said, the appearance of these flying saucers didn’t particularly alarm him, because he assumed they were some kind of experimental military aircraft. If they were, nobody in the War Department (soon to be merged into the Department of Defense) was saying.

The official position of the Army Air Corps was that Arnold saw a mirage or was hallucinating. The term "flying saucer" received lots of publicity and many other reports rolled in shortly afterward. The incident marked the beginning of the UFO craze. Link

(Image credit: U.S. Air Force)

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Penguins Do the Wave


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Emperor penguins huddle together to keep warm over winter. They've developed their own system for making sure each penguin gets a chance to stand in the middle of the huddle and then rotate to the outside and give another a spot. The result resembles a crowd doing the wave! -via Buzzfeed


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Collecting Nazi Memorabilia

The folks at Collector's Weekly used to delete references to Nazi items from their forum, but then considered the question of why people collect such things. Not everyone who collects Nazi memorabilia is a Neo-Nazi or a Hitler fan. Some subscribe to the philosophy summed up in a George Santayana quote: "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." They are also aware that some find any instance of the Nazi swastika offensive.
But for collectors like Kevin Mackey, Nazi memorabilia, particularly those bearing the swastika, are unambiguous reminders of this suffering. Though upsetting to many, Mackey believes these pieces have a place in any discussion of World War II. “To obliterate the symbols of Nazi Germany,” he says, “would be to obliterate that period from our knowledge, and to forget what took place. We need to be aware of what caused Nazi Germany, what happened, and how much horror came to this world because of it.”
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But you don’t have to look very far, Mackey says, to see what happens when history, however upsetting, is expunged from a culture or society. “We have a leader of Iran today who says the Holocaust did not take place. But even my youngest daughter knows better, and she’s in junior high school. So we should not remove these pieces from the public knowledge, from public view. I don’t see it as a glorification of Nazi military items. I’m a historian—these are pieces of history.”

Included in the post about Nazi memorabilia are the opinions of Abraham H. Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, author and sociology professor Stanislav Vysotsky, veterans, and other collectors. Link -Thanks, Ben Marks!

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The First World Problems Rap


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This ditty by funnyz underscores the fact that whining is not limited to young children. -via reddit


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Celebrity Commercials from Before They Were Famous

I remember many of these ads, but of course, at the time nobody knew the actors in them were going to be famous someday! Unknown actors take work where they can, and that's often commercial ads, which lead to experience, which can lead to starring roles later. Unreality magazine has a collection of ads featuring stars you know,  yet you might not recognize at a much younger age.
This list includes everyone from A-listers to TV stars, and products ranging from Pringles to Mylanta. It took me a while to track these down, but if you know of any more I’m missing, I’d be happy to amend the list with your finds. I’m sure there are a ton more out there, it can just be tough to know where to looks.

Enjoy the ones I’ve found so far, and keep in mind when watching commercials today, that someday that annoying kid from the Toyota commercials might be our next big movie star.

Go see them and find out who is in the picture here. Link

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A Guide to Soviet Russia's Torture Centers



The Soviet Union had a terrifying system for handling both criminals and political dissidents we know by one word: Gulag.
From 1930 until 1960, Russian authorities ran a tightly-controlled network of forced labor camps, known as Gulags. Gulag was actually a Russian acronym for Chief Administration of Corrective Labor Camps and Colonies, and these camps were often freezing, and forced prisoners to work and live in harsh conditions with very little food. Thriving under both Stalin and in the aftermath of WWII, Gulags housing petty criminals and political prisoners alike. The Gulag network was officially dismantled in 1960, destroying (almost) all of the prison camps, but their legacy lives on today – in memory and in the formation of many towns in the Russian Arctic.

Today most of those sites are totally gone, with little evidence remaining. However, there is a Gulag museum in Perm, and a KGB museum in the legendary Lubyanka building in Moscow that once housed the city's political detainees. Read more about them at Atlas Obscura. Link

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Building a Crowd



Someone watched an episode of Master Chef on Hulu and saw twins in this crowd scene. It must have been a thin crowd for the producers to decide it needed a copy-and-paste makeover. What's the world coming to? It's getting to the point where you can't even believe what you see on TV! Link -via Breakfast Links

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New Alloy Can Convert Heat Directly Into Electricity

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have created a metal alloy composed of nickel, cobalt, manganese and tin. This "multiferroic composite" can convert heat into electricity!
In this case, the new alloy — Ni45Co5Mn40Sn10 — undergoes a reversible phase transformation, in which one type of solid turns into another type of solid when the temperature changes, according to a news release from the University of Minnesota. Specifically, the alloy goes from being non-magnetic to highly magnetized. The temperature only needs to be raised a small amount for this to happen.

When the warmed alloy is placed near a permanent magnet, like a rare-earth magnet, the alloy’s magnetic force increases suddenly and dramatically. This produces a current in a surrounding coil, according to the researchers, led by aerospace engineering professor Richard James.

One possible application for this alloy is in automobile exhaust pipes, which vent a lot of heat that could be recycled into electric power for the battery. Read more at Popsci. Link -via reddit

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Cats Discover Bubble Wrap


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It's a whole new world for a herd of kitties. Watch those claws, guys! According to the uploader, Furballfables, the cats got used to the bubble wrap quickly and were soon sleeping on it. -via Arbroath


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7 Deadliest Arrow Poisons on Earth

Nature has a frightening variety of toxins that humans have adapted for their own purposes: first to hunt prey for food, and also to kill their human enemies. For example, take the strychnos tree, from which we get strychnine.
Most of us have heard of strychnos owing to its use in rat poison – as well as the occasional murder! – but it has been used for centuries as an arrow poison in the jungles of Assam, Burma, Malaysia and Java. A chieftain of the Limba people of Sierra Leone is holding iron-tipped arrows dipped in strychnos poison in the image above. The seeds contain 1.5% strychnine, but the flowers and bark contain the poison too. People and animals exposed to the substance will suffer paralysis, severe convulsions and, finally, death. On the plus side, medical science has used it in minute doses to help people as well.

Read about seven of these traditional poisons at Environmental Graffiti. Link

(Image credit: Flickr member John Atherton)

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Store Capitalizes On Patriotism

A new store Elma, New York opened under the name Made in America. Everything in the store is made in the U.S. and many tour bus companies have added it as a stop.
Shop owner Mark Andol climbs aboard a bus and tells the riders that shopping here is a patriotic act.

"When you walk through them doors, I guarantee when you're shopping — the homework's been done — it's 100 percent made-in-America products. Made in this country by American workers, and the money stays in our economy. So, enjoy yourself," he says.

Customers pour into the spacious building, which used to be a Ford dealership. American flags and patriotic quotes adorn the walls.

The store has not yet turned a profit, because Andol is still expanding his line of products. He researches every item to make sure the components are all US-made, including the packaging. Link -via Fark

(Image credit: Daniel Robison for NPR)

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Shooting Bears


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Relax, no bears were harmed in the making of this video. This is a video about National Geographic photographer Michael Melford on an expedition to take pictures of bears. But that doesn't mean there's no excitement! And we'll see a bit of humor, too. -Thanks, Marilyn Terrell!


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7 Famous Movie Cars As Pixar Characters



By the hand of Old Red Jalopy, we get to see what some classic movie characters -who happen to be cars- would look like if they were in the new Pixar film Cars 2. This one is, of course, the General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard. See the other six at NextMovie. Link

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Bike Ballet


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During the championship at Magny-Cours, two motorcycles become entangled, apparently by their accelerators. Or maybe they just like each other. -via The Daily What


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TARDIS Telescope Cover



Duncan Kitchin is a stargazer and a Doctor Who fan. He also has a rather large telescope that's too big to easily take inside and back out often. So he built a TARDIS box as a telescope shed! One side comes off, and the rest rolls away on wheels. When Kitchin is through with the telescope, just cover it up again and the instrument is protected from the weather. See more pictures at Astro Imaging Blog. Link -via Bad Astronomy Blog

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The Agreeableness of Robotic Vacuum Cleaners

What kind of personality does your Roomba have? None, I suppose. But what kind should it have? Researchers in the Netherlands from Delft University of Technology, Delft, and Philips Research, Eindhoven, gathered a focus group together to decide what kind traits your vacuum should have if the technology were available to give it a personality.
The busy Dutch team were asked to rate a notional future robot vacuum cleaner’s personality traits for desirability, and it was determined that the robot should be calm, friendly, like routines, but definitely not be talkative *. The next part of the study involved a group of human actors, who were asked to act like a robotic vacuum cleaner displaying the desired characteristics which had been determined in part one.

The actors' routines were rated and they were found to be good vacuum cleaners. If you want to be entertained, you only need to add a cat. Link

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Guy Fowlkes Arrested in "Gunpowder Plot"

The headline makes it sound as if history is repeating itself, but this happened in Ocoee, Florida. A man was arrested for lighting fireworks at the fireworks tent in which he was working.
Guy Swindell Fowlkes, 33, of Orlando, was working at the tent at Colonial Drive and Maguire Road but had made arrangements to work at another tent location, according to an arrest affidavit filed in the case. When his girlfriend asked about keys to a storage unit, Fowlkes said he did not have the keys and began an argument with her.

Fowlkes struck his girlfriend, who is pregnant, in the left side of her face, according to the report. He then went into the tent and began to light up fireworks, directing some of them at other employees. He also lit the fuse of two firecrackers and placed them inside the gas tank of an employee's car.

As police approached, they could see explosions in the distance. Fowlkes was charged with arson and battery. Link -via Arbroath

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Shuffling in Beijing

This girl is nine years old, and she has some great moves! Watch her show off her shuffling skills at NeatoBambino. Link

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What Is It? game 183



It's once again time for our collaboration with the always amusing What Is It? Blog. Can you guess what the pictured item is? Can you make up something interesting?

Place your guess in the comment section below. One guess per comment, please, though you can enter as many as you'd like. Post no URLs or weblinks, as doing so will forfeit your entry. Two winners: the first correct guess and the funniest (albeit ultimately wrong) guess will win T-shirt from the NeatoShop.

Please write your T-shirt selection alongside your guess. If you don't include a selection, you forfeit the prize, okay? May we suggest the Science T-Shirt, Funny T-Shirt and Artist-Designed T-Shirts?

For more clues, check out the What Is It? Blog. Good luck!

Update: Ladybuggs knew this was a knife designed to be used in a life raft. Here's the description from Rob at the What Is It? blog:
A US Navy life raft knife, part of the survival kit on a life raft, cork handle so it floats, holes make it lighter, rounded end so it won't puncture the raft, painted orange so it can be seen if lost overboard, also a lanyard to tie it to the raft

The Professor had the funniest answer -a hedgehog quill-scraper! Both winners will receive a t-shirt from the NeatoShop!

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Farm Families



Photographer Rob MacInnis takes portraits of barnyard animals. He takes easily as much care with livestock photographs as a fashion photographer would with his subjects. The group portraits will especially bring a smile to your face. Link to portraits. Link to group panoramas. -via Metafilter

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Summer Solstice 2011


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The sun has reached its northernmost peak, as of 1:17EDT, so we are officially into summer now. It you live in the southern hemisphere, you've just passed the winter solstice. In honor of the occasion, Josh Cohen put together this short and sweet greeting. Link -Thanks, Josh!


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Fiber Optic Cables


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Bill Hammock, the Engineer Guy, explains how fiber optic cables work. I, for one, am amazed that glass can be spun thin enough to be flexible, and that light can travel through it around bends and corners. -Thanks, Bill!


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78 Photography Rules For Complete Idiots



Yes, the rules are pretty basic, but 78 of them are hard to keep track of if you're a beginner ...or a complete idiot. Latvian photographer Ivars Gravlejs put them all in one place because he's seen every one of these rules broken too many times. Link -via the Presurfer

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Profile for Miss Cellania

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