Miss Cellania's Blog Posts

Make Your Wild Self

The New York Zoo and Aquarium has a generator in which you can design yourself as a fantastic wild animal! On the left is my basic although deceptively youthful self, and on the right I have Fennec fox ears, giant tree frog arms, pintail duck legs, and a ring-tailed lemur tail. There are lots of different animal limbs and features to select from for your personal wild self. Link -via Everlasting Blort

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Featured Designs from the NeatoShop:

Name That Weird Invention!

[caption id="attachment_43476" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Part of this image first appeared in the July, 1983 issue of Road & Track magazine."][/caption]

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. What should we call these? The commenters suggesting the funniest and wittiest names will win a free T-shirt from the NeatoShop. Start your brainstorming and leave an entry in the comments.

Contest rules: one entry per comment, though you can enter as many as you like. Please make a selection of the T-shirt you want (may we suggest the Science T-shirt, Funny T-shirt, and Artist-designed T-shirt categories?) alongside your entry. If you don't select a shirt, then you forfeit the prize. Have fun and good luck!

Update: Ladybuggs takes first prize for Convertuble, and Pat wins second place for Car Pool. Both win t-shirts from the NeatoShop! Check in next week for another chance to Name That Weird Invention, from the Museum of Possibilities!

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The Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists

The Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists is, as the name implies, a club for scientists who have luxuriant flowing hair. LFHCfS, as it is known unpronouncably to its members and their admirers, was founded in early 2001. Anyone can join, provided only that she or he is a scientist and has luxuriant flowing hair, and is proud of it.

The “proud” part is important. The club is not for the morbidly shy, people-averse scientist of stereotype and legend. Every LFHCfS member’s hair is on display on the Improbable Research web site.

LFHCfS was founded by admirers of the famously curly mane of psychologist Steven Pinker. Dr Pinker, then a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and now head of the psychology department at Harvard University, became the first member. He proudly lists the club on his academic web page.

The ranks now include mathematicians, astronomers, linguistics professors, organic chemists, computer researchers, immunologists, geneticists, physicists, neuroscientists, three sisters, a married couple, and other men and women of science, of both sexes, all hair colors, and many hair styles.

Dr. Piero Paravidino, 2002/3 LFHCfS Man of the Year, is a research chemist at Isagro Ricerca Srl, Novara, Italy, and a guitarist in the heavy metal band Mesmerize.

There is even a real rock star.* Italian chemist Dr Piero Paravidino plays guitar for the heavy metal band Mesmerize, and co-authored the paper “Synthesis of Medium-Sized N-Heterocycles Through RCM of Fischer-Type Hydrazino Carbene Complexes.”
Continue reading

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The Witch of Wall Street

The following is an article taken from the book Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Plunges Into History.

She walked up and down Wall Street in rags -but in her day she was the richest woman in America. Meet Hetty Green, financial genius and obsessive skinflint.

The employees at Manhattan's Chemical and National Bank were too intimidated to laugh at the strange woman who visited their vaults on a daily basis, even though she had a laundry list of eccentricities as long as your arm. She wore clothes so worn out they were falling apart on her body, she never washed her underwear because it was "too expensive," and she spent almost every day locked in the bank's vaults eating raw onions and counting her riches. Had Hetty Green been a different kind of woman, those who saw her marching down Wall Street might have snickered. But Hetty's reputation  was every bit as formidable as her scowling, forbidding face.


Stinginess came naturally to Hetty's family. Born in 1835 to a family of wealthy blue bloods, including a father who wanted his daughter to manage her fortune well, Hetty could read the daily financial papers to her dad at age six and opened her own savings account at age eight. By 21, she was so miserly she didn't even want to light the birthday candles on her own cake because it would waste them. Eventually, the party guests convinced her to light them, but she blew them out immediately so she could return them to the grocery store for a refund.


This was the same birthday at which Hetty came into a multimillion-dollar trust. Almost a decade later, her father died and left her his vast estate. Hetty cleverly invested her money, increasing its value enormously. But she still wore secondhand clothes, took her meals in workingmen's dives, saw doctors at free charity clinics, and lived in cheap boardinghouses to avoid paying property taxes.


She was suspicious of the many suitors who courted her, believing they were all after her money. But at age 33, she agreed to marry businessman Edward Henry Green -after he agreed to sign a prenuptial agreement renouncing all rights to her money. Two children and a lot of angst later, Edward Green divorced her. When he died in 1902, Hetty Green moved to Hoboken, New Jersey, with her children and commuted daily to her bank in New York City.


Vowing to make her son Ned the richest man in the world, Hetty saved every cent she could. She gave up washing her clothes, never changed or washed her sheets, tried to evade paying bills, and went to bed at sundown to avoid burning candles. She never turned on the heat or used hot water.

But she refused to spend any money on her kids, either. When Ned broke his leg, she wouldn't take him to a doctor, saying it was too pricey. His gangrenous leg later had to be amputated. She forced her daughter Sylvia to wear old clothes, too, and she wouldn't let her date the "fortune hunters" Hetty believed were everywhere. When she finally let Sylvia marry, she forced the new husband to give up all rights to his wife's fortune.


Through it all, Hetty made one shrewd financial decision after another. She made terrific investments, owned thousands of plots of land, and had enough cash to make loans to major businesses -even New York City itself- extracting heavy interest on each loan.

But Hetty's penny-pinching ways continued. She spent hours each day counting her money. Her habit of walking down to her bank each day in a ragged, black dress with a scowl on her face earned her the nickname "the Witch of Wall Street."


Eventually, Hetty's health failed. She suffered from a painful hernia but refused to have an operation because it cost $150 (123 euros). She became even more paranoid and suspicious, believing kidnappers and murderers were after her and her fortune.

Eventually, her bad temper was the end of her. She reportedly died of apoplexy, in 1916, after an argument with a servant (not one of her own, of course).


Hetty Green left $100 million to her children, who, ironically, became some of the most generous philanthropists of their time, donating money to numerous museums, libraries, and civic institutions. Hetty Green would have been horrified to hear it.


The article above was reprinted with permission from Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Plunges Into History.

Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts.

If you like Neatorama, you'll love the Bathroom Reader Institute's books - go ahead and check 'em out!

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The Panyee Football Club

(YouTube link)

This video is like a Hollywood sports film (The Mighty Ducks, Hoosiers, A League of Their Own) condensed into five minutes. It's a true story that took place in the village of Koh Panyee, Thailand in 1986, dramatized by the ad agency Leo Burnett & Arc Worldwide for Thai Military Bank. -via reddit

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Lurking Title

American movies are often re-titled for foreign audiences. In this quiz, you'll be given a foreign title of a US movie, translated into English. Can you guess what movie it was in the US? It's a multiple-choice question, so it shouldn't be too hard. After all, I haven't even seen the vast majority of these movies, yet I scored 27 out of 30 by taking time to think about each question. Bonus: if you take the quiz again, the questions will be different. Link -via mental_floss

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This Week at Neatorama

The vernal equinox is tomorrow evening (7:21PM EDT), which means our long snowy winter will officially be over! There was a lot of stuff going on this week at Neatorama- we don't want you to miss a bit of it, so here are the highlights:

In spring, a young geek's fancy turns to thoughts of love, so Jill Harness rounded up some inspiration with 10 More Geeky Love Songs.

Phil Haney sorted out the many different lineups of our favorite bands over the years in The Replacement Musicians.

We had a guest post from author Stephen Rebello called Five Things You Didn’t Know About Alfred Hitchcock in honor of Alfred Hitchcock Day last Saturday.

Uncle John's Bathroom Reader filled us in on The Science of Moving Pictures.

From the Annals of Improbable Research came the classic battle of Coke vs. Pepsi: The Pioneers.

We also got A Brief and Incomplete Timeline of T-Shirt History, courtesy of our friends at mental_floss magazine. By the way, mental_floss is experiencing some website issues (cough*hackers*cough), but a team of very expensive geeks are working to have that cleared up soon!

At NeatoBambino, Tiffany marveled at the surprising things young children say in Out Of The Mouth Of Babes: Part 1. Oh yeah, there's a giveaway involved for your participation! Look for part two coming this week.

In the Name That Weird Invention! contest, Scott-O had a winning entry with the name First Eye’d Kit, and nik said he’d call it the Emergen-See Kit. Both win t-shirts from the NeatoShop!

We had an extra contest on Saturday, in the post Say What, Batman? Your mission: to provide a funny explanation leading up to the posted Batman and Robin comic panel. Larry won a t-shirt for his scenario, and Clippy pasted together an entire comic for his entry, but didn't select a t-shirt.

The What Is It? game came up on Thursday. Once again, the very first comment had the correct answer! Berhard wins a t-shirt because he knew the device is a stanchion, to hold cattle still for milking or veterinary procedures. The funniest answer was from Stephen Bishop, who said it was an early prototype for a mammogram! However, he didn’t select a t-shirt.

Looking for more once you've caught up on this week's Neatorama posts? Check out the links at the NeatoHub or the articles at The Best of Neatorama!

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(YouTube link)

Duane Keisler painted a tangerine, but couldn't resist peeling it and helping himself to it ...which he also painted. Link -via Metafilter

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Nuclear Boy

(YouTube link)

A Japanese cartoon explains the situation at the Fukushima nuclear plant, in bathroom terms that children can understand. -via Everlasting Blort

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How "Tsunami" Joined the English Language

The first use of the word "tsunami" in an English language publication was in the September 1896 issue of National Geographic Magazine. Eliza Ruhama Scidmore used the Japanese term to describe what we used to call a tidal wave or (more correctly) an earthquake wave.
Scidmore's article in National Geographic gave the world a gripping insight into the horror of the 1896 tsunami. A few survivors, who saw it advancing in the darkness, reported its height as 80 to 100 feet, she wrote.

"With a difference of but thirty minutes in time between the southern and northern points, it struck the San-Riku coast and in a trice obliterated towns and villages."

In what today looks like an eery precursor of the 2011 tsunami in the same part of Japan, the 1896 wave "washed away and wrecked 9,313 houses, stranded some larger craft--steamers, schooners, and junks--and crushed or carried away 10,000 fishing boats...Thousands of acres of arable land were turned to wastes, projecting rocks offshore were broken, overturned, or moved hundreds of yards, shallows and bars were formed, and in some localities the entire shoreline was changed," Scidmore reported.

Read more about the 1896 disaster at NatGeo Newswatch. Link -Thanks, Marilyn!

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You may have to play Jorinapeka through at least once to get the hang of it. The goal is to clear the colored balls, but clearing other balls along the way brings you more points. My best score was about 400, but some who have worked out the strategy have scored up to 8,000 points! Still, even if you aren't great at it, this is a pleasant little game. Link -via Look at This

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Space Auction to Fund Scholarships

How much would you pay for a dinner date with Apollo 13 commander Jim Lovell? Or lunch with original Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter? How about skydiving with a shuttle astronaut? Or maybe you'd be more inclined to purchase some astronaut autographs, or objects that have been in space. These are all up for bid now at the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation during their spring auction. The ASF was founded by Mercury astronauts, and proceeds go to fund science and technology scholarships for deserving students. Bidding will close on March 26. Link

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Movie Titles in Movies

(YouTube link)

Redditor honsco edited 81 one movies to show the scenes where the title of the movie was mentioned. He got the idea to do all this work from a scene in the TV show Family Guy. -via reddit

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Astronom O's

Steve D took an offhand comment from Twitter and ran with it, creating an actual box of Astronom O's, “The Breakfast of People Who Stay Up All Night”. The oat cereal contains marshmallow moons and stars, and the box features Carl Sagan on the front and star facts on the back. He also made a single-serving size! Do you think General Mills might find this idea worth marketing? Link -via the Presurfer

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(Notes On) Biology

(vimeo link)

Doodling a robot elephant is so much more fun than etoecology! -via Buzzfeed

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Mega Earthquake and Tsunami

Dark Roasted Blend has a mega-post on earthquakes and tsunamis -not only the recent disaster in Japan, but earthquakes from other times and places as well. There are photographs, an explanation of how and why earthquakes and tsunamis happen, and diagrams showing how the U.S. is under threat of a big earthquake as well. Link

(Image credit: Japan Times)

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Out Of The Mouths Of Babes

Little children say the strangest things! But if you listen closely, what they come up with reveals how differently they see the world. They haven't learned all the things we know, and they have a completely different perspective on what they observe. In this post at NeatoBambino, Tiffany shares some of the odd nuggets of wisdom that surprised her coming from the NeatoKids. And you are invited to add the strange things your children have said, for a chance to win a T-shirt from the NeatoShop! Link

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Art for Japan

Buzzfeed has collected 41 art projects to raise money for disaster relief in Japan all into one post. Most incorporate the rising sun from the national flag as a motif to represent Japan, although some use Japanese pop culture icons to get the idea across. My favorite (although it is difficult to select just one) is this Red Cross robot lifting the sun, available on a t-shirt. Link

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Vasaloppet {wiki} is an annual 90km cross-country ski race that is billed as the largest in the world. This year's race took place March 6th between the towns of Sälen and Mora in Sweden. See a video of the more than 15,000 people who took part this year. Link -via Dark Roasted Blend

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18 Most Horrifying Movie Dystopias

Predictions about the future tend to give us some ray of hope, but fiction can be totally depressing. Unrestrained fantasy, action, and shock value often make movies about dystopian futures into hits. Here's a list of 18 movies that all start out with a description of the future: "In a world where..." life as we know it has changed to something awful and our victim/hero dares to do something we consider normal, causing conflict with the powers-that-be. Make your selections carefully. Link [edit 3/17/11 by Alex - be careful, malware redirect has been reported on this link] -Thanks, Danny!

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Will and Kate Commemorative Cup

Guangdong Enterprises is selling a coffee cup to commemorate "The Fairytale Romantic Union Of All The Centuries," the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. There's just one little problem....  Link -via Arbroath

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Fake Irish Blessing

A blessing is nice even if it isn't authentically Irish. However, a green tint and traditional syntax make this comic from Grant Snider perfect for St. Patrick's Day! Link -via J-Walk Blog

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40 Years of Computer Viruses

The world's first computer virus, Creeper, was unleashed on an unsuspecting world in 1971, only a couple of years after the first computers were linked in a network. Most of us have only heard about it, since few had computers at the time. But that was only the beginning. Read about the major virus attacks over the years, like the 2000 I Love You virus.
At the dawn of the XXIst century, I LOVE YOU worm infected tens of millions of computers. As a fairly simple worm, I LOVE YOU presented itself as an incoming email with “I love you” in its subject line and infected the machine of users who opened the attachment. It then mailed itself to all of the contacts found on the infected user’s system.

Intriguing feature: While the author’s motivation clearly wasn’t about money, the damages were: When the dust settled, I LOVE YOU had cost companies around the world between $5 and $10 billion. Much of that cost can be attributed to the time spent “cleaning” infected machines.

More of the history of viruses is posted at Help Net Security. Link -via the Presurfer

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Wisconsin Protest Rendered in Peeps

This photograph, titled "The Peeple vs. Scott Walker" was posted by @escapetochengdu with no comment as to its origin. With Peeps diorama contests taking entries at several newspapers, it might even win a prize! Link -via Everlasting Blort

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What Is It? game 169

Get your thinking caps on -it's time for our collaboration with the always amusing What Is It? Blog! Do you have any idea what this contraption is? Can you come up with an interesting guess?

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: Once again, the very first comment had the correct answer! Berhard knew the device is a stanchion, to hold cattle still for milking or veterinary procedures. The funniest answer was from Stephen Bishop, who said it was an early prototype for a mammogram! However, he didn't select a t-shirt.

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Unusual St. Patrick's Day Celebrations

From Arkansas to the Caribbean to Japan, everybody's Irish on St. Patrick's Day! And there are celebrations all over the world. Smithsonian has some you might not be familiar with, like those on the island of Montserrat, where St. Patrick's Day is a national holiday and festivities go on all week long. Link

(Image credit: Jennifer Johnson/Montserrat Tourism)

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Garage Door Opener

(Break.com link)

And you thought your home wiring was weird! Caution -don't try this at home, or anywhere else. -via reddit

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A Brief and Incomplete Timeline of T-Shirt History

1913 The First T-Shirt Models

White cotton, crewneck T-shirts became regulation underwear for the U.S. Navy. Two decades later, at the University of Southern California, football players don similar shirts to prevent chafing from heavy shoulder pads. The tees became so fashionable that students start pilfering them for casual wear. In response, the school began stenciling "Property of USC" on its T-shirts as a crime-prevention tactic, not a statement of pride.

1951 An Undershirt Named Desire

Hollywood rebel Marlon Brando exudes animal magnetism in A Streetcar Named Desire when he wears a thin, white T-shirt. Teens dig the look, and by year's end, T-shirt sales total $180 million. But for Brando, the style is only a means to an end. A graduate of The Actors' Studio, he'd learned to use his body to show his character's inner turmoil. The T-shirt is only a thin veil, meant to cover not only his rippling physique, but also his character's bestial urges.

1969 Tie-Dyed Shirts Become Groovy

For decades, the only people using Rit dye were old women who wanted to color their drapes and linens. But in the mid-60s, advertising whiz Don Price markets the dye to hippies, who use it to tie-dye their tees. But Price's real stroke of genius comes in 1969, when he produces hundreds of the shirts and gives them away to performers at Woodstock. The multicolored tops are quickly adopted as part of the counterculture uniform.

1977 I ♥ NY

Throughout the 1970s, New York City gains a reputation as a tourists' nightmare -dirty, decadent, and crime-ridden. To revitalize the city's image, the Commerce Department hires designer Milton Glaser to fashion an eye-catching logo for the city. Over lunch one day, Glaser sketches "I ♥ NY" on a napkin. The logo spearheads a resurgence in New York tourism and becomes the most imitated T-shirt design in history. Glaser claims that the shirt's appeal comes from decoding the symbols: "You feel smart when you figure it out."

1984 Frankie Learns to Talk

BBC Radio bans song "Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, claiming the lyrics are too explicitly sexual. Naturally, sales of the single skyrocket, and the song goes to No. 1. To flaunt the band's triumph over censorship, record label owner Paul Morley puts the song's words in big capital letters on T-shirts.

The "FRANKIE SAYS RELAX" tee turn millions of music fans into human billboards. Soon, Frankie knock-offs are everywhere. Although the band's popularity quickly dies, the T-shirt lives on, appearing on the torso of everyone from Jennifer Anniston to Homer Simpson.


The article by Bill DeMain is reprinted from Scatterbrained section of the January-February 2011 issue of mental_floss magazine. Subscribe today to get it delivered to you!

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

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The Transylvanian Naked Neck Chicken

Research into why Transylvanian naked neck chickens have naked necks reveals a complex balance between genes and chemicals that produce a bird's (not just chickens) feather pattern while it is still an embryo in an egg. Once the combination was discovered, Chunyan Mou from the University of Edinburgh found that bird necks are naturally more disposed to nakedness than the rest of their bodies. This may be no benefit to poultry, but chickens are related to birds that do benefit.
Mou thinks that similar genetic tweaks have happened time and again in the evolution of birds. Many groups have lost their neck feathers independently, including vultures, the marabou stork, and large flightless birds like ostriches and emus. Naked necks allow vultures to stuff their heads into carcasses without soiling any feathers; in other cases, a naked neck probably helps its owner to keep cool in hot climates.

Whatever the benefit, it seems that it’s particularly easy for birds to evolve a naked neck, rather than another part of their body. After all, Mou found that the necks of embryonic ducks, turkeys, quails and guinea fowl all have much higher levels of retinoic acid than the rest of the body. This pattern would normally be innocuous, completely hidden from natural selection. But it allows BMP-boosting mutations to denude the neck in one fell swoop, while keeping the rest of the body covered in feathers. As Mou writes, “An underlying map within the skin provides a one-step route to a bare neck.”

The post goes into detail about how the genes initiate the production of chemical activators and inhibitors, and ends with a parable from Alan Turing that explains the concept in layman's terms. Link

(Image credit: Demontux)

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Rebuilding in Japan

Amazing, indeed. The picture on the left is dated 3/11. The picture on the right is dated 3/15. Meanwhile, a stretch of highway near my home was repaved in only 18 months. If you can read this post in Japanese, maybe you could give us more details. Link -via reddit

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